Even though the greater Launceston area is especially famous wine, it’s also the birthplace of the brew that quenches the thirst of thousands of Tasmanians. Boag’s Brewery is a much-loved Launceston attraction, for obvious reasons.
Centrally located in William Street in Launceston and only a block or so from the banks of the North Esk River, Boag’s Brewery developed from what was originally the Esk Brewery. This brewery was started by Charles S. Button in 1881 and also included a cordial factory. Two years later James Boag and his son, also called James, bought the business.
James Boag I was born in Scotland and moved to the goldfields of Victoria in 1853, bringing his wife and four children with him. Within a few months, the family settled in Launceston instead and it was here, in 1854, that their fifth child, James Boag II, was born. James Boag I worked as manager and chief brewer at the Cornwall Brewery and in 1870 his son and namesake joined him here. The elder Boag retired eight years later and spent a year back in Scotland before returning to Launceston. During this time his son formed a partnership with J.T. Glenwright, who was at the Cataract Brewery. However, in 1883 James Boag I was lured out of retirement and J. Boag & Son was formed.
When they bought the Esk Brewery, the Boags kept the name and produced seven hogsheads of beer every week. Many people referred to the business as ‘Boag’s Brewery’ instead and eventually the name stuck. In 1887 the elder Boag retired again and James Boag II took over as manager of the company. During this year the brewery built a new malthouse and soon they were producing more than 500 hogsheads of beer a week. The next year the company bought the Cornwall Brewery and it wasn’t long before Boag’s Brewery was the dominant brewery in Tassie’s north. It remained a family business until 1976 when George Boag, son of James Boag III and great-grandson of the first James Boag, retired. Today, Boag’s is still one of the two main beer brands in Tasmania, the other being Cascade Brewery in Hobart.
Near the original brewery building is the Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers, housed in a stunning Launceston landmark from 1826, the former Lame Dog Hotel. Here you’ll find a bar that serves wine, coffee, tea, light meals and of course beer, but the centre is also the starting point for the very popular guided brewery tours. These tours tell you more about the brewery’s history and show you how the beers are made. If you want to see the brewery itself in action, you need to visit during the week though. Over weekends there is no brewing but you can still see how the machinery works.
The tour ends with a beer tasting. Boag’s Brewery makes several beers, from draught to English-style ale. Not all of these beers are available outside of Tasmania, so you have the perfect excuse to try them while you can and to stock up on your favourites. The best known of the Boag’s beers is the award-winning James Boag’s Premium Lager which, incidentally, goes very well with fresh seafood.