By Brian Skaggs
Price Range : $11 - 12
Brewed in: San Diego, California Format: On tap, occasionally in two-packs of 355 ml cans ABV: 12.9% Availability: at Modern Times locations, lucky bars on the west coast
A spontaneous decision to check out a venerable San Diego brewery’s new vegan restaurant/brewpub in downtown Los Angeles culminated in some world-expanding sips of the MODERN TIMES Devil’s Teeth, NOLA Coffee variant.
Devil’s Teeth is Modern Times’ base barrel-aged imperial stout. They certainly like to add all sorts of crazy stuff to it before unleashing this beer to rabid fans. More than twenty different iterations are listed over at Beer Advocate: raspberries, coconut, bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, bourbon-smoked cocoa nibs, and more¹.
The NOLA Coffee version contains coffee and chicory (yeah you right!), vanilla (hopefully Ronald Reginald’s, like in Chafunkta’s Old 504?), and almonds…almonds? Like the water-hungry ‘culinary nut’² from California? Not pecans from Louisiana?!
Okay, we’ll shelve this geographically odd seed kerfuffle…but almonds in a beer? Great! That’s a new one! Let’s go on an almond hunt!
Searching for almonds in NOLA Devil’s Teeth led to two too far-fetched conclusions: a) amaretto tastes can be found in a beer, sure, but in a ethereal, almost forgotten spot, way back at the end of the aftertaste that hearkens to illicit gulps of Dad’s Amaretto di Saronno³ and 2) the mouthfeel in NOLA Devil’s Teeth is incredibly rich, fulfilling, and almost fatty (in a good way!). Could Modern Times be brewing geniuses, using ground almonds instead of whole? Could ground almonds be utilized like oats to create—or enhance—a full, silky, velvety mouthfeel, as opposed to contributing taste and aroma components?
Who knows. Probably not. When the beer is this good, though, do the small details matter?
Sniffing strong vanilla and burnt caramel aromas is pretty easy—just put an olfactory organ above the glass, no pretentious swirling and nose-sticking-in required. There’s also nothing too subtle about the caramel custard, Kahula, Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie, and hot chocolate explosion that greets your gustatory organ upon first taste. Chocolate—in the bittersweet region, around 60 percent cocoa—is prominent upfront too, but is it chocolate/black patent malt plus vanilla? Tasting what you’d expect to find in a dessert-y black stout instead of what’s actually there? Maybe it’s just the power of suggestion from the descriptors about NOLA Devil’s Teeth on the tap list?
Who knows. When the beer is this good, though, do the small details matter?
The New Orleans-specific Café du Monde chicory and café au lait flavors percolate more as creamy mouthfeel sensations versus specific taste components. It’s a roasted, oaky, tannic, chocolate, vanilla, burnt sugar aftertaste for days—but hey! Did you make this last-second decision to eat at Modern Times to get lost in beer minutiae, or did you come to verbally and intellectually interact with people physically close enough for you to reach out and hold their hands?
Ah yes, the important lesson of paying attention to your friends and/or family at the table, instead of reading about and describing what you’re drinking. Or writing about what you’re hearing. Or dancing about architecture.
Modern Times beer might get a little easier to locate in the coming months, with three Southern California locations (Encinitas, Anaheim, and Santa Barbara) scheduled to join their four currently open locations (San Diego times two, downtown Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon). Sign up for Modern Times’ mailing list, follow their aesthetically gorgeous social media, and start saving your American dollars so you can buy special releases of their Devil’s Teeth. Even if the seeds with hard shells they use in their beer are, well…nuts! —B.S.
1 Not coffee beans pooped out of a monkey’s butt, though. Not yet, anyway…
2 Turns out almonds and pecans are really seeds—more related to stone fruits than true botanical ‘nuts’…
3 Rumor has it Saronno Originale doesn’t actually have almonds in it, so, uh…