A Behemoth tale: Meet the brewer behind the tongue-in-cheek craft beer and Auckland’s upcoming brewery Churly’s
Andrew Child’s first award-winning beer was named after a Wellington mayor. Then came Dump The Trump IPA.
Words: Cari Johnson Photos: Sheryl Burson
Andrew Childs, the instigator of seemingly never-ending puns and quips, believes a fun beer name is as much of an ingredient in craft beer as hops, malt, yeast and water.
“Beer shouldn’t be taken seriously,” says the founder of Behemoth Brewing Co, accompanied by an eye-roll from his wife, Hannah Miller Childs. “The only thing that should be is the quality of beer.”
Bold flavours and creative marketing have been Andrew’s signature since 2012. He was still a homebrewer when his Celia Wade Brown Ale, a chocolatey beer named after the former mayor of (his hometown) Wellington, earned one of four spots in the homebrewing competition, Wellington in a Pint.
He launched Behemoth the following year, transporting kegs of fresh beer around the North Island in a rumpty 1993 Toyota LiteAce. But he didn’t lack for company, at least figuratively. Churly, the beast-like mascot on all of Behemoth’s labels, has been with Andrew since the beginning.
View this post on Instagram
After the Orange one took office it seemed pretty apparent to us that Impeachment was pretty dam likely! We always said we would keep brewing Im-peach-ment sour until he is impeached. Well that day has come! So here it is. The final ever batch of Im-peach-ment Sour Ale 5.5% ALC/VOL. Coming both in the OG labels and Finally Im-peached labels. So get in while the getting is good. Once they are gone they are gone for good! He may not get booted out of office just yet (witnesses? Who needs witnesses?) but hopefully the Trump will well and truly be dumped by November. Don't let us down America. Photocred: Liquorland Forrest Hill
“I didn’t set out to have a mascot for Behemoth. Churly was meant to be on just one beer,” he says.
That was until Andrew saw the monster’s mighty potential. The cartoon mascot has featured on 170 beer labels so far. He’s a banjo-strummin’ hillbilly on the ’Murica APA, a basketball star on the 6 foot 5 IPA (after Andrew’s tall stature) and appears twice as bride and groom on the Ameri-Kiwi Amber Ale, made ahead of Andrew’s marriage to charcutier Hannah. (Read more about Hannah’s charcuterie on in the March/April issue of NZ Life & Leisure.)
“I make beers that are outrageously fun and taste good. If you have the best beer in the world, but no one picks it up off the shelves, what’s the point?”
Andrew launched Behemoth on a shoestring budget, and now, six years later, the craft-beer company has added 635 shareholders through equity crowdfunding to finance a brewpub and nose-to-tail eatery in Auckland. In 2019, more than $2 million was raised on PledgeMe in six weeks.
“I think we would’ve struggled if we tried crowdfunding earlier. Behemoth wouldn’t have been well known enough or been able to prove we were profitable.”
Behemoth has had its fair share of the limelight, first making headlines when it launched a Dump The Trump IPA during the United States presidential election in 2016.
“It was a fun beer to begin with but then got more serious when Trump got elected. It became so popular that we had calls for it to be permanent. But I didn’t want to be known as the Dump The Trump brewery.”
That didn’t stop Andrew, a former lawyer, from coming up with more politically infused brews. Behemoth brought back the Dump The Trump IPA last year, only to get trolled by right-wing Americans on Facebook. The Im-PEACH-ment Sour Ale (with Churly dressed as Trump) remains one of Behemoth’s core beers.
Irreverent beer names are not enough to earn a loyal following, says Andrew. The beer has to taste great, too. “Much to the dismay of our accountant, we don’t take shortcuts when making beer. I want the maximum amount of flavour for each style of beer. We don’t compromise on that.”
Hops is one of Behemoth’s most significant expenses. Some beers have an “outrageous” amount of hops and malt, particularly hop-heavy IPAs, APAs and pale ales, says Andrew.
“Behemoth doesn’t brew beer to a price point. We brew because we think it will be good beer and people will enjoy it. Brewers, not accountants, design good beer.”
Trialing recipes usually results in a canned or bottled beer, with the smallest batch containing 2000 litres. “Test batches would be physically impossible with how many beers we do. After brewing for a long time, you get to know hop and malt combinations.
“There’s always some variation to how beers taste, due to varying flavours in hops and malts from season to season. It is the joy of dealing with agricultural products,” says Andrew.
Beer-lovers don’t seem to mind. Last year, the first-ever batch of Behemoth’s Me Time: Mosaic Hazy IPA was named best IPA in the 2019 Brewers Guild Awards.
Behemoth won’t be slowing down anytime soon. The brewing company was ranked the 26th fastest-growing company on the Deloitte Fast 50 list in 2019, with progress expected to continue as the company transforms a corner building (in the Mount Eden suburb of Auckland) into its flagship brewery.
Churly’s, the brewery-cum-restaurant scheduled to open in March, will be the first time Behemoth has brewed in its own facility. In the past six years, it has brewed out of Steam Brewing in Ōtāhuhu, 8 Wired in Warkworth and Deep Creek in Silverdale, among many others.
It’s a model that gives small brewers a chance to thrive with less equipment or capital.
“Independent craft beer makes up just five per cent of New Zealand’s beer market, so there’s still heaps of room for growth.
“Craft beer isn’t going anywhere. The strongest breweries will survive. The innovative and flexible ones will survive. And the breweries making damn good beer will survive.”
HOPPED-UP ON FLAVOUR
Hops, a hardy perennial, can make a beer taste fruity, floral or bitter. Behemoth uses a combination of local and imported hops to get a varied flavour profile.
“Using local hops only is like an artist limiting their colour palette. Brewers who get stuck on one hop variety will have a limited scope of flavours they can produce,” says Andrew. “A hop variety grown in Nelson will taste completely different to the same variety grown in Washington or Tasmania.”
WHAT I’M DRINKING
“Gin and tonic is my non-beer drink of choice. G&Ts are a pretty universal favourite among brewers, probably because the botanicals in gin have a similar profile to hops. I have a relatively big selection of gin, but I’ve recently been enjoying Juno Gin and Curiosity Gin, both made in New Zealand.
“I drink McLeod’s 802 Hazy IPA whenever I see it on tap. [“Hazy” is a style of IPA, known for its tropical, juicy hop flavour, perfected in New England.] Jason [the head brewer at McLeod’s] is from Vermont, so he has a natural advantage to making good hazy IPAs. That’s where hazy IPAs began.”