The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s as true at Modus as it is anywhere.
If you’ve been following their journey since the beginning, you’ll have seen the evolution of the brewery.
You see it in the transition from the name Modus Operandi to simply "Modus".
You see it in the can design: from 500ml silver tubes with a sticker slapped on, to 375ml cans with colour gradients designs, to the current design of their tinnies.
You see it in the shift in focus when it comes to beer styles. For the first five years of the brewery’s life, Modus were known for American-style hoppy beers above all else. This wasn’t an accident; Modus was inspired by the beer scene in the US, with owners Grant and Jaz Wearin travelling to America on an extended vacation to work and drink at a multitude of breweries as R&D for when they’d return to Australia and open their own brewery.
They still revel in all things hoppy and hazy, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re still all hops if you only saw the Modus core range: Hazy 3.5, XPA, Pale Ale and longtime favourite Sonic Prayer IPA. But you only need to look at their limited releases to see otherwise. The brewery makes as many sours and malt-driven beers as hop-driven ones. And this is all before you even get to Modus’ sister brands: a Mexican lager called Cerveza stands on its own, the Nort range of non-alcoholic beers, and even the non-beery Perky seltzers fit in their portfolio.
You see it in the growth from one brewery to two breweries. The original site at Mona Vale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is compact and cozy; every square inch of brewing space has always been squeezed for maximum efficiency, and the taproom is always abuzz with happy locals and travellers. The Merewether brewery in Newcastle brought Modus to a new scale of production with ten times the original brewing capacity, and includes a modern venue that won a nationally-recognised award for its architecture. It’s five times the size of Mona Vale and can welcome up to 400 people.
You see it in The Modus Hound - a refurbished 1970 Leyland bus fitted out as a sweet portable bar. Twelve metres of highway-ready Modus, all set to travel around the country and pour beer where it's needed.
Look at the beginning of Modus and where it is today, and you can’t help but notice the transformation. It’s been through quite the glow-up.
But this doesn’t mean everything’s different. There are certain values that Grant and Jaz hold dear to them, and they work their butts off to keep these at the heart of Modus.
From day one, they’ve sworn by their motto: “Beer first, no shortcuts.” It’s been a guiding principle for the way they operate from the start, and it runs deeper than the ingredients they use. On the production side, they’ve invested in equipment and processes that prioritise beer quality (“Our Merewether brewery is world class in terms of quality assurance and quality control,” says Grant). When it comes to storage and delivery, Modus insisted on full cold chain distribution right from the beginning. This philosophy led Modus to win an armful of trophies just months after opening in 2014; it’s seen Modus alumni strike out to start renowned breweries of their own; and it continues to serve Modus and its punters with every drop of beer they put out.
From day one, they’ve taken sustainability seriously, running their business on green energy. They included recycled materials in the build of their Merewether site, they use all recycled rainwater in their venues, and they work with a charity that repurposes spent grain bags into tote bags - and they’re constantly working to reduce their environmental footprint even further.
From day one, they’ve poured love into the hospitality side of things. The kitchens at their venues put out burgers and bowls, pizzas and pasta, fresh seafood and fried chicken, and have a variety of options for vegans as well as for carnivores.
From day one, they’ve supported local sports teams. They sponsor the Newcastle Jets (both the men’s and women’s teams) and you’ll see Modus and Nort pouring in McDonald Jones Stadium, Modus sponsors ice hockey and rugby union teams, and Nort sponsors the Sydney and Gold Coast marathons.
The list goes on. They still support local live music at Mona Vale, which has been vital in the Northern Beaches where live music was all but extinguished in the 2000s; they still offer CANimals for takeaway beer, which they’ve been doing since they brought the second CANimal machine in the world to Australia; their venues are still dog friendly…
Like I said: the more things change, the more they stay the same.