There's no doubt that the fruition of the Ghuznee Street beer mile has left Wellingtonians spoilt for choice. It's hard to imagine how our options could really improve beyond the smörgåsbord we already have. Yet, since the doors of Whistling Sisters' The Fermentery opened, it quickly became obvious that it is a very special addition to the city.
After an overhaul of the old Salvation Army, the interior maintains the lofty space at one of the busiest corners of the city. However, the floor to ceiling windows, intricate layout and mix of industrial and warm details leave the rest of it unrecognisable. Simply, this place oozes cool, and everyone can see it.
There are three main areas. The first, a casual bar setting, is perfect for those after work drinks. Beyond that is the open restaurant space with great views into the brewery and front kitchen. Yes, there's nothing like seeing everything being made in front of you. And, for something a little more intimate there is a quiet and moody dining area, which can be sectioned off for private functions. All have their own style, but flow seamlessly with one another in the open airy space.
The music also filters through to every corner, and much like every other aspect, it's very much unique and custom to the city's tastes. The system is the city's first reel-to-reel piece, with the soundtrack made by Chicago duo Uncanned, who have tapped into Wellington's sonic psyche.
The food also continues the brewery's philosophy of creating something unique. For these guys, it's celebrating the fermenting process, beyond just the beer. Head chef, John Allred, has taken this classic culinary process and reinvented it for Wellington.
Amongst the menu there are abundant choices of sharing plates, ideal for the casual hangout. There is a huge selection of charcuterie, perfect to pair with the kraut and cheese balls and double-cooked fermented fries. The dishes all possess that rich earthy umami, leaving you satisfied but still eager to order one more plate.
If you don't want to fight over the last bite, there are dinner, supper and dessert menus, that are friendly for any stomach. These menus all change often, so it's a good incentive to make The Fermentery your local. Not to mention, the components of the dishes, not just the beer, are all made on site, taking "local" to a whole new level.
Much like the atmosphere and food, the onsite brews are clean, bright and well made. There is a great concentration on balance, and less emphasis on hoppy flavours. The result is a clean and defined profile of each of Whistling Sisters' brews, reinventing the classic Wellington taste. A particular favourite is the Rooty Toot Toot, a sour that is full of flavour, yet doesn't sucker punch. For the approaching winter, we'd also recommend grabbing a toasty coconut milk stout. Really, just try them all on a tasting board. If the tinkering and clinking has got you excited you could also get experimental and try a beertail. These cocktails really show off the flavours you can pull from a brew — exactly what Whistling is all about.
Ultimately, the Fermentery will welcome you into its world of great flavour and invention.
Image: Lesley Wild.