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.
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.
With three companies building out breweries within its confines, CRAFT by Brewery Igniter (3052 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park) has provided me a great deal of material for my beer-writings. It will eventually be the only place in all of San Diego County where one can visit three breweries in one fell swoop. But before that can happen, those businesses need to open. The first to do so will be Eppig Brewing Company, the soft-opening for which will take place this Wednesday, November 2. Following Wednesday’s debut, Eppig will be open during limited hours seven-days-a-week.
Last week, I had the opportunity to check out Eppig’s recently completed tasting-room and check out its first five beers. Often, pre-open beer tastings turn up multiple beers that could use some work—often by the admission of the brewers themselves—but Eppig’s brewer duo of Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc (hailing from Ballast Point Brewing’s Little Italy and Scripps Ranch breweries, respectively) are rather happy with their initial offerings. And so was I.
Despite the fact they are brewing in an environment that requires a bit of process-ingenuity and implementation of “Jenga-like” shifting of hoses and other equipment, they have put together a solid line-up of traditional lagers (referred to as “Natural Bridge” beers) and New World creations that I look forward to returning to. The following are my initial impressions of each…
The next beer to hit the menu will be a single IPA called “Factory of Dreams” in reference to a nearby business on El Cajon Boulevard. Similarly, the aforementioned “Glitz & Glam” shares its name with the Friday night show performed at Eppig’s next-door neighbor biz, Lips. The entire Eppig team says their neighbors have been extremely friendly and supportive, and they’re as pleased as can be about being a part of the community developer H.G. Fenton selected for CRAFT.
One thing that makes Eppig different from its fellow CRAFT tenants, Pariah Brewing Company and San Diego Brewing Company, is the addition of a small pilot-system that will be used for experimenting with new recipes before ramping them up to full-batch production. Working on developmental brews in this manner is old-hat for Stephens, who completed roughly 350 brews on Ballast Point’s (much larger) pilot-system over a three-year span. Doing so lent him great experience with a vast array of ingredients from suppliers the world over, knowledge he and LeBlanc put to use at their new stomping grounds.
Having seen the undeniable impact and growth of the local brewing industry, local colleges have developed craft beer curriculums covering the science and business of opening a brewery. The first to do so was the University of California, San Diego with the UCSD Extension Brewing Certificate program, and the first graduate to open his own brewery was Ed O’Sullivan with the 2014 debut of O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company in Scripps Ranch. A year into the business of brewing, O’Sullivan has put much of his instructors’ teachings to use and even joined the faculty fold. We dropped in on him to find out more about the program and what it—and his brewery—have to offer the beer curious masses.
How was the UCSD program helpful in founding and operating your brewery?
Ed O’Sullivan: I think we’re the ultimate experiment because we studied under the masters of the craft and implemented what was taught in the program. I mean, I was a sponge for knowledge and we were quite literal in putting things in place that they recommended. I didn’t have commercial brewing experience coming into the program, so it was extremely helpful to have the advice and counsel of experts who could assist me in the planning, construction and operational start-up phases of the brewery. As a molecular biologist, I was able to understand a lot of science behind brewing and fermentation, but I had no experience with HVAC, filtration, PLC controls, tanks and pressures, CIP, cleaning chemicals and so on. But the feedback I got was very relevant and succinct. I put everything I learned into practice from the layout of the brewery to our brewing fermentation equipment to our lab, quality control program and more. Our beer is being well received and, after just nine months of operation, we were awarded two silver medals at this summer’s San Diego International Beer Competition. I owe a lot of our success to what the instructors passed on.
Who were some of the instructors you learned from?
EOS: The cool thing is that the instructors I learned from were Mitch Steele (brewmaster, Stone Brewing Co.), Lee Chase (brewmaster, Automatic Brewing Co.), Chris White (owner, White Labs), Gwen Conley (QA director, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey/The Hop Concept), Peter Zien (brewmaster, AleSmith Brewing Co.), Yuseff Cherney (brewmaster, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits), Arlan Arnsten (former sales VP, Stone), Tomme Arthur (director of brewery operations, Port/Lost Abbey/Hop Concept), Patrick Rue (brewmaster, The Bruery), Matt Brynildson (brewmaster, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.) and a host of other great instructors. I remember Yuseff telling me, “It’s not fair. It took me 20 years to figure some of this stuff out and you guys are getting it all in a few months.” I bristle with pride whenever I get a visit from one of the instructors.
And now you’re one of those instructors, right?
EOS: After I got the brewery up and running, the folks at UCSD asked me if I might be interested in teaching a class based on my experiences building a new brewery. Now I teach a class called The Brewery Start Up, which is one segment of a three-part class called The Business of Craft Beer. Peter Zien and Candace Moon (the Craft Beer Attorney) teach the other two segments. It seems like the program has now gone full-circle.
Who are some other graduates of note from the program?
EOS: You’ll see a lot of UCSD brewing graduates at many of the larger local breweries. Ballast Point, Stone and The Lost Abbey scooped up a lot of my classmates. O’Sullivan Bros. has also been fortunate to attract a number of graduates of the program. Currently, four out of six of us either graduated or are in the process of completing their Professional Brewers Certificate at the brewery today. We’ve been hosting interns from the program as well. We are on our third at the moment. I think our brewery tends to be attractive to graduates, especially if they are technical or science-oriented (aka, beer nerds). We not only have the brewery, but the lab with a bunch of equipment for testing and experimenting. We also have seven fermenters, so we can make a lot of different beers and keep everyone’s interest piqued for new brews, so there’s something for everyone.
What’s new with O’Sullivan Bros. and what’s next for the business?
EOS: We just finished our first year. It was a heck of a year and the result was 16 new beers, two silver medals, 60-plus retailers and a bunch of great tasting room customers. We just released our first lager, a nice California common called Steady Lad, that’s about to be followed by a new Bohemian Pilsner called Tooraloo (Irish lullaby). The brewery is nearing its maximum capacity and at our current size we’re only able to supply a select few. So, we are seriously looking at ways we can expand to keep up with growing demand.