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.
It was mid-2014 when I first reached out to the crew at Ebullition Brew Works after receiving a tip that the business was going in a space near a deli in San Marcos. They weren’t quite ready to talk. I remained persistent, but they stayed close-lipped over the past three years…and it’s probably good that they did. Plans for Ebullition shifted here and there, including a relocation to another municipality altogether. Today, Ebullition, which has been in soft-open mode since July, operates out of a business suite in Vista. An initial three-barrel system that would churn out just enough beer so ownership could open on the weekends has been replaced by a 10-barrel direct-fire model feeding into 10-barrel tanks. Yet, as much as the company has changed from a production standpoint, its thematic, approach and team remain the same.
The idea for Ebullition sprouted from co-founder Jesse Richardson’s discovery of craft beer and the joy of homebrewing. His wife took a job in the accounting department at Escondido’s Stone Brewing, allowing him exposure to world-class beer events as well as brands and styles of beer he had theretofore never heard of, much less experienced. He started down the rabbit hole and was soon brewing his own beer at home, to the point where he says he was “addicted.” This was just before the more intense stretch of the local boom that saw the number of brewhouses in the county rise sharply from roughly 40 to the 150-plus of today. A lot has changed since Richardson and a group of his colleagues decided to ditch the corporate world to give their brewing-industry dreams a go. Richardson and company admit they went a lot bigger than they originally expected, but so much changed from conceptualization to execution that they feel adjusting their business plan was necessary. Going big out of the gate was necessitated by the plethora of breweries in North County built to do just that, such as Mother Earth Brew Co. and Booze Brothers Brewing Company. Like those operations, the Ebullition team selected Vista in large part because of how welcoming and supportive local government is to breweries, and the fact they understand the positive impact breweries have on their City’s economy.
Beer-making is the domain of brewmaster Mike Reidy, a former teacher, certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer of more than two decades. His goal is to focus on brewing clean, true-to-style ales and lagers, and eventually push boundaries with less familiar styles and modern-day creations such as Northeast-inspired India pale ales (IPAs). His first, simply dubbed Hazy IPA, is currently available and the best of a sextet of Ebullition beers I sampled during a recent visit. Aromas of gooseberries and grapefruit give way to a burst of citrus rind and a finish that’s wheaty, bitter and a touch peppery. Another favorite of mine was The General, a stout brewed with coffee that starts out Starbucks and ends out like a mouthful of Ghirardelli milk chocolate. Also impressive is a saison called Gidget with bright lemon and orange character. It’s rounder than it is dry, but brewed within style guidelines and plenty enjoyable. On the fun anomaly front, Deli Rye Pilsner takes one of today’s hottest styles in a different direction with the addition of moderately spicy rye. Nuances of banana make it taste a bit like a hefeweizen, making for a completely unique tasting experience.
IBU (international bittering unit) measures are presented down to the hundredth. Originally, that count was listed as EBU (ebullition bittering units), but it was too difficult for customers to wrap their heads around, so they changed it. But they’re sticking with Ebullition as an overriding theme. The team stumbled upon the term in an old encyclopedia. It refers to both the boiling of wort (unfermented beer) and hops as well as sudden, intense passion…like that of someone who would become so enamored with brewing they would change their entire life to chase that interest. Richardson and his partners hope patrons will celebrate ebullition-inspiring pursuits, realizing not everybody draws the intense feelings they do from beer. Numerous hobbies and interests are illustrated via murals on the walls of Ebullition’s tasting room, which is also equipped with scads of games and activities spanning far beyond those of the average sampling venue.
And though they love beer, Ebullition’s owners aren’t limiting their ebullition to ales and lagers. They purposely chose to refer to their business as “Brew Works” to leave the door open for delving into mead, cold-brew coffee, kombucha and other brewed beverages. But for now, Ebullition is focusing its energy on a long-time coming grand-opening celebration. That fete will take place over two weekends and kick off this Saturday, October 14 with a day packed full of promotional activities such as a brewer Q&A, brewery tour, live music and more, followed Saturday, October 21 by “Dia de Ebullition”, featuring a Mexican-inspired beer release, art show, face-painting and a live performance by The Sleepwalkers.