It's well documented that the rise of craft beer and the popularity of hop forward beer styles have led to frequent hop shortages. Globally, the growers of certain New World varieties are unable to keep up with demand. And it's fair to say the situation could be far worse too.
How? Well, if every brewer in the world favoured the sort of hops to volume ratios beloved of KAIJU! brewer Nat Reeves, there wouldn't be a hop shortage. No, we'd be suffering the sort of hop famine that would make the seven-year stretch Joseph and his people suffered in Biblical times look like that day your local cafe ran out of egg and bacon muffins before you made it through the door.
Of all the new wave of brewers that love brewing hop-centric beers, KAIJU! went harder from the start than any other on the local scene: there isn't a beer on their lineup that isn't hopped to the Mikey Burton-drawn eyeballs (or, at least, there wasn't until they had plenty of runs on the board). Sure, they love lots of other things: Japanese movies, monsters, heroes, high alcohol beers, silliness – but they love hops more than anything; the four fridges in the brewery stuffed with them are testament to that.
It's an obsession that has stood them in good stead, and not just because many of the more hardcore of Australia's beer drinking public are hop obsessed too. It helps that they know how to do it rather well. Their Hopped Out Red won an Australian International Beer Awards trophy before the brewing company was a year old, while they've picked up more golds there and at the Craft Beer Awards since.
As to the "they" that makes up KAIJU!, it's a core trio of Nat, brother Callum and his wife Clara, who started the Golden Axe cider brand together. Initially, they were called Monster Mash and operated as a gypsy brewer out of Cavalier. Then a certain energy drink company came calling and demanded they stop using the name Monster Mash, claiming it was similar to their name (something KAIJU! are now rather happy with), while, by 2015, they were established enough to start building their own premises. As a result, they're now based in Dandenong South, with Exit Brewing as permanent house guests and others making use of any spare capacity (which, despite regular expansion, is becoming less and less, particularly since the launch of Krush and the switch to cans).
As eye-catching as their beers is the packaging in which they come. It's the work of the aforementioned Mikey Burton, a New York based artist with whom Clara had always wanted to work in her other life as a game developer. He takes the trio's concepts – all inspired by their love of Japanese monster (kaiju) films and comics – and turns them into some of the best labels you'll find anywhere in the world. There's a developing story too: most labels feature kaiju but some are heroes (who battle kaiju), such as the one adorning their Robohop golden IPA.
Look closely and you'll find other neat touches: the face and eyes of the monster on the Betelgeuse labels are formed by the constellation Orion where the star of the same name resides; where a beer is an imperial version of another in their range, look for the character from the smaller beer's label being monstered in some way.
If it all sounds a bit daft, it is. But isn't fun an essential part of what makes craft beer so appealing?
Team photos and jousting photo above copyright Amy Whitfield