When I was in Brisbane in early 2008, I felt a XXXX Brewery Tour coming on. No, it’s not filthy - XXXX, or Fourex, is Queensland’s most famous beer.
After the tour, I spoke with bar manager and tour guide Matt Meng about the attraction of beer, big machinery, tours, and why people like them mixed up together...
TR: Why do you think people come on these tours?
MM: XXXX is such a Queensland institution... and you can see the big red Xs on top of the building pretty much all the time. You think Queensland, you think XXXX, so people just want to come and see where it comes from.
TR: What part of the tour do you think people find most interesting?
MM: When the bottling line’s going, the river of beer as we like to call it, that’s usually where we get the oohs and ahs. But people really do enjoy the History Room, to see the history behind the Castlemaine and Perkins brewery and how the two came together.
TR: It is quite impressive, the whole river of beer.
MM: From what I’ve heard of other brewery tours, especially overseas, you don’t always get into the working side. At some breweries you just go to the old part of the brewery and see pictures. Here you can go into the site itself and see it being made first hand, all the way from the empty bottles being brought up, to being filled and put into the cartons and onto the back of a truck. The whole broad spectrum of beer.
TR: You might drink a beer or two at home, but you can’t quite visualise how much beer is made per hour here.
MM: Exactly. They’re filling 2400 bottles a minute; over an eight hour shift, that’s over a million bottles.
TR: How did you get into this line of work?
MM: I was actually poached, I guess, in a way. I finished university a couple of years ago and I’ve just been travelling, and I was working on a boat for Tangalooma. The people who run the brewery were on it at the time, I was working the bar there, and they said “Are you looking for some work?” And I said “Yes.” They said “Come on in,” so I did.
TR: So you’ve gone from being a barman to bar manager?
MM: I’ve been doing hospitality for a while, got me through university. So I had experience. I’d just finished up doing some labouring work, which got me overseas again, and I was looking for something else and sort fell into it, in the right place at the right time.
TR: It goes to show that you should never say working in a bar is dead end work, because it helped you get into this.
MM: Exactly. It’s great for now. I’m saving up some money to go overseas again. It’s a lot of fun.
TR: Do you drink much beer yourself?
MM: I do. I do love my beer, that’s why it’s a dream job. I tell all my friends back down in Victoria that I work for XXXX Brewery, and they’re all “Well, that’s the dream job for you, and you’re the envy of all the blokes down here.”
TR: Do you get any funny stories or odd comments on the tours?
MM: There’s a myth that there’s a direct tap from here to the Suncorp Stadium. So a couple of people have asked “Where’s the line that goes to the stadium?” and I’m like, “I wish I knew because I live around here.”
TR: Why are people so interested in beer?
MM: I don’t know. I guess it’s a global language. It’s … I’m not really sure.
TR: Beer is something you do find everywhere.
MM: Exactly, and there’s always a good story to be told over a beer, and it’s good to sit down and have a chat. It’s fantastic especially when you’re travelling, as most people are who come through here. They just want to sit down and have a bit of a yarn, and there’s a XXXX to go with it.
TR: The whole social lubricant?
Classic XXXX Brewery Tours operate from Monday to Saturday, from the XXXX Ale House Visitor Centre, corner Black & Paten Streets, Milton, Brisbane. Adult $22 adult, concession $20. Bookings: (07) 3361 7597.
Matt Meng has now moved on from his job at the XXXX Brewery, but presumably still loves beer. Tim Richards received complimentary admission to the Classic XXXX Brewery Tour, and he’ll have a XXXX Gold.