If you’re a beer drinker in Bristol then the emergence of the mysterious new brewery Wiper & True can’t have passed you by. Through the wonders of Twitter I had a chat with Michael, Wiper & True’s chief brewer, and established that he is Bristol’s first gypsy brewer (I think, but no doubt someone will correct me on that). For the unitiated, that means he currently has no permenant premises and is wandering around different breweries, brewing lots of lovely hop forward beer, presumably playing some kind of lute at the same time.
If you’ve read my waffling before you’ll know that the concept of starting up in the brewing industry interests me a great deal. Also, any new Bristol brewers making interesting beer is a great thing for the city. So I had to ask Michael a few questions about how he got started and what his plans for the future are. Here are the rather nice responses he gave me. And no, he still won’t let on where the rather mysterious name comes from.
Wiper and True, what’s it all about?
Adventures in beer.
We often get a curious reaction to our beer that really excites us: “I don’t really like beer, but I like that.” This sentiment is one of the things that inspired us to take our beers from the kitchen to the wider world. There is something amazing going on with beer at the moment and it’s lovely to see new people lured in, captivated by flavours and aromas they weren’t expecting. It’s a great moment when you hand someone a Kernel IPA or a Wild Beer Ninkasi, and they say “wow” before they have even had a sip.
We want to be the ones drawing new people in, exciting taste buds. We want to show them how brilliant beer is. We want to steal wine drinkers. We want people pairing beer with food. We want to present beer in a way that is accessible and inviting. And just as they are getting comfortable, we’ll give them an unhopped gruit, a sour beer, or a barrel aged imperial stout. Pow!
Conversely, we do also get people saying “I like beer, but I don’t like that.” Ha!
I gather you started off as a homebrewer, how long did it take to realise this was a career decision, not just a hobby?
Last year I met one of those people with lots of money. I gave him a beer to try and within an hour of meeting him he offered to fund a brewery. I told him he was crazy. He eyeballed me and told me to think about it. In the months after that I began to think about it a little, then a lot, then everyday, to every hour, to every minute. I got very excited about it.
The guy never ended up being involved but he got the ball rolling, to the point where we couldn’t stop it, we were hooked.
You make no secret that you’re using other breweries at the moment, how have you found this arrangement?
Brilliant. It has been such a pleasurable way to get into the industry. We’ve been helped out by some lovely people, to whom we are hugely indebted. Each one of them seems to be more motivated by supporting a young brewer than they are by turning a profit from it.
I’ve learnt vast amounts from every brewery I’ve made beer in, as well as raising a few old school eyebrows along the way. Yes, I did mean to put that many hops in.
It’s come with its frustrations too. Without a brewery you lose control. Whilst I’ve been proud of all our beers so far there were glitches along the way with each of them as a result of equipment quirks / not being familiar with the brewery.
The next few batches to be released were all brewed at Ashley Down and I’m getting to know the set up there quite well. I’m very excited about this lot.
Any permanent location on the horizon?
In our dreams, maybe. We’ve just had another property deal fall through so we are on the lookout again. If anyone out there happens to have a warehouse in Bristol and likes beer please get in touch.
What do you hope to achieve in 2013? What beers have you got planned?
Brew more beer! We need to get a steady home and get brewing more regularly. We keep having to say no to landlords who want to buy beer off us which is an upsetting thing to do! And we want people to be able to come and say hello, to taste beer fresh from the source.
It’ll also give us the chance to be more experimental. We have some wild ideas we can’t wait to put into action.
In terms of what’s on the menu I have a head and a book full of ideas but I never actually know what I’m doing until a week or so before the brew. I don’t have a long enough concentration span to work any other way. I quite fancy making something with rhubarb in now it’s in season. I’ve been eating a lot of rhubarb recently. We have a coffee IPA collaboration with Extract coffee in the pipeline, some whiskey barrels waiting to be filled and today I have been talking to a hop supplier about an experimental hop variety. I like the sound of experimental hop varieties.
In terms of what’s about to come out our first beer of 2013 is just about ready – a 7.4% IPA with 13 hop varieties. I opened one last night. There was a party in my mouth.
We also have a roasty stout, a single hop Pale Ale with Amarillo and a new Amber on its way.
Do you have any events coming up that people should know about?
We’ll be at the Bristol Beer Festival in March. I think I’ll head along on the Friday night and smash some booze in my face, pretending it’s work.
We’ll also be at the spring Love Food Festival on the 23rd to 24th March at Temple Meads.
And back by popular demand, we’re running another Beef and Beer pop-up with our friends Chomp at 40 Alfred Place from 5th to 7th of April. See the chomp website for more details.
Apart from your own beers, what have you got in the fridge at the moment (beer obviously, not food!!)?
This is a little embarrassing, I actually take photos of my beer shelves. Awkward!
What beer would you drink with your last meal?
Well it would have to be a strong one wouldn’t it? And in a big bottle. I’d ask for a jeroboam of Westvleteren 12. They’d probably have to pour it into a jeroboam from 330 ml bottles, but the customer is always right.
Thanks to Michael for taking time out of his ridiculously busy beery life to give me some great answers. If you want to drink Michael’s great beers then there’s a list of stockists here. Clearly this list is going to get a lot bigger in 2013.