The partners behind North Park's Thorn St. Brewery are branching out into Barrio Logan, where they will grow their brand — and their brewing capacity — as Thorn Brewing Company.
3176 Thorn Street, North Park
Dan Carrico, Dennis O'Connor, and Eric O'Connor (no relation) started Thorn St. three years ago with a seven-barrel brewing system. "It's just a massive home-brew system," jokes Dennis O'Connor, who operated a home-brewing supply store out of the Thorn St. location before launching the microbrewery. "We maxed out on the production capacity here after the first year."
Thorn St. has been contract-brewing off site to keep up with demand, and the partners started looking for a larger production space about a year and a half ago, mostly in Barrio Logan. They wound up in a property they'd long had their eyes on — a 22,000-square-foot former boiler factory on National Avenue that used to house the San Diego Public Market.
"We always liked that space," says Dennis, explaining that the Thorn partnership had on two prior occasions been in negotiations to lease the venue from real estate investors in the process of buying the building. "It fell out of escrow twice," he continues, and after the second time the partners decided to buy the property themselves. "I had an offer in the owner's hands the next day."
Thorn Brewing Company will technically be a separate entity, as the trio has brought seven new investors into the fold. However, the planned 30-barrel system will be used to brew Thorn St. Brewery's core beers, with an eye on greater distribution, including beer in cans. It will also give the brewery space to develop its barrel-aged products.
Meanwhile, the smaller Thorn St. brewhouse will focus on specialty beers and exploration. "All our background is in home-brewing," Dennis says. "I think that is reflected in our beers. We've got a lot of different styles; we like to experiment. You don't experiment on a 30-barrel brewhouse."
The massive property is divided into two large, high-ceilinged warehouses. One side will house the brewery and tasting room. Dennis says they plan to use the other half to bring in other vendors to occupy subdivided spaces, similar to the Public Market concept or that of James Coffee in Little Italy. They also hope to host community events there, fundraisers, and perhaps live music.
Dennis stresses the choice to move into Barrio Logan reflects a desire to maintain the neighborhood vibe the Thorn St. tasting room has established in North Park. "I like the character of Barrio Logan and I don't want to lose that," he says. Barring delay, he and his partners hope to have the new brewery online by this time next year.