Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 1 - Here We Flow Again @ MODERN TIMES BREWING

With the hustle and bustle of San Diego Beer Week packing your local taprooms and brewhouses, it's nice to get away to a spot where you can stretch out and enjoy yourself without having to jaws of life your way between other beer aficionados to get a taste. So before getting into some of the special Beer Week releases, we'll start with four beers from a brewery that only recently celebrated their one year anniversary, but hold a quality beer like they've been around for decades.

Modern Times was founded by former Stone guy, Jacob McKean, named after a small community of peace-loving individuals (pick a word here, hippies, beatniks, nutjobs, hoopy froods), in Long Island, New York from the late 1800's. Their basic policy was finding a perfect little oasis in a crazy world, and Jacob has endeavored to bring that attitude to his tasting rooms and his beers at Modern Times.

Dubbed the Fermentorium, the space nestled in one of the more ill-reputed areas of Point Loma reflects that "oasis" vibe. There is a giant post-it note mosaic on one wall, the others covered in pages from comic books and cookbooks, and completely surrounded by barrels, cans and the brewing facility itself.

In front of the taps at Modern Times Lomaland Fermentorium, from left to
right: Funky Lomaland, Universal Friend, City of the Sun Wet Hop IPA and
Black House Stout (Nitro)
Arriving in the facility on a late Friday evening, there was a small Mexican family playing Jenga while the adults sipped tasters, two women in their mid-30's sipping Lomaland and speaking very little, and a compatriot and I (only occasionally loudly) discussing surreal films and which comic books plastered on the walls we used to own.

It was an odd collection, but seemed to fit right into the style of the tasting room McKean sought to emulate. It was peaceful, with me moving my taster glasses around in their own personal zen garden box before diving into four of their unique, tap room specialties.

Beer # 1 - Funky Lomaland - Tart Saison - ABV: 6.0%

Lomaland is a nice, easy-going saison, something simple, no-frills and matches that original San Diego style of being a beer you could drink on the sand, grass; basically anywhere under the sun. The Funky version mixes that style up a bit, throwing in two types of Brettanomyces, a yeast most homebrewers endeavor to avoid. The way it interacts with beers can cause bottles to overflow, explode and pretty much ruin any chance my fiance will ever let me homebrew. (Editor's Note: She is a sweet angel and if she never reads this article, then I encourage everyone to never educate her on the hazards of homebrewing. As far as we're all concerned, it's a beautiful art of cookery that always keeps the house free of stains, shattered glass and always smells like roses and new books.)

However, more brewers are experimenting with the so-named "funky" type of yeasts, which can bring a flavor of tropical fruit, tartness or sour to beers like saisons or pale ales. In the case of the Funky Lomaland, it really defines what these yeasts are capable of, increasing the hay-like base of the saison, an almost peppery lemon hint and an introductory sour taste. This is the ideal spot to start if you're looking to venture into sour beers, as it is gentler to the palate. For those who simply want to enjoy a solid tart saison, or those that want to see what Brett yeasts and a variable flavor are like, Funky Lomaland is a great way to start - and a solid flagship taster for 100 Beers in 100 Days.

Beer #2 - Universal Friend - Pinot Saison - ABV: 7.1%

Brewed with their house Saison yeast, UF is a Saison modified with Pinot Grigio grape must, the unfermented juice from grapes before they become wine. (I know, where's the fun in that?) The must certainly carries over, making this a beer with strong white wine hints. The taste finishes with that similar sweetness to a semi-dry white wine, almost sour cherry-like. It's incredibly similar to the Funky Lomaland, though with a more citrus smell and sweeter taste.

Not quite as complex as its funky brother, UF is a saison with a twist. While most experimental saisons are simply one-note tart bombs, UF is a nice introduction to how beer and wine can actually have a rather harmonic relationship, as opposed to simply being two members of a dysfunctional, low-ABV family. (Editor's Note: Especially since now we can all be snooty about both! Take that, Miles Raymond, Paul Giamatti's character from Sideways.)

Final Scores:

Funky Lomaland - 7.5 out of 10
Universal Friend - 7 out of 10

Next up - Modern Times' other two offerings - City of the Sun w/Wet Hops and Black House Coffee Stout (Nitro)

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