O'Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company, Scripps Ranch
It had been a long day of driving when I pulled into O'Sullivan's lot around 4pm on a Thursday, a little road-buzzed and a lot parched. I had no idea what to expect since I hadn't done any research at all besides Yelping "breweries near me" when my thirst got to crisis levels as I finally approached San Diego again.
There's a very small patio with an umbrella. The front room as you walk in might be the tiniest tasting room I've ever seen, with just three two-seat high tops and a small window to order at that reminded me of the concession stands at the hockey rinks of my Canadian youth. Even so, it is very nicely done--to a much higher standard than your average run-of-the-strip-mall brewery tap room in a commercial space. Even better, there are additional tables in the back next to the tanks, a stack of barrels aging beer, and a lab setup. The brewhouse seems to be very well organized and well laid out, so that even though the space is small and contains a lot of equipment it doesn't feel cramped and crowded. There are some great skylights that fill the place with nature light. It is also spotlessly clean everywhere, which is quite a feat in an industrial space.
Megan, the bar manager/Jill-of-all-trades (she brews as well as bartending and managing the staff), served me up a flight of dark beers, the specialty at O'Sullivan Bros. The emphasis on darker beers certainly suits me. There's nothing wrong with a good IPA, let's be clear about that, but I do think darker beers in the British tradition are what I was put on Earth to drink. It seems like O'Sullivan Bros. aims to help me fulfill that cosmic purpose.
I had logged two beers in Untappd before Megan came to check on me. Turns out we both like D&D as well as beer, so we had fun chatting. She told me a bit about how the place runs, what kinds of beers they brew, and how much she likes working there. She is a great ambassador for the brand.
Sweet Nellie's Howling Brown (Brown Ale, 5.2% ABV). I like browns and this one is basically good, with decent malts and smooth mouthfeel, but I think this batch might be off. I pick up a metal/sour note. Untappd ratings and descriptions are all over the place, so perhaps they have an issue with consistency on this one. 2.75/5
The Quiet Man's Porter (Brown Porter, 6.7% ABV). I had never heard of a "brown porter"--turns out is just a description, not a style. Given the description, you won't be surprised to learn that it is brown in color, lighter than a typical porter, with a hint of redness. The mouthfeel is a bit thinner than medium, and the malt profile seems to me more like a brown than a porter. It is tasty though. 3.25/5
Our Father's Stout (Milk Stout, 6.5% ABV). Clearly the family's Irish roots are coming through in what they brew. This is a good milk stout, thick and flavorful, balanced, jet black. This won a silver at the 2015 San Diego International Beer Fest. 3.75/5
Black Irish (Stout, 6.2% ABV). You can't go wrong with an Irish stout. This one fills the bill, with a touch more sharpness than typical. 3.25/5
Things took a decided turn when I re-upped from my flight of four to a full pour of a barrel aged porter.
Catholic Guilt Gone Wild (smoked porter, barrel aged, 11.5% ABV). This is a great beer. I had a barrel aged coffee stout at Pure Project that I thought was better, but not by a lot. The aging takes the edges off that alcohol and smokiness, and rounds the whole thing out. I bought a bottle to take home--worth it even an a high price. 4.5/5
I also had a taste of a Jack Daniels barrel aged stout, and it was also excellent.
There's a decent amount of parking immediately adjacent to the location, plus parking throughout the commercial strip mall and on the street. Megan tells me it gets busy after work when people come to wait out the traffic, and on Fridays. The vibe is good, and the few customers I did see during my mid-afternoon visit were regulars who clearly love the place. They are quite close to White Labs and Intergalactic if you want to put together a little trifecta of craft beer along the 15. Ballast Point's Scripps Ranch location is right there, too. O'Sullivan Brothers is definitely worth checking out.
UPDATE 6/23/17: It was announced in the June 2017 issue of West Coaster Magazine that O'Sullivan is for sale. If you want a turnkey 400 bbl high-tech brewhouse with a lab and a great reputation, jump on this opportunity.
http://osullivan-brothers.com/ 9879 Hibert St, San Diego, CA 92131