If you were to draw up a Venn diagram where one circle represents Heavy Metal and the other represents Brewing, you’d find me and Headbrewers Ball slap bang in the middle. I’m always on the look out for beers, breweries and bands that’ll join me in those two overlapping circles. When I first heard about Leviathan Brewing, my interest was well and truly piqued, I mean if you’re naming a beer after Napalm Death’s ‘Multinational Corporations’ then you’ve already got my vote whatever scale you’re brewing on. For those of you that follow the blog, you might recognise the name already, Leviathan featured in my 2018 round up as a brewery to watch in 2019.
To tie in with this years Tryanuary campaign, Leviathan seem to have been knocking beers out, with session brews ‘You Can’t Quit Me Baby’ (a 3% table IPA) and ‘Smash A Single Digit’ (a 2.5% baby hopfenweisse) landing some rave reviews online. I needed to know more, so I reached out to owner/brewer Chris Hodgetts for the story behind the brewery and to find out where his love of heavy metal came from.
“As well as being a biblical sea beast, ‘Leviathan’ is an album by a band I love, Mastodon.”
How did Leviathan Brewing get started?
Chris: In 2017 I was diagnosed with cancer. I’d been self-employed for almost 20 years as a management consultant working on large IT / business improvement projects, often away from home, and thought “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?”.
I’d found the enjoyment had gone out of work and I decided to focus on doing something I’ve loved for over 15 years, something that would also enable me to be (mostly) home with the family each night, brewing.
I’d been given the all clear health wise but in June last year I had the news that my illness had returned. I pushed on with the establishment of the brewery, finding premises and an all new – but tiny – half bbl kit, brewing when I felt up to it, slotted in around 5 months of treatment. It’s been frustrating as it has delayed my plans, but I fully intend to push on in 2019, so stay tuned!
With regards to the name – I’m a huge music fan, particularly anything guitar based and the heavier the better. As well as being a biblical sea beast, ‘Leviathan’ is an album by a band I love, Mastodon. It seemed an appropriate way to combine two things I love, and the branding and imagery works, well for me anyway!
“There’s magic in water that attracts all men, all men… Across hills and down streams”
Tell us a bit about the brewery set up – what sort of kit do you have? Whereabouts do you brew?
Chris: I moved into a small industrial unit in Sutton Coldfield last September. I’ve a half barrel SS Brewtech kit, with a couple of temperature controlled chronical FVs and a load of cheap plastic ones!
What came first, the love of heavy metal or beer?
Chris: Definitely music. I still remember vividly, as a 6 year old living in a tower block in the Newtown area, my father playing Deep Purple, early Fleetwood Mac and [Black] Sabbath on vinyl (he also played Hot Chocolate’s Greatest Hits but we’ll gloss over that one!). Then, on a school trip aged 15, I borrowed a mate’s copy of [Iron] Maiden’s ‘Piece Of Mind’ and listening to it over and over and was hooked. I love all sorts of music to be fair, but my preference is something heavy!
Your beers so far have been laced with heavy metal imagery/song titles ranging from Slayer and Machine Head to Napalm Death and Queens Of The Stone Age. Can you tell me a little about how you decide what to brew and how the metal influences play into that?
Chris: Most often I will have a style of beer in mind that I wish to brew first. I’ll then be listening to various things on Spotify and get a flash of inspiration, usually something puntastic. I then usually find that Weird Beard have already used it and go back to the drawing board. Occasionally I have the reverse, where I’ll hear a song and think it would make a great beer name.
If you could do a beer for any metal band who would it be and why?
Chris: Sadly I think that boat has sailed, with Slayer calling it a day. I am a huge Metallica fan, who interestingly have just released their first beer, a lager. Funnily enough, I have been asked to brew a Black IPA for a classic rock covers band from Wales called ‘Out Of Order’, which I have brewed recently!
Am I right in thinking you got a cease and desist from Iron Maiden? Can you talk about that at all?
Chris: Ha ha! Yes, we did, via a firm they use to deal with trademark infringement. I’d brewed an Imperial Porter – ‘Bring Your Porter To The Slaughter’. It was a small batch that I gave away to various people and used some of their artwork on the label. I was working on our website at the time and some draft pages were visible for a short period of time and seen by them. So, we had a couple of letters asking to stop using the artwork, which I obviously agreed to, but also drop the name and any reference to Maiden, which I politely declined.
“Near the kraken sleepeth stirs coral and bone” – MASTODON
What beers are you working on at the moment?
Chris: Next up are a 3 very sessionable beers – DIPA, a Double Black IPA and a Rum n’ Raisin Imperial Stout 😊.
Birmingham is the home of heavy metal and so many great bands, but what’s the beer scene like?
Chris: It’s certainly improving very rapidly, having lagged behind many parts of the country. We’ve a lot of good craft bars – Kilder, Tilt, Clink, The Wolf, Pint Shop, shops like Cotteridge and Stirchley Wines, and so many more. New places are springing up around the outskirts. Plus we’ve quite a number of new and established breweries now producing some exceptional beers.
“At the moment, with the small kit, we aren’t easy to get hold of!”
What’s the plan for Leviathan Brewing in 2019?
Chris: I’m looking over various equipment quotes as we speak, with the plan to install something around the 5 – 6 BBL mark at our unit, plus a small taproom onsite. I’m also looking at options for a dedicated taproom / bottleshop elsewhere (the original plan was retail with a smaller 2.5 BBL kit back of house).
Where can people reading this go to buy your beers?
Chris: At the moment, with the small kit, we aren’t easy to get hold of! We sell online via hoptimism.co.uk and supply a couple of local bottle shops / taprooms such as Simply Local Burntwood and the Craft Inn, Sutton Coldfield.
Any final things you would like to add?
Chris: I’d just like to thank everyone who’d been out there supporting us and buying our beers. You’ll be seeing a lot more of us!
In the meantime, listen to Mastodon.