Viewpoint Brewing set for its long-awaited debut


Charles Koll and crew may be taking DIY too much to heart.

In the mad rush to get Viewpoint Brewing Company ready for its soft opening next week, Koll has been found welding the guardrails out front. Sister-in-law Meghan Koll has taken on the interior design. His father carved the beer taps. Mom pitched in with decorative flourishes. Executive chef Gunnar Planter’s dad helped do the doors.

It’s been a two-year labor of love to reimagine the aging warehouse on San Dieguito Lagoon and reshape it into Del Mar’s first-ever brewery.

“Everything you see here we did ourselves or we brought in friends,” said head brewer Moe Katomski. “Everything.”

For nearly four decades, the warehouse in the non-descript industrial park at the intersection of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive was home to the beloved pottery studio Eucalyptus Stoneware, run by John Laver, known worldwide for its iconic bread baskets. Laver begrudgingly shut down at the end of 2014, and within a matter of months, Koll and his father — who lives a few hundred yards away — snatched up the For Rent sign they saw one day as they drove by.

“To be honest, he saw way more in it than I did at the time,” Koll said.

Over two-plus years, Koll slogged through the City of Del Mar’s exacting review process and a procedural challenge from former mayor Al Corti, who lives a stone’s throw away. Koll brought in Planter to run the kitchen and Katowski to run the brewhouse and, with all hands in, they transformed the 4,500 square feet of industrial space into the San Diego region’s first cuisine-forward brewery.

“I was lucky because I grew up here and a lot of the neighbors know me and had my beers and have always supported me in this endeavor,” Koll said. “It kind of feels like I cheated a little bit because I had so much community support.”

It may be their first time taking the helm, but to call them first-timers would be a disservice to their lengthy culinary pedigrees. The trio combined has decades of experience in the kitchens of some of the area’s most venerated eateries — Mille Fleurs, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, Prepkitchen and the University Club among them.

Now the trio find themselves cozied up to the south bank of the San Dieguito Lagoon and Wildlife Bird Reserve, where a stretch of the Coast-to-Crest trail winds up against the 2,000-square-foot patio filled with communal tables, fire-pit booths, custom swings and space to play bocce, cornhole and the like.

But the Viewpoint moniker is not about the panoramic vista that opens onto the lagoon once the retracting garage doors roll up.

“The idea of Viewpoint is that it’s about perspective, we’re constantly playing with themes and design elements that make you look twice,” Koll said. “How you see things is always going to be different than the person next to you; the same is true for flavor and food and beer.”

Standing in the dining room as they hustle through preparations for the horseracing season at the fairgrounds next door, what jumps out are the flourishes of thoughtful detail. The Viewpoint logo, when flipped upside-down, reads with squinted eyes as “good beer.” Custom-made planters hang from the high ceilings, made by Laver himself. Vintage Skee-ball machines were brought in from the East Coast. Tables were carved from local Torrey pine. A wall of lockers will house a Mug Club with custom-engraved name tags. A special spot on the menu has been set aside for their “Buy a Bird a Beer” campaign to benefit the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.

With collaboration the name of their game, ingredients in Planter’s culinary offerings will coincide with the beer flowing out of Katomski’s 15-barrel brewhouse, set to include a Mandarina Pale Ale, a Red Rye IPA that won warm reception at last month’s Summer Solstice event, and a single-malt, single-hop French Saison.

Once Viewpoint settles in, the in-house collaboration will only deepen.

“We’re going to do some very cool stuff with the chefs in the back where they’re going to recommend the spices I brew with,” Katomski said. “We’re talking not just about pairing the food but actually putting some of those ingredients into the beer.”

Little surprise, then, that the DIY ethic has carried over into Planter’s kitchen. He’s dehydrating the limes and making the salt for the chicken dry rub. Ditto for their house-made hot wing sauce. Even the ketchup and mayonnaise will be made on site.

“It’s pub fare but it’s sophisticated,” he said. “It has some class to it.”

But if there’s one dish that encapsulates Viewpoint, it’s the bao bun pretzels, which are already catching buzz from San Diego’s food and beer bloggers.

Is it the German classic that Planter learned from Chef Martin Woesle at Mille Fleurs? Or is it the Asian staple inspired by Casey Thompson — she of Top Chef fame — while he was at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe?

Yes to both.

“It really does personify what we are,” Planter said.

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