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James Squire Porter

Who is, or was, James Squire?

He was a highwayman, from Kingston, near London. Squire was convicted of robbery with menace, in 1785. Although he had stolen nothing more than chickens, he was sentenced to be transported to the British penal colony in Botany Bay, Australia. The convict ships also brought hops, and Squire seems to have been the first person to grow them successfully in the new colony, and to brew beer there commercially. He eventually owned extensive hop gardens, and a brewery and pub called the Malt Shovel, at Kissing Point, near Sydney. The romantic-sounding location seems to have been appropriate. In the course of his life, Squire had at least four wives or long-term mistresses, and begat a dozen children.

The original Malt Shovel brewery is long gone, but is spirit has been revived in a building dating from 1900, The building, once a furniture factory, was converted in 1988 into a small brewery. The principal was a more recent immigrant, Chuck Hahn.

Hahn once worked at the world's biggest single brewery, Coors, in Colorado. Some of the smallest breweries are also in that state, and Hahn was well-versed in the micro scene.

He went to Australia after being headhunted for a senior post with one of the major brewers there, and later established his own Hahn Brewery in the former furniture factory. The Hahn beers became very popular, to the point where their production was moved to a larger brewery. The Hahn brewery was re-named Malt Shovel in 1998, and its attention concentrated on its original object: to make small volumes of speciality beers. That is when the James Squire products began to emerge.

So far, there have been a Pilsner, a Belgian-style "White" Wheat Beer, an Amber Ale and, since 2000, the Porter. The 2001 release is an India Pale Ale.

In its first year, the Porter won two gold medals in the International Beer Awards in Australia. The beer has an original gravity of 1050-plus (12.7 Plato) and an alcohol content of 4.0 per cent by weight (5.0 by volume). It is brewed from barley grown in Australia, and malted by Joe White at two sites. Pale malt and two specifications of crystal/Munich are produced at Tamworth. Chocolate malt and black roasted wheat are from Ballarat. The wheat is intended to produce a roasted coffee or chocolate note rather than a burnt flavor. The hops are New Zealand Super Alpha for bitterness and Australian Willamette for aroma Bitterness is a modest 23-25.

The aim was to have a richness of flavor but a delicacy, with a light, crisp, finish. With this in mind, the traditional yeast was replaced by a bottom-fermenting strain, and the beer was lagered for "several weeks."

"Our policy is to make beers in classic international styles," explains Hahn. "In formulating them, we are trying to create beers that are for tasting as well as simply drinking. Naturally, we want to taste them - and drink them - ourselves. That is key market research: Is this a beer we are going to enjoy drinking."

Tasting note: James Squire Porter is almost black, with ruby highlights. It has a dense, beige, head. It has an appetising aroma of fresh cream and coffee. A very creamy beer in texture, too, but by no means full-bodied. The palate is initially coffeeish, also with smooth black chocolate and caramel flavors. Then a development of malty, grainy, notes: cookies or biscotti. Then well-done toast, finishing crisply.

Food pairings: Chuck Hahn a keen promoter of beer-and-food pairings, suggests roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. Or a porterhouse steak. I wonder about that toasty finish: is it a little too bitter for beef. Perhaps a char-grilled steak, or have the meat en croute (beef Wellington) to emphasize those grainy notes. Hahn also talks chocolate mud cake. I would go for very bitter chocolate and espresso coffee, after dinner. Or a dessert using those ingredients.


Published: SEPT 1, 2001
In: Beer Hunter Online

Brewery Review - Beer Review

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