Beer Maverick

Modern Times Flavordome, North Park

Modern Times Flavordome in North Park surprised me: My initial impression on walking by was wrong, and this turned out to be a pleasant place to enjoy very good beer.

I have to admit that the first time I walked past the Modern Times location in North Park, I didn’t realize that it was a craft brewery tasting room. There are no silver tanks to give it away. It is tucked in with a bunch of other hip bars and restaurants on 30th St. near Upas, and on a causal glance I just assumed it was just a regular bar. I didn’t associate the name of the bar with the cans of Modern Times beer I had been seeing all over the place. There’s no logo or any mention of craft brewing on the exterior. And frankly I had a negative reaction to all the hipsters and (what seemed to me at the time to be) the too-precious interior design.

There’s a $12 “house flight” of four beers they curate for you (i.e., that they have listed on a chalkboard menu above the bar), or you can build your own from the 16 taps currently pouring.  They offer tasters ($2-3.00), half-pints ($3.50-4.50), pints ($3.50-7.50), and growlers ($15-18, though not everything they pour seems to be available in growlers), plus large bottles and cans in the fridge.

Lomaland (Saison, 5.5% ABV). I almost didn’t choose the house flight because this one was part of it; I usually don’t like saisons, largely because they use the Belgian yeast I just don’t like.  I forced myself to try to, because I “should.” So take my rating with a grain of salt and if you like saisons, maybe double it, I don’t know.  It has a pretty light golden color, a nice acid and carbonation, and a crispness. A tiny bit of fruitiness comes through. I honestly don’t hate it, and the more I drink of it the more I like it.  3.5/5

I’m man enough to admit when I am wrong. My first impression, based on almost no information, was just wrong. The room is very bright, air conditioned, and the space is nicely though quirkily decorated. There are some couches that look a bit like a cross between Don Draper’s sofa and a church pew (and they are about as comfortable as that sounds). There are about 50 bar stools at two long tables, a very long counter along the front window, and the smallish bar. The bar seems to be made of old VHS tapes, and the ceiling is festooned with thrift store lampshades. 

Fortunate Islands (Hoppy Wheat Beer, 5% ABV). Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff! Almost amber in color and perfectly clear, the taste is crisp and clean. It has a little more hoppy bitterness than a regular wheat, but in a good way. It is absolutely clear on the finish, and I could drink a lot of these.  4.25/5

I’ve since learned that Modern Times is a much bigger deal in San Diego beer than I had realized. They have a “Fermentorium” (brewery and tasting room, now with a high end coffee bar) in Point Loma, and the “Flavordome” (tasting room) in North Park. And they have achieved a distribution to bars, grocery stores and liquor stores all over California that must be the envy of most other small brewers. They even have some beers available at the Stone Brewing Co. location that opened recently in Berlin, Germany.

Black House (Coffee Stout, 5.8% ABV). The coffee flavor is pleasant but not dominant. Otherwise, this is just a nice stout.  Solid but not special.  4/5

The staff were passable. A little unfriendly, or maybe just “too cool.” It is an all-too-common but entirely inappropriate attitude in the craft beer industry. Staff should make me want to order more, make me want to come back. There is too much competition in the craft beer scene in San Diego for anything else. The bartender was more interested in talking to her friends at the bar than greeting or serving new customers. Plus I was carded and had my hand stamped by a 24 year old–I’m 46 and it was a quiet early afternoon on a Wednesday–which seems too childish for a tap room.

Blazing World (Amber/Red, 6.8% ABV). This was very good. If I were to spend a night here, this is what I would drink. Crisp, toasted malts with balancing hops, amber color.  In terms of fidelity to style, it does not seem like a red to me.  4.25/5

Overall, I’m more impressed than I thought I would be. Modern Times is clearly going for the commercial end of the craft beer market, while at the same time trying to remain a respectable craft brewer. For the most part, these contrary inclinations balance out into a good product and a good experience. I’ve said it before, but when there are 140+ breweries in the county, no one should take anything for granted. There was enough good in my flight that I’ll be back to try some of the other things on the menu.     3000 Upas St, San Diego, CA 92104


Don’t Just Take My Word For It (Links to Other Beer Writing)

Thrillist on the Flavordome

A Reddit “Ask me Anything” with Modern Times founder Jacob McKean from 2014