In the early part of the 19th century, Christopher Bailey and his family owned a trading outpost on the coast of Sumatra in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. Bailey, who had served under the command of Thomas Sanford Raffles during the capture of Java from the Dutch in 1811, won his charter from the British Crown in recognition of his service. Born in Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka), to a seafarer in the service of the British East India Company, Bailey had spent much of his life on the trading docks of the Arabian and Andaman Sea. His veins ran red with the blood of a trader.
Bailey’s trading business was robust. With stations in Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York and London, his headquarters in Sumatra controlled a lucrative trade in rare silks, precious stones, exotic teas, and unusual spices. Weekly ships stocked full of fine British furniture, silver, and gold wade anchor in Bailey’s port, anxiously awaiting audience with the great trader. But Bailey’s most anticipated cargo was the barrels of distinctive India Pale Ale (IPA), which he received monthly from the fine British breweries of London and Burton.
The development of the style of ale known as IPA came about during the British colonial period of the 18th and 19th centuries. British naval troops at that time had a varying allotment of beer per day as part of their rations. These troops, however, were forced to consume flat and sour beer as a result of the long hot passage from England. The style of beer popular in England at the time could not endure the months at sea in the warm weather of the tropics and would often grow foul from bacterial infection.
The solution to this problem was to create a beer both higher in alcohol content and rich with hop, which served as a preservative during the long voyage to India. The resulting brew was characterized by pale to deep copper color, intensely bitter flavor, and a full, flowery hop aroma. Dubbed the IPA, it was an instant hit.
Bailey’s IPA was somewhat of a sensation in Sumatra, where patrons would line up for hours outside his trading house headquarters just to enjoy a pint of his bitter brew. In anticipation of its arrival, street vendors selling a wide variety of fresh, hot foods would collect outside the Eastern & Oriental (E & O) Trading Company to satiate the appetites of Bailey’s boisterous crowd.
Eventually, Bailey recognized the sublime combination of cold, full-bodied ale and hot, open-fire grilled fare - something his patrons had recognized for years. As a result, he created the SEAgrill a Southeast Asian Grill - the first bar and grill of The Java Sea.