Before Ballast Point Brewing was a company capable of commanding decuple figures, before it grew into San Diego County’s largest brewery and one of the biggest beer-producers in the country, before there even was a brewery called Ballast Point, there was Home Brew Mart (HBM). That Linda Vista hobby shop—one of the first to grace America’s Finest City—opened quietly in 1992 and, over the following quarter-century, has ignited a fire for recreational fermentation within a great many ale-and-lager neophytes. That includes individuals who now own breweries and brew professionally. Some of that contingent even worked for HBM in its early days. In celebration of the big two-five, Ballast Point is creating Family Reunion collaboration beers with those ex-employees as well as former BP brewers, an impressive assemblage of well-known, award-winning talent.
Several of the beers have already been released, while others are scheduled to be brewed in time for them to all be on-tap at HBM’s 25th anniversary event on September 24. The following is a breakdown of the collaborators, their creations and their past.
In an effort to increase its current employee base’s knowledge on the history of BP and its eldest venue, vice president Colby Chandler asked each collaborator to speak to present-day brewers about their time with the company, how it was then and how it prepared them to venture out on their own. Many said that making beer at such a fast-growing brewing company provided them wide-ranging experience as well as reference points for overcoming myriad obstacles. According to Chandler, many brewery owners, in particular, felt their time with BP made it much easier once they were working for themselves.
In addition to the HBM anniversary event, BP is also holding a series of beer-pairing dinners incorporating the aforementioned collaboration brews at HBM. The next will take place on August 24 and include five courses served with Swemiceros, Bay to Bay, Scripps Tease and various other BP beers. Chandler, Tweet, Stephens, LeBlanc and Ceniceros will all be in attendance.
Miramar’s Carrol Way is home to a pair of businesses that couldn’t be more different from each other. On one side of the street is the colossal manufacturing headquarters of Ballast Point Brewing, a business with such astronomical growth and distribution of award-winning, to-style beers that it garnered $1 billion from Constellation Brands when that company took it over in 2015. Equipped with a large restaurant outfitted with an expansive, outdoor deck, it is the largest brewery and brewing entity in San Diego County.
Directly across the street is Reckless Brewing Company (9040 Carroll Way, Miramar), a quirky little brewery producing beer on a much more modest scale. But it’s not just size and quantity that form a Grand Canyon-sized divide between these otherwise similar businesses. The beer is worlds different, as well. And that’s just how owner Dave Hyndman likes it. An outlier who revels in marching to his own beat, he crafts beers that defy numerous style guidelines and has cultivated a clientele that sees the beauty in that non-conformity. Ditto the unique design of his tasting room, which draws together innumerable random and disparate items to further illustrate the nature of Hyndman and his brewery. But that sampling space closed last week…because Hyndman recently finished construction on a new tasting room in the suite next door.
Reckless Brewing’s new tasting room is still one of a kind. In time it will surely be equipped with the bric-a-brac and visual accessories that made its predecessor such a standout. But for now a colorful Twister grid painted onto the floor goes a long way to communicating Hyndman’s spirit to visitors. And while there are still amateur-constructed pieces of furniture making up most of the bar, the cold-box is outfitted in a nice-looking brick façade. Back at ground zero, Reckless Brewing’s original suite will now be devoted solely to brewing.
Recently, I was interviewed about the state of the local brewing industry in the wake of Big Beer interests—AB InBev-owned 10 Barrel, MillerCoors-owned Saint Archer, and Constellation Brands-owned Ballast Point Brewing—elbowing their way into the San Diego market. In answering questions, I echoed the primary lament of employees at independent breweries throughout our county, which is the concern that people who want to support local, authentically “craft” breweries will think they are doing so by purchasing beers from the aforementioned companies (as well as other acquired brands including Wicked Weed Brewing, Elysian Brewing and Goose Island as well as “faux craft” brands such as Blue Moon and Shock-Top) due to subterfuge and falsehoods conveyed via Big Beer marketing campaigns. It is a consumer’s right to choose. If they make an informed decision to purchase ales and lagers from Big Beer because they aren’t concerned about buying and drinking local, that is their prerogative. But for people who do care and go out of their way to buy local, San Diego breweries simply want those folks to get what they they think they are paying for and feel comforted in the knowledge that they are, in fact, supporting San Diego breweries.
At this point, I was asked what consumers can do to ensure they aren’t fooled. It’s a great question and, being so entrenched in the industry, something brewing company employees probably don’t think about as often as would be prudent. The obvious answer is “educate yourself”, but it leads to another great question: HOW? And I have a solid answer: Visit the Breweries list at SDBeer.com and scan the list of Guild members. The Guild’s regulations dictate that no brewing company owned in whole or in part by a Big Beer interest can qualify for membership. This is to protect the integrity of membership as the organization strives to educate the public on the importance of supporting local breweries (be on the lookout for an upcoming “get educated” campaign from the SDBG), especially as they find themselves under increasing attack from macro-beer giants with far greater resources and far less honorable (and far less legal) business practices. You can trust this list to guide you to bona fide independent operations. And you can help local breweries by sharing this online resource with others who share your locavorian ethics. It actually protects local consumers from more than just Big Beer.
Membership in the San Diego Brewers Guild and participation in its initiatives is voluntary. Although the Guild enjoys nearly 100% membership by qualifying businesses, no arms are twisted. The Guild has been key to the evolution and prominence of San Diego craft beer for the past two decades. Yet, believe it or not, there are some local brewery owners who choose not to be a part of it. While that decision in and of itself does not vilify a local, independent brewery, it does tell you something about that company. In a time when banding together and helping not only local businesses, but local consumers has never been more important, there are outliers who aren’t heeding the call to arms. Locavores looking to support local breweries would do well to patronize the 100-plus operations looking to actively protect this region’s reputation and incredible sense of community over those who abstain.
As an aside (and I am in no way asserting that owners of non-SDBG member breweries fit the following description), there’s a new strain of brewery entrepreneur out there—people who think they have all the answers; who don’t help their neighbors and colleagues; who go it alone because they think so highly of and want everything for themselves; who honestly believe that every component of their business should be proprietary in an industry built on the open and honest exchanges of information, equipment, ingredients, manpower and, of course, beer. It’s sad to see. Without the openness and friendship they opt out of, the American craft-beer movement would not have progressed to the point where they would be able to be a part of it. To enter the brewing industry and actively erode the sense of camaraderie that makes it so special rivals the obfuscation and monkey-wrenching of Big Beer. With so many San Diego breweries upholding the long-held values that make this region’s beer scene so special, there’s no reason not to patronize them first or even exclusively. The key component there is to know who is making your beer and who is behind each brewery. Because so many of these individuals are locally focused beer-lovers just like you, it’s a fun rabbit hole to venture into, and the best first step is SDBeer.com.
San Diego beer is a wonderful thing. Locals and guests alike should feel good about enjoying it. The latest efforts of macro-breweries and money-grabbing newcomers have complicated things and made it harder to have a beer in tandem with a clean conscious. Fortunately, consulting the list of active San Diego Brewers Guild members provides an easy way to put all the business BS aside and go back to savoring local, independent, artisanal beer.
In 2014, Ed O’Sullivan became the first graduate of UCSD Extension’s Brewing Certificate program to open his own brewery. That interest, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company, is located in a business park suite at 9879 Hibert Street in San Diego’s Scripps Ranch neighborhood. The brewery specializes in dark beers, specifically porters, stouts and barrel-aged versions of both styles. A number of O’Sullivan Bros.’ beers have won awards regionally and Ed now teaches a course called “The Brewery Startup” as part of the program he graduated from. Ed owns several other business’ and due to increasing demands from those, he is actively seeking a purchaser for his brewery business.
Ed says he has built a solid fan-base that frequents his tasting room and is not interested in closing. His hope is that an entrepreneur will pick up where he left off and acquire the brewery turnkey style. One of the most impressive features of the facility is a sizable quality-control laboratory that has been in operation from the start. Labs tend to be an afterthought or something slated for construction once revenues reach the point where they are more economically feasible. O’Sullivan is the only independent brewery in Scripps Ranch, though the nation’s 13th largest brewing interest, Ballast Point Brewing, operates a production brewery and tasting room in the community as well.
The official advertisement reads as follows:
Turnkey Nano Brewery for Sale in San Diego. Includes brewery, lab and tasting room. 3bbl all electric, plc controlled 3 vessel brew house, with 7 3bbl fermenters and 1 3bbl brite. Production output is about 400 bbls/yr. Facility is approx. 1700 sq/ft. All supporting equipment, i.e. water treatment, chemical cleaning, Glycol Chiller, Cold Room, bottling equipment, kegs, keg washer, spare parts, tasting room furniture and fixtures are all in place and operating. All equipment is less than 3 years old and was purchased new. Cooperage, bottles and raw material inventory included along with an established local clientele. Perfect opportunity for the husband and wife team or couple of friends looking to break into the industry, or a larger brewery looking for an offsite R&D facility for new project, or a restaurant chain looking to supply its own beer. This is the cleanest, most technically sophisticated nano-brewery on the west coast. See www.osullivan-brothers.com for general info. Contact Ed O’Sullivan at email@example.com. Serious inquiries only.