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Castlemaine Tour entrance
Castlemaine Tour entrance

Castlemaine Perkins XXXX brewery tour

Whilst in Brisbane we decided to take a tour around one of Australia’s largest Macro breweries, namely Castlemaine Perkins in the Milton area of the city. This brewery, which is famous for the XXXX beer brand, is wholly owned by the Lion company who are a subsidiary of the Japanese company Kirin Holdings.

Castlemaine Perkins go back to the 1870’s and were formed by Nicholas & Edmund Fitzegerald who came from Victoria in the south of Australia. The XXXX range of beers were devised by the German brewer, Alhois William Leitner, in 1924. Although these beers are called Bitter they are actually Lagers i.e. bottom fermented beers rather than top fermented Ales.

Start of Tour

Castlemaine Tour entrance
Castlemaine Tour entrance

Our tour began in the XXXX gift shop which is next to the XXXX Ale House, as recommended we booked the tour in advance and opted for the additional BBQ which they do on a Wed & Sat during the summer:

The tour began with a safety briefing and being notified that photography was NOT permitted during the tour. To be honest I do not understand what is so confidential about their operation compared to other breweries we have visited and photographed… after this were two films explaining the history of beer and the brewery before filing out into the brewery.

Green credentials

Milton Brewery smoke stack
Milton Brewery smoke stack

Once outside the tour guide explained that the brewery recycles the CO2 from the fermentation process and reuses this to force carbonate the beer later on in the process. This recycling has a saving of 93% for the greenhouse gases output by the brewery!

In 2007 the brewery was converted from coal to natural gas. RO (Reverse Osmosis) water is used within the brewery by recycling the grey water.

Grain is moved from the silos to the brewhouse using forced air through a network of pipes which we could hear as we walked around the brewery.

The Brewhouse

The Brewhouse was manufactured by Handtmann in Germany and consists of the following in process sequence:

  1. Grist Mill – to grind the malted grains.
  2. Fore Masher – to hydrate the grains using a ratio of 1kg to 3.5 litres (2.2 lbs to 0.9 US gals) of water.
  3. Mash Tun – to heat the hydrated grains at 65 deg C (149 deg F) and allow the enzymes to convert the starches into fermentable sugars.
  4. Lauter Tun – this vessel has a false bottom which raises the grain bed and allows hot water sprayed from the top to rinse the wort out from the mash using the ‘fly sparge’ method.
  5. Wort Kettle – to boil the wort at 106 deg C (223 deg F) for 60 minutes with the addition of bittering and aroma hops.
  6. Whirlpool – to centrifuge out the solids from the wort.
Milton XXXX Factory history
Milton XXXX Factory history

The brewery produces 5 million litres (1.3m US gals) of beer per week by doing up to 10 batches of beer per day due to being able to stagger two batches in parallel through the Brewhouse.

In addition to the XXXX range of beers the brewery also produces the Toohey and Hahn brands of beers.


The following Australian grown ingredients are used in the beers produced at this brewery with varying combinations and amounts depending on the particular beer being produced:

  • Barley – from NSW (New South Wales) and is kilned into 4 types of malts:
    • Pale Malt – kilned at 80 deg C (176 deg F).
    • Crystal Malt – kilned at 90 deg C (194 deg F).
    • Roasted Malt – kilned at 100+ deg C (212+ deg F).
  • Adjuncts – sugar that is extracted from Sugar Cane which is grown in the north of Queensland.
  • Hops – in pellet form and comes in two varieties:
    • Super Pride of Ringwood for Bittering with 15% Alpha acid – grown in Tasmania.
    • Golden Cluster for Aroma with 6% Alpha acid – grown in Victoria.
  • Yeast – a German Lager strain of which 70,000 Litres (18.5k US gals) of spent yeast are sold to Kraft each week for the manufacture of Vegemite spread.
  • Water – this comes from the Wivenhoe Dam by mains and is carbon filtered then Burtonized i.e. Burton Salts are added to adjust the water hardness and mineral content.

The spent grain is sold as cattle feed.

Fermentation & Filtering

Milton Brewery with famous XXXX sign
Milton Brewery with famous XXXX sign

After the wort has been boiled, and the large sediment has been removed in the Whirlpool, it is then cooled to 10 deg C (50 deg F) and sugar & yeast are added then fermented for 4-5 days.

Once fermentation is complete the beer is then crash cooled to -2 deg C (28.4 deg F) for 48 hours and filtered. Filtration involves two sets of centrifuges and one pass through a Pall filter which is a cross-flow membrane made from recycled plastic.

Once filtered the beer is then force carbonated before being moved to Bright Tanks ready for bottling and kegging.

During the production of a batch over 200 laboratory tests are carried out over the 9 day production period to check things such as color, sugar content, alcohol levels etc.

Bottling & Kegging

Castlemaine XXXX Light
Castlemaine XXXX Light

19% of the pasteurized beer produced is packaged into 50 litre kegs (13 US gals) at a rate of 5-6k kegs per day.

Most of the bottling line was manufactured by Kettner of Germany, which is part of Krones, and is capable of bottling three different beers in parallel. Some parts of the bottling line are also Swiss and Italian made.

Whilst on the tour we noticed that clear bottles are used for some of the beers and as is well known this can cause ‘skunking’ of the beer due to light penetration affecting the hops. The tour guide explained that they use Tetra hops which have been modified to help avoid this from occurring.

Some of the beer is also packaged into cans.

Beer Tasting

Once the tour was over we had the opportunity to sample four different beers in the XXXX Ale House:

All of these beers are variants on the American Lager beer styles. The barman informed us that they are hoping to extend the beers selection available for sampling to include some dark beers.

In addition to the beer tasting we also had some BBQ which was a nice accompaniment. The tour alone costs AUD 27 and AUD 40 if the BBQ is included.

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