Craig Wealands wasted little time putting Wagga Wagga's Thirsty Crow on the map, winning an AIBA trophy for his Vanilla Milk Stout within months of opening. That beer has gone on to become a true cult classic of the Australian beer scene, while Craig has added further silverware to his collection.
More than that, however, through his original brewpub he turned the people of the regional NSW city on to full flavoured beer, be that hoppy drops like his 26 Fifty Summer Ale (named after Wagga's postcode), the range of superb dark beers he produces or the more out there specials that hit taps throughout the year.
Having outgrown the original site, Thirsty Crow moved a short distance to a new venue but still delivers the same winning blend: great beers and food, a lively atmosphere, delicious locally roasted coffee and a cheery welcome to anyone that walks through the doors. He's been so busy with the move (and starting a family) that it's taken some time to get him to sit down with our Brew & A questions but, finally, here we are...
Craig Wealands – Thirsty Crow
Why are you a brewer?
When I finished school in 1999, I sought marketing qualifications and found myself in admin/office work in Sydney, which wasn’t really keeping me interested. I decided with just a handful of small breweries opening up in the early 2000s that I would do a Brewers course at Ballarat Uni and try to get some marketing work with a brewery – as I was interested in “different tasting” beers back then.
After struggling through the course and brewing a couple of homebrews, I applied for a brewer’s job on the Sunshine Coast. From there I moved down to the Hunter Beer Co for a couple of years with my goals set to open my own.
What would you be if you weren’t a brewer?
Financially better off…
What was your epiphany beer?
Holgate and Bootleg.
What's the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
I think the batch of Murder Pils just coming out of our tank in April is going to be pretty special.
What's your single favourite ingredient to use in beer?
Are there any beers you’ve brewed that might have been better left on the drawing board?
A rosemary and bacon beer. Was awful...
If you could do a guest stint at any brewery in the world, which would it be and why?
Hunter Beer Co or Bootleg – two of the best people I know – Keith (Grice) & Ryan (Nilsson-Linne) respectively.
What's your desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Crux Fermentation Project and their Freakcake – so much happening in that beer. One of the best beers in the world.
And what would be the soundtrack to those days?
An upcoming Aussie Band called MAZY.
If you couldn’t have beer, what would be your tipple of choice?
Rainwater – if I can’t have beer I must be dead…
What's the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a brewer?
That label collectors are a persistent bunch of people.
And the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a career in craft beer?
Join the crowd! ☺
Thanks for finding the time, Craig. You'll find him and his beers at Thirsty Crow, 153 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga.
You can read other Brew & A articles here.
Photos by Adam Gregory.