Here in Melbourne town you don’t hear too many good things about Adelaide. Okay you’re vaguely jealous that they can get Coopers everywhere, but you take pleasure in Port Power falling apart, laugh that their biggest ‘celebrity’ is Ben Oxenbould or that chick from Superjesus , joke that their entire population is aged 63 and that it is just an overgrown Geelong.
About the only good thing you do hear about (if you are a card carrying beer geek) is the Wheatsheaf Hotel, or The Wheaty to its friends.
I’ve heard that this is the best beer pub in the whole of Adelaide, I’ve even heard it said that it is the best in Australia, or even more grandly the best pub EVER.
The Wheaty is located in beautiful downtown Thebarton, which is a word I’ve only ever seen followed by the word theatre and only on band tour posters. The good thing about Thebarton for Melbourne folk is that it can be reached by a tram (bet you thought Melbourne had a monopoly on trams) and better still it’s free (officially free, not just the ‘I can’t be bothered paying’ free that Melbourne trams are).
Once you exit the tram and wander through some industrial back streets you’ll find the Wheaty, a classic old style inner city pub. Inside it has a real Melbourne feel. If I had to compare it to anything I’d say it has the grungy homeliness of The Great Britain, combined with the music cred of The Corner (as it has a band room out the back) and the beer list of The Courthouse . I know all this makes it sound like the perfect pub, and it is close to it. So sit back and hear the tale of when Jordan and myself went to The Wheaty.
We were here for the beer, so I scanned the tap handles. I was looking for brews I couldn’t get in Melbourne and in particular SA brews – there was only one on tap. And here lies the first problem with the Wheaty, it needs more local SA brews. Maybe it was a quirk of the night we were there, maybe it’s that the SA brewing scene isn’t very well developed, or maybe it’s that The Wheaty’s point of difference is that it’s the only place you can get interstate craft beer, but as a tourist in Adelaide I would have liked to have seen a few more local beers.
Anyway we started with the only SA tap brew, a beer from the Adelaide Hills – Lobethal Bierhaus Double Hopped IPA. It was a good place to start, it was a great refreshing summery brew. It was a honey golden colour with few bubbles and a wispy head. The smell was hoppy pine resins and a backbone of caramel malts. It was not quite sweet at the front of the sip but not far from it, it had a nice body and felt smooth in the mouth, then the hops came through and lingered, but not in an aggressive show off sort of way. It was a very well balanced IPA – Pint.
For our second brew it we decided to head back to our home state Victoria, but stuck with the style with the
The King Brown in a king brown sitting on some of 1960's furniture
Mountain Goat Double IPA. This was a great amber colour, darker than the Lobethal, it had a much better head too, this one was a solid creamy tea coloured head. This too is a beautifully balanced beer, great caramel malt at the start of the sip and the hops come rolling over the top of it, again piney and resiny rather than overt fruit tones. It is an astoundingly drinkable beer. Jord (who is a hop head we are discovering) described it as ‘A glass full of goodness.’ And Victoria beats SA again because I’m giving this one a Jug.
We were feeling a little bit guilty and this point and wanted to return to the SA brews so we delved into The Wheaty’s extensive bottled beer list and selected Brewboys King Brown which suitably enough came in a King Brown (which is what some people, possibly South Australians call long necks). I carried this back to our 1960’s inspired chairs along with two butchers (which is what South Australians call ponies. Strangely they also call pots schooners and if you ask for a pint you’ll get a schooner, it’s a weird place).
This beer tasted a hell of a lot like Jamieson’s Brown Ale. It was more amber in colour than brown, a touch thin in the body with powdered chocolate in the aftertaste. It was a little underwhelming. I’ll suggest the beer is designed as an easy to drink sessionable brown ale, which it achieves, but it’s nothing special – Schooner (an actual schooner not a pot).
I like a narrative when I drink and I think you can see I tend to start light and work up to the darker, more
Feral's Boris, lit romantically by an ironic lamp
challenging beers. As it was now dark outside it was time to get serious. It was time to order the Feral Boris which is an 11.5% alcohol Russian Imperial Stout. If that was unusual enough it was on a hand pump, with means no injection of carbon dioxide so a low carbonation beer, and it flowed through some fresh hops (using a randall) before hitting my glass.
The initial reaction was ‘wow’, this tastes like no other beer I’ve ever had (or more correctly it tasted like every other beer I’ve ever had but all at the same time). It smelt of BBQ sauce, plums and alcohol. It was pitch black with a thick head. The taste is surprisingly smooth, with a ridiculously full body. I couldn’t work out if it was complex, or just confused. From second to second it bounced around between hops, sweet chocolately malts, stewed fruits, resiny hops, alcoholic punches all sorts of things. I’m tempted to give it a Jug for its complexity, but I’m going to knock it down to a Pint because it was so complex it was confusing. (And yes I’m aware I’ve stopped making sense).
At this point it had become obvious that it was almost 9pm and we hadn’t had lunch, but had had quite a bit of beer so it was time for food. Now this is the second problem with The Wheaty, no kitchen. I don’t really understand how you can have such a big pub (there were three good size rooms inside and two big beer gardens) without a kitchen. So we set forth into the night in search of food.
I know you think this is where this seemingly never ending tale ends, but alas it does not. After coming out of the pizza place we couldn’t work out where the tram stop was so we had to retrace our steps to the pub to work out where we were. Of course once back at the pub it seemed logical to have another beer. We were smart enough to choose a nice gentle Moo Brew Pale Ale.
This is a light coloured, slightly hoppy beer perfectly designed for drinking in summer in beer gardens. You could use it as a cleanser at the end of the night, or a thirst quencher at the start of a session (perhaps if you have been sightseeing all day). How do I know? Because that’s what we did – end Friday night’s session on this worthy beer and then start Saturday’s afternoon session back at The Wheaty on it. (If you’d like to know more it was the 4th ever beer we reviewed on tipples)
The Dreadnought on the next day, and yes I'm sitting in the same chair as the night before
Of course Saturday was just a short session (really it was just a place to meet someone before the long drive to Murray Bridge) so I only managed to sneak in one more beer, Little Creatures Dreadnought. This was very very good, black as the Ace of Spades, with a creamy tea-coloured head and little carbonation. It had chocolate tones in the body and then a bitey, tangy hop tone coming through. It was a beer with a silky mouthfeel and a nice full body. Definitely Pint worthy.
So incredibly long story short, if you find yourself in Adelaide jump on the tram towards the Entertainment Centre, get off at Thebarton and go to The Wheaty. It may not be the best beer pub in Australia, but it would have to be in the top five and certainly more interesting than looking at the fucking pandas.