Answering Your Search Term Questions

On Jan 29, 2013 - 5 Comments - Lollygagging

There are few time-wasters more entertaining than crawling through the sometimes bizarre search terms people use to find their way to your website. In an effort to help out some of the lost internet wanderers that have ended up here looking for answers, I’ll tackle a few directly. All search terms sic.

140. “whete can i get hopshot in san diego?”

A true riddle, this one. I haven’t found any homebrew shops that carry them, so I’d try your nearest dispensary.

139. “what is the need of finance in modern times”

Good question, especially in light of the industry’s blithe disregard for business ethics. I say we do away with finance entirely and adopt a gift economy like the original Modern Times colonists.

137. “what is the apparatus that beer is brewed in called?”

A stainless steel cylindro-conical flux capacitor.

134. “use the facilities of an existing brewery to save money while brewing your beer”

This is called contracting or alternating proprietorship. Please don’t do it. There are a couple wine industry trends I’d love to see the beer world adopt, but this isn’t one of them.

97. “i will start brewery”

Damn right, you will. That’s the kind of determination I like to see.

84. “how much profit is there in a microbrewery 2012”

I’m probably not the guy to answer this since I haven’t made any money yet, but I would guess more than in 2011.

45. “cover letter ideas for working at a brewery”

I’ll answer this one seriously because I get a lot of cover letters. Save the “I’m super passionate about craft beer & I’m a homebrewer” stuff. Granted, I used that to land a job myself, but now every cover letter says it. If you’re looking for a job with Modern Times: 1) we’re not hiring right now, but any openings will be posted here on the blog, and 2) I want to know what specific skill sets you will bring to the company that I otherwise wouldn’t have on staff. It doesn’t have to be related to the job opening. For instance, if I’m choosing between two candidates for a packaging job, the candidate who has experience installing tiles, patching drywall, and working on HVAC systems is getting hired over the passionate homebrewer.

32. “beer malting system design specification list”

This person is smarter and more ambitious than I am.

26. “how much does it cost start brewwery”

I’m in the process of finding out. I’ll let you know in a few months.

Dreaming About The Future

On Jan 27, 2013 - 27 Comments - Ideology, Start-Up

An interested observer recently emailed me with a few questions about what I have planned for Modern Times in the short and medium term after we open. With his permission, I’ve chosen to answer here on the blog since others might be interested in the answers too.

Our inquisitor starts off by saying, “I’m rather curious where you foresee Modern Times after the honeymoon period,” which immediately made me think, “We should be so lucky!”

I’m constantly amazed and flattered that anyone cares at all about Modern Times, especially at this stage, and that some people even care enough to show up at a bar on a weeknight to taste a few homebrews or a construction site on a Saturday afternoon to hear me ramble about the build-out. So if we are indeed graced with a “honeymoon period” after opening, in which we’re quickly forgiven for our inevitable slip-ups and beer moves briskly out the door, I’ll be immensely grateful and utterly relieved.

So I don’t want to get to far ahead of myself, but at the same time I think it’s important to have some dreams. Dreams, of course, are different from plans, which at this point, consist of nothing more than getting the damn place open.

1) Are you planning on one-off annual releases?

There’s something nice about the ritual of an annual release, but at the same time, I’m hesitant to create a rigid schedule for special releases. My guiding motto for all our beer releases is this: “No clunkers.” I want every beer we put out to meet an unreasonably high standard for deliciousness, which in my mind requires lots of test batches, recipe revisions, and a willingness to write-off ideas that don’t pan out. So while no firm decisions have been made on this subject, I’d say I’m inclined to just release things whenever they achieve the requisite level of dankness.

2) Are you going to initiate a program like The Bruery’s Reserve Society?

I’ve talked to Patrick about the Reserve Society, and he’s a big fan of the model (clearly, since he’s expanded it repeatedly), but he also cautioned that it takes a lot of work and planning to get right. Since I’m generally a fan of under-promising and over-delivering, I’m definitely not going to do the full Reserve Society model right from the get-go because there are too many unknowns at this point.

However, I really want to start building a core group of folks who are deeply involved in Modern Times. I’m not so much interested in just creating a subscription service for special releases as I am in creating a group that’s part of our internal process. So while there’ll undoubtedly be a consumer component to the group, I’d like for folks to offer feedback on our test batches, help us evaluate new hop varieties and whatnot, and participate in decisions about special releases. Obviously, I’m still thinking this through, so feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. Also, it needs a name.

3) Seasonal beers?

Yes. The plan is to have 4 rotating seasonal beers in cans (meaning we’d have 5 total beers in cans on the shelf at any given time). Not sure exactly when we’ll roll out the seasonals though, given that the minimum can order is 11 pallets.

4) Are you going to branch out to a brewpub or similar hybrid type?

The restaurant industry frightens me because so many restaurants fail. I also have no real experience in the restaurant business. So there’s a reason I’m opening a production brewery and not a brewpub, but I also deeply love food and cooking. I’m a longtime vegan, and I think it would be really cool and unique to do some kind of brewing/food thing. But I have no idea if that will ever happen, and if it did, it would have to represent a small capital risk. It’s just not worth it to me to risk the whole business in order to sell food. I’d much rather open a small facility just for sour/funky beer production than a brewpub.

5) Or a can/bottleshop separate from the tasting room that showcases Modern Times, but also highlights other breweries?

Probably not. There are already a bunch of really great bottleshops in San Diego, and for whatever reason, this idea just doesn’t light my fire.

Now, a little sour brewery up in the Laguna Mountains surrounded by orchards, with a coolship and a barrel cave carved into the hillside…that’s something I daydream about.

Modern Times Beer: Taste The Robot

On Jan 23, 2013 - 14 Comments - Ideology

Note: some people seem to be confused about the tone of this blog post and are taking it entirely too seriously. Travis is a friend of mine and this is just me giving my friend shit because that’s how friends amuse each other sometimes.

So my blog post from two blog posts ago, “What Will Make Modern Times Different, Pt. 3”, has caused a small kerfuffle on the series of tubes. After the world discovered that we’ll have pretty cans, my friend Adam Nason over at decided to repost my earlier blog post about brewing ingredients and processes.

Responses were split: Twitter was all “Fuck yeah, right on, duder”, while the Beerpulse comments section was all “You’re a horrible person and no other brewery will ever help you ever” (actually, a few people defended my point on Beerpulse, too). Results were similar last week on BeerAdvocate.

My buddy Doug, co-owner and brewer at Societe, then texted me that he wanted to debate the “handmade” issue over beers at O’Brien’s. Since it seemed like a good opportunity to try the O’Brien’s Anniversary beers from Societe and Alpine, I offered to humor him with my presence (the beers were excellent).

Our in-person debate was similar to the blog response from Travis—Doug’s manservant at Societe—except we did a lot more gossiping and complaining. Since Travis responded to my post line-by-line, I will offer the same service here.

“It is easy to see why someone who does not/has not make beer on a professional level would think that all a brewer does is turn valves and flip switches.”

I do not think that, nor did I claim it. However, I don’t think it is necessary for someone to be a professional to have an opinion about something. I have never held elected office, and yet I have opinions about political policy and how it should be made. I believe those opinions are valid despite my not being a pro at policy-making. Etc, etc.

“But a good brewer, like a good chef, is going to be making adjustments based on observation; something automation cannot do. It is not a matter of just opening a valve and turning on a pump. It is a matter of when and how much to open a valve, and when and at what speed to turn on a pump. You can set your automation to do these things to be the same every time, but the beer, like any natural product, will be different and will require special handling with variances in the raw ingredients, processes, and even the weather; things that are outside of the control of robots.”

I think Travis might not see the full potential of automation. A truly automated system is not one that repeats the same steps every time, it’s one that creates the same product every time. With enough sensors and the right software, an automated system could account for all of the variables Travis lists. Such a system is just out of our price range.

“Do you think top chefs should be replaced by automated machines? This has been done. Machines make great and consistent microwave pizzas, but do you think a machine can make a $50 plate of food as well as an experienced chef with his hands? It may take robots to make the most consistent beer possible, but it takes skill and experience to make the best beer possible.”

Yes and yes. It’s unknown if robots will ever have the creative potential to make a world class plate of food without being programmed to do so, but again, an AI machine that’s able to process enough variables is every bit as capable as a human—more capable even—of replicating a world class plate of food. It just comes down to building the right hardware and software.

“How can you say there are no grades of ingredients? Of course there are. The beef sourced by McDonald’s is lower quality than the beef sourced by The Addison at the Grand Del Mar. It is fine if one prefers the beef at McDonald’s; I do not judge someone for that preference. Likewise, there is a range in quality of malt, hops, yeast, and water. Selection based on preference is an absolute must, but higher quality ingredients will make better beer than lower quality ingredients.”

This is a bit of a straw man; I made sure to say “there are no grades of brewing ingredients,” but I’ll play along anyway. In blind taste tests it’s often impossible for people to tell the difference between “high” and “low” quality ingredients. But as it relates to brewing, Travis admits preference is subjective but then insists there are objective standards for quality. Doug gave the example of small kernel malt with inconsistent color versus plump kernels with consistent color.

The standards that value the plump, consistent (i.e. chemical-filled and malted by robots) malt over the inconsistent, small kernel (i.e. organic and malted traditionally) malt, are as artificial as any other standard. So if you prize consistency, say, over environmental responsibility and traditional methodology, then by all means, call the robot kernels “the finest” and the organic kernels “the less than finest.” But just realize that other people would look at it the other way around, and their opinion would be valid.

“Beer is and should be a natural product. It historically has been made from natural ingredients (grain, hops, yeast, water). It goes through a natural process of fermentation. Fermentation is a natural anaerobic metabolic process the yeast use to create energy and reproduce. If you want to use artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, or preservatives in your beer then it is not natural. It would be what I call a ‘malternative’ and I probably wouldn’t drink it.”

What exactly is ‘natural’ about massive industrial barley farms that have replaced the largest and most biodiverse prairie system on Earth with a chemical-fueled monoculture? Ditto for hops. And what is ‘natural’ about piping Colorado River water to San Diego so people can make beer with it? And what is ‘natural’ about isolating and cultivating uniform yeast strains? And is the hop extract used at Societe not an “artificial flavor”? Is fermentation any more ‘natural’ a process than nuclear fission?

Beer does not make itself. People do. And what we do is every bit as natural as what any other animal does.

What Will Make Modern Times Different? Part 4

On Jan 22, 2013 - 1 Comment - Beer, Start-Up

Our stunning can designs.

Press Release

Modern Times Beer and Helms Workshop are proud to unveil the stunningly gorgeous can designs that will represent the brewery on retail shelves in 2013.

“Classic, vibrant, and oozing panache, these are the cans to drink while installing an Eames chair in your vintage Alfa Romeo lowrider. This packaging will upstage your favorite tiki mug. They are so devastatingly tasteful, a koozie would be a crime,” says Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times.

The result of a painstaking collaborative process, the cans will house Modern Times’ four year-round beers: Fortunate Islands, a hoppy wheat beer; Black House, an oatmeal coffee stout; Blazing World, an amber IPA; and Lomaland, a food-friendly saison.

“From the moment I started working on Modern Times, I knew I wanted packaging as cockstaggeringly magnificent as the beer I planned to put in it. So I went out and hired a design ninja to craft the cans,” says McKean.

“Jacob has a unique vision for this brewery, and we do our best work with passionate clients who aren’t afraid to be different in a crowded market,” said Helms.

“We explored a host of design directions referencing forward-looking historic icons including Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes, as well as contemporary revisionists like Wes Anderson. Through that juxtaposition we arrived at a packaging system that fits perfectly into Modern Times brand story.”

To help in creating the can’s signature logotype Helms and McKean enlisted Simon Walker, a typography Jedi with a British accent.

“My hope was that this unique creative pairing could collaboratively produce something that is singularly amazing,” said McKean. “If you put a panther and a pterodactyl in a cage together, would they devour each other, or mate and produce the most terrifying monster of them all? In this case, they made beautiful cans.”

“To work on an emerging beer brand alongside the prodigiously talented Helms Workshop was a rare honor, and my only hope was that I could offer something that would do justice to the Helms aesthetic. The final result is nothing short of stunning,” said Walker.

“Jacob wanted a classic design with a timeless feel, and he felt strongly that a matte white can would help differentiate Modern Times,” said Helms Workshop designer Erick Montes. “With the three colored stripes as a bold unifying theme and a drop shadow highlighting the logos curves, the final design really does stand apart.”

For more information, please contact jacob (at) moderntimesbeer (dot) com.


About Modern Times Beer

Modern Times is in the process of building a 30-barrel production brewery and tasting room in San Diego, CA. Modern Times is named after a utopian community founded in New York in 1850; the beers are named after real and fictitious utopias, including Lomaland, the founding utopian colony of Point Loma, where the brewery will be located. Modern Times Beer will be brewed to unreasonably high standards by a crew of devout beer geeks working in diverse styles.

About Helms Workshop

Helms Workshop, a creative firm in Austin founded by Christian Helms, provides a full range of brand development and design services. Craft beer is near and dear to Helms’ heart, having designed the award-winning brand identity for Austin Beerworks, in addition to working with craft beer-centric Alamo Drafthouse and Frank restaurant. Helms Workshop has also worked with a host of national brands, as well as musicians such as Spoon, Modest Mouse, The Hold Steady and Wilco.

What Will Make Modern Times Different? Pt. 3

On Jan 15, 2013 - 12 Comments - Ideology

Our beer will not be brewed with the finest all-natural ingredients, nor will it be made by hand. These are meaningless clichés trotted out when a brand has nothing to say. There is no “natural” or “unnatural” malt. “Finest” doesn’t mean anything. And the notion that commercial beer is made by hand—or that “handmade” is a positive attribute in beer—is a fallacy.

Let’s take it one word at a time.

What is gained by using “finest”? Nothing is gained. It cannot possibly make a positive impression on a single shopper. And the absence of “finest” does not lead one to assume that a product is made with shit ingredients. There are no grades of brewing ingredients, there are only the personal preferences of the brewer.

“All-natural” means nothing. It’s not even a phrase that was once meaningful that now means nothing, like “local.” The entire notion that some products are natural and others aren’t is absurd. At what point does processing make an ingredient “unnatural”? There is no meaningful answer to this question. Malt is processed. Whole leaf hops are processed. Your poop is processed.

No one makes beer “by hand.” At a production brewery, hands might be used to open and close valves or turn on and off a pump, but under no circumstances are they better than the automated version. In fact, manual process controls lead to more mistakes, which leads to less consistent beer. And I have yet to hear anyone comment on a beer’s rough-hewn, handmade quality because it tasted different than the last batch.

We will use whichever ingredients lead to the tastiest beer and the most efficient workflow, in that order. That might mean we use the cheapest malt, or it might mean we use the floor-malted heirloom shit imported from a castle on a scenic European river. It makes no difference to me.

It only matters that the beer taste mind-bogglingly delicious, and I will use any tool available to reach that goal: downstream hop products, enzymes, Fermcap, whatever. I could not care less about tradition.

In my ideal brewery, everything would be automated and our beer would be brewed and packaged and shot straight into your mouth by robots; it would taste better that way, which is the only thing that matters.

What Will Make Modern Times Different? Pt. 2

On Jan 7, 2013 - 4 Comments - Ideology

Modern Times will not be the beer for surfers, or rock climbers, or video gamers, or dog lovers, or kabuki fans, or furries, or firemen, or folkies, or indie rockers, or rude boys, or jugglos, or steampunks, or metrosexuals, or greasers, or hippies, or teddy boys, or cosplayers.

Modern Times will not be the brand of the urban lifestyle, or the rural lifestyle, or the outdoor lifestyle, or the indoor lifestyle, or the minimalist lifestyle, or the maximalist lifestyle, or the vampire lifestyle, or the authentic California lifestyle.

Modern Times will not make condescending appeals to women—who marketers seem to believe are fans of the pink lifestyle—nor will it make appeals to bros with misogynist imagery or awful anatomical puns.

Modern Times will make beer for beer enthusiasts and talk largely about the process of trying to make great beer, which—absurdly—feels like something of a radical proposition in the current craft beer environment.

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