San Diego-based Modern Times Beer has set their sights on Portland. The rapidly growing brewery will begin distribution across Oregon this week. Modern Times was founded by Jacob McKean in 2013. I originally met Jacob back in 2010 at the Inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference. At the time he was working at Stone Brewing Co. He later left Stone to launch Modern Times. Long story short, Jacob and Modern Times have been wildly successful. I reached out to Jacob to learn more about about Modern Times' expansion to Oregon.
Welcome to Portland! Breweries from across the country (Founders Brewing, Left Hand Brewing, and now Modern Times) have recently announced that they will begin distributing beer in Portland. What were your reasons for choosing Portland?
Jacob McKean: I personally love Portland, and the advanced beer scene there is a great fit for Modern Times. We tend to do best in places where people really know beer, so it makes a lot of sense for us to distribute there. I also think our commitment to business ethics, our design aesthetic, and our style of brewing will all mesh well with the PDX beer scene.
Back in 2010, you worked for Stone Brewing Co. as their Social Media Coordinator. When did you first have the idea to start your own brewery? Did your experience at Stone help you?
JM: Yes, my experience at Stone helped enormously. Like a lot of homebrewers, I had long harbored a dream of starting my own place. After a couple of years at Stone, I felt like the time was right to make it happen and it seemed like the world was ready for what I had in mind.
At barely 4 years old, Modern Times is a very young brewery. To what do you attribute your success? How have you been able to stand out from the crowd of other nascent breweries?
JM: The short answer is that we give the same level of attention to everything we do. Obviously the quality of our beer is the most important component of our success, but we pay just as much attention to our artwork, our logistics, our sales, our employee benefits, and everything else we do. That is the difference maker.
Will your full line (core, core cans, and monthly special releases) be released in Portland?
JM: Yup, everything. All year round stuff, monthly special releases, seasonals, the works.
The new trend in craft beer is "drink local", as consumers are favoring freshness, supporting local business, and reducing the environmental footprint (shipping filled glass/cans around the country is expensive). What are your thoughts on "drink local"?
JM: I'm generally in favor and we've certainly benefitted from it enormously, but I don't think anything should come before quality. If the beer you're drinking isn't world class, then it doesn't matter where it came from.
Modern Times also produces a line of artisan coffees. How did this come about? We like coffee in the Northwest. Will yours be available here?
JM: It began as essentially a side project: I knew we were going to use a ton of coffee for Black House, our year round coffee oatmeal stout, so I decided to roast it ourselves. As with homebrewing, I had been home roasting, so it was a natural extension of that passion for the hobby. Now Modern Times Coffee has grown into it's own arm of the company, and the training and sophistication of the coffee professionals we have hired vastly outstrips my own. It's been incredibly exciting to see it grow and progress: our Black House Blend was named the #2 blend in the world by Coffee Review, and we now have a full cafe in our tasting room at the brewery.
JM: To our employees it meant that we will do everything in our power to protect them from whatever insanity comes down from the federal government. To our fans, it meant that we value each and every single one of them, and we're incredibly proud to have a very diverse fanbase that includes immigrants from all over the world. We wouldn't want it any other way. And to other breweries, it meant that they can stand up too. Our industry shouldn't be afraid to do what's right and say what's right.
Looking back at the brewery's history, is there anything you would do differently in hindsight?
JM: I would've raised more money. I would've slept a lot better in the early years if I hadn't cut it so close.
What's next for Modern Times? What do you hope the brewery will look like in 5 years?
JM: Five years is a lifetime away. Right now I'm focused on the three new locations we're building: a brewpub & cafe in downtown Los Angeles; a funky foudre brewery, restaurant, and cafe in Anaheim; and a tasting room in Encinitas. Those are huge projects that are absorbing a lot of my energy right now. Beyond that, it's hard to say.
Thanks to Jacob for taking the time to chat. And a huge congratulations to Jacob and his team for their success! I've enjoyed watching Modern Times' journey from afar and I now look forward to finally tasting my first Modern Times beer! Be sure to attend one of the many launch events this week.