Boag's (J.Boag & Son)

With several different owners over the past 100 years, J. Boag and Son typifies the sometimes turbulent history of Australian brewing and the minor miracle of surviving at all into the 21st century. Scotsman James Boag and his son James Boag junior started things rolling back in 1881 when they amalgamated the Cornwall and Esk  reweries onto the single site where the company continues to operate, a handful of city blocks from Launceston’s GPO. James Boag senior retired from the business in 1887, while James Boag III joined the company in 1919, the year his father (James Boag junior) died. The Boag dynasty had steadily acquired rival breweries both in Launceston and Hobart, and was the only major player operating in northern Tasmania after World War I. In turn J. Boag & Son was taken over in 1922 by the Cascade Brewery, forming Tasmanian Breweries, which would itself fall victim to Kiwi corporate-raider Ron Brierley’s company Industrial Equity Limited during the speculative 1980s. Following the stockmarket crash of 1987, Boag’s future was less than certain until Philip Adkins, an American merchant banker, bought a controlling interest in 1991 and steadily got the brewery’s core business back on track. Undoubtedly, the launch of James Boag’s Premium Lager in 1994 was a masterstroke, backed by an advertising campaign featuring black and white photographs commissioned from avant garde US-based fashion photographer Helmut Newton. It was under Adkins watch that Boag’s blossomed from being a rather stagnant regional brewery into one with a surging national presence, courtesy of their flagship premium lager. While the north-versussouth state-based beer parochialism is still evident, the boundaries are less clearly defined these  days and the overall image of  high-quality Tasmanian food and drink has benefited both Boag and Cascade. By 2000 J. Boag had been acquired by Philippines brewing giant San Miguel which, in turn, sold it  to Lion Nathan seven years later. Recent new products have included the roasty, musk-sweet Boag’s Leatherwood Honey Porter, a limited-edition brew which has  been rolled out twice, and Wizard Smith’s Ale, which is in the style of an English bitter ale. It will be interesting to see whether such brands are continued under the new ownership regime, with Lion Nathan currently pushing both Boag’s Draught and Boag’s Classic Blonde into the mainland Australian market.

House Style

While the clean, crisp Premium Lager is the brewery’s flagship, the brewery is capable of producing innovative, flavourpacked beers like the Leatherwood Honey Porter.

Signature Beer

James Boag’s Premium Lager

Behind the Label

Released in 2007, this brand honours Boag’s legendary drayman Wizard Smith, who singlehandedly saved the brewery horses during the great 1929 Launceston flood. After abandoning his pushbike and swimming through rising floodwaters, Smith liberated the threatened horses and led them to higher ground. He was rewarded with a job for life and a form of immortality, with his own beer label 78 years on. The origin of his nickname is unclear, though you’d suspect he was a ‘wizard’ with horses or, perhaps, he just had an uncanny knack of causing beer to disappear.

Contact Information

39 William Street, Launceston, 7250 Tours available; tastings; takeaway sales

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