There are certain things in your life that become so natural, so entrenched, and so much part of your existence - your very being - that you can't imagine how things would be without it. You grow up beside those things. They are part of who you are. The swimming pool out the front yard. That old tree you climbed as kids around the side. That spot of dirt where you broke your arm. Without these things your yard wouldn't be your yard. It would be someone else's. With someone else's memories. Part of someone else's life.
Elements of cities can become like that too. Where would Sydney be without the opera house? Where would Quebec be without its fortress? Paris without its tower? Stradbroke Island without its pub?
Well, AustralianBeers.com asks where Brisbane would be without its brewery.
Because there are very few Brisbanites, as they are affectionately known, who haven't spent a good fraction of their life gazing wistfully at that brewery. As they slid on up in the train - Milton, Milton station - and slid on out again to a sweltering day in the city, they gazed at the institution that produced what is to all Queenslanders the unquestioned nectar of the gods. They gazed at the icon they see on every sweet, or so very sweet, bottle of fourex they ever had the good fortune to open. They deeply drew in the smell of hops that kept them going, day, after day, with nothing more driving them then the thought of an icy cold fourex at the end of it all. They grew to love it. That view. That smell. That icon.
It became part of their lives. It became part of Brisbane. The soul of Brisbane: the Castlemaine Brewery.
For it is true, the rumors are correct, that Queensland's favourite beer is brewed within its hallowed halls. Both the good stuff, and the stuff you drink when you want to feel as 'good as gold'. They brew them both. Yes, it is true. Within the Castlemaine Brewery, in Milton, Brisbane, Australia.
And as the saying goes, you can take the Brisbanite away from the brewery, but you can't take the brewery away from the Brisbanite. We ourselves have witnessed a young Brisbane lad, in a strange car, in a strange land where they brew strange beer, far, far away, crack his neck towards the window and exclaim with unbridled joy, "It's a brewery!", while the locals watched in wonder. How did he know when they themselves only knew because they had heard of its existence? He knew, of course, because of the sweet smell of hops, and other fantastic fragrances, that reminded him of where he really wanted to be and what he really wanted to be doing: Brisbane, on a hot, wet summer day, sucking back an icy, oh so icy, cold fourex. Hmmmm. He could taste it. And the castlemaine brewery taught him this. And more.
And it has been teaching, in its own Queensland way, ever since two young Irishmen, Nicholas and Edward Fitzgerald, drank their way from Castlemaine, Victoria to Brisbane, Queensland, in search of finer weather, and, perhaps, a thirstier market. The year was 1877, and it wasn't long before they shared a pint with two local beer loving locals whose quest in life was to bring beer to Brisbanites. These locals, Quinlan and Donnelly, were successful in their own right, but wanted to share their passion for beer with all of Queensland. And share they did.
Or would have done, had it not been for the unfortunate death of Quinlan and the fact Donnelly, perhaps realising his brewing skills were not up to what would be the Castlemaine standard of perfection, had sold his share to Quinlan prior to his untimely departure from the land of the living. And that might have been the end of it. But for the fact, of course, that you can't keep a good aussie brewery down.
Quinlan's wife, no doubt reveling in the relatively pro-female sentiment of the time (Australian women were the first to be given the right to vote in 1896), decided to carry on and live out her dead husband's dream. We can only imagine the joy she would have felt had she known of all of the glorious pints and pots that would be subsequently consumed in a happy fashion because of her selfless actions. She took on a new partner, Grey, and together they skulled pint after pint with the Irishmen while hammering out the details of what was the greatest brewing company in Queensland's short history: Fitzgerald, Quinlan & Co.
Less than 12 months had passed before the first Castlemaine Beer from Queensland was ready for consumption: Castlemaine XXX Sparkling Ale (given an extra X in 1916 when the brewing process improved). And didn't Queenslanders love it.
...a delicious ale of the brightest amber, pleasant to taste, with a peculiarity of flavour not easily described and an aroma of an appetising nature by itself
Brisbane Courier, 1878
But of course, the newly formed company wasn't content standing still while others drank to its health. What remains the biggest change ever in the way Australians drink beer was taking place, and Castlemaine wasn't about to be left behind. In 1889 it stunned Australia by becoming the first Queensland brewery to produce the new fangled beer known as lager. Leaving the opposition in its tracks, it swallowed down a competitor Perkins & Co, 1928. Hence its official name became, "Castlemaine Perkins Ltd", although even today the locals still call it Castlemaine.
The success of this little Queensland delight over the century did not go unnoticed. In 1979, the Toohey's giant seduced and won the affection of our baby - forming Castlemaine Tooheys Ltd. But CT had to face the roaring (or perhaps rorting) 80s along with the rest of Australia, and the whale swallowing minnow known as Bond Corporation added yet another notch to its belt of air in 1985 with the acquisition of the whole of the company, XXXX and all. However, as recounted elsewhere in AustralianBeers.com, Bondie demonstrated his complete lack of understanding of what makes regional Australian Beer popular by whacking an ugly Bond Corporation logo on the middle of the brewery wall that faced the train line. Outraged, Queenslanders took to the streets in thousands (or at least wished they did as they sucked down a fourex or ten), and eventually the obscenity was removed.
But of course, Bondie soon came upon tough times (although they were going to get tougher), and the kiwi-giant Lion Nathan relieved Allan of his custodianship of this Queensland jewel in 1990. And so it stands today, one of many of the Lion-Nathan stable, granted, but dear in the hearts of all true blue Queenslanders: the Castlemaine Brewery.
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