• Boilermaker Magazine | January/February 2015
    Current Issue:
    January/February 2015

Why is whiskey with a beer chaser called a Boilermaker?

Nobody knows. At least, nobody we can find.

Many workers relax after work with a shot of whiskey followed by a beer chaser, often called a beer and a shot or one-and-one. This drink only becomes a boilermaker if the drinker drops the shot of whiskey into the mug of beer and downs the entire drink with one long draw, not lifting his (or her) lips from the mug until it's all gone.

Boilermakers are usually reserved for celebrations. If you're tempted to try one to celebrate your Labor Day, we warn you: identify your designated driver now.

How this drink came to be named after the workers who build and repair boilers is unknown. The Oxford English Dictionary, widely regarded as the foremost authority on word origins, says the term "boilermaker" was first used to refer to the craftsmen who built and maintained steam locomotives in 1834.

By that time, steam engines had been around for several decades, steam ships were regularly plying the oceans, railroad companies had begun redrawing the face of the North American continent, and, according to some etymologists (word historians), the term "boilermaker" was already being used to describe the drink.

Could the drink have carried the name before the craftsperson did? That seems unlikely, but the development of a language is not always logical.

Perhaps the origin of the drink's name comes in some way from Richard Trevithick, an inventive Cornish blacksmith who was an early experimenter with steam-propelled vehicles. In 1801, on Christmas night in the Cornwall village of Cambourne, he set out to test his latest invention, a steam-propelled road vehicle.

Trevithick's vehicle succeeded in climbing the hill into the village carrying the inventor and some of his friends. When they reached a pub at the top of the hill, they parked the vehicle in a shed and went inside to celebrate their success in holiday season style.

As the celebration continued, everyone forgot about the fire in the vehicle's boiler. It continued to burn until the water ran dry. When the party was over, they discovered that the wooden structural members had caught fire and the vehicle was reduced to a mass of tangled scrap.

See what I mean about that designated driver?

Whatever the origins of its name, a Boilermaker is a strong drink that gets a party off to a good start, but can get the best of you before you know it if you're not careful.

Come to think of it, that's like a lot of the Boilermakers I know. Maybe that's the connection between the names.

Latest News

  •  IVP Joe Maloney leads a discussion about duplicative safety training and the need for a national standard.

    Canadian tripartite conference seeks industry solutions

    Read More

  • L-900 (Barberton, Ohio) Boilermakers join with thousands of other union members in Columbus August 21 to protest the Americans for Prosperity summit, a right-wing event backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Left to right, Kevin Hughes, Brian Foster, John Cash, Larry Stauffer, Dan Morrison, Matt Adams, Don Brown and Tim Tolley.

    Labor protests Koch Brothers summit in Ohio

    Read More

  • Labor Day Marathon salutes American Workers

    Read More

  • TOP GRADUATE APPRENTICES receive recognition during the 2015 Canadian Tripartite Alliance conference August 19. Left to right, Dylan MacIntyre, L-73, Nova Scotia; Dylan Cunliffe, L-359, British Columbia; James Ross, L-271, Quebec; Kathleen Pike, L-203, Newfoundland and Labrador; Brock Overs, L-555, Saskatchewan; Alida Nourry, L-146, Alberta; Timothy Chibi, L-146, Alberta; Davis Boucher, L-73, New Brunswick; Joel Baker, L-128, Ontario; and Ed Friesen, L-555, Manitoba.

    Top Canadian apprentices receive recognition

    Read More

  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, with scissors, and Bank of Labor (BOL) Chairman and CEO Newton Jones, standing with Trumka, cut the ribbon to officially open the bank’s new Washington, D.C., office. Joining in the ceremony are, l. to r., Megan Elder, BOL Marketing Development Officer; Bob McCall, BOL President; Puja Arora, COO, AFL-CIO ITC; Jack Marco, Chairman, Marco Consulting Group (partially hidden); Patrick Finley, General President, OPCMIA; Ed Smith, CEO, Ullico; Bridget Martin, BOL Market President

    Bank of Labor opens D.C. office

    Read More