"I can't wait to go there, and have beers, and have a meal, and enjoy being back with people again."
There aren't many people in New South Wales or Victoria for whom those words don't apply right now. But for Callum Reeves they have added weight.
Along with his brother Nat and their wives Clara and Leah, he's one of the owners of KAIJU! and, far later than they'd hoped, he can finally just about see the day their brewery will have a venue of its own. Far later not just because having a hospo aspect of their drinks business was part of discussions even before they launched Golden Axe Cider almost a decade ago, but also because they secured a site for their soon-to-open-touch-wood brewpub way back in the halcyon days of late 2019.
We don't need to tell anyone why the proposed opening in 2020 didn't happen, while the ongoing uncertainties of this year mean they haven't been prepared to embark on the final stages to opening yet. But, even though Melbourne will be staying in lockdown for some time to come, they're hopeful they'll be able to welcome guests to a 16-tap KAIJU! venue in the southeastern Melbourne suburb of Huntingdale by the end of the year.
The site is a former car mechanics in a small industrial strip, and will have a capacity of 160. KAIJU!'s pilot brewery is set to move there from their production facility in Dandenong South and will be put to use creating new beers for the venue, while also allowing them to increase the rate of limited releases. Aside from that, however, Callum (pictured above left with colleague Graeme Wootten) is remaining tight-lipped about pretty much everything else when it comes to their plans.
"I'm confident we can say it's going to be awesome," is as far as he's willing to go, eager instead to "surprise you with it when it's ready. I'm really happy with what we're planning there – it's got some fun vibes."
He adds: "I want it to feel very celebratory, because it will be almost ten years since we started; next year is ten years since we launched Golden Axe.
"We've wanted to have an outlet for the business since before we started as we love that environment. We've just been working on making sure the production side of the business has been right."
As for the choice of location, he says it's close to a train station, a "good little food strip", Monash Uni and Chadstone. At this stage, the intention is for all the taps to feature their products, while Callum will lean on his background in wine to curate a wine and spirits list with a Victorian focus. On the food front, he's promising a "small but high quality" menu at the family-friendly venue, with pizza to the fore.
Looking back at the nearly two-year period since they secured the site, he says they're glad they didn't press on during the months in which Melbourne was open; as a business focused purely on production, it meant they had less need to pivot in the early months of the pandemic, while Callum expresses sympathy for their peers who were heavily invested in hospitality, not least those who had just opened or were in the process of opening venues as COVID spread. The delay also means they're in a position to take on board any COVID-safe requirements within the final design of the venue if required.
Once they have the confidence they'll be able to open and remain open, he says: "It shouldn't take too long – maybe a couple of months.
"I'd love to be open by the end of the year – there's a potential path to that."
There's been plenty going on at their production brewery too. Having installed a 50 hectolitre brewhouse and centrifuge last year, they've recently taken delivery of the first two of five 15,000 litre fermenters, which will increase their capacity by almost 50 percent as they aim to push towards two million litres in this financial year.
Of all the upgrades – which have included welcoming Marc Triolo as head of production late last year, bringing with him nearly two decades of experience at CUB – the new toy Callum is most happy with is their Krones canning line (pictured at the top), capable of filling 15,000 cans per hour.
"It's mind-blowing" Callum says of the machine also used by the likes of Brick Lane, Balter, Pirate Life and Colonial. "That's five times faster than the current canning line, which has treated us so well over I don't know how many million cans."
Having enjoyed strong sales through winter 2020, he says this year has been more akin to a normal year with a slow down in sales coinciding with the cooler months.
"It has been doom and gloomy," he says, "but I don't feel it's going to be doom and gloomy ongoing.
"I can't wait to see my friends. I haven't given someone a hug in so long, haven't had that opportunity to go to someone's house for a party or have people over for a BBQ."
All of which is added incentive to find the strength to get through the next few tough weeks: make it out the other end and KAIJU! will be hosting parties for 160 people every week.