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Burning Beard keeps El Cajon on tap

Can't you smell that smell?

The rocker- and family-friendly tasting room of El Cajon's Burning Beard Brewing Company
The rocker- and family-friendly tasting room of El Cajon's Burning Beard Brewing Company
Place

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

785 Vernon Way, El Cajon

El Cajon's brewing scene came back to life on February 29, the soft-opening date for Burning Beard Brewing Company. Founded by a pair of homebrewing friends, Burning Beard debuted — as many new breweries do — with a short list of beers. However, a professionally finished tasting room belies its startup status, creating a comfortable and engaging space with a little bit of a rocker's edge.

The timing couldn't be better for East County beer drinkers. West Coaster reports that Santee's Twisted Manzanita shut down beer production only one month after El Cajon's URBN St. did the same. Meanwhile, the BNS tasting room in Santee is closed for remodel.

Burning Beard founders Mike Maass and Jeff Wiederkehr grew up in the area and take pride in setting up their business in El Cajon. They ran in similar circles at SDSU but took different paths to craft beer — Wiederkehr as a rock musician/English professor/metal-shop manager, Maass as an adventure traveler/editor.

Starting a brewery seemed unlikely to each of them, but as they entered a new phase in their lives, they'd get together with their respective families and bond over homebrewing. As Maass puts it, "That's where we find a common denominator, on that creative plane."

Wiederkehr concurs: "As a guy who's been in a million bands, for me it's analogous to songwriting."

They describe trading ideas, revising recipes, week after week, until they think they've nailed it — for enough years it became a family affair.

"Our brew days morphed into kids riding scooters up and down the driveway," laughs Wiederkehr.

When they decided to start a brewery, it was important to them make the tasting room a place where their family and friends could gather while they brewed, just on a bigger scale. They enlisted a craftsman to build furniture using century-old gold-mine pumps sourced in Julian. They drew upon the noted experience of craft-beer architect Dustin Hauck to convert a large warehouse into efficient separate spaces for the brewhouse, delivery bay, and bar. They also brought in M. David Weeks to help with branding — the skateboard graphic artist has also designed bottle labels for AleSmith and several wine companies.

The result is a space their kids can run around, even as classic rock, punk, and ’90s alternative tracks pump out of a jukebox.

Since both Maass and Wiederkehr will keep their day-jobs, they hired Chris Brown to join their brewing team. Brown had previously worked at nearby Butcher's Brewing in Santee, but Wiederkehr says they hired him because he was on that same creative plane. Again, he likens it to a band member, sharing musical interests.

"Our beer soundtrack was really similar," Wiederkehr says. "Knowing that we could speak the same language about beer was important."

So far they've lined up a couple of IPAs and stouts but have a more diverse lineup planned for an April 1st grand opening, with near-term plans for sours and wild ales to follow.

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The rocker- and family-friendly tasting room of El Cajon's Burning Beard Brewing Company
The rocker- and family-friendly tasting room of El Cajon's Burning Beard Brewing Company
Place

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

785 Vernon Way, El Cajon

El Cajon's brewing scene came back to life on February 29, the soft-opening date for Burning Beard Brewing Company. Founded by a pair of homebrewing friends, Burning Beard debuted — as many new breweries do — with a short list of beers. However, a professionally finished tasting room belies its startup status, creating a comfortable and engaging space with a little bit of a rocker's edge.

The timing couldn't be better for East County beer drinkers. West Coaster reports that Santee's Twisted Manzanita shut down beer production only one month after El Cajon's URBN St. did the same. Meanwhile, the BNS tasting room in Santee is closed for remodel.

Burning Beard founders Mike Maass and Jeff Wiederkehr grew up in the area and take pride in setting up their business in El Cajon. They ran in similar circles at SDSU but took different paths to craft beer — Wiederkehr as a rock musician/English professor/metal-shop manager, Maass as an adventure traveler/editor.

Starting a brewery seemed unlikely to each of them, but as they entered a new phase in their lives, they'd get together with their respective families and bond over homebrewing. As Maass puts it, "That's where we find a common denominator, on that creative plane."

Wiederkehr concurs: "As a guy who's been in a million bands, for me it's analogous to songwriting."

They describe trading ideas, revising recipes, week after week, until they think they've nailed it — for enough years it became a family affair.

"Our brew days morphed into kids riding scooters up and down the driveway," laughs Wiederkehr.

When they decided to start a brewery, it was important to them make the tasting room a place where their family and friends could gather while they brewed, just on a bigger scale. They enlisted a craftsman to build furniture using century-old gold-mine pumps sourced in Julian. They drew upon the noted experience of craft-beer architect Dustin Hauck to convert a large warehouse into efficient separate spaces for the brewhouse, delivery bay, and bar. They also brought in M. David Weeks to help with branding — the skateboard graphic artist has also designed bottle labels for AleSmith and several wine companies.

The result is a space their kids can run around, even as classic rock, punk, and ’90s alternative tracks pump out of a jukebox.

Since both Maass and Wiederkehr will keep their day-jobs, they hired Chris Brown to join their brewing team. Brown had previously worked at nearby Butcher's Brewing in Santee, but Wiederkehr says they hired him because he was on that same creative plane. Again, he likens it to a band member, sharing musical interests.

"Our beer soundtrack was really similar," Wiederkehr says. "Knowing that we could speak the same language about beer was important."

So far they've lined up a couple of IPAs and stouts but have a more diverse lineup planned for an April 1st grand opening, with near-term plans for sours and wild ales to follow.

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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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