The collective model has taken root in San Diego soil and is flourishing from North County (Oceanside’s Tremont Collective) to the South Bay (National City’s 8th & Market). Locals and tourists alike crave the convenience of having a variety of vendors — everything from clothiers, restaurants, bars, and more — all in one place. Typically, collectives are comprised of storefronts and stalls, but a new communal venture called CoLab Public House is adding production to the mix and bringing something completely new to San Diego’s adult beverage scene in the process.
With more than 150 breweries and over 115 wineries within county limits, it’s a cinch to find local beer and wine in San Diego. Ping-ponging to and from local beverage makers is a beloved pastime, but CoLab allows beer fans and oenophiles to find everything they’re looking for in one place.
A $5 million project sited just off State Route 78 in Vista, CoLab comes in at 12,500 square feet, over a third of which is devoted to public space. Upon entry, guests may belly up to any of four tenant-specific sections of a 100-foot contiguous bar to order beers from Barrel & Stave, Breakwater Brewing, Laguna Beach Beer Company, and Propaganda Wine Company. They may then enjoy those liquid wares in a two-story indoor tasting room or on an extensive outdoor patio. The former features a plethora of seating options, an upstairs arcade, and a colorful mural communicating CoLab’s fun-times motto: “Don’t overthink it.”
“When searching for a site to bring the CoLab concept to life, we knew from the get-go that San Diego County was where we wanted it. The county’s rich craft beer culture and robust collection of top-notch breweries made it a no-brainer,” says Joe Deutsch, the developer and mastermind behind the multifaceted project. “On top of that, Vista is home to more breweries per capita than nearly any other city in the country. Beer is a source of civic pride here, and we want to add to this already dynamic area while presenting something entirely unique. That includes quality wine produced in-house with choice varietals sourced from California’s premier grape-growing regions, and delicious, comfort-driven food being produced on the premises.”
CoLab isn’t the only local spot where patrons can visit multiple breweries. Local developer H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter lease-to-brew campuses in Miramar and North Park allow for that, but there is no wine or food on-site, and leases are short-term, whereas CoLab’s tenants are committed for the long haul. Rather than produce their beers using separate brewhouses, they share a single ten-barrel brewery and cellar setup, hence the facility’s collaboration-inspired handle.
Inclusion of a winery tenant was made possible by the 2019 passage of a state assembly bill allowing production and sale of beer and wine to take place at the same facility. To date, only two other venues — Rancho Bernardo’s The Cork and Craft (Abnormal Beer Co. and Abnormal Wine Co.) and Oceanside’s recently debuted Hangar 76 (Carruth Cellars and Tipping Pint Brewing Co.) have taken advantage of that restriction relaxation, though neither has done so on the grand scale CoLab has.
From the venue’s conception three years ago, the customer experience has been paramount. Deutsch and company wanted to be all things to all people, providing them with amenities that would make the prospect of spending an entire day at a single spot a pleasure versus a compromise. It’s the key reason they built an on-site kitchen and signed popular Los Angeles-based food truck operation, Baby’s Badass Burgers, to take up residence at their first ever brick-and-mortar. Having food that people from all walks — including imbibing customers’ children — can enjoy makes it easier to fully relax and sit (and sip) a spell.
CoLab’s benefits extend beyond the customer experience to its tenants. The aforementioned Barrel & Stave is a startup operation, the beermaking arm of a growing family of “Pour House” bars that originated in Fullerton. Getting into the beer manufacturing side of things was more economically feasible for owner Chris White in that he avoided the costs associated with purchasing high-price brewing and cellar equipment. Additionally, his head brewer, Chris Banker, a locally famous homebrewer with many awards to his credit, will benefit from being around experienced professional brewers as he acclimates himself to commercial brewing. Meanwhile, Breakwater Brewing, which has operated an acclaimed Oceanside brewpub for the past 15 years, will not only benefit from increased production capabilities, but also get its name out beyond its original coastal digs. As for Laguna Beach Beer, rather than brew at CoLab, they intend to put their portion of the building to use as a warehouse to house their barrel-aged beer program.
“Having quality beer, wine, and food all in one place makes it easy to make a day of it at and have a great time with family, friends, or both,” says Deutsch. “Our two-level tasting room is both stylish and comfortable, while our outdoor patio is one of the largest around. We have room to accommodate and entertain hundreds of visitors at a time, and we look forward to doing exactly that.” colabpublichouse.com