Still on tap: Modern Times’ Nectarnomicon

Photo courtesy of Modern Times

In San Diego where Modern Times Beer started, sought-after kegs tend to kick quickly. Same for larger cities where it operates tasting rooms and pubs such as L.A. and Portland. But here in Santa Barbara at the Academy of Recreational Sciences, beers tend to stick around a bit longer. Because SB.

Also at MT, when a beer has the word “dessert” in the description, you should usually expect a beer that’s terribly rich and wonderfully sweet. A barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with some combination of vanilla beans, coffee grinds, coconuts, cinnamon sticks, cacao nibs, and macadamia nuts that tops 13 percent alcohol is the Modern Times normal. 

So with the fact that Nectarnomicon is billed as an “ultra-fruited dessert sour,” there are a host of surprises to unpack in the beer, starting with the fact that it tiptoes in the tulip glass at 3.6 percent ABV. But Nectarnomicon, with the present keg on at the taproom being the Maui Wowie Edition, is no subtle session ale. It’s more accurately a glass of pineapple and mango juice with a hefty dose of coconut and nutmeg (remember, this is a dessert sour ale) with some fermented malt juice blended in. And it’s delish — morning, noon, or night.

Just how sour

Edit: This story was awarded 2nd place in the Technical Writing category at the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) awards. While I’m extremely grateful to the judges, it’s humbling yet a li’l embarrassing that the estimable technical beer writer Randy Mosher placed 3rd for this cool story, “Hot Process: Exploring the role of heat in brewing” in All About Beer. Stan Heironymus took 1st place with his story on brewing with honey, also in AAB.

Remember Top Secret? Remember that great song in it, How Silly Can You Get? That’s how I think of a lot of beers. How alcoholic can you get? Brewmeister’s Snake Charmer has an ABV of 67.5% How bitter can you get? Flying Monkey’s Alpha-fornication packs 2,500 IBU. From OG/FG to SRM, brewers have a lot of measurements and acronyms to tell the consumer just how something something is. For sour heads, ours may come in the form of TA. Titratable Acidity. Firestone Walker Brewing isn’t the first to use TA in their lab, but they are the first to put how quantifiably sour their beer is right on the label of their funky Barrelworks offerings.

Now, a quick word about this story on Titratable Acidity just published in the November issue of BeerAdvocate: it’s crazy heavy on the chemistry-spiel, and I barely passed high school chemistry. I do this from time to time–I really challenge myself to wrap my head around a story. I had never heard the word “titratable” or “titration/titrating” before pitching this. I bludgeoned these poor master brewers, master blenders, and folks with Ph.D.s in food and brewing science with questions first so I could begin to understand what’s going on with the acidity in certain beers–specifically what types of acids are present and how they got there–and once I felt semi-comfortable with that, I had to write it up for the readers who didn’t have the same access I got. SO… if you think this story is “TL;DR” just imagine poor little me for whom it was nearly TL;DW. (And here I massively applaud my editor at BA, Ben Keene, for whom this must’ve been challenging to no end but did a masterful job, even if he originally assigned me 1,800 words, then caved and gave me 2,000, and somehow got it way, way down to 2,300!)