Early Look: Bagby Beer Co.

A photo tour of San Diego's most promising upcoming beer project

A Sunday morning pancake breakfast. Happy people milling around a parking lot, chatting with friends new and old. No, it wasn’t some church function, unless you’re a devotee of the religion that is San Diego craft beer. This scene took place on the blacktop of a former car dealership in Oceanside.

That site has since been taken over by Jeff Bagby, the former director of brewery operations at Pizza Port Carlsbad and the guy who has amassed more medals at the Great American Beer Festival (the country’s largest annual beer competition) than any other brewer. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but after finishing all of the demolition that he, his friends and family can on their own, Bagby and his wife Dande invited supporters of their upcoming Bagby Beer Co. to feast on pancakes and beer, and take a look around what will be one of the most ambitious and inviting brewpubs in the entire county.

The following is a tour of the expansive site with photos that, once the project is finished, will be used as "after" pictures to show just how far everything has come.

The north side of the property is comprised of a pair of L-shaped buildings laid out parallel and connected to each other by a second story rectangular building. The western first story building used to be a service garage for the dealership and, though it does currently house Bagby’s old pick-up truck, the lifts and other automotive equipment have been removed to convert the space into a brewhouse and cellar. Those components will take up the south end of the garage. Moving north, there will be a tasting bar and growler fill station with views into the brewery, followed by a hallway and staircase leading to the upper level.

The second story will be outfitted with a large bar and multiple dining spaces, including a “family dining room” with views onto Highway 101. This part of the brewpub will be adaptable for private dining, as well. But the best part of the second story will be a deck that’s being constructed to extend south from the center of the structure. The Pacific Ocean will be clearly visible, as will an expansive garden area filling all the space in between the downstairs structures.

The garden area will be the main al fresco option, and will be equipped with a bar as well as a wood-burning pizza oven. It will also serve as prime real estate when the Bagbys put on beer festivals much like the events Jeff helped establish and run at Pizza Port. Four times a year, the parking lot can be utilized for special events like these.

The entirety of the downstairs floor on the east side will be devoted to the food component of the business. It will house the kitchen and scullery, another large bar, and plenty of dining space, again with a clear view of the main drag. In fact, there will be roll-up windows with bar seating on either side. The south end of the east building will give way to an outdoor seating area covered with a canopy.

South of the aforementioned structures is a separate building that will eventually be converted into a store featuring merchandise and to-go growler fill service, as well as administrative offices and a second story domestic space. In the future, Bagby hopes to establish a system where fans can pre-order their growler orders, then swing by and pick up their beer at a specified time. A handful of limited time parking spaces will be set aside for such pick-ups. An entire fenced-in lot taking up a quarter of the block directly north of the site is currently being upgraded with additional lighting and will serve as Bagby Beer’s primary parking.

It’s one of the most ambitious beer-related projects in the history of San Diego, second only to the gargantuan pair of brewery-restaurant facilities installed by Stone Brewing Co. As such, it will take a significant amount of time for it to take shape. Bagby hopes to open the venue by spring or summer of next year. Nine months or so is a long time, but Bagby Beer Co. is promising enough to justify the wait.

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With all of the hints about its location, I still can't determine where this is. Perhaps someone can describe it by the name of the street it is on, and by the two closest cross streets. At first I thought it might be on the site of the former Kia of Oceanside and before that the Saturn of West 78, but that has no view of old 101, nor of the ocean.

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