Ask well travelled Aussie beer lovers for their favourite craft beer bars and the chances are The Wheaty's going to feature high – if not first – on their list. Leading the way for better beer in Adelaide since 2003, when it was launched by avowed hopheads Jade Flavell, Emily Trott and Liz O'Dea, who turned a rather shambolic "country pub in the city" into a true craft beer haven.
Initially, they spent three months renovating it and replacing the beer system themselves but, in all honesty, it's been a renovation of sorts that's continued ever since and will continue to do so; as Jade Flavell – now the sole owner after Liz left the business and Trotty passed away from cancer – puts it, there's always something you can be doing better.
For the first decade-and-a-bit after they took control, it become one of very few places where you could find a truly dazzling array of wonderfully curated beers, both local and imported and independent too – long before indie beer became such a big thing.
It achieved its notoriety without having a food offering to speak of – the kitchen had been coming "soonish" for more than ten years before they accepted it would totally change the vibe of the place. Instead, there's a steady stream of food trucks that rotate just like the taps inside. It allows The Wheaty to concentrate on the magic of malt – not just across the taps, a hand pump and diverse can and bottle list, but also in the shape of whiskies. And we're talking weird and wonderful whiskies: unusual releases from established distilleries, bottles from producers you've probably never heard of, malts from Australian microdistilleries, Swedish and Japanese whiskies, plus tastings led by visiting producers that regularly attract up to 80 guests.
They were early adopters of collaborations, with Jade inviting brewers to get creative on her 50 litre homebrew kit, and often launch new beers three ways: through a regular tap, on the handpump and through the Glasshopper. As they put it: "Retro-fitting, retro-fixing, or retro-fucking as the case may be." Then there are festivals such as the annual Good Beer Wheaty spin-off from Good Beer Week in May and Thebartonia, which brings 4,000 people to the 'burb every February.
If that's not enough to entice you to visit, there's also a small but lovingly curated wine list focusing on local winemakers and live music in the shed out the back four nights a week. It's normally kept pretty chilled - think alt country / bluegrass - but don't be surprised if you walk in and find a balalaika ensemble giving it some love.
In 2014, they opened their brewing arm, the Wheaty Brewing Corps where ideas for beer could be tested in earnest. Rather than relying on a core range, WBC beers are broken down into regulars, not so regulars and one-offs. They've been prolific from the off, the 600L brewhouse putting out 44 different beers before the brewery's first birthday and branching out to everything from casks to barrel ageing.
Their collaboration – "spooning" as it's affectionately known – has gone up a gear too, with every passing brewer stopping in to lend a hand in the brewhouse, showcase their beer in the pub and share a drink or three with punters. The calibre of guests you can expect to see is a who's who of the Aussie scene with a smattering of international guests like Sierra Nevada, To Øl, Magic Rock, Sixpoint, Tiny Rebel and more.
The brewery has been expanded over time, with Fermentation Alley allowing for more tanks and thus more beer and beers, hardly any of which pour outside the brewery. A container bar that opens seasonally in their ever-evolving beer garden boosts the number of beers they can offer at any one time too.
The launch of the Wheaty Brewing Corps saw the pub switch from serving the best local and international beers to mostly their in-house brews; not all of their long-term fans were initially overjoyed at the decision, but it didn't take long for Jade and her brewers to prove their brewing chops – the Champion Small Brewery at the 2017 Craft Beer Awards adding weight to their decision.
As well as fulfilling a long-held dream of running a brewpub rather than just a pub, it also ensured The Wheaty keeps offering something you can't get elsewhere. Now, with other SA pubs offering rotating lineups of local and international beer, this keeps them in the unique territory they've always occupied.
Just a kilometre or two from Adelaide's CBD, The Wheaty remains an absolute must for any beer aficionado passing through – and something of an addiction for those that live there.