Bagby Beer wears heart on its wall

Anticipated brewpub's pre-open support of cancer awareness

The most anticipated brewery opening of 2014 is that of Bagby Beer Company. As reported in September, it is the passion project of award-winning former Pizza Port director of brewery operations Jeff Bagby and his wife Dande, and is being constructed at an old and expansive auto dealership along Highway 101 in Oceanside. On my last check-in, the Bagbys were hoping for a spring or summer opening, and they’re right on track with a timeline that has them welcoming the public in May or June. But they’re not letting that stop them from inviting a few hundred beer fans over well beforehand.

Jeff is teaming up with former Pizza Port colleague, Melanie Pierce, who now works for the Keep A Breast Foundation. A major part of her role includes spearheading the fifth annual Brewbies Festival, a beer event benefiting her breast cancer non-profit. On March 1, Bagby Beer will host the event in its future parking lot, which is across a side street on the corner of Minnesota and Tremont. Forty-five breweries and numerous food trucks will be on hand to aid in the fund-raising efforts.

But the Bagby’s support of cancer awareness doesn’t stop there. Last week, the couple reported to their project site to find a wall covered in graffiti. But instead of gang-style tagging or hate speech, there was an anti-cancer message referencing someone named Kenny. The next day, a small congregation gathered around the wall and, when confronted by Dande, one of them explained that Kenny was her husband and that an artist friend of theirs had painted the wall as a tribute. Rather than get angry or file charges, the Bagbys provided their condolences and invited her to come back with Kenny when he was released from the hospital.

Unfortunately, Kenny passed away the next day. As a tribute to him, the Bagbys have vowed not to paint over the wall, and will come up with a fitting way to honor Kenny’s memory with something that will remain a permanent part of their brewpub-to-be. Having won more medals than any individual brewmaster at the Great American Beer Festival, it was easy to support Jeff branching out on his own. Knowing this story (told in much more eloquent detail on the company’s blog) makes it even easier to root for him.

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