Craft breweries have quite a history when it comes to creating beers with local bars, restaurants and bands but partnering with history itself is a rather more novel concept. However, The Patron – a new mid-strength member of Hop Nation's core range – is a beer that looks to put history front and centre.
It's a partnership between the brewery and the Footscray Historical Society that's been driven by Scott Thompson (no, not this well known one from the Melbourne beer world), whose love of local history and his local brewery beer spurred the beer’s rise.
“My goal was to get the historical society better connected to the new families moving into the neighbourhood,” Scott says. “There’s a lot of younger families coming in who have a keen interest in the area but don’t necessarily know the society is around.”
At 33, Scott's comfortably the youngest member of the Footscray Historical Society; in fact, you’d be safe to assume he’s quite a bit younger than most historical society committee members anywhere. He's also part of the Footscray's recent influx of young families, having moved to the area in 2014.
This year, the society is also celebrating a milestone – its 50th jubilee – so, eager to raise both money and attention for the community group, Scott (pictured above at the brewery) reached out to Hop Nation.
“I thought a beer collaboration would hit all of those targets at once,” he says. “[Hop Nation] shouts history and Footscray.”
Located near where the Maribyrnong River meets the Yarra, Hop Nation’s warehouse home is part of Footscray’s long and oft-referenced history as a working-class suburb. Though the building’s exact history isn’t known – the historical society volunteers are working on that – Footscray by the Maribyrnong was an essential part of Melbourne’s transformation into Australia’s largest centre of manufacturing during the second half of the 19th century.
“Within the committee, we’ve got a good idea of that area down there,” Scott says. “It’s certainly been around for a very long time and is part of that 1870 to 80s flourishing of industry.”
Many of the companies that called Footscray home well over a century ago were considered “noxious trades”. It was an industry that included heavy manufacturing and much involved undesirable by-products: abattoirs, tanneries, even candle and soap makers.
“People have long looked down at Footscray and the West as it was this industrial part of the city they didn’t want to know too much about,” Scott says. “But, at the same time, people were taking a lot of pride in these noxious industries because they created really good working-class jobs."
In an era without Medicare or anything in the way of a social safety net, employers often dug deep to support both their own workers and the community around them.
“What emerged in Footscray in this time period was a bit of a golden era, where you had the owners of these factories and these businesses living side by side – maybe in a nicer home – but still alongside the workers,” he says.
For the design of The Patron, the historical society and brewery drew inspiration from James Cuming, the founder of one of Australia’s first fertiliser companies, who served on the local council and became a patron of many of the local institutions, including the Footscray Football Club. The image that adorns the can is the work of local artist Alejandra Diaz and is based off a photo of the philanthropist. Though James Cuming left a significant mark on the history of the area, there were many other leaders who shared his ethos.
“It’s symbolic of the whole group of community leaders,” Scott says. “They were known to take care of people that were down on their luck.”
Hop Nation co-founder Sam Hambour says the decision to partner with the historical society – one that echoes the origins of Young Henrys' Newtowner beer – came naturally to a brewery eager to promote its Footscray credentials.
“From a community point of view, it’s great to do something like this and everyone in the area benefits,” Sam says.
“We all say, 'Drink local' all the time and that’s all about there being something in your area to be part of and be proud of. [The historical society] putting in their spare time to educate people about their area is on the same spectrum as popping down to your local brewery.
“People come to our brewery to have a beer in the same way people go out to have a coffee; it’s a place to meet and have a drink.”