Behind the Brewery: Helton Brewing Company
This article was beautifully written by Eddie Gomez and proofread/edited by his lovely wife Sina who also has her own blog “SaucySina”
In the current climate of craft beer, it is a safe bet to talk about Hazy IPAs. It would be hard to find a brewery that is not brewing this popular type beer on the regular. So when setting up a “Behind the Beer” article with Helton Brewing Company – the obvious choice to headline would be their Northeast IPA. Which is atypical for a brewery that brews beers that are true to style – but – the purpose is not to discuss whether a NE IPA is an official beer style.
While discussing this “haze craze” with Brian the topic turned to brewers adding flour to beers to make them hazier. It is important to note that this is a practice that Brian does not condone and would not be performed at Helton; he prefers to let science to do the work. It would only take about five minutes of listening to him talk about water profiles and Stokes’ Law to realize he knows exactly how to get a beer, as he would put it, “accidentally perfect.”
Brian’s straightforward-honest-no apologies-personality supplies endless quotes and while discussing IPAs one in particular kept coming up, “You can hide a dead cat in an IPA.” Again, Brian does not condone using dead cats in beer. Meaning that an IPA is a forgivable beer and many shortfalls can be hidden or covered up. While it is interesting to learn what goes into your favorite beer – if one really wants to know what their favorite brewery is capable of then take Brian Helton’s advice, “The proof is in the pilsner.” An often-underrated beer because of its light and soft flavor profile, pilsners are a deceiving difficult brew – so even a slight miscalculation can result in an off-flavor. It may seem like a simple beer but sometimes simple does not mean easy.
Simple is a theme at Helton; from the beer names to the English style food offerings and the farmhouse like atmosphere. There are details that are easily overlooked and it is those details that take this simple aesthetic to breathe life into to the brewery. The food is expertly selected to pair with all the beers on tap. A simple ploughman’s lunch adds character to the working farmhouse feel. The individual foods feel blue-collar but when ordering the “Board for Two” the combinations of meat, fruit, cheese and waffles would blend perfectly into any high-end restaurant’s menu. The repurposed opera house doors that are now a window in to the brewery, the hand built bar and the wood paneling that used to be a barn in in Indiana could have been accomplished in much easier ways but Brian and his crew are willing to put in the work necessary. He has his hand in everything … not because he is a control freak (honestly what brewer isn’t) but because he wants everything done by his own hand.
The difficult thing when writing about Helton Brewing Company or their beers is that it is nearly impossible to separate the beer and food from Brian himself. He is a powerful presence and becomes the focus when discussing anything Helton related. Not just because his name is on the building – if you have been to the brewery it is easy to see the physical manifestation of this as well. Tending bar, checking the cleanliness of glassware, conversing with patrons, coordinating events … these are just some of the things you’ll see Brian doing on any given day. That is a full-time job’s worth of duties just on the front end! Factor in the time needed for brewing quality beer and the endless duties associated with the process. It is hard to fathom how he operates with only 24 hours in a day; I am sure his bathroom-bedroom-office-in-one helps to a degree. Still, he does not do it alone.
Brian surrounds himself with those he considers the best at what they do. For example, Helton’s Marketing Manager, Marc Semler, has elevated the marketing for Helton to a new level. Some of his variations (on what is a solid Helton logo to begin with) has pushed the brewery to the top of many must-visit lists based on sticker offerings alone. His influence can also be seen in the many events that Helton puts on like pop-up markets and charity events. Moreover, let us not forget the popular Beer School series and the launch of the 2144 Club! While I may not have mentioned them by name – just as important is the bar staff and brewing crew; their attention to the details that go unnoticed is a special talent that can be found in very few places. This combination is just one of the many reasons that Helton has become a foundation in the local craft beer scene here in Arizona.
Brian Helton doesn’t want you to read this, though. He wants you in the brewery drinking his beers and enjoying the food. If that is not reason enough, then go for the any number of events that are designed to support the community and educate the average craft beer fan. Pop up markets, Beer School, charity events or live music. Helton wants you in the brewery and it’s as simple as that.
Beer sure to get to the next Beer School on January 28th – Click here for full event info