If you went to school in Brisbane (or the 'swich) you almost certainly went on a school excursion to the XXXX brewery at Milton.
I went for high school economics, but if that hadn't been on the curriculum I reckon our teachers would have found some other reason to pack us onto that bus. I remember the throat-closing smell of the cooking grains.
I recall the "hospitality lounge" where the teachers got themselves a few cold ones at the end of the trip. And I seem to recall the workers getting a free six-pack at the end of the shift, but maybe it was just a cheap half-dozen.
I wonder if that freebie's still a fringe benefit of working there.
I'm gonna guess not.
Yesterday's news that the Milton brewery might close hit hard, even for somebody who doesn't drink XXXX now and never really did. My first thought was, "Damn you, craft brewers! Damn your eyes and your arrogance and your tasty, tasty small batch brews for what you have done to this once proud behemoth."
I blamed Newstead Brewing, which opened a not-so-micro-brewery just around the corner from the old brewing dinosaur's bone yard. I'd pulled in there late one night for a schooner of session ale and a bucket of chicken wings. It was all so very well done, in such tasteful surroundings, that I thought maybe the broken-hearted brewmasters next door had finally succumbed to existential collapse.
Yesterday's news was all about getting that cheap six-pack off the XXXX workers, figuratively if not literally.
The union claimed the company wanted to move as many people as it could onto casual hours and rates.
The company responded with a lot of reassuring douchewaffle about hiring even more workers under the "best pay and conditions" anywhere, ever.
I doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Lion, the giant multinational that now owns the local icon, would probably love to have a completely casual workforce. And if they're all contracted by a third party, an outside labour hire company, even better. So much cheaper. So much easier.
What did surprise me about the story, however, was how badly I felt about the idea of that brewery closing. I don't drink its beer and can't imagine I ever would. But XXXX is a part of the city's history and the best cities don't go throwing that down the drain.
John Birmingham is a columnist and blogger for the Brisbane Times. He is also an award winning magazine writer and the author of Leviathan, the Unauthorised Biography of Sydney, which won the National Award for Non-Fiction. He amuses himself in his down time by writing novels which improve with altitude.
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