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Community organizer taps Warren brewery business

Published: Thu, February 16, 2017 @ 10:19 p.m.


Adam Keck, 30, has spent most of his adult life dedicated to improving communities.

He has participated in neighborhood organizations, served as lead organizer in the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and has fought local human-trafficking organizations.

Now he’s opening a brewery.

In Keck’s mind, his brewery – which will inhabit the ground floor of the Kresge Building in downtown Warren – is another venture in community organizing.

“The pub used to be one of the centers of the community,” Keck said. “The local pub was the place where the community met and actually interacted with one another. ... People are rediscovering the value of the

local pub.”

The brewery – Modern Methods Brewing Co. – is currently an empty, 3,000-square-foot space with soda ash-covered cement floors and bare brick walls. Keck and his small crew of volunteers are still preparing the space, but he hopes the brewery will be ready for operation sometime this summer.

Opening the first brewery in downtown Warren since 1880, Keck has built allusions to the city’s history as a technological pioneer and manufacturing giant into the identity of the brewery.

The name “Modern Methods” harkens back to a large sign outside Warren City Hall in 1909 that read: “Opportunity? It’s Here! Warren, City of Modern Methods.” The sign celebrated the success of the Packard car plant – which began production 10 years prior – and that the city was one of the first to use electrical street lights to illuminate its downtown.

Even the brewery’s logo is a tweaked bit of Warren iconography. Dubbed “The Goddess of Agriculture,” the logo is a clear homage to “The Goddess of Speed” that adorned the hoods of Packard cars. Unlike her automotive-focused sister, the Goddess of Agriculture holds a hop – the flower that gives beer its distinct flavor – in her hands and has barley stalks sprouting from her back in place of the familiar art-deco wings.

Though the past features prominently in the brewery’s marketing, Keck hopes his business’s location will influence Warren’s future. Modern Methods Brewing Co. will share a building with the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center – an energy company incubator – and is adjacent to Dave Grohl Alley, which was created to be a place of inspiration for the city’s artists and youths.

Keck’s focus on incorporating the city into his brewery’s identity is rooted in his community-organizing background. Originally from North Jackson, Keck graduated from Brown University in 2009 and moved to Warren to begin his career as an organizer. While he worked to recruit activists and secure grants for the city, he spent his off time immersing himself in the craft-beer revolution of the last decade.

“I grew up around people who made stuff, so once I started getting into craft beer, I knew I wanted to start brewing my own,” he said.

When he decided to finally pursue opening a brewery, he fell back on his organizing experience to make the business a reality.

Keck fostered relationships with other brewers and with denizens of downtown Warren, building excitement for the brewery and recruiting volunteers to help create the physical space.

To get exposure for his beer and a platform to build interest in the brewery, Keck organized beer tastings and brewing events. Though he couldn’t legally sell his beer, he could share it, so he used the public as his taste testers.

Some of the relationships that resulted from his events evolved into business partnerships as friends-turned-investors began buying into Keck’s vision.

Paul Clouser, Keck’s friend and former landlord, owns rentals in downtown Warren. After Keck persuaded him to start drinking craft beer, Clouser doubled down on his involvement and invested in the brewery.

“He sold me on the brewery and on craft beer,” Clouser said. “I’m not the only one, either. We’ve had to turn away volunteers on some of our workdays because so many people are excited about being a part of this.”

The excitement generated by Modern Methods isn’t exclusive to Keck; other Valley breweries, such as Birdfish Brewing Co. in Columbiana and the future Noble Creature Cask House in downtown Youngstown, also have attracted attention for their community-centric locations and their brewer-as-owner business model.

Keck, while a businessman, is happy for the competition and knows most of the local brewers personally.

“In craft beer there’s a culture of cooperation among a lot of local brewers,” Keck said. “The other guys are my friends, and we’ve even worked together to help expand our brewing skills. The more quality breweries we have, the more likely people are going to fall in love with local beer, and that helps all of us out.”

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