Craft beer makes an entrance in El Cajon

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WEBDerek Carnation of Creative Creature.jpg

Does Downtown El Cajon need a new craft beer brewery?

The answer is a big yes from patrons who crowded the initial soft-opening date for Creative Creature Brewing Company, during late afternoon and evening hours on Friday, Oct. 5, near the iconic Downtown El Cajon sign at the intersection of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue.

Does Downtown El Cajon need a new craft beer brewery?

The answer is a big yes from patrons who crowded the initial soft-opening date for Creative Creature Brewing Company, during late afternoon and evening hours on Friday, Oct. 5, near the iconic Downtown El Cajon sign at the intersection of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue.

The brewery, currently in an extended rollout stage of limited open hours, is employee-owned and -operated, with four principals swapping around brewing duties and general operations tasks. The grand opening of Creative Creature Brewing Company is slated for early in 2019.

Derek Carnation, co-founder/brewer with the company, took time to be interviewed on Thursday, Nov. 15, to describe business plans and discuss the ownership group’s approach to brewing craft beer. The enterprise’s watchwords are “Beer Different,” and as Carnation outlined over a few samplers of Creative Creature brews, this in-house operation more than delivers on that slogan.

“Our soft opening was one of the most hectic days of my life,” Carnation said. “We were definitely understaffed.”

But that does indeed bode well for the likely success of this brewery operation, which follows a couple of other brewing concerns that ultimately foundered in the same space.

Carnation’s “day job” work has been in real estate since 2005. He began brewing around 2002 and collaborated in brewing with current Creative Creature partner Andy Robles in 2012.

“We intend to focus on sustainability first,” Carnation said. The brewing equipment is owned by the partnership at present. “We want to slowly make a presence,” Carnation said in further explanation. Two of the partner brewers are available at all times, so that someone can fill in as needed.

“This is an art,” said Carnation. “We want our beers to be different and exciting. We would like people to come here and drink something they never tried before.”

One difference for Creative Creature, which figures outstandingly in taste of the group’s beers, is use of 100 percent grain and no lactose in the recipes. Carnation explained that this practice costs more but yields a “better buzz” for beers that can be enjoyed on their own rather than as complementary to food.

As with many San Diego craft brewing enterprises, Creative Creature features a special, characteristic sideways humorous style in naming the group’s craft beers. “El Cajones” is the Creative Creature flagship lager. This beer is made with jasmine puff rice and takes six weeks to finish. Clocking in at 4.2 percent ABV and 22 IBU, this lager is eminently drinkable as a session beer, yet has much more flavor and complexity than expected from typical lagers. Carnation noted that some patrons like this beer served up michelada style, although this beer stands very well unaltered without any additives.

One ongoing favorite among beer aficionado locals is the “Purple Heart” Sour IPA, which earned hearty praise from Santee VFW and American Legion members who sampled the brew at East County street fairs. Hibiscus imparts the purple color, and this tasty concoction balances out the sourness nicely, at a hefty 7.6 percent ABV.

“Perplexion” Triple IPA is a stunner, mild and smooth at 10 percent alcohol, neither aggressive nor bitter nor forehead knocking — but a quaffable drink that could surely turn any knowledgeable beer lover’s complexion perplexed. The brew dubbed “C.A.L.M” is classified as a Berliner Weisse, with the acronym denoting cucumber, lime and mint in the recipe. Carnation said that these ingredients are hand-processed, not frozen and locally sourced. This delicious beer, at 4.5 percent ABV, should entice many drinkers who recently gravitated to alcoholic kombucha beverages.

The brewery is situated in the corner space behind URBN El Cajon Craft Pizza, off the Magnolia Avenue parking lot of the host retail center. Creative Creature beers are already on tap at URBN, as well as a few other bistros and eateries around San Diego. Creative Creature’s first can release was slated for Saturday, Nov. 17, of the brewery’s “Leftover” Hazy IPA, with a second can release set for Saturday, Nov. 24, of the “Lucid Dream” Double IPA.

The address to visit is 110 N. Magnolia Avenue, with current open hours of Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m., and Sundays, noon until 5 p.m. More information can be acquired by phoning (619) 201-8180.

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