Drunken Speculation

SEQBeers – Castlemaine-Perkins / Carlton & United

cub-xxxx“Industrial lager” was an expression I came across for the first time recently. It’d never occurred to me but this is exactly what these brewers produce.

Today’s SEQBeers looks at the two biggest manufacturers of beer in this state. Their output is mostly crisp, dry, golden lager brewed on a megascale. They are Castlemaine-Perkins in Milton, famous for its XXXX lagers and now a part of the Lion Co stable, and Carlton & United Breweries, based at the old Powers Brewery in Yatala, on the northern outskirts of the Gold Coast, which produces a quarter of the nation’s beer.

The current Castlemaine-Perkins brewery sits on Milton Road and, of an afternoon, makes the suburb of Milton smell like used yeast and rank hops. Castlemaine-Perkins traces it’s origins back to the Perkins brothers’ purchase of the Brisbane City Brewery on Mary Street in 1866. The Perkins brothers had had a stake in the Castlemaine Brewery in Victoria but sold it and moved to Queensland. Edward Fitzgerald, then owner of Castlemaine in Victoria, and some partners purchased the Milton distillery and started brewing beer in 1878 with their first lager in 1889. Castlemaine bought out Perkins & Co in 1928 and was then “seduced by” Tooheys in 1979. The combined entity was bought by Lion Nathan in 1992 and in turn by Kirin in 2009, creating the behemoth we know and love today.

The three XXXX beers will be the easiest to find of all the SEQBeers, considering it’s stocked in nearly every bottleshop in the state and many beyond. Rather than repeat myself three times, I will point out that XXXX scores highly on the identity aspect for reasons which are best summarised in this video:

You’re not going to beat that. If you need further context, take a look at our review of XXXX Gold.

xxxx gold bottleXXXX Gold

  • Industrial lager
  • 3.5%
  • Refreshment: A
  • Identity: A+
  • Taste: D
  • Ancillaries: D
  • SEQBeers Score: 71

XXXX Gold is a mid-strength mass-produced lager with no discernible character, other than a terribly off-putting wet, mouldy horsefeed aroma.

I was pleasantly surprised with how easy Gold is to drink. On a hot day and served at close to freezing, Gold would be a preferable alternative to water, even though both are remarkably similar in body.

Gold epitomises these values referred to earlier by virtue of being the best selling “Queensland” beer in the nation (second best overall).

xxxx bitterXXXX Bitter

  • Industrial lager
  • 4.6%
  • Refreshment: C+
  • Identity: A
  • Taste: F
  • Ancillaries: C
  • SEQBeers Score: 56

XXXX Bitter is a “full”-strength mass-produced lager with no discernible character, other than a terribly off-putting wet, mouldy horsefeed aroma and a marginally more appealing appearance than Gold.

Bitter’s flavour comes to the fore more easily than Gold, which is a shame because the flavour profile is decidedly unpleasant. Described on the XXXX website as a “well hopped lager”, Bitter does indeed offer some bitterness but none of the aromatic fun we’ve come to associate with well hopped beers. Additional points are deducted as the beer style “bitter” refers to English pale ales and this is industrial lager. The 4.6% ABV also makes this a somewhat less optimal method of keeping hydrated.

Due to Gold’s overwhelming popularity, Bitter has slipped into the background but still retains significant heritage, dating back to 1924.

xxxx summerXXXX Summer Bright Lager

  • Industrial lager
  • 4.2%
  • Refreshment: B
  • Identity: B+
  • Taste: D
  • Ancillaries: C
  • SEQBeers Score: 64

Yes, that’s how I found the bottle on the shelf of Dan Murphy’s. With a torn label. Nice one.

XXXX Summer Bright is Lion’s entry into the particularly-pale-and-fizzy-with-a-slightly-higher-than-midstrength-ABV category (i.e. a knock-off of Corona).

Summer Bright splits the difference between Bitter and Gold in taste, appearance, ABV and refreshment. It’s a bit bolder and prettier than Gold but has little to offer other than sessionability and the promise of a hangover tomorrow.

As the newest of the three beers, Summer Bright has little historical value behind it, other than that of the XXXX brand generally.

The sale of Castlemaine-Perkins in 1992 was precipitated by Alan Bond‘s bankruptcy. Then the owner of the Castlemaine-Perkins brewery, Bond angered locals by plastering his corporate logo on the side of the Milton brewery, removing the iconic XXXX sign. Incensed or sensing a good opportunity, businessman Bernie Power built a brewery at Yatala and started producing Powers Bitter as a rival to XXXX’s beer of the same name. Powers grabbed up to 10% of the market before merging with Carlton & United Breweries and then selling out of the business entirely in 1992. In the interim, CUB have closed other breweries in the state and moved production to Yatala, expanding its capacity a number of times to its current output of 540 million litres annually. CUB was bought by Fosters in 1983, which in turn was bought by SABMiller in 2011.

great northern lager

Carlton & United Great Northern Lager

  • Industrial lager
  • 4.2%
  • Refreshment: B-
  • Identity: C+
  • Taste: F
  • Ancillaries: D
  • SEQBeers Score: 53

Great Northern looks, smells and tastes horrible. It’s the beer from “up here”, referring to North Queensland, making it only tangentially related to SEQBeers but, with the exception of Powers Bitter, CUB do not offer another Queensland beer and I’m not including Carlton in this series.

Great Northern is moderately refreshing, although due to it’s taste, I’m not inclined to drink it more than once, which limits its value as a SEQBeer. Unfortunately, there’s another five sitting in the cellar. Anyone want one?

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