Bandits of brewing: Modist expands to make room for more modifying

Keigan Knee reviews plans for the original build-out of Modist Brewing. After two years of business, the brewery is expanding // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Keigan Knee reviews plans for the original build-out of Modist Brewing. After two years of business, the brewery is expanding // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Whether it’s brewing heretofore impossible beers, or poking at Big Beer with their marketing mischief (Dilly Dilly, anyone?), the dudes at Modist Brewing are all about pushing the limit.

So when they found themselves bumping against the capacity limits of their brewery, there was only one thing to do: expand in a big way.

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“Every tank is always full,” says head brewer/mad scientist Kiegan Knee of Modist’s production prior to the current expansion. “As soon as it’s empty, there’s another beer going in, which is great, but [tank space] gets taken over by the production beers, which takes away tanks for more innovative stuff.”

Modist has made their name on brewing weird, innovative beers—such as Dreamyard, a hazy IPA made entirely from oats and wheat—since opening two years ago, and with the new equipment virtually doubling their production capacity, things are only going to get weirder.

Modist’s three flagships First Call, Dreamyard, and False Pattern will be moved to the three new 80-barrel fermentors, opening up space in the brewery’s smaller fermenters for new experiments and one-off recipes.

When we dropped by the brewery to check out the new additions, the Modist gang was eager to officially christen their new tanks with a ceremonial shattering of a bottle of Tott’s Champagne, the beverage company who issued them their first cease-and-desist for TOATS, an oat pale ale now known as False Pattern. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the conflict with Tott’s was soon to become the second most viral cease-and-desist in company history. Bud Light would soon take them to task for one of their newest releases, Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA.

But among the shiny new stainless steel tanks, it’s two egg-shaped 20-barrel foeders that stand out the most. Head of marketing Dan Wellendorf says they invested in the wooden fermentation tanks to create “new school beers with the old school wood fermentation.” A sour program is also planned to roll out in the future.

“We’ve always had more beer ideas than we’ve had tanks, so this will give us the opportunity to expand our ability to offer some new beers that use experimental processes or experimental ingredients,” Wellendorf says.

As the only brewery in the Midwest to use a mash filter, Knee has been able to utilize more types and amounts of grain than most brewers, which has opened up doors previously thought to be impossible. “With pretty much every recipe we do, we utilize that mash filter to make something that someone else can’t do,” says Knee.

Wellendorf says, “Kiegan is essentially writing the book on ‘how do you brew horizontally? No one knows, let’s try and figure it out!’”