Not many people can see an empty car dealership and envision a master brewery but that is what Jeff and Dande Bagby did when they created the Bagby Beer Company, 601 South Coast Highway in Oceanside.
Bagby Beer Company is often described as the Flagship brew pub of not only Oceanside but the entire region. “There are still a few things to do.” Dande explained, “I like to have things done in a set way but it has become sort of an organic process. Now we have this huge awesome team that gets to have influence, provide input and that’s really enriching for us and for them. I didn’t really anticipate that but it has been a happy surprise.”
The two stories of the Bagby Beer “Compound” encompass 9,000 square feet of the former site of Continental Motors and feature the brewery, bars and a tasting room. That square footage doesn’t include the outdoor seating areas and courtyard. “Having this much room gives us a lot of flexibility. We can have a 120 person event outside and everything else is running normally.” said Dande.
The main bar has a 41 beer tap tower, large windows that can be rolled up like garage doors and tables that are a bit narrower than tables you will find normally. “We have just a few televisions, the music playing, isn’t loud and we made the tables a bit narrower. It was important for us to have a place where people can spend some time and have a conversation.”
Upstairs is another bar with a 41 tap tower and an outdoor patio where you can watch the sunset over the ocean or watch the cars cruise past on the 101. Also available is a private meeting room for up to 25 people.
On the lower level is the beer tasting room with a 20 plus tap tower. Due to government regulations, beer purchased in the tasting room must be consumed in the tasting room unless you fill a ‘Growler’ to go. The tasting room is adjacent to the brewery where they make beer, lots and lots of beer. “That was always the goal” said Dande.
Jeff Bagby is a renowned master brewer and was director of brewing for the Pizza Port chain of brew pubs before founding the Bagby Beer Company. Knowing what works and what doesn’t, Jeff used his knowledge and experience to design the brewery. From the height of the tanks off the ground, to the brew distribution from the fermentation tanks to the bright tanks, everything was designed to efficiently produce the highest quality and variety of beer. With all of the complicated processes and timing involved in brewing such a wide variety beers, you would think they had a computer to keep track of the brewing schedule. “Jeff is amazing that way. He has everything worked out, all of the time, in his head.” said Dande.
The list of beers available is always evolving. One of the more popular beers is the ‘Worker Bee’ named in honor of the staff. “It’s a blonde ale brewed with local grapefruit honey. It is super light, drinkable and people have really responded to it.” explains Dande “You get a lot of the aroma of the honey but it doesn’t add a ton of sweetness.”
The Continental Cream Ale, named in honor of the location of the brew pub, is another popular beer along with several IPA’s including the Dork Squad. “We try to keep it on tap all the time but it does run out.” explained Dande ”so Jeff made a pale ale, after the first time we ran out, named ‘Grief Counselor’ so when someone asked for a Dork Squad and we were out, we could tell them, I can’t get you that but I can get you a Grief Counselor to get you through.”
The Asphalt Jungle, an Irish Dry Stout was the fourth batch of beer they ever made. It medaled at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver Colorado. “It’s sort of like the Olympics of beer but on a national level. It was a huge compliment.” said Dande. “It’s nice to get that but more important are the responses people give us when they are here and enjoying the beer.”
The food menu is as varied as the draught list. “How food and beer go together, how food, in its own right, is a craft. It was really important to us to have those two elements together.” said Dande.
There are no official beer and food parings, “Not overtly” explains Dande ”Our team, almost without exception, are beer nerds. They love coming up with ideas on what they think pairs well.”
The Fish Tacos are one of the more popular food items on the menu. “They are classic Baja Style. Nothing fancy.” Dande said, “If you were to take a surf trip to Baja, this is what you would get.”
Pizzas, baked in a stone hearth oven, are another big seller. “Our dough, our sauces, everything is made fresh, in house every day.”
You can start your meal with a variety of appetizers including chips and salsa or get adventurous and try the Belgian Street Frites, traditional Belgian-style twice fried potatoes plus herb and truffle aioli with house beer cheese. Finish your meal with a fried PB and J; peanut butter cream cheese and strawberry jam or their Saucy Bread Pudding.
The full menu is available on the Bagby Beer Company website along with the, updated daily, draught list. Bagby Beer Company is a dog friendly brew pub.