Your first tip that San Diego’s Modern Times might be a most atypical brewery is the mural of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp, Bubbles, crafted from nearly 11,000 Post-It notes. Then there’s the 3,000-odd books used to build the bar, where 16 taps pour everything from grape must–infused saisons to dank IPAs and cold-pressed coffee made from beans roasted on site. Oh, and there’s the wall covered with comics culled from founder Jacob McKean’s childhood collection. “It’s the opportunity I’ve always wanted—to create this weird little pocket of radness,” says the history buff, who loves studying 19th-century utopian colonies.
Fittingly, Modern Times is named after a failed Long Island utopian community and sits in Point Loma, home to Lomaland. “It was filled with these fascinating weirdoes doing yoga in the 1900s,” says McKean, whose aroma-driven, flavor-focused beers—such as the tropical, wheat-fueled Fortunate Islands and Aurora red rye IPA—are often named after failed utopias. The brewery and taproom, a.k.a. Lomaland Fermentorium, are a far more successful experiment.
In a city awash with beer, Modern Times differentiates itself with diversity, offering a range of fruited sours, unusually hopped IPAs and robust stouts like Monsters Park and Black House, made with beans roasted by Modern Times.
“The roasting started on a lark,” says McKean, who began with a roaster he bought on Craigslist. But the coffee proved so popular, with customers exclusively stopping by for caffeine fixes, that the brewery upgraded to a larger roaster and sells beans and cold-brew kegs wholesale, as well as introducing a monthly subscription program. “We’re as deadly serious about coffee roasting as we are about beer,” says McKean, who is adding full coffee service to Modern Times and, in Los Angeles, opening a combo coffee shop and brewery later this year. McKean sees serving nitro-charged coffee stouts alongside pour-overs of barrel-aged coffee (an ongoing experiment) as building a bridge between beer and beans. “It’s this awesome way to introduce beer geeks to coffee,” he says.