Has the Brewpub Scene in Ocean Beach Peaked?

by on September 14, 2017 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

With the continued failure of Little Miss Brewing to open its doors on the 4800 block of Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach – and now with the latest news that Helm’s Brewing tasting room at the corner of Newport and Cable Street is being sold (the entire business – not the property) – we have to ask the question:

Has the craft brewpub scene in OB peaked?

Little Miss – if it had opened – would have been the 8th brewery or brewpub in Ocean Beach. Little Miss would have joined the following:

  • Mike Hess,
  • OB Brewery,
  • Pizza Port,
  • Kilowatt,
  • Helm’s,
  • Belching Beaver, and
  • Culture Brewing.

Here’s the latest on Helm’s:

From BizQuest.com we have confirmation that the business including the OB pub is up for sale   the sale:

Business Description
for Sale;  Helms Brewing Company. Helms Brewing Company is an established San Diego Brewery. It includes two locations; Our Kearny Mesa location contains the brewery and a tasting room while our Ocean Beach location contains a tasting room.

The Kearny Mesa location houses our 7 BBL brew-house. The brewery includes four 7 BBL fermenters, one 15 BBL fermenter and two 30 BBL fermenters. The Brew-house is over-sized allowing us to brew 9 BBL batches. The Kearny Mesa Location also has a tasting room with 12 Taps.

The Ocean Beach location is located on the most desirable corner in Ocean Beach. It is at the corner of Newport and Cable. It has great foot traffic and is the entrance to the Farmers Market on Wednesdays. With the large garage door open it has the feel of being right on the beach. the tasting room includes 16 Taps. The company has very little debt. Will entertain all offers. (OB Rag emphasis.)

The asking price for the entire business is $500,000.

There has been a notable growing chorus of OBceans raising the question lately – ‘How many brewpubs can OB handle?’

This chorus is in some way being led by the OB Planning Board as the community group has taken the bit by the hand and has been investigating the entire ABC approval process for liquor licenses in Ocean Beach in recent months.  And the percentage number “300%” has been used – with the phrasing that is the percentage of liquor-licensed establishments in OB over the requisite amount per census track.

At their most recent meeting, the OB Planning Board voted to not recommend any more off-site sales of alcohol licenses to anyone.

An observer cannot deny there is a push-back against the OB Booze Industry. If one counts restaurants that sell alcohol, just how many liquor selling establishments are there on the last Block of Newport Avenue, for instance? Plenty.

Some voices within the Opposition chorus have commented that “the market will take out it,” and perhaps this potential peak of OB brewpubs proves that axiom.  There have been just too many cool, trendy beer-sipping places that allow dogs and kids and have artwork on the walls for Ocean Beach patrons and their friends and the few tourists to sustain this many pubs … perhaps.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Christo September 14, 2017 at 11:56 am

The first casualty of the “Tasting Room” ( otherwise known as a Bar) in OB was Olive Tree’s excellent Tasting Room. It was unique in that is actually was a tasting room- with a flight list that changed weekly and small pours.

It’s too bad, as trying new beers each week in moderation something I enjoyed alot more than going to yet another bar on Newport.

My prediction is that with the end of tourist season we will see a couple more Tasting Rooms go under. Maybe that will help to drop or at least stabilize the high rents.


rick callejon September 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm

West Coaster reports, “…alcohol-related crime has gone down by a whopping 40% in OB since the November 2014 introduction of the neighborhood’s first brewery tasting room—Culture Brewing Company on Newport Avenue. Also, the number-one alcohol-related crime in OB is open-container violations, primarily on the beach.”


Jon Carr September 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I think Helms biggest problem was the beer just wasn’t very good. Or at least not consistent. So the market has in a way taken them out. Dream scenario is that Lost Abbey or Alesmith take over. Although I don’t think they have much of a need for satellite tasting rooms or a small brewery since their products will move on their own, and they have larger production facilities. Maybe Rip Current in North Park or Benchmark in MV could take over? They have some decent offerings.
Poor Little Miss seems to be a victim of poor timing, a lack of enthusiasm from the community, and poor communication with the ABC. If the West Coaster article is all true, I do feel for them. Anyone who knows me knows I like my beer, but I also do agree with the planning board that we are overwhelmed with these things. We have numerous tap rooms, and numerous bars where you can get craft beer. OB could surely benefit from some diversity in our commercial zones.
The best tasting room we had was the Olive Tree. Unfortunately they closed the tasting room, but while it lasted they did it right. Multiple new selections each week, small room with no TVs, so you really got to meet people and talk about the beer, not just get tanked. If you guys are reading, please please come back to us!! I promise to be there every Thursday!


Christo September 15, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Make it a point to tell Chris and Mike that you want the Tasting Room back at Olive Tree!

I do.


rick callejon September 14, 2017 at 4:19 pm

If Helm’s closes in OB and another local brewery opens there, I hope Societe, Alesmith, Bagby, Thorn Street, and Fall collaboratively move in. Cheers!


Dave September 14, 2017 at 9:45 pm

I’m with Rick and Jon – some of the local offerings are just middling, if not subpar, and that’s as likely the reason for their suffering as a lack of demand. I’m not a big brewpub/bar guy these days, but Lost Abbey, Alesmith, Societe or Benchmark (unlikely), or Rip Current, Thorn Street, or Fall (maybe?) were interested in coming in, my interest would be piqued for sure.

I don’t know much about the Helm’s brewery, but I’ve got to think that unless it’s got huge room for expansion that a local standout needs/doesn’t have, it’s going to be the thing holding the sale back – anyone could snag the offsite tasting room, but the brewery might be more useful for a startup than someone like Lost Abbey that already has a share of the original Stone facility at their disposal.


Frank Gormlie September 16, 2017 at 2:31 pm

See my post to be published Monday about the reality of the claim” the best corner in Ocean Beach” where Helm’s is now, at the corner of Newport and Cable. Is that really the best?


OB Kid September 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm

For San Diego, Helm makes sub-par beer. That is fact. They had a great location and incredibly friendly staff, the beer is just not as good as the other tasting rooms around the area. They tried to do really funky varietals of beers but they just were not good, sometimes even un-drinkable.

San Diego is the capital of the best beer in the World – that is a high standard to meet. Even higher in a place like OB with so many options to get your fill of Beer.


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