black and white picture of thorn street brewery that looks spooky and haunted

The Haunted Brewery and Four Other Spooky San Diego Spots

Halloween is almost here, and for many, that means candy, costumes and haunted houses. Now, we aren’t talking about the overpriced and under-scary haunted houses that pop up in towns before the big holiday. But what about a haunted brewery? Here at Thorn Street, we have known we were the place of ghostly unrest for quite some time. Whether it’s the flickering lights that can be experienced in our front tasting room, or the moving of objects to weird places (the sales guys swear it’s not them), the TSB ghost seems to be having a lot of fun.

Thorn Street Brewery isn’t the only haunted place in San Diego, however. There are plenty of spooky spots for any ghost hunter to visit if they are so inclined. Here’s our list of some real haunted places that you can make a visit to and experience for yourself.

1. The Whaley House

a bedroom in the whaley house showing what many think is a ghost in the corner. a bright flash of light

The Whaley House is considered the #1 most haunted place in the United States. Apparently, a young woman named Violet Whaley shot herself in the chest after being ostracized for her recent divorce. Also, the house was built on the site of the old courthouse, which was a favorite spot to hang people. Unexplained sounds, spots, mists and shadows are reported here and they even have a large photo album of pictures of what some people consider spirits/orbs. To the uninitiated, it looks like people had trouble in the processing phase of their photos so it would be interesting to see if the pictures keep coming after the popularity of digital cameras took over.

2. Hotel Del Coronado

This famous hotel is haunted by the ghost of a 24 year old woman, Kate Morgan. Apparently in 1892 she was stood up by her estranged husband and after a few days of waiting for him, she shot herself on the steps of the hotel. Now, she haunts the Del where people have reported hearing strange noises and feeling chills, along with sightings of her at the ends of dark hallways dressed in black lace. Not only can you stay in her room, 3502, but it’s one of the most popular rooms at the resort, so book early. Tons of paranormal activity has been found in the room too, with more than 37 abnormal readings taken in a single day by parapsychologists.

3. Del Mar Race Track

These ghosts aren’t hanging at the Del Mar Race Track because they were killed there. These ghosts are supposedly haunting the track because they had so much fun there while they were still alive, they just couldn’t leave it in the afterlife. Long time employees and ghost hunters from Chula Vista are just a few of the people who think that the hollywood elite who used to party at Del Mar back in the day, are still partying there now. Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, and Oliver Hardy are just a few of the famous faces thought to still haunt the hallways. Want to judge for yourself? Here is the video thought to be some of the most compelling paranormal video around. Look for a dark mass move from the left of the screen to the right of the screen with a sudden pop of light on the right at 24 seconds. They say that where the light came from is a dark hallway, not somewhere one could see oncoming lights or something like that. Spooky!

4. El Cortez

The historic El Cortez building in downtown San Diego, used to be a flashy hotel that hosted celebrities, politicians and presidents during its heyday in the 1930s. Then it fell into disrepair and became a haven for drug addicts and homeless people. When it was renovated into a trendy apartment building in 2002, the real estate companies are rumored to have covered up the fact that they had to pull numerous bodies from some of the top floors. Ghost sightings include a little boy and a young mother who were said to have died there in the 1980s.

Happy Halloween from Thorn Street Brewery!





upclose of stone brewing's arrogant bastard ale in a brown bottle with red writing

What’s Behind the Stone Layoffs?

The San Diego craft beer community was shocked to hear that Stone Brewing recently laid off approximately 60 employees, amounting to 5% of their workforce. This is surprising, because up until this point, Stone appeared to be having a banner year. They went international, with the  opening of a brewery in Germany. They made it to the East coast when they opened a production facility and brewhouse in Richmond, Virginia. Additionally, they just got a bunch of press for their plans to open the first ever, craft beer hotel up in Escondido. So what’s going on?

A Word From Stone

Recently appointed Stone CEO, Dominic Engels, released a statement in the wake of the layoffs, explaining the issues the company is facing (bolded text is from Stone’s statement).

“Due to an unforeseen slowdown in our consistent growth and changes in the craft beer landscape, we have had to make the difficult decision to restructure our staff. Unfortunately, this comes despite a year that includes the incredible accomplishments of opening two new breweries, which are ultimately expanding the availability of Stone beers and boosting the reputation of American craft beer in Europe.”

“More recently however, the larger independent craft segment has developed tremendous pressures. Specifically, the onset of greater pressures from Big Beer as a result of their acquisition strategies, and the further proliferation of small, hyper-local breweries has slowed growth. With business and the market now less predictable, we must restructure to preserve a healthy future for our company. Even given this unfortunate circumstance, we will continue to be fiercely independent and, importantly, Stone remains one of the largest – if not the largest – employers in the craft brewing segment.”

“In summary, we want to emphasize the following points:
– This year, we completed several significant investments that have been in the works for a number of years.
– A recent decline in domestic growth for the category and for Stone has forced us to restructure in order to preserve our independence in an increasingly competitive category.
Stone remains one of the largest – if not the largest – employer in the craft beer segment and remains dedicated to providing our fans with fresh beer.”

Growing Pains

Growth in any company costs money and Stone has recently shelled out a lot of money in the name of growing their brand. Earlier this year, they opened their Berlin brewery to the tune of $25 million and their Virginia brewery is up and running after investing $75 million. With speculation from Stone insiders that these two new ventures have not created the expected revenue/sales, it would seem likely that one result would be the need to cut costs.

Competition from Big Beer and Little Beer

Interestingly enough, one of Engel’s points as to why they had a slow in revenue was the added pressure from big beer as well as little beer, or as he said, hyper-local breweries. Big beer has been buying up craft breweries right and left (which you can read more about here). Once these big guys have the craft beer in their “stable,” they can cut the prices of their kegs, making their craft beers more cost-effective for the bars and restaurants. Of course, this undercuts real craft breweries that deal with much smaller margins and budgets.

Engel also points to the competition from hyper-local breweries like us. No one can deny that Stone is one of the founding fathers of the San Diego craft beer industry. In 1997, they released Stone IPA into the world and it unquestionably has helped define the West Coast style of IPA. But now they face stiff competition from all of the up-and-coming breweries they helped pave the way for. And while Stone is impressive in its overall success and size, it also operates like a big company now. Smaller breweries can create new beers more quickly, try new things and innovate. They can do what they want with their small budgets, without the hinderance of red-tape or multi-layered management.

Craft Beer Sales Overall

Engel also mentioned craft beer sales slowing and he’s not wrong. Craft beer growth is slowing overall, with 2016 numbers so far seeing a only 6% increase YOY growth. That doesn’t seem bad, except it’s down from double-digits from the last number of years. This is partially because huge craft breweries, like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams, have reported lower numbers than expected for this point in the year they they carry a lot of weight in the industry. In July, Sam Adams shares were down 40% and ironically, they also said competition from smaller breweries as a contributing factor.

Craft beer is a tough business and it’s only getting more competitive. In the end, Stone will be just fine. They will continue to be pioneers in the industry. Their booth at the recent GABF was mobbed with people the whole weekend and their Berlin brewery is poised to help American craft beer take Europe by storm. But it does go to show you that even the most successful breweries are not immune to cash shortages or overestimating growth.

For more reading on big beer vs. craft beer check out our beer blog news section.


Big Beer neon beer signs in a window of a bar including Budweiser, bud light and millers

Big Beer Just Got Bigger

AB InBev/SABMiller Merger Closes

The two biggest beer companies in the world finalized their merger earlier this week to the tune of more than $100 Billion. Merger, acquisition, takeover…whatever you want to call it, AB InBev decided they wanted SABMiller and it’s now Facebook official. The merger was the 3rd largest in history and as a result, the new beer behemoth now controls 28% of the world’s beer.

How It Happened

When the merger was first announced, regulatory agencies around the world said, “nope,” and the two companies began shedding brands. First, U.S. Anti Trust regulators required SABMiller to sell its stake in MillerCoors to our friends to the North, Molson Coors. Then, European Union regulators demanded SABMiller sell off Peroni and Grolsch, which Asahi (Japan) picked up for a cool $2.76 billion. They also made them divest from other businesses in Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In Asia, SABMiller divested in Snow breweries, which is the highest selling beer brand in China. These moves only serve to slow AB InBev down though, it won’t stop them from their ever-evolving quest for marketshare.

Even with the regulatory agencies stepping in, AB InBev still has a 45% U.S. market share. This number grows with every craft brewery it consumes. Not that this merger really had anything to do with craft beer. This merger is about growth prospects in international markets and how AB InBev wanted SABMiller’s holdings in the incredibly fast, emerging beer markets in Africa and Latin America. Bottled beer sales per capita are still relatively low there and therefore have the greatest potential for growth.

U.S. Beer Growth

AB InBev knows the U.S. beer market has been stagnant for years, except for the craft beer industry. In 2015, overall beer sales fell .2% (which was an improvement over the 6% they fell between 2009-2013). Craft beer, on the other hand, has been growing by double digits. This is why AB InBev has been focusing their efforts on acquiring as many craft breweries as they can get their hands on. In a way, that’s what makes this recent quote from AB InBev CEO, so ominous. “As a truly global brewer, we will be able to achieve more together than each of us could separately.” Carlos Brito stated after the closing was announced. When they say “achieve more,” they really mean “gain market share” in countries, including here in the U.S. They seem to be intent on global beer domination, and so far, nothing has stood in their way.

Another Day, Another Fine

In fact, laws don’t even seem to stand in the way of AB InBev. Just as the news of the closing hit, AB InBev was getting a $6 million fine from the SEC for violating corruption rules and threatening a whistleblower. Of course, they are blaming their 3rd-party sales promoters for the issues, but this behavior goes right along with other fines that they have received in the past for similar infractions.

What it means for Craft Beer

This merger means that AB InBev is going to have even more power and money, making it harder to stop their steady march into craft beer territory. We do have one thing over them, however. They can’t, by definition, ever be craft beer. They can buy up as many craft breweries as they like, but those breweries are no long considered “craft” by the Brewers Association definitions as soon they do. This is why this definition is so important. It seems that AB InBev wants to take over craft beer from the inside out. They will continue to buy breweries and distributors until they own a majority marketshare of the craft beer industry.

That’s why it’s important to inform people about who owns and ultimately benefits from the money they spend. Do you want your dollars going to AB InBev, a company that has a serious issue with playing fair and a impressive ability to merge into bigger and bigger entities? Or do you want your money going to support diverse, independent craft brewers. People who drive innovation, interact with communities on a local level, and truly care about the product they are putting out.

A recent blog about the illusion of choice in the craft beer industry reported that, “In a June 2016 Nielsen survey, 63 percent of craft beer appreciators said that when purchasing beer in a bar or restaurant, knowing it was made by a small and independent brewer had some level of importance.”

Our hope is that by keeping people informed, this “level of importance” keeps rising.




picture of the huge crowd at gabf 2016

San Diego Wins Big at GABF 2016

GABF Wrap-Up

The 35th annual Great American Beer Fest was held this past weekend in Denver. The festival wrapped up Sunday, with brewers and brewery reps flying home, beer-soaked and probably more than a little hungover. With 1700 breweries pouring more than 7000 different beers, there was definitely a lot of beer to taste. We not only spent time at the festival on both Friday and Saturday, but also got to visit some breweries around the Denver area. Once again, San Diego breweries killed it at GABF, bringing home 18 medals as well as the prestigious title of Mid-Sized Brewing Company and Mid-Sized Brewer of the Year.

San Diego Brewery Medal Count

Gold Medals

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – Queen of Tarts, American-Style Sour Ale (Category 24)

Bagby Beer Co. – Sweet Ride, Bohemian-Style Pilsner (Category 41)

Rip Current Brewing Co. – Breakline Bock, Bock (Category 48)

BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. – Prospector Red Ale, American-Style Amber/Red Ale (Category 61)

Culture Brewing Co. – Brown, American-Style Brown Ale (Category 70)

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – Windandsea Wheat, South German-Style Hef (Category 74)

Second Chance Beer Co. – Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter, Robust Porter (Category 87)

Alesmith Brewing Co. – Old Numbskull, Barley Wine (Category 96)

Silver Medals

Duckfoot Brewing Co. – The Contender, Chili Beer (Category 8)

Benchmark Brewing Co. – Oatmeal Stout, Session Beer (Category 16)

BNS Brewing & Distilling Co.- Gatling Gun Imperial Stout, Imperial Stout (Cateogry 93)

Bronze Medals

New English Brewing Co. – Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, Coffee Beer (Category 12)

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – Liquid AC, English-Style Summer Ale

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – Mosaic Session IPA, Session IPA (Category 17)

Alpine Beer Co. – HFS, American-Style Strong Pale Ale, (Category 58)

Mother Earth Brew Co. – Mother Earth ESB, Extra Special Bitter (Category 66)

Pure Project – Roes Red, Lambic or Sour Ale (Category 81)

Societe Brewing Co. – The Volcanist, American-Style Stout (Category 90)

For a complete list of winners, check out this link.

Because Karl Strauss Brewing Co. cleaned up with 4 medals, they also won Mid-Sized Brewing Company and Mid-Sized Company Brewer of the year. There was a some drama round this award, however. Apparently, Karl Strauss mistakenly entered themselves into the category of Mid-Sized Brewpub of the year. Festival organizers caught the slip up, but not before naming a different brewery Mid-Sized Brewing Company of the year. Cleveland brewery, Fat Head Brewery and Saloon, celebrated their win before learning that Karl Strauss beat them out after they were entered into the correct category.

Thorn Street At GABF

Thorn Street Brewery had an great weekend. Although we didn’t bring home any medals, we got to hang out with some of the coolest beer people around. The festivals is fun, but it’s also exhausting. 60,000 people all moving through the huge convention center, making their way to different tables. We got to talk to a lot of craft beer lovers as well as taste our way through some outstanding beers. But we didn’t spend all of our time at the festival itself. We want to give a shout out to some of the Denver breweries and bars that were kind enough to put up with our crew. Back Project, TRVE, Baere Brewing, Prost, Falling Rock, Ratio Brewing, Crooked Stave and Avery Brewing Co. were just a few that we visited, with a special apology for shenanigans going to the good people at Avery Brewing Co. 😉


Hanging at Baere Brewing

guys drinking beer at avery brewing

Avery Brewing Co. Pre-Shenanigans

Tony and Terry, our GABF contest winners had a great time too. They attended the festival on Friday night, tasting away. Tony said he really liked tasting all of the specialty beers that were offered at the festival. We are going to be making this GABF Giveaway a yearly tradition, so make sure you sign up for our email list here for a chance to win our next giveaway!

We are already look forward to GABF next year. We are awaiting the judging notes from the beers we entered and will be planning and getting ready for the beers we will be sending in 2017!

For more general info on GABF, check out our recent blog on the topic.

picture of beer festival in downtown san diego

Beer Festivals: Inside the Industry

Beer Festivals: Inside the Industry

It’s a beautiful, sunny, Saturday in San Diego and you have just paid $50 for all-you-can-drink of your favorite local beers at an outdoor beer festival. Along with unlimited tastes of beer, you are treated to live music and entertainment. The best part is that the fest benefits a charity! Everyone’s a winner, right?

Craft breweries, like any businesses, are often asked to give donations. Whether schools are in need of a monetary donations, local charities need a place to hold a fundraiser or beer donations are requested for fundraising at their own event, most craft breweries are happy help out, and look forward to being active in their local communities.

One type of donation that breweries are asked for is beer donations to festivals where there is a charity benefiting from the proceeds. Beer festivals are a lot of fun to attend, but make no mistake, they are quite lucrative too. While it’s cool that festival organizers are generous enough to give a portion of their proceeds to a charity, most festivals need charities to be attached in order for them to get the one-day, ABC permit needed to serve beer at the festival location.

Furthermore, all fests are not created equal. When it comes to picking and choosing which festivals to participate in, we look at a lot of different factors: Who is putting on the fest? Who is benefiting from the proceeds and do we know how much money is being donated? Are the festivals buying the beer or asking for it to be donated? Some festivals are put on by the charitable organizations they are benefiting (like Adams Ave Street Fair, North Park Fest of the Arts, SD Zoo Food and Wine Fest), some are put on by the SD Brewers Guild (a non-profit), while others are put on by companies who make festival organizing their business model.

San Diego is home to some huge beer festivals in that third category, including ones that draw thousands of attendees like Best Coast Beer Fest, Heroes Fest, Mission Valley Beer Fest, San Diego Brew Fest, San Diego Winter Brew Fest and more. While many of these festivals ask for beer donations some of them pay the breweries for the beer needed to hold the event.

This got us thinking, how is it that some of these beer festivals manage to pay for the beer while still turning a profit and donating to their charity of choice while others ask for the beer to be donated?

Breaking Down Festival Numbers

Based upon past festivals we have attended, it seems like the average festival has 50 breweries representing and pouring their beer. On average, 2500 people attend any one beer fest with some being much bigger (Best Coast Beer Fest expects 6,500 to attend this coming March and offers 80 breweries for example) and some smaller. Most fest tickets cost about $50, give or take $10. Kegs are all different, but an average keg costs $180 from craft breweries like TSB. So, 50 breweries donating 2 kegs each at $180 should mean that the festival receives about $18,000 in donated product. If 2500 people attend a fest at $50 each, the total gross for that fest is around $125,000.

Even if half of the gross went to putting the event on, which would be on the high end, there is more than $60k left over for the charity and for the festival organizers. Most craft breweries are not flush with cash. We are local businesses with small margins and tight budgets and often put every penny back into the brewery. While donating $360 worth of product (plus the cost of staffing the event at about $100 per fest), doesn’t seem like a crazy amount, when we are asked to do it 20 times in a year, it can really add up.

Isn’t it a Write-Off Anyway?

While we can write-off the amount it cost us to make the keg of beer, we can’t write-off the amount we would sell the keg for if the festival was buying the beer (still at wholesale cost). Furthermore, most of these festivals are lacking in transparency as to how much money they actually donate to the charity. Legally, that information has to be available somewhere, but it certainly isn’t easy to find. We don’t really know if festivals are giving $1000 or $10,000 to the charity. Festivals where all proceeds go to the charity are much less common, and we are always happy to donate to those.

Beer festivals are a good time and we enjoy working them, but why can’t breweries get paid for the product they provide if the company running the festival is making a profit beyond what they donate to the charity?

The Solution

So what can breweries do? One option is that we can stop donating to these types of “for profit” festivals asking for donations and only participate in ones that pay for the beer. San Diego Beer Fest, which does two festivals per year and the San Diego Winter Brew Fest (in Balboa Park), are just two of the festivals that pay breweries for beer and low and behold, they still turn a good profit while donating to their cause. Another option would be to ask the festivals who want the beer donated to pay for the beer and we would, in turn, donate the dollar amount of the kegs directly to the charity. Not only would this give a lot more money to the charity, but breweries could write off the full amount of the donation rather than just the cost of making the beer and the festivals would still make a good profit.

Maybe San Diego breweries need to band together like they have in Kansas City, Nashville, and Chicago, to say we won’t donate to “for profit” beer fests anymore. We would be happy to participate if they pay for our beer, but it seems ludicrous to give it away to these companies who are turning a large profit by organizing the festival.






girl in red shirt pouring beer into a taster glass at the GABF

GABF…Here we come!

GABF…Here we come!

Denver better be ready for a massive influx of of beer, beards and breweries, because this weekend marks one of the most exciting craft beer events of the year. The Great American Beer Festival, also known as GABF, is the ultimate craft beer weekend with more than 3,800 different beers being poured by 780 breweries and attendance expecting to top 60,000.

hundreds of beer festival attendees at the great american beer fest

Luckily, Denver is ready and waiting. Now that the festival is in its 10th year, it sells out within an hour of offering up tickets to the public and is buoyed by more than 200 local events leading up to this beer-soaked weekend. No ticket? No problem, because tons of people travel to Denver this weekend and enjoy events without tickets to the fest at all. Eater Denver recently outlined 10 must-attend events that don’t require a GABF tickets including high-end beer dinners, a barrel aged beer competition and an annual Beer Drinker of the Year contest where the winner can win free beer for life at Wynkoop Brewery. Joining all of our brewers and sales team this year are the winners of our first ever GABF giveaway, Toni and Terri! We couldn’t be more excited to share the experience with them and look to hear from them about their take on the fest in a future blog piece.

The Competition

GABF is not only the ultimate tasting experience for attendees, but it’s also one of the most prestigious beer competitions in the nation. The World Beer Cup is the only beer competition that holds a candle to the GABF here in the states, though it’s every other year and includes international breweries. A medal at GABF is a huge accomplishment for any brewery, yet San Diego breweries cleaned up at last year’s competition. We are so proud of our SD homies who took home a cool 14 medals last year and our North Park tasting room neighbor, Rip Current, even won Very Small Brewing Company and Very Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.


Our Beer Entries

Like all the breweries competing this year, TSB is hoping for a medal while also enjoying the opportunity to hang out with like-minded beer geeks. We sent off samples of our beers to be judged by their panel and will wait for the results at the awards ceremony on Saturday morning. We entered five beers into the competition; North Park Pale Ale, Smuggler’s Cove Agave Amber, Foreplay Belgian Blonde, Barrel Aged Dark Tsar and a special, American Brett Saison made with peaches, called Joe Pesch Brett. A lot goes into deciding which beer to send and what category to enter it in, but ultimately, we are really happy with the beers that we sent.


Good Vibes from Denver

We were recently featured in a write-up from the Denver Post as one of the Top Beer Picks from the Pacific Region. Here’s what they had to say…

On a recent weekend spent in the beer-Nirvana of San Diego, we hit the big names veterans like AleSmith, the beer-geek favorites like Societe, and the up-and-coming hot spots like Council Brewing, but the beer that left the most lasting impression on me was from a tiny neighborhood spot that I hadn’t heard of. After a couple days of pummeling my palate with IPAs, inky imperial stouts and acidic sour beers, it was the simple pils and a session IPA from Thorn Street Brewery that I remember most fondly. The latter brew was so sticky and dank it made my eyes water, and I couldn’t get enough.”

We will be live streaming the awards from TSB this Saturday at 10 am at the brewery. So, wish us luck this weekend, and look for our blog piece next week with the wrap-up from the festival.