Helia is in that middle ground that sits right on the border of Carlsbad and Vista and is not far from where Toolbox brewery used to be. Helia stands out among the many breweries in the area with their unique feel that perfectly encapsulates the beach vibe even though being fairly inland. This is most obvious in their choice of seating, which has a nice laid-back vibe to it.
Beer wise, I was glad to see that they have simple pricing across the board of $2 per taster, $4 per half pour, and $6 per pint. I started with a half pour of their amber ale, the stronger of the two. It was crisp and dry with notes of milk chocolate and minimal bitterness. My husband enjoyed this as well. Next I tried their pilsner, made with Dos Desperados brewery. It was soft and easy-drinking with light floral hop notes and a light sweetness on the finish.
My husband had a taster of the porter while there and really liked it. I had a few sips of it and was impressed as well. The beer has notes of burnt toffee on the nose. Flavors are a nice mix of marshmallow and caramel with mild roast on the finish. After a few IPA filled days, I wasn’t in the mood to try their IPAs this visit. Helia stands out with their relaxing vibe and hopefully will find their niche and be around for some time.
I tend to not visit small breweries within the first year of operation unless I know the brewer well from where they brewed before. In the case of Jacked Up I was partially put off by the name, which to me suggested it might be run by a bunch of frat boys. After reading that the brewer had been home brewing for a while and won many awards, I figured it was worth a visit now that they had been open for 2 years.
The tasting room is just off the 15 freeway in Escondido and not all the way into central downtown Escondido. The tasting room had a nice community vibe to it and the bartender was happy to offer splashes to ensure that people like what they order. After a few splashes of various IPAs I ended up with a half pour of their hazy IPA. The more west coast style was too strongly bitter for my palate now accustomed to hazy beers. Compared to what I regularly enjoy even their hazy was strongly bitter. The beer nailed the hazy appearance and mouthfeel with notes of mango and orange under the initial bitterness. The beer nicely blends traditional West Coast style bitterness with the juicy flavors and creamy mouthfeel expected of a hazy.
My husband tried a few of the lighter malty beers before settling on the vanilla stout sitting just under 9%. I had a few sips of his beer and it was well made. The beer had notes of dark chocolate and vanilla without getting too heavy or sweet. I can tell that the base beer is also well done. Though Jacked Up isn’t offering anything that would entice people to drive up from North Park, it is a solid neighborhood spot with a stage that suggests they have the occasional live music. Despite being almost 90 degrees outside on the day I visited, the tasting room stayed comfortable with good ventilation, use of fans, and some air conditioning. It is worth a stop for those who find the modern style of IPA to have abandoned a bitterness that made the style interesting in the first place. The hazy IPA was even more bitter than the early hazy from Second Chance, which I found bitter for the style.
The Original 40 opened just East of North Park brewing company, not far from the tasting room where Chuck Alek was before they closed. They have a large indoor space with a full menu though at least initially the food is not available until 5PM. The brewery gives Chris Gillogly a chance to explore new styles after coming from a stint at Mikkeller San Diego and Groundswell before that. From the few beers I tried, it will be a welcome addition to a fairly crowded neighborhood.
I stopped by on a Saturday afternoon and it was quiet enough to be peaceful to enjoy a pint. But as it got later into the evening and the place started filling up, it became uncomfortably loud as many places in the area tend to get. Thankfully they didn’t have any loud music to make things even more intense. I started with their German style pilsner, which was crisp and well made. The beer had notes of orange blossom honey and a crisp dry finish with a light bitterness. This lager is offered along side a Mexican style lager that I didn’t try.
There were lots of hazy IPA options available but I went for one made along with Pure Project Brewing based on input from friends who had visited recently. The beer had a nice thick creamy body for 6% and tons of juicy papaya, mango, and orange peel to round it out. I hope they manage to add a similar beer to their rotation. They also had a big imperial stout when I visited that was made along with Horus Aged ales and so dosed with incredible amounts of cacao nibs and vanilla beans. Though delicious I don’t know if I would have ordered more than one at $7 for a 4oz pour. Other tasters were the now standard price of $3 each.
I was overall impressed by the beers I had and hope that The Original 40 is successful. Along their house beers they had a few guest taps including something from Burning Beard and Societe and a few alcoholic kombucha options. I didn’t eat any food during my visit because the kitchen wasn’t open yet and they didn’t seem to have a lot of vegan options.
Mason Ale Works is a brewery I haven’t covered mostly because when restaurants add in a brewery after the fact, it seems like an after thought. I saw that they had opened a new tasting room not far from New English Brewing company up in a residential area of Carmel Valley that I had never visited before. I made my way out on a warm Summer day to see if the space was worth returning to.
First off, a note on service. Regular readers know I don’t usually say much about service because beer is what matters. But the person serving me during my visit to Mason Ale Works seemed to really hate my questions about the beers. One question I asked was how their flagship beer was different than the Rye IPA and I got a curt reply that “It is an IPA with Rye.” He either really wanted me to buy a flight or didn’t know his beers enough to give serious answers. Either way, this is not typical in the San Diego beer scene. As some of you may know, I stopped ordering flights once $3 tasters became common. Even with the slight discount, 4 tasters here is $10, which is more than I want to spend for that much beer.
Beer wise, I started with a pint of their session IPA which thankfully kicked (I got the last of the keg). At first I thought great, a free half pint. But I couldn’t even drink more than 1/4 of what I was served before going up to pay for a pint of something else. While I generally complain about San Diego session IPAs being overly bitter, this one was just overly tasteless. Or to put it another way, completely lacking in any hop character at all. They might as well have simply called it a session ale but even then it was overly sweet and extremely generic. Thankfully the other beers I tasted were good.
I was with my mom on this visit and since she has been avoiding hoppy beers lately I ordered her a pint of the Mexican Lager. While not the best lager I’ve had, it was still quite good, and had a lot more flavor than the session IPA I started with. The beer had a nice dry finish and a light hop kick. I finished with a pint of their core IPA. While described as a typical West Coast IPA it was thankfully a more modern take on the style, meaning less bitterness than was standard when the style first became popular. It was a nice example of the style and had prominent grapefruit notes with mild resin in the background.
As for the space, they had air conditioning inside and a nice shady outdoor area in the back. The breeze was cool enough that the outdoor seating was perfectly pleasant. If I lived within walking distance I could see myself returning but since it is a bit far from anything else, I likely won’t return very often. For those of you who don’t like beer, they also serve wine and spirits.
Grimm is one of the more hyped Brooklyn area breweries, almost to the level of Other Half. They are also the one brewery I visited that we get in distribution in San Diego, often for their pop series of beers, fruited kettle sours made with lactose for sweetness. The tasting room was a moderate walk from KCBC and while busy was not excessively so. Knowing now how busy Threes can get, I would have preferred to have stayed a bit longer before moving on.
I wasn’t in the mood for hazy IPAs at the time so I skipped the hazy double IPAs and went straight for some barrel aged sours. I had previously had only their kettle sours. I started with William of Okham, a nice oak aged golden ale that had notes of lemon and white cake with nice restrained acidity. I finished with a taster of Spooky Action, a beer inspired by the Belgian Oud Buin style, a sour red ale often brewed with cherries. It was much more mellow than most versions, lacking the intense acidity or strong vinegar taste that it often exhibits. The beer was a lovely blend of caramel malts and mild cherry notes.
I left Grimm with a bottle of one of their pastry stouts, a beer inspired by pecan pancakes. I am excited to share this beer with my Husband. Like Other Half, Grimm appeared to have a variety of beers left over from prior releases so there was a wide selection of beers available to go.
Known for: Come for fruited kettle sours, big pastry stouts, and hazy double IPAs.
Threes was the closest brewery to my Airbnb. What I didn’t expect was just how slammed it would be on a warm sunny day. Because they have an outdoor seating area, they get especially crowded on a warm sunny day. Perhaps this time was more so because rain was forecasted for the next few days. This was one of the most crowded brewery experiences I’ve had. It was standing room only and even more crowded in their outdoor area. A few lucky groups with tables were also those who had ordered food.
I ordered a pint of the table beer, a delicious session saison with mild citrus notes. I quickly finished the beer and bought two four packs to go, one of the pilsner, and one of the foeder fermented pilsners. I was eager to get out and sit somewhere. I had a can of each of the two pilsners back in my room and enjoyed both of them, especially the foeder fermented one.
Given you can find cans from Threes at grocery stores around the city, I may not visit the brewery directly again. It gets quite crowded, even more than Other Half.