Step inside the shiny new Golden Axe Cider and KAIJU! Beer brewery in Dandenong South and the first thing you’ll notice is the inviting smell of malt. Five sparkling, stainless steel fermenters – each with a capacity of 5000 litres – come a close second, along with a 14,000-litre cider tank.
“I had to shoo away a magpie the other day,” says Callum Reeves, who founded Golden Axe Cider with his brother, Nat, back in 2012. Callum had experimented with backyard brewing in his late teens but gave up soon after. A few years later, Nat became the brewing brains.
“We were making beer for friends’ parties and one of my mates who was getting married has an apple orchard and said, ‘Why don’t you make a cider for the wedding?’” says Callum. “One thing led to another and it just sort of came to a point where it was like, ‘Oh, we have a business now.’”
Golden Axe Cider, named after a ‘90s computer game by Callum’s wife, came about because the boys had access to Victorian apples at Summer Snow orchard in Officer.
KAIJU! Beer – originally called Monster Mash before a certain energy drink company had its say – came later, spurred by Nat’s love of big, hoppy brews.
“One reason we went down the path of making beer is because it was so hard to find those American styles in Australia, even three years ago,” explains Callum.
Aftermath Double IPA was the first KAIJU! Beer they released with a whopping 9.1 per cent alcohol and 140 IBUs (the measurement of the concentration of bitter hop acids in beer, light lagers score around 10 IBUs). The malt intensity balances out the bitterness, one of the reasons the beer took out a gold medal in the Australian Craft Beer Awards last month.
Not that long ago owning a brewery was “a pipedream” for the Reeves brothers; now Golden Axe Cider and KAIJU! Beer have taken the craft industry by storm. “A lot of people thought we were crazy coming out with something so intense as our first beer, but the first batch sold out in two days,” says Callum. “We never expected that beer would be such a big part of our business. Now we’re split 50/50 between cider and beer.”