Blondes on beers: Helm’s transitions to Two Roots and THC-infused brews

Blondes on Beers: Crystal Hoyt & Ashley Mackin-Solomon


By the time you read this, Helm’s Brewing in Ocean Beach will be in the midst of a transition to become Two Roots. Starting this month, small changes will be made to the tasting room at 4896 Newport Ave., with a full transformation by summer’s end.

Two Roots is a cannabis company that makes THC-infused beer that is sold only at the March & Ash dispensary in Mission Valley because the OB tasting room is not licensed to sell THC products. Two Roots acquired Helm’s to help brew its beer. The OB tasting room will offer three types of beers: regular craft beer with alcohol; non-alcoholic craft beer; and non-alcoholic beer that is also offered as THC infused at the dispensary. The idea is you can taste the non-alcoholic versions of the beer there (to make sure you like it), and then go to the dispensary and get that exact product with THC added to it.

Kevin Barnes, head brewer and VP of Brewing Operations at Two Roots Brewing Co. explained the THC-infused beers currently offered include: a blonde ale, a Hefeweizen, a stout, a lager and a West Coast-style IPA — each with 5 milligrams of THC in a 10-ounce can.


A flight of tasters and a front-row view of Newport Avenue
( Crystal Hoyt )

As he explained: “A lot of people say ‘5 milligrams? Why bother?’ but the THC we use is formulated in such a way that it reacts like alcohol. You feel it within 10-15 minutes with full onset in 20-30 minutes, and it starts to dissipate after a few hours. And it is pure THC, so it is a little bit stronger than other edibles or forms of consumption. We plan to add a micro-dose option in the future, because we want people to be able to have a few beers, like they would with alcohol-included beer.”

The first of the micro-dose beers will be, Barnes predicts, a grapefruit raddler and a mango IPA.

Having worked at Green Flash for seven years, Barnes has been at Helm’s/Two Roots since the end of 2017.


“I was brought on to make the non-alcoholic beers (both for THC-infusion and not) as flavorful and high quality as possible,” he said. “They wanted it to really be craft beer, where you can barely tell — if at all — that there’s no alcohol in it. I think we’ve done an amazing job at that. It’s challenging, but that’s what being a brewer is all about. The flavor of the THC doesn’t come through; the beer tastes exactly the same with or without the THC.”

Noting that the bigger challenge is making the beer and then extracting the alcohol, he said he is proud of the non-alcoholic offerings he’s been able to produce. “I never imagined non-alcoholic beer could taste as good as we have made it taste,” he said. “Since we were already making non-alcoholic beers (to later infuse with THC), we wanted to make sure we had beers for those who might be designated drivers, or pregnant, or who want to socialize but not drink alcohol.”

But, that’s not to overcast the alcoholic craft beers that will be offered.

The Palomino Porter
( Photos by Crystal Hoyt )

“I wanted to make a beer that straddles the line between different styles,” Barnes said. “So the IPA, for example, is a hybrid between the West Coast (which is crisp, dry and bitter) and the New England style (which is fruity, juicy and sweeter). It is dry hopped but has an apricot character to it. As a brewer, I like to blur the lines and take one aspect of one style I like and blend it with another aspect of a style I like.”

Another example, the Belgian Brut IPA, blends the fruity qualities of a Belgian with the dry finish and lightness of a Brut IPA.

Barnes also touts his love for old-style European beers such as Kolsch, pilsners and lagers from different countries: “I’m really proud of the Hefeweizen right now. It’s a straight up Bavarian style Hef and then dry hopped to give it a rich fruity character.” NOTE: Ashley Mackin-Solomon was not able toparticipate inthis month’s tastings.

Impressions of the venue

Crystal: Helm’s Brewing is in a prime location on the corner of Cable Street and Newport Avenue. The tasting room offers open window seating, bar seating and long tables for games and large groups. There’s always local art on the walls and sports games on the TVs. It’s never too loud or over-crowded, making it the perfect place to grab a pint.


Two Roots is located at the corner of Newport Avenue and Cable Street in Ocean Beach.
( Crystal Hoyt )

Brew reviews

Time Bandit (7.1% abv): (This is the Belgian Brut mentioned earlier in the article) It’s light and fruity yet retains a nice hops flavor. It has a dry finish and is every bit as fruity as white wine.

Tropical Infamy (5% abv): This Hef has a sweet aroma of bananas, cloves and tropical fruit. The wheat and hops come through nicely and leave a pleasant hoppy, bitter aftertaste.

Dubbel Date (6.8% abv): This Belgian dubbel is dark and sweet and smells of molasses and bread. The flavor is a perfect balance of dates and malt.

Dunkel Pils (4.8% abv): There’s a playful back-and-forth between sweet and savory. Smokey, malty and sweet like honey and cocoa. The deep roasted flavors make this German dark lager a real treat.

El Hazerino (6.9% abv): A hop forward hazy, the aroma of tropical fruits hits immediately. It’s super refreshing but packs a punch with delicious, bitter hops.

Palomino Porter (5.4% abv): A blonde porter made with Bird Rock coffee and cocoa nibs, this beer is quite flavorful. A distinct smoke flavor is balanced with roasted cocoa. A tasty sipping beer.



Two Roots By the Numbers

• Address: 4896 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach

• No. of Taps: 15 alcoholic, 2 non-alcoholic

• Prices: $2.50-$7

• Hours: 1-9:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday; noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday; noon to midnight Friday, Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday

• Contact: (619) 795-1991,