By Chris Morrison, Lead Ambassador for LoSoCal
Many people know San Diego as the craft beer capital of the world and the craft brew industry has an economic impact of 1.2 Billion on the region! You could spend years writing about all the beers and breweries here, and many people have done just that! I wanted to profile a very special brewery and new music venue that I discovered while out with some coworkers a couple months back. Thorn Street Brewing is a community oriented brewery that operates out of three locations in San Diego; North Park, Barrio Logan, and Mission Hills. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tom Kiely, the general manager of the Barrio Logan location, to discuss their beer and mission.
Tom is a great guy with a thick New England accent. After offering me a beer and pouring one for himself (I went with the delicious Barrio Lager), Tom talked about his passion for beer and how Thorn Brewing started.
“Thorn Street started in North Park, on Thorn Street itself. Dennis O'Connor owned the building on Thorn Street and was moving his office upstairs. Down below was a home brew and hydroponics shop. The owner started to get sick of homebrewing. Eric O’Connor and Dan Carraco were shopping at home brew and were friendly with Dennis and when Dennis mentioned he wanted to open a brewery downstairs, they asked if he was looking for partners. The rest is history. Those three started Thorn and are still the owners”
One of the things that I like so much about Thorn, and why I wanted to write about them for LoSoCal is how they involve the community in what they do and how they give back to their local neighborhoods. The North Park location is heavily involved with the schools in the area and often helps with fundraisers. I asked Tom what it means to be a neighborhood brewery and he said; “So we are in Barrio Logan now. Here for instance we have 5 days a week we have tacos from Dos Tierras which is a local barrio logan shop. We have our tasting room manager here Ernie is a local Barrio guy, and we really try to hire in the neighborhood. All the art on the exterior of the building is by local street artists. We have taken over the lot next door and are throwing some ragers over there with the whole neighborhood. Its gonna be sick man. Part of the proceeds will be going to local barrio charities for each party. We try and bring the neighborhood in on fun stuff.
As Tom mentioned above, the Barrio Logan location has opened a live music and party venue next to the brewery. The awesome outdoor space is a great way to feature local artists and involve the community in the brewery. They kicked off the “ragers” by celebrating Mexican Independence day earlier in September. This mini music festival featured local Mexican artists, dancing, and of course lots of awesome food and beer. Keep an eye out for their next party!
I had a great time speaking with Tom and I highly recommend checking out one of Thorn Streets three locations. They have a beer for everyone and their tasting rooms are an awesome place to hang out. I am excited to see what they do with the new space in Barrio Logan and I cant wait to catch some great live music there. Read the rest of my interview with Tom below, and feel free to comment with your favorite brewery in San Diego!
Chris: So, how did you get involved with Thorn? How long have you been working here?
Tom: "I just hit 5 years about a month ago. I worked for a beer distributor in Boston called El Knife and Sun and then I quit to move to Cali for a change of pace. The distribution company asked if I wanted to start an operation in San Fran and I said sure. Simultaneously they were opening up a San Diego operation and just as I got to California they asked me to run that.
Sounds like a fun gig!
“Yea I did that for about 6 months. A year later I started with Thorn working in distribution. I had reached out to a bunch of breweries and Thorn was the first to reply!”
That seems to have worked out well?
(Laughing) “Yes it was a great example of being at the right place at the right time. People often ask me how to get a job in the beer industry and it is hard. A lot of people want to work in "beer" so as a brewery it's easy to find a warm body. So what do you have to offer? There is room for any career in beer, you just have to be good.”
Speaking of distribution, where do you guys distribute your products? Just SD?
"We distribute to all of So Cal up to Santa Barbra and over to Palm Springs. We also just launched Japan and soft launched Mexico. We also sell a little beer in Belgium."
“Yea why not? In America the craft beer business is expanding and the number of breweries is growing. Because of that it is difficult for a brewery to expand outside of its home market due to competition and because beer is now hyper local.”
Yea everyone wants to drink local beer.
“Yea exactly. We thought that instead of competing with local breweries in the state why don't we sell San Diego style IPAs into regions that don't have it. We knew we didn't have to commit as many bodies or money to open these new international markets. This gave us a great opportunity to learn more about exporting.”
So what is the story behind the logo? Why a racoon on a bike?
"So what makes Thorn, Thorn is that we are a neighborhood brewery. If you got to the North Park location we are in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. We care about making good beer but we don't wanna be stiff about it. It is a little bit more about fun than it is about analyzing and educating about beer. This ties into the logo in a couple ways.
The Racoon is commonly found in North Park because of the proximity to Balboa park. They are kinda a frisky animal but relatively harmless. Its kinda like fun. So the North Park location is right on the border of north park and south park locations. South Park has some iconic bike racks shaped like the old penny farthing bikes. So the racoon and the penny farthing represent north and south park. It is a well done clean logo and we love it. But at the end of the day it's a raccoon riding a bike so we don't take it too seriously."
Is there a beer that you are best known for? What is the flagship?
"The Relay IPA and the Barrio Lager are the best selling. Try those two if you want to get to know us. We have also won a world cup medal for our Imperial Red Ale."
So what is next for Thorn Street?
"We just opened the tasting room in mission hills on July 19th. Come check it out, we are super proud. We are also making a keto-friendly gluten reduced IPA. We were trying to focus on for the past 2 years is just aiming a shit load of IPAs. Its what we like. But now we have a million ipas so now we are asking how do we offer like a beverage for every situation and every occasion. Part of being a neighborhood brewery is offering something to everyone in the neighborhood, so we want to expand our selection. We are dabbling in some small batch hard seltzers and teas. You should be able to bring everyone here and they will find something that they like. Us at our best is when we are including everyone."
Thanks for stopping by friends of LoSoCal. Please like this post or add a comment below about your favorite local Southern California brewery!
I have had the pleasure of writing off and and on for LoSoCal over the last couple of years and I love showcasing local artists, music, and the SoCal lifestyle. I was born and raised in Oceanside and then moved down to San Diego last year. I love living in SoCal for the music, the ocean, and of course the beer! I run my own marketing consulting business and love coaching small business owners so that they can improve their brand. I am looking forward to sharing more about socal!
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Owner, Lead Blogger
Hello, my name is Karen Vazquez. I have lived in Southern California for over thirty years. I realized about four years ago that it was time for me to give back to this wonderful community by supporting local SoCal businesses, performers, restaurants, spas, boutiques, fitness studios, farmers markets and more. My support shines through here by highlighting these fabulous local SoCal spots. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, PInterest and LinkedIn. I will be featuring many local destinations in the area that have been my personal favorites for years and am currently recruiting guest bloggers to expand the voice of LoSoCal. I have had guest bloggers in the past, but aim to incorporate local SoCal bloggers on a regular basis as a fun, creative and collaborative way to connect with the community here. Essentially, LoSoCal is a community blog, and it is meant to be resource to locals in this area and visitors from around the world. Please like or follow LoSoCal on the social media business pages and tell your contacts about the blog. Thanks for stopping by...
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