A visit to Launceston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Boag’s Brewery.
We pulled into the Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers and were immediately fascinated by the beautiful Georgian building. Located across the road from the brewery, this building was built in 1826 and used to be a hotel licensed by women. It was originally called the Lame Dog Hotel, then the Gold Lion, and finally the Tamar Hotel before Boag’s adopted it. Exploring the building is quite a treat in itself – check out the original wallpaper on the ground floor.
Our guide for the day, Don, has been doing tours for around 10 years. He began the tour in the Centre of Beer Lovers, talking about the history of the brewery and the main ingredients that go into beer – water, malt, hops and yeast. He then guided us downstairs and outside to cross the street to the brewery. As soon as you are out the front of the brewery, you can smell the sultry scents of malt in the air. The brewery takes up the whole block and all the steps of the brewing process are performed onsite.
Boag’s beer all started back in 1853 when James Boag arrived in Australia with his wife and three kids. He got a job in a brewery, and after a year, his son James Boag II was born. When James Junior was old enough, he worked in a brewery too.
In 1883, father and son teamed up and bought the newly established Esk Brewery, forming J. Boag & Son. They didn’t stop there though – by 1900, J. Boag & Son had bought most of the other breweries in Launceston, and owned the entire block.
During this time, James Boag III was born, James Boag I died and James Boag II was managing the business, up until 1919 when he died too. James Boag III took over the family business and was managing director until 1944. His contribution to the community through sporting and business activities made him a well loved and respected member of society.
As of 2008, J. Boag & Son has been owned by Lion – an Australian arm of the Japanese conglomerate – Kirin.
The making of Boag’s beer starts with the main ingredient – water. They source theirs from the Tamar River, which is pure soft water – low salt and mineral content. If a brewery wants more minerals in their beer for extra bitterness, then the water is burtonised by adding salt and minerals before brewing.
The second important ingredient is barley. The majority of the barley that goes into Boag’s beer is locally grown and is malted in Devonport. For a batch of beer, they use about 8-10 tonnes of malted barley.
The next ingredient is hops, and it just so happens that Tasmania is an ideal place to grow hops! More than half of Australia’s hops are grown in Tasmania because of the excellent growing conditions.
The main ingredient that makes beer what it is, is yeast, and for each batch of beer, Boag’s use a tonne of the stuff.
Each batch of Boag’s beer makes about 49-50 thousand litres and they can do 7-8 batches in 24 hours. Once the mash has been cooked and hopped, it goes into fermenting tanks with the capacity to hold 200 thousand litres. The beer stays there to bubble away for around 7 days, depending on the brew. Ales prefer a more aggressive fermentation, while lager likes a low and slow fermentation, which is why it goes into maturation tanks for around 2-3 weeks.
The maturation tanks at Boag’s brewery have the capacity to hold up to 1.6 million litres of beer. Annually, Boag’s Brewery produces approximately 75 million litres of beer – that’s 200 million stubbies!
When it’s about time for the beer to be bottled, it goes through rigorous sensory testing. The testers are the only people who are allowed to consume alcohol onsite, and testing is done first thing in the morning to ensure a clean palate. The sensory test isn’t just beer tasting, it also covers the aroma and appearance.
Once the beer is ready, it’s filtered for cosmetic reasons, because for some reason, people like to be able to see through their beer. Boag’s beer used to be chill filtered, but these days they use diatomaceous filtering, which makes it anti-vegan because it uses the fossilised skeletal remains of single celled aquatic plants called diatoms. It’s then packaged without any preservatives, but is pasteurised to ensure that it’s safe for human consumption.
In terms of reusing and recycling, Boag’s is concerned with sustainability, just like most large breweries around Australia. The steam from the kettle is captured and reused, and CO2 produced in the fermenting tanks is collected and used to push fluid through pipes for cleaning. Also, the spent grain from the mash is transported to local farmers to feed their cows.
The Tasting… and Cheese Pairing!
After the tour of the brewery, we went back to the Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers for some beer and cheese pairing. Deadset – this was our favourite part of the tour, because not only did we never think to pair cheeses with beer, but the pairings were so complimentary that Juz now likes smoked cheese, when previously she loathed it.
Boag’s Premium & Triple Cream Brie
Boag’s Premium is a fantastic beer. It’s only available in stubbies to maintain its classy image. The beer is really light and crisp with great balance of hops and malt. It’s a lager that tastes like a pilsner. It was paired with King Island Heritage Triple Cream Brie – a complimentary light cheese to go with a relatively light beer. The buttery, salty cheese was absolutely delightful with Boag’s Premium.
XXX Ale & Vintage Cheddar
Locally referred to as Boag’s Red, Boag’s XXX Ale is more robust than the Premium and has a bigger hoppy burst. It was paired with Mersey Valley Original Vintage Cheddar, which has a lovely salty tang. The bitterness of the hops with the tang of the cheese combined perfectly.
Wizard Smith Ale & Smoked Cheddar
This darker beer is made with crystal malt and mild hops. It has an almost fruity smell and taste, and would normally be paired with robust flavours like lamb and game. Therefore, it would only make sense to pair it with a flavourful cheese like King Island Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar. This pair blew our minds.
The story behind the beer was quite interesting. It was named after a guy called Wizard Smith, a drayman who delivered the beer and looked after the horses for Boag’s. In 1929, there was a flood and he risked his life to save the horses. In return, Boag’s granted him lifetime employment and this pale ale was named in his honour.
The XXX Red Ale and the Wizard Smith are exclusively available in Tasmania – which is a shame because they are two fantastic beers. We bought a case of Wizard Smith before leaving Tasmania just so we could enjoy it back on the Mainland.
Boag’s Brewery is located at 69 Esplanade in Launceston, but the Boags Centre for Beer Lovers is at 39 William Street.
Tours of the brewery run every day – bookings are essential and fully closed shoes must be worn. You can book yourself in by contacting the brewery on 03 6332 6300, or book online via their website: https://www.jamesboag.com.au