The Session #89 – Beer In History

session-logo-smThis month’s Session host is Bill Kostkas from Pittsburgh Beer Snob. He has chosen the topic of  Beer in History.

“At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate.”

The first brewer of beer in Australia was either John Boston or James Squire depending on who you talk to.
If you talk to the guys behind the beers John Boston lager and Boston’s Mill pale ale, they’ll tell you it was Boston. If you talk to the range of James Squire beers, they’ll tell you Jimmy S was the first.

Funny thing is, neither of those guys has any real claim on historical lineage to those brewers. They just named the brews after them and then let the public assume there is some connection. James Squire in particular lay it on thick – they name the beers in the range after chapters in the real Squire’s life (such as Four ‘Wives’ pilsner, a reference to the man’s one wife and three mistresses) and they include tales of his life on the label.

The James Squire range of beers.

The James Squire range of beers.

They even went and named the brewery The Malt Shovel Brewery, the name James gave to his own back in 1806 (well, close, it was called the Malting Shovel). Then they’ll spruik about the special history of James Squire and the Malt Shovel Brewery, as if they’re using the same brewery as JS himself.

They’re not – it’s not even in the same location. And yet, there is this subtle effort to link a brewery renamed in 1999 with one set up two centuries ago. To link a range of beers to a man who died damn near two centuries before they existed.

I like the history component of the James Squire beers. But I’m not totally happy with the way that history has been manipulated.

The John Boston lager.

The John Boston lager.

The John Boston guys don’t cop as much flack only because they have no market traction. They’ve been around for five years but hardly anyone would remember the beers. Their website goes on about John Boston’s story, again leading the reader to come to the conclusion that this beer called John Boston is somehow historically linked to the man John Boston.

Again, it’s not. It’s just a name they chose because, presumably, they thought they could ride on the coat-tails of a piece of history.

So who was the first brewer? No-one really knows, though if head starts count for anything, Squire had a big one. He got here in 1788 – six years ahead of Boston. It’s really hard to imagine that he didn’t make a single batch of beer in those years – in fact he was charged with stealing ingredients that could have been used to make beer in 1789. John Boston didn’t make a beer here until 1796.

So I’d say the Boston boys are drawing a long bow to try and suggest that he was the first. And both the Boston and Squire boys are doing the same when trying to make any historical connections to either man.


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