Fortnight of the Monsters: Modern Times' annual BBA imperial stout bonanza
If you are like me and can't get enough good barrel-aged stout, then the annual Fortnight of the Monsters is for you. Modern Times, one of San Diego's most recognizable craft beer brands, has outdone itself with this year's offerings.
Fortnight of the Monsters involves eleven locations over two weeks serving limited-release barrel-aged and specially-flavored versions of Monster's Park, an imperial stout that clocks in at 12% ABV.
The base beer is delicious, rating an average 4.06/5 on Untappd across more than 11k ratings (though my impression is that a good proportion of those confuse the BBA version for the base version--but as I say below, the BBA version is great, too). The non-BBA Monster's Park is bold-complex-boozy-coffee-chocolate goodness, with a beautiful thick/oily mouthfeel, an almost black color, and a persistent tan head.
I had the pleasure of attending the very first of 2018's eleven Fortnight of the Monsters events, held at Regents Pizzeria in La Jolla/University City. They served a flight of 3oz tasters of the five versions of Monster's Park on offer this year, with a small keeper glass, for $38. That seems awfully pricey for a flight of 5 tasters, but keep in mind that they are all BBA, and they are all 14.2% ABV. If you think of that as double or triple the alcohol in a typical flight, the price sort of makes more sense. Anyway, the bar manager told me they actually lose money selling this flight, even at $38. Here's the real point: After I started tasting my flight, I realized it was worth every penny.
These were the five beers in the flight:
Monster's Park Bourbon Barrel Aged.
Monster's Park BBA with Coffee.
Monster's Park BBA with Vanilla.
Monster's Park BBA with Chocolate and Pecan.
Monster's Park BBA with Cinnamon, Cocoa Nibs, Coconut and Piloncillo.
All of these are excellent beers. As was evident from conversation around the bar, which one you prefer is going to be a matter of your own tastes. I liked the coffee version least (but still thought it was very good, a 3.5/5), and I liked the Chocolate-Pecan version second best (4.5/5). It was a close call but my very favorite was the Cinnamon, Cocoa, Coconut, Piloncillo version (4.5/5). In fact, I liked it so much that I ordered a full pour of it. That was probably a mistake since I was done in after that, but at least home was only a short walk for me. And it was delicious. I realized while I was ordering that I had no idea what piloncillo was even though I had enjoyed piloncillo beers before (like Groundswell's Piloncillo Brown, for example). In case you also have this gap in your culinary knowledge, piloncillo is minimally-processed Mexican cane sugar that is typically poured into cone-shaped molds to dry (pylons, hence the name).
With awesome beer and awesome design, Modern Times has been expanding at a steady pace. They currently operate four locations (Point Loma, North Park, Los Angeles and Portland) with two more due soon (Santa Barbara and Encinitas).
You'll see from my reviews that I was less than impressed with the service I've received at Modern Times. I had hoped that last year's shift to employee ownership might have changed that, but a good friend recently went to the North Park location and had such bad service he has sworn not to go back. The fact that this service issue has persisted for so long is a major problem for Modern Times and I sincerely hope they will make efforts to change their culture. Modern Times could learn a lot from Regents Pizzeria, for example: the bar service we received during this event was excellent all around.
You still have about ten days to get to one of the nine remaining events (as of publication) in the Fortnight of Monsters for 2018. What are you waiting for!