Thorn Brewing's new Mark's Designs 30-barrel brewhouse
Thorn Brewing Co. opened to the public in Barrio Logan at the end of November. If you're thinking it's the same business as Thorn Street Brewery, you're partly right. Thorn Street founders Dennis O'Connor, Eric O'Connor, and Dan Carrico built the new production facility as an off-shoot of the North Park neighborhood brewery they launched five years ago this month. But Carrico says the partners needed to raise roughly $3 million to buy and build out the Logan property, so they took on a dozen investors and formed a new entity.
Thorn's Barrio Logan location is bigger, but its tasting room is smaller.
But the formal distinction between Thorn Street and Thorn Brewing mostly boils down to paperwork. In practice, the much larger Barrio brewhouse takes on production of Thorn's core beers, packaging them in a new canning line.
The North Park location keep its focus on small-batch beers, which includes plans to develop a sour program in the next year. As Carrico puts it, "Thorn Street has become our test facility for new beers and one-offs, so we can still put interesting beers on the market and keep us relevant."
Thorn had already been locally relevant, enough that it had been contract-brewing to meet demand. Its original 7-barrel brewery is built around a community-friendly tasting room, which Carrico estimates has been responsible for 70 percent of its revenue while selling 30 percent of its product.
3176 Thorn Street, San Diego
The 30-barrel Logan facility won't match that efficiency, but it's helping Thorn establish a regional presence, working with Stone Distributing Company to sell cans and kegs throughout Southern California. In 2016, Carrico says, contract-brewing helped Thorn produce roughly 2500 barrels of beer; in 2018 it expects to reach 7000 on its own.
While Thorn's new property encompasses 21,000 square feet, the new brewery occupies only half the building. Most of that houses brewing equipment, with a modest 750 square feet reserved for the tasting room. The other 10,500-square-foot side of the building is currently being rented to MMA and crossfit gyms.
The partners' original plan was to create a cooperative space there, inspired by Denver's The Source: a market co-op featuring artisan food vendors and boutique retailers, including the highly regarded Crooked Stave brewery; however, a 2013 rezoning of Barrio Logan zoned the former boiler factory for residential use.
While much of the building was ultimately grandfathered in for industrial use, the zoning forced Thorn to make a few changes. The new long-term plan is to launch a restaurant in the west side of the building, as well as a 2000-square-foot distillery, dubbed Thorn Spirits.
Five years into business, Carrico says a lot about Thorn's beer business has not gone as originally planned, but he's not complaining. "When we started Thorn Street, we all had our regular jobs," he says. "It was just going to be a fun club house where we could hang out with friends and drink beer."