City Of The Dead (7.5% ABV)
Modern Times, San Diego, CA.
Export Stout with Barrel-Aged Coffee.
Bottles with CA distribution.

One of the most popular breweries in the well-established San Diego craft beer scene, Modern Times has made big waves in SoCal since launching in May of 2013, brewing what they call “aroma-driven, complex, flavorful, session-ish beers.” They’re also incredibly interesting from a Sprudge perspective because they actually roast their own coffees under the Modern Times label, and sell both beers and coffees from their taprooms in Point Loma and North Park areas of San Diego.

City Of The Dead is an Export Stout, which historically are stouts that are higher in alcohol and brewed to make long trips across the oceans. What makes City Of The Dead such an important and what they consider a “groundbreaking” stout is that it’s brewed with their house-roasted bourbon barrel-aged coffee. Head brewer Bartleby Bloss oversees these process from sourcing to roasting to brewing—a degree of control and integration that’s rare in the beer world. “We currently use a coffee that we sourced directly from Brazil form Mantiqueria de Minas,” Bloss tells Sprudge. “It’s from the town of Carmo de Minas grown at Frazenda Engenho by José Vitor Bernardes.” This coffee is a natural processed Acaia varietal—a Brazilian local hybrid of Bourbon and Typica—yielding “wonderful dark chocolate, strawberry, molasses, and light floral notes,” as per Bloss.

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Modern Times ages the unroasted green beans in bourbon barrels, using around one pound per barrel. They claim it’s the world’s first commercially bottled barrel aged coffee beer—it says so right on the bottle. This chart below (courtesy Modern Times) shows us a little bit more about the process they use to make this beer.

So, what should you expect from a bottle of City of the Dead? As soon as you open the bottle, you’re punched in the face with coffee aromas. Not the bitter kind, but sweet and aromatic. Pouring it you get an incredible head, really one of the bigger ones I’ve seen for any coffee beer, and it stays around a while. I tasted it in a tulip glass, as I taste most beers, and this helped make the best use of the aromas as I took in my first sip. First sip is all coffee—delicious, freshly (and properly) roasted coffee with a nice creaminess. If you’re a fan of coffee with a splash of cream in it, you will LOVE this coffee beer.

The mouthfeel on this beer is near perfect, and it drinks nice and easy. I tried it at just under room temperature, around 60 degrees, and this was the perfect temp for this beer. The more I drank of this beer, the more I enjoyed it, even with the outside temperature being 85 here in Atlanta. I could see myself drinking this any time of the year.

This beer is near perfect, and I can’t think of anything I would do to change it. The coffee they’ve chosen pairs perfectly with the malts and grains used, and they’ve roasted the coffee to pull out the correct flavors to match with the beer. I feel like most of the conversation around Modern Times stouts revolves around their Monsters Park line, but honestly, they have other beers like this one and “Devil’s Teeth” that are equally as good, if not better. If you can find this Modern Times near you, get it. I actually purchased this from an online craft beer source—CraftShack—that ships outside of CA, and the price was well-worth it at $8 a bottle, which is actually a steal for a beer of this quality.

Jason Dominy (@jasondominy) covers beer for the Sprudge Media Network, and is a co-host of The Last Beer Show podcast. Read more Jason Dominy on Sprudge.

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