3181 – Clara and Callum Reeves, Boutique Brewers

Callum & Clara at home in Prahran

The lovely Callum & Clara Reeves at home in Prahran.

I was working in the lab late one night / When my eyes beheld an eerie sight For a monster from his slab began to rise / And suddenly to my surprise / He did the mash / He did the Monster Mash / (The Monster Mash) / It was birthday smash! / He did the mash / He did the Monster Mash /  It caught on in a flash!

*lyrics by Bobby Picket

For those of you who have been following the life & times of interesting Melburnians in the form of TENANT over the the past 12 months or so, you may recall that October 31st – Halloween is a special day for this blog, and a birthday of sorts. And what better way to celebrate a b’day but with interesting people a lá all the great sorts featured in TENANT and over a drink or two (responsibly of course).

Enter husband and wife Clara and Callum Reeves, part of a Melbourne family of self-proclaimed beverage geeks and makers of Golden Axe cider and Monster Mash beer – which launches today, and is another reason to celebrate!

Callum and his brother Nat Reeves were born into a family of teetotallers, but along the way decided it wasn’t for them. Callum became a wine nerd working as a distributor and Nat started home-brewing and wining awards for his efforts.

Together with Clara and their father they took their passion commercial, creating a unique “appley” apple cider made from quality Victorian apples and a new ale that offers a bitey and complex floral bouquet which is unlike many found in the local market. To match the unique flavours of their brews the team conjured up clever and catchy brand names and engaged designer Mikey Burton to produce equally engaging label artwork.

The Reeves at Fed's Square’s latest tasting experience, Flavour Exchange.

The Reeves at Fed’s Square’s latest tasting experience, Flavour Exchange.

Monster Mash beer and Golden Axe cider.

Monster Mash beer and Golden Axe cider.

Hello Clara and Callum, thanks for having me over to your place, for making fresh scones, and sharing the stories behind your family’s passion project and boutique brews.         

So here we are in a lovely rambling family home in the Melbourne postcode 3181, the suburb of Prahran. How long have you lived here?

Clara: We bought here six years ago and we love living here.

Lovely little Home details - The Reeves place in Prahran.

Lovely little Home details – The Reeves place in Prahran.

Home details - The Reeves place in Prahran.

Home details – The Reeves place in Prahran.

The vege patch - The Reeves' place in Prahran.

The vege patch – The Reeves’ place in Prahran.

Clara and Callum's son Raph shows me the chickens.

Clara and Callum’s son Raph shows me the chickens.

Details at the Reeves house - Mog running out the door

Details at the Reeves house – Mog running out the door

Callum:  There’s a great community in this part of Prahran. It is quiet and leafy, close to a lot of great amenities and easy to get into the city. Also Albert Park, in theory, for exercise – I go for a run around the lake, once a year or so and it’s great…not the running….but just the idea that it is there.

That’s hilarious and I completely understand – and am sure many would!

Clara: Yes and it is also close to the beach, where we go a bit in the summer. Also one of the reasons we picked this area was because of the market – we wanted to live near a fresh food market… Now we go to so many farmers markets for work we don’t go to Prahran Market as much.

What farmer’s markets do you guys frequent?

Callum: Albert Park farmer’s market, Coburg…it has some of the best producers. Kingston Market, which is near Southland shopping centre, is also great.

Clara: Yes, and they have Hope Farm bakery bread which is amazing. Date scones to die for!

Callum: Nat loves to go to Dandenong markets…Oddly I remember I did not like markets when I was young – and I remember hating the Dandenong markets back then. I found all the different languages and cultures overwhelming. Now this is what I love about going to the markets, or one of the things.

Yes how Melbourne and Melburnians have changed. Our passion for food and food culture is a far cry from what would have found on most suburban tables 30 years ago!

Did you guys grow up in Melbourne?

Callum: I was born in Glasgow. My parents are Melburnians but my Dad worked over there training as a surgeon. Before that Dad had been in the army for a few years, then moved the family to New Guinea for a few years and next was Scotland – I guess he wanted to see more of the world!  I am one of five kids so mum worked full-time looking after us all while we were over there. The family left Scotland after a few years, via an adventurous European road trip. When we returned to Melbourne we moved to the outer eastern suburbs – which back then was the edge of civilisation. We had a farm too in Gippsland. Five kids all running around throwing cow poo at each other – well actually maybe it was four, I don’t think my sister participated in that game much.

Clara: I grew up in Canberra. When I left home and went travelling and lived overseas in Japan everyone asked me if I was from Melbourne so I thought, what’s this Melbourne all about then? Maybe that is where I’m supposed be? So when I came back to Australia I thought I’d move here and see if it worked.  And I liked the place pretty much immediately. I moved into a share house in Smith Street. It felt a bit rough after living in Harajuku Japan, but it also felt arty and culturally interesting. I was there a couple of years then I moved to Johnston Street, when I started a shop.

Really? What shop did you start?

Clara: I met someone who liked the same sort of boutique shops as I did, and so we started one of the first retail shops in Flinders Street’s Campbell Place (the underground subway arcade era). Our shop was called For the Advancement of the Universe.  When the arcade flooded we moved to Johnson and called it Curious Eidilon.  After a few years I got tired of sitting in a shop all day and decided to turn my gaming addiction into full time work as a game designer/project developer and my business partner also decided to leave. She spent some time in the States and now works for the online store Esty.

So many Melburnians love Etsy!! And I love the first name of your shop ‘For the Advancement of the Universe’ – curious and hilarious!

So when did you both know you wanted to get serious about making boutique beer/ cider?

Callum: My brother and I have been making beer for 15 years, and every Christmas we would present the family one of our new brews as a present. I was never naturally great at it, but Nat was – and he also brought the science to it.

Callum and Nat Reeves getting serious about beer.

Callum and Nat Reeves getting serious about beer.

Then one year Nat and I made Christmas beer as a present for friends – we made beer and Christmas cakes. They were very well received and we were strongly encouraged to make more.

About the same time a friend joined his family’s business – they are orchardists and make apple juice. It’s called Summer Snow and it is AMAZING. Delicious. He gave us some juice and we decided to make some cider for fun and we liked how it tasted. At the time I was working dispassionately in market research. So I decided to change professions and work for a wine retailer and then a distributor – Nelson Wine Company. I also commenced a Masters of Wine Business.

So I guess it was everything combined that started Golden Axe. I was hugely into product and focused just on that, where as Clara was much more focused on marketing and the label. Clara came up with the name – based on an old video game. She is a gamer from way back. I didnt know the game but Nat did and we all loved it for different reasons.  Clearly an axe can cut down apple trees and it proved nostalgic for what turns out to be hundreds who played the game.

Home details - old and new games.

Home details – old and new games.

It is a great name, as is Monster MashSo, did you guys meet in Melbourne?

Callum: Yes we did! We meet at Corky Saint Clair– I went in to say hi to a friend, Chris who is the owner.  Clara was there and they were heading to a Fashion Show. I joined them, feeling very under-dressed and a bit further down the track after we started dating.

Now I know what got you started, please tell me more about your artisan pathway.

Callum: Well you know about the development of Golden Axe and with Monster Mash – we thought we’d start with a bang. It is an uncompromised flavour.  Our two launch beers are in a North American style – the Douple IPA is rich, bitey and has complex floral bouquet that is unlike many found in the local market. It’s pretty full on and probably wouldn’t get approved by the marketing department at a large producer – but that’s why we love it. We’ve got a lot of freedom to make things just how we like them!

Clara: Yes it is different – but the beer nerds and culturalists have been great supporters. At our very first tasting we sold four cases and we sold out of stock two weeks later after we won a Silver Medal at the Royal Sydney Beer Show.

Congrats ! Where can one buy this uncompromising and award winning beer!?

Callum: It is stocked at fine beer stores, places like: Slow Beer, Caulfield Celler, Black Heart and Sparrow, Terminus, The Park Hotel in Werribee…they have been great supporters.

What do you draw on for your inspiration and what is inspiring you right now?

Callum: Beer culture that exists in the States is a big inspiration for us and our beer is definitely a West Coast flavour. If you like labels like Russian River and Green Flash you will like Monster Mash. But ultimately Nat is our inspiration really. He is working on new brews all the time, and we’ll bring them out when we are really ready. Our cider is aimed at a wider market. The fruit and the flavour of an apple is what inspires me. I want the cider to taste like you are biting into an apple.

Oh! Well it actually does! More than any other cider I’ve tasted. Where do you make your beer and cider?

The cider is made in Officer and the beer in Deramont at the Cavalier Brewery.

How do you approach your work, particularly when you might hit a roadblock?

Clara: We smash things with axes!

Look out! What do you like/ dislike about your industry?

Clara: I love the creativity and camaraderie in the beer industry – it is very friendly. It is not a saturated market so it’s less competitive. The cider market is more competitive.

Cullum: I dislike the tax structures placed on beer production; it makes things pretty tough on the small guys.

What other like-minded people or products do you enjoy keeping an eye on?

Callum: Green Flash in the States.  Brew Dog in Scotland – they’re doing interesting stuff and getting good quality beer to new audiences.

Clara: Slow Beer in Richmond is great – they are so passionate you can see it in the store and the staff are amazing. And The Park Hotel in Werribee is really very supportive of the beer community.

What are you most proud of professionally?

Clara:  There have been a few great moments – on October 4th 2012 we showcased our product as part of a microbrewery at Federation Square and won people’s choice award.

Callum: Winning the Silver medal in Sydney was ace. I was so proud of my bro’. I love working with my wife and my brother.

Do you have a dream project…in your professional realm, or another?

Callum: I would love to do collaboration with a brand I love –Green Flash would be amazing.  Also building a brewery pub would be cool.

You have both spent time away from Melbourne. Do you have a favourite Melbourne word or expression (or anything else that strikes you as particularly Melbourne)?

Callum: I always find the Punt Road joke amusing – as in what rhymes with Runt Road…?

Clara: And we hear it a lot as we live so close to that infuriating piece of infrastructure!

What is a place that reminds you of Melbourne – but is not?

Clara: Vancouver Canada. It’s a multicultural city on the water, with a similar food culture and with people who are diverse, creative and interesting.

Callum: I can’t think of anywhere that feels like Melbourne to me…Maybe New York – it is much more developed though. They don’t care about coffee the same way either.

Clara: Oh and Lyon in France reminds me in a strange way of Melbourne. It is a student town – and it reminded me a bit of inner city Melbourne.

Callum: Yeah, that’s true.

What  things are you are most proud of in Melbourne (the city, the people, other).

Callum: The food – the famers’ markets, the restaurants and the obsession with local food. I love – for example all the Victorian only wine lists you find in cafes and restaurants these days.

Clara: I like the diversity of cultures – you will always be able to find a group into the things you are into.

What change that you would most like to see in Melbourne?

Clara: Public transport needs to be friendlier and have better service. It is such a negative service and one that seems to treat people like criminals. I lived in Japan and people love their trains there, you see kids with JL (a train service provider) lunch boxes – they see value trains for their design and see them as an enabler. Here it feels like a police department.

That’s a great point Clara. So many people interviewed on this site have an issue with Melbourne’s transport system but no one has really mentioned the brand personality before.

What do you think Melbourne will look/be like in 20 years?

Callum: Like it is now, but bigger – I think it might become the biggest city in the country in the next decade. I also think sub-cultures and cultural communities will be more entrenched in certain suburbs.

Clara:  In my dreams we will have a train to the airport.

Melbourne’s best kept secret? Where you might take a visitor for example, or someone who thought they’d seen all of Melbourne?

Clara: I would have said the donut man at the Footscray Station, but I just heard he has gone.

Callum: I would take a visitor to Rosa’s Kitchen for a nice meal.

What’s on for the week?

Clara: Day job things…..and we organising a Monster Mash Halloween party at East of Everything in Camberwell to celebrate the beer.

Well a monster beer needs to find a Halloween party! And I have not doubt that it will be a boooutique smash!

Thanks for your time today Reeves’. It has been great talking to you both and learning about your business. Sampling your produce was quite enjoyable too!

Lastly, would you be so kind as to recommend a local to be profiled on TENANT.

Both:  Lalzo EvenHuis – who is front of house at Rosa’s Kitchen and also DJs at warehouse parties, he has the most amazing record collection! And Chris Bril our friend who owns the shop: Corky Saint Clair.

Thanks you guys! And Happy Halloween!

You too! And Happy Birthday TENANT!

* AND special TENANT Halloween/ birthday giveaway courtesy of the Reeves! The first two readers to contact me via email, instagram, twitter (or to leave a comment on this post) will receive a double evening pass to the Taste of Melbourne Festival (worth $30.00 each) where they can experience Monster Mash beer, Golden Axe Cider and other yum-yums. The festival runs from 14 -17 November at Albert Park. Thanks guys! Have a great launch party tonight.

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