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

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