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Hannah Clark, Beertender at Laguna Beer Company. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Hannah Clark, Beertender at Laguna Beer Company. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Cheers! North County Cities Columns Food & Wine

Sharing is caring at Vista’s CoLab Public House

I Like Beer the Podcast joined the CoLab Public House for its soft opening on July 22 in Vista.

The venture, spearheaded by Joe Deutsch, has taken some time to come to fruition, but the public was ready and the reception was impressive.

Sharing is caring could be the motto of the CoLab Public House. The space, located in Vista off the 78 freeway, features three breweries, a winery and an eatery. The goal is to provide a family-friendly space.

“We wanted to be family friendly,” said Deutsch. “Not just a place for wine drinkers, or beer drinkers, but a place for families to come out and have fun. We’ve got a gaming system set up to entertain kids while parents can have a great time together.”

Chris Banker, head brewer of Barrel and Stave Brewing. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Chris Banker, head brewer of Barrel and Stave Brewing. Photo by Jeff Spanier

The opening was a hit. Right from the moment the doors opened, the people poured in. Every brewery had a line and the many tables and spaces filled up quickly.

“It reminds me of a grown up food court!” said Julie, a patron.

A key to licensing such a venue is each entity must make at least fifty percent of their product on premises.

“Everybody is a producer on this site. Wine is made here. There’s a barrel aging program and a brewing system shared by the brewers,” explained Deutsch.

The three breweries include Laguna Beach Beer Company, opening its first San Diego County location. Co-owner, Christian Emsick, sat down with me to go over the brewery’s line up of beers and discuss its decision to join the Vista beer scene.

Christian Emsick, co-owner of Laguna Beer Company. photo by Jeff Spanier
Christian Emsick, co-owner of Laguna Beer Company. photo by Jeff Spanier

Emsick explained, “We are hoping for a warm reception. I’ve been coming to Vista since I got into craft beer, and we’re excited to be a part of this community. We feel we have something unique and cool to offer.”

Over an exceptional 1000 Steps IPA, Emsick shared his thoughts on the shared venture: “This is the definition of a rising tide raising all ships–we all want to succeed together.”

Laguna Beach Beer has dedicated the space for their barrel-aged program. I tried the Aztec Tomb Stout aged for 13 months in a Heaven Hill Rye Whiskey barrel. It was the first beer created on site. It was divine.

Generous vanilla accompanied by more subtle coconut and cacao blended together into a rich, but not too sweet, pastry stout. Something curious happens on the back end of each sip.

“The Guijilo chiles give it a flickering ember of heat on the back,” explained Emsick.

Inside the CoLab Public House in Vista. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Inside the CoLab Public House in Vista. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Julie Spanier enjoying the experience at Vista's CoLab Public House experience. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Julie Spanier enjoying the experience at Vista’s CoLab Public House. Photo by Jeff Spanier

A few steps away, I met Chris Banker, head brewer for Barrel and Stave Brewing. Banker has enjoyed success as a home brewer, but this was the big reveal for brewing on the CoLab system. Barrel and Stave offered a surprising variety of styles. Banker walked me through his peanut butter hefeweizen.

“I’ve tried to recreate the flavors of a peanut butter and banana sandwich with this beer,” explained Banker. “I’ve dialed back the clove notes and really leaned into the banana and breadiness.”

It was a unique beer that I entered into with no preconception of what it would deliver. I ordered a second immediately. The first batch brewed by Barrel and Stave was a traditional Kolsch that also impressed.

Regarding the CoLab, Banker said, “we’ve all been helping each other out with storage, with sharing ideas and brewing approaches.”

The third brewery is a standard in North County, Breakwater Brewing from Oceanside. The brewery’s flagship beer, DMJ, is a traditional West Coast IPA. The new facility has allowed the company to increase production of this tried and true beer.

The CoLab Public House in Vista recently opened its door. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Guests clink their beers at the July 22 soft opening of CoLab Public House in Vista. Photo by Jeff Spanier

Head brewer, Sean Quinn, shared the history of the 15 year old DMJ IPA: “It’s our original recipe. It’s the old school west coast style, a little more caramel malt, simcoe and citra hops to deliver that piney flavor.”

“And to tie this all together, you’ve got to have good food,” Deutsch said.

Baby’s Badass Burgers, known for their food trucks and Shark Tank success, has opened their first brick and mortar location inside the CoLab Public House. Not one to miss an opportunity, Banker paired a beer with the Baby’s original Beauty Burger–the Beauty and the Beast Altbier.

While the Grand Opening of the CoLab House still awaits finishing touches by Propaganda Wines Company, the spot is already a hit. And the Hop Highway experience has gotten even better!

The CoLab Public House is located at 2129 Industrial Court in Vista. The brewery also hosts private events.

Jeff Spanier is the host of I Like Beer the Podcast, available wherever you get podcasts. You can also follow the ILB team’s adventures on instagram @ilikebeerthepodcast and the website ilikebeerthepodcast.com.

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