In May, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company owner Ed O’Sullivan put his two-year-old Scripps Ranch brewery up for sale. Shortly after, Darrel Brown, the owner of Savagewood Brewing Company came to take a look. Earlier in the year he had toured defunct Escondido business Offbeat Brewing Company. He also took a look at Helm’s Brewing Company in Kearny Mesa, but passed on all three due to his desire to settle his interest in Rancho Bernardo. But as the months passed, he came to realize the best place for the community- and family-focused venue he aimed to establish was right in his backyard. He and O’Sullivan reconnected and forged a deal that makes Brown the new owner of O’Sullivan Bros.’ brewery and tasting room. And while others might wipe the slate completely clean, Brown will integrate the O’Sullivan Bros. brand into his own.
Brown’s plan—which is already underway—is to remove all O’Sullivan Bros. branding from the exterior and interior of the facility, which is located on the west side of an industrial park on Hibert Street catty-corner to a large shopping area that includes a grocery store and numerous restaurants. All branding will be changed to reflect Savagewood Brewing and his beers will take up the lion’s share of the faucets in the tasting room, but he will also keep on some of O’Sullivan Bros.’ best-selling beers, including Catholic Guilt smoked porter, Our Father’s Stout and Finn McCool’s Big Thirsty red ale. A Scripps Ranch resident who lives mere blocks away, Brown patronized the brewery he now owns and believed in the product and the people behind the brand. He was saddened that the O’Sullivan family had to exit the industry—not due to poor quality, but personal issues that couldn’t be avoided—and feels strongly that their legacy should live on.
While O’Sullivan Bros. beers largely fell on the darker side, Savagewood ales come in lighter on the SRM spectrum. Brown’s recipes are hoppy, fruity and light on malt to produce a dry finish associated with Southern California offerings. That said, he’s not afraid to dabble in the East Coast arts, and is planning to brew a West Coast-Northeast India pale ale hybrid using yeast used for hazy IPAs against a decidedly “San Diego-style” grain bill. That will join his pineapple pale ale and other beers that, up until now, have been contract brewed at Groundswell Brewing Company’s Santee headquarters. Since the total annual production capability of his new facility is just 550 barrels, he will continue to utilize his contract relationship to increase yearly barrelage to between 1,600 and 1,700 barrels.
But it’s not all about the adult beverages. Savagewood will have cold-brew coffee and house-made craft sodas on tap. It will also hold various youth-oriented events such as movie nights featuring ‘80’s movies and popcorn. Also on-tap will be at least one event raising money for local charities per month. A portion of proceeds from one of his beers, Exquisite Blonde, already go to the cancer non-profit Keep A Breast Foundation. “Scripps Ranch is my home and I want Savagewood to be the neighborhood brewery,” says Brown. “Every decision I make will center around that.”
Brown will open the revamped tasting room on November 2, just in time for San Diego Beer Week, which takes place November 3-12. He plans to hold events throughout that span, including beer-release promotions, a trivia night and a beer-brunch event. And near the end of November, Savagewood will hold its official grand-opening party. In the meantime, he’ll work on expanding the floor-plan of the tasting room and cinch up negotiations with a brewer he intends to bring on. As for the rest of his staff, he is keeping all of O’Sullivan Bros.’ existing employees, making for one of the true feel-good stories of this year in local craft beer.
This weekend, West Coaster obtained official communications from representatives of Helm’s Brewing Company (5640 Kearny Mesa Road, Suites C & N, Kearny Mesa) stating that the five-year-old business is accepting offers from interested parties. Ownership will entertain offers of $500,000 and above.
Helm’s Brewing opened its doors in 2012. Founded by a homebrewer and associates from his primary career, the company’s first head brewer was Brian Mitchell, who went on to work as a small-batch brewer for Stone Brewing before opening his own project, Pariah Brewing Company, at North Park’s Brewery Igniter complex on El Cajon Boulevard earlier this year. Under Mitchell and subsequent brewing personnel, Helm’s’ beer quality has fluctuated, leading to something of a hit-or-miss reputation among consumers. Still, the company was able to add a satellite tasting room in 2016, becoming the third to open in now satellite-saturated Ocean Beach.
The OB tasting room, which is located at the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street (the same block as tasting rooms for Belching Beaver Brewery, Culture Brewing Company and Kilowatt Brewing Company) will be included as an acquired asset should Helm’s sell. Among attributes listed for that venue in the company’s solicitation communique are the fact it faces the neighborhood’s Wednesday farmer’s market and “has posted strong revenue numbers through its first year-and-a-half in existence.”
Breweries make the best margin by far when selling their beer in their taprooms. With a county expansive as San Diego, getting customers to a single location can be a challenge, but the satellite tasting room model—one where a brewery opens a non-brewing sampling space in a geographically removed community—has proven quite successful in helping brewing companies reach new customers, move inventory and generate additional revenue. Many satellites have been sent into orbit throughout the county in recent years, and quite a few are in different states of planning at present. Here is a breakdown of such projects by the neighborhoods they may someday call home.
Bay Park: As announced earlier this week, Grantville-based Benchmark Brewing Company has signed a lease on a space. The family-run business had been exploring the prospect of opening a satellite in Oceanside, but ultimately decided to stay within the City of San Diego.
Carlsbad: A collective of artisans will someday share space with crops of produce, wine grapes and hops at the North 40 development. Numerous tenants have been reeled in over the past two years (and many have walked away), but Miramar’s AleSmith Brewing Company and Carmel Mountain’s Second Chance Beer Company are signed up, with the former hoping to sell house-made cheese with its beer.
Chula Vista: Fresh off the high of moving into Twisted Manzanita Ales’ former production brewery (and distillery) in Santee, Groundswell Brewing Company is working to open a sampling space on downtown Chula Vista’s main drag, Third Avenue…right across the street from soon-to-debut Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company.
Encinitas: Though a community that’s openly resisted brewery-owned venues, this beachy berg has two breweries slogging against the tide for space on Coast Highway 101: Point Loma’s Modern Times Beer Company (across from La Paloma Theatre) and Solana Beach’s Culture Brewing Company (next to Bier Garden of Encinitas).
Marina District: Developers have spent the better part of the past year curating a list of breweries to share space at The Headquarters at Seaport Village. Planned as a central courtyard surrounded by six identical yet uniquely appointed brewery tasting rooms, it has proven challenging for a variety of reasons, but would create a concept unique to San Diego.
Normal Heights: Longtime craft-beer champion Blind Lady Ale House will soon have some sudsy company in their ‘hood care of Miramar-based Little Miss Brewing, which is hard at work on two fun-and-games equipped tasting rooms within San Diego proper.
North Park: Another interest with two satellites in the works is Second Chance, who recently revealed plans to open a tasting room on 30th Street in North Park, across the street from popular beer-bar Toronado and doors down from the site of Ritual Kitchen, which announced last week that it will soon shut its doors after 10 years in business.
Ocean Beach: Little Miss Brewing’s other upcoming satellite will join the county’s most tasting room-dense community, on the same block as Belching Beaver Brewery, Culture, Helm’s Brewing Company and Kilowatt Brewing Company; and a short walk from OB Brewery and Pizza Port OB; and a quick drive from Mike Hess Brewing Company’s sampler.
Pacific Beach: Downtown’s Mission Brewery is geared to cash in on partygoers’ thirst for beer, installing a tasting room on Garnet Avenue where it intersects with Gresham Street. PB is currently without a brewery satellite after Twisted Manzanita’s closed down when the company folded last year.
Last week, I wrote about four upcoming brewing companies showing the greatest potential for success (in my personal estimation). I kept my focus on projects located in the northern half of San Diego. Today, I’ve panned to the county’s southern half, and the many new breweries and brewery-owned venues currently in the works.
Eppig Brewing Company, North Park: There’s a generational gap between the current regime heading the revival of this legacy interest, but familial pride and a brewing team hailing from billion-dollar baby Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits should make for a solid mix of beers, running the full spectrum from hoppy West-Coast ales and more outlandish, modern creations to the traditional lagers that formed the basis of the original Eppig Brewing’s portfolio and allowed the business to boom in New York from the mid-1800s to 1935. This reboot is scheduled to open the first week of November at the new Brewery Igniter complex on El Cajon Boulevard in North Park.
Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company, Chula Vista: What started as brew-buds and business partners renting time on Butchers Brewing’s (since re-concepted to Finest Made Ales) Santee brewhouse is being grown into a full-on business that will call a three-story building (if you count the brewery and barrel-storage base-floor in the cellar) in downtown Chula Vista home. This operation’s brews have been decently distributed and mostly well received over the past year-plus, and should only get better once the brewers have their very own machinery and all the time in the world with which to utilize it.
Pariah Brewing Company, North Park: Local brewer Brian Mitchell spent the first years of his career toiling away executing the agendas of owners he didn’t see eye-to-eye with at (now closed) La Jolla Brew House and Helm’s Brewing Company, before becoming part of the small-batch brewing team at Stone Brewing. Now, he’s hammering out the final phases of his very own passion-project, one which will aim to churn out beers that please—and periodically challenge—drinkers’ palates. Mitchell will be neighbors with Eppig Brewing and fellow Brewery Igniter North Park tenants San Diego Brewing Company.
Barrel Rescue Brewing Company, Kearny Mesa: It’s one of the smallest and most unique “boutique” concepts being taken from fantasy to reality status currently, but it’s coming along nicely. A couple whose love of rescuing canines and penchant for beer brought them together have collected a wealth of used barrels from parts far-and-wide, for use in aging extremely small batches of various beers at their future home in Kearny Mesa. Governmental hoops are currently being leaped through, but already a lovely, contemporary outdoor patio has been erected, insuring a nice place to sample their eventual ales.
Known as much for its clever lighting design as its avant-garde beers, Kearny Mesa-based Kilowatt Beer is looking to bring both to the popular seaside community of Ocean Beach with a satellite tasting room being constructed under the internal project-name, Kilowatt West (1875 Cable Street, Ocean Beach). Intended to be inviting to all, including children and pets, the space is scheduled to open in early-2017.
The 1,800-square-foot building was built in the 1950s and previously occupied by a motorcycle repair shop. Two glass roll-up doors will be installed in the front of the building, but that’s where Kilowatt West’s adherence to the common tasting-room model will cut off. The back area, where repair bays were once located, will be converted into a lounge area with both permanent and rotating black-light installments. Co-owner Steve Kozyk envisions it as “black-light basement meets psychedelic art gallery.” The lounge area will be curated by a trio from The Ancient Gallery art-collective. Kozyk, a veteran of the illumination trade, will install the black-lights and some of his own kinetic art.
As far as design goes, the Kilowatt team will stay true to the original architecture and feel of the building to avoid being too much like the rapidly growing number of tasting-only brewery venues in the county. While the back-end will be purposely dark to allow the art to shine, the front area will be made bright thanks to natural light. That said, it will feature a number of interesting light fixtures courtesy of Kozyk. The tasting room will be outfitted with 20 taps, with the ability to add more should demand dictate a line expansion.
Located near the intersection of Newport Avenue and Cable Street, it will be very near existing offshoot sampling spaces for Culture Brewing Company and Helm’s Brewing Company. And just down the street is the newly opened OB Brewery and Pizza Port’s six-year-old OB brewpub. Kozyk is aware of the recent tasting-room boom in OB (which includes an existing venue from Mike Hess Brewing and a soon-to-debut spot from Belching Beaver Brewery), but says he actually chose this quirky community because it suits Kilowatt’s personality. It would seem black-lights and kinetic art will go well with neighbors like Stuff 2 Puff, tattoo parlors and certain “medicinal” outlets.