Last Thursday, I shared the news that Oceanside Ale Works would hold its last service two days later before closing its doors for good. That was the truth—but not the whole truth. That day, I reached out to co-owner Mark Purciel, who later in the day said there was more to the story, but he couldn’t share details until after January 8 due to a “court date.” That date has come and passed, providing Purciel the opportunity to legally disclose his side of the story, as well as the news that, while OAW may be finished, his tenure in the brewing industry is far from over.
To adequately tell this tale, we’ll need to go back to 2013 when an OAW double IPA, Dude, won gold in the Imperial India Pale Ale category at the San Diego International Beer Festival. This created a great deal of buzz, to the point where distributors and retail establishments were requesting the beer. The problem was, it had never been packaged. So, Purciel and company went to work getting the beer brewed and bottled stat. This included designing bottle art and getting it approved as rapidly as possible. The artwork ended up being a depiction of Purciel posing as The Dude from the film The Big Lebowski presented a la Barack Obama in the “hope posters” from his days as a presidential candidate.
It was a quick fix, and one that did not sit well with OAW’s other owner, Scott Thomas. It wasn’t the first time Thomas expressed dislike for a design decision. Purciel has taken the lead on the business’ marketing from the get-go, seldom developing concepts that worked for Thomas. But the Dude IPA label struck enough of a nerve that Thomas backed away from the business completely (despite the fact that, according to Purciel, Line 64 of their partnership agreement says there will be a beer with his likeness on it). It wasn’t until February of 2015 that he came back in the picture, virtually at least, sending an email from him and his wife to Purciel. According to its addressee, it stated the following:
“We (Scott Thomas and Dawn Thomas) believe in OAW but we do not have the passion. Our energies need to be focused on our children. We truly feel that stepping out of the business completely will give you the autonomy to do things.”
Upon receipt of this email, Purciel says he offered to buy the Thomases out at a sum that was more than three times their initial investment. Thomas called it insulting and proceeded to file a lawsuit against Purciel in December of that year. In the two years that have followed, Purciel says no buyout negotiations have been initiated by the Thomases or their lawyer, though that is what he’s wanted to focus on from the start. It came to the point where he felt his only choice was to close down the business, dissolve the partnership and move on to the next chapter. Given that Purciel owns the building in which OAW was housed, as well as a portion of the brewery equipment, he feels it will be relatively simple to let some necessary time pass then reopen, most likely under an entirely new name. That moniker may turn out to be Irrational Ales, as Purciel (a former math teacher of 17 years) already holds a trademark on it. He is currently in the process of selling assets, and has already selected a IDD Process & Packaging HEBS (high efficiency brewing system) brewhouse to usher him into the next chapter of his brewing career.
While the rest of the country waits for summer, San Diegans get a leg up on the season thanks to eternal sunshine. Take advantage of this benefit of Southern California residence by getting out ad drinking in local beer at any of the many events taking place in June. Start with the following featured happenings, then check out even more on our events page.
June 1 | Beer to the Rescue Extra Innings: So you missed the 43 May events raising funds for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California via sales of special beers from local breweries? No problem. There’s one more bonus event with charity beers from Bay City Brewing, Mason Ale Works, Nickel Beer and Resident Brewing plus lip-smacking, rib-sticking barbecue fare! | West Coast BBQ & Brew, 6126 Lake Murray Boulevard, La Mesa, 5 p.m.
June 3 | Pink Boots 10th Anniversary Beer Festival: The Pink Boots Society is celebrating a decade of promoting the inclusion and importance of women in the brewing industry with a great big beer festival featuring a bevy of breweries bringing their A-game—including numerous beers brewed by PBS members—in honor of the great work and impact of this fine organization. | Ingram Plaza at Liberty Station, 2751 Dewey Road, Point Loma, 12 p.m.
June 10 | 3rd Anniversary Party: Council Brewing Company is going big with its anniversary festivities, breaking out a beer list 50-plus strong. More than 30 of those brews will be barrel-aged. They’ll also debut an 11.2% ABV biere de miel (a bubbly, honey-infused French-style farmhouse ale) in corked, caged bottles during a celebratory toast taking place at 1:30 p.m. | Council Brewing Company, 7705 Convoy Court, Kearny Mesa; VIP: 11 a.m., General Admission: 12 p.m.
June 16-18 | San Diego International Beer Festival: The San Diego County Fair’s salute to suds is our region’s largest annual beer festival. Start the day with funnel cakes, carnival rides and jacuzzi shopping, then get your fill of unlimited samples of beers from all over the world, many of which took home awards in the competition component of this grand-scale summertime stalwart. | Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, Times Vary
June 24 | SOCIETE 5: This two-phased beer festival and multi-coursed feast has been sold out for months. So why is it listed here? Because Societe Brewing rarely debuts new draft offerings, but they’ll tap four at this event and all of them will be available to the public the next day. If you’re going, great. If not, no biggie. Those beers will taste just as good on Sunday! | Societe Brewing Company, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa, 1 p.m.
Winners of the San Diego International Beer Festival’s professional brewing competition were released today. A component of the San Diego County Fair’s annual festivities, the competition included entries from across the globe judged by professional beer judges and Southern California brewing professionals in late-April. A total of 68 medals were awarded to San Diego-based breweries. Of that number, 23 were gold, 21 were silver and 24 were bronze.
San Diego breweries won all three medals in eight categories: American-style Red/Amber Ale, Bitter, Bold Stout, Brett and Other Sour Beer, German-style Ale, German-style Weiss, Imperial Stout and Pilsener. Miramar-based AleSmith Brewing Company once again took home Champion Brewery honors behind three medals—a gold and silver in the same category (one of which was awarded to a Scotch ale) and a gold in the Barley Wine category.
The most local medals went to Pizza Port. That brewpub’s Carlsbad brewpub also won a gold and two silvers. Its Ocean Beach arm won two (one gold, one bronze) and Bressi Ranch production brewery earned a silver. The most medals awarded to a single brewery went to San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company and less-than-a-year-old North Park interest Eppig Brewing. Both of those companies earned a gold, silver and two bronzes. San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey and South Park Brewing Company earned three medals apiece, as well. Also impressive was Rip Current winning two of three medals in the German-style Bock category.
The following is a complete list of the winners from this years SDIBF…
The three-day public beer-fest portion of the SDIBF will take place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. Tickets and information can be found online.
Many local breweries lend their skill and effort to charities, but it takes an nth-level degree of devotion to make a cause the crux of a brewing company’s entire identity. But that’s how deeply engrained Greg Littrell’s and Katie Earle’s shared love of rescuing dogs is. In fact, it’s how they met ten years ago when Littrell adopted dachshunds from Earle’s rescue. During that transaction, they discovered that they had more in common than canines, namely a love of beer and brewing. Fast-forward and the duo is in the process of opening a boutique operation called Barrel Rescue Brewing Company (8125 Ronson Road, Suite F, Kearny Mesa).
Last week, Littrell and Earle signed the lease on a 2,000-square-foot space in which to install a projected seven-barrel brewhouse which they intend to acquire from an existing local brewery looking to up its capacity, 300 oak barrels and a tasting room. Like the output of most of its beers, the tasting room will be very tiny—likely a mere 500 square feet (though an outdoor patio is planned to provide patrons extra space). If all goes as planned, the interior will feature canvas-wrap wall art of dogs available for adoption from various San Diego rescue groups.
Additionally, Barrel Rescue’s brews will be named after some of their four-legged friends. A Belgian golden ale built for barrel-aging will bear the name of Nellie, a dachshund Katie rescued from a puppy mill, and a blueberry sour will be called Rainbow Blueberry Frost after the first deaf dog she rescued. Additionally, there will be a line of Brettanomyces-fermented beers will be called the Goldilocks Series: Papa Brett, Mama Brett and Baby Brett (though they’ve never had pups named Goldilocks or Brett).
In reading that last paragraph, astute imbibers will notice that every beer mentioned falls in the sour or wild category. As the business’ name implies, this will be Barrel Rescue’s bailiwick. There will be year-round beers, but Littrell and Earle are all about crafting “true” barrel-aged sour beers aged at least a year before blending or fruiting. They aim to produce lambics, gueuzes and fruited sour ales. The latter will incorporate more typical fruits such as cherries, raspberries and apricots, as well as lesser utilized edibles such as apples and Meyer lemons.
Littrell and Earle will both handle brewing, extending on four years spent brewing sour beers as a tandem. They started with two used barrels from San Marcos’ The Lost Abbey, followed by a quartet of oak receptacles from a local winery. From there, they entered some of their ales into local competitions, garnering awards and positive feedback. Earle also won an internal homebrewing contest while working at Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (she now works at The Lost Abbey Confessional in Cardiff), which led to the commercial brewing of Home Brew Mart Homework Series #5, a hoppy Belgian-style pale ale. That beer recently took silver at last weekend’s San Diego International Beer Festival. Still, one of the most rewarding moments of their time on the tart side was when a friend of theirs took a bottle of their framboise to Belgium’s lambic mecca, Cantillon, and were told the brewer they shared it with refused to believe it was a homebrew creation.
A number of Barrel Rescue beers are already resting in oak. Littrell and Earle used homebrewer Jeff Swem‘s home brew system (which readers may have seen on the cover of the June issue of West Coaster) to brew the base beers. As soon as their brewhouse is installed, the duo plan to get to work immediately brewing up beers and transferring them to barrels to begin the aging process. Still, they report it will be at least a year before the business opens. Even when that happens, beer will be rather scarce. They liken it to a boutique winery producing very minute vintages. Once a year, they will offer up limited-release bottles of their barrel-aged stock and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
In selecting Kearny Mesa, not only did Littrell and Earle pick a community with a burgeoning beer scene and breweries they share the sour bug with, they also inherited built-in comrades who have already been exceptionally helpful to them, lending advice throughout the early stages of Barrel Rescue’s life. Among them are Douglas Constantiner and Travis Smith of Societe Brewing Company, Liz and Curtis Chism of Council Brewing Company, and Tom and Lindsey Nickel of O’Brien’s Pub. But who wouldn’t want to help an operation that will not only rescue dogs in need, but as Earle puts it, “rescue barrels from the horrible fate of becoming planters sold at Dixieline.”