Modern Times on Tap: From the Blogosphere to the Bars

Before anyone has even been able to take a sip, Jacob McKean has used the Internet to amass a loyal following for his new brewery, Modern Times Beer. The hype will finally take on liquid form this week, when six establishments in San Diego will, at last, offer Modern Times on tap.

McKean, a former communications and social media specialist at Stone Brewing Co., said that he’s learned to pace his thoughts and subdue the “excruciating” nerves of anticipation. Still, this fruition has given him a sense of disbelief.

“It’s a really weird feeling, after 18 months, of just looking not more than a few hours ahead,” he said.

McKean said that thus far, Local Habit, Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle, URGE Gastropub, The Imperial House, Toronado San Diego and Cueva Bar will pour Modern Times Beer, with more establishments in San Diego likely on the way. The company is producing four styles, a hoppy amber, a citrusy wheat, a coffee stout and a rustic saison, with seasonals and special releases in the works.

“We know there’ll be a lot of interest initially as people want to sample the shiny new object,” McKean said.

That may be because of how much work has gone into buffing expectations online. Plenty of craft brewers realize the importance of social media and use it to their advantage. Yet no soon-to-launch breweries have received quite the amount of attention that McKean has garnered for Modern Times via Kickstarter, Facebook, Twitter, and the Modern Times blog. His Kickstarter campaign alone generated more than $65,000 from 645 backers.

Some of the attention must stem from McKean’s experience at Stone, which will distribute the beer throughout Southern California. But what has been most interesting about Modern Times is that McKean has generated interest by exhaustively tracking the brewery’s progress online to develop a following, one that he has engaged through a laid-back, friendly style. For example, he blogged that his beer will finally be on tap with the headline: “You Can Totally Drink Our Beer This Week.”

McKean said that honesty and a casual tone remain key ingredients to the success of the blog, which features everything from Urban Dictionary-esque slang to GIFs.

“It’s just an extension of me. I wouldn’t put anything on there I wouldn’t be comfortable saying to my friends at a cocktail party,” McKean said. “I try not to sound like a used car salesman.”

McKean’s transparency continues on Twitter, where he recently thanked Cueva Bar for buying his beer and has asked fans for beer naming suggestions. Just today he’s tweeted 19 times, providing updates on beer availability and answering questions from followers.

Now, he’s just relieved to focus on selling beer in the Southern California region. He’s not yet sure how much beer he’ll produce with his 30-barrel brewhouse, however he knows that he wants to grow at a gradual pace to serve the local market, which he said will benefit the beer, the consumers and the company. He also called going wide, not deep an “artificial growth model.”

“It’s really not hard to get people to sample something new,” McKean said. “But it’s really hard to get people to make you part of their permanent rotation.”

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