Bagby brewery, restaurant nearly ready to open

Sitting on nearly half a block along Oceanside’s South Coast Highway, the Bagby Beer Co. is one of the most ambitious brewery projects in North County in recent years.

The brainchild of owners Jeff and Dande Bagby, the business includes a two-story restaurant, a 1,500-square-foot brewery and a beer garden on a 11,000-square-foot lot at the corner of Coast Highway and Minnesota Avenue.

“It’s the Jeff Bagby style,” said Dande Bagby, Jeff’s wife. “He’s really inspiring. He just isn’t afraid of a challenge.”

Jeff Bagby, 40, also happens to be one of country’s most award-winning brewers.

When he was head brewer and director of brewing operations for the Pizza Port chain from 2005 to 2011, the chain won “Best Large Brewpub” honors three consecutive years at the Great American Beer Festival, the country’s largest annual beer competition.

Not long after he left his job with Pizza Port, Bagby announced plans to open his own brewery.

“I worked really hard for a long time in the brewing industry and I honed my skills over the years,” Bagby said Thursday morning taking a break from brewing. “And I felt confident that I could do things a little bit different and a little bit better if I was the owner.”

When it opens in the next few weeks, Bagby Beer Co. could be the west end cap of what has been called Hops Highway, a nickname for the 39 breweries and brewpubs that can be found not far off state Route 78, from Oceanside to Julian.

Those businesses generated about $185 million last year in direct economic benefits to North County, according to a study by the National University System Institute for Policy Research released earlier this month.

Since he announced the project, craft beer enthusiasts have been salivating in expectation of Bagby’s new creations.

“There is a big buzz about it,” said Melody Campbell, president of the Vista Brewers Guild and tasting room manager at Iron Fist Brewing in Vista. “There are a lot of people who want to be there to see what he has to offer.”

Initially, the Bagbys were looking for a space in Encinitas, where Jeff was born and raised, but eventually they shifted their plans toward Oceanside. Dande Bagby, 39, said they wanted a place in North County, near the coast and began talking to the owners of the property, which they are now leasing.

Walking into the front of the building it’s difficult to imagine that this was once the home of a former Saab dealership. There is a wood-top bar in front of 41 tabs that will pour out not only Bagby beer but other local craft brew creations.

Upstairs there’s another bar with as many tabs and a more intimate dining area with views of Highway 101. An outdoor deck area offers views of the ocean to the west. A smaller room in the back could be used for private meetings for up to 25 people.

The massive kitchen downstairs includes a Woodstone oven that will be used to cook pizza. The menu will also include fish tacos, sandwiches and other pub-style dishes.

Throughout the building there are large windows, including some that can be rolled up completely. There are multiple outdoor patios, including a ground-level beer garden next to the kitchen.

Tucked inside the former service garage at the rear of the property, there is a 20 barrel brewing system, where Bagby is already brewing several beers, including an imperial red, Irish dry stout, English brown and pale ale.

There are no plans yet to bottle beer, but the company does plan to produce enough beer to sell at other local restaurants and pubs, Bagby said.

He said he hasn’t set a firm opening date for his Coast Highway brewpub, but expects it to be later this month.

For more information, visit www.bagbybeer.com.

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