Good as gold, mate, good as gold.

XXXX Gold Advertisement, mid 1990s

Mr Fourex is an important part of XXXX and therefore should appear on our number one brand - XXXX Gold

Castlemaine Perkins managing director Ken Freer, XXXX Gold gets a facelift
The Age, 5/1/05

Castlemaine's star is Fourex Gold, which remains the clear leader in the growing mid-strength market. CUB simply cannot come close with a mid-strength beer despite numerous attempts.

Today's sophisticated palates mix their drinks, The Courier Mail, 2.5.05

One of the strangest phenomena has observed in the past 10-15 years has been the explosion of popularity in mid-strength beers in the Queensland beer market.

Walk into virtually any Queensland Pub and you will find Fourex Gold, or Carlton mid-strength on tap.  And, while you will perhaps cop some flack from your mates, if you have a jolly good excuse for drinking it (which normally must be evidenced by rattling car keys or pointing out you have half a day of work left), isn't considered wholly strange. It is, apart from some gentle ribbing, socially acceptable.

What we find strange about this is that Queensland, as hinted at in our XXXX discussion, considers itself to be the heart of Australian culture in a lot of ways.  And, as discussed elsewhere, one of the traditional Australian traits has been a lack of tolerance of people who don't drink, or who drink small amounts.  They are, generally speaking, ostracised. 

The whole low/mid-strength beer movement was born from the late 70s.  Australians, like so many cultures, have traditionally not cared less about whether or not they were pissed when they drove.  It was considered a bit of a hoot, really.  Or as one Frenchman recently said of his own culture, "It's a national sport".  But all of that changed in the late 70s and 80s.  Governments, realising that drink driving killed many Australians every year, started to crack down on it. Laws were introduced restricting blood alcohol limits to .05, and they were, to everyone's horror, enforced (the culture has since changed to one of anti-drink driving).

This had quite a direct impact on the Australian drinking culture. As discussed here, beer consumption dropped off.  Pubs began to lose patrons.  The breweries were worried.  But, being the profit driven beasts they are, they responded in any way they could to ensure that Australians continued to consume their product.

Castlemaine Perkin's response, in accordance with their policy of 'Keeping pace with market demands and changing tastes', was to release their XXXX Gold product. It was called XXXX Light back then (although it was 3.5% alcohol), and was the first in the state.

XXXX Gold has earned a reputation as a 'session' beer which keeps its drinkers feeling as "Good as Gold"

Castlemaine Brochure, 1999

What is interesting is that the image of the mid-strength beer has moved away from something that one is forced to drink when one is unlucky enough to have to drive, to an acceptable alternative to the full-strength beer.  Quite sadly, modern science has not been able to come up with an acceptable cure for hangovers, and, as we become more and more busy, and have to think more and more on the job, it just isn't acceptable to be crook as a dog for the day after a big night on the piss.  The mid-strength beer is to some the perfect answer - you can drink as much as you like, get pleasantly pissed (without getting completely trashed), and wake up feeling about 50 times better than you would have had you drunk heavies. As 'good as gold' even.  For lots of people to, we suspect, it provides a way of conforming with the very strong cultural expectations to drink without actually having to get drunk.

It is perhaps for all of these reasons that XXXX Gold is Castlemaine's fastest growing brand.

Contrast this unlikely addition to the Queensland culture with the current state of affairs in Sydney.  Sydneysiders all seem to believe that Queensland is always 10-15 years 'behind' the rest of Australia.  And yet, it is neigh impossible to get a mid-strength beer on tap in Australia's biggest city.  Indeed, after about 10 beers one blokey Queenslander asked the staff in a busy Sydney pub if they had any mid-strength and they looked at him as though he was speaking a foreign language - they simply didn't know what he was after.  The poor Queenslander explained the system of classification and pointed out that in Queensland mid-strength beer was available almost everywhere. The barmaid's response was to utter in an affected homosexual manner of speaking: "Oh you're from Queeeensland", while flopping one wrist to the side. Obviously it is still very unmanly to request anything but a full strength beer in Sydney!

Taste wise XXXX Gold provides a similar flavour to its big brother XXXX.  It has a mild hoppy taste with a subtle sweet flavour.  Unlike a lot of reduced alcohol beers it maintains a solid body and texture.  It is an excellent beer for those long lunches.  Complementing salads, cold platters and breads.  With its mild aroma and robust texture it accompanies most unsauced seafood such as natural oysters, grilled fish and shelled prawns as well as going with the stronger flavour such as fish in hollandaise sauce.  Asian cuisine is also well suited, especially chinese flavours such as mongolian lamb, and Thai BBQ dishes such as BBQ beef with garlic and pepper.  The mid-strength alcohol also allows for that extra one before you head back to work.

NOTE: This page is now out of date. As of 2005, XXXX Gold has taken Qld by storm. Everyone seems to be drinking it, and it appears to be more popular than XXXX. We never thought we would see the day. Even if you ask for a "XXXX" the barmaid will sometimes say "bitter"?, which didn't used to mean anything. The times they are a-changing. Why have we flocked to this drink? Why would Queenslanders, of all people, go for a lower alcohol beer? Hard to say. Perhaps it reflects our busier lifestyle - who wants to cop a hangover? Perhaps it's price driven - XXXX Heavy (or "bitter") is more expensive because of outrageous government taxes on those least able to pay them. Or perhaps it's in part driven by the Gold advertising campaigns. If you've got any ideas, drop us a line.


Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers