Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Out & About: Modern Times Beer

Modern Times Tasting Room
By Erik Battenberg

With San Diego seemingly on pace to have more breweries than taco shops these days, it can be a challenge for a new brewer to make a splash. Modern Times Beer, which opened last August in Point Loma, clearly is up for that challenge.

Walk into its spacious, warehouse-like tasting room and your eyes may not know where to focus first.

One two-story wall is covered with colorful comic book pages all the way to the ceiling. Another wall is home to an enormous Post-it-note mosaic of the late Michael Jackson with his pet chimp Bubbles (who is alive and living in Florida, if Wikipedia is to be believed).

Another wall has several thrift-store paintings on it, with some sections plastered with pages from old books.

The reading theme continues at the large, rectangular tasting bar, which has a marble top that appears to be propped up by piles and piles of old books.

On both sides of the bar there are rows of Ikea shelving units with even more old books – a collection of short stories, a book about the Boston Strangler and “The Emergence of Modern Turkey” among them. Patrons are invited to read the books “for free” while they’re there.

Also on the shelves are vintage typewriters, radios, cameras and suitcases, and various knickknacks.

“It’s like a Craigslist acid trip,” one friend said when we stopped in last August. And that was before light fixtures made with tumbleweeds were installed.

If you don’t feel like reading a book, and I’ve never seen anyone actually do it there, Modern Times often offers other activities.

In December, watercolors were provided so you could make your own painting, and some of the customers’ creations still hang in the hallway toward the restrooms. In February, a station was set up to make your own valentines.

Having a somewhat trippy tasting room and offering DIY arts-and-crafts projects will only take a brewery so far, of course. A brewery has to make good beer to thrive in San Diego, and no amount of offbeat art installations will make bad beer taste good.

The refreshing news is that Modern Times makes very good beer. Their four year-round offerings are Blazing World, an amber with lots of hops; Black House, a coffee stout; Lomaland, a Saison; and my favorite, Fortunate Islands, a hopped-up wheat beer that drinks like an IPA.

You can get a tasting flight with 4-ounce pours of those four beers for $8, or you can buy them by the pint. They also are available to-go in growlers and four-packs of 16-ounce cans.

Modern Times also brews seasonal offerings, specialty releases and one-off beers.

On Black Friday, for example, they offered eight varieties of the Black House stout, including versions with coconut and cocoa nibs; sour cherries and vanilla beans; nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla; and a “Thanksgiving” version with cranberries, thyme and rosemary. Not all of them were winners, but they were interesting to try.

The brewery also has a sour beer program, with batches of beer that have been aging in barrels for several months. None have been released yet, but word is they’ll likely be selling the first bottles sometime in the next few months.

Modern Times has been distributing its beer around San Diego since last summer and recently expanded into Los Angeles. It also announced plans to open a second tasting room, in North Park, this spring or summer.

North Park is already crowded with craft beer options, but given what Modern Times has done so far, it seems a safe bet that they’ll make a splash there as well.

Modern Times is located at 3725 Greenwood St., San Diego, CA 92110
Phone: (619) 546-9694

Part of enjoying craft beer is making sure everyone arrives home safely. If you are drinking, designate a sober driver, call a cab or use a service such as Uber or Lyft. New Uber users can get a $20 discount on a ride by using promo code mqgae.

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