Wellington now boasts more than half a dozen brew bars and tap rooms, but when Fork swung open its doors in the shadow of the Majestic building in 2011 it became the city’s only brewery bar, with Lion having shifted the brew house out of Mac’s on the waterfront in 2010.
It would be another year before Fork and Brewer would brew its first beer on their kit though, with the upstairs location proving difficult to get the engineering sign-off required in the quake-prone city.
Fork and Brewer operations manager, Kieran O’Malley, joined the brewpub in 2018, but knows they faced challenges in that first year.
“I think if you look at what got put in originally, it was a bit of a mission, but I think people looked at it and thought ‘Oh, you can actually do a brewpub in Wellington’. It kind of opened it up.”
O’Malley says Fork has seen a lot of change over the past 10 years — changing menus, tweaking the bar’s spaces, quake-strengthening the deck — but not least in the bar’s beers. Initially, the brewpub had a mixture of house-brewed and guest beers on its 40-odd taps. But when Kelly Ryan came on board as head brewer in 2014, he soon ensured it was just Fork and Brewer’s own beers pouring through them
“I think one of the biggest turning points for Fork and Brewer, looking back, was when Kelly joined,” O’Malley says. “His legacy in this bar is just incredible. He just really got it going — Kelly really put the Fork and Brewer name out there.”
Ryan’s beers earned Fork and Brewer several medals and awards during his tenure, including the title of Champion Small Brewery at the 2018 and 2019 NZ Brewers Guild Awards. Ryan moved on to Boneface at the start of 2021 but new brewer, Brayden Rawlinson, secured seven medals for Fork at this year’s awards, proving the brewery is still making great beer.
After a tough 20 months for the whole brewing and hospitality industry, O’Malley says they’re keen to have a big celebration to mark their decade in the industry.
“Just to have a big night and invite all our friends, everyone who used to work here, contractors, those who’ve been part of the craft beer scene — anyone who wants to come down and enjoy 10 years of Fork and Brewer.”
He says there’ll be specialty beers, old favourites, and just a birthday spin on everything. While other breweries turning 10 this year have released specialty packaged products, O’Malley says with Fork not being in supermarkets, they’re embracing their hospitality side instead.
But Fork and Brewer have grand plans for the future. The brewpub did try its hand at packaging and selling some of its range in supermarkets in 2018, releasing four of its beers in 500ml bottles.
“Packaging is definitely something we’re looking at getting ourselves back into,” O’Malley says. ”We did the 500ml bottles a few years ago and that didn’t quite work out.
“A nice six pack of Base Jumper APA cans in the shops to me makes sense, with a cracking label people are going to try it –— and then when they come [to the brewpub] they’re going to get a pint of it.”
While the Wellington brewpub is considered a destination to some of the country’s beer lovers, O’Malley says they also want to extend that Fork and Brewer experience.
”I think this place was really looking for what Fork and Brewer was for a long time,” he says. “Now I think we’ve nailed it. We do great beers, we do great pizzas, great snacks, we do groups — you know that you can come in and get a table.
“We’re definitely looking at our options just now, how we can do another Fork and Brewer. We’re thinking about in Wellington and also around the country. It’s really exciting, we’re not close to anything firm just now but we’ve got big plans for the future and where we want to be. And now it’s just about getting from here to there. And that’s the fun, right?”
But first, Fork and Brewer will be celebrating its 10th birthday in Covid-delayed style with a party at the Bond Street brewpub in February. Check out their FB page for further details.