Nominees: Lonely, Deadly Ponies, Blush, Aesop, Deuce Sneakers Newmarket, Mecca Maxima Takapuna, KFC Fort St, World Queenstown, Scarpa Newmarket, Garage Project, Rocket Espresso.
Garage Project Kingsland
Wellington-based brewing company Garage Project recently opened a cellar door in Auckland’s Kingsland, bringing the best of its brand to Auckland’s growing craft beer community.
The fit-out communicated the brand essence well: dark cellings create a cavernous feeling which is complimented by stylish décor and long-hanging LED lighting. Spotlights are used strategically to highlight the back wall and refrigerators, which are stocked with the brands many drink options.
The fit-out has an industrial vibe with exposed concrete beams and polished floors. The colorful art design on the outer building contrasts with Garage Project’s bannering.
The decision to open a cellar door in Auckland - the first venue away from the safety of their home market - was not something the crew at Garage Project took lightly.
Finding the right space to suit the craft brewery’s unique vibe took 18 months, before they finally settled on a site in Kingsland. The new cellar door opened in March. Rob Wilkinson, who is in charge of Garage Project venues, says the process was something everyone knew they had to get right first time.
“It was important to us to find a site that suits Garage Project, and that had to be a bit off the beaten track. Ponsonby would never have suited us. Our biggest market is still our home market but all companies that produce their products outside of Auckland know they have to have something on the ground there too.”
Both the Wellington taproom and cellar door were designed by Matt Smith, but Wilkinson says initially they wanted an Auckland-based designer to take over the reigns of the Kingsland cellar door. They wanted someone who knew the area and market better than the Wellington-based team. But achieving Garage’s Project’s distinctive gritty vibe is no easy task and the project was finished with Matt Smith’s expertise.
“It’s ended up being a really lovely balance of the look and vibe of Garage Project with an Auckland touch. Wellington is a bit gritty and we’ve used that same grit in the Auckland venue but with a bit more polish on top.”
Garage Project have made a name for themselves with their colourful can and tap badge designs, and creating a space that allowed the beer to do the talking was critical. The space was created as a blank canvas with simple design to really let the beer art shine.
“I had a life in hospitality before Garage Project and I think people sometimes forget that you’re not going to eat the fit-out. Sometimes they can get too intricate in the design process and people don’t think about the longevity of the space. It can be visually obsolete before the doors even open.”
The cellar door boasts 12 tap beers that are constantly changing, which can be tasted in small glasses or as a tasting flight. The main focus of the cellar door is the wide range of bottles and cans plus flagons for people to buy and drink at home.
Most of the beers are still brewed in Wellington, but in order to meet the ever-growing demand three beers are now brewed at bStudio in Hawke’s Bay.
Judges’ comments from James Blackwood: Matt Smith did a brilliant job of Garage Project’s Wellington taproom and brewery. A style slavishly loyal to the brands ‘anti-brand' persona, he created not just a bar, but a destination. With the Kingsland cellar door concept, Matt’s done it again. Simple, elegant and a million miles away from your typical craft beer tropes, the Kingsland Garage Project cellar door is a class act.
Also, a special shout-out to KFC, whose fit-out for their Fort St restaurant was highly praised for successfully turning our perceptions of the brand on its head.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 756 June/July 2018