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.
Brewery owners come up with names for their businesses in a variety of ways. For Darrel Brown it was happening upon an old photo of his dad dressed in “’80’s cool guy attire”—a tight t-shirt, trucker cap and corduroy short shorts with Aviator sunglasses and a cop mustache (to be fair, pops was a rookie cop when that pic was snapped). Finding the humor in that image, Brown’s dad said he should go undercover as “Lance Savagewood.” As soon as he heard it, Brown, a homebrewer since 2014, knew his someday fermentation operation would go by that fictitious surname. So far, that’s the most concrete part of Savagewood Brewing, but if all goes as planned, many other aspects of the business will be chiseled into certainties in the next few months.
Brown has set his sights on the north-inland San Diego community of Rancho Bernardo. He sees it as an underserved area with demographics that align with his company’s goals. Currently, the neighborhood is home to a single brewery, Abnormal Beer Company, which is located inside The Cork and Craft restaurant (which also houses a winery), and Second Chance Beer Company resides in bordering Carmel Mountain Ranch to the south, but there is certainly room for more homegrown beer in RB. Brown hopes to sign on a spot and begin construction of a brewery and family-friendly tasting room by fall. His current project team consists of CLTVT, Hauck Architecture and The Craft Beer Attorney (which last week joined forces with San Diego-based law firm Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP).
Early on, Brown will be responsible for brewing and business operations. He has a good deal of experience with the latter. He is currently a vice president of operations for a large data and technology company and has run his own businesses in the past. Once open, he plans on hiring an assistant brewer to help produce a line of beers that, like the company’s name, is already carved in…wood? They include WhIPA it Good white India pale ale (IPA), $500 Millionaire session IPA, Poppa’s Amber Ale, Sugar Daddy’s Brown Ale, Sunshine Tax West Coast pale ale, Orphic black IPA, Big Fat Dad wee heavy and Exquisite Blonde, a blonde ale that has won awards on the homebrew competition circuit and will be offered with various fruit additions.
Brown intends to start out with a 10-barrel brewhouse and aim for production of 2,000 barrels of beer annually, with its best-selling beers being packaged in cans and bottle releases of specialty or seasonal offerings. But the main focus will be at Savagewood’s taproom, which he hopes becomes an enjoyable neighborhood hangout. Distribution of packaged beer will be limited to accounts located in or near Savagewood’s home base.