9879 Hibert Street, Scripps Ranch
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Back in July, I visited Ed O’Sullivan, owner of namesake interest, O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company (9879 Hibert Street, Scripps Ranch). No beer had been brewed, but there was plenty to be impressed by, namely a quality assurance (QA) laboratory taking up roughly a fifth of the space at his business suite brewery and tasting room, an advanced system for manipulating the make-up of water used to brew beer, and the simple yet inviting nature of a tasting room outfitted with a service window. Last week, I returned during the first week of O’Sullivan Bros.’ soft open, tasted through their opening sextet of brews and chatted about them with Ed and his wife Rose, both of whom were working the counter.
The big goals at O’Sullivan Bros. are to produce ales and lagers that are universally refreshing and be well-known for producing quality dark beers — brown ales, porters, and stouts. There are currently four such beers on the menu, including Sweet Nellie’s Howling Brown Ale, which Ed labels, “the beer the brewery was built on.” Named after Ed and Rose’s dearly departed brown-eyed beagle, it’s meant as a crossover beer for non-craft drinkers looking to get their taste buds wet with a beer that’s easy-drinking with flavors characteristic of myriad dark beers. It fits the bill for that purpose, but is a bit round for the tastes of someone more used to analyzing beers against style guidelines.
More impressive for connoisseurs is Catholic Guilt, a hilariously named smoked porter with a light smoldery character brought on by the addition of cherry wood-smoked malt. It’s a no-brainer for pairing with barbecue cuisine. Also quite nice is The Quiet Man, a brown ale-porter hybrid with notes of cola, hazelnut, and coffee. As it warms, welcomed flavors of pumpernickel bread arise in force. Two lighter-colored ales, a pale and amber, are also on tap. The former is made in the West Coast-style, with very little malt presence and clear, though reserved, grapefruit-like notes from Citra hops. The amber is brewed with tropical Mosaic hops that get canceled out to an extent by malt toastiness, but finishes nice and dry, as do most of O’Sullivan Bros.’ beers.
All in all, the beers make good on Ed’s dual missions. There’s room to grow and fine-tune, but no defects. A lot of that has to do with the company’s QA lab and technician, and the fact Ed used connections gained while he was going through UCSD Extension’s Brewing Science Certificate Program to put together a Technical Advisory Board. That group includes White Labs founder Chris White, certified beer judge Brian Boyd, and Roberto Crea of Creagri, a company which produces an olive oil extract that helps preserve beer without pasteurization. This constitutes an unexpected and admirable level of quality control typically only seen at larger brewing companies.