OP-ED: Brewery Still a Beauty Bottler of an Industry

Thursday 1 April 2021, The Examiner


An undeniably iconic Launceston site is that of the James Boag's Brewery.

Synonymous with quality, every Tasmanian knows what you're talking about when you ask for a Boag's.

A far cry (in both quality and taste) from the VB or Carlton lager that seems to be promoted as a distinctly Australian beer in movies and overseas, nothing hits the spot like Boag's Premium on a hot day.

But what does Boag's mean for Launceston?A lot, if history is anything to judge by.

The brewery was established in 1881, and J Boag & Son was established as a concern in 1883.

"Who is James Boag?" we were asked, in an iconic marketing campaign some 16 years ago.

James Boag himself, moved halfway around the world from Scotland to Tasmania with his wife Janet in 1853. James I and his son James II (hence the name J Boag & Son) went into partnership with John Glenwright at the Cataract Brewery in 1878 and James I became the licensee of the All Year Round Hotel.

In 1883, James I and his son took over the Esk Brewery, which had been established by Charles Stammers Button in 1881. This remains the site of the Boag's Brewery today, on the banks of the North Esk - with the site being significantly larger than it was then.

James Boag I died in 1890, but by the time of his death, the brewery was producing more than 500 hogsheads a week and employed more than 30 staff. According to the Boag's website: "James Boag and his brewers combined the purest Tasmanian water and natural ingredients with their fierce pride and passion, to forge a reputation for making extraordinary beers, that could only be made in Tasmania."

Today, the brewery still insists on using the softest Tasmanian water, and only the finest hops and barley to produce their range of exceptional beers.

But "who is James Boag?" asks us about much more than the man himself. Implicit in the "who" is a "what" - what the Boag's name means and represents for Launceston.

Today, the brewery employs scores of brewers; specialists in their fields, which is evident in the quality of the beer produced.

It services licensed venues across the city, state and country and has strong international export numbers as an exotic, superior Australian beer.

I know many Tasmanians living abroad, who seek out pubs in places like London or New York which stock Boag's, just so they can get a taste of home.

The company remained in the Boag family throughout the twentieth century, until 1976 when George Boag, the second son of James Boag III retired from the board.

The company was acquired by San Miguel Corporation in 2000 for $92 million, with the existing Tasmanian management structure to remain in place.

San Miguel sold J Boag & Son to Lion Nathan Limited in 2007 for $325 million. A very neat profit to generate in a matter of seven years, which emphasises the hard work of the talented local cadre of employees who make the company tick.

Lion, a Trans-Tasman subsidiary company of Kirin Beer currently retains ownership of Boag's and, while head office is based in Sydney, it manages over 150 employees who produce award-winning and internationally-acclaimed beers, and oversees an output of 76 million litres of ales, lagers and pilsners a year.

Boag's will over the next few months commence production of Kirin's Flagship Premium Beer - Kirin Ichiban, for supply all over Australia. In addition to this they have also secured a contract to locally produce a 100 per cent export product for a customer in Japan - supporting the growth of international trade from Tasmania.

J Boag & Son comprises a vital part of Tasmania's economy, not just through its exports, but through the myriad of jobs it provides to our local brewers, drivers, stockists and sales team.

The brewery has a long-standing affiliation as a Gold Member of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce and supplies many of our local events venues with their brands. It is an integral part of our commercial sector from the beginning of the brewing process to the time it touches our lips. Over 140 years after its establishment, the edifices of the brewery's original buildings are still visible.

The merging of its rich history with the ongoing quality of the beer produced is evident when you walk or drive past the site. It is a part of Launceston's beating heart. Quite simply, Boag's beer can only be produced in Launceston, and Launceston could only produce beer with the quality we have come to associate with the Boag's brand.

If you have not recently taken a tour of the brewery, I would strongly encourage you to do so, so that you can - along with the beer samples - imbibe some of our local history.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councill

Rosemary Armitage MLC

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