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Gonzo Report: Punk nirvana approached at Burning Beard Brewery

Non-toxic talk and tunes

Leave your divison at the door: Wiederkehr and Maass celebrate with Spider
Leave your divison at the door: Wiederkehr and Maass celebrate with Spider

“What made you think the world needed another brewery?” I ask Burning Beard Brewery co-founder Mike Maass. He doesn’t miss a beat, laughing as he explains the art of brewing, and the environment he and Jeff Wiederkehr had in mind from the inception of their El Cajon operation. What he describes is a place where all toxicity and division gets left at the door. It’s a lofty goal, and I’m curious to learn just how close to nirvana (the state of mind, not the band) they get. As I find out, pretty fucking close.

Place

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

785 Vernon Way, El Cajon

It’s the seventh anniversary of the business, and there’s plenty to celebrate. Things like surviving the pandemic and working with the San Diego Natural History Museum to honor a locally discovered 38 million-year-old sabre-tooth tiger with a beer called New Fang, featuring product artwork by Mike Weeks. Weeks also designed the packaging for Fleet Beer, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and Space Theater. The graphics are striking: an astronaut suit fitted to a skull, an image that kicks off Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” in my noggin. But that sound is light years away from the bands that are playing this afternoon. It’s all about punk and energy, featuring Poison Hearts A.C., Quazimofo, The Focke Wolves, and Spider, a band I’ve been waiting to see for several years.

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Sponsored

As promised, the division that reigns in the realms of social media remains outside, while indoors, the exchange of ideas and art springs to life. As I enter the venue, I’m spotted by my wife’s friend Barbie Gaulin, who asks me to give her my regards when I get home. She’s hanging out with another person I’ve “met” on social media: Knikki Royster of Wabash Cannons greets me, and we chat about what the band is up to before she gives me a history lesson about women in the San Diego punk scene. It’s a thread that will run through the event: discussions about music from diverse viewpoints.

Sometimes, these meetings-of-like-minds start because of a mutual love for a particular band. Maass’ partner and co-founder Jeff Wiederkehr is a fellow member of the KISS Army, and very few things elicit enthusiasm like two people who can recall the exact date they discovered an old favorite. Other times, they begin with pseudo-confrontation. A youngish red-haired woman asks me what my shirt is about. It’s a souvenir from the Temptations bio musical Ain’t Too Proud that she thinks might be a political statement, either pro or con, regarding the conservative group The Proud Boys. Relieved to be told that it’s neither, she shares that most of her upcoming wedding playlist, which features loads of Motown, was met with derision by the DJ, who snidely asked her how old she was. I was happy to hear the DJ was subsequently told to “just play the fucking songs.”

An obviously drunk man interrupts our conversation, telling me, “Don’t even try it.” Before I have the chance to wonder if this is the redhead’s betrothed, he tells me, “I’ve been trying to pick up chicks all day, and it doesn’t work here.” I inform him that I’m happily married and refrain from listing all the probable reasons he’s been unsuccessful. As it happens, there’s no time for discussion, as his one-man mosh pit soon ends in a spiraling descent to the ground. It’s a testament to the environment that he’s immediately surrounded by Maass and several patrons, who try to help him up. They also attempt to make sure he’s not driving.

The stimulus of the event doesn’t wear me down, because the copacetic atmosphere keeps it from being overwhelming. There’s food — an entire cooked pig, whose smiling head persuades me not to eat the pork — and artwork in the hallway that connects to the interior bar. A highlight: I’m able to chat with Toothless George and Tatiana Mac of Poison Hearts A.C. about Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love, and about jazz versus precision basses.

Come showtime, not only does Spider not disappoint, they leave me ecstatic; their live performance gives me a pump of adrenaline that surpasses their recorded offerings. To wrap the event up with one final rush, I get introduced by Barbie to frontman Hector Martinez, and a discussion ensues concerning what makes a perfect record, followed by a mutual recitation of our top five. He leads with The Wall, considered by many to be Pink Floyd’s magnum opus, and the mere mention of that band sets my controls for the heart of the sun again.

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Leave your divison at the door: Wiederkehr and Maass celebrate with Spider
Leave your divison at the door: Wiederkehr and Maass celebrate with Spider

“What made you think the world needed another brewery?” I ask Burning Beard Brewery co-founder Mike Maass. He doesn’t miss a beat, laughing as he explains the art of brewing, and the environment he and Jeff Wiederkehr had in mind from the inception of their El Cajon operation. What he describes is a place where all toxicity and division gets left at the door. It’s a lofty goal, and I’m curious to learn just how close to nirvana (the state of mind, not the band) they get. As I find out, pretty fucking close.

Place

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

785 Vernon Way, El Cajon

It’s the seventh anniversary of the business, and there’s plenty to celebrate. Things like surviving the pandemic and working with the San Diego Natural History Museum to honor a locally discovered 38 million-year-old sabre-tooth tiger with a beer called New Fang, featuring product artwork by Mike Weeks. Weeks also designed the packaging for Fleet Beer, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and Space Theater. The graphics are striking: an astronaut suit fitted to a skull, an image that kicks off Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” in my noggin. But that sound is light years away from the bands that are playing this afternoon. It’s all about punk and energy, featuring Poison Hearts A.C., Quazimofo, The Focke Wolves, and Spider, a band I’ve been waiting to see for several years.

Sponsored
Sponsored

As promised, the division that reigns in the realms of social media remains outside, while indoors, the exchange of ideas and art springs to life. As I enter the venue, I’m spotted by my wife’s friend Barbie Gaulin, who asks me to give her my regards when I get home. She’s hanging out with another person I’ve “met” on social media: Knikki Royster of Wabash Cannons greets me, and we chat about what the band is up to before she gives me a history lesson about women in the San Diego punk scene. It’s a thread that will run through the event: discussions about music from diverse viewpoints.

Sometimes, these meetings-of-like-minds start because of a mutual love for a particular band. Maass’ partner and co-founder Jeff Wiederkehr is a fellow member of the KISS Army, and very few things elicit enthusiasm like two people who can recall the exact date they discovered an old favorite. Other times, they begin with pseudo-confrontation. A youngish red-haired woman asks me what my shirt is about. It’s a souvenir from the Temptations bio musical Ain’t Too Proud that she thinks might be a political statement, either pro or con, regarding the conservative group The Proud Boys. Relieved to be told that it’s neither, she shares that most of her upcoming wedding playlist, which features loads of Motown, was met with derision by the DJ, who snidely asked her how old she was. I was happy to hear the DJ was subsequently told to “just play the fucking songs.”

An obviously drunk man interrupts our conversation, telling me, “Don’t even try it.” Before I have the chance to wonder if this is the redhead’s betrothed, he tells me, “I’ve been trying to pick up chicks all day, and it doesn’t work here.” I inform him that I’m happily married and refrain from listing all the probable reasons he’s been unsuccessful. As it happens, there’s no time for discussion, as his one-man mosh pit soon ends in a spiraling descent to the ground. It’s a testament to the environment that he’s immediately surrounded by Maass and several patrons, who try to help him up. They also attempt to make sure he’s not driving.

The stimulus of the event doesn’t wear me down, because the copacetic atmosphere keeps it from being overwhelming. There’s food — an entire cooked pig, whose smiling head persuades me not to eat the pork — and artwork in the hallway that connects to the interior bar. A highlight: I’m able to chat with Toothless George and Tatiana Mac of Poison Hearts A.C. about Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love, and about jazz versus precision basses.

Come showtime, not only does Spider not disappoint, they leave me ecstatic; their live performance gives me a pump of adrenaline that surpasses their recorded offerings. To wrap the event up with one final rush, I get introduced by Barbie to frontman Hector Martinez, and a discussion ensues concerning what makes a perfect record, followed by a mutual recitation of our top five. He leads with The Wall, considered by many to be Pink Floyd’s magnum opus, and the mere mention of that band sets my controls for the heart of the sun again.

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