In the beginning, there was one beer on one patio. A pint of White Sage IPA at Blue Fire Brewing spawned one idea. Who would win if there was a competition pitting all the best North County brewery patios against each other?
The best ideas always seem to hit me over a beer (or two), and going on a summertime quest to visit and rank all the best brewery patios seemed fantastic. At the time, I thought I’d end up going to half a dozen outposts, but with some brainstorming help from my fellow brewery patrons, we quickly listed a baker’s dozen.
As the day wore on and the list got longer, part of me thought, maybe this isn’t such a practical idea, but I wouldn’t say I like to shy away from a challenge. Deep down, I knew I was committed, for better or worse.
This brings us to our North County Brewery Patio-Off finale. The first rounds were easy. I followed the bracket and scored each patio on their accommodations, atmosphere, offerings, service, and a possible wildcard experience. After two rounds, 24 teams were narrowed down to 16.
The original scores were considered at this point, but the overall experience and intangibles mattered more in the third round. Sixteen breweries became eight, then four, and finally, our championship match: Bagby Beer Company vs. Viewpoint Brewing Company.
Their similarities stand out more than their differences. Both offer complete food and drink menus. Both have multiple outdoor seating areas. Both do an incredible job of incorporating the outdoors inside. Even though it wasn’t a factor in this tournament, both offer excellent beer. I don’t think that is an accident. Focusing on quality in one area often leads to excellence in another.
Before I break down this final head-to-head and declare the NCBPO winner, it must be said that the real winners here are me and you (and anyone visiting North County San Diego). There are excellent outdoor spaces to commune and drink a beer here. I’d venture more than just about anywhere else. In some areas, I could walk or ride a bike to several in one neighborhood. Now, let’s get to it.
Bagby vs Viewpoint: The Breakdown
Accommodations: Bagby has five different outdoor seating areas by my count. There is a little something for everyone. You can sit on the roof overlooking the courtyard, on the front porch watching the Pacific Coast Highway, in the courtyard under a roof, or lounging at a table or on Adirondack chairs under a shade tree.
Viewpoint has two outdoor spaces that abut one another. Both look out over the lagoon towards the Del Mar fairgrounds. There are shaded and sunny spots and access from the river path leading down towards the terminus of the Coast To Crest Trail. Advantage: Bagby.
Atmosphere: Viewpoint has a lineup of tables along the outer edge of the back patio area with propane fire pits that offer warmth on cool evenings. It is a smart move for a patio prone to cool breezes pushing inland from the ocean. The ample indoor/outdoor space is thoughtfully designed with a mix of wood and metal. Hanging lamps and plants create depth and life in an area that might otherwise feel cold. Hops grow up the outer posts that enable shade sails over the space.
Bagby’s back patio does natural shade in the form of trees and vine plants over the trellis and anyone. Hanging bulb lights give off a warming glow to liven up any evening event. It looks and feels cinematic. You can even sit at an outdoor bar looking past stacked wooden barrels into the brewing space. Advantage: Bagby.
Offerings: Both restaurants offer full menus near the top of any brewery food list. I particularly appreciate Bagby’s vegan offerings, but what Viewpoint is doing with food…wow. The eclectic menu offers everything from classic fish tacos to pork schnitzel to crispy octopus and flatbreads. I’d be worried they were trying to do too much, except it all looks so dang good coming out of the kitchen. Advantage: Viewpoint.
Service: I tend to ask a lot of questions. It is a hazard of this job. Viewpoint offers table service, which is helpful for someone like me. It is also nice not to think about my responsibilities in the ordering process. At Bagby, you can order at the bar or use their QR-code menu system. I found the staff to be well-prepared, pleasant, and service-forward at both locations, but I’m old school. Advantage: Viewpoint.
Wildcard: It all comes down to this. I didn’t think about it at the start of the competition, but access matters. It is effortless to get to and into Bagby Beer. On one visit, I rode my bike right in the back gate and parked the car in a dedicated lot on the next.
At Viewpoint, I had to circle the small lot a few times until someone else left, and on one visit, I got stuck in Del Mar fair traffic, which bummed me out. From another perspective, if you were headed towards the fairgrounds and could get a spot at Viewpoint, you’d have a charming afternoon!
Finally, something about the privacy of the courtyard at Bagby Beer makes for a unique experience. The world and all its problems are the outside of that wall. You’ll find cold beer, kind smiles, good food, and an oversized Jenga inside. Advantage: Bagby.
Winner: Bagby Beer Company.
Congrats to the team at Bagby Beer Company for winning the title of North County’s Best Brewery Patio 2023. Congrats to all the competitors in North County who’ve made this an incredibly challenging beer quest. Congrats to all of you drinking beer outside at your favorite brewery. Wherever you find yourself in San Diego’s North County, you’re never far from a great patio experience.