Officially, Oceanside Ale Works has closed. But the brewers at 1800 Ord Way expect to be making beer again soon.
On January 5th, Oceanside's first brewery used social media posts to announce it would close the following day: "It is with a heavy heart that we announce that this Saturday the 6th will be our last day," one read. "After 12 years of #goodtimes with #goodpeople we have to say goodbye."
It marked the third San Diego County brewery in as many weeks to announce its closure, and made Oceanside Ale Works the oldest active brewery to close in the 29 years of San Diego's craft-beer era.
Except, this is not the story of a longtime brewery forced out of business by rising competition; rather, it's the dissolution of a partnership.
"I've been in a business partner dispute for four years now," revealed cofounder Mark Purciel during his tasting room's last day open to the public. "I have a 50/50 business partner. He went Bowe Bergdahl on me four years ago."
In 2006, math teacher Purciel opened Oceanside Ale Works with a homebrewing partner, firefighter Scott Thomas. Purciel contends Thomas left the business abruptly and hasn't come back — hence the comparison to the infamously AWOL Bergdahl. "He just bounced," Purciel recalled. "He got pissed off about the Dude label."
That would be the Dude Double IPA, which the brewery began releasing in 22-ounce bottles in late 2013 following a gold medal win at that year's San Diego International Beer Festival. The label depicts Purciel in thick beard and sunglasses, echoing "The Dude" character from 1998 film, The Big Lebowski.
Scott Thomas could not be reached for comment.
Purciel characterized the split as "litigious" and said his preference was to buy out Thomas's half of the partnership, but "He never gave me a legitimate [buyout] offer." Four years on, Purciel ultimately decided to shut down the business as a means of ending the partnership, planning to "liquidate the assets and then split the profits."
However, Purciel indicates many of the assets belong to him alone and that he will use them to re-open under a new business entity. "I own the building, and I own the equipment," he said, "so I don't have to do anything, really, if I wanted to reopen." However, first the closure of Oceanside Ale Works must be completed, which he anticipates will take a month or longer. "You have to make a clean break," he said. "Close the books on the partnership. Get rid of all the inventory. Close down for a few weeks…then I can go back and re-open."
Purciel added that he owns the trademark as well but doesn't yet know whether he'll return to the San Diego beer business under the name Oceanside Ale Works, suggesting it could just as well be something like Oceanside Barrel Project or North County Ale Works. "The name's really irrelevant," he said. "It's what's in the glass that's important."