What Is XXXX Beer And What Does It Taste Like?

hand holding XXXX beer
hand holding XXXX beer - Bloomberg/Getty Images
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You may be familiar with Dos Equis, the Mexican beer that once had "The Most Interesting Man in the World" as its hype man, but did you know there's also a Cuatro Equis? Well, not by that name, as XXXX is brewed in Australia, not Mexico. It's not all that well known in the U.S., at least by anyone who isn't a big fan of fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett (some believe that Fourecks, which is Discworld's "Last Continent," takes its name from the beer), but it's one of the biggest names in brewing in the land Down Under. Known for its bitter but slightly sweet flavor as well as smoothness, XXXX Gold was named the nation's third-best-selling beer in 2022. But here's a shocker for us non-Australians: Foster's didn't even crack the top 10.

Even though XXXX has a name that may seem somewhat suggestive, it has nothing to do with the adult entertainment industry but is instead an indication of quality or strength. It seems that in the 19th century, beer was rated in X's, much as we award star ratings to just about anything these days. While Castlemaine Brewery was first able to produce an XXX-rated beer (which sounds even more racy), it gained that additional X in 1893. Much like Pabst Blue Ribbon when it won its eponymous award at the Chicago World's Fair that same year, the company bigwigs celebrated the occasion by naming (or in the case of Pabst, re-naming) the brew after the honor.

Read more: Popular Vodka Brands Ranked From Worst To Best

History Of XXXX Beer

Mr. Fourex mascot sign
Mr. Fourex mascot sign - Claudinevm/Getty Images

Castlemaine Brewery first went into business in Castlemaine, Victoria, but the Queensland branch, which is today home to XXXX, opened its doors in 1878. 15 years later, XXXX itself was born (the beer formerly known — or at least rated — as XXX), but the next milestone in the brewery's history came in 1924. That year marked not only the addition of XXXX bitter to the lineup but also the introduction of the mascot Mr. Fourex. This dapper gentleman, the Australian analogue of Baltimore's favorite food mascot Mr. Boh, has been raising his beer bottle in a toast to the good people of Queensland for the past century, and XXXX doesn't seem to have any plans to pull a Mr. Peanut on him.

In 1928 the brewery merged with another company to become Castlemaine Perkins, a name it still goes by today, although it's been owned by LIon since 1990 and Lion, in turn, by KIrin since 2011. The Queensland XXXX brewery is still the flagship and the product is strongly associated with this state, although some XXXX beers are now brewed in New South Wales and South Australia.

Sometime in the latter part of the 20th century, XXXX introduced the Australia-famous "stubby," which is a short, squat bottle that holds 375 milliliters (a little over 12 ounces). 1991 saw both the launch of XXXX Gold, which is now the brewery's best-selling beer, as well as the start of its ongoing sponsorship of the Queensland Rugby League Maroons.

How XXXX Beer Is Made

XXXX bottles on assembly line
XXXX bottles on assembly line - Claudine Van Massenhove/Shutterstock

XXXX beer is made much the same way any other large factory-brewed beer is made — if you would like to see the exact process, step by step, you may book a tour starting at A$37 (Australian dollars), which is about $24 in U.S. currency, although that price, of course, does not include airfare to Queensland. Should you take the tour, though, expect to hear a lot about the brewery's sustainable initiatives. It was certified as carbon neutral in 2020 and uses both solar panels and biogas to supply part of the power it needs for its operations

Two of XXXX's beers — the Bitter and Gold varieties — are also brewed without preservatives of any kind. The only ingredients they contain are hops, malted grains, cane sugar, yeast, and water, which has been the case since a 2008 initiative moving toward a more basic, natural approach. Of course, there's still a need to keep the beer from growing stale or flat, so there is actually one more element added right at the end of the bottling process: A machine sucks out all the oxygen and adds a squirt of carbon dioxide right before the cap goes on.

XXXX Beer Varieties

XXXX Bitter in red boxes
XXXX Bitter in red boxes - Claudine Van Massenhove/Shutterstock

Over the years, XXXX has introduced new brews and dropped old ones from the lineup. Among the dearly departed are the original pre-1893 XXX Sparkling Ale, followed by 20th-century additions including XXXX Lite and Castlemaine 2.2 Bitter. Today's lineup includes the same XXXX Bitter that debuted a century ago as well as the XXXX Gold that came along toward the end of the last millennium. They've been joined by XXXX Dry, which first came out in 2020 and has been sold throughout Australia since 2021, as well as a line of lagers called Summer Bright that are available in mango, lime, and raspberry lemonade as well as a standard beer-flavored beer.

XXXX also offers a nonalcoholic beer called XXXX Zero that they've touted as being the nation's first 0% ABV beer to also be entirely carbon-free. As Lion's chief sustainability officer Justin Merrell explains, the brewery went so far as to contact the can and bottle manufacturers to determine the precise amount of carbon generated in their production so they could factor this into knowing how much of it they'd need to offset.

Where To Buy XXXX Beer

hands holding XXX beers
hands holding XXX beers - Beck Hobson/Shutterstock

During WWII, XXXX sent its beers abroad for the very first time, but only for distribution to the Australian armed forces. They did so again during the Vietnam War, at which time the bottles earned the nickname "barbed wire" because the linked X's bore a similarity to something the soldiers likely saw on a regular basis. Once the war was over, however, XXXX was out of the import business as to this day the brewery maintains that none of its beer will ever be available for overseas purchase.

Well, that isn't entirely true. You for sure can't get your hands on the stuff in the U.S., something that has sparked a number of Reddit threads, although many of these wind up being taken over by Aussie beer snobs eager to take a few swipes at a beer that seems to have a somewhat Budweiser-like status in its homeland (meaning that millions of people must be buying the stuff, but surprisingly few will admit to doing so). If you can't afford a ticket to the other side of the world, though, a shorter plane ride will allow you to try the XXXX which is produced by Interbrew U.K. in Manchester. Sure, the British version may not taste quite the same as Australian XXXX, but if you can't try the latter, how are you ever going to know?

Read the original article on Mashed.