Helm’s Brewing Company Ocean Beach
I recently had the perfect opportunity to revisit a brewery’s beers when Helm’s Brewing Company opened a new tasting room in Ocean Beach. Located on the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street, it’s the community’s third brewing company satellite to enter the coastal community’s orbit (with at least one more on the way from Belching Beaver Brewery), and is on the same block as OB OG, Culture Brewing Company. Yet, it’s enjoyed solid patronage in its first three weeks of business, engaging the eclectic mix of locals and tourists ownership hoped to reach in opening a venue far-removed from its Kearny Mesa industrial-park headquarters.
Outfitted with a main bar, several communal-style high-tables and seating at a rail-bar giving way to views of street (and some seriously juicy people-watching) care of roll-up garage doors, it’s smartly designed for the town it inhabits. When I was there, the east wall was pale-gray and unpopulated, but iconic San Diego photography, maps and a sailor’s helm were days from being hung to further punch up the interior. Even without it, the place looked good, especially with plenty of happy people of all ages (plus families and pets) populating it.
In the past, I have been mostly unimpressed by Helm’s beers. There are some gems such as flagship coffee stout, Beeruccino, and fellow dark standout Chocolate Night. But ales coming in on the lighter side have shown defects, enough that it had been years since I checked back in on some of them. One of those former offenders was Hop the RIPA, a red India pale ale that just never came together for me. I made a point of trying it when visiting the OB tasting room and found it to be significantly better. The flavor was much cleaner, there was more hop-presence and the beer was drier overall. It was a promising experience.
Other beers I enjoyed include En Garde, a Belgian-style biere de garde that I internally branded “bubbly dubbely” for its resemblance to a caramely Belgian dubbel and notes of yeast-born bubble-gum notes. Giving the beer more depth was a slight, enjoyable tartness that lifted the drinkability. A Belgian-style dark strong ale called Dark Waters tasted rather similar to En Garde, but its sweetness came through more like molasses than caramel. My favorite beer of the day was also of the Belgo ilk—Compass Rose. A Belgian-style IPA—one of my all-time least favorite styles, it should be noted—it was crisp with a bitter bite, a touch of that bubble-gum plus a touch of rosemary-like herbal quality. At 5.6%, it was the kind of beer I could drink several of, and likely would.
A double IPA dubbed Imperial Walker had big hops that mostly expressed themselves via back-end bitterness. A golden stout called Hispaniola had delicious coffee notes and perfectly coating mouthfeel care of oats and nitro-tap delivery, but was very sweet. Considering the “dessert” nature of this beer-style, the sugariness was acceptable, but if ever a beer was crying out for the earthy, drying nature of a touch of cinnamon, this is it. Sadly, Queenstown Kiwi, a session-beer nod to a friend working at the OB restaurant of the same name, smelled and tasted mostly of butter to me. Still, notable improvement in beer-quality paired well with a nice, inviting space even the most devout Ocean Beach locavores should be able to get behind.
Article courtesy of West Coaster