“Now, you listen here! He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.”
So says Terry Jones in one of the most oft-quoted lines from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and it’s a sentence that resonates with Thomas Delgatto, owner and head brewer of Thirsty Messiah. While Thomas isn’t saving Australia’s beer drinkers from anything in particular, he most certainly hopes to have many disciples for his 40-tap brewpub, while, with a laugh, he says Wolf Nipple Tips "will be on the menu."
Situated in the suburb of Broadmeadow in Newcastle, and within in a drop kick of the football stadium, this brewpub – “built by Bunnings” – has helped take this proud city up another notch on the craft beer scene.
“It’s going to be like the Melbourne experience," he says of the growth in the city's craft beer venues.
With Newcastle famed for its "one degree of separation" when it comes to knowing people*, it comes as no surprise when Thomas mentions Stuart Duff of Dusty Miner, Hunter Beer Co turned FogHorn brewer Keith Grice, the old brewing shop venue which is now part of Method Brewery, the team at Newcastle Distillery, or Lachlan MacBean of Grainfed Brewing. As is the norm, the city’s brewing crews pulled together to help out with advice along Thirsty Messiah’s journey.
Thomas is originally from Moree: a chippie by trade and a homebrewing veteran of some 40-years plus. He still remembers his $98-a-fortnight take-home pay at the time he discovered he could brew decent and somewhat cheaper beer at home, and recalls speaking to Keith in the homebrew shop while he built his original brew kit.
Thirsty Messiah’s journey had been something of a local "show" on Facebook as opening time approached: fans eagerly awaiting the next chapter of the journey for Thomas and his Libby have witnessed him build the stairs, the furniture, put up light fittings, cut up the concrete for the drains, back fill the trenches, pour all the floors, make the toilet partitions, complete the sign writing, and make a flood refuge in the brewery roof. In short, it’s easier to ask what he hasn't done on his own.
“I haven’t done the high voltage stuff. I’m not allowed to,” he says, glancing at Libby, and you can bet your last dollar he would have given it a go if he could get away with it.
With 40 taps in the venue, he has the luxury of brewing whatever he wants. In the early days of the brewpub, that's included a batch of sour mulberry mead – which tastes like a fantastic sorbet, and a kombucha, while he's been planning to collaborate with Newcastle Distillery Co an a unique G&T and a Dark and Stormy using his ginger beer recipe.
Add in the core range, a European dark lager, a NEIPA, a West Coast IPA, and a red IPA, plus a saison, brown IPA and a Ukrainian imperial stout all ageing in barrels from Hunter's Margan Wines, and you can understand while he describes himself as like a kid in a lolly shop when it comes to experimenting. He plans to add more German and Belgian styles too, the latter complementing the kegs he picks up from importer, the International Beer Collector.
Anyone keen to follow him into homebrewing will be able to join brewing lessons at Thirsty Messiah where Thomas will help you and your mates brew a beer; you get to take a keg home and they'll put it on tap if it's a success too, earning you and your mates bragging rights.
Thomas says his plans for the future can be summed up thus: “Make good beer. I’m too old to start plans for world domination, but it’s also not in my DNA to sit back.”
He says with a glint in his eye that you can get baptised at his brewpub too, suggesting that while he might not be the Messiah, he has the ability to be a very naughty boy.
And, with his brewpub now welcoming guests, we invited him to tell us more as part of our long-running Who Brews...? series.
Who are you?
Thomas is definitely not the Messiah but is a naughty boy. Thomas has brewed most of his adult life and, over the last 15 years, has been taking homebrewing to the next level. Having spent nearly 40 years serving the community in the public service it was time for a change to serve the community through craft beer.
Libby is the calm and ordered voice of reason, a steady influence and the brains and administration behind the operations.
Where do you brew?
Thirsty Messiah is located at 140 Lambton Road, Broadmeadow, and brew on premises. Close to cycleways, public transport, a regional hockey complex, a regional tennis complex, and a 33,000 seat stadium.
Why do you brew?
God created hops, grain, yeast and water. It's a little known fact that when God rested on the seventh day, he actually brewed.
The fact all these things come together to make beer is proof that god wants us to be happy. I brew to be happy and make others happy.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I have always been on the journey. This is what I am meant to do.
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery name?
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
No single beer represents the brewing mania inside me. On tap we will have mead, barrel-aged beers, lager, ale, dark, light, clear, sour and more. With 40 taps, how could you pick one?
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Libby and I already brew well together.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Like my beer, I am not monogamous: Samantha Fish, Eagles, Elton John, Queen, country, blues, rock...
What beers are in your fridge right now?
None, they are in my belly lol.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
The guys over at Method make a mean brew. The West Coast.
Is there a particular style, ingredient, or trend in beer you'd like to explore further?
Just making the best beer that I can. All styles.
Where can people find your beers?
At the brewpub. I may get my arm twisted to put some in local bottleshops.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
Same as my vision: serving locals, making people happy, being part of the fabric of Newcastle.
*This writer once took his wife to a small, isolated coastal village on the west coast of a wet and blustery Ireland, with its one pub. Low and behold, the bloke pouring the pints of Guinness behind the bar went to school with her in Newcastle.