The beer situation thus far

As you may be aware, Modern Times has a brewing prodigy at its disposal: Mike Tonsmeire, known to homebrewing internet users as The Mad Fermentationist. Years ago, I traded some pretty rare commercial beers for a box full of Mike’s sours. The beers were exceptional; a few were world class. I knew right then that if I ever had the chance to bring Mike’s beers to a wider audience, I would.

Very early in the development of Modern Times, I managed to enlist Mike in the project, which I still regard as a major coup. He’s agreed to consult on recipe formulation and to help kick off our barrel program once the brewery opens. If things go smashingly, he just might come on full-time, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, we’re collaborating on recipes. This generally means we exchange a million emails to get a recipe figured out, he brews it in DC, then he ships it to me once it’s ready to drink. It’s not the easiest or the cheapest way of doing things, but I’m entirely convinced it will result in some pretty great beers.

So to catch you up on what we’ve accomplished so far and to give you a rough outline of what the Modern Times line-up might look like, here is the current beer situation:

  1. Amber IPA with Nelson hops. Inspired by two of my favorite hoppy beers, Alpine Nelson and Troegs Nugget Nectar, we devised an amber, medium-bodied hoppy beer prominently featuring Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand. The resulting beer was exceptionally dank and very fruity, but didn’t have quite enough IBUs. For the second iteration, it got a little darker, a little more bitter, and even fruitier. We’ll probably keep the bitterness, but split the difference on the color; we’re still deciding on the third hop variety. Go back to Ahtanum? More Nelson? Something else? In general, this one is shaping up really nicely though.
  2. Oatmeal Coffee Stout. Born of our desire for a very flavorful but close to session strength stout, this beer has progressed a lot. The first batch showed promise, but suffered from some astringency (probably due to a faulty process suggestion by me). The second batch was much improved: loads of coffee flavor and aroma, with a delicious chocolate character despite being fairly dry and low(er) gravity. This will get slightly less dry, but it’s mostly there.
  3. Hoppy wheat. Designed to do for citrusy hops what the Oatmeal Coffee Stout does for coffee: deliver a big dose of flavor in a fairly small package. Despite having great potential, the first batch didn’t really work out, possibly due in part to my insistence on using Calypso hops (you may be noticing a trend). The second batch, which I tasted for the first time yesterday, is excellent and quenching, with a great nutty wheat flavor supporting a big burst of Citra/Amarillo hop flavor and aroma. It came in a little under gravity though, so we’ll see how it works as a slightly bigger beer (around 4.5% ABV).
  4. 100% Brett Trois IPA. A beer that marries the citrusy qualities of American ‘C’ hops with the fruity qualities of Brettanomyces. The result is a complex melding of orange, pineapple, and intense hop flavors and bitterness, and is tasty as all hell. Remarkably, it only took about a month to make. Mike pretty much nailed this one on the first try, but the use of wild yeast creates some potentially complex logistical issues. Hopefully we can figure out a way to package it without contaminating the rest of the brewery.
  5. In the pipeline: a 100% Lactobacillus Berliner Weisse; hopefully a sessionable sour, although early results indicate some changes will be needed. A boldly hoppy American pale ale featuring Simcoe & Amarillo hops, which work together legendarily well. A hoppy red rye featuring grapefruity/spicy hops. A Brettanomyces bottle-conditioned Belgian single; lots yet to be decided on this one, but a fun experiment either way. Also coming up is a spelt session saison.

We’re going to be completely open with the recipes (something I like to call “open source brewing”), so if the idea of shaping a brewery’s line-up excites you, then get excited. We’re listening. Leave suggestions in the comments.

Comments

Riley

Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:52

Very excited! I'm going to throw out a suggestion for Bravo for the third hop in the Nelson Nectar.

Congrats on the exciting progress, I am rooting hard for grea sucess for y'all.

The Orval riff is going to be my favorite. I can tell :)

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Modern Times

Wed, 08/22/2012 - 12:12

Thanks Riley. We're pondering a bounty system for successful brewing suggestions, so if we end up going with Bravo, we'll be in touch. Perhaps you can man the beer dunk tank.

Jeff Crane

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 08:52

That looks like a nice line-up and should work well in San Diego. I'm especially excited about your Brett IPA. I've brewed a couple smaller versions I call an Extra Special Bretta using English malts, Nelson hops and Brett Drie that have just amazing aromatics.

It would be nice to see at least one higher gravity beer on your line-up. I know that Mike has had some good success with Dark Saisons. I'm also a fan and think it would go well with your line-up.

I think the place you guys would excel the most would be in the Seasonal Sour beers using local wine barrels and local fruit. Any ideas for those types of beer yet?

Dan

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 05:40

With the love for Nugget Nectar why not try nugget hops? I've found them a nice compliment to many hop combos.

Good luck reaching the targets with all the current beers. When do you plan to start up the barrel program?

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Modern Times

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 05:51

Thanks, we'll add Nugget to the list. We don't want to risk being derivative, but the Nelson is so dominant in that beer, anything else will play a complimentary role at most.

Hopefully the barrel program can get started as soon as the brew house comes on line. Given the time it takes to finish those beers, I'd like our first few batches to go into barrels.

theBottleFarm …

Fri, 08/24/2012 - 03:59

I have to say I'm very excited about your beers, and your recipes, w/out even being in a position to try them. It sounds like you've got low abv, hoppy, funky, and dark covered, I'd have to suggest adding something a bit more tame to the lineup as a gate way. Something to show your craft, w/out blowing their taste buds, maybe a kolsh. Just a thought.
Thanks for sharing your recipes, and progress, it's always a great read. I look forward to trying these beers some day.
AO

Modern Times

Fri, 08/24/2012 - 04:14

Rad. If you're excited about our beers at this stage in the game, then we must be doing a good job of talking about them. I think the saison that's bubbling away in Mike's closet right now might work for the "gateway" beer you're talking about. The goal is to make it every bit as tasty and complex as the rest of the line-up, but I think the style is inherently more accessible.

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cinderbike

Tue, 08/28/2012 - 07:04

You may want to consider a beergun for Brett/Sours. It's mostly brass and stainless steel, so not a lot of issues with sanitizing. I know of a few breweries who use this method so as not to worry about cross-contamination at the bottling line.

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Modern Times

Tue, 08/28/2012 - 07:07

Mike is currently using a BeerGun to bottle the non-bug beers with mixed results. I agree with you on the cross-contamination issue; if possible we'll have completely separate equipment for bug vs. non-bug beer. Given that we're planning for a 30bbl brewhouse though, anything short of a small, semi-automated bottling system wouldn't make sense. So hopefully we can afford one from the get go.

Farina Imports

Sun, 10/14/2012 - 01:32

Perle (60-45) and Cascade (30-down to 0) should work well in the Amber IPA with the NS. I understand all the "C" complement the NS per a freind down under, if you have not it nailed yet. If the posts are current on www.themadfermentationist.com I may just have to do 10g of it next weekend.

Gumball Head is a great inspiration for the Hoppy Wheat, we did 10g that went pretty quick it would be a solid "Wheat" which San Diego is missing, IMO. You could try HBC-342 for bitter and Zythos for aroma.

Your line up sounds great so far, looking forward to tasting...
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2012: The Year…

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