Beer Genesis: Mesozoic Porter Series

This is the story of our Mesozoic Porter Series.

My kids have always been way into dinosaurs.

We’ve watched all of the shows on Netflix, hours of Dinosaur Train on PBS, and read every kids book we could find on them in our local public library. Okay, maybe not every book. But a lot of them.

So what is it about these creatures that captures the imaginations of our children? Why are they so interested in animals they can no longer see alive in the world around them? If you don’t find yourself often thinking about the world of the dinosaurs—the same world we live in today!—I challenge you to pick up a Mesozoic Series porter, have a seat, and imagine with us.

I think what interests us all is thinking about the fact that somehow the world can exist without us. The world doesn’t need us. For anything. And yet, we still have this intrinsic need or desire to be wanted, to have purpose, to mean something. To belong. Thinking about dinosaurs, which lived so, so long ago, compels us to dwell on our own infinitesimal smallness.

Dinosaurs exist at the crossroads of science and fantasy. Like much of scientific theory, we often base our latest assumptions on the theories that have come before. Theory upon theory, based on a scientific method of discovery. So much about dinosaurs is entirely unknown—because so much about our earth is yet unknown. We are left to fantasy based upon the best available science to us.

Check out this awesome BuzzFeed article about how we imagine and render dinosaurs. The article is based partly on a book called All Yesterdays, by CM Koseman (and co.). At some point, we simply accepted as fact the way dinosaurs have historically been depicted by artists. Today, some are challenging these preconceptions. It’s pretty cool.

Our porter series is named after the era of the great dinosaur. The Mesozoic era, which falls within the Phanerozoic eon, covers all of what we consider to be “the age of dinosaurs”—the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods. We’re talking like 250-70 MILLION years ago. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

Geologic time scale (GTS) categorized dates into groups as supereons, eons, eras, periods, epochs, and finally, ages. (Here’s a good wiki page on that.) The beginning of beginnings and so much of the earth’s unknown origins falls in the Pre-Cambrian supereon. It’s a massive amount of time. Like, incomprehensibly huge.

As we were brainstorming names, I found myself wanting to walk the line between catchy names, names that could be grouped together as a series (but also left room for other series’), and names that people could pronounce, but still learn something from.

I thought about using dino names from a specific period, but really, the only period with the good dino names is the Cretaceous. (That’s where all of our favorite dinosaurs live, contrary to pop culture’s insistent use of the word “Jurassic”. I guess we’re kinda stuck with it…)

Protoceratops Skeleton.

I thought about using the Ceratopsian phylogenic group, but nobody can pronounce that, and nobody can pronounce all those other dinosaurs within each of the families in that classification anyway. I considered Ornithischia and Sauraschia…. (Yes, I had entered the rabbit hole.) We needed two more beer names.

Tropical. Bananas. Oranges. Our two remaining beers are often associated with warm, tropical climates, so it wasn’t a stretch to connect those flavors to the climate we associate with the Mesozoic era. Taking that one step further, I looked at the geography of that time. Could those dinosaurs have eaten bananas and oranges, too? Were those plants even around?

Pangaea. The supercontinent of the Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. During the Mesozoic, this massive land formation split in two: the “northern” Laurasia and the “southern” Gondwana, which would later become today’s South America, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica, Indian subcontinent, and Arabia.

Pieces of Gondwana now today produce the majority of the world’s bananas, so we chose it as the name of our chocolate chip banana bread porter. Pangaea, on the other hand, simply looks and sounds more like “orange”, one of the complimentary flavors of our orange-chocolate porter. Oh, and we haven’t released Gondwana… yet. It needs more time to age.

Take a look at the description we printed on our Mesozoic Porter Series bottles:

MESOZOIC. Our small-batch porters are named after the era of the great dinosaur. These creatures have captivated minds and imaginations for centuries, and we’re still discovering new species and using the latest technologies to uncover the mystery surrounding these fantastical beasts. Imagine drinking one of our geological porters in the day of the dino and let it stir up your own creativity. What fascinates you the most about these animals from an age long-since passed? Join the conversation and read the full story on our website, search #beergenesis.

Beer Genesis: Mesozoic Porter Series

Beer Genesis: Ursa Major

This is the story of our Ursa Major Draft Dry Mead w/ Berries.

The recording & organizing of groups of stars as constellations is a prehistoric exercise. Our earliest artifacts designating constellations date back to 3000 B.C. Mesopotamia.

The wonder of these celestial bodies—the power they possess, the greatness of the cosmos juxtaposed against our own relative smallness—has caused humanity to ponder our own finitude since our very genesis. Today, 88 recognized constellations fill the sky seen from our planet’s Northern & Southern Hemispheres.

Like honey bees dancing from flower to flower in a field, our eyes bounce from star to star in the night sky, connecting each shining dot to the next in ancient patterns, retelling the stories told in days long since passed.

The story of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, & the lesser Ursa Minor, originate in ancient Greece. The Greek God Zeus was smitten by the nymph, Callisto; & when Hera, Zeus’ wife, learned of the affair, she transformed Callisto into a bear. Not knowing the bear was Callisto, Callisto & Zeus’ son, Arcas, approached to attack her with a bow & arrow. Zeus prevented her death by turning Arcas into a bear like his mother & placing them, side-by-side, safely forever in the sky.

Our small-batch draft mead features two of the bear’s signature foods: honey & berries. This uniquely-refreshing, carbonated, dry, short melomel features a combination of the very best locally-sourced honey, organic strawberries, blueberries, blackberries & raspberries, & a healthy dose, start-to-finish, of fruit-forward Mosaic hops. The result is a crushable, summer beer alternative that stands out like the best-known constellation in the Northern night sky. The next time life slows down & you find yourself looking up at the stars, tip back an Ursa Major & thank Zeus for summer. #beergenesis #ursamajordraftmead #draftmead #modalmead

BREWED WITH Wildflower honey & Mosaic hops. Fermented on organic blackberries, blueberries, strawberries & raspberries with one of our favorite locally-cultured yeasts.

Okay! Now I get to tell you a bit more about how this batch came to be; and, as always, tell you what went wrong. Every. single. batch. we’ve ever made has presented to us new problems to troubleshoot and solve. I guess that’s part of the fun of it?

I knew we were only making a 5-gallon batch of mead. This was a completely experimental endeavor, although I basically knew what I was doing, in theory, because of all of my other beer brewing experience. How much different could mead be? I thought.

We got right to work.

Many meads are made without boiling any ingredients at all—except maybe the water, if one chooses to pull it from the tap. We boiled ours.

We measured and added our ingredients, but chose not to add our berries until after chilling our must (that’s the word for unfermented mead) down to yeast-pitching temps.

It turns out, we made a measuring error on our honey, and we didn’t add enough during our brew session! I don’t recall our exact figures, but we added ounces as decimals—something like 2.5 lbs + 2.5 lbs instead of 2 lbs 5 oz + 2 lbs. 5 oz. Needless to say, we were off.

It took me a while to wrap my head around what had happened. I spent an hour or so during clean-up processing through it. I ended up adding in additional honey the day after. Disaster averted!

I was hoping the rest of the process would go off without a hitch. Far from it. I mis-measured the yeast stabilizer addition and worried for days about off-flavors, I made a berry concentrate using the same berries as in our original primary fermentation, but added way too much water. And then came time to cold crash and carbonate…

I didn’t prep far enough in advance and didn’t have the CO2 we needed to on hand to even begin the carbonation process. I had to hit up our local gas supplier before they closed for the day at 5 PM. I walked out with a full tank at 4:55. Then, I didn’t properly attach the regulator nut to the tank’s pipe threads. The tank was empty in four days. On a Saturday morning. I lucked out was able to grab a spare tank from our crew member, Matt. I was able to carb up the rest of our batch and bottle off of his tank. Thanks, Matt!

In all, making this mead was definitely a learning process. We made and corrected several pretty significant mistakes and will continue to experiment with minor process changes in future batches. Plus, we hope to roll out new draft meads of varying sweetness. If you get the chance to try a bottle of our Modal Community mead, we think you’ll find it to be a beautifully tasty experiment! We think it turned out pretty darn well!


Beer Genesis: Ursa Major

“Don’t Recycle” Bottle Reuse Program

From its inception, we’ve wanted Modal Community to be a leader in environmental responsibility and conservation for the brewery industry. We are starting now, at the beginning of our beginning, with an ambitious goal:

With your help, to reuse 100% of all Modal Community glass bottles.

Here’s how.

1) {EDIT} We will accept any amber-colored pry-off crown bottles—even those shorties from places like Founder’s, Red Stripe, Coors, etc. Even the champagne-tapered bottles from Boulevard, Ommegang, or New Belgium are good to bring us. Our Modal Community bottles are still the best, though, because our labels are extremely easy to remove.

2) You don’t have to remove the labels! but…

3) You MUST rinse bottles 3 times with water before returning them. Sediment/Yeast/Sludge settles in the bottom of every beer bottle, and if it doesn’t get rinsed within a few hours of drinking, it hardens inside the bottles and becomes extremely difficult to clean—and sometimes even molds!

4) Bonus points if bottles are completely air-dried.

5) Bring ’em by or we’ll pick them up. 

6) Once Modal Community Brewing officially opens, we will be coupling our reuse program with significant discounts on beer purchases.


Just as a footnote, we want you to know that we are still learning about the environmental impacts of our packaging decisions. We don’t believe that we’ve got this issue all sorted out and have all the right answers. What we can say is that we are doing the best we can with the unbiased information we have. We aren’t content to simply follow along with the rest of the brewery industry or accept spoon-fed data from the aluminum/bauxite mining industry. We want to do what’s right for all of us and for our planet.

“Don’t Recycle” Bottle Reuse Program

Beer Genesis: Miles Pale Ale Series

From the beginning, I knew that each geometric shape within our brewery’s logo would represent a different style of beer we make. Our IPA’s (including Doubles and Triples) take the upper-left fox ear, in red, and our saisons take the lower right chin, in blue. So what’s next? We will be outlining our plans to fill the remaining shapes in an upcoming email to our closest followers—our mailing list members. (Sign up here!)

By now, you very likely have seen on Instagram or Facebook that our new series of beer is in the broadly-defined American Pale Ale category, featuring Pacific Northwest hops and Wisconsin-malted grains.

And now, we continue our #beergenesis blog post series, telling the stories behind the beers we brew. Because we don’t have enough room to share it all on a beer label. Thank you for Crafting Change with us.

Miles APA Series Banner


It comes as no surprise that we crush on music. It’s our lifeblood, our beating heart, the pulse of our souls. We love all kinds and all styles, but jazz occupies a very special place for us.

In the tragedy and triumph of the life and work of Miles Davis, we all stare into the proverbial mirror, seeing pieces of ourselves. Although his life was plagued by serious vices and countless mistakes (many of them of grave, monumental proportion), Davis’ work as musician, arranger, and composer place him among the very greatest innovators of jazz. He found himself on the front lines of nearly every stylistic change in the genre from the 1940’s into the 1990’s. Bebop, Cool Jazz, Modal Jazz, Hard Bop, Third Stream, Fusion. Miles Davis’ fingerprint can be seen—and heard—on all of it.

Our Miles Pale Ale Series is a nod to some of our favorite works featuring Dewey Davis III: his 1957 album “Birth of the Cool”, the instantly recognizable melody of “Milestones”, the quintessential Modal Jazz jam, “So What”, and the Chuck Wayne song, “Sonny”, released under the name “Solar” on Davis’ “Walkin’” album. (Yes, Davis stole it.)

Here are the details on our four new Pale Ales:

BREWED WITH: 2-Row, CaraPils, Crystal, Light Munich, and white wheat malts, & Amarillo, Citra, CTZ, & Simcoe hops.

Milestones: Single-Dry-Hopped w/ Amarillo & CTZ. Fermented with West Coast Chico Ale yeast.

Birth of the Cool: Single-Dry-Hopped w/ Amarillo, Citra, & Simcoe. Fermented with Boddingtons British Ale yeast.

So What: Double-Dry-Hopped w/ Amarillo & Mosaic. Fermented with Whitbread British Ale yeast.

Solar: Double-Dry-Hopped w/ Amarillo, Citra, & Mosaic. Fermented with Norwegian Kveik yeast.

Throughout his career, Miles Davis knew how to surround himself with the best musicians, playing alongside them and often recruiting them for his own projects. Many of these bandmates are now similarly recognized as monsters of the jazz genre: Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Red Garland, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter. 

Miles Davis’ success wasn’t all his own making. Born into a wealthy family, he had many of the right friends and family who made some of his success possible. They picked Davis up when he couldn’t get up on his own—literally. But yes, Davis overcame difficult and various other adversities, including growing up Black in East Saint Louis, IL, during the late 1920’s. Think of the social change Davis—and all Americans!—lived through from the ’20’s into the ’90’s.

As a part of the beer-naming process, I spend quite a bit of time researching the subject matter the beers will be named after. For this series, I picked up Miles Davis’ autobiography. I’m not done with it yet… But I’m struck by the frankness with which Davis talks about his experiences.

Growing up in Saint Louis during segregation, his family and all their neighbors had to put up with a lot of bull crap (some of it isn’t much different still from today). It makes sense that Davis often remarks on his fondness for friends and family who stood up to racist Whites. His dad once loaded up a shotgun and chased after a white teenage boy who had shouted racist slurs at his son, Miles. For Davis’ father, mother, and close family friends in East Saint Louis, the Race Riots of 1917 were fresh wounds in their memories when Davis was born in 1926; and that racial tension was undoubtedly a part of his formative years.

Today’s message boards on jazz tout that Davis was a legit pimp, selling his friend’s sisters to fellow musicians. (If Davis claims that for himself, I haven’t read it yet.) He was a heavy drug user for much of his life. Others claim that he notoriously took credit for compositions that weren’t entirely his. Particularly, his attributed compositions created during his time with Bill Evans and Gil Evans (no relation) are subject to some scrutiny. 

Here’s a little story about one of my favorite Miles Davis tunes, “Solar”:

The first two bars of the song, an up-beat blues-like swing melody, is attributed to Miles Davis, but was actually a composition by Chuck Wayne, called “Sonny”. It’s a long-debated topic, but you can read about it (and hear it) for yourself in a Library of Congress blog post. Read the comments, too. It’s not too difficult to see that Davis likely stole “Sunny” and retitled it “Solar”. And it’s a little more than coincidental that Sonny (the song was named for one of Wayne’s friends) could also be interpreted as the homonym “sunny”, and Davis took that idea and changed the name to the related “solar”. In all, it was a pretty crap move. And what’s worse, because of U.S. copyright law at the time, Wayne’s estate has no legal recourse or claim to the composition today. (There were major reforms to U.S. copyright law in 1976 and 1998.)

In all, Miles Dewey Davis III’s influence on jazz and even rock fusion was monumental. Not many other musicians can compare. But for Miles, with great success also came great shortcomings. His imprint on nearly every now-known jazz style makes all musicians who come after indebted to his life—the ugly parts and the great. With musician-composers/songwriters like Davis (and SRV and Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, to name a few), as great as they were, we can’t help but wonder if they would have been even greater had their lives not been riddled with drug addiction and other vices.

As you drink our Miles American Pale Ale Series beers, consider spinning Davis’ Kind of Blue, the greatest-selling jazz record of all time.

Beer Genesis: Miles Pale Ale Series

Miles APA Series Release at Shop & Hops Event

Come join us on April 28th from 3-7 PM for a special beer release event at Jay and Megan Mkrtschjan’s house in St. Charles!

Sample the brand-new Modal Community beers, hang out, and shop for Mother’s Day! Featuring fair trade artisan goods by Trades of Hope. RSVP and share our Facebook Event:

Our latest beers, called the Miles American Pale Ale Series, were inspired by the great jazz innovator Miles Davis.

Look for more announcements about our Miles Series later this week, here and on Social!

Miles APA Series Release at Shop & Hops Event

Beer Genesis: Mondrian Saison Series

Beer Genesis Mondrian Series Promo

By now many of you have had a chance to enjoy our Mondrian Saison Series beers. Four variations on the same base malt theme. With each new beer release, we plan to do a little write-up like this one, explaining the story behind the series name and each of our new beers. Kinda cool, I think.

To kick off our Beer Genesis posts, I get to write about our most recent batch, brewed all the way back around Christmas. (#beergenesis on Insta. or in a search on our website.)

To begin, one must start at the beginning. At the very earliest stages of planning and designing our Tangram Fox logo, I knew that I wanted to use each distinct shape within the logo to signify a different style of beer. By doing so, we maintain our easily-recognizable logo and incorporate within it an quick way to identify the style of beer one is drinking, buying, or sharing—but only for those in the know (or those who read our labels or follow us on Social). Kinda clever, we thought.

Before brewing our Saisons, I already knew that I wanted to use the color blue to represent them. I also had a vague thought to pair each different colored beer style with a different name theme.

From the genesis of Modal Community itself, back when I was labeling everything tongue-in-cheek as “Brothers McCutchin”, I’ve named every beer around the theme of baseball. (I chose to continue that tradition with our very first Modal Community Double India Pale Ales [DIPA’s].)

The idea was to continue the tradition of baseball, but add on other name themes, including more “refined” artistic themes such as jazz musicians, musical genres, musical modes, or other sports themes such as Chicago sports, the Bulls, American natural landmarks, and more. We’re in process, of course. (See what I did there? We’re MODAL!)

So I was leaning towards associating our Saisons with painters from the beginning—just because of the origin of the word Saison itself. It’s French for “season” and I naturally associate France with “high art”, and painters, and the first one to come to mind is Picasso (even though he’s Spanish [he lived much of his life in France]. And of course, I automatically think of the Old Guitarist painting and that beautiful blue color… (It was all kind of a cyclical thought process.)

So here’s the rest of the story…

Brew Day was all the way back on November 24, 2018. As usual, I invited a whole crew of friends over to participate and help out. For the first time, I scheduled a day-time brew session.

Rabbit trail: It basically turned into a flip-flopped brew day. Instead of cleaning up after the session in the middle of the night, I ended up wash/prepping equipment ahead of the session in the middle of the night—didn’t sleep at all! Oh, and I flooded my kitchen with water—twice! (That’s another story.) My chemist brew friend, Steve, knocked on my door at 5:30 AM to get our session started. I was mopping up water in the basement when he arrived. But I digress…

Around mid-morning, my friend John G. arrived to help out, too. This was his first time brewing with me and his first time ever actually seeing the Modal Community logo. John also happens to be a bit of an art buff and artist himself (He loves woodworking and has a great interest in art history and painting.)

So it turns out that the very first thing John thought of when he saw our Tangram Fox Logo was the work of Piet Mondrian.

“Ever hear of a painter by the name of Mondrian?” he asked. Me: nope. “Check this out!” he says, handing me his phone.

Mondrian: Composition with RYB

It was a picture of Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow. Not only did the painting feature bold, black lines and geometric shapes, just like our logo, but those smaller shapes were also colored. The similarities between Mondrian’s minimalistic style and our logo were undeniable. Love it. I was eager to learn more and spent the next several weeks gathering information about the painter and reading what I could.

Piet’s style stemmed from a deep-seeded belief in art’s transcendence—its ability to communicate to the soul—and he felt the best, purist art resembled nothing at all of the natural world. Of course, his works didn’t always portray that; and, of course, his own philosophy evolved over his lifetime. Looking at his early Paris works, he followed in the Cubist tradition of Picasso himself (and others) before finding his own artistic and philosophical voice in later works. Among these early Paris works were Tableau No. 2 and Compositie 8 (Composition 8) (1911-4).

In later works like Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-3), we see a Mondrian who has indeed abandoned representational painting and found his own place as abstractionist. Bright, dancing colors and textures influenced by the music of the day. (The influence of music on this late work is truly what I love about it!)

Here are a couple of my favorite Mondrian quotes (naturally, I relate to his musical vocabulary):

“I wish to approach truth as closely as is possible, and therefore I abstract everything until I arrive at the fundamental quality of objects.”

“True Boogie-Woogie I conceive as homogeneous in intention with mine in painting: destruction of melody, which is the equivalent of destruction of natural appearance, and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means – dynamic rhythm.”

“The rhythm of relations of color and size makes the absolute appear in the relativity of time and space.”

Every beer label description begins as a lengthy novel which must be distilled down to the most basic essence of beer and tribute. Here’s the full Mondrian Saison Series beer description we couldn’t print:

Dutch painter Piet Mondrian is the essential icon of Modernism. His minimalistic artistic vocabulary, using primary colors and values and geometric shapes, reminds us that beyond the chaos of modern life there is a universal beauty to be found in art which revives the soul.

The constructs of our post-industrial existence are still ill-fitted to meet our deepest needs and we continue to question them, answering the rally cry “make it new.”

Traditionally characterized as a refreshing summer ale brewed by farmers, Saisons represent the utility of the seasons, essential to peasant life. Brewed in winter, aged until summer.

We hope this Season our handcrafted beers revive your soul. As we strive to make the Style new by pushing beyond tradition, let us work together to reinvent how we interpret the world around us. Together we are Crafting Change.

If you want to learn more about Piet Mondrian, a great place to start is Wikipedia. Be sure to check out the References at the bottom of the page. Cheers!

Beer Genesis: Mondrian Saison Series

Saison’s Greetings!

We’re feeling pretty good after brewing our last batch of beers—Saisons! That banana Belgian-y smell mixed with a good dose of hops (more than your average Saison). We’re planning to bottle on Saturday 12/22 and release on Sunday 12/23, first to our mailing list (GET ON IT if you aren’t already!) and then to the rest of the world. Yes, I would say being on the list is worth it. Pictured is a snapshot of our four completely full cornelius soda kegs. That’s over 200 bottles of beer. Over 50 bottles of each variant. More details to come on those. Cheers!


Saison’s Greetings!

25,000-Ounce Beer Giveaway Begins

With the release of our very first batch of beer produced on our 1-barrel commercial brewing system, we have officially started what will prove to be a massive endeavor to give away 25,000 ounces of beer to our friends, family, and neighbors ahead of our taproom grand opening. Beer. For free.

This sort of costly endeavor may sound like foolishness to many, but if we want people to eventually buy our products (beer, of course), there’s no better way to give them a reason to do so than to let them try it first, like it, and choose to come back for more.

But the idea behind Modal Community Brewing is so much more than just the quality of our beer. We don’t simply want to be just another brewery on the edge of suburban-Chicago sprawl. We all know there are plenty of fantastic options for drinking great beer in our area. Community is the centerpiece of what we want to be about and we take the idea so seriously that we’ve decided to put it right there in our name so everyone can see it.

Sharing our beer for free with friends and neighbors is the greatest way we could think of to begin building the kinds of relationships that we believe can change for the better our neighborhoods, culture, and world. Gathering together around art, food and great drinks in a safe place is a primary vehicle for social change.

We want to support our local arts scene in huge ways, regularly give to our local charities, encourage our art and entrepreneurship students, and provide our community with a comfortable learning space—a place to share ideas, challenge how we look at the world, and enjoy fun creative activities, including cooking, chef demos, DIY crafting, music concerts, and so much more.

You can support our brewery-in-planning today by simply picking up an item in our online store or by making a bigger contribution. Consider it.

Together we are Crafting Change.

25,000-Ounce Beer Giveaway Begins

We Bought a Thing

Hey. We got serious.

We bought a thing.

We bought a brewery. No, not a place. A thing. It’s the name of the thing that makes the beers. The system we bought can make a whole barrel of beer (31.5 gallons) at a time. Some day soon, we’d like to brew at capacity; but we can’t do that until we are licensed by the city, state, and federal governments to do so. Patience, grasshopper.

Here’s a link to what we got.

We Bought a Thing