This week I'm taking one for the team. I'm going to sniff, taste, swallow and savour (maybe) a beer I've previously avoided on reputation alone.
Despite it's generally shithouse reputation with discerning beer drinkers, XXXX Gold is apparently Australia's largest selling beer with around 1/8th of the market. Sure there are a lot of bogans and Queenslanders out there, but with that level of popular demand can it really be that shit?
First, a few fun facts about XXXX. It's been brewed continuously at the same site in Milton, Brisbane since 1878, although only 3 "X"s were used until 1924. Changing tastes, changing technologies and changing ownership saw XXX Sparkling Ale emerge into the mid strength lager XXXX Gold that is the brewery's flagship beer today. Ironically given today's 3.5% ABV offering, the "X"s were supposedly indicative of strength.
XXXX Gold pours nicely, a fine even head supported by effervescent carbonation. It lives up to its name in colour at least, with a light golden hue. The pale colour provides some forewarning that the "full flavoured" claim of Castlemaine's marketing may perhaps be stretching it.
The lack of any discernible aroma is also less than promising. Even with nose poking deep into the head, snorting like Keith Richards on his last line of the '70s, only a faint hint of mildly biscuity malt aroma can be detected.
Nonetheless, my first mouthfuls of XXXX Gold are quite satisfying. Restrained use of malts and hops balance well with the modest alcohol content. Gentle upfront buttery sweetness is accentuated by the generous carbonation and eases into a slightly dry finish that quenches and refreshes.
You have to go hunting to detect any real hop character. If you concentrate hard and squint there's perhaps a tiny bit of grassiness, but XXXX Gold just ain't about the hops and that's ok - it's not trying to be.
So the verdict? XXXX Gold is certainly not a challenging beer or even that interesting, but neither is it seriously flawed. It's a beer for drinking cold on hot days and at 3.5% ABV it won't bring you undone unless you've necked serious quantities, which perhaps explains enduring popularity in Queensland.
I won't be rushing out to stock my beer fridge with it anytime soon - but it's not that shit.
Success! Feel free to
or head to your