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Omnibus Update

On Feb 27, 2013 - 10 Comments - Beer, Start-Up

The process of opening Modern Times has gone from “constant high level of work” to “feverish attempt to finish everything as quickly as possible.” The reason: we finally received our building permits.

Up until that point, we’d done virtually everything we could without permits and were struggling a bit to stay busy on the construction side (admin & brewing remained insanely busy). With permits in hand, it’s now a race to the finish.

Probably the biggest news is that Derek Freese is starting work on Monday. He’s going to take on full-time pilot brewing, which will help our recipes evolve at a much faster clip. When he’s not frantically homebrewing back-to-back batches like a good brewing drone, Derek will do all manner of Charlie-work, like cleaning our massive, filthy warehouse; painting our massive, filthy warehouse; demolishing the offices inside our massive, filthy warehouse; and starting work on the bones of the tasting room, which won’t be massive or filthy.

Derek will be handling all of the ‘clean’ pilot brewing, leaving longtime recipe collaborator Mike Tonsmiere to handle all of our Brett/funky/sour pilot recipes. We’ll need more of those recipes because after discussing the situation with Matt, I think we’ve figured out how to brew large-scale batches of funky beer without exposing our clean beer to excessive risk.

Essentially, the idea is this: we’ll dedicate a tank to Brett ferments and then carbonate the beer made within its funky bowels in the vessels from which they will be served (i.e. kegs and 22oz glass bottles). It’s not the fastest or most efficient or most foolproof way to make beer, but I steadfastly refuse to put funky beer through the same plumbing as clean beers. There is simply no reliable way to kill Brett once it’s gotten inside a pipe or hose.

This plan will require us to purchase a dedicated—albeit exceedingly manual—bottling line, which, when combined with the dedicated tank & dedicated hosing, make this an exceptionally capital & space intensive proposition. So I’m just preparing you: these beers will not be cheap. But I can assure you that we will hold ourselves to an unreasonably high standard of quality and won’t release anything that doesn’t blow the doors off of our lives. Strictly the danksauce whales, bro.

Alrighty, that’s it for now. Keep an eye out for what will most definitely be a cockstaggering Kickstarter campaign in early March. The rewards are shaping up to be thoroughly luxurious, but if you’ve got suggestions for more, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments.

Our Crack Team of Brewing Ninjas

On Feb 18, 2013 - 4 Comments - Beer, Jobs, Start-Up

I’m so excited I might pee a little. Why? Because I still can’t quite believe I managed to land these three guys.

Were you a journalist for a major publication wanting to write about us, you might say Modern Times is “positively stocked with an almost unbelievable combination of creativity & experience.” But, ya know, go with whatever works.

Matt Walsh has been Head Brewer at Lost Coast for the past 2 years, having been responsible for a combined ~130,000 bbls of production. He established the brewery’s quality control program, leading to a remarkably low .3% rate of returned product (including defective cooperage) during his time there. He’s also planned & procured equipment for a massive 600,000 bbl brewery expansion. Prior to Lost Coast, he served as Head Brewer at both Speakeasy Ales & Lagers and Karl Strauss Brewing. At Modern Times, Matt will be charged with ensuring that we kick out immaculate, perfectly consistent batches, along with managing the brewery’s growth & generally making sure everything hums along smoothly.

Derek Freese, Head Brewer at the beloved Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery and longtime local homebrewer, will serve as Brewer & Party Ambassador (read: he’ll manage the tasting room & do some sales stuff). Derek’s intense passion for brewing & perpetually ebullient personality will help bring sparkling sunshine & a vast array of beer styles to Modern Times. He’s a graduate of the Siebel Institute’s Concise Course in Brewing Technology, is a certified BJCP judge & Cicerone, and most impressively, has brewed 30 different recipes in the last 18 months. Additionally, Derek’s experience as Bar Manager at Monkey Paw will come in handy at Modern Times’ notably handsome & incredibly convenient tasting room.

Alex Tweet is currently a Brewer & Cask Czar at Ballast Point, and he wants everyone to know that there’s more to him than just putting weird shit in beer…that’s just surface level. Once you get to know him, he’s really all about saisons & lambics & he’s a super deep guy, so don’t be so shallow, ok? Shallow people will focus on the fact that his inventive mind is responsible for “Indra Kunindra”, a fantastic curry stout, and a self-explanatory cask called “Victory at Cereal”—utilizing Cap’n Crunch—which he created while developing Ballast Point’s specialty cask program. Aside from brewing, Alex will assist with the barrel program and a bunch of boring office crap, since he used to do corporate stuff.

What does it all mean? It means Modern Times will have the staff of my dreams: a combination of tremendous creativity & Terminator-like consistency.

Cheers & thanks for reading,
Jacob McKean

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Constructive Liquid Criticism

On Feb 14, 2013 - 4 Comments - Beer, Ideology

Something totally face-meltingly awesome happened the other day: someone poured me the very first homebrewed variation on a Modern Times Beer. Consider how remarkable that is given that Modern Times doesn’t even exist yet.

My goal for open source brewing is to create a community of tinkerers that are perpetually pushing us to evolve and improve. Publishing our recipes will certainly allow homebrewers to attempt clones if they want—and there’s some value in that, as far as dialing in your process—but modifying our recipes is the far more stimulating path, to my mind.

The actual beer I got to try was fascinating. The brewer, Will Unkel, decided on a modified version of Blazing World: he replaced Nelson with Motueka, and Palisade with Columbus. He’d attended the first Modern Times tasting, so he had a chance to try the original version of Blazing World.

The beer was a window into what Blazing World would be if it were intensely fruity with a vibrant lemon zest note. While delicious, I don’t think we’ll end up swapping Nelson for Motueka, but we’re definitely going to find a way to use it in something else. I’m going to invite Will to help us formulate and brew whatever that is, and we’ll make a delicious Motueka-centered beer as a result. See how everyone wins in this scenario?

Perhaps we’ll even occasionally release modified versions of our beers based on the open sourced batches, just to let a wider audience have the same experience.

All of our recipes can be found on Mike’s blog here. If you’re thinking of brewing one of the recipes, here are some problems you might consider tackling:

1)    Fortunate Islands is an incredibly tasty beer & we’re very happy with the recipe. Problem: Amarillo is really hard to get. Is there anything we can replace it with that will make a beer that is every bit as good or better?

2)    What is the best coffee profile for Black House? Mike has been using a dark roasted Mocha Java blend. How about a Tanzanian peaberry? A Guatemalan Huehuetenango? Something from El Salvador?

3)    We haven’t settled on the third hop variety for Blazing World. Ahtanum’s citrus-qualities didn’t seem to integrate well, and Columbus somehow ended up being too fruity. Palisade’s floral character has worked the best so far, but I’m not completely sold. Is there a better option?

The most helpful answers to these questions will come in liquid form.

Behold! The Modern Times Coffee Roasting Robot

On Feb 6, 2013 - 11 Comments - Beer, Coffee, Start-Up

Here’s a cool thing: as far as I can tell, we’ll be the second brewery in the country to roast our own coffee (the first appears to be Two Brothers in Chicago).

That little fire engine red machine is an Ambex YM-2, an introductory-level roaster than can handle a beastly 5 lbs of green coffee at a time. It’s far from the fanciest roaster you can buy, but I found it on Craigslist and the price was right.

The primary consumer of our house-roasted beans will be Black House, the oatmeal coffee stout that will be part of our year round line-up. At around 20 lbs of coffee per 30bbl batch, it’ll soak up a lot of grounds, but what I’m really excited about are the variations we’ll be able to make. Single origin versions of Black House, coffee versions of our other beers, blends and roasts dialed-in specifically for certain special releases, etc…

There’s also the possibility of selling bags of house-roasted beans, which would allow you to drink Black House coffee alongside Black House beer. Pretty nifty, no?

This whole thing is, of course, an experiment, and we’ll have to see how it goes. I’ve been fascinated by coffee for years now, and home roasting has become a pleasant diversion from the rigors of starting the brewery. But the key, as always, is quality, and the coffee will have to live up to the same unreasonably high standards I have for the beer.