Monday, September 03, 2012

XXXX Brewery tour - 'look, listen, learn'...then have a beer!

Depending if you come from outside Queensland or outside Australia, the reason XXXX is called XXXX is because Queenslanders/Australians can't spell 'beer'.

This is not true...I think...

The XXXX (also known as Fourex) brewery is an iconic landmark in Brisbane. It's stood at its current site on Milton Road, one of the main arterial roads into the CBD in the inner-city suburb of Milton, since 1878. It has survived several major floods to sweep through Brisbane, including the last big one in January 2011 (around two metres of water filled the low-lying parts of the brewery), and has kept on producing one of Australia's most famous 'amber nectars'.

The main brewery building sits atop a rise in Milton Road and the four, very large X's on top of the building can be seen across large parts of inner-Brisbane. This is especially the case at night when the four X's light up a bright red. The pattern is - one X lights up, then a second, then a third, then the fourth, then they all go out, then they all light up...and repeat the process...

I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).

The brewery and its four large X's stand out at night and can be seen across much of inner-Brisbane.
One on...two on...three on...four on...then all out, then all on...and repeat the process...
Before we go any further, introductions need to be made...the bloke in this photo is 'Mr Fourex'.
No one is quite sure who he is modelled on but he is an iconic part of the brand.

The brewery is well-known for its tours, so I headed off on one. The XXXX brewery tours run every day of the week and you can choose between a 'Classic' tour (every day) or a 'Brewery, Beer & BBQ' tour, which runs on Saturday and two on Wednesday evenings (tours may not run if there is a function booked). Tour times and prices vary and can be seen HERE and information on how to get to the brewery is at the end of the post.

Each tour ends in the Ale House where, as you may have guessed, you can taste some of the product. You can even pour your own beer and a maximum of four 285ml glasses of beer is included in the tour price. Alternatively, as I did, you can pay a little bit less and go as a 'non drinking adult'. This was done on my part not for fear of taking out-of-focus photos but because drinking during daylight hours gives me a headache and makes me fall asleep - not necessarily in that order.

Before we go any aren't allowed to take photos on the tour. I emailed ahead and told XXXX about Travel With Us and they were happy for us to come along. I took my camera gear but went on the tour without it, then went back (with one of the tour guides) and took photos. This is why there is also no other people in the photos.

The Ale House entrance, bottom left, is on the corner of Paten and Black Streets, Milton.
That's the front gate to the brewery at bottom right.
An old beer truck greets you as you enter the Ale House.
"I can feel a XXXX coming on" old advertising slogan and still a well-used expression.

The tours begin in the XXXX shop, next to the Ale House. Here you can buy all sorts of merchandise, from shirts/T-shirts/singlets, to stubby coolers, beer glasses, pens, BBQ utensil sets, posters, get the idea.

Some of the old posters for sale in the shop - Mr. Fourex features heavily.
Some more modern merchandising.

You're not allowed to take any bags on the tour and the staff will gladly put your bag etc into a locker for you. Workplace, health and safety regulations mean you have to wear a reflective vest at all time and have safety glasses, to be worn only during certain parts of the tour. Once kitted out, you step through the big brass 'door' - that looks like it's part of the wall - and the tour begins (it takes around one-and-a-quarter hours). Tours are capped at 20 people. Ours had nine.

Paul, our tour guide, opens the big, brass door (looks like it's part of the wall) and the tour begins... 

Our tour guide, Paul, had started working at the brewery in 1974 (not as a tour guide), so was full of information. The tour begins by entering the room you see above, where you sit on the yellow seats you can see are told both a brief history of beer and the story of XXXX. There is a 'history room' but that was being renovated when I was there and it's due to re-open by mid-November, 2012.

The tour isn't confined to a few rooms with displays and diagrams etc. As you will see from the photos below, you get to walk through the brewery - accompanied by your guide at all times - and see it up close, 'warts and all'.

A small display showing monks at work making beer several hundred years ago that is in
the room behind the big, brass door.
The tour isn't confined to a few small rooms with displays of monks making beer.
A beer-like scene painted on one wall.
A Buhler Mill used for cracking grain.
This machine was built in 1939 in Switzerland and spent the first part of its working life at
Feigenspan Brewing, in Newark, New Jersey, USA. 
It was bought and moved to the XXXX brewery in 1969, where it operated until 1999.
Sugar - an integral part of the brewing process.
Originally it arrived in sacks but now comes in paper bags.
Another corner of the brewery.
Hops - possibly the most well known ingredient in the brewing process.
Hops now come in pellet form in small cardboard boxes, as opposed to the much larger bales
in the background that contained the hops bud, straight from the plant.
Where the magic happens and it all comes together...
In the same room where you look down on the magic happening (previous photo), there is a
simplified version of what happens. Mr. Fourex, on the screen, gives the commentary and two lucky
members of the tour group get to help 'light up the display'.
Behind where I was standing to take the previous photo is the Brewing Laboratory.
This is the room where they control how the magic happens.

The tour is well thought out and several locations have viewing platforms that enable those on the tour to get a much better view of the area they're looking at. This is not surprising. Tours run every day of the week and there are several each day, so the income generated must be substantial. Selling a tour that is sub-standard (which this is definitely not!) wouldn't be beneficial in the long run.

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*     *     *     *     *

The beer processing area, where the beer is filtered.
Brewery's have pipes - lots of them!
And after all the brewing and filtering comes the bottling.
"Just turn out the lights and lock the door! I'll be fine..."
And, after the bottling...the packaging.
If a bottle isn't big enough, how about a keg? These are being cleaned before being filled.
These are all empty...but not for long! 

Note - the production/keg cleaning lines don't run every day, so check if you're especially wanting to see these.

One of the last stops on the tour - the Pack Museum.
Some of the bottle/can label designs, old and new.
We grew up on the stubby second from the left. When I saw it I realised I hadn't
even noticed that the design had changed.
A couple of old signs.
The fermentation and maturation vessels.
Something we saw along the way...a truck being filled with spent grain
that is sent to piggeries and dairies as animal feed.
For those of you who know Brisbane, the brewery is located close to
Suncorp Stadium, otherwise known as Lang Park (it can be seen in the distance).
The floods of 2011 went up to the top of the guard box next to the red gate.
And the last stop on the tour...the Ale House.
This isn't solely a watering hole for those who do the tour. It's a fully-functioning dining venue. just looks inviting.
The end of the tour!

I hope you enjoyed my XXXX brewery tour.

The brewery can be easily reached on foot or by car, bus or train -
  • Foot - it's about a 2-3km walk from the CBD. We wouldn't suggest walking in summer. Brisbane gets quite humid and you could be a bit 'sticky' by the time you get there. 
  • Car - there is no onsite parking but metered parking is available on the street. Alternatively, you could park for free in the  side streets of the surrounding suburb and walk.
  • Bus - the 470 bus stops right out the front of the brewery and leaves from the CBD (if coming from the CBD, choose the 'West' option). Alternatively, if you're coming from elsewhere, go to the Translink website and type XXXX Brewery in the 'End' destination.
  • Train - the Milton train station is directly across the road from the brewery...train timetable here (if coming from the CBD, choose the 'Ipswich, Rosewood, Richlands' option).
Bottoms up!


*If you went on a XXXX brewery tour as a result of this post, please tell me!

XXXX brewery tour details:
Address: The Ale House, corner of Paten and Black Streets, Milton.
Phone: 07 3361 7597

See my 'eat, sleep and see' page for more suggestions of things to do in Brisbane and SE Qld.

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All photos, video and text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
© Use of photos/video/text must be via written permission

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