Turning Japanese

February 24, 2014, by Crafty Pint

Turning Japanese

One of a growing number of new brewing companies to hit the ground running in Australia in the past 12 months was Melbourne-based Monster Mash. The beery wing of the enterprise that had previously launched Golden Axe cider, one formed by brothers Callum and Nat Reeves (above right and left respectively), announced itself with an impressive Double IPA, swiftly followed up with an equally big and boisterous second beer, the Hopped Out Red.

Sadly, Monster Mash is no more. Thankfully, however, the demise is in name only, with the fledgeling company catching the attention of the company behind Monster energy drinks. Apparently, they felt this new brewing start-up threatened to create confusion in the marketplace and demanded they change their name. Thus, KAIJU! – Japanese for “strange creature” or more commonly translated into English as “monster” – is born, with the new business name revealed in time for the brothers' third release, a hoppy IPA called Metamorphosis that first hit taps on Saturday as part of the Craft Beer Rising event at The Terminus.

We posed a few questions to Callum about the unexpected bump in their otherwise smooth entry into the world of beer and cider production and also found out a little bit more about their intentions for Monster Mash/KAIJU!

Where did the Monster Mash name come from in the first place?
Our brewer, Nat, really loves beers with big hop and malt profiles. So that requires us to have bigger than normal, some might say "monstrous", malt bills in the mash tun. And everyone knows the song Monster Mash from the 1960s, so we thought we could have fun with how we designed the labels and marketed the beers under that name.

When did you first hear that Monster had an issue?
We applied for a trademark on the name Monster Mash and on the very last day its registration could be opposed (several months into production), Monster's lawyers opposed it. They then lodged a statement of grounds and particulars on the last possible day meaning the process has been pretty drawn out.

What was their reasoning?
They reckon consumers are likely to be mislead or deceived into believing that our beers are actually made by the energy drinks company, and that the mark is substantially identical or deceptively similar to a bunch of their trademarks. To be honest I've never had anyone ask me when we switched from making energy drinks to beers, but I guess not too many of our customers are likely to drink that kind of stuff.

Did you try to argue your case?
We're such a small business that we just don't have the money or energy to go to court with a huge, multi-national that sells billions of dollars worth of drinks each year. Even if we won, it would be a crippling process. We've got better things to do with our time (like make beer!) so we've decided to just change the name and put this behind us as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, we have to change immediately, meaning there's packaging and branding and all kinds of stuff that we have to throw away. We're up to the challenge though and our first KAIJU! Beer will be the METAMORPHOSIS IPA – I'm sure you won't be surprised that it packs a pretty hefty whack of alcohol and US hops. Bottles will be a bit further away as we need to get the new branding designed and labels printed.

Why and where does the new name come from?
Kaiju refers to the massive creatures such as Godzilla in Japanese comic and movie culture. These weird creatures wreak havoc over cities and fight each other in epic battles. Since our designer Mikey first sent through the artwork for the Double IPA, we've talked about the creatures on our labels as Kaiju. They're quite terrifying and odd, and sometimes even a bit cute at the same time, if that makes sense.

We've had a bit of fun with it, inventing stories around them, about how they look incredibly scary, but all they really want is to eat all the hops in the world. The intent with Monster Mash was to indicate that we make huge beers in terms of alcohol and hops, but also balanced and approachable. So I think the slightly goofy and humongous Kaiju are a pretty good fit with that.

Will it require you changing all of your branding and imagery?
We don't need to change the imagery, which is a plus, because we're more attached to the creatures than the name. So we do have a basis to start from. But we still need to get all of our branding re-designed and print up new labels, as well as all the posters, t-shirts and things that we already had made and can't use or sell anymore.

It's going to be a really expensive exercise for us to get all that done, so we are going to run a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise some money to go towards re-branding everything. Anyone interested in getting involved can sign up to our mailing list here and we'll keep them up to date when it's launched. We have some fun backer rewards planned.

On the subject of the imagery, who was it that you got to design the labels?
Clara [Callum’s wife] has a day job in computer game production and as part of that she's always scouting for exciting designers. She had seen the work of Mikey Burton, a young designer from Ohio, and had wanted to work with him for some time but never had the right project.

When we first decided to make Golden Axe Cider, Clara said: "I know the perfect designer for this."

So we got in touch with him and we were all immediately excited to work together. The response to the Golden Axe design has been so positive that we never even considered anyone else for the beers.

So there you go. The hop-devouring monsters will continue to storm the Australian beer world undiminished, just wearing slightly different clothes. We’ll keep tabs on Callum and Nat’s plans for Kickstarter and let you know when the venture is launched.

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