In March of 2012, Jacob McKean penned an editorial for BeerPulse.com entitled “Why I think I’m mostly not crazy for opening a brewery.” In this editorial, McKean –two months removed from his steady job as a communications specialist for Stone Brewing—talked about how he thinks he can succeed in an industry with a seemingly unsustainable level of growth. He was confident that his project, Modern Times Beer, could succeed because there’s still plenty of room for great beer, with heavy emphasis on “great.” Fast-forward through 15 months and a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, and it’s time to see if he’s right, because Modern Times Beer started pouring on Tuesday.
The Modern Times crew, with McKean leading the way, arrived at Toronado shortly before 8:30 p.m. Toronado was the last stop on their tour of the three bars –Local Habit and Fathom were the others—pouring their beers on day one. “Ladies and gentlemen, Modern Times is in the house,” boomed a voice from behind the bar, and the customers erupted in applause. Well-wishers offered their congratulations and compliments on the beer, and McKean snapped a picture of Toronado’s menu on his iPhone.
Modern Times launched with four different beers. Lomaland, named for the early-1900’s Theosophical commune, is a saison that Modern Times describes as tasting like “friendly, sophisticated sunshine.” This is a very refreshing beer that’s not too heavy on the esters.
Blazing World is an amber IPA made with Munich and chocolate malts. While the malts give the beer the traditional color of an amber beer, the flavors of the Nelson hops push to the front. This is a complex beer that’s very dry for an amber.
Modern Times is the second American brewery, after Chicago’s Two Brothers, to roast their own coffee in-house. Modern Times uses 20 pounds of their coffee for every batch of Black House, their oatmeal stout. Amy Krone, McKean’s girlfriend and Modern Times’ “Roastface Killah,” handles the coffee roasting duties, a skill gained from her experience with Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Black House has a strong roasted coffee smell, and it tastes like strong coffee with a hint of chocolate. Despite the heavy flavor and aroma, this beer only weighs in at 5.8% alcohol.
Brewers constantly tweak their beers, especially in the early days of their company, to make sure that they’re getting it just right. Fortunate Islands, a wheat beer with an intense hop aroma, is the beer that McKean says is “closest to perfect.” When you smell Fortunate Islands, you’ll think that you’re about to be smacked in the face with bitterness, but that’s not the case. The hoppy aroma gives way to a citrusy, tropical fruit flavor with just the slightest hint of bitterness. With a thirst-quenching flavor and low 4.7% alcohol content, Fortunate Islands is the perfect summer beer, and the best of their launch beers.
So, what’s it like to see your work on the menu at one of San Diego’s most popular beer bars? “It’s just completely wild,” said McKean. “After 18 months of hard work and lack of sleep, to see it up there on the menu, there just aren’t words to describe it.” Even a menu misspelling, which McKean attributed to a misprint on a tap handle label, couldn’t do anything to diminish the mood.
Modern Times officially launches on July 8 with a week of events. McKean expects that they’ll have three more beers available by their official launch, and the details will be finalized soon. Modern Times Beer’s tasting room should be open in mid-July. Keep an eye on their website for the latest news.