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Helix Brewing off to a charming start in La Mesa

A man, a plan, a new craft brewery

Years of searching to find the right hometown spot.
Years of searching to find the right hometown spot.
Place

Helix Brewing Co.

8101 Commercial Street, La Mesa

Cameron Ball spent nearly three years planning Helix Brewing Co., and the long effort paid off when La Mesa's second brewery and tasting room opened in late August. In fall 2012 the young home brewer and full-time civil engineer learned the La Mesa city council was going to change local zoning laws to allow breweries, and responded by searching for a location in his hometown, a full 18 months before the municipal change actually came to pass.

Staying local was a priority to Ball, who grew up on La Mesa's Mt. Helix. "It was important to me to build a brewery in the area where I'm from," he says, "where my friends are from, where I'd have friends and family support." He then adds, "It's an up and coming place too. Everybody's starting to move east."

Helix tasting room a clean, well lighted place.

He was also particular about the space, estimating he viewed pretty much every building on Helix's block in La Mesa's industrial district for most of those three years, finally locking down a charming brick structure filled with cubicles and a drop ceiling. With the help of his community, he gutted the building and put his engineering degree to use, planning a polished and comfortable indoor-outdoor space. "It was a really cool feeling seeing how they all helped out to help me achieve this dream." He also designed his brewing system to be scalable, configuring plumbing and glycol lines so he can simply add tanks any time he decides to expand production.

Ball's thorough planning extends to his recipes. Most home brewers who begin brewing on a commercial scale must scale their recipes up. Ball inverted the process. "I think in ratios and percentages," he says. "When I built the pilot brewing system, I knew that I wanted to open up a larger brewery." So he developed recipes based on projections for a 10 or 15 barrel system, then scaled them down for the 20 gallon pilot system. The benefit, when he scaled them back up: the ingredients matched whole numbered amounts: 15 sacks of grain, for example, or three pounds of hops per barrel. A small yet efficient advantage.

La Mesa's second craft beer garden.

Those three pounds per barrel of hops has to do with Ball's effort to serve seasonable beers, low in alcohol but still robust in flavor. Helix's Active IPA, for example, named to reflect his lifestyle as a swimmer and trail runner, measures a mere 4% ABV. "The idea is to be able to have two or three beers with your friends and have a good time and good conversation," he says, "to not get too buzzed and not be able to drive home or go to work the next day." Spoken like a man who still works full time outside his brewery.

Of course, on weekends the brewery hosts food trucks and live music to encourage La Mesans to stick around and try each of the eight core beers available since Helix's launch, or seasonal releases from the stash of 25 recipes Ball has planned and ready.

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Years of searching to find the right hometown spot.
Years of searching to find the right hometown spot.
Place

Helix Brewing Co.

8101 Commercial Street, La Mesa

Cameron Ball spent nearly three years planning Helix Brewing Co., and the long effort paid off when La Mesa's second brewery and tasting room opened in late August. In fall 2012 the young home brewer and full-time civil engineer learned the La Mesa city council was going to change local zoning laws to allow breweries, and responded by searching for a location in his hometown, a full 18 months before the municipal change actually came to pass.

Staying local was a priority to Ball, who grew up on La Mesa's Mt. Helix. "It was important to me to build a brewery in the area where I'm from," he says, "where my friends are from, where I'd have friends and family support." He then adds, "It's an up and coming place too. Everybody's starting to move east."

Helix tasting room a clean, well lighted place.

He was also particular about the space, estimating he viewed pretty much every building on Helix's block in La Mesa's industrial district for most of those three years, finally locking down a charming brick structure filled with cubicles and a drop ceiling. With the help of his community, he gutted the building and put his engineering degree to use, planning a polished and comfortable indoor-outdoor space. "It was a really cool feeling seeing how they all helped out to help me achieve this dream." He also designed his brewing system to be scalable, configuring plumbing and glycol lines so he can simply add tanks any time he decides to expand production.

Ball's thorough planning extends to his recipes. Most home brewers who begin brewing on a commercial scale must scale their recipes up. Ball inverted the process. "I think in ratios and percentages," he says. "When I built the pilot brewing system, I knew that I wanted to open up a larger brewery." So he developed recipes based on projections for a 10 or 15 barrel system, then scaled them down for the 20 gallon pilot system. The benefit, when he scaled them back up: the ingredients matched whole numbered amounts: 15 sacks of grain, for example, or three pounds of hops per barrel. A small yet efficient advantage.

La Mesa's second craft beer garden.

Those three pounds per barrel of hops has to do with Ball's effort to serve seasonable beers, low in alcohol but still robust in flavor. Helix's Active IPA, for example, named to reflect his lifestyle as a swimmer and trail runner, measures a mere 4% ABV. "The idea is to be able to have two or three beers with your friends and have a good time and good conversation," he says, "to not get too buzzed and not be able to drive home or go to work the next day." Spoken like a man who still works full time outside his brewery.

Of course, on weekends the brewery hosts food trucks and live music to encourage La Mesans to stick around and try each of the eight core beers available since Helix's launch, or seasonal releases from the stash of 25 recipes Ball has planned and ready.

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Comments
1

Kudos to Cameron Ball and the City of La Mesa for getting it right by placing and permitting Helix Brewing Co. in an industrial zone. Meanwhile microbrewery opportunists and the City of San Diego continue to place and illegally permit microbreweries in commercial zones; thereby denying citizens their Constitutional right to the due process of law.

Sept. 17, 2015

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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