“We just refused to miss that opportunity,” says Kari Allen, co-founder of the female-led Sparkke Change Beverage Company. She’s talking about officially opening its CBD brewpub, restaurant and rooftop bar today – on International Women’s Day.
A pub headed by women is a distinction worth noting. The hospitality and alcohol industries are dominated by men. It’s a key reason Sparkke made such an impact when it launched its line of socially conscious beers in 2016.
The tinnies are emblazoned with slogans such as “Consent Can’t Come After You Do”, “Change the Date” and “Boundless Plains to Share”. Now you can get them on tap.
Sparkke’s 850-square-metre, 636-person-capacity behemoth, which soft-opened late last month, is a takeover and extension of the 180-year-old Whitmore Hotel on Morphett Street. In recent history it’s been a TAB, a strip club and a live-music venue. Under the guidance of Troppo Architects, the build started last August and was still very much underway when we visited in November.
The nearly finished fit-out is softened-up industrial, but sits comfortably with the pub’s early history. An original Georgian frontage is preserved behind floor-to-ceiling glass. In the restaurant, painstakingly preserved brickwork runs into blush-pink archways. London-based artist Jimmy C splashed a mural in the bright and breezy downstairs bar in 40-degree heat. Up on the rooftop, there are city views on one side and the perfect vantage point into the treetops of Whitmore Square on the other.
In the thick of it all is head brewer Agi Gajic’s lab. An 800-litre, two-vessel nano-brewery – made to her specifications – will yield around 50,000 litres of limited-release, keg-only beer yearly. Core lines will continue being brewed off-site via contract, but the entire catalogue is on tap at the bars. And shaken up in a few of the cocktails: find Sparkke’s ginger beer in the Dark & Stormy, strawberry-balsamic blonde ale in the Sour, and the “Say I Do” bubbles fizzing up the spritzes.
“I dare say the beers made here you’ll never see more than once,” Gajic says. The first – “something smashable, but not too weird and wacky” – is only a few months off. Beyond that there’ll be “lots of collabs, lots of beers to match events, and fun stuff”. In the soon-to-open bottle shop, there’ll be fresh-filled growlers and squealers to take away, plus a small florist curated by Evie Harrison. The cellar will be reserved for sour beers and barrel aging.
Now, is a pub really a pub without the schnitzel and chips? Head chef Tracy Archer thinks so. In the downstairs kitchen, her answer is a Panko-crumbed free-range chicken burger with Kewpie coleslaw and tonkatsu sauce, and sweet-potato fries. The rest is veg and seafood heavy – fresher than your average pub grub. But the rooftop kitchen, which will be operational in a few weeks, will be “more meat-driven”, says Archer.
“But I had four guys, a little bit challenged by the menu, come in for lunch. They ordered, ate, and then stayed all afternoon waiting for dinner service.”
Archer is a self-described “booze hound”. And she’s in the right place. “Just as we do food in booze – the strawberry-balsamic ale – there’s booze in the food,” she says. No sad side salads here – they’re tossed with hard-lemonade or cider dressing. We chomp through a brewer’s board; the nashi pear and vegetables are cider-pickled, there’s black IPA in the cheese fondue, and New England pale ale in the bread. Tip: get an Uber. Buzzed-up carrot tops (that would otherwise be discarded) are used to make the pesto.
Once she’s hit her stride, Archer will hand-pick three local producers to feature each month, “Instead of a specials board where you recycle the old fish into something shitty”.
Sparkke at the Whitmore officially opens today at 12pm.
Sparkke at the Whitmore
317 Morphett Street, Adelaide