Walk into Helio Basin Brewery at 3935 East Thomas Road and you're effectively in the middle of the action, with the well-lit room separated by communal seating to the left, the pentagonal bar directly in front of you and individual tables to the right facing the shiny clean brewery.
Open every day but Monday, Helio Basin features a food menu with a Southwestern twist. But I was here for the beer; the list mixes six core and three seasonal or specialty beers.
We tried them all. Some beers were solid and delivered what was expected, while others seem to be works in progress. Having brewed professionally, I know the quirks and issues that come with learning a new brewing system, and typically a brewery's best work isn't found in their initial offerings. With that said, if you're going to sell it, you're also going to be held accountable — good or bad. Brewmaster/co-owner Dustin Hazer built his resume at popular New York breweries Ellicottville and Southern Tier before fine-tuning his craft at Four Peaks. Today's review will discuss all nine beers my beer geek friends and I sampled, with the results ranging from "impressive" to "maybe you should go back and rethink this one."
American IPA 6.5% ABV, 75 IBU: Resiny and hop-dominant, this beer has a brilliant gold appearance with clean hop character and just enough malt flavor to support it. All traditional elements of a typical American IPA are present and accounted for. If you like IPAs, start here.
Robust Porter 5.8% ABV, 40 IBU: Rich roast, molasses, and chocolate notes dominate combined with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, finishing with a lasting, pleasant aftertaste.
Blackberry Wheat 4.9% ABV, 15 IBU: The lack of aroma surprised us, but a subtle pleasant blackberry flavor was present throughout the palate. A slight harshness accompanied the finish.
Autumn Oak Nut Brown 8.0% ABV, 25 IBU: This seasonal is made with Muscovado sugar, which provides boozy alcohol aromas. The beer is aged on American oak, adding subtle notes of vanilla and coconut along with a prominent nutty flavor and aroma.
House beer 4.7% ABV, 18 IBU: Obviously intended for the light beer drinking crowd, this offering had virtually no aroma and very little flavor. The beer was as lifeless as the macro-produced beers it is trying to emulate.
Pale Ale 5.5% ABV, 50 IBU: Pouring a beautiful, crystal-clear shade of deep gold, the beer's aroma and flavor components didn't follow suit. While the bready and caramel malt flavors were present as anticipated, the subdued hop character didn't deliver in a style where hops are typically showcased.
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Hoppy Amber, 5.8% ABV, 70 IBU: The same thing as the Pale Ale, only more pronounced, occurred. Advertised as a hoppy beer, the caramel and toasted bread flavors are dominant and completely overpower the "hoppy" part of the equation, pushing the beer out of balance.
Kohi (Ko-he) Imperial Coffee Stout, 10.0% ABV, 65 IBU: This seasonal offering was brewed with 1.5 lbs/bbl of locally roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans, which typically provide a fruity flavor and a floral aroma from this light- to medium-roasted bean. The fruity flavors did not co-mingle well with the flavors from the hops, and the lighter-roast coffee seemed somewhat an afterthought. A great idea, in theory, and perhaps a darker roast would stand up better to this behemoth of a beer.
Goose Juice Session IPA 4.5% ABV, 60 IBU: This beer was brewed as a collaboration with Helton Brewing and Wren House Brewing, both local neighborhood breweries. The locally focused Goose Juice was made with Arizona gooseberries and Sonoran white wheat. Popular hops Centennial, Amarillo and Citra should have provided fruity and citrus aromas, but an unwelcome buttery character muted the hops and disrupted the expected clean and dry finish.
Helio Basin is a beautiful spot in a great location. There are plenty of reasons to check them out now, and there's potential for them to grow and improve with some tweaks and revisions in the coming series of batches.