Photo via Tambako Photography on Flickr
The Twin Cities are home to a growing number of small breweries and taprooms, each offering its own spin on locally made craft beer. Modist Brewing in the North Loop of Minneapolis opened this past April with the goal of being unique — offering beers that no one else can. "We make one-of-a-kind beers on a one-of-a-kind system," their website explains, and the definition of the term "modist" that is painted on the wall of the taproom includes the phrase "a self-conscious and intentional break from the conventional."
On July 21, our Explorations series will take us to Modist for a tour and tasting that dives into what makes their beers different. "The common thread is this desire to always tinker with things," says Eric Paredes, co-founder and Chief Manager. Rather than follow traditional methods for making beer, Modist's founders love to experiment, using custom-made equipment to try unconventional recipes.
The path to Modist began when Eric met Keigan Knee, Kale Anderson, and John Donnelly, a trio of childhood friends. Eric had recently moved from California, where he had been involved in winemaking; his passion was wine, but he had begun to take an interest in beer, especially in Minneapolis where craft beer was becoming more popular. He met Keigan while volunteering at Harriet Brewing in Minneapolis, every Saturday for eight hours a day. At the time, Harriet was one of the few breweries making up the emerging local beer scene, and working with volunteers was a common way for new breweries to get off the ground.
Eric and Keigan discovered a shared "entrepreneurial bug" that was growing alongside their deepening interest in beer. While Eric continued working at his corporate job, Keigan and their friends Kale and John found jobs in the brewery world, and they started home brewing.
"You can buy a home brewing kit, and the kit gives you instructions on how to do it and what to add when," Eric explains. Keigan, Kale, and John "probably followed that for about five minutes and then said, 'Forget it, we want to do our own thing.'” Very soon thereafter, they built their own custom pilot system that allowed them to make original beers from scratch.
Then, in 2013, Eric decided he was done with corporate life and quit his job. He had no plan, but as he shared the news with his friends, they decided the time was right to make good on their dream of starting their own brewery. With Keigan as the head brewer, Kale in charge of operations, John managing sales, and Eric leading marketing and branding, they began working on their business plan. Finally, they opened in their North Loop location in April of this year.
Modist's mission was always to "forge our own path because we want to experiment and be creative," Eric says, but a new piece of equipment gave them the technology to achieve that mission. They became one of very few breweries in the U.S. to have a system that includes a mash filter. Most beers are limited in the types of grains they can use, because certain grains will gum up traditional brewing systems. A rye or oatmeal beer usually has less than 20 percent of those grains, while most wheat beers have 40 to 50 percent wheat. The mash filter solves that issue and allows brewers to make beers that haven't been possible for most breweries — in fact, Modist has a 100 percent wheat beer on tap now.
Though only a few breweries in the country have mash filters, Modist isn't competitive about hoarding their secrets — head brewer Keigan happily shares information and ideas with peers, including within the Twin Cities. "Any time a brewer comes into the brewery, even a home brewer, they start to look at the equipment and ask questions," Eric says. "We invite them in, have conversations with them, walk them through the process, and walk through recipes with them."
As someone who loves both beer and wine, Eric offers an explanation of what makes beer interesting in general. In winemaking, it's important to express the specific qualities of the grapes, including the soil and sunlight and latitude where they were grown. For beer, on the other hand, everyone starts with the same raw materials. There are only a few malt houses in the world, Eric explains, so everyone works with one of just a few suppliers. As a result, the brewer can make several decisions throughout the process that strongly influence the final product: the yeast they use, the temperatures they ferment at, choosing different steps to change the color and effervescence, etc.
"It all becomes about the craft and the imagination and the coaxing of the head brewer," Eric says. "You could give two people the same ingredients and they could take it in so many different ways."
For Modist, it's important to keep experimentation and choice alive in that process. Eric says, "We think there’s an opportunity for people to expand their palates, explore something different, and taste something that they haven’t tasted before."
To try a new range of beer types and tastes, and to learn more about how Modist's brews are made, sign up now to join us for the Explorations tour on July 21!