The Whitmore Hotel has been under Sparkke Change Beverage Company’s custodianship since August. The independent craft-brewing company is possibly best known for its tinnies emblazoned with messages such as “Boundless Plains to Share”, and “Consent Can’t Come After You Do”.
Standing amid the construction, co-founders of the completely female-driven company Rose Kentish and Kari Allen are wide-eyed. Their 850-square-metre brewpub, restaurant and rooftop bar is taking shape.
“We’re running fast enough to get the job done, but not so fast we make mistakes,” Kentish quips while traipsing up the stairs.
The pub is currently being extended to the back laneway. But that isn’t even the half of it. This is the first of three brewpubs Sparkke plans to open in the next few years.
The Whitmore was first licensed in 1838 as the Queens Arms Hotel. Not in its current form, though. One hundred and eighty years later we’re standing on Morphett Street. The Georgian frontage to the right was the original pub. An extension towards Whitmore Square occurred in the early 1900s.
Recent history is just as complex: it’s morphed from a wildly successful TAB to a strip club (“we’ve kept the pole to hang somewhere,” Allen says) to a live-music venue.
“We’ve inherited architecture and the design is to showcase the beauty of that,” says Kentish. Guided by Troppo Architects, “We’re carefully pulling back the layers to what was here originally. Nothing’s gonna be ‘faux’ or ‘shabby chic’.”
When you enter from Morphett Street there’ll be a bottle shop to your left and a sprawling open kitchen to your right. Further in there’ll be a beer garden and adjoining bar.
Position yourself anywhere on the ground floor and the nano-brewery will be in sight. Where a concrete slab lies now, two or three seasonal brews will be made a month. Core lines will continue being brewed off-site via contract, but Sparkke’s entire catalogue will be on tap in the bar.
Yearly output on Whitmore Square will be around 50,000 litres. And Allen has plans for a much larger-scale brewery, where Sparkke will be able to centralise operations and move away from the contract-brewing arrangements it uses now. “We may not do it for another three or four years,” she says. “This was the fastest way for us to engage with and build our community.”
Sparkke’s social mission is enacted with more than phrases on cans that raise awareness; 10 per cent of direct sales from each beverage go to a charity associated with the cause the cans are promoting.
That ethos of equality and social justice will translate directly to this venue, too. It’ll be inclusive while making a concerted effort to “enhance the safety of women and vulnerable groups”, Allen says. “That’s where the [design’s] openness comes from – there are very few places to lurk.” A glowing wall will cast light on the back laneway.
“We’re also doing something – digitally – that hasn’t been done in any pub before. It’s a really interesting medium for us to share information.” But that’s all she’ll say for now.
Upstairs, “pokey” internal walls were removed to make way for a function space, lounge area and boardroom. A rooftop bar, beer garden and second kitchen will stretch out from there.
You can make out a few letters on a brick wall. It’s the exterior signage of the original Queens Arms Hotel – before it was built over during the turn-of-the-century extension. “That’s how we discovered this was the new part of the building,” she says. Behind lies a soon-to-be performance space. The ceiling is clad with original, cascading wood shingles.
Two kitchens will turn out “disruptive” pub classics (“we’ll turn them on their heads,” says Kentish) and rolling specials with occasional stints by guest chefs. Mindful portion sizes will help reduce food waste.
“If you’re standing in the front bar it’ll feel like a pub, but it’s not a pub, really. It’s a celebration of makers – brewers, chefs, creatives,” says Kentish, confirming it as a 2019 Fringe venue.
Sparkke at the Whitmore will open in late January 2019.