BY KRISTI TUKUA
MINNEAPOLIS, MN Take several graduates of Delano High School, let them work different jobs, receive further education and training, develop different skills, combine their various talents and interests into achievement of a common goal, mix with a do-it-yourself attitude, and you have the formula for Modist Brewing Company.
Another part of the formula is the definition for modist itself: a person who modifies or a modern artistic expression utilizing modification to achieve a self-conscious and intentional break from the conventional.
Modist Brewing Company designs, brews, and self-distributes craft beers from its facility and taproom in the North Loop area of Minneapolis.
The people. Longtime friends, Kale Anderson, Keigan Knee, and John Donnelly have a common interest in craft beer and home brewing. Anderson’s sister, Karly Anderson, a 2009 graduate of Delano High School, serves as “beertender.” She observed the development of their brewery idea from the beginning. She saw the friends’ abilities, interests, and experiences blend well and proceed to establishment of the Modist Brewing Company business and its operation. She has known Knee, Donnelly and, of course, her brother for many years.
“It has been incredible to watch them come into their own and showcase their strengths,” she said. “Modist was in the works long before moving into the facility at Minneapolis. The guys worked through the business plans and what they wanted Modist to be through many Sunday night meetings at their old house off Hiawatha”.
Kale Anderson is the co-founder and operations manager of Modist. He is a 2006 DHS graduate, who went on to graduate from Hamline University with a business management and economics degree. He gained brewery experience working at Lucid Brewing Company and volunteering at Harriet Brewing, as did Donnelly.
Donnelly is co-founder and head of sales at Modist. He graduated from DHS in 2006, and went on to attend St. Cloud Technical College.
Knee is co-founder and head brewer. He graduated from DHS in 2005, and received additional education in structural metal fabrication at Hennepin Tech. He learned home brewing and professional brewing simultaneously; gaining real-world education and self-taught experience. Brewing experience includes more than two years as lead brewer at Harriet Brewing and more than three years as head brewer at Dangerous Man Brewing Company.
She provides observations about the three friends, relating that she feels Knee is “the creative one,” able to go on for hours about his topics of interest, including beer.
Knee remembers that, two weeks into volunteering his time at Harriet Brewing, he realized that brewing utilized his natural skill set and was a career path into which he could place his passion and creativity. The three were living in South Minneapolis, could work with home brewing and thought it out: “Let’s start our own brewery.”
Along the way, the friends joined forces with Eric Paredes, co-founder and chief manager of Modist. Paredes was associated with the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and had worked with food companies and a winery.
Do-it-yourself attitude and collaboration. Karly Anderson recalls that, once they found the perfect building, the taproom build-out began. Wanting to handle most of the construction themselves, the group, alongside friends and family, set about digging, welding, framing, painting, installing, and cleaning.
“They discovered that quality takes time. (It was) well worth the wait and the taproom started taking shape, brewhouse equipment began arriving, and they were all thrilled to begin sharing Modist with curious neighbors, early supporters, and future customers,” Karly Anderson said.
The individuals had gone separate routes to learn each aspect of the business that was interesting to them; Donnelly did sales and operations; Knee did home brewing, designing beers, and trying recipes over and over again; and Kale Anderson was working on a business plan. Coming together, they made a strategic choice in arrangements for the building and the long term. Kale Anderson said they made the choice to self-distribute everything, thereby preserving their control of the market and close contact and direct familiarity with their customers, not to mention saving the distributor charge of 30 to 35 percent.
The choice was made to emphasize quality ingredients, avoiding artificial flavorings, and seeking out the best ingredients and paying attention to sustainable sources. They even want to know what fields produce the ingredients they use. Knee maintains that sourcing quality ingredients throughout the brewing process is essential to the flavor and end experience to their customers. They are constantly developing relationships with ingredient suppliers and the farmers to not only get some of the best hops, malt, and yeast available, but also getting involved with cutting-edge product, processes, and experimental ingredients. Knee’s focus is on developing new recipes and adjusting current recipes. They take a more culinary approach to recipe development and work backwards from a flavor experience they are aiming to achieve.
“Knowing your ingredients and how to utilize them in different processes is extremely rewarding, all the while discovering new flavors,” Knee said. “We like to brew with intent, and not just throw a bunch of things together and hope for the best.”
Beyond that, they exhibit a philosophy of collaboration. Kale said Modist is a member of the Minnesota Brewers’ Guild, an advocate regarding issues and laws affecting the industry. Further, Modist values the opportunity to collaborate with other breweries on projects. Knee said the three “further honed their skills in various branches of the craft brewing world by taking on a work at various breweries in Minnesota.”
“Getting years of pro brewing experience was essential to develop our skills to create and run a successful brewery,” he said. “We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to receive this experience and continue to pay it forward and with others seeking knowledge.”
Your own business: many think it, few do it.
Modist: an intentional break from the conventional.