Beer Pioneer: Jeff Bagby
After realizing an entire year had passed without his brewing even a single drop of beer, Jeff Bagby had an epiphany: “This is killing me,” he said.
How did you get started brewing, anyway? I started sampling… appreciating craft beer when I got to college. My friends and I stumbled upon the fact that there was better beer to be had instead of just drinking the stuff that would get us drunk. Back then, before the Internet, you actually had to use books and maps to find these breweries.
You’re a brewer, not a builder. What’s this side of starting a business been like? After my experience at Pizza Port Ocean Beach and talking with friends who have done this kind of thing, I knew there would be a lot of work. But I had no idea what it really entailed. But that’s sort of been an exciting part for me, learning along the way. I mean, we have a structural engineer and contractors—a lot of people are involved. I want to understand every step of the process.
You had so much success at Pizza Port, winning all those Great American Beer Festival medals. And then you left. What were you thinking, Jeff? It goes back to my days at Stone, when I had aspirations of starting my own bar or brewpub, but I knew that I wasn’t capable or experienced enough to do it. It got to a point where it was time, where I felt as if I had all the experience I needed and it was a now-or-never deal. Before, it was kind of a pipe dream, and now we’ve got the opportunity to get going. Luckily, my wife is as passionate about it as I am.
You’re a North County guy, born and raised in Encinitas. Yet, your new place is in Oceanside. How did you end up there? My original goal was to be in Encinitas. They hadn’t had a brewery there since, I think, 1990 or 1991, and it didn’t last long. But the landlord we wanted to go with ended up going in a different direction. We wanted to stay in North County so we ended up in Oceanside. It’s a big area, a lot of square footage. It’s turned into a really good situation.
Spill the goods, Bagby. What styles of beer do you plan on brewing? I know from getting emails and comments from people, that they associate me with certain types of beers they had at Pizza Port, and how they can’t wait to have them again. But I would like to think of myself as someone who makes everything. I like making beer. I like drinking beer. I want to pull from past experiences and the heritage of beer. We’ll have some lagers, some big IPAs. We’re going to be all over the place.
You’re hearing about the craft beer bubble—are there too many breweries? And we’ve seen a lot of growth locally. More isn’t always better, is it? Beer is becoming more popular with more people. What scares me is that some of the new breweries don’t have the experience that many of the others have. A lot of us have spent a lot of time building San Diego’s reputation. All eyes are on San Diego. So it kind of frustrates me when I go to one of these places and the quality of beer isn’t that good. Hopefully, they can turn things around and improve their style and quality. And I’m one of these new places opening up. I know my beer has to be good.
Your brother-in-law, Josh Byrnes, is the general manager of the Padres. Are you a baseball fan and, conversely, is Josh much of a beer drinker? I never played baseball as a kid and was never a huge fan. I never really paid a lot of attention until Josh came into our lives. Am I really into it? Not fully. But the same can probably be said for Josh and beer. He’s tried a few he likes. I know he’s drinking more beer than he used to.