For the better part of the past decade, Kaiju founders (and brothers) Callum and Nat Reeves have been brewing potent, hop-forward beers. When Kaiju launched in 2013, it was with a double IPA called Aftermath – and big flavour became the house style.

Despite that, what’s likely to bring crowds to its new Huntingdale brewpub, Kaiju Cantina, is a fruity, easy-drinking brew called Kaiju Krush. The tropical pale ale’s label – a one-eyed pineapple dude buried in the sand – has become something of a mascot for the brand, and you’ll see it repped by all the Cantina’s floor staff. With Krush, Kaiju went from Melbourne craft-beer darling to crossover success in what felt like the blink of an eye.

“In more of a knowledgeable craft-beer space we were pretty well-known, but when we launched Krush we basically had every retailer wanting to get it in,” says Callum of the boom. “We have just been chasing our tails trying to keep up with volume for that beer for the last five years.”

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At Cantina’s converted-warehouse space, you’ll find 16 taps pouring big-bodied classics like Aftermath, the double red ale Betelgeuse, the imperial black IPA Where Strides the Behemoth, and the black IPA Cthulhu on the Moon. “[That’s] classically my favourite,” says Callum. “It’s a surprisingly refreshing beer. Beer can be huge and all that sort of stuff but – even in bigger beer – refreshment should be part of the style. It’s got just enough roastiness, but it’s got the hop character in there to be a super satisfying drink.”

With an eye to expanding its audience, the pub’s also got plenty of smashable brews that don’t feature the word “double” in their description. You’ll find Krush, of course, as well as the light, bright Coaster (“Someone described it as like a really good, slightly bigger version of Great Northern,” Callum says). Also find a handful of fruit-infused sours and the Cantina-exclusive Pleasure Kruze, a hazy pale ale set to be brewed on-site with the brewery’s 600-litre system. Beyond beer, Callum (who, in a previous life, designed wine lists for restaurants) has put together a collection of mostly Victorian vino and spirits from producers such as Liquid Rock’n’Roll, Ben Haines and Starward.

Across from the bar is an open kitchen, where pizzas are hand-stretched under a vintage, suburban-looking awning. Here, chef Jay Jafari leans into a thin and crispy Neapolitan style. There’s a menu of 10 pizzas with toppings that range from the classic margherita (San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil) to an on-the-money cheeseburger flavour – chunks of ground beef, sliced pickles and squares of American cheese on a crisp base make for a nearly scientifically perfect beer accompaniment.

While the brewpub is on an industrial street, full of car mechanics and panel beaters, the design channels suburban nostalgia. “It’s a modern take on walking into your grandma’s house,” says Callum. “If your grandma had a triple-front in the south-eastern suburbs.”

Local architect We Are Humble has combined the pale bricks and orange tones of 1970s renovations with the vibrancy of Aussie artist Howard Arkley’s technicolour suburban visions (his studio was in neighbouring Oakleigh). Long-time Kaiju collaborator Mikey Burton – responsible for the brewery’s eye-catching label art – has designed large-scale murals to cover the interior, including a stylised Melbourne cityscape. For the kids, the team has brought in a 1960s Coaster minibus, reupholstered in vintage orange for some (completely stationary) adventures once the pizza’s all gone.

Kaiju Cantina
27 Hume Street, Huntingdale VIC 3166

Hours:
Wed & Thu 4pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–late

kaijubeer.com.au/cantina