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Beer of the Week: Thorn St. Imperial IPA

India pale ale speaks to North Park brewery's improvement and updside

The first time I visited Thorn St. Brewery (3176 Thorn Street, North Park), I was enamored with the place. A former homebrew supply store that’s been converted into a brewery with indoor and semi-outdoor tasting bars, it’s simple, warm, and inviting; a lovely place to spend an evening with friends, particularly if you’re a North Park resident. What I wasn’t as taken with were the beers being produced there. But like any good beer journalist, I’ve made return visits and, in doing so, noticed marked improvement in Thorn St.’s offerings.

The colors, the colors - a welcomed sight at Thorn St. Brewery.

Whereas before, almost every beer looked and tasted very similar—orangey-gold to amber in color and muddled in their hop character—a recent run-through of the on-tap selection turned up an unfiltered hefeweizen, copper-colored ESB on nitro, golden saison, roasty coffee porter, and several beers that, though similar in style, could be discerned from each other by sight, smell, or flavor. There was even an intensely spicy chili pale ale brewed with jalapeño peppers and cobra chilies grown at one of the brewers' North Park residences several blocks away.

The chili pale was a tasty treat that seemed engineered for my heat-seeking palate, but my favorite beer, by far, was Thorn St. Imperial IPA. Bright, tropical and refreshing, it was unlike anything I’d had from Thorn St. preceding this visit and exactly the type of bee they’ll need to make to hold their own among the dozens of other San Diego breweries hitting the mark with beers of this nature. Kudos to brewers Dennis O’Connor, Dan Carrico, and Eric O’Connor for making enough progress to show some serious potential moving forward.

Thorn St. Brewery partners Dennis O'Connor (left) and Dan Carrico pose in their soon-to-be-expanded brewery.

I’m not the only one to document the quality of the trio’s wares. At the recent San Diego International Beer Festival, their Golden Hill Pilsner won a bronze medal. I sampled that beer, as well, and enjoyed it. Thorn St. produces it using 100% reverse osmosis water. It has a bit more body than traditional pilsners, but it helps balanced out equally increased hopping while keeping the beer very drinkable.

Thorn St. is in the midst of an expansion that will increase its production from 700 barrels to 1,300 barrels. Those are small numbers for most breweries, but for one Thorn St.'s size, it’s huge. Especially considering how popular the venue has become with locals. Every time I’ve been to Thorn St., the place has been alive with locavorian bustle. This, despite the fact that, they are still in their soft open stage. That lengthy trial period will come to an end during the brewery’s grand opening festivities on July 27. Additionally, they weren't allowed to serve full pints of beer, but that changed this week and should cement the pub-like feel of their venue.

The brewing team recently ordered some bourbon, brandy and tequila barrels, and brewed an imperial stout for the whiskey barrels. The brandy barrels will have American strong ale and barleywine funneled into them, and the barrels that once house the agave spirit will be used to craft a double version of their Agave Amber Ale. Improved beers and big barrel aspirations provide ample reason to further track this operation’s upward trajectory.

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The first time I visited Thorn St. Brewery (3176 Thorn Street, North Park), I was enamored with the place. A former homebrew supply store that’s been converted into a brewery with indoor and semi-outdoor tasting bars, it’s simple, warm, and inviting; a lovely place to spend an evening with friends, particularly if you’re a North Park resident. What I wasn’t as taken with were the beers being produced there. But like any good beer journalist, I’ve made return visits and, in doing so, noticed marked improvement in Thorn St.’s offerings.

The colors, the colors - a welcomed sight at Thorn St. Brewery.

Whereas before, almost every beer looked and tasted very similar—orangey-gold to amber in color and muddled in their hop character—a recent run-through of the on-tap selection turned up an unfiltered hefeweizen, copper-colored ESB on nitro, golden saison, roasty coffee porter, and several beers that, though similar in style, could be discerned from each other by sight, smell, or flavor. There was even an intensely spicy chili pale ale brewed with jalapeño peppers and cobra chilies grown at one of the brewers' North Park residences several blocks away.

The chili pale was a tasty treat that seemed engineered for my heat-seeking palate, but my favorite beer, by far, was Thorn St. Imperial IPA. Bright, tropical and refreshing, it was unlike anything I’d had from Thorn St. preceding this visit and exactly the type of bee they’ll need to make to hold their own among the dozens of other San Diego breweries hitting the mark with beers of this nature. Kudos to brewers Dennis O’Connor, Dan Carrico, and Eric O’Connor for making enough progress to show some serious potential moving forward.

Thorn St. Brewery partners Dennis O'Connor (left) and Dan Carrico pose in their soon-to-be-expanded brewery.

I’m not the only one to document the quality of the trio’s wares. At the recent San Diego International Beer Festival, their Golden Hill Pilsner won a bronze medal. I sampled that beer, as well, and enjoyed it. Thorn St. produces it using 100% reverse osmosis water. It has a bit more body than traditional pilsners, but it helps balanced out equally increased hopping while keeping the beer very drinkable.

Thorn St. is in the midst of an expansion that will increase its production from 700 barrels to 1,300 barrels. Those are small numbers for most breweries, but for one Thorn St.'s size, it’s huge. Especially considering how popular the venue has become with locals. Every time I’ve been to Thorn St., the place has been alive with locavorian bustle. This, despite the fact that, they are still in their soft open stage. That lengthy trial period will come to an end during the brewery’s grand opening festivities on July 27. Additionally, they weren't allowed to serve full pints of beer, but that changed this week and should cement the pub-like feel of their venue.

The brewing team recently ordered some bourbon, brandy and tequila barrels, and brewed an imperial stout for the whiskey barrels. The brandy barrels will have American strong ale and barleywine funneled into them, and the barrels that once house the agave spirit will be used to craft a double version of their Agave Amber Ale. Improved beers and big barrel aspirations provide ample reason to further track this operation’s upward trajectory.

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Comments
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I too am fond of the Imperial IPA.

Aug. 6, 2013

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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