In this day and age, when savvy consumers know how important a story is to the success of a brand, it is instinctive to doubt any tale that seems simply spun to sell.
But sometimes, against our knowledge that ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’, the truth really is that good.
Since being founded in 1998, the Malt Shovel Brewery has been dispensing a range of beers dedicated to and named in honour of a convict brewer, James Squire.
At first glance, it seems like a hell of a yarn.
But the great thing about James Squire’s yarn is… it checks out!
The Charlotte sailing for Australia as part of the First Fleet – the ship that James Squire travelled aboard as a convict.
After arriving in Sydney in 1788 on the First Fleet, Squire’s brewing nous was quickly recognised by fellow convicts and settlers alike, as he brewed small amounts for sale and also privately for a pair of the ruling elite.
Seven years after arriving in Sydney, Squire was granted his freedom, along with 30 acres of land. That land, on the water between Sydney and Parramatta, would be where Squire first established his brewery and tavern – a perfect halfway house for people travelling between the two settlements.
But the man was far more than a convict or a brewer: he farmed the land he was given, supplied meat to the colony, owned a bakery in Sydney, worked as a district constable, and ran a credit-union-style bank through which he shared his wealth with poorer neighbours.
Kissing Point on the Parramatta river – land owned by James Squire.
Joseph Lycett, the artist responsible for the above portrait of Squire’s estate, went as far as to say, “Had he not been so generous, James Squire would have been a much wealthier man.”
Simply put, the man whose name is now known to most simply as a beer brand was actually a man worth raising a beer to.
Today, the team that works at the James Squire brewery in Sydney’s inner west maintain a strong connection to the man they brew in honour of. Whether through the impressive brewer’s beards they grow, or the yearly Squire family reunions they host in the brewery’s private tap house, the legacy of James Squire, along with the collection of tasty beers that honour his life, looks set to grow in strength in Australia.