green hop on the vine

Let’s Talk About Hops

Hops, Hops and More Hops

Every year in the late summer, hop farms around the world literally reap what they have sown when they harvest their vivid, green, hop crops. While most hops are grown in the U.S. and Europe, Brewbound reports that this year marked the second year where more hops were grown in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world…sorry, Germany! Furthermore, while just planting more acres of crops won’t necessarily lead to better harvests, this year’s crops were stellar, putting out quantity along with quality of flavor profile and aroma.

All About the Hops

Still wondering what a hop is, exactly? It’s a beautiful, green, climbing vine (or bine, a vine without tendrils) that produces a delicate flower. This flower or cone is full of resins that give beer flavors, aroma and act as a preservative. When they are added at the start of the brewing process they give the beer bitterness (IBUs), but then added at the end they give the beer a bright, hoppy aroma. For a place like San Diego that loves hoppy beers as much as we do, hops are king. With hops coming mostly from the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, Austrailia, and Japan, there is truly a wide variety available. Looking at info from 2013, the most popular hops varieties, in order, were Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, CTZ, Simcoe, Amarillo, Crystal, Willamette, CZ-Saaz, and US Golding.

U.S. Hop Production

There are more hops planted in the U.S. now than at any other time. In fact, hop production has grown by a full 50% since 2012. This year, the U.S. planted more hops than Germany (where the bulk of European hops are grown) with a record 52, 962 acres planted and 91.8 million pounds of hops harvested this year. U.S. hops include all the “Cs,” aka Cascade, Citra, Columbus and Chinook along with breweries favorites like Amarillo and Simcoe. Most of the U.S. hops are grown in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

While most of the hops are grown between the 35th and 50th parallels, it doesn’t mean that San Diego (32nd) doesn’t get in on the action too. Several varieties are grown on San Diego farms such as Glacier, Horizon, Cascade, and Chinook.

Hops take 3 years to reach their maturity, so farms offer up hop contracts to breweries that go years out so that there is stability within the industry and hops are a guaranteed source for a brewery.

Proprietary Hops

If you have never heard of a proprietary hop, then you are like most people. Proprietary hops include Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra, Warrier, CTZ and Ahtanum.  This means the owner of the “invented” hops charge growers and suppliers a licensing fee or royalty payment to grow these styles. Although this makes these hops more expensive, it hasn’t stopped them from becoming some of the most popular hops to use at a brewery. Other hops cost more for different reasons. Nelson and Galaxy hops are not proprietary but they cost more because they are limited by geographic location (NZ and AU) as well as total yield. Hops from this region are known for adding flavors of tropical fruit, berries and lemon pepper to the brew.

What’s really neat is that there are lots of experimental hops being planted right now too. Hopsteiner, a farm in the Yakima Valley is working on hops that taste like creamsicles (orange and vanilla) and a variety that tastes like strawberry jam and red licorice.

One of the great things about the craft beer community is that if a brewery is running low on a specific hop that they need for a brew, often times, they can trade hops with another local brewery to get what is needed for the recipe. So let’s celebrate the amazing year that U.S. hops is having with a pint of something hoppy!



sun solar panels on top of the roof of TSB

Beer from the Sun

Beer from the Sun

We are excited to announce that Thorn Street Brewery is officially solar powered! While this has been in the works for a while, we are super pumped to be able to take another step in the “green direction.” The guys from Efficient Solar Services hooked us up with top-of-the-line panels that now sit atop our North Park roof, taking in all of the love from the sun.

How Solar Power Works

If you had previously asked us how solar power works, we probably would have said, “magic?” But after some quick googling, the easiest breakdown came from an article called “How Solar Panels Work: A Guide for Dummies.” 

“Put simply, a solar cell works like this: Inside a solar cell, you have two wafer-thin layers of silicon crystal, placed on top of each other to make a sort of silicon sandwich. The top layer has been specially treated so that its atoms are unstable — they have one too many electrons that they would really like to get rid of. The bottom layer has also been treated, but this time the atoms have a few empty spaces that could really do with an electron to fill them. So the top layer is desperate to lose a few electrons, the bottom layer is desperate to gain a few electrons, and the electrons themselves are itching to move from the top layer to the bottom. This setup puts everything is in place for electricity to be produced. There is just one problem: the electrons within silicon crystal can’t move around freely — not until the solar panel is exposed to light. When sunlight hits the top silicon layer, it ‘excites’ the electrons and gives them enough energy to move. The electrons begin to flow from the top layer to the bottom. And as we know, when a bunch of electrons start to move along in the same direction, we have electricity.”

Sunny Benefits

The benefits of going solar for TSB were twofold. First, we get to reduce our monthly expenses by cutting out the entire brewery bill to SDG&E. That’s right, all brewery operations are running on solar power! By reducing our monthly spending we can reinvest more back into our beer. Just as exciting, though, is the fact that we are making strides in reducing our environmental footprint by using clean, renewable energy.

Sharing is Caring

Another way we work to positively impact our environment is through donating our spent grains. People used to say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and it’s definitely the case with spent grains. Luckily, at Stehly Farms in Valley Center, they need the spent grains to feed their livestock and are more than happy to come and pick up what is considered waste to us. Our brewers love to see these guys coming because they always drop by some delicious, organic fruits and vegetables for the staff too.

So here’s to being green! You can now enjoy our beer being made by clean, renewable energy that also happens to help our bottom line, making sure that TSB will be here for years to come making delicious beer from the sun.



russian Imperial Family sitting for a photograph in black and white

The Royal Beginnings of Imperial Beer

Imperial Ales have been popping up on beer menus across the U.S. with more and more frequency. One question we get asked a lot here at Thorn Street is, “What’s an imperial beer?” Whether you are ordering an imperial stout, an imperial IPA or an imperial red ale, it all means one thing: more. More hops, more malt and more ABV. Before we get into exactly what this beer style is, let’s take a look at where it all began.

Peter The Great Big Lush

Imperial style beers came into this world after a trip that Russian Czar, Peter the Great, took to England in 1698. He fell in love with the roasted, malty quality of the Porters that were popular in London at the time and decided he couldn’t live without it. After he returned to Russia, he sent for some porter to be shipped to the Russian Imperial Court, but by the time the beer arrived, it had spoiled. Never ones to give up, London brewers decided to up the hops and ABV in the next barrels of beer they sent over in the hopes that they would keep over the 1000 mile voyage.

Thankfully, it worked and the beer arrived in Russia in all its dark and complex glory. The beer was an immediate sensation in the Russian Imperial Court, which is how it became known as ‘Imperial Russian Stout.’ Stout, at the time, was just a stronger style of porter, hence the use of the term in the naming of this style of beer.

San Diego-Style Imperials

While the imperial style started out as a porter, the craft brew renaissance has brought about imperial versions of almost every style. Perhaps the most common style here in San Diego is the imperial IPA. From Green Flash’s West Coast IIPA to Alpine’s Pure Hoppiness, San Diego breweries have helped to define what an imperial IPA is.  Here at TSB, we have our own imperial IPA called The Menace, which truly is a menace in that it’s an incredibly easy to drink 10% beer. We also have a Russian Imperial Stout, called Dark Tsar that is 10.4% and Alpenglow, an Imperial red ale which won a silver medal at the World Beer Cup in 2016.

Imperials vs. Doubles

Another question we get a lot here at TSB is, “Are imperial ales and doubles the same thing?” The answer is yes, double and even triple IPAs are simply ways to say “more hops, more malts, and more alcohol.” The terms are pretty interchangeable, though double/triple is most often used in terms of IPAs here in the states. Furthermore, the U.S. craft beer movement is heavily influenced by Belgian beer where there are dubbels, trippels, and quads. They also refer to the beer being a bigger version itself, with more hops, malts, and increased ABV. Their origins, like most beer history, are somewhat murky but one theory is that it has to do with Trappist Monks marking two, three and four X’s on a bottle of beer to denote how strong it was and what number of beer it was that they made of a series.

So now you guys don’t have to wonder! Imperial IPAs are the same as double IPAs and it’s all thanks to Peter the Great…or is it the Trappist Monks? One thing is for certain, beer has a rich and complex history, much like the taste of a delicious Russian Imperial Stout.

a choice of 5 different beers

A Matter of Choice

A Matter of Choice

With the recent reports that craft beer sales are slowing, many are left wondering if the golden bubble is finally bursting. No industry could keep the year over year growth that craft beer has seen these last ten years. If you look closer at the numbers, the picture becomes a bit clearer as to why sales numbers are down from what they were projected to be, based on previous years. Here’s the numbers from 2015, and while 12.8% growth is nothing to sneeze at, that number is down from 18% volume growth in 2014. Recent reports from the biggest craft breweries like Samuel Adams, Craft Beer Alliance, and New Belgium show less-than-projected growth for the 2016 year.

chart showing craft beer growth for 2015

Too Much Choice?

Ironically, even AB InBev has an opinion on the recent slowdown of craft beer growth. CEO Carlos Britos was explaining the beer giant’s less than expected growth in the 3rd quarter and remarked about the lower than expected numbers.

“Our customers are thinking, ‘how much more of an assortment can you carry?'” Brito said. Turning to consumers, Brito said they were “a bit tired of choice and go for fewer brands”.

This comment is rich coming from a company that actively has tried to decrease choice for craft beer consumers through their (now defunct) incentive-based programs to their distributors. It’s like they are trying to will their wish for the future into existence.

I disagree wholeheartedly that craft beer consumers are sick of the amount of choices they see at a bar and beer store. In fact, while Brito is talking about choice in terms of brands of beer, if you look closer at the idea of choice, it appears that consumers are choosing the brands that offer MORE choices in styles and beers.

A Closer Look

Yes, the numbers have fallen, but a lot of that decline is because the biggest breweries which carry more weight in those figures have seen the biggest decline in volume. Maybe this volume decrease is because more and more craft beer drinkers are turning to hyper-local breweries? Smaller breweries have the ability to create a constantly innovative line-up of beers. In a way, Boston Beer Company is a victim of its own success. It’s such a pioneer in the industry and has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. However, with that level of growth comes the hindrance of big business. Also, the bigger Sam Adams gets, the perception of them being a craft beer seems to decrease. When there is so much choice at any given bar or brewery people are often turning to the newer, smaller brands.

Here at Thorn Street, we have a constant rotation of 15 beers on tap including many one-offs that will be later brewed on a bigger system, while others never will return. When people come and drink in our tasting room, as well as the hundreds of tasting rooms across San Diego, they are literally sipping the cutting edge of craft beer. Small breweries can think up a beer and have it brewed the next day. They can delve into unusual styles like Brett and Gose. There are fewer people to get approval from when trying new ideas. This leads to innovation because brewers are given more autonomy to brew their hearts’ desires.

So, no, Carlos Brito, craft beer drinkers are not sick of choice. They are moving on to more choice and are becoming savvier consumers. They are able to spot his comments as wishful thinking from a company who would love nothing more than to cut down the amount of craft beer choices available to people.


embroidered sign that says Be Hoppy to make you happy

Happy Thoughts About Craft Beer

The presidential election is finally over and boy was it was a doozy. No matter how you voted, many people are left today with what we like to call an “election hangover.” Well, we have the perfect panacea. While there might be a lot of fear and negativity in your Facebook newsfeed, here are four big reasons why you should feel good about craft beer.

Tap Rooms Everywhere

With more than 4,269 craft breweries in the U.S., chances are there is a brewery not that far from where you are right now. In fact, 78% of adults live within 10 miles of a craft brewery! That means more than 2/3 of the American people (of drinking age) live withing a short drive or UBER ride away from craft beer bliss. That’s certainly something to celebrate.

More Choices Than Ever

There are more than 155 beer styles documented by the Brewers Association. Before the craft beer movement, the number of available styles was much more limited. American beers were typically lagers and light ales with a stout thrown in for good measure. But with the incredible number of breweries listed above, the competition for market share is fierce and competition drives creativity. Small, independent breweries have not only brought back older European styles that haven’t seen the light of day for years, but they have created their own (hello, modern IPA!) styles that show the true innovative spirit of craft beer.

Craft Beer Supports Local Communities

Craft breweries are often deeply embedded within their local communities. This is evident in the 2014 stat showing that craft breweries donated $71 million to charities, most within their own communities. This adds up to $3.35 per barrel produced going to charities. That is no small number, especially when compared with the reported 35 cents per barrel that AB InBev donates to charity.

Craft Beer Boosts the Economy

While it may seem obvious that craft beer has helped to boost our country’s economy, the numbers are really staggering. Craft beer has contributed more than $55 billion to the U.S. economy and put 424,000 people to work. Not only that, but craft beer is an integral part of many community’s tourism. San Diego Beer Week is a perfect example of this as we see our city flooded with craft beer lovers from other cities, states, and even countries. This brings in much-needed money to our local economy when they stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and drink at our bars and breweries.

So turn that frown upside down…or keep on celebrating. Either way, craft beer will be there for you.


three beers sitting on a wooden table in pint glasses

San Diego Beer Week is Here!!

The best week for San Diego craft beer is finally here!! In its 7th year, San Diego Beer Week is a celebration of San Diego’s rich craft beer culture. This week is a time for breweries, bars, and restaurants to pull out all the stops with events, tap takeovers, head-to-head competitions and more. With more than 130 breweries in San Diego putting on hundreds of beer events throughout the ten-day beer-fiesta, there is definitely something for everyone.

This is our favorite week of the year, here at Thorn Street Brewery. We get to pull out all the stops on events both inside the taproom as well as at bars and restaurants throughout San Diego county.

Events At Thorn Street Brewery

  • Sat 11/5 Venissimo Cheese and Beer Pairing – 1 pm – $30 – 5 by 5 pairing with discussion and Q&A with Brew Master Eric O’Connor and cheese expert Rob Graff from Venissimo.
  • Sun 11/6 Nomad Donuts and Beer Pairing – 11 am – $20 – 3 by 3 pairing with entry into a raffle for exclusive merch from both places. Here’s the planned menu:
    FOREPLAY – paired with Caramelized Pear Jam / FORNICATION Goat Cheese / Toasted Walnuts
    PROFESSOR XPA – paired with Carnitas Snack Shack Carnitas, Corn, and Cheddar Meat Pie / BARRIO LAGER Jalapeno Glaze
    COCONUT PORTER – paired with Banana Custard / 007 PALE Caramel Glaze

    This event is now sold out, but we do have a few tickets available to buy on the day-of, so if you missed out on presale tickets, get down here by 11 am on Sunday to claim a walk-in ticket!

  • Mon 11/7 Truffle and Beer Pairing– 4-8 pm – $11 – 2 by 2 pairing featuring Abbey Wall Belgian Dubbel with an Apple Pie Truffle and Castaway Coconut Porter paired with a rum, coconut, and caramel truffle.
  • Tues 11/8 Belgian Beer Night – 5 pm – no ticket needed – 6 Belgians on tap along with a sour blend.
  • Thurs 11/10 IPA Lounge – 5:30 pm – no ticket needed – 10 IPAs on tap up in the back including a new series for single hop IPAs, Got Galaxy?, Got Amarillo? and Got Simcoe? and you can mix the IPAs to make-your-own- IPA blend!
  • Sat 11/12 Carnitas’ Snack Shack Beer Brunch – 11-2 pm – $35  – Seven courses of heaven along with 2 pints or 4 half-pints that are suggested pairings with the different items.

1. Bacon and Housemade Sausage
2. Fried Chicken Biscuit and Gravy – pair with Tropic Daze IPA
3. Churro French Toast with Boozy Whipped Cream and Fruit – pair with Coconut Porter
4. Breakfast Enchiladas Suizas – pair with Smuggler’s Cove Amber
5. Hash cake
6. Smoked Pork with Apple Slaw
7. Spicy Steak Scramble with tomato, pickled serrano peppers, and chipotle aioli – pair with Relay IPA

Events Around San Diego

We have more than 10 events out and about in San Diego so make sure to carve out some time for these events:

Fri – Nov 4th – Crushed – Thorn St vs. Duck Foot
Thorn Street and Duck Foot are Battling Head to Head in a Blind Taste Test where YOU decide who has the better beer!

Sun – Nov 6th – OB Noodle House Bar 1502 – 6 pm – Meet the Brewer

Sun – Nov 6th – The Holding Company OB – Afroman w/ Pat Hilton performing – 8 pm

Mon – Nov 7th – FootGolf Tournament – Mission Bay Golf Course – $30 per twosome

Tues – Nov 8th – West Coast BBQ – Tap Takeover and Meet the Brewer 6 pm

Wed – Nov 9th – OB Noodle House & Sake Bar – Tap Takeover and Meet the Brewer

Wed – Nov 9th – Glow Ball Tournament at Loma Club with Kings of the North IPA Tasting – $35 – North Park vs. North County!

Wed – Nov 9th – Kona Kai Resort Five Course Beer Dinner – Meet the Brewer

Call for reservations – 619-221-8000

Thurs – Nov 10th – Hamilton’s Fling (Sold out)

Thurs – Nov 10th – Main Tap Tavern Cask Night – 7 pm

Fri – Nov 11th – Regal Beagle Burger Night – $11 for a TSB beer and delicious burger

Sun – Nov 13th – Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines – The beer event to end all beer events. Tickets still available for $85 and it’s totally worth it!