Helia Brewing is an excellent spot. Although in some ways it is a typical brewery in a light industrial park, in other ways it is much more than that. They have the advantage of being sited closest to the street, on a little hill. That means the small patio out front has something of a view, and it feels separated from the road below. (So far the patio has just one picnic table, but there’s room for more.)
The art, interior design, fittings and furnishings inside show attention to detail and a concern to create a comfortable space that feels special. The interior is large enough that there are seven distinct zones, including the brewhouse, bar, ping pong, the area immediately inside the front door, and three seating areas–plus the patio. One of the seating areas is a bench along the side window that has one of the most innovative and beautiful armrest tables I’ve ever seen. Light streams into that front room — which would be lovely at most times of day/year, though when we tried to sit there we got unlucky and the sun was getting low and it was blinding. We ended up deeper in the building, between the brewhouse and the bar, in a little cluster of rattan settees and armchairs around a Persian rug. It was cozy and comfortable and even felt a bit private.
The beer was very good. I tried six of the eight that were available. I can’t remember a brand new brewery that opened in the last year or two where all the beer was this good within just a month or so of opening. (Melvin is the only other contender I can think of, but they have the advantage of being a long-established brewery in Oregon.)
Helia IPA (American IPA, 6.7% ABV). The flagship IPA is crisp, clean and flavorful. Floral and fruit aromas become even more pronounced on the palate, the body is light-medium and the finish is mostly clean with a slight lingering pine aftertaste. 3.75/5
Cubano IPA (American IPA, 7.1% ABV). Straw color, medium mouthfeel, earthy finish but not overpowering. I was talking to someone at Bear Roots Brewing and she thought this was a great beer; another example of how tastes vary. 3.5/5
Happy Pale Ale (Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV). Amber, clear, lightly malty, crisp bitter finish. Perfect day drinker. 3.75/5
Hazy Jae (New England IPA, 7.0% ABV). Yellow but not hazy, strong grapefruit aroma. Soft creamy mouthfeel, fruity finish. 3.75/5
Ponytail Red Ale (Red Ale, 5.2% ABV). A lovely red. Malty with that red bite, moderately hopped. Soft creamy finish. 3.5/5
Helia Porter (American Porter, 7.4% ABV). Beautiful full mouthfeel, silky. Roasty malts, smoky background. Reminiscent of Guinness but a little sweeter. I’d prefer it a little more bitter. 3.75/5
In short, Helia is a place you should visit. My only complaint is that they chose a name that is far too similar to La Mesa’s Helix Brewing. The location is quite close to Latitude 33 Brewing, BattleMage Brewing, and Beach Grease Beer, and all the other Vista breweries.
Heliabeer.com 1250 Keystone Way, Vista, CA 92081