As a West Australian beer geek I have always known of The Wheatsheaf Hotel, more commonly known as “The Wheaty”, but had not visited. I got to fix that beery injustice during last month’s Australian Craft Brewers Conference in Adelaide. I ate a wonderful dish from a food truck, I can’t be more specific than that sorry, poor memory and a few pints! I had a couple of beers, enjoyed them lots, and Uber-ed back to the hotel full, happy and sleepy.
Jade Flavell, co-owner of The Wheaty, told attendees of the conference during the SA Brewers Panel session about how her and two friends co-founded The Wheaty and I think it’s such a great story that I would like to share it with you here and hope that, the next time you’re in Adelaide, you’ll be sure to visit and raise a glass to a wonderful iconic Australian pub.
The founding trio – Jade, Emily and Liz came across The Wheatsheaf Hotel in 2003 and Jade says they “fell in love with it”.
Jade tracks back the idea to own a brewpub to a trip to the United States where she tried an Alaskan Smoked Porter and it blew her mind.
It took a few years of searching until they came across The Wheaty. Perhaps they could have found something else sooner but they wanted a pub without pokies. This proved difficult given, at the time, Jade estimates less than ten percent of pubs actually fit the criteria but then along came The Wheaty.
It was, as Jade describes it, an “affectionately regarded shambles” and the existing owners were looking to sell to someone who would keep it as a pub. “We bought the pub on a handshake,” Jade said and from there they moved in and lived there for three months, renovating at the same time.
The pub was originally built in 1919 and they were keen to preserve the exterior.
“We’ve done bugger all to the outside”
As for the rest of the pub, Jade describes it as “crap-tastic”, after all, it was never their intention to create a slick and modern pub. There’s live music most nights of the week, a pool table and a dart board, all the signifiers of a good ol’ local pub.
When they re-opened the doors, Jade says they had to chase people to get beer on. They had Mountain Goat, Little Creatures and James Squire pouring and they were “dragging people kicking and screaming into craft beer”. After all, it was almost un-South Australian to drink anything other than home grown, well known Coopers Brewing beers.
“It took years,” but Jade says the rise of imported beers helped to change things in a time when, in the early 2000s, there weren’t hundreds of breweries in Australia. Imported craft helped The Wheaty start to change their beer culture, “slowly, slowly, pint by pint, customer by customer”.
Three years ago they had to make a decision whether to add a kitchen or a brewery and since brewing beer was always part of the plan, that decision was easily made and well, who needs a kitchen when there are food trucks?
The Wheaty Brewing Corps beers are made on a 600lt system and they sell their beer at the pub though they keep six taps reserved for guest beers to serve alongside their own. Selling all Wheaty beers at The Wheaty is, Jade says, the only way a system this small can work. They did the math and wholesale beer sales would actually be a financial loss but Jade doesn’t seem disappointed; she loves selling her beer merely steps from where it’s made.
“The instant customer feedback is worth its weight in gold”
Apologies for the lack of photos in this post, while I was enjoying beers and food at The Wheaty I neglected to take a single photo! (a sure sign of a good time!)
The Wheatsheaf Hotel
39 George Street, Thebarton, Adelaide