This weekend, West Coaster obtained official communications from representatives of Helm’s Brewing Company (5640 Kearny Mesa Road, Suites C & N, Kearny Mesa) stating that the five-year-old business is accepting offers from interested parties. Ownership will entertain offers of $500,000 and above.
Helm’s Brewing opened its doors in 2012. Founded by a homebrewer and associates from his primary career, the company’s first head brewer was Brian Mitchell, who went on to work as a small-batch brewer for Stone Brewing before opening his own project, Pariah Brewing Company, at North Park’s Brewery Igniter complex on El Cajon Boulevard earlier this year. Under Mitchell and subsequent brewing personnel, Helm’s’ beer quality has fluctuated, leading to something of a hit-or-miss reputation among consumers. Still, the company was able to add a satellite tasting room in 2016, becoming the third to open in now satellite-saturated Ocean Beach.
The OB tasting room, which is located at the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street (the same block as tasting rooms for Belching Beaver Brewery, Culture Brewing Company and Kilowatt Brewing Company) will be included as an acquired asset should Helm’s sell. Among attributes listed for that venue in the company’s solicitation communique are the fact it faces the neighborhood’s Wednesday farmer’s market and “has posted strong revenue numbers through its first year-and-a-half in existence.”
Though a last bastion of quirk versus a hotbed of commerce, Ocean Beach now rivals most San Diego communities when it comes to craft-beer. The out-there community is now home to two brewing facilities, satellite tasting rooms owned by five local brewing companies, and a restaurant sporting a tasting room supplied by an out-of-town brewery (Santa Clara’s Golden State Brewery). That’s a lot of beer, especially for such a small neighborhood. Four of those satellite operations are situated on one block (and it’ll be five once Little Miss Brewing goes live later this year). But of them all, the space best-suited for its OB environs is the one that officially opens to the public this Friday, January 27—Kilowatt Beer Company (1875 Cable Street, Ocean Beach).
In bringing the second-coming of his Kearny Mesa-based interest to Ocean Beach, owners Steve Kozyk and Rachel Fischer aimed to celebrate the community’s artistic side in tandem with their own. Kozyk is a lighting aficionado and black-light artist whose mastery of illumination transformed his original tasting room into as much a feast for the visual senses as a place to grab a cold one. That was his MO when pondering a second-location, and taking over a 1,800-square-foot motorcycle-repair shop a half-block off Newport Avenue provided him a large—and rather perfect—canvass with which to work.
Upon approach from any direction, patrons will spy multiple artistic touches, the most prominent of which is a host of murals from multiple artists painted on the exterior walls. Out front, Kilowatt’s light-bulb logo casts a rainbow array of beams onto a motorcycle rider, an iconic holdover that has graced the wall bordering the business’ front patio for years. Kozyk and Fischer kept it as a nod to neighbors who begged them to not to paint over it. Meandering down the alley on the building’s south-side, one is treated to murals of a titanic wave, flora sprouting ingredients used in the brewing of Kilowatt’s beers (e.g., hops and cacao pods), and UFOs scouring the earth for hops to fuel the powers of mythical goddess “Kohatu the Hop Abductor”. (Check with Kozyk for the full-story on that mysterious character.)
Like a number of the artistic touches at “Kilowatt West”, the ingredient mural is a nod to famed black-light artist, Clint Cary, AKA: The Space Man of Ocean Beach. In addition to being a progenitor in his area of artistic specialization, Cary, an OB resident, was famous for his claiming to have been abducted by aliens in the mid-‘40s. Kozyk has scored some of Cary’s original pieces on lease from his estate, and plans to have them locked up but in full view in the main sampling space in the near-future. That area consists of an L-shaped bar with 24 taps arranged in a wavy pattern against a steel sheet engineered to change colors on command. Bright green, orange and teal are painted on walls which will soon showcase a regularly changing assortment of art. Kozyk initiated such an art program at his original brewery, but found it challenging. Given the number of local artists who call OB home, he is confident it will be easier to curate sufficient creative stock there. That goes for contracting local graffiti-artists to have their creative way with Kilowatt West’s bathrooms, and securing pieces to grace a black-light lounge in the back-portion of the venue. That area will include a “life-size” Lite-Brite setup that’s six-feet-by-five-feet and uses plastic water-bottles filled with colored H2O as pegs and a design painted in clear black-light paint running the length of the back hallway.
The front of the building will soon sport a large bulb-lit carnival-meets-old-Vegas metal Kilowatt sign Kozyk has outfitted with LED technology. Even without that component, the front-patio is well-branded thanks to fencing plasma-cut to show-off elaborate Kilowatt-artwork hand-drawn by Kozyk’s mother, an artist in her own right. Taped lighting will allow that sign to shine brightly in an array of hues. That same color-control will extend to the Kilowatt sign and the lighting on the patio itself.
And for those who’ve frequented Kilowatt’s original tasting-room and missed the presence of a VW bug coated in Kilowatt-themed paintings (another product of Mother Kozyk’s creativity), it figures to find a home in OB. Could there be a more fitting mascot of sorts? Kozyk says it’s another example of something he and Fischer felt was of the utmost importance in coming to OB—“bringing something vastly unique to a vastly unique community.”
Additional reporting by Katie Conner
Known as much for its clever lighting design as its avant-garde beers, Kearny Mesa-based Kilowatt Beer is looking to bring both to the popular seaside community of Ocean Beach with a satellite tasting room being constructed under the internal project-name, Kilowatt West (1875 Cable Street, Ocean Beach). Intended to be inviting to all, including children and pets, the space is scheduled to open in early-2017.
The 1,800-square-foot building was built in the 1950s and previously occupied by a motorcycle repair shop. Two glass roll-up doors will be installed in the front of the building, but that’s where Kilowatt West’s adherence to the common tasting-room model will cut off. The back area, where repair bays were once located, will be converted into a lounge area with both permanent and rotating black-light installments. Co-owner Steve Kozyk envisions it as “black-light basement meets psychedelic art gallery.” The lounge area will be curated by a trio from The Ancient Gallery art-collective. Kozyk, a veteran of the illumination trade, will install the black-lights and some of his own kinetic art.
As far as design goes, the Kilowatt team will stay true to the original architecture and feel of the building to avoid being too much like the rapidly growing number of tasting-only brewery venues in the county. While the back-end will be purposely dark to allow the art to shine, the front area will be made bright thanks to natural light. That said, it will feature a number of interesting light fixtures courtesy of Kozyk. The tasting room will be outfitted with 20 taps, with the ability to add more should demand dictate a line expansion.
Located near the intersection of Newport Avenue and Cable Street, it will be very near existing offshoot sampling spaces for Culture Brewing Company and Helm’s Brewing Company. And just down the street is the newly opened OB Brewery and Pizza Port’s six-year-old OB brewpub. Kozyk is aware of the recent tasting-room boom in OB (which includes an existing venue from Mike Hess Brewing and a soon-to-debut spot from Belching Beaver Brewery), but says he actually chose this quirky community because it suits Kilowatt’s personality. It would seem black-lights and kinetic art will go well with neighbors like Stuff 2 Puff, tattoo parlors and certain “medicinal” outlets.
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.