When URBN Restaurants took over the brewpub that formerly housed El Cajon Brewing Company in the municipality of the same name, it was working with a 15-barrel system and aimed to distribute its beers throughout San Diego. Just over a year later, its URBN St. Brewery was shut down, with its brewhouse being sold off (to San Marcos’ Wild Barrel Brewing), leaving a vacant room and cold box in the back of a still-operating restaurant. This summer, a new business will utilize that space to bring the shared dream of four homebrewers to life…on a much smaller scale. That operation goes by the handle Creative Creature Brewing (110 North Magnolia Avenue, El Cajon).
Founders and brewers Derek Carnation, Andy Robles and Abraham Zavala have homebrewed together on a one-barrel garage rig for years, so to them, transitioning to their four-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse is quite the upgrade. The trio, along with co-founder Jesus Escobar, spent the past year-and-a-half building their brewery with equipment purchased from local operations, Automatic Brewing and Border X Brewing, as well as Electric Brewing in Murrieta. Their aspirations for that machinery and the place it will call home are much humbler than those of URBN, and probably much more in line with what someone in this space should be gunning for.
Being in a city’s downtown core offers the opportunity to build a strong, engaged following out of nearby residents. Detracting one’s attention from such a potentially built-in clientele by focusing on countywide distribution (or delivering beer to accounts outside San Diego) can lessen traction established in one’s backyard. Creative Creature’s team intends to sell most of their beer from their facility—one of the county’s smallest at just 933 square feet—and were intentional in their decision to settle in El Cajon.
Certain technical aspects of the space such as finished plumbing and electrical made it attractive, but Carnation, who grew up in East County, was driven by something more. “El Cajon is very diverse and one of the largest areas in San Diego County,” he says. “Being close to this community was important to me.” In keeping with geographic pride, local artists have been commissioned to decorate the walls of the brewery with a modern-industrial motif.
On the beer front, 12 taps will dispense Creative Creature beers as well as cold-brew coffee and infused carbonated water. The former will be wide-ranging and, from the sounds of things, rather adventurous (one could say “creative”). IPAs both hazy and West Coast in style will be brewed along with stouts and kettle sours. The latter will include multiple takes on Berliner Weisse—Cranbiscus (cranberry-hibiscus) and tamarind-flavored served with Tajin seasoning—while the extreme end of the IPA family turns up Leftovers IPA, a throwback coming in at 105 IBUs (international bittering units).
Creative Creature will be equipped with a 16-ounce canner, but those looking to get growlers filled will need to bring their own. The business is currently on track to open by July.