thorn brewing mission hills

Thorn Brewing Opens Up Third Location in Mission Hills

We are incredibly excited to announce the Grand Opening of our third Thorn location at 4026 Hawk Street, 92103, in Mission Hills! We will be offering the full lineup of Thorn beers, plenty of relaxed space to enjoy them in, beer to-go and even skeeball.

Opening in Mission Hills is a homecoming of sorts for the three co-founders of Thorn Street Brewery. “We were presented with a unique opportunity to open at this specific location in Mission Hills and we thought it would be a great fit.” Co-founder Dennis O’Connor said recently. “We have always felt connected to Mission Hills because all three Thorn founders have roots in the neighborhood.” Co-Founder and Brew Master Eric O’Connor (no relation) elaborates. “It feels great to be opening a tasting room in my old neighborhood. Having grown up in Mission Hills, I will always feel like it’s a part of me. My folks still live on Fort Stockton in the house I grew up in and thinking of them and all their friends being able to walk to a neighborhood pub where our beers will be served fresh, just feels right.” 

Dennis O’Connor goes on to explain what Thorn’s goals are for the new tasting room. “We offer great beer in a relaxed environment at our locations in North Park and Barrio Logan and hope to offer that same experience in Mission Hills as well. We look forward to creating a fun spot for people to gather before karaoke or after dinner at one of the fantastic, nearby restaurants.” 

 Just like our other locations, Thorn Mission Hills will be family-friendly and dog-friendly and while we will not be offering food of our own, people are welcome to bring in food from any of their favorite restaurants. Even more exciting, we are working with Fort Oak to provide patrons with a menu that they can order from and get delivered to the tasting room.

This Friday is our official Grand Opening. Not only will we have food from Dos Tierras and live music, but we will also be releasing special, limited-edition bottles of Framboise d’Tatas a sour blonde ale brewed with raspberries. This delicious taste of summer is available for pre-sale right now up until Thursday evening, where you can get two bottles and a barrel glass ($6 value) along with a taster of the beer ($4 value) at the Grand Opening for $29.98. Grab your presale bottles here…

Stop by this Friday for grand opening fun or come see us in the coming weeks as we settle into our new spot on Hawk Street!

thorn brewing patagonia ab inbev

What’s in a Trademark?

With the craft beer industry growing at the rate it has, so has the issue with trademark infringement on labeling, logos, and marketing. At the heart of trademark infringement is whether or not there is a likelihood of confusing consumers as to the origin of the product. In March, Stone Brewing’s lawsuit against MillerCoors moved forward after months of nothing being reported as to the status of the suit. Stone is suing Keystone for trademark infringement for their brand redesign of Keystone Light. MillerCoors answered back with a lawsuit of their own saying that they actually have an earlier claim to STONE trademark than Stone Brewing does. The suit was greenlit to move forward based on a judge’s opinion that Stone has a “moderately strong” case against MillerCoors for trademark infringement, though they also decided that it didn’t deserve an injunction to stop Keystone from using the marketing until the case was settled.

Another trademark dispute that hit close to home was when in Fall of 2018, 3 Floyds moved forward with their request to deny San Diego’s Abnormal Beer Co’s trademark application based on their trademark of the phrase “It’s not normal.” 3 Floyds felt that it would create confusion in the market place. The seems to be one of the weaker trademark arguments. Abnormal is tiny compared to 3 Floyds and neither beer is distributed in the same area. Their logos/branding look nothing alike and one could wonder how often the phrase is even used at 3 Floyds when it only appears twice on their website; once on a t-shirt slogan and once in the “About Us” section. There has been no update recently regarding this dispute but we really hope common sense will prevail and Abnormal will get to continue being awesome with their original name and branding.

What’s In A Name

It gets tougher when trademarks are within the same industry but it’s still an issue when trademarks span across different industries. The newest incident on the trademark infringement scene has to do with another Big Beer heavy hitter, AB InBev. Last month, Patagonia, the beloved outdoor outfitter company filed suit against AB InBev citing trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition, and fraud.

AB InBev owns Patagonia Cerveza, a brewery out of Fairfield, CA. There is actually maddeningly little info on their website about their beer, brewery or their ownership. Nowhere on their website does it mention that they are owned by AB InBev. Other than the complete uselessness of the website, the only indication of their true ownership is when you try and contact them, you get an error saying “this page can’t be displayed” but the address says “”

Their suit seeks damages for AB to pay Patagonia any profits that were made while they used the name as well as a judicial declaration that would void AB InBev’s registration of the trademark that they registered in 2012.

If You Can’t Convince Them, Confuse Them

Patagonia could have a decent case against AB InBev. This issue came to their attention because they kept getting tagged on Instagram and Facebook for pictures that were for Patagonia Cerveza with bizarrely similar marketing. People began reaching out to them asking if they were at certain events pouring their beers and promising to plant a tree for every case of beer sold. They even went as far as wearing puffy jackets with the word “Patagonia” on them, the same style of jackets that the outdoor company is famous for. The confusion that Patagonia Cerveza was creating with their branding was obvious from the confused comments and messages in Patagonia’s inbox.

Patagonia made a statement to Outside Online. “We are suing Anheuser-Busch InBev over the name, logo, and marketing of its beer,” says Corley Kenna, a spokesperson for Patagonia. “They are deliberately attempting to take advantage of the hard-earned reputation that we have built over the last 40 years as a company dedicated to environmental conservation.”

First, let’s look at the two logos:

craft beer big beer patagonia abinbev thorn beer

Then let’s take a look at the two Instagram pages:

This is the OG Patagonia’s Instagram profile:

This is Patagonia Cerveza’s Instagram profile:

Besides the beer in the photos, the overall vibe and message that the pictures are conveying are quite similar. That similarity and the confusion it creates is what Patagonia is banking on with their lawsuit.

While it will be up to the courts to determine the level of confusion that AB InBev’s branding causes, it may also help Patagonia’s case that they also brew a beer under their Patagonia Provisions arm. Partnering with Portland brewery, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Patagonia just released Long Root Ale in April of 2019, after their first collab in 2016. Long Root Ale is brewed with Kernza. According to the Good News Network:

Kernza is ideally suited for organic regenerative agriculture because its long roots and perennial growth allow it to thrive without pesticides and use less water than conventional wheat, while also helping to reduce erosion and remove more carbon from the atmosphere

thorn brewing patagonia ab inbev

With Patagonia moving into the beer brewing territory, this move by AB InBev seems even more egregious, but we will have to see how this all plays out. Patagonia is not a small company and at least should financially be able to carry this through, which is the concern and the issue with many of these trademark infringement suits. Many times it’s too expensive for small breweries to fight against the suit and the end up capitulating simply because they can’t afford not to, especially when up against a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.



You Must Be Daddy IPA Release – Collab with the McIlhenney Clan

You know this guy?
We love doing collabs with other brewers and when we get the opportunity to surprise one of our own brewers with a collab with some of the most OG San Diego brewers out there, it’s truly special.

Tuesday, February 19th, we will be releasing You Must Be Daddy IPA brewed with the good people of the McIlhenney Clan at our Barrio Logan location. Come and grab a pint and hang with the brewers of this IPA and see if you can name the ten different hops used in this collab (for a monster total of 253 lbs of hops used in the brew).

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a beer…just don’t dodge this one as it’s in very limited quantities and only available at our tasting rooms!

2/19 Released at Thorn Barrio Logan 2 pm
2/20 Released at Thorn North Park 12 pm

party thorn brewing

Party On: Thorn Private Events

‘Tis the season of holiday office parties, family gatherings, and holiday shenanigans. Whether you are tasked with planning your office’s party or just interested in a laid-back spot to host your next event, we’ve got you covered. We recently opened up a beautiful mezzanine at our Barrio Logan location that is available for parties and gatherings but we also have the back room at Thorn North Park available for both large and small parties. Here’s a little more info on each spot, but don’t hesitate to reach out to us at for more information on each location.

Thorn Barrio Logan Mezzanine

Thorn Brewing’s event space in Barrio Logan was just opened up at the end of October and dates are already filling fast. This mezzanine space overlooks the whole brewery, highlighting the 30-barrel brew system allowing guests to get an insider’s view of a working brewery. With a bar and seating for any large group, this room is ideal for holiday gatherings, birthday parties, weddings, receptions and more. Hosting your event at a brewery creates a relaxed environment for your guests, allowing for maximum enjoyment. This space holds anywhere from 60-80 people seated and more with some people standing. All the tables and bars are cocktail height so guests can easily mingle between tables and won’t feel confined to one seat.

There are four taps upstairs that will be stocked with your favorite beers and for private parties, we can serve both our beer and wine which we source from local vineyards and offer a white and a red option. You are allowed to bring in your own food for your event or if you need suggestions on vendors or food trucks, we’ve got you covered.

If your party is expected to be larger than the upstairs mezzanine, there are buy-out options for the whole brewery so don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


Thorn North Park Back Room

Thorn North Park’s back room has been the hot spot for parties both casual and formal over the last six years. The room has an open-air ceiling and A/V capabilities with two TVs and a projector. It seats up to 60 people but has room for more with some standing for a total of 75-85. There’s a 30 person minimum to reserve the back room at Thorn Street but if you are planning a smaller gathering, we can always reserve a couple of tables for your group to get started out at and then take it from there.

Like Thorn Barrio Logan, we can serve wine as well as beer for private parties and also, like the Barrio Logan facility, you get to see the whole brewhouse from the main room. The seven-barrel system is a lot smaller than the production facility but allows you to be up close and personal with tanks where Thorn beer was first brewed. We have nine beers on tap in the back room for private parties, but your guests are welcome to head downstairs to grab beers if one of the 16 beers we have on tap down there sparks their interest.

For information on either space, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Cheers!

SDBW: It’s the Most Wonderful Week of the Year!

San Diego Beer week is almost here and that means, fun events, delicious food, good friends and of course, craft beer! Here at Thorn Brewing, not only do we have a full schedule of events at our two tasting rooms, but we also are participating in tons of exciting beer-centric events throughout San Diego. Here’s what we have coming up between 11/2 and 11/11 so get out your calendar and get some of our rad events on your schedule for SDBW 2018!

North Park Tasting Room Events

Nomad Donuts & Beer Pairing

Sat Nov 03rd | 12:30-2pm
(Click here for tickets)*

We have done pairings with Nomad Donuts for the last four years and every time they up their game. This time around, we are doing a 3×3 pairing with three of their artisan donuts with three of our craft beers for $18. The pairing starts at 12:30 and goes in order so make sure to get here at the start of the event. This one always sells out so make sure and get your tickets ASAP if you want to take part in this sweet beer week event!

Venissimo Cheese & Beer Pairing

Tue Nov 06th | 6pm
(Click here for tickets)*

It wouldn’t be San Diego Beer Week without a cheese and beer pairing with our good friends at Venissimo Cheese! Cheese and beer together are one of life’s greatest pleasures. Taste the marvelous medley that these two bring out in each other while getting a chance to talk to the experts. Rob Graff, cheese expert from Venissimo, and Eric O’Connor, Thorn’s brewmaster, will be taking guests through this delectable journey with five kinds of gourmet cheese paired with five of our beers.

Learn about the different styles of cheese, why the specific beers and cheeses pair well together as well as craft beer and the brewing process. It’s the perfect way to spend a Tuesday night!

$35 for five cheese courses and five 8-oz beers

Beer Trivia

Come and test your beer knowledge on Wednesday, November 7th at 7 pm. You don’t have to be a beer expert to play, however, as there are questions in all categories, just all pertaining to the greatest elixir, beer!

Wed Nov 07th | 7pm

IPA Lounge

Fri Nov 09th | 6pm

IPAs have helped put San Diego on the craft beer map and to honor their kick-ass hoppiness we are stocking our back bar with nine IPAs from brand new IPAs to fan-favorites. Stop by Friday, November 9th at 6 pm at Thorn North Park and imbibe in:

  • Relay IPA
  • Mystic Gnome IPA
  • Sticky Henderson IPA
  • Dank Rizzo IPA
  • Hopster Pot Hazy IPA
  • Plus surprise IPAs!

No tickets necessary, just come in and enjoy the IPA Lounge!

Barrio Logan Tasting Room Events

Service Pig IPA Can Release

Fri Nov 3rd | 2 pm

We are kicking off San Diego Beer Week with a new limited release can! Stop by the Barrio Logan tasting room on Friday, November 2nd, for a pint and a six-pack of this brand new IPA. This beer is a throwback to the classic West Coast IPA inspired by an old Temecula brewery’s IPA that helped put San Diego on the craft beer map. This recipe was originally brewed in collaboration with Toronado SD for their 10th anniversary and this can is a nod to their inclusivity of all service animals, no matter what kind. This 6.4% IPA is bursting with notes of tangerine, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, summer melon, and pine, with a solid malt backbone to balance it all out.

Releases at Thorn Barrio Logan on Friday, 11/2 at 2 pm and then at Thorn North Park on Saturday, 11/3 at 2 pm after the Nomad Donuts & Beer Pairing event.

Camino De La Cerveza

Sat Nov 03rd | 4pm at Thorn
If you haven’t been to all of the awesome breweries in Barrio Logan yet, this is your chance! On Saturday, November 3rd, starting at 4 pm take a stroll around historic Barrio Logan having a beer at each brewery location! Meet new friends or bring a slew of your own, it’s going to be a fun evening no matter what! Here’s how it’s all going to go down…

4 pm – Meet at Thorn Brewing (1745 National Ave) to meet up with other brewery crawlers and hosts.
4:45 – Iron Fist Brewing San Diego (1985 National Ave)
5:30 – Attitude Brewing Company (1985 National Ave too)
6:15 – Altabrewingsd (1983 Julian Ave)
7:00 – Border X Brewing (2181 Logan Ave)

Don’t worry if you can’t make it for the beginning, just catch up with us along the way at the designated times!

The Pioneer BBQ & Beer

Sun Nov 04th | 1-4pm
(Click here for tickets)*

We are super excited to for this San Diego Beer Week event…BBQ and Beer with Pioneer Barbecue! Chef Hanis Cavin, owner/operator of the famed Carnitas’ Snack Shack(s) is behind this smokin’ BBQ spot and we are excited to kick off beer week at Thorn Barrio Logan with a collaboration with them. His food is amazing and the portions are awesome, so definitely make this one of your beer week events. Here are the details:

Sunday, 11/4, 1-4 pm at Thorn Barrio Logan

Tickets – $22 (plus ticketing fees) for a large plate of the following PLUS a Thorn beer of your choice. Suggested pairings will be available on the day of the event…

Dry rubbed smoked ribs
Smoked spicy pork cheddar sausage
Beer brined and smoked chicken wings

Sauces: St. Louis BBQ, Carolina BBQ, Ivan’s spicy BBQ

Mac n cheese – bacon topped
Smoked pork belly baked beans

Plates will be a combo of all!

Fede & Shannon Guest Bartending from Hoppy Beer Hoppy Life

Mon Nov 05th | 5-11pm

Stop by the brewery on our Industry Night and chat it up with our guest bartenders, Fede and Shannon from Hoppy Beer Hoppy Life!

Barrel-Aged Beer Night

Wed Nov 07th | 2-10pm

Join us on Wednesday, November 7th at Thorn Barrio Logan, for a special San Diego Beer Week edition of our Barrel-Aged Beer Night! We will be pouring:

  • Barrel Inception (Dark Tsar infused with coffee)
  • BA Abbey Roof Belgian Ale
  • BA Dark Tsar Russian Imperial Stout
  • BA Dark Tsar Russian Imperial Stout Uncut

Enjoy specials on barrel-aged bottles and glasses too!

Sour Beer Night and I Bless The Grains Beer Release

Fri Nov 09th | 2-10pm

Whether you love sour beers already or have never tasted one before, this event is for you! We have a full list of Thorn sours that will excite your taste buds with their delightful tartness and effervescence.

We are also releasing I Bless The Grains, a Sour Brut IPA hopped with all South African hops in collaboration with Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Co. This 6.66% beer is pale yellow in color with a thin white head, effervescent with hints of pineapple, Meyer lemon, tangerine, guava, grapefruit, pear, and subtle grassiness. You can expect a nice puckering tartness with a clean, dry finish laced with citrus and tropical fruit flavors from the hops. The hops that were used are African Queen, Southern Passion, and Experimental XJA/436.

Beer list:
To Blave Hoppy Sour Pale Ale
I Bless the Grains Sour Brut
Rustic Ralph Peach – Brett Saison aged in chardonnay barrels
Rustic Ralph Blackberry – Brett Saison aged in chardonnay barrels
Cherry Sour
Plum Sour

All the Hops

Sat Nov 10th | 12-11pm
Why only taste some of the hops when you can have all the hops? All day, on November 10th at Thorn Barrio Logan, we will be serving all our hoppiest beers for your bitter-palate-pleasure. Stop by for a pint or taste your way through them all!
10 IPAs on tap including:

  • Relay IPA
  • Wedding Bliss Pale Ale
  • Mystic Gnome IPA
  • Hopster Pot Hazy IPA
  • Menace IIPA
  • Rock the Pale Ale

and more…

That’s it for Thorn tasting room events, but we also are taking part in a bunch of events around town. For more information on these events go to our “Events Around Town” page and check out the exciting stuff we have planned.

donuts and beer tasters

Donut and Beer Pairings: The Hole Truth

Donuts and beer?? Yes, please! While some might scratch their heads at pairing beer with sweet treats like donuts, it has turned out to be an incredibly winning combination here at Thorn Street Brewery. It helps that we collaborate with the best donut spot in San Diego, Nomad Donuts, a shop that puts out an impressive array of incredibly creative donuts. On any given day, you can get inspired donut creations like Brown Butter Popcorn, Watermelon Tamarind Chili, and Blood Orange Creamsicle. The chef behind this donut madness is Kristianna Zabala, a pastry chef who took the leap from restaurant to donut shop and has never looked back.

The first pairing we did with Nomad was in April 2015 and it sold out quickly. We ended up doing two sessions to accommodate the incredible response and we learned two things from that first pairing. The first was that people loved donuts and beer together and the second thing was two sessions meant a 7-hour event for our staff and Brad Keiller, the owner of Nomad Donuts, which was just too long. We decided to do one session per future event and have the pairings a few times a year to spread out the donut-love and are now on our 6th pairing together.

One of the coolest things about pairing with these guys is the process and thought that goes into each donut. It all starts out with the week before the event. Kristianna comes into TSB with her boyfriend and food partner, Fernando Alatorre, a chef from Mr. A’s, which incidentally is where the two met. Her son, Kingston, never misses a planning session either, always excited to eat BBQ and drink some house-made root beer. While Kristianna has been making waves in the dessert world for some time, including a win on Sugar Showdown earlier this year, she is also an accomplished chef outside of desserts. Recently, she has participated in a Filipino Flavors dinner at Jsix, was the guest chef on Meatless Monday at Cueva Bar and took part in a multi-chef collab dinner at Council Brewing.

When asked, Kristanna actually says this is her favorite part of her job. “Collaborating is the best part. You get to work with different flavor profiles and different styles, whether it be beer or product that we are using or collaborating with another chef.”

We all sit down with two full tasting trays full of whatever 14-16 beers we have on tap, some BBQ from Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado, next door, and then the fun begins…

tasters of beer to prepare for nomad donut pairing

Working their way through the beers, Kristianna and Fernando are in turns both hilarious and deep thinkers when it comes to planning the pairings. They rapidly discuss their ideas, taking into consideration not only what’s happening in the food world at the moment but also seasonal flavors and local ingredients.

“I always bounce off ideas off of him,” Kristianna says “He’s my counterpart for all my beer pairings; helping balance flavors and pair the beers.”

First, she figures out which beers she wants to use in the donuts and then they discuss which beers go best with that donut. But what’s the hardest part?

“After trying so many beers, it gets hard, the palate gets tired,” Kristianna explains. “The hardest part is pairing something that is not as sweet and trying to bring out the flavor of the beer with the sweetness of the donut.” In fact, the tired palate dilemma is easily solved with a trip to the BBQ joint next door since the smoky, savory meats really help to clear up any leftover taste in between beers.

The two chefs are intense. They take the pairings seriously and push each other on their ideas, talking fully through every flavor note and taste that comes from the beers and how it will affect the donut combination. At one point in the night, Kristianna looked over at Fernando and says,

“Listen to this…I know you are going to be like, why are you doing this to yourself, but maybe we should do a mini Scotch egg.”

The idea is bomb, but the work and finesse it will take to pull off 100 quail Scotch eggs is no joke. After some discussion on logistics and where to source eggs from, Kristanna states, “Well, I’m fucking doing it!”

Fernando laughs, unsurprised, and wonders aloud how much he will be helping out early Sunday morning. After the three pairings are set, it’s time to wrap up this party. It’s 9 pm and we have been talking, planning and laughing for 2 hours straight.

“Are you ready for this?” Fernando asks Kristianna with a twinkle in his eye.

She shoots back with supreme confidence,”Are you ready? I’m ready for anything.”

Want to taste the magic? There are still a few tickets left to this pairing coming up this Sunday at 12:30 pm through Eventbrite.




sam adams big beer

Too Big For Craft Beer?

Boston Beer Co. is having a rough week. The “Pappy” of craft beer has been seeing a slowdown in their growth for the last couple of years, but the course-corrections that they employed seemed to have fallen short.  According to the Boston Globe, they just announced that their yearly profits fell 12%, from $156.2 million in 2015 to only bringing in $137.6 million on 2016. Furthermore, their depletions (the sales of their products to retailers from distributors) fell by 5%. To make matters worse, depletions in the first 6 weeks of 2017 have been down 15% from this same time last year.

Jim Koch, the founder and CEO of Boston Beer Company, tried to make sense of it to his investors as well as the media who have been watching the decline of one of the founding fathers of craft beer.

“New craft brewers continue to enter the market and existing craft brewers are expanding their distribution and tap rooms, with the result that drinkers are seeing more choices, including a wave of new beers in all markets,” He stated. “I’ve heard speculation from a couple of retailers that perhaps the fact that there were too many choices has, in fact, turned consumers away from craft with its extraordinary variety and category clutter and confusion and pushed them to something simple,”

Too Many Choices?

While “too many choices” could be an issue for people just turning to craft beer (and that very well might be a barrier to entry for some macro-beer drinkers) this issue doesn’t translate into why the sale of Sam Adams has slumped. Sam Adams isn’t on the decline because there are too many choices in the beer cooler. That would mean that people who had bought Sam Adams in the past were walking into the stores now, feeling overwhelmed with the “category clutter” and doing what? Walking out without buying anything? Buying more clutter craft beer? Buying macro beer? It just doesn’t make sense. What’s more likely is that craft beer drinkers don’t think Sam Adams is “craft” anymore and are buying different craft beer. Sam Adams is losing customers from the very base that they helped build.

Big Craft Beer

While Boston Beer Co. is still considered a craft beer based upon their ownership (at least 75% ownership by a craft brewer) as well as the number of barrels they brew (less than 6 million), they are still a giant company compared to most of the craft beer market. It appears as if their success and growth is now the issue, but they aren’t alone in this situation.

Along with Boston Beer Company, four out of the top five craft beer brands (in production volume) saw declines this last year. Fortune reported that Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Craft Brewer’s Alliance (owns Redhook, Kona Brewing and more) all ceded share last year, with only Lagunitas seeing a slight growth. Lagunitas is 50% owned by Heineken which brings up an interesting angle.

It seems like there is a widening gap in the craft beer industry. On one side you have the hyper-local breweries and on the other side, you have craft breweries that are owned by big beer and therefore backed by big-beer-money. The little guys are considered “cool” and are heavily supported by their local communities and the bought out breweries have the resources. In fact, two craft breweries that were bought out by big beer, Ballast Point and Goose Island both saw growth this last year while many other breweries of their size didn’t. There may be a multitude of reasons for their growth but it’s hard to ignore the fact that once big-beer-money is behind a brewery there is an ability to spend millions on marketing as well as lower their price point on kegs and even in stores (except Sculpin…Ballast has locked that beer in a premium category where they can charge an insane $17-$18 a six pack on the East Coast).

This would leave the middle guys (big craft breweries but not “big beer”) in an awkward position. They aren’t as cool as the thousands of small breweries popping up in neighborhoods every year and they don’t have the cash to (pay to) play with the big dogs.

Local, Local, Local…

This past year in San Diego, we have heard two larger breweries describe “hyper-local” craft beer as one of the reasons for their slower than expected growth. Stone and Green Flash both talked about the increased competition from hyper-local breweries being a factor in their less-than-expected growth and subsequent layoffs this past year. While both of these brands are highly respected within the industry, maybe they are hitting that “middle zone.” Stone and Green Flash are big dogs in San Diego but still small when it comes to the overall beer market and it’s hard for them to compete with the cheaper kegs, giant distribution channels and million dollar marketing budgets of big beer. Add in the increased competition from super local brands and it’s understandable why it can be hard being stuck in the middle.

Expanding the area where your beer is available raises an interesting issue. For example, expanding into Orange County and Northern California are goals for many small San Diego breweries, but our local brands are outsiders beyond the borders of San Diego. What happens when after beating the “drink local” drum for years, your beer is no longer “local?” Thorn Street, along with numerous other smaller breweries that are poised to move beyond San Diego county distribution, are about to find out.

Stone and Green Flash made a savvy move with the opening of breweries in Virginia (Richmond and Virginia Beach respectively). Along with all of the other reasons that it makes sense to open up breweries across the country, they have to win over craft beer consumers in their local area and it’s much easier to do that when your beer is “brewed locally.”

Where Does Boston Beer Go From Here?

Who knows what will bring Boston Beer Co. back to their former glory. Will it be by focusing on their classic brands like Sam Adams Boston Lager and Rebel IPA? Maybe instead of focusing on recapturing the consumers who are already craft beer drinkers and have moved on to “craftier” beers, they should focus on bringing macro-beer drinkers over to the “dark side.” Their beers are easy-drinkers that paved the way for many craft beer palates. With such a huge market of macro-beer drinkers out there, the pool to pull from is huge. Craft beer is still only 21% of the overall beer market. Maybe it’s up to Sam Adams and all craft breweries, really, to figure out a way to convert just some of the other 80%. The beer drinking market is there for the taking, we just have to find a way to tap into it.




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.


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!