Maybe it’s complacency, pandemic-induced anxiety or just plain laziness, but lately I’ve haven’t been putting in enough effort to fully explore the wealth of interesting beer being produced in the UK right now.
For example, I have not been to Bristol in about three years. This is shameful, as Bristol is one of the most exciting beer cities anywhere in the country, with breweries ranging from the sublime Left Handed Giant to the majestic Lost & Grounded. Among them in the splendour is the subject of today’s review, Wiper & True.
I’ve also been limiting my experience in terms of the styles I’ve been choosing to drink. More often than not, these days I prefer to lurch towards something familiar and comforting, which means usually cracking into a West Coast IPA or one of the many amazing lagers currently available within the UK.
When I first got into craft beer in a big way, however, I was really into imperial stouts. I’m not talking about the hyper-sweet pastry variety here, but proper imperial stouts. Ones that layer flavours like cacao, liquorice and molasses using complex malt bills undergoing a detailed mashing schedule, before snapping at you with herbaceousness and white pepper spice in a finish that is drying and moreish.
Wiper & True’s Barrel Aged Hard Shake is a beer that merges those sensibilities, softening the edges a little via the use of lactose (what technically makes this a milk stout), vanilla and cocoa, but in the pursuit of balance and flavour, as opposed to outright sweetness. It’s also had the benefit of time in bourbon barrels, allowing these flavours to mature and integrate with one another, joined by the warming vanilla and caramel tones whiskey-soaked oak staves provide.
But it’s an element in the finish that really binds this all together for me: Tannin. That lick of musty woodiness providing the means to bind these flavours into a complete whole, providing a beer that avoids the pitfalls some pastry stouts fall into and whispers into your ear, “Drink me, I’m delicious.”
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.