James Bertrand Webb was born in London in 1859, the third son of Francis Cornelius Webb, MD, FRCP. He was educated in Germany and by private tutors at home, and was articled for two years to Messrs Harman and Co., brewers of Uxbridge. He also worked for Nicholson and Nicholson, brewers of Lewisham, and for a short time at Aberdare in Wales.
In 1882 he migrated to Adelaide and spent five years with the Port Augusta Brewing Company. He joined the Burdekin Brewery in 1887, and after a trip to England he was appointed as head brewer at J Boag & Son's Esk Brewery, Launceston. The Cyclopedia of Tasmania states that it was owing to his skill that 'Boag's Brew' had a name for excellence. It goes on to say that 'His whole soul is wrapped up in his work, so that he had neither time nor inclination to devote to public or social affairs'. Despite this, at the age of 40, James Webb married 29-year-old Lila Lockwood on 9 Aug 1899. They had one daughter, Schroder, born 29 Jul 1902. Their home was at 108 Cameron Street, Launceston.