Burning Beard Brewery, El Cajon
My first trip to Burning Beard was part of a multi-stop beer tour with a group of people. I ended up having so much fun I didn't get around to rating or making notes on most of my beers, so I felt like I needed to return to give the place a deeper look. The first time was fun, and as it was a Friday night the place was busy. I saw everything from large groups to first dates to people working on their laptops while enjoying a beer. The truly excellent Taco Tuesday truck was out front; highly recommended any time you see them.
I first got a real hint of how good Burning Beard is was when I visited Finest Made Ales. Finest Made was great, so when the beertender there made a point to recommend Burning Beard, I knew it would be good.
The area doesn't look like much--just another industrial park--but the tasting room is nice, with lots of wood, dark metal, a copper wall behind the taps, good art, and nice lighting. It feels like a bar rather than a tasting room, if you know what I mean. The long communal tables were made from wood salvaged from an old gold mine in Julian--pretty cool. You can see the (quite large) brewing system through windows to the back. On yet another beautiful San Diego evening, the deck out front was the most popular seating choice.
The night of my first visit, several of the beers had been hastily erased from the chalk board menu. The folks I was with pointed out that the missing beers were the best and most popular ones (another reason I felt I had to come back to have a fair impression on the place).
On my second visit, in the middle of the day, there were a few small groups of people enjoying the beers and companionship. I really appreciate places like Burning Beard that open at noon. I guess I didn't wait long enough between visits, because a couple of the popular beers were still unavailable. What I had was excellent, though:
Banksy ESB (Extra Special Bitter, 6% ABV). A very solid ESB. I suppose it is named after the British street artist, but I didn't confirm that. It is flavorful, biscuity, smooth, and very drinkable. 3.5/5
Circle of Wet Hops (Pale Ale, 6.5% ABV). Smooth and creamy with a hoppy bite on the finish. 3.5/5
Down through the Night (English Strong Ale, on cask with cacao, 8% ABV). Delicious. The regular version is good too though comparatively sharper, hoppier, and less velvety on the mouth. There's a cherry note and a subtle chocolate flavor. 4.25/5
Starry Dynamo (Belgian Porter, 7% ABV). Nice. Hallertau hops and chocolate malts interact to give a smoky impression even though it isn't smoked. The Belgian yeast flavor is muted; the sharp & roast flavors linger after the sip. 3.75/5
I was very impressed with the service. On my first night, my beertender introduced my flight with a detailed description of each of the beers and how their tastes would interact. On the second visit, Shannon was really friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and eager to talk about the beer. I wish every craft brewery would invest so much in selecting and training their staff.
This is an excellent spot. If you are heading out to Alpine Brewing Company and/or the Alpine Brewing Company Pub, Burning Beard is not far off the 8 as you are coming back into San Diego. As we learned, it is a good combo. Also, Burning Beard is just four minutes from the DMV, in case you need reviving after that always-lovely experience!
http://burningbeardbrewing.com/ 785 Vernon Way, El Cajon, CA 92020