This will be an ongoing series on local bottleshops. Our aim is to see what makes them different and the history and backgrounds of the owners and managers. This series will be in collaboration with the Port City Brew Bus.
Fermental Beer and Wine
7250 Market St.
In March 2013 when Fermental Beer and Wine opened its doors—the doors to a funky little 1940s bungalow, that is—in Ogden, some may have mused that owner Steve Gibbs was taking a risk. After all, Ogden is surely outside the downtown hub of the Central Business District, and his neighbors the barber and locksmith don’t exactly make for good bar hopping. But the bottle shop was swiftly embraced by the growing population in north Wilmington—and then some.
The space inside is quaint. A small bar with three draft options, a cooler with singles, and around the corner a living room with the coziest couch—literally, folks sink the second they sit down. Meander through the other rooms, still laid out like the home it once was, and peruse the to-go offerings. From six packs to bombers to stacks of wine, Fermental has a taste to cover all palates. Outdoors, guests can gather at a picnic table under a canopy of café string lights and stars.
“As one of north Wilmington’s first alternatives to the local bars and restaurants, Fermental continues to grow and cultivate itself to its surroundings,” Gibbs, who spent 15 years in the industry—from retail to wholesaler to supplier—before opening his shop, explains. “As a resident of the Ogden area myself, it seemed like a likely spot to offer unique beer and wine to the community, and I feel a lot of other businesses have joined us along the way. A lot of folks aren’t interested in the downtown scene and some don’t even like crossing Gordon Road after 5 p.m. And if you’re driving, it’s better to stay close to home. Not only do we offer some of the best pricing and selection of beer/wine in town, Fermental is a place to bring your family, your friends or meet new friends. Fermental is family. Many parents bring their children along with them, as well as pets and picnics and out of town guests. We are casual and comfortable and offer a space to relax, congregate, and/or celebrate. Fermental is a fun, quirky, casual space that invites people from all age groups and backgrounds into a general revelry of good beer, fine wine and culture.”
Gibbs shares that the goal for growth at Fermental is to move at a slow and steady pace. “Outside, we started with three picnic tables, a few outside lights, and no stage. What was once barely walked-upon green grass, has now turned into a beer garden of straw and mulch along with various games, seating options, flowers, hop bines and more. Plans to continually grow and improve this area are always in progress. Sometimes people give us things—other times we build, find, or purchase.” Gibbs beckons folks to stay tuned for tether ball and additional landscaping this winter.
Indoors, the aesthetic remains warm, inviting, and comfortable. “My wife, Kristen, picked out all the colors inside, which was sort of a red-wine-meets-barley-and-hops theme that transitioned into an earthy, comforting vibe. Focusing on the original wooden floors, we went with several wooden structures inside for display and seating, utilizing old wine crates for shelving and thrift store/Craigslist-ing most of the rest. All of our coolers are secondhand and were quite a feat to get inside the building. Overall, a plan really wasn’t made for design, we just painted and put things where they seemed to fit; and remarkably, it all came together. We are drinkers, not designers, but I guess we have an eye for composition. As a whole, Fermental keeps changing, growing, adapting, building, and pushing along. Honestly, we have outgrown the space but have no plans to move away from our little corner in Ogden.”
Fittingly, the Gibbs recently welcomed a daughter with his wife Kristen, born October 8, 2015. “As we continue to grow, so has my personal family, which can add a new perspective on things,” Gibbs quips. “But for now, we’re planning on staying where we are and continuing with our current state of affairs, perhaps in larger formats. Look for occasional bigger bands playing in 201; additional taps are currently in planning at what will become a newly designed main bar; possibly a more regular outdoor bar in the beer garden next season; additional off-site events; and we’re still crunching in as much beer as we can into our limited interior, but there seems to always be more room. More food truck rotations, more events, more people, and more amusing attributes to keep Fermental fun.”
In the meantime, Fermental carries on with free weekly wine and beer tastings every Friday evening, and occasionally wine and brewery reps are on-hand to offer detailed education and giveaways. Every Friday and Saturday Fermental hosts live music in the beer garden, “alongside a rotating cast of local food trucks,” Gibbs shares. Monthly events run the gamut, from cheese pairings to book clubs, art shows to rehearsal dinners. “With the introduction of Wilmington Beer Week in October, we have an exhausting library of things to do and things to drink,” Gibbs notes. “It’s all for the love of beer, wine and community.”
“Our largest annual event is Arts & Drafts: a celebration of art, music and of course, beer,” Gibbs begins of his yearly September soiree. “We collect, harbor, order, and beg for some of the best, rarest, oddest, and most celebrated beers from all over; tapping them in an all-day extravaganza of beer accompanied by an afternoon into the evening of live music from multiple musicians. The day begins with a beer garden full of local artists, sculptors, and craft makers spread through every free inch of space in our backyard, selling and showcasing their talents in an endless array of media. Throw in a few food trucks alongside some of the area’s best artisans and you’ve got one hell of an adventure. This may possibly be moved off-site in the future to accommodate a larger group of artists and the crowd, but for now we’re still squeezing in just over 20 creative folks in a welcoming variety of artistic genres.”
So, what beverage does Gibbs enjoy most of all? “Over the past few years this has become a difficult question to answer,” he starts. “There are so many beers available, and there are new releases every day. I love wine too, but my background in wine has driven me to beer. Ask most wine sales reps and they’ll share a similar story: After tasting and selling wine all day, nothing beats a cold beer. But if you include that ubiquitous desert island aspect, it would have to be: a super fresh American IPA. Green, juicy, chewy hops that coat your teeth and gums, cloyingly begging for another sip of that super-ripe goodness. Preferably local, but any brewery that can push it to market with the oily, dank, hop residue still intact is fine with me. A few examples include: Stone Enjoy By, NoDa Hop Drop N Roll, Victory Dirt Wolf, Knee Deep Hoptologist, and Wicked Weed Freak of Nature.”
As for new beers available in our market, Gibbs remains a fan and consumer of Wicked Weed and Knee Deep Brewing. Yet it’s a Midwestern brewery that is making its mark on his tongue as of late. “I am continually amazed by the beers coming from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Tulsa, Oklahoma,” he reveals. “The sours these folks are releasing are by far some of the best I’ve ever poured into my mouth. Their recent series of dry-hopped golden sours are a deliciously funk-driven, tropical mess of flavor and aroma that dances across the palate, inviting another sip, another bottle, another pint. Not to mention their Prairie Bomb!, another classic from Oklahoma, is a big, sturdy, imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla, and chile peppers. A top-rated beer across the board, this bottle of blackness is perfect for the upcoming colder months. As Prairie grows, I would expect to see more greatness and deliciousness arriving from these folks in the coming year. We currently have multiple shelves of their products, just ask!”