The cool quotient on the 400 block of State Street bumped up several decibels with the opening of Kim’s Service Depot, the shared space that started in March with Shaker Mill’s island-inspired drinks and Cubaneo’s counter-service-style Cuban grub. Now the property is fully occupied with the retailer Gear and, in the back, the Academy of Recreational Sciences, the latest location by Modern Times.
Like they’ve done in Los Angeles, Portland, and Encinitas, the San Diego-based brewery is creating an adult playground full of juicy brews, vegan comfort food bites, and funky art installations. Boasting Santa Barbara’s largest outdoor patio, more than 30 beers on tap, and a selection of cold brew coffee, wine, and occasional guest beers and ciders, Modern Times offers something for everyone.
“We have great beer that we really care about and a fun location where we would want to hang out,” explained general manager Justin Crider, who also oversees a mini-mart stocked with to-go beer, house-roasted coffee, and gear, and will also sell special release pick-ups.
The beer selection features many IPAs, including refreshing hazys, such as their popular Orderville, featuring fruit-forward Mosaic hops. Not really having a taste for sours before I came in, I finally understood what they hype was all about with one sip of their Fruitlands, a gose beer that balances a sour base with a heavy doses of passionfruit and guava. It tastes like summer, done right.
“We’re constantly making new beers,” Crider explained of their menu that consists of four “OG” beers, including Fruitlands and the Blazing Worlds Amber Ale. They also have four “New Money” beers, which usually include the Ice Pilsner and the Orderville, as well as a couple of rotating seasonals. The rest of the menu is an adventure of taste exploration, designed to pull anyone out of their beer comfort zone.
Suddenly on the sour beer train, I had a blast sampling a variety of different sours from their special and limited release menu, including their incredible Punch House, a tropical party of a beer, and Crider’s current favorite, the Gravity Hammer, which is described in their tasting notes as “a 10% flavor missile on a direct course for your tastebuds.”
The playful spirit found in the service, verbiage, and flavors of this tasting room lives up to its title, The Academy of Recreational Sciences. “We had a good, old-fashioned group brainstorm and homed in on a concept that seemed appropriately weird, fun, and evocative of the amalgam of beer nerdery and frivolity that generally intermingles in our tasting rooms,” explained the brewery’s communications manager Dan Reed.
With shiny wall decor crafted from spoons and bright green foliage hanging from the ceiling, the atmosphere begs you to get a little closer and interact. “We take what we like to call a mid-century maximalist approach to our tasting room art, which we combined with some lush, psychedelic overtones for this spot,” Reed said. “We don’t typically feel too obligated toward one uniform concept, which allows us to really unleash our art team to create some more unrestrained pieces, which is how you end up with golden Pez dispensers and walls paneling made of old keys.”
Their delicious food menu includes bar items with a vegan twist. I was particularly charmed by the kimchi elote featuring grilled corn on the cob, charred scallion butter, kimchi mayonnaise, and sesame, as well as the double burger consisting of a seared Beyond Meat patty, smoky mushrooms, roasted tomato spread, shallot jam, pickles, and a potato bun. It hit all the right flavor notes and left my taste buds singing.
For the impact that Modern Times is having on the crowded Southern California beer scene, it’s surprising to learn that they only started six years ago, when brewers, coffee roasters, and chefs came together in Point Loma in 2013. They chose the name because it’s what a utopian community in Long Island was named in 1850, and they try to reflect other utopian initiatives in their beer names.
Since that 2013 start, Modern Times opened brewery/restaurant locations in Los Angeles and Portland, a tasting room in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, and a restaurant/tap room in Encinitas. Although Santa Barbara’s brewing scene is quite dense already, the style, wide range of beers, and unique menu that Modern Times is now serving on State Street is sure to entertain any adult with a taste for fanciful beverages.