The lady in brew
The Fermentist is shaking up the Christchurch bar scene with its commitment to sustainability and flavoursome brews. We meet the head brewer, whose passion for beer is equalled only by her passion for the planet
Behind the scenes at new Christchurch bar The Fermentist
Women are leading the charge at Christchurch’s newest brew bar, The Fermentist. The Lion micro brewery, taproom and cafe opened in June with a female head brewer, Kirsten Taylor. Kirsten has 25 years in the brewing industry behind her. She says she has noticed an increasing number of women taking an interest in beer, especially as the craft-beer movement has grown over the past decade.
“Lion as a company is very encouraging of females,” she says. “It wasn’t always the case in the brewing industry when I started, but things have changed quite dramatically in the last 10 years.”
Kirsten’s tastes have changed over the years too. “Fermentation and brewing have always fascinated me, but 25 years ago I would have rather had a glass of water than a beer! Now I love beer.”
Her other passion is sustainability, so it is fitting that The Fermentist has an eco ethos. The bar has a number of environmental policies, from using solar power and hot water, to composting and harvesting rainwater. You can bring your own vessel to fill with beer at the Fillery, and there are savings for bringing your own coffee cup. The kitchen, run by another eco-conscious woman, Jo Hempseed, sources local produce and uses veges and herbs from its on-site garden. Notably for a mainstream bar, the menu is mostly vegetarian, with a focus on fermented foods.
Kirsten is bringing this ecological commitment into the brewing process by minimising the water used for cleaning vessels, brewing with locally grown hops and doing less dry hopping (adding hops post-boil), which creates a lot of wastage. The team is also working with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand to clean up a section of the Avon River and help to provide a wild future for the New Zealand longfin eel. Kirsten has even been named as a finalist in this year’s Sustainability Superstar award at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards (the winner will be announced after this issue goes to press).
“We want to look at any way that we can be more sustainable, and do things for the company that could be used in larger-scale operations as well,” she says. “We’re trying to make a difference in a small way and get the word out to other industries that everyone can make a difference.”
She was thrilled when Simon Taylor, general manager of microbreweries for Lion, approached her about The Fermentist. “I got even more excited as we started developing the bar – I was able to include sustainability and we were allowed to pretty much brew what we wanted to. The autonomy is very appealing and the support from the company is fantastic as well.”
The brewing giant plans to use The Fermentist as a testing ground with a view to rolling out sustainable measures in other breweries across the country.
“Lion is about championing sociability and living well,” says Simon. “We put huge emphasis on keeping people and the environment at the heart of our business decisions. Building The Fermentist from the ground up has given us the chance to create a more conscious, community-focused brand that will be used as a platform to experiment, share knowledge and, most importantly, create positive change.”
Of course, making good beer is pretty important, too. A Kiwi pale ale, red ale and American brown ale are three of The Fermentist’s signature drops. The latter won a bronze medal at the 2018 Brewers Guild of New
Cheers to that Brewer Kirsten Taylor has brought her passion for beer and sustainability to new Christchurch microbrewery The Fermentist.
Zealand Awards. Their refreshing Berliner weisse, served with a shot of berry syrup, is one of Kirsten’s favourites. The lower-alcohol bevvy (3.4 percent) is going to “take off when summer comes”, she predicts. German customers have even given it their seal of approval, with one saying the kettle-soured beer is authentic and better than some of the German varieties he had tried.
The Fermentist also brews a dry cider, offers seasonal beers, such as a black lager, and has plans to introduce non-alcoholic fermented drinks in the future. Kirsten and fellow brewer Nathan Crabbe are focusing on achieving a lower alcohol content in their brews, capping them at 5.5 percent. “We’re about flavour and not highly hopped and highly alcoholic beers,” Kirsten says. “I believe you can get good flavour into beers and use different styles without having to go there.”
Style and substance Christchurch design company Joska & Sons received a gold pin at the Best Design Awards for the fit-out of The Fermentist, a cafe, brewery and taproom in Sydenham. Right Barley is harvested from Simon Nitschke’s fields in Marton (top and bottom left) then processed at the nearby Malteurop factory (far right).