Interview: Modern Times Beer founder Jacob McKean

Craft Beer San Diego


What are some of your most satisfying moments of working with craft beer?

Anytime we produce a beer that I’m really stoked about is really satisfying for me. Everything else is gravy on the potatoes. The whole reason for doing this is produce beers that, as a beer drinker, I would be really excited to get. If I step outside my role as the guy who owns the brewery, and just approach our beer as a craft beer geek, and it blows me away, then I know we’re going something good. I try as much as possible to look at it from that perspective. When I’ve had those moments, that’s to me the most gratifying part to me.

Where do you see the San Diego beer scene in five years, and how do you fit into that vision?

The San Diego craft beer scene is going to diversify and mature. We’re obviously in a growth phase right now. We’re going to start producing more, different styles, and consumers are going to get more and more educated about different types of beer, and different ways of making beer. It’s going to become a community that embraces many different approaches to brewing. There are people who have been doing this for a long time. We still have people we’re bringing in to the beer scene, so we still have a lot of educational work to do.

What’s an aspect of craft beer culture or another city that you would like to see more of in San Diego?

All of our beers are inspired by beers I had while I lived in different parts of the country. I lived in New York, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. In all of those places, I was able to drink beers from East Coast, Midwestern and Southern breweries that were really exciting for me. In San Diego, it’s a little narrow in terms of the focus on big, sledgehammer IPAs. I get a lot of people at festivals or tasting rooms that say, “Give me your highest gravity IPA.” I think we’re going to move beyond that, and people’s palates are going to mature, and we’re going to get more and more people who are looking for a more diverse experience.

Is there a brewery or beer that you can’t get in San Diego that you would like to see?

Yes. Anything from Founders. Anything from Surly. A lot of the beers from Tröegs. Captain Lawrence out of New York. Tröegs, out of Pennsylvania, they make Nugget Nectar, which is a beer I really loved when I lived in Pittsburgh. Anything from 3 Floyds. There are so many great breweries out there. I like to think we’re bringing a little more of that type of perspective to the beers we brew.

Who are some other people in the craft beer community that you look to for inspiration, guidance or advice?

I worked at Stone for two years, so that was where my approach to the business molded. The most important thing there was having absolutely zero tolerance for doing illegal or unethical things in the beer market. Unfortunately that’s still really common and really prevalent. Stone has really been a leader in saying we need to have a level playing field. We need to have a beer market that’s decided on the basis of quality rather than on the basis of illegal inducements. That really shaped my approach to the way we work. I still look back to Stone all the time, my experience there, I’m still learning from all the time. Surly was another big influence on us, as far as the types of beer they’re making and doing 16-ounce cans. I look at all kinds of people in the industry. We’re brand new. There’s still so much to learn.

What will it take for you to consider your work with Modern Times a success?

If every single one of our beers blows me away, then we’ve done our job. Until then, we’ve still got work to do.

Address: 3725 Greenwood Street, San Diego, CA 92110

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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