Keigan says making beer was the first thing that used all three of his “natural skills”: a discerning palate, a creative spirit, and a mechanical mindset. Right away after starting at Harriet, he wanted to do more—to see where beer could take him, and where he could take beer. “I came home from volunteering one day, looked at John and Kale, and said, ‘Guys, let’s start a brewery,’” he recalls. They didn’t hesitate before responding: “Okay.”
The trio began brewing four beers a month on Keigan’s custom-built pilot system, experimenting with styles and creating their own recipes. Every Monday they’d start a new beer, and every year their outputs grew. The first year yielded 280 gallons; year two saw 330. It’s clear now, almost five years later, that the weekly brewing sessions were generating more than just thousands of gallons of homebrew—they were shaping the identity of their future brewery.
“Turns out we were making a pilot batch system for Modist before we even knew what Modist was,” Keigan says. “These are recipes we want to make that are tried and true for five years. We know what beer is, but we want to know what beer can be. We aren’t just tweaking styles—we’re creating our own. We are beer designers.”
Together with Eric Paredes, co-founder and chief manager of Modist, Keigan, Kale (head of operations), and John (head of sales) have big plans for Modist—both in terms of the beer bring served and the customer experience. “My philosophy is that if a beer is sub-par, you don’t serve it,” Keigan says. “You’re not going to be perfect every time, but you do way more damage serving a bad beer than you do dumping it out. It’s okay to make mistakes, just don’t make them again.”
These high standards extend to every part of Modist, from the interior design to the equipment to the flow of the place. A rain garden will make use of run-off water and, together with a hop canopy, beautify the space around a patio. A crowler station (Modist will be a no-glass brewery, for environmental reasons) will double as an education station. Thirteen-and-a-half foot tanks custom-designed by Keigan, in collaboration with Aeigir Brewing Systems, will greet guests immediately upon entering the brewery. The corner currently occupied by tools and the “kitchen” will be an indoor hops garden and education area.
Flow, eco-friendliness, natural beauty: these are all on Keigan’s list for Modist, and they’re all things that he hopes will ultimately come together to inspire others to take what they see at the brewery and implement it into their own lives. “We want people to make things—to put their blood, sweat, and tears into something they love and then share it,” he says. “That’s the definition of Modist: someone who likes to modify things; a creative creator.”
And if anyone is looking for an example of such a person, they need look no further than Keigan Knee: head brewer, designer, builder, and dreamer.
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