So, that’s Xmas completed, new year navigated successfully and time for our first blog post of 2020! With all the new year, new start stuff flying around, I thought it a great time to provide an update on how things are progressing with the brewery expansion.
I started off over a year ago now with a 1/2 BBL Mashtun, a Braumeister (that pretty quickly just became an expensive Kettle) and some SS Brewtech Conical Fermenters, in a small unit that had been converted into a number of offices. I brewed as and when I had the time, around my other job as a self-employed Management Consultant implementing large IT systems for, typically, manufacturing companies and hospital treatment.
A few months ago I began gutting the place in preparation for the new 5BBL kit I had purchased from Hoplex Ltd. This has been the source of much frustration as it’s allowed very little time to brew! I ripped out all of the offices, had a new resin floor and drainage installed, painted much of the interior and just have a few messy areas to tidy up in coming weeks.
Late in December, the new kit was despatched and arrived a couple of days before Xmas.
Cue large scale panic, with me having to run around neighbouring units to see who would lend me a forklift and driver. With the kit safely unloaded, and with the help of family getting the 2.3m tall Unitanks under a 2m high beam, the kit was in the building.
I have spent a few days between Xmas and New Year getting the kit in place, the brew block all plumbed together, the Unitanks all fully assembled and am pretty much now sick of the sight of triclamp fittings!
Today my Dad came along and plumbed in the brew block from the mains water supply and I had a meeting with the electrician, who has now gone away to work out exactly what’s needed to connect up the various heating elements, temperature probes, pump, auger/hydrator and Mashtun agitator to the control panel.
The good news is that I hope to have the electicals sorted some time next week and then I can do a thorough clean and test / commission the new kit in readiness for the first ‘proper’ brewday.
A huge thanks to everyone who has supported me on this journey so far, I am very excited to be soon sharing a lot more beer with a lot more people!
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.”
ARISE! Leviathan Brewing owner and brewer Chris Hodgetts
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, and set about planning our microbrewery.
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” – MASTODON
Where strides the beer-moth
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!
Saisons In The Abyss – Mango Kampot Saison 4.9%
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.
The Leviathan bottle range currently available from Hoptimism (Photo c/o @HoptimismBeers)
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!
Earlier this year we did an interview with Dr Beer himself of craft beer blog thebeer.uk
Below was the result! Check it out in full, along with other interesting interviews and articles here.
Q: Why the name Leviathan Brewing Co?
A: 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, plus the dark branding and imagery works, at least for me anyway!
Q: How long have you/the brewery been making beer for?
A: I’ve been a very keen homebrewer for 16 years or so, but established the brewery in January 2018. We started brewing in earnest from September 2018, having secured an industrial unit in Sutton Coldfield.
Q: What got you into brewing?
A: I was in a garden centre and came across a homebrew starter kit – a fermentation bucket, pressure barrel and a ‘Woodforde’s Wherry’ 40 pint extract kit and was hugely excited by the prospect of making my own beer for 20p a pint. It turned out OK and I got the bug. A couple of brews later and I was all grain brewing and gradually added equipment to make my life easier and make better beer.
Then, in 2017, serious illness (Cancer) struck. 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?”. It certainly makes you re-evaluate every aspect of your life. I’d found the enjoyment had been seeping out of work for some time so I decided to focus on doing something I loved, 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 albeit tiny half bbl kit. I was brewing when I felt up to it, slotted in around 5 months of treatment and some days of the ‘old job’ I was committed to. It’s been extremely frustrating as it delayed my plans for the brewery of a 5BBL kit and taproom, but this is something I fully intend to push on with in 2019, so stay tuned!
Q:When you’re not brewing what are your hobbies?
A: As I mentioned, I’m a big music fan so I get out to as many live gigs and festivals as possible. I also love to cook and firmly believe if you can cook you can brew – it’s all about having the right equipment, good recipes, quality ingredients and learning techniques! It’s interesting with the ‘craft’ beer explosion in recent years to see the lines being blurred, with brewers using whole host of ingredients in beers that previously would have been unheard of. It’s something that hugely interests and excites me! I read through SO many chocolate cake books looking for ideas for big stouts!
Q:What’s your favourite style of beer?
A: It’s a toss up between big IPAs and big stouts, and you’d probably get a different answer depending on the time of year!
Q:If you could only have one of your brews for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? (I know it’s like picking a favourite child!)
A: Of the beers brewed to date, probably my DIPA ‘Life Was Peachy’. I’m also happy to have finally produced a DIPA I am happy with (I’m never totally happy with any brew).
Q:You are in a supermarket, or bottle shop, in the beer section, what would you buy? (your wonderful beer isn’t on sale unfortunately!)
A: My basket would probably be crammed with dark stuff from Pohjala, TO 0l and De Molen, plus juicy stuff from Wylam, Verdant. I always pick up anything new from the likes of Loka Polly, Neon Raptor, Vibrant Forest and Ridgeside and anything from local breweries that bottle/can like Twisted Barrel, Fixed Wheel, Green Duck and DigBrew (I’m waiting patiently for Glasshouse to start doing so). Probably some Siren in there too as I have a soft spot for them as they were probably the main gateway brewery for me a few years back.
Q:What new flavour combination would you love to try/what new hops would you like to work with?
A: I’m loving fruited/herbed Saisons, big chocolatey stouts with dark fruit, so these are areas I’m exploring *digs out the cook books*. I’ve also discovered Azacca recently in some very nice beers and have ordered a load, so expect to see a few beers using that in coming months!
Q:What brewery would you like to collaborate with and why?
A: Oh that’s a tough one. Probably the likes of Ridgeside or Neon Raptor at the moment, who seem to be producing beers across a broad range of styles, which very fits in with my ethos. That’s not a criticism of those who are more focussed on a particular style!
*Both cracking breweries!*
Thanks to Chris for taking part! Coming from the meidical profession I’m delighted to hear that you are through your treatment and I look forward to sampling your beers and seeing the brewery grow!
Looking to buy craft beer online? Early in 2020 you will be able to buy craft beer online here in our craft beer online store.
Craft Beer Online
We plan to have a wide range of both our own and selected guest craft beer online very soon. In the meantime, we’ve just made our online store live! You can now purchase a range of Leviathan Brewing craft beer merchandise here. We have a range of tees, polo shirts, hoodies, caps, beanies and bags, with more great merchandise to follow, such as glassware and pin badges, but for now go check it out via the link below.