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First Drafts: URBN St. Brewery

Former Stone brewer homebrewing eventual brewpub offerings

An early version of URBN St. Brewery's English-style bitter. - Image by Tyler Graham
An early version of URBN St. Brewery's English-style bitter.
Place

URBN St. Brewing Co.

110 N. Magnolia, El Cajon

Just four guys sitting around the brewery drinking beer…and, yes, we all have beards. This was the Facebook post describing the first media tasting session for the beers of URBN St. Brewery (110 North Magnolia Avenue, El Cajon). The brewpub is owned by the business entity behind URBN Coal-Fired Pizza and BASIC and located in the former El Cajon Brewing Company space.

It is also undergoing renovations, leaving brewmaster Callaway Ryan unable to work on the rough drafts of his opening day lineup on the system that will eventually birth them. Instead, he’s getting back to his brewing roots, using stock pots and carboys. Having worked for larger production breweries including Surly Brewing Co. and, more recently, Stone Brewing Co., it’s the first time he’s gone the homebrew route in roughly five years. As such, his first drafts aren’t perfect, but they are indicative of the direction he wants to go and promising enough that, once dialed-in, they’ll provide enough reason for beer enthusiasts to venture east on Interstate 8.

URBN St. Brewery brewmaster Callaway Ryan samples one of his early creations.

The three beers he allowed me to try were an English-style best bitter, India pale ale, and mysterious brown ale he refused to label. The bitter was extremely mild at 3.8% alcohol-by-volume and creamy as a result of the inclusion of flaked wheat in the malt bill. Dubbed a “pub-friendly” beer by its crafter, it was designed to be approachable. Ryan understands that being in El Cajon, a community that's been less exposed to craft beer, will provide the opportunity to convert folks to the medium.

The IPA, obligatory in hop-hungry San Diego, is made with hops rarely seen in India pale ales — Pacifica and Glacier. This beer represents the challenge facing many new brewing operations: brewing beers without access to popular hop varieties. With craft beer booming the way it is, most contracts for hops like Cascade, Citra, and Centennial are set, leaving very little for fledgling companies just getting their feet. As such, rare and experimental hops are what the little guys can get their hands on. Considering this, Ryan did a nice job, coaxing out orange notes and a grassy character to go with bitterness from Warrior hops added early in the brewing process.

Then there’s that baffling brown ale, which comes in at 5.2%, tastes like a deeply browned pretzel, and exhibits a nice, hefty mouthfeel. It’s unlike any beer being made in San Diego, Ryan wanted a beer with food flavor and the ability to pair well with URBN St.’s fare, which will include the Connecticut-style pies of the brewpub’s sister restaus as well as pub fare developed by former Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido executive chef Alex Carballo. All in all, it was a decent showing that’s bound to be followed by an even better display once Ryan can start working off his 15-barrel system, which will hopefully happen later this month.

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An early version of URBN St. Brewery's English-style bitter. - Image by Tyler Graham
An early version of URBN St. Brewery's English-style bitter.
Place

URBN St. Brewing Co.

110 N. Magnolia, El Cajon

Just four guys sitting around the brewery drinking beer…and, yes, we all have beards. This was the Facebook post describing the first media tasting session for the beers of URBN St. Brewery (110 North Magnolia Avenue, El Cajon). The brewpub is owned by the business entity behind URBN Coal-Fired Pizza and BASIC and located in the former El Cajon Brewing Company space.

It is also undergoing renovations, leaving brewmaster Callaway Ryan unable to work on the rough drafts of his opening day lineup on the system that will eventually birth them. Instead, he’s getting back to his brewing roots, using stock pots and carboys. Having worked for larger production breweries including Surly Brewing Co. and, more recently, Stone Brewing Co., it’s the first time he’s gone the homebrew route in roughly five years. As such, his first drafts aren’t perfect, but they are indicative of the direction he wants to go and promising enough that, once dialed-in, they’ll provide enough reason for beer enthusiasts to venture east on Interstate 8.

URBN St. Brewery brewmaster Callaway Ryan samples one of his early creations.

The three beers he allowed me to try were an English-style best bitter, India pale ale, and mysterious brown ale he refused to label. The bitter was extremely mild at 3.8% alcohol-by-volume and creamy as a result of the inclusion of flaked wheat in the malt bill. Dubbed a “pub-friendly” beer by its crafter, it was designed to be approachable. Ryan understands that being in El Cajon, a community that's been less exposed to craft beer, will provide the opportunity to convert folks to the medium.

The IPA, obligatory in hop-hungry San Diego, is made with hops rarely seen in India pale ales — Pacifica and Glacier. This beer represents the challenge facing many new brewing operations: brewing beers without access to popular hop varieties. With craft beer booming the way it is, most contracts for hops like Cascade, Citra, and Centennial are set, leaving very little for fledgling companies just getting their feet. As such, rare and experimental hops are what the little guys can get their hands on. Considering this, Ryan did a nice job, coaxing out orange notes and a grassy character to go with bitterness from Warrior hops added early in the brewing process.

Then there’s that baffling brown ale, which comes in at 5.2%, tastes like a deeply browned pretzel, and exhibits a nice, hefty mouthfeel. It’s unlike any beer being made in San Diego, Ryan wanted a beer with food flavor and the ability to pair well with URBN St.’s fare, which will include the Connecticut-style pies of the brewpub’s sister restaus as well as pub fare developed by former Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido executive chef Alex Carballo. All in all, it was a decent showing that’s bound to be followed by an even better display once Ryan can start working off his 15-barrel system, which will hopefully happen later this month.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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