Ooh, a session.
The James Squire beers were my first inkling that Aussie beer could be something other than Fosters. I may have had a Coopers at some point earlier, but on my first adult trip to Oz in 2006 Louise made sure I tried a few, including their limited edition Rum Rebellion Porter which I really wish they’d make again.
You probably all know the story of James Squire, but just in case you don’t: James Squire was probably the first commercial brewer in Australia. A sometime publican and habitual criminal back in the Old Dart, Squire came over in the First Fleet in 1788. He apparently started brewing more-or-less straight away, and at the end of his sentence he set up a farm at Kissing Point. Being the first man to successfully cultivate hops in Australia, Squire opened The Malting Shovel Tavern to help slake the thirst of river travellers passing his property, lying as it did half-way between Sydney and Parramatta. As was the custom in those days, Squire brewed his own beer for his tavern, and continued to do so until his death in 1822. His children kept the brewery going until 1837. Kissing Point now lies within the well-to-do Sydney suburb of Putney.
The modern 21st century James Squire beers owe their existence to an American and our old friends Lion Nathan but come back! They’re still worth drinking.
The American in question is Chuck Hahn. In 1986 Hahn set up the Hahn Brewery in Sydney, one of the first of the new wave of small breweries in Australia. The recession of the early nineties led to a sell-out to Lion Nathan. The big boys recognised that Hahn wasn’t just any chancer, and worked with him to create a new line of beers. The Camperdown Brewery had its name changed to The Malt Shovel Brewery in honour of Australia’s first brewer and the new beers were called…I see you’re ahead of me.
Last week Squiresy (no relation) and I felt the need for post-work beers. A big project had been delivered, it was hot, it was Tuesday…we had lots of excuses. We went down to the James Squire Brewhouse on King St Wharf, helpfully downhill from our place of employment, and settled in for a few.
One of the good things about the Brewhouse is that it sells beer in pints. One of the bad things is that those pints aint cheap. However, we arrived during Happy Hour and were able to get a couple of $5 big’uns down each before the prices rose.
My cheap and cheerful drinks were both Golden Ale, light and eminently sessionable. There’s been grumbles in the beer community that this isn’t what it was a few years ago, but its slightly bitter, slightly fruityness went down well enough.
After six o’clock I decided to go for one of the beers that are only brewed in the Beerhouses, and not bottled or kegged for sale elsewhere. Governor King is an unfiltered pale ale, and it was pretty insipid. No real hop flavour, and a watery dullness that was a chore to finish. Blah.
Keen for some taste (and looking to replace the dinner we’d not got round to ordering, let alone eating), my next choice was a pint of Craic. Can you guess what kind of beer it is? Irish stout, and done well, despite the rather annoying name. Another of the exclusive Brewhouse beers, this is thick, toasty, slightly nutty and much nicer than Australian-brewed Guinness. But then everything is nicer than Australian-brewed Guinness.
The night was becoming hazy but I was determined to try the Chock Bock. The Governor King and Craic are always on, but this was a new one and didn’t even have a proper sign on the tap. And it was 6.9%. At a quarter to ten these things are catnip to me.
Pity it was so average. Maybe my tastebuds were shot, but the only taste I could get out of it was a slight caramelly sweetness. No chocolate at all. It was a bit thin too.
Davo stuck with the Pilsener all night and one might think he made the right decision, given the up and down nature of my experiences. However, his hangover the next day was about twice as bad as mine, so perhaps not.