WARREN, Ohio – Modern Methods Brewing Co. draws on its hometown’s past while looking ahead.
In 1912, a “mammoth” sign, as the newspapers of the day described it, donated by the Trumbull Public Service Co. – the city’s electricity provider – was placed on city hall and lit in 1912. It flashed: “Opportunity? It’s Here. Warren, a City of Modern Methods.”
“Warren, at the time, was on the cutting edge of light and technology,” brewery owner Adam Keck said. (Even more than 100 years ago, the city employed a modern approach to streetlights, one of the first cities to do so.)
“To me it was a name that kind of embraced the industrial history of the area, but also a way that we can create a new identity out of that history,” he said. “It sounds kind of progressive forward-thinking.”
Modern Methods has embraced a progressive mindset, is creative with its beers, and has to be the nation’s only brewery whose address refers to a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
To find the brewery, which opened in 2018 in downtown Warren, you have to enter through David Grohl Alley, named for the Nirvana and Foo Fighters rocker.
In 1995, Foo Fighters released a song called “I’ll Stick Around,” which includes the lyrics:
“I’ll stick around, I’ll stick around
Learn from all that came from it
Well, Keck learned to brew about 20 years ago, and he also gleaned a few things about running a business. That knowledge served him well when it came time to open the brewery.
He got into craft beer with his dad, who had bought a beer kit. They brewed, and the seed was planted.
“I was, ‘Let’s get another one,’ ” Keck said. “We really started getting into it in my dad’s garage, making a lot of beer.”
Keck met fellow brewer Jeff Constantine, who was working at the Cleveland VA.
“We started a fake brewing club,” he said. Just the two of them, trying out recipes. Finally, Keck told him:
“I don’t know what the hell is going to happen here, but do you want to go part-time at the VA and make beer together?”
Not the most sophisticated business approach, but it worked. Constantine is Modern Methods’ head brewer.
Keck grew up in North Jackson and played football at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He met Sarah, now his wife, at the school, and in 2009 returned to Northeast Ohio.
“My thinking was I would do good work for a couple of years, go to a bigger city and get a real job. That never happened,” he said.
He spent two and a half years working in information technology at a manufacturing plant in Columbiana, gaining private-sector experience and valuable business insight.
The seven-barrel brewhouse sits in a space that covers about 2,600 square feet. The three original tanks they started with remain in use, lined up near a wall. Keck said the brewery is in the process of upgrading.
Before they opened, he flew to a brewery in Florida to buy the original system, and drove back in rental truck “with the idea that it would get us off the ground, and we just got really good on it. … We really need to replace it, but it’s also working at the moment.”
Modern Methods bills itself as downtown Warren’s first brewery since 1880. Located just off courthouse square, the brewery has a hodgepodge of items hanging or mounted along its industrial walls. A patchwork banner dangles from the ceiling, meshing the Ohio flag, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association drink-local mantra, assorted skin-tone hues for racial equity and pride colors.
It’s as eclectic as the types of entertainment you will find in the space: Over a recent span of successive days, the brewery hosted a game show for Cinco de Mayo for trivia heads, a drag show and then a sax and brass band.
It also has put a unique spin on a brewery-passport program. Most programs reward the sipper for visiting different breweries in a particular region. But Modern Methods’ program is for the brewery only: Patrons earn a sticker for each different beer they buy at the brewery. Collect at least 12 to earn a prize.
“If they have one of these (passport booklets) they’re going to try at least 12 different beers, other than that one beer that they like,” Keck said. The brewery also participated in the Stateline Brewers Guild, a composite of breweries in Ohio and Pennsylvania (the latter is a little more than 15 miles away.)
The brewery produced close to 1,000 barrels of beer last year, and is expecting to exceed that in 2022. A canning line was installed in October 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bar’s tap handles, made from maple wood blocks, are about as minimalistic as you can find. But as Keck says: “It’s all about the beer, baby.”
The handles feed into a massive, archaic-looking pipe Keck found online as the brewery was starting.
“We didn’t have a draft system, (we were) trying to figure that out,” he said. “We don’t have any money. Everything is DIY, or get creative at least.”
He found the thick piece of pipe from a Las Vegas bar via eBay. It listed for $1,500 but had a make-an-offer option.
“Seven hundred bucks,” Keck said. “Let’s see what happens.”
They replumbed and wire-brushed it, and it gained new life. It also has taken on a rustic patina.
When Keck was starting out, old wood had been left behind. The landlord offered to take it away.
“If you want, we can send someone in and scrap that,” he was told.
Nope; they repurposed the wood. A footrail is galvanized pipe pulled from rafters. Photos and assorted artistic pieces hang on the walls. And on a recent trip, 18 beers were on tap.
They have several top sellers, including
• Darlene, a house brew, pre-Prohibition style Lager with corn base. It’s light and Czech-inspired, Keck said, and comes in at 5.5% alcohol.
• Dub City is a “West Coast IPA brewed with midwestern charm,” he said. It’s 7.2% with moderate International Bittering Units, and is “a little easier to drink than a smack-you-over-the-face bitter hop (ale).”
• Roast Beast, a Stout at 6%. The brewery also makes a nitro version.
• Panthertown, a German-inspired, sessionable, gateway Pilsner at 4.5% “for people who come in and say, ‘Give me a Budweiser,’ ” Keck said. Besides, he added, “Sometimes you just want a really good lager.”
“It’s kind of wild that we have two flagship lagers, but they both sell very well,” he added.
Modern Methods also makes special releases, experimental brews, collaborations and one-offs. Last year the brewery churned out about 60 barrels of its Christmas ale. And it once made a Cream Ale named Jeanette – a semi-subtle nod to the more pedestrian Genny Cream Ale.
Like many craft breweries, especially those in smaller towns, Modern Methods strives to stay engrained in its community.
“That’s part of our ethos,” he said. “We do fundraiser beers that we do regularly.”
One of those recently was on tap, Stand With Ukraine, a witbier. It was the result of a collaborative effort with Birdfish Brewing in Columbiana, Noble Creature Cask House in Youngstown and Westside Bowl bowling-alley performance space. They raised $18,000.
“Threw a big-ass party, made this beer, donated all the proceeds to three Ukrainian non-profits,” he said. Part of the proceeds supported World Central Kitchen.
The brewery recently passed its fourth anniversary and is going strong. And for the record, Grohl has not visited.
“We have a lot of people (who say), ‘Why haven’t you reached out to him, why haven’t you gotten in touch with his agent or scheduled something for him?’ Because he probably gets that a lot, and it’s not that big of a deal to us. If it happens, great.”
Six-pack of facts about Modern Methods Brewing Co.
• Modern Methods is at 125 David Grohl Alley, Warren. It’s about 60 miles from downtown Cleveland. Two-hour street parking is nearby.
• Hours: 5-10 p.m. Thursday, 2-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
• Closest breweries are Clubhouse three miles to the north and Paladin 12 miles to the south.
• The brewery’s logo of a woman in motion is based on Demeter, goddess of agriculture.
• “Bootstrap fundraising” was used, and an investors’ board tips the cap to those who helped with the startup.
• The folks at the brewery make an annual pilgrimage to a nearby hop farm.
We visit as many breweries as we can throughout Northeast Ohio, from ones in the planning stages to others that are pouring beer and marking anniversaries. Here is a look at our visits since 2021:
5 Barrel Bullet Brewing, New Philadelphia
Aeonian Brewing Co., Alliance
Bell Tower Brewing Co., Kent
Birdfish Brewing Co. – Columbiana
Brighten Brewing Co., Copley
Broadview Brewing Co., Broadview Heights
Bummin’ Beaver Brewery, Auburn Township, Geauga County
Clubhouse Brewing Co., Warren
Ghost Tree Brewing Co., Amherst
Hoodletown Brewing Co., Dover
Hoppy Dude Brews, Hinckley
Immigrant Son Brewery, Lakewood
Maize Valley Brewery, Hartville
Paradigm Shift Brewing Co. – Massillon
Penguin City Brewing Co., Youngstown
Sandy Springs Brewing Co., Minerva
Schnitz Ale Brewery, Parma
Two Monks Brewing Co., Akron
Unplugged Brewing Co., Elyria
UnHitched Brewing Co., Louisville
Like beer? Check out GiveThemBeer for gifts for beer lovers. The company offers craft-beer baskets, seasonal selections and more.
I am on cleveland.com’s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.
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