Off the Menu: Something’s Brewing at Helmsman Ale House

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Helmsman Ale House co-owners Andrew Gabriel and Mario Marovic

Newport Beach Brewing Company was a longtime local Balboa Peninsula hangout known for being on the cutting edge of the craft beer trend when it opened more than two decades ago.

After nearly 25 years, Newport Beach Brewing Company called it quits earlier this year, but the building is getting a second lease on life. Restaurateurs Mario Marovic and Andrew Gabriel, who have had solid hits with 13 other hospitality projects throughout Orange County including Stag Bar and Dory Deli in Newport Beach, bought the property and are transforming it into Helmsman Ale House, which is scheduled to open in July.

According to Gabriel, the building is getting a complete makeover. The brewing equipment and the bar layout stays, but everything else is new, including the bar décor.

“The bar tiles came from New York, from old historic properties,” Marovic told me when I toured the under-construction building several weeks ago. “The tiles were reclaimed. Some were hand painted, and the artist signed the tiles.”

Marovic said the artist lives in Washington, D.C. but immigrated from Croatia, where Marovic’s family is from.

An unusual local tie: back in the 1950s, the building was an ice block plant, and Gabriel’s father worked there. Eventually it was turned into a seafood purveyor, then a brewery.

But why buy a brewery/restaurant in the first place?

“I wanted a brewery,” stated Marovic. “A friend of mine owns the building, and we were friendly with the owners of the brewery. When the owner wanted to retire, we approached them, worked out an agreement, and we bought it. It’s synergistic. It’s in the wheelhouse of what we’re already doing.”

Marovic said they plan to offer 14 beers, including eight to 10 of their own. They’ll have guest beers from local craft breweries and collaborate on flavors.

Helmsman Ale House co-owners Andrew Gabriel and Mario Marovic

Helmsman Ale House is the latest edition to the Balboa Peninsula, which has slowly morphed into a lifestyle destination.

“When we bought Stag Bar in 2006, the area was kind of stagnant, but now with Lido House Hotel, Marina Park, other restaurants, Lido Marina Village, you’re seeing a culture shift,” noted Marovic.

Helmsman’s slogan is “artfully crafted, locally inspired,” which related to both beer and food.

For the “artful” part of the slogan, Helmsman Ale House has hired Dylan Mobley as head brewer. Mobley will be responsible for brewing operations, quality control, and brewery management.

Like many in the craft brewing industry, Mobley began as a home brewer. Looking to turn his hobby into a career, Mobley attended Siebel Institute in Chicago, Illinois and Munich, Germany, where he completed its Master Brewer Program.    

Mobley was Assistant Brewer at Stone Brewing Company, and then Brewer at Angel City Brewery, followed by Brewer and the Head Brewer at Bottle Logic Brewing.

“We are very pleased to have someone as talented and experienced as Dylan join our team and lead brewing operations,” said Marovic. “We have a great deal of confidence in his marked ability in crafting great tasting beer, and that’s something we’re naturally all very excited about.”

The 15-barrel brewhouse will have four 14-barrel fermentation tanks, five 15-barrel and three 5-barrel brite tanks, with eight display serving tanks pouring direct to tap. Growlers and 32-ounce cans will be available for takeaway. There will also be a full bar with signature cocktails and wine list.

Equally important to the concept is an artfully crafted and locally inspired chef-driven menu with a California take on classic pub fare. The family-friendly full-service restaurant will feature lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Helmsman Ale House is located at 2920 Newport Blvd. For more information, visit helmsmanalehouse.com.

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