There is a light at the end of the tunnel—just in time for the hot weather, as luck would have it.
More and more of us—who are not swayed by misinformation—are getting vaccinated, and businesses are being allowed to further open up. That means it’s again possible to go to a bar or brewery and have a pint, if you’re so inclined. I am excited to be able to do this without risking my life and the lives of my loved ones.
Now is a good time to take a look at the landscape locally to see what’s happening—and learn where you can go to scratch that itch of camaraderie that can often only be found when going out for a drink.
Despite the long lockdown, there are some new experiences to be had out there. I’ve seen local distribution of more and more beers from breweries that I love; have heard about but haven’t tried; or haven’t even heard of before. University Village Food Mart in Palm Desert is a favorite of mine to browse. This unassuming store has someone carefully selecting stock—and keeping it all cold. Similarly, Ranch Market and Liquor in Thousand Palms has many doors of refrigerated shelves dedicated to beers you won’t see anywhere else. Both stores deserve more props for their beer selections, and I will be looking more closely at that topic in this column soon.
As for having a drink out somewhere … we’ve been lucky, because many places were able to stay in business through the pandemic.
Dead or Alive has pivoted toward being more of a retail shop and less of a bar (though the patio is currently open for drinks), and as a result has also pivoted toward more canned offerings. As of this writing, DoA had a selection including a couple of El Segundo Brewing double IPAs; a Hop Concept IPA; and Reissdorf Kölsch, which I shouted out in my column on the style last year.
La Quinta Brewing’s Old Town Taproom in La Quinta has a hefeweizen from Enegren Brewing (maker of brilliant examples of German styles in Thousand Oaks); Or Xata from The Bruery in Orange County; Blind Pig IPA from Russian River out of Sonoma County; and a barreled peach sour ale from Almanac in Alameda. As you might have noticed, these are all California breweries. Eureka! has carried on—and there are spots available at the bar now! I hope they do more with their tap lineup, like some of their sister locations do, but the staff is great, and the food is often very good as well—a shout out to their fried chicken sandwich with “firecracker” aioli.
Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewery is improved; their hazy IPA was tropical and juicy, and the orange maibock had a bright, citrus, floral smack to it. One of my personal joys pre-COVID was having a pint at O’Caine’s Irish Pub in Rancho Mirage. They keep the taps mostly Irish—to the point of having no American light lagers, of which I’m a huge fan. (You can, of course, get those in bottles or cans.) I love the St. Patrick’s Pennies fried pickles, and their version of a Reuben sandwich with Irish corned beef is insanely good.
Just outside of the valley, The Craft Lounge in Beaumont has made it through this mess and still carries a largely Southern California-centric tap, can and bottle list. Back in Palm Springs, Revel Public House’s name entices me, but a glance at the tap list deflates that enticement a bit. If they can get someone to curate the selection, it could be very promising. (On a totally unrelated side note, I am available for consultation.)
This summer will hopefully see the return of beer festivals. If it does, perhaps the Ace Hotel and Swim Club will decide to bring back its annual festival that took place in August. It’s appropriate to question how wise it is to hold a beer festival when it is 120 degrees outside, but the last one was well worth attending despite the weather. I will be fervently wishing for Modern Times’ Festival of Dankness to return for vaccinated people, as I lamented its absence last August. After two Firestone Invitational cancellations, I would be very disappointed to miss another Dankness trip to San Diego.
It’s good to be able to see people again—and this is coming from an introvert.
In closing, I want to take an insufficient amount of space to talk about Joshua Kunkle. He’s been mentioned in the Independent’s pages several times before, most recently last year, when I talked to him for a column I did about homebrewing. He took over for me as president of the Coachella Valley Homebrewers Club and continued to fly its flag enthusiastically for the past seven years. The old guard of the club—myself included—had left to do other things, and I’m not sure there would still be a club without him.
Josh died in a car accident on May 1. Tragically, he was newly engaged and about to move to Sonoma County to continue his career. He was a great homebrew engineer—anyone who saw his elaborate system would agree—and an extremely helpful, gregarious guy. When I was the club’s president, I had to put together a homebrew competition, and Josh took time away from his job to come help me when no one else would. What’s more, if you enjoy this column, it was Josh who recommended me to the editor of this fine paper. Everyone who had something to say about him at a recent memorial talked about his indomitable spirit; he will be sorely missed.
The Independent will have more to say about Josh soon. My deepest condolences go out to his family, fiancée and friends. Farewell, Josh.