The Covid Chronicles: When Wiper and True met Coronavirus
Well, it’s been a bit of a year so far hasn’t it. When we were making our plans for the new year back at the end of 2019, we’d never have imagined that our business would be tackling a challenge like Covid-19 – nobody would have. Looking back, those excitable, optimistic meetings around our bar about new beers, new processes, festivals, tap room launches and makers markets feel like they belong to a different era.
An all-encompassing, wide-reaching beast of a pandemic, Coronavirus is affecting us all. The knock-on implications of the lockdown are being keenly felt, not just in the brewing industry - though we, and many of our friends at other breweries, are tangibly feeling the strain – but across all sectors. Pubs and restaurants have either been forced into closure or are battling to find new ways to keep their businesses alive, with many executing complete pivots of their operational models, having evolved into delivery services and takeout providers. For Wiper and True, this means that most of our long term trade customers – Bristol’s favourite pubs, those local neighbourhood restaurants we all love – just aren’t ordering beer anymore. As individuals and businesses, we are all adapting to a new way of life, following advice and guidelines that change regularly as we try and keep afloat. Like all businesses, we’ve had countless meetings (Google Hangouts is our new best friend) and a few late nights as we chew through what the future holds for us. Uncertain times like these can definitely be pretty scary, but our team have adapted and cracked on brilliantly, and we’re really proud of every single person.
So what are we doing? As wave after wave of closures rippled across the craft beer scene and beyond, our whole team arrived at a clear consensus: we weren’t going to down tools. Right from when things first kicked off back in March, the feedback from our beloved customers was overwhelmingly positive in its message to us: in increasingly unusual times like these, enjoying your favourite beer remains one of life’s proper, unadulterated simple pleasures - even if it’s on your sofa, not the sunlit benches of a beer garden (because it’s definitely always sunny in our fantasy beer garden world). This sentiment was echoed by the Wiper and True gang: if we can safely and responsibly keep providing a bit of normality for people in the form of our lovingly crafted beers, then we’re darn well going to. Not only that, we’ve never felt so clearly that we are an economic contributor. We have the opportunity to keep business flowing through the system, helping our customers and suppliers to keep going too. This will ultimately result in more duty and taxes being paid in order to help fund what will inevitably be a difficult time ahead for the country, and a time when every contribution to front line services makes a difference.
That’s not to say that things haven’t changed at Wiper and True though - quite the contrary. Our working processes today are worlds apart from last month’s. We’ve had to very quickly build a new business model and structure. Everyone who can work from home is now doing so, and the daily lunch-break-video-call catch-ups have rapidly escalated into a competition about who has the best lunch. Our brew and packaging teams are now working in alternate three-person shifts so that they can minimise contact and maintain the proper social distance while they crack on with producing and canning fresh beer. Anyone who has ever come within sniffing distance of a brewer or functional brewery will know that cleaning constitutes approximately 98% of the daily workload, but we’re proud to say we’ve stepped our sterilisation and sanitisation up even more these last few weeks. Every shared surface is being sterilised constantly and between shifts, and every can packed is being treated with the same respect in order to assure safe handling. Things have never looked so sparkly over in St Werburghs.
Our tap room has been closed for several weeks now, which meant we’ve sadly had to place the team there on temporary furlough, along with our wonderful People & Culture Manager, and our Operations & Sustainability Manager. We’re really missing them, and can’t wait to welcome them and you, our lovely loyal customers, back when things get back to normal. We’ve already got big plans for one heck of a party when we’re through the other side of this. After a brief dalliance with a takeaway can kiosk, we’re now focusing exclusively on our home delivery service, bringing our beers straight to the people of Bristol. Whilst the government specifically encouraged brewery shops to remain operational, at the moment we’d rather keep our sights on home deliveries. It’s an easy way to get beer straight to your door, whilst the government continues to urge the public to make the most of delivery services.
The support for our home delivery service has been absolutely phenomenal. We’ve always felt that it’s the people in our home city, Bristol, that make our job so rewarding. Creating tasty beers for our friends, family, and friends of our friends and family to enjoy is what inspires us. Our community rose up to meet our new business model in true Bristolian style; we received orders a-plenty, but more importantly, SO many messages of support. This really gave us confidence in our convictions, and confirmed that keeping going was the right thing to do. Thinking back to the day the government closed the pubs, things were looking pretty hairy for us. We weren’t sure how we’d be able to keep going through the lockdown. Your support has given us a clear path to head down, and we’re really grateful. Every order we get in feels like a triumph, and every kind comment keeps our team buoyed. Thank you.
We’ve also got some great projects in the pipeline that we’re hard at work on, and can’t wait to share with you all. Exciting things to come!
And so concludes our Covid Chronicles - at least for now. Things are still changing daily, so don’t be surprised if you see another update from us over the next few weeks.
See you soon, wash your hands, and take care.
Team Wiper and True