Former Brewing Projekt Brewmaster Co-Launches Altoona Operation
Eric Rykal knows beer. Starting as a homebrewer long ago, he’s grown into a seasoned professional brewing master, crafting tons of imaginative beers and local favorites with both Lucette Brewing Company in Menomonie and The Brewing Projekt in Eau Claire over the past seven years or so.
Now, the same beer fanatics who’ve enjoyed Rykal’s creations can look forward to brews blending old and new from his new business venture: Modicum Brewing Company. Joining him and helping build the brewery from square one is his business partner, Mike Blodgett.
“There’s a lot of beers, beer styles, and traditions of brewing that aren’t being explored, and those are the ones that are most appealing to me.” – Eric Rykal, Modicum Brewing
Both men have a passion for beer; however, neither had anticipated becoming entrepreneurs. Blodgett has been a civil engineer with the state Department of Natural Resources for 30 years and has always liked the idea of owning his own business – and now the timing and inspiration has never been more perfect.
“Knowing Eric, this guy needs to brew beer,” says Blodgett, “and I’m in a position in my life where I’m getting ready to retire from my day job and would love to transition into something like this that makes people happy.”
As for Rykal, starting Modicum Brewing is about offering something both creative and different. After years of honing his technical skills and experimenting with recipe formulation, he’s ready to dive in and explore on his own.
“There are a lot of beers, beer styles, and traditions of brewing that aren’t being explored, and those are the ones that are most appealing to me,” he says. “A lot of the beers we’re going to start out with are New World takes on Old World styles.”
Together, Rykal and Blodgett bring the perfect combination of experience. Rykal intends to create great beers, and Blodgett has been diligently working to design a unique space to drink. The ideas behind both drink and space, however, are guided by the definition of Modicum found on the company’s web site: “a small quantity of a particular thing, especially something considered desirable or valuable.” It’s all about making a spectrum of special beers people love and less about high -scale distribution; their beer will only be available on-site.
“We’re not trying to rewrite the book,” says Rykal. “Just making small little tweaks that should all add up to a new experience.”
Modicum Brewing’s variety of beers will certainly cater to all palates, but Rykal says he’s interested in Old World brewing traditions. His new brews will be heavily influenced by Belgian brewing traditions and classic European flavors with subtle but impactful changes.
Rykal and Blodgett acquired a space at 3732 Spooner Ave. in Altoona, which makes Modicum Brewing that city’s much-deserved first brewery. The building has a varied history. Most recently, it was Word of Life Bible Church, but it also contains a bank vault from its more distant past as a credit union. With Blodgett’s expertise in civil engineering, you can anticipate a thoughtful and creative atmosphere. He expects to be able to seat around 75 people. In addition to the taproom, the space will include an event room for special occasions and large groups.
“We want to create a really nice experience for people of all walks of life to come in and have a craft beer,” says Blodgett.
Rykal described their plan for the space as “a coffee shop that serves beer instead of coffee.”
The steady growth of craft breweries is a cheerful addition few are complaining about, especially in the Chippewa Valley. They make great beer we can all rally behind. For the owners of Modicum Brewing, it’s about creating a world-class experience with a local focus to bring people together.
“I think it’s just the authenticity of the place. There’s a good chance the owner’s there or the guy that made the beer is there,” Rykal says. “It’s not coming from some nameless factory far away; it’s being made by these people right here. It’s less about the product itself and more about the experience while having the beer.”
Rykal and Blodgett are in the process of building Modicum Brewing from the ground up, and have anticipate a public opening in June this year.