The story of Little Creatures goes back to the year 2000, when four friends decided they wanted to create a product around their passion: beer. They purchased two old sheds right on the fishing boat harbour in Fremantle (which had previously been used as a crocodile farm) and opened a small brewery and a restaurant seating 150 people.
Fast-forward to present day and the original brewery/restaurant has extended to accommodate almost 2,000 guests, making it the second biggest tourist attraction in the region.
"The company has always been based on a passion to make bloody good beer," explains Stewart Wheeler, GM of hospitality for Little Creatures. "Craft beer in Australia is approaching 15 per cent of the total market volume and
growing aggressively, as it is in every other modern western country. Asia is at about three per cent, but growing faster than any other market."
So the cross-continent move seemed logical for the company, though not without its challenges and difficulties, not least of which being space. "We needed a big space. For our business model we needed 500 sq-m with four metre-high ceilings to accommodate the brewing equipment. We also wanted little glimpses of the harbour and a quiet, leafy street in front with wide sidewalks, and of course the real estate agents were like, 'Are you joking?'," muses Wheeler.
Luckily, however, one day the team was wandering alongside the waterfront in Kennedy Town, a suburb that they had recently fallen in love with, and noticed an open roller door fronting a huge space. The former sugar and flour warehouse seemed the perfect location for the operation, so the owners were approached, and the rest is history.
"We see ourselves as custodians of the site, so we haven't tried to change the fabric of the building. Instead, we've protected the original volumes of the space and tried to make our concept fit within those," Wheeler explains. "For instance, although we've obviously needed to build new kitchens and bars and things, we haven't physically altered the building to accommodate those. All of the columns existed previously, and we just clad them and increased them in size slightly to help improve the intimacy of the space."
The floors, walls and ceilings were not touched at all during the transformation, creating a raw foundation for the interiors. Red pipes that run around the ceiling heighten this industrial feel, and also function to move the beer around the premises. To juxtapose the warehouse aesthetic, design firm Charlie & Rose chose communal tables made from timber and leather upholstered furniture to stand the test of the time. They also wanted to ensure that guests would be surprised at the level of comfort available in the highly industrial space.
As the original building had such large wall expanses, the team had to get creative to ensure a warm and inviting atmosphere. "We always place importance on this. It's done by offering customers choice in terms of different seating types, sizes, heights etcetera, and identifying and controlling different nooks within the space via varied ceiling heights, changing materials, feature lighting and utilising inherent building character," notes fellow Australian Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose.
As a result, polished concrete, copper, stone, marble and timber can be seen throughout the project. The team also brought over a number of vintage items from Australia that add the perfect homey touches. Coloured German pottery sits next to vintage work benches and sideboards, and a trio of chairs from Melbourne's Forum Theatre even make an appearance at the entrance of the space.
This is an excerpt from the "Aussie Rules” article from the December 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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