With Modern Times coming up on our 2nd Anniversary, it seems like a good time to reflect on how far we’ve come. And holy shit, have we ever come far.
I started working full-time on opening the brewery in January of 2012, but we didn’t open for business until 18 months later, in July of 2013. That first year and a half was spent raising money, finding our location, building a brewery, hiring brewers, and the countless other tasks both large and small that go into starting a business. Even though it felt like an absolute pressure cooker at the time—with ungodly sums of money being spent and none coming back in—compared to actually running a brewery, it was a relatively easy time. I never dreamed I’d say that.
When we officially launched on July 8th, 2013, I was totally overwhelmed with relief. The interminable months of preparation were finally, mercifully over. It was totally surreal to see our tap handles on an actual tap tower at a real live bar. I can’t possibly explain what it felt like to see all of that work and stress and passion boiled down to a handful of taps. It was an amazing and disorienting feeling. I couldn’t stop staring at them.
By that point, Modern Times consisted of 4 people, including me. Today, there are 47 of us. I’m immensely proud of the fact that this company, which was just a stack of papers a few years ago, is now providing a livelihood to 47 hard-working people. That’s incredibly gratifying, and made even more so by the fact that many of those people have been promoted, sometimes multiple times, since starting here. Those conversations have been some of the most rewarding experiences in this whole crazy process.
And we certainly brew a lot more beer than we did at the start. The brewery itself has been transformed by our growth: what started as a handful of tanks and a big empty warehouse has become a giant tank farm and multiple very full warehouses (with more to come).
But in general, I’m not a fan of trumpeting how many barrels we’re making or how much our revenue has grown. The reason is simple: I don’t think success is self-justifying. Plenty of successful things are garbage, and impressive accounting statistics do not make them any less so. Certainly it’s nice to succeed and I’ve taken a lot of pleasure in solving the many riddles involved in growing this place, but making lots of beer and money is not an end unto itself for me. If there’s anything that frightens me about the future of craft beer, it’s the proliferation of people in the industry who view financial success as the goal, rather than as a reward for creating something awesome.
The success I’m most proud of is the quality of our beer. Without that, this whole thing wouldn’t be worth it to me. When I taste Fortunate Islands or one of the Rum Barrel-Aged Monsters’ Park bottles or any of a dozen other beers we currently have on-tap, I know I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. The satisfaction of building a successful business cannot compare to the satisfaction of tasting our sours after 18 months of hard work and waiting. For someone who is deeply passionate about beer, that is the absolute pinnacle.
I’m also deeply proud of the way we’ve pulled it off. Modern Times is a very collaborative place, and the quality of our beer is a reflection of the dozens and dozens of people who have contributed to making our beer awesome. We’ve created a place that is greater than the sum of its parts, which is harder than it sounds.
As usual, I still feel like the best is yet to come from us. There are major pillars of Modern Times that are just starting to be built. I’m excited to be creating a vehicle for supporting kickass charities (details to come on Monday). I’m excited to build more locations that embody our weirdness. I’m excited to be building a badass coffee roastery from the ground up. I’m excited to release more funky saisons, 100% Brett beers, fruited sours, barrel-aged beasts, hoppy experiments, stylistic hybrids, coffee mash-ups, and a lot more.
And I’m excited to get back to leading something approaching a more normal life. The last three and half years have been the most challenging of my entire life. It’ll be nice to (hopefully) normalize things a bit over the coming year, and maybe—maybe—even get a normal night’s sleep.
Cheers & thanks,
Modern Times Beer