Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Chapter 11 for El Cajon Brewing Company
Yesterday, I reported on a brewing company I thought was doing something right, recapping an early QA session where Modern Times Beer owner Jacob McKean put himself out there, allowing a group of ten beer enthusiasts to critique several of his prototype beers. Today’s post will be different.
As a food journalist with a defined focus on the local craft brewing scene, I regularly reach out to brewery owners, brewers, and associated brewing company personnel, so that I can interview them about their businesses and stay on top of what’s going on with them. Despite the fact I’ve offered critical opinions on brewing companies I think aren’t up to snuff, I never affix value—or lack thereof—to any business before they open their doors to the public.
To put it simply, everybody gets one. If you are opening a brewery, I want to know, and I want to know what you’re all about so I can tell others you’re on your way. It’s news. Every brewery deserves their shot, and every craft beer drinker deserves to know about what’s out there for them.
With more regularity than one might expect, brewery personnel do not return my emails or phone calls disclosing my role and requesting the opportunity to speak with them. Surely, these individuals have their reasons, and it has zero effect on the way I view them moving forward. For all I know, they’re extremely busy and have an inbox as packed as mine. I just do my best to interface with them as they get closer or after they get their doors open, and eventually, I get my face-time with them (or virtual face-time as the case may be).
Tenacity is required for anybody on a beat. I have that in spades and it’s always been rewarded where craft brewing is concerned…with one exception. That anomaly is El Cajon Brewing Company (110 North Magnolia Avenue). I reached out to them far before they opened up in downtown El Cajon, but didn’t receive a response. I tried back several times prior to their grand opening. No response. I tried again after they were open. More silence.
Like I said before, there’s no way I could know why they didn’t want to talk. I assumed it might have something to do with the over half-a-million dollars they were loaned by the City of El Cajon or, more likely, the fact they borrowed $345,000 initially, only to fail to open and come back to request another $300,000 to get up-and-running. That can bring on reporters who enjoy feasting on leads rife with the potential for incensing a community’s citizens. But I’m not one of them. Unfortunately, that was all I really knew about El Cajon Brewing Company for a long time.
After having their beers, I was unimpressed, but not terribly disappointed. Some were out-of-style, but none of them were dismally bad or undrinkable. They just weren’t special; average at best. I chalked up the fact I hadn’t heard back as no big loss and have proceeded to try and keep up with them via alternative methods.
The latest bit of news to flow my way is the fact the business has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, allowing them to reorganize under U.S. bankruptcy laws. The company has also interviewed brewers in the past month. Not great news for the business or the City of El Cajon. Far from it.
The way one runs their business is their business, but I can’t say I’m surprised to hear news like this about a company that fails to take advantage of opportunities to easily and effectively reach the exact people who will be interested in their business (i.e. - you, dear reader), especially when they have a lot of peoples’ money riding on their ability to do so.
Everybody gets one, and I’d have been happy to give them theirs. It’s a shame this turned out to be what I ended up writing about them. With any luck, their reorganization will be successful, an improved business will emerge, and I'll have some good news to report for this business down the road.