This article originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of Froth Craft Beer Magazine.
They’ve only just celebrated their second birthday, but this young Sydney brewery has already firmly placed itself amongst Australia’s finest. Modus Operandi’s American-style ales have proven popular with craft beer drinkers and judges alike, winning multiple high-profile trophies and gravitating to the top of people’s choice lists.
“We’re extremely fortunate and humbled by the awards we have received,” says brewery co-owner Jaz Wearin. “It was our intention from the start to make serious craft beer. We called our brewery Modus Operandi (Latin for Method of Operation) because our M.O has always been beer first, no shortcuts.”
“We use fresh yeast flown in from the US, the finest specialty malts and hops from all over the world and we cold store and transport all our beer. These methods of operation cost more, but I think it’s an important one for product freshness and quality.”
That was definitely something the 22 independent judges at the 2014 CBIA Awards noticed. Just three months after opening, Modus Operandi took home four trophies on awards night – including Champion Craft Beer and Champion Small Brewery.
Jaz and husband Grant, Northern Beaches locals for over 15 years, decided to start their own brewery after an inspiring trip to the United States “drinking and learning from the best brewers in the business.”
Returning home, they noticed a distinct lack of microbrewing culture, especially in their beloved yet secluded part of the world. “One of the things [the Northern Beaches] was really lacking was a local microbrewery and a laid back venue where you could enjoy fresh beer, live music and good grub.”
It took almost 18 months to turn a warehouse space in Mona Vale into a brewpub, complete with on-site kitchen. Despite some experience in homebrewing, Grant and Jaz chose to hire a professional brewer from the States – enticing former Oskar Blues senior brewer DJ McCready across the Pacific.
One of DJ’s most marvellous creations is the multi-award winning Former Tenant Red IPA. “Boy or girl, hop head or lager fan, this beer seems to keep everyone happy,” says Jaz. Aromas of passionfruit and mango are balanced out by a savoury caramel malt flavour.
Behind the beer lies an interesting tale. “Before we took over the brewery space, we had some pretty experienced horticultural former tenants that knew how to grow a cousin of the hop, big, green and illegal. A sniffer dog soon caught onto what they were up to… they now reside in Goulburn and we have a great story. It was only natural to tip the hat with our most aromatic beer to the Former Tenants!”
Former Tenant, along with Modus Pale, were the first two beers to be distributed nationwide in cans. “After launching the CANimal (946 mL can), we had been feeling the pressure to get our beers into a more recognised package.”
“We had always planned to can our beers, because we spoke to enough brewers in the States to convince us. The simple fact is that cans are better for the environment (recyclability), better for the beer (less oxygen and light), better for business (less transportation cost) and the consumer can take them wherever they please – surfing, walking, biking, etc.”
The 500 mL ‘silver bullet’ cans come in packs of four, adding to the same volume as a regular six-pack. Adorning the labels is the sleek, re-branded Modus Operandi logo, designed by Australian company Co Partnership earlier this year.
New canning abilities have allowed for rapid packaging of beers straight out of the seasonal tank. So far, Modus Operandi have released two limited release canned beers – Black Lab Milk Stout (named after lovable brewery dog Stout) and Caribbean Queen, with chocolate, lactose and coconut.
“We plan to release a handful of limited seasonal brews throughout the year, which is a very exciting concept for us because in the past we have had these great one-off seasonals that we have only been able to share in our brew-pub and a very few select venues.”
Also fermenting in the seasonal tanks are a toasted coconut beer, a “mind- altering” hoppy lager and a session IPA brewed with hops never before seen in Australia “thanks to our mates in US breweries and a lazy Australian customs department!”
“These seasonal canned brews will be very limited, but for those people that do get their hands on a can, it will be a special experience only a few will enjoy – but there’s a little magic in that as well.”