Beer Maverick

Modern Times Far West Lounge, Encinitas

Is the new Modern Times in Encinitas the best tasting room in San Diego County? #sdbeer #sandiegocraftbeer #craftbeer

This is one I’ve been eagerly awaiting. They were only just done with their soft opening when I visited. I generally make it a policy to not visit a new spot before they have a chance to find their feet, but with Modern Times, I figured they would have their shirt together from the get-go (bonus points if you got the Good Place reference). And, wow, did they.

The room is stunning. It has to be one of the best tasting rooms I’ve seen. A relaxed but sophisticated vibe is promoted by the interior design (beachy/bohemian/mid-century modern; trust me, it works). You just feel good when you walk in. That is helped by the natural light and a gentle breeze coming in through the huge windows that open to the street. The seating is more or less in three zones–around the very large U-shaped bar, at tables on the side, and tables under the windows.

The food menu is small but excellent. I was very impressed with every element of the bratwurst: sausage, bun, sauerkraut, mustard, all great and all working together.

The beer menu, now, is large and–there’s no other adequate way to say it–world class. For me, the stouts, porters and BBA darkness in general is the top of the top. I’m thinking of Black House, Monster’s Park, and Devil’s Teeth, including all of their interesting and remarkable variants. In addition, though, Modern Times is making some excellent West Coast IPAs, hazies, pales, sours, and various other styles, too. They have a large, interesting and well-balanced beer menu, including some curated flights in the tasting rooms.

Palmanova (Italian Pilsner, 5.2% ABV; collaboration with Bearded Iris brewed in L.A.). This is right up there with the best pilsners I’ve ever had. Even though this is not a favorite style of mine, this tastes great to me. Balanced, biscuity, light and refreshing. 4/5

Transformation Chamber (English Mild Ale, 2.33% ABV). I LOVE MILDS. I really wish they were easier to find in San Diego. This one is remarkable just for existing, and even more for its incredibly low (and traditionally accurate) alcohol content. Milds are meant to be consumed in large quantities over hours in pubs with friends. I’m dying to do that. I would have preferred it without coffee, but it works. 3.75/5

Devil’s Teeth aged in bourbon barrels with macadamia nuts, coconut and cocoa (Imperial Stout, 13.5% ABV). At the opposite end of the ABV spectrum as the mild, this is perhaps one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Truly fantastic. Nuts and coconut playing beautifully with deep roast malts and the perfect level of bourbon barrel heat/sweetness/figgyness. The chocolate is just a hint but adds to the overall harmony. It is black as the void and has a thick-to-medium mouthfeel. But, buyer beware: $7 for 5oz.  4.75/5

Devil’s Teeth aged in bourbon barrels with hazelnut, vanilla and coffee (Imperial Stout, 13.5% ABV). This is very good, though I prefer the macadamia/coconut version. This one is a little sharp/sour on the finish (from the coffee, I think), and overall is less balanced and harmonius than its macadamia nut sibling. 3.75/5

In reviews of my visits to Modern Times (both the North Park Flavordome and the Point Loma Fermentorium), I have complained of weak to poor service, largely stemming from a “hipsterer-than-thou” attitude. In contrast, on my visit to the Encinitas Far West Lounge, I had excellent service from everyone behind the bar and the folks from the kitchen. They were attentive without being intrusive, friendly and helpful when I was deciding what to order, and efficient. The presentation was great for both my beer flight and the food, and everything came out quickly.

In short, I had a spectacular time on my visit to the Far West Lounge. I look forward to returning soon.     470 S. Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024