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.
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.
Pfriem is in Hood River Oregon, about an hour east of Portland. It is a lovely drive along the Columbia River. I expect we missed some of the true majesty of the drive because it had recently snowed. Pfriem is a restaurant and so you may have to wait for a table if you plan to visit on a weekend. Thankfully we ended up in the upstairs area because it was a little bit quieter up there at least before it filled up.
I already expected excellent beer and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent food as well. For the hardcore beer nut, it may not be worth a visit given you can find so many of their beers in bottles and cans around town. As of this writing the cans are expected any day now but they seem to have focused the initial runs of cans on their local market rather than distributing them to San Diego.
I visited having previously enjoyed the delicious pilsner and a few sours so I mostly wanted to enjoy the beers at the source. The pilsner was as excellent as I remember. It is a gold winning beer for a reason. The beer was easy drinking with light notes of honey and hay with a crisp dry finish. This is certainly a beer for drinking as opposed to sipping. The traditional saison was lightly sweet and chewy with notes of cloves and tons of Belgian yeast character. The yeast dominated the beer here and any hops were barely detectable.
Given how high quality Pfriem’s other beers were, I ordered the hazy IPA without trying it. It was about as much of a miss as has become common in San Diego. While the beer was hazy in appearance it was not soft or pillowy as one might expect from the style. It had some notes of melon and tropical fruit but the boozy alcohol character dominated, making it mildly unpleasant. I don’t recommend you seek out this hazy when their traditional IPAs are so much better.
Come for excellent interpretations of classic styles including some lambic inspired barrel aged sours. You can find their beers in bottles and cans around Oregon and even down into San Diego.
I missed both Populuxe and Cloudburst during my previous Seattle visit because they were closed the one day I had to visit breweries. Populuxe is in Ballard near a number of other breweries. Cloudburst is much closer to Pike’s Place Market in an old building with somewhat limited seating.
Populuxe has a nice outdoor area with picnic tables and room for food trucks to set up. I didn’t get to try their IPAs because they had run out. From the beers I had, many of the lower alcohol styles I expected to be nice and balanced were too intensely bitter.
The summer ale on nitro was quite subtle with light fruit notes and a creamy body from the nitro. This isn’t one that you would really sip but more something you would drink down quickly. I drank it so quickly that I forgot to take a photo of it when the glass was full. The hoppy wheat was quite bitter with notes of grapefruit rind and mild grassy hops. The bitterness overpowered the rest of the beer and I didn’t get much hop aroma.
The oatmeal stout was bitter and roasty with a dry finish. With the low alcohol it lacked the punch of stronger stouts. It might have been better on nitro. The ESB had a biscuit malt base with intense citrus and herb hops. Like the wheat, the bitterness was too much for the style. The one beer I enjoyed the most was the saison. It had some notes of orange peel with light brett funk and some light white wine character. I didn’t get to try their IPAs but based on the other beers I expect they would be similarly bitter.
I recommend visiting populuxe for the saison and otherwise passing them in favor of other local breweries.
Cloudburst was highly recommended because they are run by one of the brewers who brewed for Elysian for some time before they sold out. I only tried three beers because they don’t serve taster flights. I was quite disappointed right off the bat because they charge $5 for a 10 ounce pour and $6 for a 16 ounce pour making it more expensive if you want to try multiple beers.
I tried one pilsner and two IPAs. The pilsner was crisp and fruity with light floral hop character. It was a tasty pilsner. The Whenever IPA was a light orange hazy color. Hops were herbal and bitter with notes of onion and garlic and a light salty finish. I didn’t much care for this one. The Lip Sync IPA had some notes of orange peel and citrus with a soft body but a salty/mineral finish. Both were decent IPAs but neither had the intensity of hop aroma that makes the style so much fun.
I wasn’t particularly impressed by what they had at cloudburst. I can understand that they want to recommend ordering a full pint but this doesn’t work very well when trying to visit multiple breweries in one day. There are other seattle breweries that were more impressive on the IPA front. Cloudburst seems to be all hype to me.
Known for: People rave about their IPAs though I didn’t find them to be particularly standout in that area.
ChuckAlek opened a satellite tasting room in North Park and turned it into a traditional German outdoor biergarten to go along with their German inspired core lineup. Be sure to bring a light jacket if you visit them on a cooler day because they get quite the breeze going through. I also sit in the shade to avoid letting the sun skunk my beers. I tried a number of their core offerings and a couple specialty brews when I visited. Because of their small brewing system the tap list changes regularly. One fun feature they offer is the choice of ordering a 1 liter pour of certain lower alcohol German beers like you would get at Oktoberfest in Germany.
Update: August 30, 2017.
In the short time since I posted this ChuckAlek Biergarten has drastically improved their hoppy offerings and debuted beers that are closer to the modern style. I visited the brewery yesterday and ordered their IPL and Hazy IPA. Both were delicious and had low bitterness with intense hop aroma. Moonstomper Oat IPA had a thick hazy appearance with a chewy mouthfeel. The beer had tons of tangerine, mango, and candied apricot notes. The IPL, called Cartographer, was bursting with tropical fruit aromas and had a mild bitterness with a soft mouthfeel. Both of these were impressive enough that I will hopefully return soon to get some better photos of them.
I started with the Helles, a traditional Munich style of beer that has a stronger hop kick than a typical pilsner. It was top notch with a clean finish and a mild floral hop kick. It joins my top 5 San Diego brewed lagers. The Hussar is a smoked wheat. It is soft and light with some mild smoke character. Anyone who has had a rauch beer in Europe will find the smoke here to be very mild, but it is nicely balanced and easy drinking. The ESB was a bit too hoppy for the style and the spicy hops stood out too much over the light caramel malt base. It wasn’t my favorite hop profile but I might have enjoyed it if the hops were a little more subdued.
The brown porter was fantastic with a mix of caramel and roast, a medium body, and a light sweetness on the finish. The AltBier was also a bit hoppy for the style but it had a good mix of dark fruit and mild bitter finish. I couldn’t see myself having a pint of either the Alt or the ESB. The SSS Stout was smooth and chewy with a mix of burnt caramel, chocolate, and cherry notes. The Fugazi with citra had more bitterness than aroma and I didn’t get much fruit or citrus but a mildly perfumy finish. I didn’t much care for this one. The Belgian Pale was less harsh and had a nice balance of mild spice and citrus notes with a clean finish.
Some of the beers I tasted may not get brewed again so I can’t expect each one to be perfect. Still, with the fantastic brown porter and helles, I see ChuckAlek bringing in a good size crowd in the warmer months. If you have been looking for a well made San Diego lager, this is the place for you.