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).

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