Modern Times Beer’s new Far West Lounge has opened on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas, a playful “den of leisure” pouring brews from over 30 taps, paired with a plant-based vegan menu. Its open front windows look out onto the 101, just past the Encinitas sign.
“The reaction has been incredible,” said Dan Reed, Modern Times Beer communications metabaron. “The community has been super supportive, and the welcome we’ve received has surpassed our wildest expectations. We’re thrilled to be able to connect more directly with all of our North County homies, and to keep cooking up unique and delicious things on both plates and taps.”
The tasting room will feature Modern Times’ pale ales, hazy IPAs, barrel-aged imperial stouts, sours and a variety of “libational magic” such as the Palmanova, a crisp and floral Italian pilsner and the blush-colored Phantom Twilight, a saison with tart cherries aged in a clay amphora.
The menu of plant-based creations includes light snacks and dishes such as chilaquiles with beans and grilled soy, a double burger with a seared Beyond Meat patty and coconut cheese and grilled corn on the cob with kimchi mayo. The old fashioned cake donut on the menu also appears to be a hit.
Founded by Jacob McKean in 2013, Modern Times began as a production brewery and tasting room in Point Loma, the spot now known as the Lomaland Fermentorium. They were among the first breweries in the country to roast its own coffee—they sell their own beans and cold brew and coffee also plays a starring role in several beers such as the Black House coffee stout.
As of 2017, they are California’s first employee-owned brewery and its brews are distributed throughout Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest.
In addition to the flagship in Point Loma that features a full Modern Times coffee bar, they now have brewery/restaurant locations in Los Angeles (The Dankness Dojo) and Portland (The Belmont Fermentorium), as well as a tasting room in North Park, the Flavordome. Plans are in the works for even more expansions with new locations Santa Barbara, as well as a “brewery/restaurant/cafe/swim club megaplex” in downtown Anaheim.
“Our decision to open in Encinitas was two-fold. First, it’s an amazing, beautiful city and we’ve always loved the downtown area, including its proximity to public transit, which we are big supporters of,” said Reed. “Second, we have a lot of kindred spirits in North County, and this way they don’t have to make the trip down to Point Loma or North Park to hang out with us.”
The design concept for Encinitas is “California midcentury maximalist” and Reed said they aimed to create a space that matched the city’s unique aesthetic, good vibes and relaxation while facilitating a social, conversational atmosphere. A large horseshoe-shaped bar sits at the center, inlaid with stripes of Modern Times coffee-stained wood, gold and domino tiles. One wall features a distinctly unique set of stadium steps, ideal for lounging.
All Modern Times locations feature a sense of whimsy in their décor—at the Flavordome the ceiling is covered in upside down lampshades and in Point Loma one wall features a mosaic of Michael Jackson and Bubbles the chimp out of thousands of multi-colored post-it notes.
In Encinitas, funky patterned wallpaper is accessorized with collections of antique fans, sunburst clocks and assorted tchotchkes. Macrame plant hangers dangle from the ceiling and the walls are dotted with Modern Times artisans’ creations of mini TV dinner trays with felt food and intricate cross-stitched designs on vintage tennis rackets.
“Art is a huge part of our identity; we believe that the aesthetics of a space are directly related to the amount of joy experienced within it,” Reed said. “We work as hard on our art and design as we do on our beers, we actually have a full-time staff of designers and installation artists, which have been a huge factor in how rad LA and Encinitas turned out.”
During Modern Times’ approval process with the Encinitas Planning Commission and Encinitas City Council last year, nearby residents and business owners expressed concerns about the addition of a tasting room on an “over-saturated” stretch of downtown Encinitas—there are a total of 38 alcohol establishments on Highway 101 between Encinitas Boulevard and K Street.
Due to increasing complaints about alcohol-serving establishments, last year the city passed a package of reforms that included a 10 p.m. cut-off for alcohol service for new businesses along the coastal corridor (with possible later cutoffs once they prove their good behavior), a downtown noise ordinance and measures to curb party buses and long lines of patrons waiting to get into bars.
“Some Encinitas residents were understandably concerned about adding another bar to the mix, which we addressed by adding a full restaurant component to our initial tasting room plans,” Reed said. “We’ve also spent a lot of time meeting with individual residents to highlight our excellent track record as a responsible operator, as well as stressing the fact that—as anyone who’s been to our spots can attest—we do our utmost to foster a relaxed environment focused on the responsible appreciation of world class beer, cuisine, art, and coffee.
We’ve yet to throw a single foam party.”
On Saturday, Nov. 3 Modern Times will be opening up a limited amount of spots in the League of Partygoers and Elegant People, the brewery’s yearly membership club. Members get rare barrel-aged beers that aren’t available to the public, VIP event perks, merchandise and advance festival and special release sale access. Encinitas will be the League’s newest hub for events and beer pickups, and anyone who’s interested can check out the full details at moderntimesbeer.com.
“We’d suggest stepping lively, though; spots tend to go fast,” Reed said.