Our first ideas around Slumbrew were formulated back in 2005 while living in Somerville MA, and experimenting with some crazy ingredients in the beer recipes. Back in this time, I was a fanatical homebrewer making 5-6 batches of beer per month on occasion. Most of the beer was good, though there were some failed experiments for sure. Some batches were even excellent and it was those that were given to friends and family. As more and more batches came out successful, so did the need to produce bottle labels so friends knew what they were drinking. The natural place to turn for beer names and imagery back then was my local Somerville area and thus a curiosity for the rich local history was borne from a need to develop new concepts for beer labels.
One of the most interesting historical events occurred on Prospect Hill above what is now Union Square in Somerville. The area was an important strategic location for many years leading up to and through the Revolutionary War. At different points, it was occupied by the colonists and the British as it offered a high vantage over the marshland that is now the most densely populated urban area in New England. On January 1, 1776 something rather special happened. As the story goes, and there is some debate over the exact unfolding of events by scholars, George Washington gave the order to hoist the Grand Union Flag on a pole at the top of the hill. The Grand Union Flag is considered the first American flag as it declared the colonists separate from the British flag – sort of. With the Union Jack in the corner, it was the first use of the 13 stripes that led to the modern day stars and stripes. George Washington ordered the raising of this flag in several locations around the colonies, but this location on Prospect Hill is considered by many to be the first. With Prospect Hill’s commanding location over Charlestown and Cambridge, it served several purposes. To the British, with the Union Jack still in the corner, it appeared that the colonists may have been backing off from their radical ideas of separation. To the colonists it declared solidarity in defining their own identity and independence from strict British rule. There is much to the history and politics of this time and I recommend reading about it in a little historical narrative here if it interests you.
So back in my homebrew kitchen at the time, I arrived at what was one of my most successful recipes for a very hoppy IPA. This beer had such great demand among family and friends that it was a natural pairing for the captivating events on Prospect Hill some 220 years earlier – Flagraiser IPA was born. The label art has gone through a couple iterations, but then while working with our amazing illustrator, Caroline Webber, she arrived at the perfect synthesis of Somerville imagery, the Prospect Hill monument, and flag metaphor that became intertwined with how we had come to think about this IPA. It was a natural beer in our lineup to launch Slumbrew and become our, and I apologize for this, “flagship beer.”
Over time the steep incline of Prospect Hill was knocked down for fill in the surrounding area, but a monument was finally erected in the early part of the 20th century to commemorate the important role that this location played in our early history. There is now a small park located around the monument offering some great views of the area and every year on January 1 a re-enactment of the historical hoisting of The Grand Union flag is performed. Naturally, we were eager to be in attendance this year on what was the warmest New Year’s Day in recent memory. It was a great opportunity to mingle with our neighbors and then head down the hill to The Independent – where Slumbrew officially launched – to grab a pint of fresh Flagraiser IPA.