Ohio Brewery News
Friday Six Pack with Eric Wheatley, Modcraft Brewing
Every Friday, we ask an Ohio craft brewery owner or employee to answer six questions about their path to the brewing industry, what sets their brewery apart and their thoughts on craft beer in Ohio.
Today we’ll chat with Eric Wheatley, owner of Modcraft Brewing in Findlay.
What made you decide to get into the craft brewing industry?
For me, it started when my mother bought me one of those one gallon all grain Brooklyn Brew Shop kits for my birthday. She knew I loved cooking and being creative and thought it might be something I would enjoy. The first batch I made was their Belgian Blonde Ale. It turned out amazing and sent me careening down the craft beer rabbit hole at breakneck speeds.
From the very first beer I brewed, I knew I wanted to start a brewery. I quickly upgraded to five gallons, bottled for a few months, upgraded again to kegs. I got into the science part of brewing pretty hard from there, then upgraded again to prosumer level gear. Eventually after a lot of hard work and planning, I got a great team together. We put in the work and two years later opened up a brewhouse and taproom.
Which of your beers do your customers enjoy the most and why?
This is a tough one. I feel like we’ve been really lucky in hitting what our current market is looking for in flavor and style over the year we’ve been open. I’m not sure we have enough longevity in the market to have a favorite yet. With that being said, I guess I would look at our Attack IPA. I think our customers enjoy it because it is very approachable for an IPA. It’s not too bitter, it has a great juicy hop backbone, the malt is still present, but it isn’t super sweet either. We’ve had a lot of non-IPA drinkers try Attack and become converts, but IPA enthusiasts really enjoy it a lot as well.
What should a craft beer fan expect when visiting your brewery for the first time?
We love music and the art tied to it. The creativity and passion from the music world is a perfect juxtaposition for us with craft beer and experience we’re trying to make. I think the aesthetics of our taproom are an instant attraction for people who walk through the door. We also try to really focus on having pleasant and knowledgeable people working the taproom. I think people really enjoy the craft beer experience more when the staff is friendly and are able to speak to the beers they’re serving. The passion really comes through.
With such a focus on music at your brewery, how do you pair your beer with a musical artist or style?
Four of the five main beers we launched with are based on ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release), which is a type of music envelope used in production to describe sound changing over time. Attack is a juicy mosaic IPA that really slaps in a robust fruity way. Decay is a Saison – Farm House Ale with a nice bubble gum peach front that ends with a spicy rosemary and hay flavor. Sustain is a hazy pale ale and Release a hazy NEIPA, which both have a very distinct aroma, taste, and mouthfeel to represent how their musical counterpart interacts in an audio format.
We launched a beer last year called Tell Taylor, which is a s’mores brown ale named after the artist Tell Taylor an American composer of the late 1800s who wrote the song “Down by the Old Mill Stream.” He’s from the Hancock County area and a distant relative of my family. The beer is meant to invoke that campfire, hanging out with friends playing acoustic guitar type of feeling. So it was really neat having that connection.
For our one-year anniversary on Oct. 30, 2021, we released four new beers simultaneously. We really wanted to invoke that Halloween theme in a fun and unique way. The beers were released as a mixed 16 ounce four-pack and were named after Greek gods of the Underworld, but reimagined as if they were competing in a battle of the bands. The beer styles, flavors, and artwork were designed to represent the deities and their likeness and demeanor. We really had a lot of fun with the idea and just dove in and embraced the idea as a whole.
We really try to encompass the idea of a sound, artist, song, or music-related production component or instrument with the concept of a beer. Really just anything related to sound in any way. Sometimes we make the beer first and then the name finds us, and sometimes it’s the reverse where we have a name idea and build the components around it. Music is in our veins and so is brewing. That’s why we like to stay Modcraft is flavor from sound.
Besides your own, what Ohio craft breweries impress you the most and why?
This is such a loaded question for me. We are so incredibly lucky to live in a state with such a large amount of influential and amazing breweries.
I really appreciate what Urban Artifact down in Cinci is bringing to the sour world. They get so outside of the box and aren’t afraid to just go for it. I tried their new Kimchi beer, which on paper reads like crazy-pants-town. That is easily in my top five for beer of the year. I can’t believe how amazing and savory it is. I’m mad we only had one pint and split it between four of us to try. I need to get back down there to get some more of it.
I have a deep appreciation for MadTree as well. They’re like an all-around all star brewery. Jack of all trades, master of all. Everything they put their hands on is just great.
We’ve also got Jackie O’s, Noble Beast, Great Lakes, Fat Head’s… I could talk about Ohio breweries that impress me all day. I do want to give a shout out to two smaller breweries that I really love: Sideswipe in Columbus and Earnest in Toledo. The owners are awesome and their beers are just as great. These breweries both impress me, because not only are the beers they’re producing bangers, but the people behind the beers embody the craft spirit. They’re helpful and generous and really just love what they are doing.
Where do you think craft beer is headed? What do you think craft beer will look like 5 years from now?
It is great to see craft beer trending back toward lagers. I think there’s going to be innovation there that starts pushing that segment of the market back to the foreground even more.
As we find our way out of this pandemic, there’s going to be a strong push from breweries in creating fun and new ways of enticing customers back into the taprooms.
I think five years from now the craft beer market is going to see more innovation/shift of focus as the consumer market continues to become more segmented. We saw that over the last couple of years with seltzers taking a big chunk of the market and AF (alcohol-free) beers rising over the last year as well. I also think the mid-sized and larger breweries are going to start focusing more on their taprooms for growth and expansion over distribution.