O’Sullivan Brothers – San Diego CA

O’Sullivan Brothers is the second new brewery I’ve visited recently that started with everything they need right off the bat and a clear vision in place of where they want to go. Started by five Irish brothers who wanted to re-create the beer styles they love, O’Sullivan Brothers focuses on porters and stouts but they also brew a solid brown ale, pale ale, and amber.

Osullivan Brothers 01

This is one of the smaller tasting rooms in San Diego. The front area is especially small and has two tables with a little bar space. There is some more seating past the bar into the brewing area but when I visited it was quite hot back there. The air conditioning is all in the front space. Still, I was glad to see that they started things out with six beers to try, a pale ale, amber, brown ale, porter, smoked porter, and stout.

OSullivan Brothers 02The Amber has a nice light hop kick that combines nicely with the malts to give it a good balanced flavor. The pale ale is similar to something like an Alesmith pale at 5.5% using mosaic hops to give it a light citrus kick. The bitterness here is not too intense either but it has some solid flavors. Both of these are as hoppy as you will get for now. Though they talked about possibly doing an IPA in the future to meet with local demand, that isn’t a priority. Thankfully, these two hit the right notes in that flavor profile.

Taster flight. Front left to right, amber, pale, porter, brown ale. Back smoked porter, stout.
Taster flight. Front left to right, amber, pale, porter, brown ale. Back smoked porter, stout.

We had a bit of a mix up between the porter and brown ale when I got my taster flight. The server wasn’t sure if she might have mixed up the two and I had a difficult time telling the two apart. The nice thing about this is that both beers have a good roasted malt flavor. When I talked to one of the owners in the back he said they add a little bit of hops on the back of the brown ale to give it a little extra kick.

The smoked porter was a little too much like drinking mesquite. This was one taster we didn’t finish. However, I heard a guy comment about just how much he loved this one before we left. So if you like smoked beers, give this one a shot. Finally, the sweet stout was the highlight of the place for me. Despite the name, this is not a sticky extra-sweet milk stout. There is just enough sweetness here to get you to notice it and the rest of the beer is full on delicious roasted flavors you expect from a good stout.

Yes the tasting room is that small.
Yes the tasting room is that small.

I don’t normally do tours when I review breweries but I happened to go back on a tour here and was shown the great brewing setup that they have going at O’Sullivan Brothers. A computer system monitors most of the process and they have a quality control lab in the back. Besides all that, the guy I spoke to mentioned that they also make a point of trying to mimic the water from different parts of the world when brewing so that an English beer has English water.

With a system that is a step above some of the new breweries with glorified home-brew setups and a clear vision I expect great things in the coming years from O’Sullivan Brothers. They also mentioned that their first Imperial Stout should be out in December. This won’t be a coffee or chocolate-forward imperial stout but just a good strong traditional imperial stout. I’m curious to see how this differentiates them from the trend of coffee and chocolate flavors in most San Diego imperial stouts.

Update 2-21-15:

I came back to O’Sullivan Brothers in February of 2015 to try their newer stronger stout. They call it Old Shillelagh Triple Stout Porter. The beer is not as full bodied as you might get from something a little higher in alcohol but it has some delicious toffee flavors and roasted flavors that border on coffee. I really enjoyed this new offering and look forward to what they might have in the future.

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Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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