thorn brewing trends

Craft Beer Trends to Kick Off the Summer

Recently, DSM, a health and wellness company, conducted a study of more than 3,300 beer consumers from 7 different countries in North America and Europe and asked them questions about craft beer. While statistics and studies need to be taken with a grain of salt, they can help identify broader trends in a market, including craft beer consumption. One factor of this study to take into account is that it’s a world-wide study vs. one with only U.S. participants. While the craft beer scene here in the States has been booming for some time (and many publications have lamented that the craft beer bubble is bursting) in other places where people were surveyed, the craft beer movement is in its younger stages. That’s not to discount the findings at all, it’s just something to keep in mind as we look for trends or insights from the study.

It’s All About The Taste

Not only do 66% of the responders drink craft beer because of the taste, it also seemed to be the biggest reason why people in this study choose a specific craft beer. In fact, 75% chose taste as the biggest factor when deciding which beer to buy. What’s interesting about this is that taste won out over price, which shows that craft beer consumers are not afraid to pay a premium for good beer. This is also good news for smaller craft breweries that have to compete with larger breweries when it comes to marketing and branding. Yes, people like a catchy graphic, but it’s not a driving force into which beers people buy. Make a quality product that tastes great and you have the best chance that someone will choose that beer again. Furthermore, 66% said that the word “premium” helped draw them to a specific beer and that drinking craft beer felt more special than drinking non-craft beer. We love making people feel special, one beer at a time.

You Are Only As Good As Your Last Beer

It’s no secret that craft beer drinkers are adventurous. So adventurous, in fact, that one of the more interesting findings from this study was there isn’t a whole lot of brand loyalty with this group of craft beer consumers. 80% said that they would continue to experiment with new brands vs. stay loyal to one brand. This is a concerning statistic when thinking about building a brand, but also one that makes sense. People won’t blindly buy beer from a brand that isn’t stellar just because they are their local brewery or because they had a good beer in the past. What this tells us, is that as brewers we need to keep quality, tasty beer our number one priority and we need to keep things fresh for consumers. We can’t be afraid to experiment with new styles and flavors and pushing the proverbial envelope. We need to keep evolving and not rest on a set of core beers, because although we will always have our super-fans, to continue growing, we need to stay relevant with the adventurous consumer.

The Definition of Craft Beer Is Fluid

While the buzzwords “local” and “craft” are still market drivers, it wasn’t for the exact reasons you would expect. 87% of responders said that they define craft beer as beer brewed in small batches by a microbrewery. No mention of if the local beer was brewed in close proximity to them and no mention of independent vs. non-independent, which is not surprising. Sometimes we in the industry can get caught up in our own echo-chambers of what’s important and what people care about. I personally, care about whether my beer is independent and know a lot of others that feel the same way, but we have to remember that by-and-large, people make up their own definitions for things. So while the study found that people prized “local” beers, it was not because they were necessarily brewed close to home, but because to them, the word signified that the beer is made in small batches, using local, fresh ingredients. Furthermore, a majority of responders expressed interest in trying local craft beers from around the world further driving the point that people are more interested in what characteristics they felt a local beer would have vs. being loyal to a local brand because it was brewed in their backyard. This is good news for breweries breaking into new distribution areas. That while many craft beer consumers will still drink what local first because it has a good chance of being the freshest, other characteristics of craft beer area driving factor in which beers people choose to drink.

In the end, while these studies can be helpful in understanding trends and consumers in a broad way, there are many factors that go into why people buy the beer that they buy. However, it does give us things to think about and we can all revel in the finding that people are continuing to drink craft beer with 80% of the responders saying that craft beer is not just a delicious fad, craft beer is here to stay.

hopster pot thorn brewing

Haze Craze: Hopster Pot, the Juiciest Beer in San Diego?

Chase away June Gloom with some haze of your own; Thorn’s Hopster Pot Hazy IPA. Now, you can get this delicious beer in six-packs all over San Diego and L.A.! We are so excited for this can release because not only is Hopster Pot the juiciest beer around, but it also brings many of the Thorn team back to their roots.

Let’s Get Hazy

Let’s be clear about this cloudy trend: Hazy IPAs are here to stay. While some may have thought this style was a flash-in-the-pan, it is showing some serious hop-legs. Not only did GABF add a hazy beer category this year, but the BJCP just released style guidelines for New England Style IPAs. Their comments on this type of beer:

“An American IPA with intense fruit flavors and aromas, a soft body, and smooth mouthfeel, and often opaque with substantial haze. Less perceived bitterness than traditional IPAs but always massively hop forward. This emphasis on late hopping, especially dry hopping, with hops with tropical fruit qualities lends the specific ‘juicy’ character for which this style is known.”

The “substantial haze” is created through a few different brewing steps. First, the beer is aggressively dry-hopped. Dry-hopping is when hops are added to the tank after fermentation but before packaging. Adding hops at this stage doesn’t add bitterness, but it does add delicate hop aromas and tastes that can otherwise be lost in the boil. While the addition of tons of hops at the end helps with the haziness, this isn’t the only factor. It also can depend on the use of high protein grains like flaked oats and wheat as well as the type of yeast used. Many of the hazy IPAs from New England use Vermont Ale yeast while many San Diego breweries, including Thorn, use London 3 yeast for their hazy beers giving West Coast hazy IPAs a slightly different profile. Hazy beers also have higher fruity esters and lower flocculation than many clear IPA counterparts. Additionally, even the make-up of water has an impact on this type of beer. When you put all this together, the old saying, “hazy = lazy” just doesn’t make sense. When done correctly, hazy beers are harder to brew than clear IPAs making hazy the opposite of lazy.

Hopster Pot Love

We have been getting a lot of love for our newest addition to the Thorn can line-up, Hopster Pot Hazy IPA (7% ABV). This hazy wonder is hopped with Amarillo, Citra and Ekunnot hops but each new batch will use a different blend of hops. To find out what hops are in your Hopster Pot, check out our Hazy Beer Page on our website.  We like to think of our hazy IPA as more of a West Coast Hazy IPA than the full-on New England Style IPA. It’s slightly drier and slightly more bitter, with brighter hops than many of the East Coast IPAs. Hopster Pot is like a hazy-hybrid, bringing together the style, methods of a New England style IPA with some West Coast twists.

This beer is really a labor of love for the whole Thorn team. While our three original owners/brewers are all San Diego natives, we also have a lot of East Coast transplants. Doug Pominville, our hazy head brewer, is from New Hampshire, cellarman, Kenny Maguire, is from Connecticut, sales-guru, Tom Kiely is from Massachusetts, Dave, our warehouse manager is from NY and I’m from Vermont, myself, so there is a full chain of New Englanders taking this beer from tank-to-shelf and everything in between!

Now that Hopster Pot is available throughout San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles, it’s even easier to get your hands on some of this juicy wonder. For info on where to get our beer check out our interactive map here…

What is your favorite hazy beer in San Diego?


thorn brewing dogs dog

The Dog Days of June

Dogs are an important part of Thorn Brewing. With two dog-friendly tasting rooms, we love seeing all our cute, furry friends who come and visit us daily with their humans. Because they bring so much joy to our lives and ask so little in return, we thought we would declare June the Month of the Dog!

Pints for Pups

dog thorn brewing

First, we are partnering with Baja Dog Rescue to help them get much-needed donations to keep their shelter running smoothly. Baja Dog Rescue is run by some very dedicated volunteers who have helped more than 6500 dogs since 2010. They are non-profit, no-kill shelter that houses up to 200 dogs at any given time. With that many pooches to care for, they need a lot of supplies. In past years our #thorntribe has done an amazing job of bringing in their old, lightly used and new items that are requested by the shelter. Here’s a list of some of the main things they need:

– Dog Food
– Chicken & Beef Broth
– Big Bags of White Rice
– Old Towels, Blankets, Sheets
– Antibacterial Ointments, Peroxide, Alcohol
– Q-Tips, Cotton Balls & Gauze
– Bulk Newspaper (used to line puppy pens)
– Laundry Soap, Hand Soap, Bleach
– Dog Medications (slightly expired ok)

We are taking donations until 6/10 at both of our locations so go through your garage, your laundry room etc. and see if you happen to have any of these items handy. On Sunday, 6/10 we are going to celebrate with a Pints for Pups happy hour at Thorn Street Brewery where you can bring in your dog to take pics in our doggie photo booth, hang out with the good people from Baja Dog Rescue and help raise funds for their cause.

Beer Tasting Has Gone To The Dogs

On June 24th, get your furry friend ready to come to Thorn Street Brewery in North Park to experience a beer tasting of their own! We see so many doggies in our tasting rooms with their humans and they can never imbibe (hops are poisonous to dogs, so please don’t give them human beer). Now they finally can, with our Best Bud’s Brew Dog Beer Tasting! We partnered together with Marley’s Pet Planet to bring you a beer tasting event that features four dog brews in different flavors for your pooch and then four tasters of Thorn beer for their humans. These dog beers are made with all natural ingredients and don’t have any antibiotics or hormones in them, making them safe and healthy for your pup. The dog beer is human-consumable too, so people will get to taste all of the beers included in the event. The dog brews featured will be:

  • Amber- bone broth, organic molasses, organic peanut butter powder, apple cider vinegar
  • Porter- bone broth, organic molasses, bacon, apple cider vinegar
  • Blond- bone broth, honey, peanut butter powder, apple cider vinegar
  • Ginger- bone broth, organic molasses, fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar

The seating will be limited so that the dogs and humans attending can be comfortable so people should grab their tickets soon! Tickets available here…

Can’t make the 6/24 event or it’s sold out? No worries! We are doing another tasting at our Barrio Logan location on Saturday 6/30 at 3 pm! Link to tickets here…

Thorn Cutest Dog Contest

Want to show off your adorable pup to the world? Now you can! For the month of June, enter your dog into Thorn’s Cutest Dog Contest by posting a pic on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #thorndogs and also tag us in the pic and you will be entered! The picture MUST either be taken in one of our tasting rooms or have Thorn gear/cans featured in the pic too to qualify. The winner will get a $50 gift certificate to Thorn, a 6-pack of dog beer for their pup and the glory of being Thorn’s Cutest Dog for 2018! Winner will be picked on June 30th and featured on our social media!

More Dog Events Around San Diego

We aren’t the only brewery that loves dogs in San Diego. There are a few other breweries that are also holding dog-centered events in the month of June.

Societe Brewing has picked PAWS, a San Diego Humane Society program, as their June charity partner. Every year in June they hold a pet food drive and this year PAWS is the lucky recipient. Throughout this whole month people can bring in dog/puppy, cat/kitten food and treats in their original packaging to donate to their cause.

Deft Brewing in Bay Park is throwing a Barks, Brews & Mews Fundraiser for the San Diego Humane Society on June 9th at their tasting room. Live music, raffle & silent auctions and new dog merch will be featured along with a beer released for their event.

Any other dog events this month that we should add to this list?

Heady Topper Invades San Diego

A couple of weeks ago, we saw rumblings on social media that Heady Topper, from The Alchemist in Vermont, was available in select bottle shops and bars around San Diego. My first thought was that these were black market beers since The Alchemist famously doesn’t distribute beyond an incredibly tiny footprint in Vermont. For years, if people outside of this 25 square miles wanted to get their hands on a Heady Topper, they had to trade for it or make the pilgrimage to Vermont, wait in line, and get their allotment of this hazy brew.  So how did Heady Topper, along with Focal Banger IPA and Crusher IPA, get so far West?

thorn brewing heady topper

Heady Out West

It turns out, the good people at The Alchemist did, in fact, send the beer out to SoCal. According to The Full Pint, who reached out to the Vermont brewery, they stated :

“Every now and again, we have some extra pallets of beer that we like to send sporadically to different markets. We’ve sent pallets to New York City for example, and we decided to send some to the Los Angeles and surrounding markets.”

Considering just how many posts we’ve seen announcing the beer at different locations throughout San Diego, that has to be a lot of pallets. Especially if they distributed beer to L.A. too. Could they really have that many extra pallets sitting around? Maybe. But maybe they are testing the market out here to see just how well their beer would do if the were to expand distribution. If it’s any indication, people were quite excited to see The Alchemist’s beers out here and get the opportunity to get their hands on them while they are fresh.

All It’s Hopped Up To Be?

For those uninitiated, Heady Topper is perhaps the original hazy IPA. Once infamously hard to get, this beer has been the gold standard in hazy IPAs by which many others are measured. Hazy IPAs were New England brewers’ answers to the dry, hop-monsters of the West Coast. By tweaking brewing recipes they were able to create IPAs that people described as tropical, fruity and juicy. Why juicy? Probably because these beers are known for their bright, tropical notes and soft finish. While hazy beers were once thought of as a flash-in-the-pan style, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, this year, the Great American Beer Festival will create a category for hazy ales in a move that legitimizes this growing style further.

I took a trip to Vermont in April and brought back so many local IPAs that I had to buy a suitcase to hold them all. There really is a ton of great beer coming out of Vermont and this haul was no exception. This time, I brought back Head Topper, Focal Banger, Sip of Sunshine from Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Cone Head from Zero Gravity, and Second Fiddle from Fiddlehead Brewery. One notable thing was that it wasn’t difficult to get Heady Topper or Focal Banger this time around in VT. When, on previous trips, I had to align just right with drop-off times and locations to score a 4-pack, this time around, it was available pretty much in every bottle shop I went to. If the market for Heady is softening in VT, it could be one reason why they might be testing out new markets for distribution.

I brought the beers back to the brewery and we tasted through the East Coast IPAs. First, let’s be clear, they were all great beers. All were hoppy, bright and fresh, with a touch of malt character when compared to many West Coast IPAs. One thing did stand out to me; now that hazy IPAs have been a thing for a couple years out here in SD, the San Diego brewing community has gotten pretty good at making them. So good, that many San Diego hazy IPAs rival if not surpass Heady Topper and Focal Banger. When I first tasted Heady, years ago, I was deliciously surprised by the style, the myth, and the taste. Now, we have so many great hazy IPAs available to us that while the beer was still good, it didn’t seem to pack the punch it once did to my palate. Perhaps my palate has even evolved somewhat to expect the juice-bombs that we enjoy here in SD, including Thorn’s own Hopster Pot Hazy IPA. The West Coast likes going big, and it appears that our take on hazy IPAs is no exception.

In the end, if The Alchemist starts distributing regularly here to San Diego, it would be a welcomed addition to our already rich San Diego beer scene. After all, we aren’t exclusionary of non-local beers, as long as they are good and with the high-quality beers coming out of this Vermont brewery, that wouldn’t be an issue.

Do you have a favorite San Diego hazy IPA that you think is as good or better than Heady Topper?

big beer thorn brewing

Big Beer Wants Unity…When It Suits Them

The Brewer’s Association pulled no punches at the annual Craft Brewer’s Conference that was recently held in Nashville. BA chairman, Eric Wallace, addressed the issue of big beer in a fiery speech:

“Clever and deceptive packaging design, omission of ownership statements on labels, intellectual-property violations, denigrating and expensive marketing campaigns, monopolistic practices choking off raw materials and distribution channels, rampant violations of trade practices and exclusionary tactics in venues and accounts in many markets — these guys are out to eat our collective lunch and take your kids’ lunch money as well.”

Pete Coors’ Plea

He’s not wrong, but his words did draw the ire of Pete Coors, chairman of the board for Molson Coors Brewing Co. So much so that Pete decided to write an open letter to the BA about it. Don’t mind the fact that he never sent the open letter to anyone at the BA or that it was only released in a trade publication, Beer Business Daily, which is membership-based. Because nothing stays hidden on the internet, Coors knew that the open letter would leak out to everyone anyway. Still, it’s pretty funny to release an “open letter” that only goes to a small select few tradespeople. The full letter can be viewed here on Brewbound, but there are a few choice parts.

The leadership of the Brewers Association does a great disservice to the entire beer value chain by attempting to pit one part of the industry against another.

You must know that it is insulting to those of us who don’t meet the clever criteria of your self-proclaimed definition of “craft brewer.” This approach prioritizes insults and division over unity for a beverage that has been used to unify and celebrate together for generations.

We share distributors, many of whom would not be able to distribute Brewers Association beers without the scale provided by the large brewers. You claim that your members are precluded from distribution at retail, while I visit account after account that do not carry any “big brewer” products.

That is a slippery slope that does not end well for our industry. We have enough competition inside the beer business and outside it with wine, spirits and, increasingly, marijuana.

You undermine your credibility by pitting us against one another to the ultimate detriment of the entire beer industry.

Coors’ letter stirring lots of feelings throughout the craft beer community and ignited many rebuttal letters, including a well written, point-by-point letter from founder and owner of Ninkasi Brewing, Nikos Ridge.  It also garnered a letter of support from Coors’ big brother, AB InBev, in a letter from CEO Michel Doukeris to wholesalers that was posted in a tweet by Harry Schuhmacher from Beer Biz Daily:

Scott Metzger or @beermonkey on Twitter had a few choice tweets for Michel Doukeris and his “unity speech”:

Metzger’s tweets are a succinct argument for why these pleas for unity seem disingenuous. This argument that all beer brands need to stand together against outside threats from liquor, wine, and now Mary Jane is a familiar one. It was used in the AB InBev’s promo video called “Six Viewpoints from the High End” which simultaneously called for unity and crapped on the BA’s, at the time, new independent beer seal. Why does craft beer need Big Beer in this fight? Craft beer has grown in this country despite big beer, not because of it. Independent craft beer is still such a small segment of the overall beer market and these big brewers have so much more weight to throw around, legally and politically. It’s not surprising that AB InBev would praise the viewpoint of Coors, but after so many of their marketing dollars spent maligning craft beer, why would they be pushing for unity now?

Why Big Beer Want Unity

It’s pretty clear why Coors and ABinBev want the support of the craft beer community. Sales and volumes are dropping for Big Beer and they are struggling to stop the bleeding. As reported by Fortune,

AB InBev, Heineken, and Molson Coors have all reported significant drops in beer volume in the U.S. in the first quarter of this year. According to The Wall Street Journal, AB InBev (BUD, -2.46%) saw a 4.1% drop, Molson Coors (TAP-A) a 3.8% drop, and Heineken (HKHHF, +0.64%) saw a “high-single-digit percentage” drop.

Craft beer has also has seen a dip in growth over the last two years, but overall, the craft breweries that Big Beer has bought out, are doing pretty fantastic. Terrapin Brewing, which sold to MillerCoors a couple years ago, is doing great sales-wise with a 25% growth in sales through the end of March. Golden Road Brewing, owned by AB InBev, opened up a brewery and beer garden in Sacramento to a full house after much opposition from Sacramento area independent brewers. Maybe this is why Big Beer wants to focus on “uniting” the craft segment. Focus on what’s working, in the U.S. at least, and put money where the growth is still happening, even if it’s at a slower rate than in previous years. It seems even with indie brewers working to distance themselves from Big Beer, the bulk of craft beer buying people don’t know or don’t care who owns these former craft breweries.

Craft brewers have long memories and there have been too many instances of Big Beer behaving badly to try and get everyone to come together now. Americans are drinking less beer than they were in past years and that definitely has something to do with shifting tastes and the availability of legal marijuana in some regions. These beer behemoths have so much money, however, the real question is why aren’t they buying up wine, liquor and weed ventures? Seems like that would be the move for these companies with deep pockets. Until Big Beer outlines exactly the ways in which they will help craft beer withstand this “outside threat,” it’s a non-starter. Pleas of unity after decades of divisive, monopolistic, and in many cases, underhanded business tactics, are falling on deaf ears.


Scotty surfing surf thorn brewing

Surfing & Beer with Scotty Kaplan

Here at Thorn Brewing, our people are just as important to our success as the quality of our beer. We take great pride in how we serve our customers, how we create the beers and also we get excited about our Tribe’s successes outside of the brewery.

The Fest

Coming up on May 12th, Scotty Kaplan, one of our founding brewers and OG bartenders is competing in the Shaper Festival of Surfing presented by Vans. The Shaper Surf Festival is a unique competition because all competitors are riding on boards that they shaped themselves. This is the 5th annual fest and promises to be the best one yet.

The Surfer

Recently, we caught up with Scotty behind the bar at Thorn North Park and got a chance to ask him some questions about how surfing and beer have shaped his life.

1. When did you start surfing?

I grew up in Long Island New York a few miles from the beach. I started bodyboarding when I was eight and in a short time, I was standing up on my bodyboard. When I was 13, I entered the North East bodyboarding regionals and got third place. After the contest one of the judges came up to me and said, “Great job kid, tell your dad to buy you a surfboard you are ready!” I conveyed the message to my dad and on the way home from the contest we stopped off at Bunger Surf Shop and I was able to pick out my very first surfboard, a used 7’6″ Bahne. From then on I was hooked.
Back then, I didn’t look at surfing as a competitive sport because it was more about camaraderie. Surfing in a NY winter in 37° water and 2 feet of snow on the ground required a certain mindset. If you found somebody as dedicated and as crazy as you, who was willing to endure the elements, you wanted to be friends with that person. When I was 16, I worked at a surf shop, Lido Surf, and Sport. The owners at the time wanted to push the young talent and the sport of surfing in NY. They organized a shop contest and I unwillingly entered and lost in the first round.
That would be the last surfing contest I entered until roughly 24 years later when in 2016 I get a text from my friend saying he entered me in the OB Surf Classic and he paid my entry. I didn’t really want to surf in the contest since I was more of a soul-surfer but I didn’t want to chicken out. For shits and giggles, I surfed in the contest and got second place. I was stoked!  I was determined to return the following year and win the 2017 Ob Surf Contest. I entered and won the 40+ longboard division. A month later, I entered the Shaper self-shape surf festival open longboard division. Luckily, I squeaked out another first place win. A couple of months later, I entered the Takayama Pro-am. I lost in the first round to one of my favorite surfers, Andy Nieblas. I was slightly bummed out but also determined to win at the pro level so I spent the last year of working on new moves, style, dialing in my equipment, and physical conditioning. Now, I’m 25 lbs leaner, 41 years old, and when most people have plateaued, I am progressing at the fastest rate in my life.

2. When and how did you start working at Thorn?

I started working at Thorn Street Brewery in December of 2012 when it first opened. I got hired on as one of two assistant brewers. After hard work and on-the-job training, I became the head brewer. I had homebrewed before working at Thorn, though. Inspired by Ale Smith’s Speedway Stout, I brewed my first homebrew batch in 2008. I don’t really homebrew anymore but I have been known to dust off my brewing-boots and brew a small batch at Thorn now an again.

3. Is Brother Scotty’s IIIPA your recipe?

Brother Scotty’s is not my recipe, exclusively. Just named after me in honor of the hard work and dedication to the craft. Also, Brother Scotty was the last beer that I brewed as the head brewer at Thorn Street Brewery. Now, I am the friendly face behind the bar so that I have more time to shape boards. Many of the beers at Thorn were created by a couple of brewers putting their heads together and trying to make the best beer possible. Two great minds are better than one.

4. When and why did you start shaping boards?

As a kid, I was inspired by a local shaper named Paolo Bianchinotti. I was his first team rider. I moved out to SD in 1999. A few years later, Paolo also moved to SD. Fortunately for myself, he took the time out of his day to show me some of the basic surfboard shaping skills. I shaped my first surfboard in a little shack I built on the side of my house in PB in 2002. Now that I reflect on that shape, The rails were asymmetrical, not by design, and the rocker was slightly off, but the board rode magically because I made it with my own hands.

5. Why is the Shaper Fest important to you?

The 2018 Self-shape surf contest is special to me because I was given the opportunity to surf a surfboard I handmade and a fin I designed against some of the world’s best surfing shapers.
I am bringing two boards to the contest this year. A 9-foot performance longboard which can be ridden as a tri-fin or a single fin and a 96 single fin spoon just in case the waves are small.

6. Are there any similarities to surfing and craft beer?

There are a few similarities between surfing, shaping boards, and brewing.
First, if you want to be good, you have to put the time, hard work, and determination.
You also have to be creative. Plus, after a good surf session, there is no better way to relax than watching the sunset and drinking a good beer.

7. What do you think the future holds for you and surfing?

Hopefully, I can do well in this surf contest and prove to the world that my surfboard designs work at the highest level. If somehow this year I fall short, I’ll be back next year even more determined with new moves and a more developed surfboard.

Join The Fun

This year’s Shaper Surf Fest is shaping up to be the best one yet! There will be food from Shake Shack and Hello Betty Fish House and live bands all day long, including:

Address: SEASIDE REEF | 2526 S. COAST HWY 101 | ENCINITAS, CA 92075

If you’re a fan of surfing, the Thorn Tribe, or just want a fun day at the beach, come on out to the Shaper Surf Festival on May 12th!
thorn brewing green flash

Green Flash and Alpine Sold to Private Equity Firm

Green Flash Brewing has had a rough year. First, it was announced that they were shutting down and liquidating their Virginia Beach brewery, along with pulling out of distribution in 32 states and laying off more than 40 employees. Then, last week, they shut down their Cellar 3 tasting room and barrel aging program. This week, it was announced that Green Flash has been sold to a private equity firm after Comerica Bank, their largest shareholder, foreclosed on its loans because of high outstanding debt and poor health of the business, selling its assets in a foreclosure sale.

While there are differing opinions on why Green Flash has fallen on hard times, the U-T reported that a former brewer said much of the issues have to do with “expanding to the East Coast before its West Coast brewery had reached peak production; moving from six-packs to costlier four-packs; and tinkering with the recipe of its flagship ale, West Coast IPA.”

The West Coaster reached out to Mike Hinkley, the founder of Green Flash and this is what he said:

“Green Flash continues on and so does Alpine.  The beer is being brewed, packaged and delivered to retailers today.  The tasting rooms are open for business.  It is true that the companies have new ownership and that the company has refocused on being local and regional, versus national.  And it is also true that the investments of its previous owners, including myself, are now gone.  I am very, very sorry about that.

“I am trying to focus on the positives.  Green Flash and Alpine, and all of the folks that brew the beer, prepare the food, drive the forklifts, wait the tables, tend the bars, and work in sales, marketing and accounting all have jobs today.  Good paying jobs with real healthcare coverage.  That was not a sure thing, not too long ago.  I worked very hard to get this transaction accomplished with them in mind.

“I apologize to Pat and Val McIlhenney because this is not how they or I would ever have wished things would turn out.  I am glad they took the most of their money out of the company by now.  I wish they would have gotten it all out.  I wish things turned out exactly as they hoped when they sold Alpine Beer Company four years ago.

“I also apologize to the rest of the GFBC, Inc. shareholders who lost their investments.  I was the largest cash investor, never sold a share and continually reinvested.  I suppose it is appropriate that I lost all of my investment and I will come to grips with that.  But it will be much harder for me to get over other people losing their investments.

“I am very optimistic about the future of Green Flash and Alpine who emerge from very challenging times with a stable financial position and streamlined operations.  The breweries will continue to make amazing beer and enjoy them with their fans.”

What About Alpine?

One major question that was flying around the San Diego craft beer community was, “What’s going to happen to Alpine?” Alpine Beer Co. joined forces/was acquired by Green Flash in 2014 in what was predicted by both parties to become a long and happy marriage. Green Flash was excited about brewing Alpine’s beers (and having such a prolific brewery name in their stable) and Alpine was excited that there were going to finally be able to start to meet the demand that they had created by brewing awesome beers for years on their tiny brew-system. That marriage came to an unhappy end when Pat Mcllhenney, the founder of Alpine, posted this on Facebook:

thorn brewing

Pat was also quoted in a Union-Tribune article saying, “I don’t have a lot of faith in the management,” he said, “especially if they keep Mike on management. He has no business being in this business. His business prowess is abysmal.” Consider this beer-couple divorced.

Jacob Nikos, from YEW podcast, sat down with Pat recently and discussed all of this. It’s a great listen and really gives a solid perspective on the San Diego beer as well as the Green Flash/Alpine relationship.

The San Diego craft beer community is rallying behind the employees of both Green Flash and Alpine. After all, the Green Flash is an integral part of the West Coast IPA’s rise in popularity over the last 15 years. Alpine is loved even more, with a stellar reputation for their beers and their influence over the San Diego craft beer scene.

Who Are the New Owners?

The private equity firm that bought them does have one interesting connection. Joshua Yelsey, the new manager of the equity firm hails from Anheuser-Busch. There, he was a manager in AB’s mergers and acquisitions department. Additionally, he was head of finance for Goose Island and Blue Point during both acquisitions. The question is, how close are his ties to his old company? Will he just bring experience to his new role or will he bring contacts for future acquisitions of a certain San Diego beer darling with an impressive beer portfolio? That would truly be a sad day for independent SD beer.

People in the SD craft beer community are pretty salty over the whole situation. While this acquisition is preferable to both breweries shutting down and leaving hundreds of people out of job, the issue is about the close ties that people have to their friends and colleagues who had invested their time and money into Alpine and Green Flash. Who, because of the foreclosure, have lost all the money they had in the companies, including the founders of Alpine.

Down But Not Out

The biggest takeaway should be that these breweries might be facing some big changes but they are still open, brewing beer and working hard to create a tasty beverage for consumers. When someone posted on an SD craft beer message board that they were heading to Alpine this week for a “last hurrah,” one of the brewers posted this:

We are pulling for both Alpine and Green Flash. It certainly is a hard pill to swallow that so many San Diegans who invested in both companies have now lost their investments, but the employees from both breweries are working hard to continue their path in San Diego craft beer and we fully support them in this next chapter of their brew-story.

thorn beer thorn brewing

Celebs Can’t Get Enough Thorn Beer

Hot Trend Alert: Hollywood A-Listers are obsessed with Thorn beer! Moving north from the sleepy little hamlet of San Diego, Thorn beer is making a huge splash in Los Angeles! Celebrities all over Hollywood are sending their assistants to flock to local liquor and beer stores to get their hands on the newest trend to hit La La Land. There are many claims to how this elixir will help make your life better, but here are some of the biggest benefits of drinking Thorn Beer from some of the world’s biggest stars…

Superior Hydration For Workouts

Dwayne The Rock Johnson has taken over Hollywood to become the manliest leading man in a town full of leading men. He was recently seen leaving a heated Zumba class with an ice-cold Rock the Pale Ale. Other than its entirely unproven hydration benefits (beer is 93% water!), when asked why Rock the Pale is his favorite workout beverage, The Rock said, “Can you smell what The Rock is drinking?” and then he followed with, “It smells great; with hoppy, citrus notes. Just a really fresh beer.” 

Helps You Live Your Better Life

We were just as surprised as you are to see that The Big O was drinking our Relay IPA during the Gold Globes this year. In her never-ending quest to live her best life, she doesn’t usually drink alcohol, but she made an exception for the refreshing 4-hop West Coast-style IPA. When the Magnificant O was asked about her beverage of choice she said, “Be thankful for what BEER you have; you’ll end up having more BEER. If you concentrate on what BEER you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough BEER.”  Whoa…that’s totally heavy.

Stop Wrinkles In Their Tracks

While the queen of the Kardashian Empire rarely promotes products, she stepped out recently with a cold can of Thorn Foreplay Belgian Blonde. This dark haired beauty is famous for saying that she doesn’t drink alcohol so when the paparazzi approached her, surprised at her beverage choice, she said, “I do drink beer…even Foreplay Belgian Blonde on occasion…Not too often though because it causes wrinkles.” 

Makes You Incredibly Handsome and Charming

Ryan Reynolds is one of the most beloved celebrities in Hollywood. Men want to be him and women want to be with him. He makes everything he does look cool and that now includes drinking a can of Barrio Baja-Style Lager. When we approached this dimpled god to ask him why he drinks Barrio Lager he said, “Are you stalking me? Because that would be super. Can you drop off a case of this lager at my house on your way home? Great.” Sure thing, Ryan, just give us your address…

Now that you have seen the most powerful celebrities in Hollywood drinking our beer it must make you want to run right out and buy some yourself. Lucky for you, it’s now available all throughout San Diego County, the OC, and LA!

One last thing…

HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY! We love you, we love these celebrities and they, in no way, were drinking our beer (yet!) in these poorly photoshopped pics. We were just having a bit of fun on one of our favorite holidays of the year! But our beer will definitely be in LA and Orange County coming up in the next couple weeks so keep an eye out and you can always email for more info on where to get our beer.

variety pack from thorn brewing

Not Another Dreaded Variety Pack

We’ve been told that variety is the spice of life and while this may be true in many cases, it can spell disappointment when you are talking about beer variety packs. We’ve all gotten them before; buying beer for a party or just to stash in your beer fridge, the variety pack that mostly has beers you like. It’s a good deal though, so you get it for the other three beers you enjoy and hope that someone else will drink the cranberry/orange marmalade ale that comes in the pack too.

When creating Thorn’s first variety pack, we thought long and hard about which beers to include. While we were already canning a couple of our tried and true brews that were a slam dunk for the pack, we had to pick two new beers to put in cans for you. Being that this is San Diego, we decided to focus on our hoppier styles. Yes, we brew a fantastic barrel-aged Dark Czar, and yes, it will someday be available in bottles which you will be able to take home and hold on to, but this pack was not about that. It was about grabbing a delicious, fresh, hoppy ale, no matter what, and giving some variety without going completely off-script.

What’s in the Box?

Without further ado, here are the beers that are featured in our brand new variety pack, Hop Box 24, that will be available in a certain San Diego big-box store starting the week of March 26th:

variety pack for thorn brewing

Hopster Pot
New England-Style Hazy IPA
7.0% ABV  |  40 IBU
Hopster Pot is everything you are looking for in a New England-style India Pale Ale…hazy, raw, tropical, and oh-so-juicy! Our brewers hand-select the hop varieties for each batch based on flavor and aroma. Visit to see what hops are in your brew. This first batch that we canned is brewed with Ekuanot, Amarillo, and Citra.

Got Nelson?

7.0% ABV  |  64 IBU
This single hopped IPA showcases the incredibly complex and unique Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand. Notes of Sauvignon Blanc grapes and berries mix beautifully on the palate. But did you check out this can?? This beer is the first in our Essential IPA Series in a first-of-its-kind can that will keep up with your ever-changing-palate. If you look closely, you will see all four of the IPAs in the series so you can get excited for what’s coming up on the beer horizon. How do you know which IPA you have? The 6-pack toppers will have a color-coded sticker, so look at the top to see which IPA you are going to pop! The Essential IPA Series is always fresh, always 7% and always an IPA.

essential ipa can thorn brewing

Relay IPA
7.2% ABV | 72 IBU
This San Diego-style IPA is hop-forward and not overly malty or bitter. It’s been our best selling beer since we opened our doors and one of the pillars of our brew program. Simcoe, Centennial, Amarillo, and Citra run a hop relay during the brew. Flavors of citrus, mango, grapefruit, and pine blend to form a deliciously hoppy beverage.
Rock the Pale Pale
Pale Ale
5.3% ABV | 55 IBU
Just like San Diego’s independent music scene, this traditional, California-style pale
ale unapologetically stands out. It’s a highly balanced beer with pine and citrus hop flavors coming from a generous late-kettle addition and dry hop.
Next time you are throwing a party, or just want to stock up your beer fridge, grab one of these Hop Box 24s. In fact, we are throwing a contest to make the whole thing a little more fun…
Because we love the earth we want to see your most creative way to reuse our Hop Box 24 after you buy it and empty it out. Take a pic of your upcycled creation and post it on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #thorncans (don’t forget to tag @thornbeer for Instagram or @thornbrewing for Facebook too!) and we will pick a winner at the end of April! 
stone sues millercoors

Breaking Stones: Stone Sues MillerCoors

It was a big week in San Diego craft beer. Stone Brewing announced in a cheeky video that they were suing MillerCoors for trademark infringement. In the video, Greg Koch holds a Keystone Light beer (owned by MillerCoors) with the large, incredibly visible word, “Stone,” spanning the entire can and announces the suit. Watch for yourself below…

Koch states, “We believe that MillerCoors is intentionally and deliberately trying to create confusion in the marketplace with the Keystone brand.” He holds up the can and well, it sure looks like he’s holding a can that says “Stone” in big letters on the side. What’s the issue with this? Well, perhaps, Koch says it best when he says definitively, “In the world of beer, the name Stone is ours.”

After the video dropped, MillerCoors shot back, “Since Keystone’s debut in 1989, prior to the founding of Stone Brewing in 1996, our consumers have commonly used ‘Stone’ to refer to the Keystone brand and we will let the facts speak for themselves in the legal process.” Interestingly enough, MillerCoors attempted to register the word “Stones” in 2007 and was turned down. The Stone suit says that MillerCoors “abandoned its application, admitting that confusion with Stone beer was likely.” Thanks to The Full Pint, you can read the entire suit here on their page.

Stone vs. Keystone

I took to Facebook to decide for myself just how “Stoney” Keystone had become in their branding. Not only do most of their social media pics highlight the word “stone,” but in July of 2017, Keystone changed their Facebook profile picture from a logo that had been their logo for many years, to the one on the top left corner:

millercoors keystone light

Sure, every company needs to rebrand to stay fresh. The question is, why would they split up the name Keystone into Key Stone? Keystone is a place; a mountain in the Colorado Rockies. With the previous mountain ranges on full display in their logo and the fact that Molson Coors (which acquired MillerCoors in 2016) is headquartered in Colorado, it’s not a stretch to assume that Keystone is named after that mountain. So how does it make sense to break up the word?

Once broken up into two words, there is no relation to the place it’s named after. The only reason to break up those words would be to highlight the word “stone,” and this is where it may get them into trouble.

What’s a Key Stone?

This works with other names too. Let’s say there was another brewery that wanted to distribute in the same area Thorn is distributed in, called Hawthorn Brewing. They had been called Hawthorn brewing for many years, longer than we were in existence even. What if they decided to change their logo and marketing to separate Hawthorn into Haw Thorn Brewing and started calling their beer Thorn Beer in that marketing? Not cool. Not cool at all. Whether or not it’s illegal would depend on a lot of other factors, though.

Since Stone is way more established and not only a national brand but really global one at this point, they have a strong claim on the term Stone when it comes to beer. Still, the point stands that Haw Thorn wouldn’t make much sense as a stand-alone logo just like Key Stone doesn’t make sense unless it’s Keystone.

Let’s hope that Stone is successful in their suit. Big Beer has been pushing craft beer around for years with their money and influence so to have a craft brewery that is not only willing to stand up to them but has the financial capabilities to do so, is really cool. We support Stone whole-heartedly in their quest to protect the brand that they have worked so hard to build and can’t wait to see how this all shakes out.