Modus began as a brewpub startup. Then pioneered the craft beer can revolution in Australia.

Modus Operandi Brewing (aka Modus) know good beer. And they know how to grab the spotlight too. After only three months of operation, they stepped into the Australian craft beer scene in winning, revolutionary style—scooping more trophies than any other brewery at the 2014 Australian Craft Beer Awards. Needless to say, their incredible beer earned an overnight following.

Hot on the tails of their success, they came to us with an exciting challenge: create a brand identity and packaging to set them up for the fast growth ahead.

Modus Operandi founders, Grant and Jaz Wearin, were inspired by the innovation behind American craft beer and wanted to bring this superior quality to market in cans in Australia. This was no small ambition. At the time, beer cans in Australia had bad PR—perceived to be for lesser quality brands. However, America’s leading craft brewers knew otherwise. Cans keep beer fresher, have less air and light exposure, and are more environmentally friendly. Grant and Jaz also wanted to move away from the expected 375ml format into a 500ml can with a focus on high ABV hop-forward styles.

Modus Operandi’s progressive brewing and marketing methods set the tone. Together, we harnessed this attitude to challenge the Australian craft beer category. That meant starting a fresh conversation, away from the expected visual language of hops, wheat, and offbeat cartoon illustrations.

Their core belief of ‘Beer first, no shortcuts’ inspired the MO brandmark. It assumes the form of a stainless steel conical fermenter, drawn with a continuous line that takes the long way round from beginning to end. It’s a larger-than-life statement maximised on the can for strong cut-through in retail fridges. It’s become a cult symbol for a brewery that defined a new wave of craft brewing. 

Delivering disruptive packaging is one thing, but for a start-up brewery, cost saving was important too. Again, this pushed us to create outside the market expectations, and resulted in developing a printed can with an applied label system. The ‘silver bullet’ cans were printed solely in black with common branding, which then had printed labels applied for each beer release. This innovation meant Modus could get to market quickly and cost effectively with a wider range of beer styles, including their limited editions. The decisive, characterful and consistent branding stood out in the retail fridge and the cans quickly found their cult following. 

As demand for the 500ml Modus labelled can soared, major retailers came knocking. These opportunities required scale. In response, Modus moved to a 375ml can. Firstly, the smaller format was better understood by a broader consumer base. Secondly, pricing was able to be positioned against competitor offerings. And finally, in an unexpected twist, the labelled cans which had originally helped Modus get to market faster and secure their iconic status, were now too slow for national distribution. The labelled can, however, lives on in the brewery’s limited-edition IPAs popular amongst diehard craft beer fans. 

“Pushing the limits of production is our expertise. In this case, gradients on cans are usually dismissed by printers due to the technical difficulty. However, with our team's in-depth understanding of can-print processes, we were able to overcome the challenge with close consultation to deliver a disruptive and ownable can design in category.”
Max Harkness, Creative Director

To translate and evolve the 500ml labelled can to a printed 375ml can, it was important for the brand to retain what loyalists called the 'silver bullet.' This raw aluminium substrate works like a secondary brand asset, communicating the quality and freshness of the product. 

As Australians tend toward the familiar, Modus Operandi eventually became known simply as Modus. We used this affectionate shorthand as an opportunity to shorten the name on pack. The knock-on effect was scaling up the iconic MO mark for greater shelf impact. We continued with the uncluttered ‘beer first, no shortcuts' aesthetic and layered in storytelling that celebrates their innovation. Colour coding was pivotal to guide consumers quickly and easily to their favourite beer. Inspired by the gradient of their popular Sonic Prayer IPA colourway, we introduced gradients to all the beer types. Given the complexity of printing, this was a brave move with aluminium cans, but with the brand’s desire to always innovate, we knew we could realise the challenge. We achieved the desired gradient effect because of the strength of our production teams, the breadth of our expertise, and the ongoing consultation throughout the project between creative, production, and suppliers. 

Over a seven-year period, Modus Operandi transformed from brewpub start-up to national craft icon. Now with a second new-build brewery and venue in Newcastle NSW, it continues to be a pioneer of the craft can revolution and hop-forward styles in Australia. 

“When we started Modus we knew how to brew great beer, but packaging it for retail required an agency partner that had the technical expertise. Our first printed and labelled can design enabled us to get our range of beers to market quickly and cost-effectively with a standout can like no other in market. However as demand grew, what was once fast and cost-effective, became slow and costly as the economies of scale equation shifted. This required new ways of thinking and packaging solutions to suit national distribution. Co-Partnership were true partners in guiding us through our packaging design solutions for both phases of growth. Consulting with our suppliers throughout the full process to ensure we delivered great branding and packaging into market."
Jaz Wearin, Co-founder, Modus Operandi Brewing