CVIndependent

Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came

In 2008, I was in the midst of a major life transition. I was a musician who had retreated from the wasteland that was the Los Angeles music scene a year previous, and was I wondering what my next move would be. Beer had always been a love of mine, so I found myself alongside my cousin Josh, attempting to brew it at home.

Our first beer was an IPA, and while it turned out drinkable, it wasn't great. I needed help, and deep within the recesses of Yahoo! Groups, I found the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club. I contacted the club's founder and was invited to a bar in Palm Desert for the award ceremony of a local homebrew competition run by the bar's proprietor.

That proprietor's name is Brent Schmidman, and his bar was Schmidy's Tavern.

Schmidy (this is, after all, how we refer to the man) hails from Nebraska, and in his words, he was fortunate enough to spend a little time as a Marine stationed in San Diego at Camp Pendleton when not in Asia. It was then he fell in love with Southern California.

"I loved the weather, and coming from the Midwest, this was perfect year-round," he said.

He found himself starting a maintenance business in Orange County, where the stress of the job eventually got to him—so he sold it and moved to the Coachella Valley. Why the desert? "I had been coming out here so I could get back down to earth … being from the Midwest and not used to Orange County craziness."

He decided to take some previous experience with the hospitality and beverage industries into a sales position with a local drinks distributor, where he developed a love for "microbrew." After eight successful years with the distribution company, Schmidy was ready to move on.

"I decided I would open a place that would focus on the locals, and because of my passion, craft beer had to be a part of that," he said.

He emphasized his desire to concentrate on the year-round desert residents. "The premise was to focus on locals. Of course, tourists were welcome, too, but really, (it was) for the community to have a place to go—kind of like a modern-day Cheers," he explained. After some searching, he found a location in Palm Desert that would be the home of Schmidy's Tavern, beginning in 2008.

Then in 2010 came Jonas Wilby, the Stone Brewing Company bartender-turned-local representative for Stone Distributing Company.

"They presented an offer to me to move out there and launch Stone Distributing,” Wilby said. “I would be the everyday distribution rep and work alongside all the customers in all facets: stores, chains, restaurants and bars."

He quickly paid a visit to Stone's only IPA tap handle in the valley—at Schmidy's Tavern—only to find it wasn't on tap anymore. "I was like, ‘God dang! We lost this handle!’" Jonas said. "I eventually got a chance to sit down (with Schmidman) and … we talked about the different brands in our portfolio, about cold storage and cold delivery. And we could guarantee to have super-fresh inventory." This, combined with the amount of driving this would save Schmidman, led to an important partnership.

Shortly thereafter, Schmidy had an idea: "I said to Jonas, 'I want to build the craft-beer scene, and I want you to help me. … I'm going to pay for the beers, and we will give free samples. I just want to educate people.' We started it once a week. The first weeks we did it, we couldn't give it away!"

Added Wilby: “There were people sitting at the bar, drinking a Bud Light, saying, 'No, I'm good. I don't want to try that,' like I was trying to poison them.”

But with persistence, Beer School, as Schmidy dubbed it, started to gain momentum and eventually boomed. The last Wednesday of every month, for $20, you'd get four-ounce pours of four beers, alongside four courses of food—and at the end, a specially made cask that Schmidy acquired for the occasion would be tapped, and everyone would get a pour. Soon enough, Schmidy's had to turn people away.

Before founding Coachella Valley Brewing Co. in 2013, Chris Anderson used his culinary background to help Schmidy with the dinner menus.

"(Schmidman) and I really had an ability to create some unique, innovative and often incredibly well-thought-out beer and food pairings together. They were often beers and foods that you probably wouldn't see normally in the valley," Anderson said.

Said Schmidman: "We got real creative about it and thought outside the box and did crazy stuff. That was what it was about: to create an experience with beer that would be memorable. Then people realize beer is not just something you guzzle down while you're mowing the lawn."

Beer School became a "tent pole" event, even bringing in industry people to help out on occasion. 

"Because we had a set time, and it was an event,” Wilby said, “I was able to go out when I was talking to other accounts, even if it was a new account, and I'd be like, 'Hey, you gotta come out to Beer School to see what the desert beer scene is really like.'"

A group of beer-lovers were working at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club at the time, including chef Jennifer Town, who would later be the guest chef at multiple Beer Schools.

In 2013, Schmidman sold the tavern, and Beer School eventually fizzled out. Schmidy’s Tavern itself closed in 2016, after the landlord significantly raised the rent on the space.

"I don’t think you will find another person as passionate, driven and hungry as … Brent,” Anderson said. “He put in the time and effort to make that place a beer destination. He knew that it was going to be a big effort, and it worked. I often would see him in the morning, and he would still be there in the office working well into the night.”

There has not been a local craft-beer bar like Schmidy's Tavern since.

"What was in my head throughout this whole time was spreading the love for craft beer and spreading the culture, one beer at a time," Schmidy said. "I'm proud of what we did … I don't know if it would be the same now or not."

I'd like to raise a toast to Schmidy's Tavern. Here's to hoping we get something as good back here in the desert soon.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He currently works at the Coachella Valley Brewing Co. taproom in Thousand Palms. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Beer

Ladies and gentlemen, residents of and visitors to the Coachella Valley: The state of craft beer in our fine desert community is … meh.

Let's start where it makes the most sense: Our breweries. I'm going to need to leave much to the imagination here, because I work for one of them, and that presents a conflict of interest. As my colleagues and bosses will attest to, I would never root against any brewery here. I am a fan of craft beer first, and if all of our breweries were pumping out only great beer, that would mean more great beer for me to try. Alas, this is not the case … but it is actually trending in that direction.

The truth is that there is room for all three current local breweries to grow when it comes to beer quality. Brew great beer, and I (and many others) will show up—I promise you. This is not really competition, because as I previously stated, more great beer is more great beer. That seems to reach critical mass in some cities; repeat this process, and sooner than you'd think, you find yourself in a beer mecca. It feels like San Jacinto and San Gorgonio keep more than just rain away from our valley sometimes, I'm afraid. 

OK, that was a little dark … not everything is being kept away. Local beer hero and friend Chris Anderson had a hand in opening Woody's Moreno Valley, which is connected to Woody's Palm House in Palm Springs. It is housed where P.H. Woods once was, which was once connected to Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage. Now that "Six Degrees of Separation" is done, what makes this relevant is that the beer is on tap at the Palm Springs location. I recently tried the IPA and the pilsner, and I can happily report that they were delicious. This is not a surprise, seeing that Chris—founder and former head brewer at Coachella Valley Brewing Co.—was involved. He pulled a brewer over from Hangar 24 to head the operation now, and I'm looking forward (with my usual managed expectations, of course) to some more good beer from them.

More good news: Desert Beer Company will be opening this year. This is the work of former CVB taproom manager Devon Sanchez and will be located in Palm Desert, not far from La Quinta Brewing's brewery. As a former co-worker, you’d think I would know more about this, but I do not. Perhaps this is by his design, but whatever the case, I do wish him all the luck in the world. Say it with me once more: More good beer in the valley is a good thing.

Bottle shops are still wanting here. Total Wine and More seems to be the best place to get beer, but some of the local beer distributors can be very lax when it comes to rotating stock—and you are very much in danger of buying out-of-date beer if you are not diligently checking the dates on the packaging. While not in the Coachella Valley, Sam's Market in Joshua Tree deserves mention as the people there curate a great selection of craft beers from all around Southern California. Alas, the fact that you have to drive 50 minutes from the middle of the valley to find a proper craft-beer selection is not flattering to our beer scene.

If you have never set foot in a place that has a large and almost overwhelming (in the best way) selection of beers, stop by La Bodega next time you are in Riverside. Can the local market support something like that? That is a great question. I can't really crunch any numbers without doing some intense research, but if you asked me to venture a guess, I’d lean toward saying yes—a very caveat-laden yes. It would have to be done right (i.e., not by some people with money and a faint familiarity with beer who want to try and “get in on the action” but instead end up half-assing it), and it would need to be in the right location. In other words, it would be an uphill battle. There's an idea for the name of the store: Sisyphus' Stone. Inspiring, I know.

Beer bars are pretty much the same as they were a year ago. Eureka! Indian Wells gets my craft-beer dollar more than any other, and not because it is one of the closer places to get a craft on tap in relation to where I live. It's a little pricey (compared to their location in Redlands, even) and the selection needs some serious curation, though.

There are definitely other places worth mentioning. Dead or Alive Bar is one of my favorites when I'm in Palm Springs. Christine Soto is mindful of her smaller but interesting selection of beers. Then there’s the unique vibe of the place and the fact that I almost always get sucked into a good conversation with her, her bartenders and/or strangers when I'm there. The guest taps at La Quinta Brewing's satellite taprooms are often good and worth checking out, as is the "Chalkboard" at the Yard House.

I now want to take a few deep breaths here, apologize and explain: I am frustrated and searching my soul for reasons to live up to my desire to help grow a legitimate craft-beer scene in the Coachella Valley. I love this area, and consider myself as being from here, having moved here when I was a young lad in 1987. I have family and friends here. Look around you: It's beautiful. But I'm going to need you to meet me halfway here. There are only so many blows to the head I can take from bashing it against this figurative wall before I have to say, "Enough!" and walk away. Together, we could do a lot. If you have never attended a top-tier beer dinner, I wish I could gift you that experience. We certainly have the high-quality cuisine here, and there is so much world-class beer within a two-hour drive that it would be eminently possible, to say the least. Is anyone willing to try?

This is a cry for help. I have helped put together some dinners like this, and I want to do many more. I just need a handful of people here that give enough of a shit. Let's do this, Coachella Valley. I love you and don't want to need to leave you to make my dreams come true.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He currently works at the Coachella Valley Brewing Co. taproom in Thousand Palms. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Beer

When I ponder beer history, two things stand out: the use of hops, and the invention of the drum roaster.

The former happened 800 to 900 years ago, give or take. Antiseptic agents are needed in the fermentation of beer to keep the good microflora in and the bad out. Brewers didn't know this—Louis Pasteur’s discoveries happened years later—but they did know that without certain things, beer could turn out poorly. Before hops became widely used, bitter herbs and spices were used for this purpose. Scotland has a tradition of using heather; in fact, you can still find some beers with heather on shelves if you go to the right places. Hops just wound up being more efficient and suitable for beer flavors. More about hops later.

As for the patenting of the drum roaster in 1818: Englishman Daniel Wheeler may have singlehandedly changed the course of beer history more than any other individual (outside of Pasteur, perhaps). Inspired by the process of roasting coffee, he set about adapting it for kilning and roasting malts using indirect heat. Before the roaster, malt was spread on a metal floor, and a fire (often fueled by coke, a coal residue, although wood and coal were sometimes used) was lit underneath. This led to grains on the bottom being scorched while some on top remained relatively green—with a lot of smokiness imparted into the grain. With Wheeler's invention, a variety of reliably kilned and roasted grains could be produced to augment the much more efficient pale malt used as a beer's base. This resulted in an explosion of different styles in Europe—so the next time you're drinking a nice stout, Vienna lager, Schwarzbier or almost any other style, raise that glass to Daniel Wheeler. 

This all brings us to the present, and current beer trends.

Hazy (or officially, New England) IPAs and pastry stouts are in vogue and don't look to be losing any popularity. The names of these styles pretty much tell the stories: The hazy IPAs are made hazy by the combination of an English yeast—which traditionally doesn't allow for dry beers, but has a light, fruity ester as a byproduct—with additions such as oats or wheat, not to mention the haze from the ridiculous amounts of hops added. Unlike many West Coast IPAs, though, they are usually only slightly bitter. The low-bitterness trend has leaked into the West Coast styles now, and I'm a huge fan of this. As with some crazes, things can get a little nutty; I've heard stories of people standing in line at breweries for hours (or paying people to stand in line for them as surrogates), only to promptly leave when the beer released announced is "only," say, a coffee porter. While I personally find many "hazies" and pastry stouts to be rather similar (I can't tell you how many times I've had some combination of cinnamon, maple syrup, coffee and maybe fruit in the stouts), they have excited many people who weren't all that into craft beer before.

Happily, lagers have seen a resurgence. Last summer, I discovered several very drinkable pilsners from breweries that mostly trade in IPAs, stouts and kettle sours. (Think Berlinerweisse—a light, tart wheat ale originating from Germany.) Mexican lagers have come along for this ride, which makes sense, because not only is this a cherished style of our friends to the south of us; the style is also very similar to a pilsner, with the exception of the use of corn or maize to dry the beer out and add a touch of their flavor. Firestone's Pivo Pils and Firestone Lager (a take on the Munich helles style) is leading this charge, and I'm all for it. Lagers are subtle and can be surprisingly diverse, but they are also much more difficult to get right and take much longer in a brewery's tanks to make. More time in tanks leads to less tank space for new beer, which leads to a potential loss of profit if not planned carefully. While a hazy IPA can take less than two weeks to reach your glass, a lager can take anywhere from six weeks to three months. As a fan of Old World beer styles that don't really get the time they deserve here in America, I wholeheartedly look forward to more of this trend.

Now comes the tough part: Predicting the future. To do so, I sought some help.

First, I turned to my friend and one of the most talented and knowledgeable people I know when it comes to beer, master brewer Chris Anderson.

"I think the IPA will continue to be the hottest style in craft beer,” he said via email. “I think more spin-offs of this most popular style on the planet will be the norm. Brut IPA and Southwest IPA are two relatively new styles gaining traction."

Julian Shrago, head brewer at Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach (which I cannot recommend enough), agrees. “‘Brut IPA' is a new style that originated in the San Francisco Bay Area. They’re brewed with a special enzyme that allows them to be almost 100 percent attenuated. I like this idea, and it seems to be an interesting contrast to hazies."

I have personally not yet tried this "hop champagne,” but I am looking forward to this being a lovely, spritzy showcase for some of the incredible new hop varieties that keep emerging, as well as the old standby hops we love. The Southwest IPA style Anderson mentioned is an IPA using agave syrup to dry the beer out and possibly add some earthy notes; these beers often are made with Southwest-themed hops such as El Dorado and Amarillo.

Anderson also sees both uncertainty and excitement—not just the craft-beer industry, but in the alcohol and spirits industry in general: "The millennial craft beer drinker is most definitely not a loyalist like the previous generations were. On Monday, they may have a cocktail; Tuesday or Wednesday, a glass of wine; Thursday and Friday, a beer—but not the same brands from week to week. Throughout the weekend, maybe they will consume some cannabis and not touch any of the aforementioned alcoholic beverages when doing so. This will continue to fuel diversity in the varying alcoholic beverage industries and will also continue to make all of these sectors ultra-competitive."

A friend of mine who is the director of the hop division of a very large hop concern (who wishes to go unnamed for this article) weighed in.

"I feel that the consumer is now more educated in craft beers, thus being open to different styles and flavor profiles,” he said. “For example, I see sour beers gaining in popularity; perhaps it’s the refreshing nature, relieving the palate from the hop grenades of IPAs and pale ales.

“Furthermore, barrel-aged beers are on the rise, and people are willing to pay the $20-per-bottle price point for these complex, rich and sophisticated libations. Fruit additions are increasing as well, from powders, purees, concentrates, skins/peels to actual fruit; there are more and more of them on the tap or on the shelf."

When it comes to hops, he sees this fruity trend following—in the flavors and aromas of newer strains of hops. However, he sees the hop industry moving more toward bolstering pest and mildew resistance.

"A major focus of hop-breeding will be on pest/disease resistance varieties,” he said. “The grower is facing immense challenges from pest pressure, such as an increasingly pesticide-resistant mite, to new aggressive strains of powdery mildew. Growers are also conscientious of the need to reduce the use of conventional pest control chemicals (and move) to more biological/natural methods." This is where genetic engineering can really do some wonderful things, despite some people's irrational distrust of the technology.

While we’ve now examined beer’s past, present in future … one thing I didn't mention is glitter beer. That was intentional. There is one very easy thing about the future to predict, however: I’ll soon be at the fridge to get a beer to fill my glass.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He currently works at the Coachella Valley Brewing Co. taproom in Thousand Palms. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Beer

There was a time not too long ago when I cringed at the sight of a raspberry wheat or berry blonde beer. I thought these beers were too dainty, too affected—and frankly, not worth my money.

However, I’ve changed my tune in recent years—and I am not alone.

Let’s look at just one beer category, flavored IPAs, for evidence. In 2015, sales of “tropical-flavored” IPA increased by 250 percent, according information presented to the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia in May 2016. According to market-research firm Mintel, in 2010, 15 percent of new beers introduced were flavored. In 2015, 27 percent of beers to come onto the market were flavored.

But fruit has not been relegated to just IPAs. Brewers are also infusing pale ales, saisons and even stouts with fruit from the farm—grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes and so on.

Take San Diego brewer Ballast Point’s Pineapple Sculpin, for example. Since Ballast Point’s purchase by Constellation, this beer and its relatives—Habanero Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin, introduced in 2014—are more widely available. This is a very good thing.

Some of these juicy new beers have come about thanks to experimental hops with aromatic qualities, which pair better with fruits. Brewers are also developing styles that are better able to carry the fruit flavors. As fruit beers have gotten better, they’ve not only won over some hard-core beer-drinkers like me; they’ve brought more non-traditional beer-drinkers into the craft-beer world.

Take New Belgium’s Citradelic Tangerine IPA, launched in January 2016, as another example of a popular, widely available fruit-forward beer. The sweet, tangy orange character intertwines nicely with the hops—including Citra, citrusy Mandarina Bavaria, tropical Azzaca and fruity Galaxy hops. On top of all this, the brewers add tangerine-infused orange peel to the brew.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is the local brewer that’s been using fruits in its beers the most. CVB’s Chris Anderson is not only an award-winning brewer; he knows his way around a kitchen. He served as executive chef at Moose’s Tooth and Café Europa in Anchorage, and headed culinary operations for the Tatitlek Corporation for seven years.

“I’ve seen more and more brewers using locally grown fruits, and fruits indigenous to their local areas,” Anderson said. “Fruit beer is certainly becoming more popular. It used to be said that it was a ‘chick beer.’ At CVB, we sell a ton of fruit beers and fruited sours to men.”

Anderson said he’s definitely seen fruit beers bring newbies into the craft-beer world.

“Customers are continually looking for variety; brand loyalty is a thing of the past,” Anderson said. “Fruit beers are in the footbridge realm for many non-craft-beer people. These folks might find a banana hefeweizen or passion-fruit farmhouse ale more inviting than a fresh double IPA.”

Hopped-up IPAs often work well with fruit additions, thanks to complementary hops like the lemony Sorachi Ace and the grapefruit-hinted Cascade—but it’s not just IPAs that Anderson likes when it comes to fruit.

“I think just about any beer can work fruited as long as it marries and doesn’t conflict,” he said.

Of course, there is an art to brewing and noting the citrus qualities within hops. Yes, fruit is good, and fruit in beer can be awesome—but adding too much or not understanding thresholds or blending could lead to an awful brew. No fruit, however delicious, can turn an ordinary beer into something super-tasty. But when you start with a great beer, fruit can make it even better—creating perfect sippers for warmer days.

Published in Beer

The temperatures are absolutely scorching. Pool parties, mercifully, are everywhere.

Yep. Summer has arrived with full force in the Coachella Valley.

If you’re thirsty, you may want to check out what’s happening at Coachella Valley Brewing Co. We decided to check in with CVB—one of the three fantastic breweries that call the valley home—and we learned they’re brewing up a storm in Thousand Palms, with 25 to 30 rotating beers on tap. That’s a lot of great local beer.

I spoke with Chris Anderson, head brewmaster and part owner of CVB. He told me that the latest release is the return of Dubbel Date—this time, made with medjool dates. These larger dates are sweet and regarded by many as the “best” variety of dates.

“We used to make that year-round,” Anderson said. “It’s always been kind of a popular beer here (at the CVB taproom), but for whatever reason, from a distribution standpoint, it never really took off for us. But it sells really well here, so we serve it maybe once or twice a year.

“This is probably the most excellent batch ever made. We used 100 percent medjools this time. That’s the only thing we really changed, other than beefing up the malt.”

The popular Harvester IPA is coming back and is perfect for the hot weather. It’s big on grapefruit with sharp flavors and some citrus notes, and is very balanced.

Mayahuel (pronounced ma-jewel), the Aztec goddess of agave, is making a comeback, of sorts: That is also the name of a gorgeous beer brewed with agave nectar, and then aged in barrels. It’s sweet, funky and full of flavor.

“It’s a Belgian tripel with Fairchild tangerines and Persian limes, and then we’ll use 100 percent organic blue Weber’s agave nectar, as well as Belgian candy sugar,” Anderson said. “So it’s a real special beer. Then we age it in bourbon barrels—typically. But this year, we took a different spin on it and aged it in mescal barrels from Mexico. So it’s a little bit earthier and a little more smoky. … We’re pretty happy with it.”

Anderson added that the Mayahuel spent 16 months in those mescal barrels.

As for perfect-for-summer sours, Anderson said CVB is offering its Biere de Tarte, as well as its sour wheat beer Berlinerweisse. Also: The brewery’s 4 percent alcohol by volume Boys of Summer boysenberry sour is coming out in the middle of July.

Anderson recently took a trip down to San Diego, the Mecca of craft beer in Southern California. He visited Societe and Council breweries for their anniversary parties.

“It’s a labor of love. They have a little three-barrel system, roughly one-seventh the size of ours, right?” he said of Council. “And then they’re doing so much production. They had three little satellite spaces, and they’re loading each batch of beer into this little transport vessel that you have to clean and sanitize, and backing it down through this little industrial park over six different speed bumps to get into their facility.”

Back in the Coachella Valley, Anderson said that summer is one the best times of year for CVB, despite the heat.

“We’re one of those breweries where summer is our chance to have fun and show off,” he said. “Expect to see the tap list pretty well full, just like it is right now, with 20 or 30 beers on tap. We’ll keep releasing bottles every month.”

I noted that the brewery is offering some pretty heavy beers, too.

“Yeah, big beers that nobody’s releasing in the summer time—like 20 percenters,” Anderson said, referring to the alcohol by volume. “This year, Black Widow will be close to 20 percent.”

Coachella Valley Brewing brewed approximately 2,500 barrels in 2015 and is on pace to brew 4,000 to 5,000 barrels this year. The beers are currently selling in California, Arizona and Nevada. When I asked him whether CVB could expand to more states, Anderson said he’d instead like to grow more awareness in his own backyard—the Coachella Valley and Southern California, that is.

Stay cool, and drink local!

Published in Beer

With the help of nature’s unpredictability, experienced brewers are adapting traditional European techniques to bring bursts of tart and tangy flavors to beers.

Yep. We’re talking about sours.

In the mid-19th century, when beer was aged and shipped in wooden barrels before the advent of refrigeration, nearly all beer was, to some extent, sour.

Today, good sours can take up to two to three years to produce. But the wait is worth it: All hail Pediococcus, Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces. The remarkable flavors in sour ales can be attributed to these wild yeast strains.

We recently spoke to people at three Southern California breweries that are helping lead the sour resurgence.


The Bruery: A Chat with Benjamin Weiss

Benjamin Weiss is the marketing director of The Bruery, in the Orange County community of Placentia. The Bruery celebrated its seventh anniversary in May.

Benjamin became a professional brewer at The Bruery in 2008, just two years after starting to homebrew in Los Angeles. He eventually became the brewer on the infamous Black Tuesday beer.

What’s your background brewing sours?

I just drank them. Brewing them is pretty much the same as anything—you’re just fermenting slightly differently. … Most of our sours are aged in a used wine barrel. (With) most of them nowadays, actually, primary fermentation starts in an oak barrel, then we rack into smaller oak barrels.

Do you have favorite wineries from which you like to get your barrels from

No. … We get the barrels from wineries, but we’re really using a neutral barrel. We clean them out … so as long as they’re newer, solid barrels, we’re happy with them.

What do you love about sours?

I’ve loved sours since I’ve first tried them back in my homebrew meeting about 10 years ago. … When you have a good sour, there’s something complex and delicious about it. Most of our sours are not purely lactic fermentation. They’re not just one note. It’s hard to describe; it’s almost a clean sour taste … also the funkiness that you can get from different strains of Brett (Brettanomyces) that comes with time. … I find them just fascinating.

What do you think of the resurgence in popularity of sours?

It’s crazy. I was just commenting to one of my co-workers that, we were at some festival … five years ago. Every single person that came up to you, you had to explain what a sour beer was. … Now, almost everyone walks up and says, “Oh, you have a sour beer?” It’s completely the opposite, at least with the beer crowd. It’s still a very, very small segment of beer. But within the craft-beer aficionado community, it’s increasingly more popular.

What are some of your favorites from The Bruery?

One of my favorites we make is Rueuze, our kind of gueuze style. … It’s gotten a little bit better every year. It has that funky character that I like. Gueuze is a type of lambic made by blending young (1-year-old) and old (2- to 3-year-old) lambics, which is then bottled for a second fermentation. Rueuze is a blend of sour blonde ale from several of their oak barrels, some of which have been aging several months, some several years. Notes of apricots, peach, lemon and bright barnyard funk flavors come through—perfect for summer.

What are some of your upcoming plans?

We’re launching a tasting room for Bruery Terreux (in Anaheim) hopefully at the end of this year, if not early next year. … Bruery Terreux is a newish brand, loosely translating to “Earthy Bruery” in French. Developed by Patrick Rue of The Bruery, it’s a new space that focuses solely on their farmhouse-style ales fermented with the wild yeasts.


Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks: A Brewery in Wine Country

The “accidental” story of Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks is beautifully tasty. The story of renegade brewers Matt Brynildson, Jim Crooks (“Sour Jim”) and Jeffers Richardson has grown from humble beginnings in 2005 to a program that produces more than 1,500 barrels annually in Buellton, just south of Paso Robles.

This innovative and unprecedented barrelhouse is the birthplace of several of the wildly coveted beers being poured annually at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, held every May. Their Agrestic (2014) began as the brewery’s DBA; it then goes through a “chrysalis” process involving 87 percent French and 13 percent American oak barrels, and a proprietary collection of micro flora. It spends 14 months there. This sour leans towards the punker, tropical and oaky side of things.

The Sour Opal is an American Gueuze style with a titratable acidity (T.A.) of 6.6 g/L. Currently, no other brewery that I know of divulges this information. With their home in wine country, Firestone Walker has adapted traditions and techniques from winery friends.

I spoke to Jeffers, the director of Barrelworks (aka the “Barrelmeister”).

What’s your fascination with sours?

I love how it contributes depth and complexity to beer. Acidity adds a whole new dimension of flavor to beer … and plays teasingly with wild yeast and oak, when those components are involved.

How long have you been experimenting with sours?

My palate has been experimenting with acidified beers since 1985, when I lived in Brussels and first tried them. But I didn’t become comfortable with wild beer production until I teamed up with Jim. I’m old school. I was indoctrinated in the ways of clean beer practices. Once we were given our own padded room, and the inmates were allowed to run it, I was more comfortable. Jim, on the other hand has been a certifiable experimenter of sours for some time.


Coachella Valley Brewing: Pucker Up in the Desert

On a local level, Coachella Valley Brewing Co.’s Chris Anderson has been brewing up a sour program in Thousand Palms over the past year.

This sour program at CVB is taking off. Anderson hinted the brewery might be expanding its sour program outside of the current space in the near future.

The new Profligate Society will feature upcoming sours, cabernet-barrel-aged Epineux Poire prickly pear wild ale, cabernet-barrel-aged Cassis Noir black currant sour ale and cabernet-barrel-aged Flame Rouges wild ale. Less than 500 bottles of each beer will be released to Profligate members.

What sours are on tap now?

The Peche, an American wild ale with locally grown white peaches and pediococcus, and lactic and multiple Brettanomyces cultures. Tasters are $3, and there’s only one keg left.

When did you start this, or think about starting to brew sours?

We immediately started getting into that mode when we had the capacity to store that type of a beer. We got a bunch of tanks dedicated just for making sour beers. That was probably about a year ago. That was the inception of the first couple sour bases that we use to make a couple different beers with a batch of different fruits.

How many tanks?

We have three right now. We immediately made a sour base, which is your run-of-the-mill wheat beer and used some really old hops, which is typical of sour beers. You want to use old, cheesy, skanky hops, rather than the real aromatic ones. You don’t want that to shine through in the beer. We aged it away; we use a special flora. We have an onsite laboratory. … We built our own culture, that we inoculate all the barrels with, as well as the wort.

What do you love about sours?

I don’t know. It’s kind of mysterious, you know? A little unorthodox. It’s the opposite of everything you’re told as a brewer, even the way the mash is done. The long aging … you still may not get really high quality results … and it’s all about blending, too.

Published in Beer

Beer culture stretches back more than 4,000 years—and for much of that time, beer was primarily made by amateurs.

The more things change, the more things stay the same: Homebrewing today is on a meteoric rise in the United States.

Since 1978, the American Homebrewers Association (www.homebrewersassociation.org) has promoted the joys of homebrewing. The organization now has more than 43,000 members. An American Homebrewers Association survey done in the earlier part of 2014 estimated that there were at least 1.3 million homebrewers in the U.S. The hobby has been growing at a rate of 20 percent per year in the last five years—oh, and a lot more women are joining in, too.

I recently spoke several notable local homebrewers to get their two cents on the growing trend.


Joshua Kunkle has been brewing since October 2007 and is now the president of the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club. Club meetings are usually held on the first Thursday of the month, at Coachella Valley Brewing Co., starting at 7 p.m.

Unlike most homebrewers, Kunkle began by making alcoholic ciders, after returning home from France. He was living in San Francisco at the time, and sought out local brew-supply shops that sold the appropriate equipment. It came with a free batch of grains to brew beer.

“I did the beer, and the beer turned out better than I thought it would,” he said. “And when I finally got around to making the cider, it was so much of a bitch to do that, I thought, ‘I’m going to stick with the beer. It’s a lot less work, for a lot better product.’ That spurred me into trying different things, and along the way, every time I made a mistake, it turned out to be kind of serendipity in my favor, so that helped me learn new things.”

He later moved back to Southern California—Murietta, specifically.

“I was living over at my parents’ house, which is on five acres, and that gave me impetus to expand the operation and start working my way to all-grain,” he said. “Once I started doing all-grain, that’s when I started building all my equipment.”

That’s right: He’s built his own beer-making equipment. The move also showed him how place can affect the beer-making process. “On one hand, the beer was slightly better at my parents’ house in Murietta, because they lived on a well system. But on the other hand, the weather was perfect for brewing in San Francisco. The temperatures do fluctuate there more in Southern California.”

Kunkle’s system includes a 4-foot-by-4-foot-by-8 foot insulated, temperature-controlled box; it started out as an armament-storage box belonging to his grandfather. There’s a door on the side and a lid that opens at the top. He has the ability to put as much as 70 gallons in it at one time. In half of the box, he’s got a hole cut out with some PVC pipe, a window air-conditioning unit, and a thermostat. He even has a dual-stage controller, to run two different circuits—air conditioning or heating, depending on the weather.

As for the system itself, it was built with a slight pyramid shape to center the gravity in the middle, minimizing the risk of tilting. Each side sits in a set of tracks with heavy-duty wheels, which take the load when the plates holding the pots are being lifted. Using this system, Kunkle has won several medals, including Best of Show at the 2013 Props and Hops Homebrew Competition.

He’s found that temperature control is the key to preparing his award-winning beers.

“I’m dealing with a living organism; I should treat it with respect,” Kunkle said. “I used to joke: ‘You should treat yeast like people.’ If you fluctuate the temperature, hot, cold, hot, cold, you get sick. I imagine yeast is the same way. Your beer is a result of that, for better or for worse. The idea is, you’re creating a nice environment for them.”

His two favorite homebrews have been a Trappist-style honey-orange pale ale, and a “Braggot”-style hybrid-beer—actually a form of mead made with honey and barley malt, using nitrogen after fermentation.

Like most homebrewers, Kunkle isn’t afraid to experiment. He’s even brewed with wormwood, taking concepts from absinthe.

He has ambitious plans for the Homebrew Club.

“I told the club at the last meeting that I want to be part of the community a lot more,” he said. “I want to get our name out there; I want people to know who we are—that we’re not just a bunch of drunk guys sitting around.

“There is a science behind this. There is biology and chemistry. This is a smart people’s sport. You can learn a lot about the art of it.”

He also wants the club’s meetings to have more of a focus on teaching.

“It’s nice trying different beers, but sometimes, a lot of people come to the meetings hoping to learn something,” Kunkle said. “So I’d like to use the meetings as a means of getting people together and learning: ‘Tonight, we’re going to learn why an IPA is an IPA,’ or why sanitation is a good thing.”

Kunkle works full-time as a reference librarian, and brewing feeds his desire to constantly learn.

“I live by the ethos that if I’m not learning something, I’m dying,” he said.


Brett Newton has been interested in craft beer since 1993, but he only started brewing with his cousin a little more than five years ago.

Their first batch was an IPA. It wasn’t very good, he said. But it was drinkable.

He joined the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club in 2010 after meeting four of its members. He sat in with many of the members on brew days in order to learn more about the process. (One of those members: future brewmaster of Coachella Valley Brewing Company, Chris Anderson.) He then went on to be elected president of the club. He also co-hosted the Beer Me Podcast up until a couple of years ago.

“I just kinda watched them do what they do,” he said of his beginnings with the Homebrew Club members. “I feel like I was able to brew better beer right away.

“There are a bunch of resources online. There’s a free older edition of How to Brew by John Palmer. That’s kind of the brewing bible. You can buy a version of it that’s up to date. I also read a couple of books by Charlie Papazian, who’s kind of considered the godfather of homebrew.”

Newton has brewed some delicious English barleywines. For one, he soaked French oak cubes in Maker’s Mark bourbon; for another, he used French oak cubes soaked in Glenlivet Nadurra 16-year-old Scotch. Brett orders his ingredients online at Austin Homebrew Supply because of the quality and customer service, he said. In a pinch, he’ll visit MoreBeer in Riverside.

He said he appreciates having local help via the Homebrew Club.

“It still helps me with learning to brew,” he said. “It’s a great place to come ask questions. … You can go online, and you can get some good advice, but you have to sift through some stuff. You can know there are some guys in the club who can really brew, because you’ve tasted their beer, and you can ask them questions and be a lot more sure of the answers.

Newton said the homebrewing world is changing in a lot of the same ways that the craft-beer world is changing.

“People are willing to try lots of different styles,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Let’s brew the hoppiest beer we can brew,’ which I always thought was ridiculous, because I try to discourage the beginners from going hoppy right away, because that’s one of the harder ones to get right.”


Brent Schmidman is not only the founder and previous owner of Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert, and a founder of the Props and Hops Festival in Palm Springs; he is also an avid homebrewer, and has been now for eight years.

Brent started with a Mr. Beer kit—and quickly realized that there had to be a better way to brew. He now has a system that was partly purchased from MoreBeer, with some elements he designed himself. One of Brent’s most impressive homebrews was a 17 percent alcohol chocolate-cherry Russian imperial stout, aged in Bourbon barrels.

Like Josh and Brett, Brent uses the Homebrew Club as a resource.

“I’d say when I joined the club, Chris (of Coachella Valley Brewing) was probably the most influential, because he was so open to meeting new people, and that kind of thing,” he said. “… I think the best part about the club is that people can come and just learn and experience and share before they have to actually go and buy equipment to do all of that. We’ve had several members that came for six months to a year before they ever bought anything.”

He said it’s a lot easier to be a homebrewer these days than it used to be.

“Now there are so many different sites that you can order from online. There are tons and tons of books … and you can have kits that take a RussianRiver beer, and you have a clone that’s very, very close to that,” Schmidman said. Maybe you’ve never made a sour before, and you can buy a kit and do it. I think it’s the accessibility to everything, in small quantities.”


Homebrewer Erik DeBellis has been brewing for just 2 1/2 years—but he sure has racked up a lot of medals in that time.

Erik took the gold medal in the American ale category in both 2013 and 2014 at the Hangar 24 homebrew competition. He took home the gold in the German wheat category at the 2013 and 2014 Props and Hops homebrew competition, the gold and silver in the IPA category at the 2013 Props and Hops competition. He also nabbed a silver in the German wheat and rye category at the Southern California Homebrew Championships.

He is now the assistant brewer at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage.

The Hangar 24 homebrew competition in 2012 sparked his interest in homebrewing, he said. It just so happened that he and a friend visited the brewery on the day of the competition.

I asked him what he uses to make his award-winning brews.

“I used to just do stovetop—you know, everything on your burner. Now I actually bought a propane-powered burner, so, I’m doing everything on that, and it’s awesome. I will never go back to stovetop. … I’m getting so much better isomerization of my hops on this bad boy—more power, more heat. You’re getting a better boil, which allows my hops to bitter more, I’m getting more out of my bittering additions.”

DeBellis said he buys most of his supplies at MoreBeer, although he wishes the store took better care of their hops.

“I pretty much buy everything at MoreBeer or Northern Brewer, but when it comes to hops, I just source straight from the farms—mostly, Yakima Valley Hops,” he said.


What are some homebrewing trends worth knowing about?

Brew in a bag (BIAB) one-gallon kits are becoming more popular for brand new homebrewers. It’s an inexpensive way to for homebrewers to transition to all-grain or partial-mash brewing. 

Alternatively, all-grain is becoming more popular, and extracts are declining. This speaks to quality and the fact that the future brewers of America want to make the best beer they can.

Speaking of quality: With the ever-growing popularity of the hobby, you can now find more quality ingredients; including malts and hops from around the world, and top-notch yeast from ever-more companies.

Don’t fear the foam. Join the club; do some online research; and/or read a homebrew book. Then take a sip and exhale with the satisfaction of your delicious, homebrewed pint.


Want to start learning more about homebrewing? Here are some online resources to consider:

  • Beer Conscious Training (beerconscious.com) offers beer training and learning videos for those interested in passing exams like the Cicerone Certification Program, the Beer Judge Certification Program and Beer Steward Certificate Program.
  • Beer Smith (beersmith.com) is a homebrewers’ dream resource, with answers to just about any question or roadblock. It also has informative video blogs from seasoned homebrew professionals.
  • Better Beer Scores (www.betterbeerscores.com) is a Colorado-based company that offers webinar programs to learn more about craft-beer styles and homebrewing. It also features programs to help people prep for beer exams.
  • Craft Beer University (www.craftbeeru.com) is an online school offering Beer Judge Certification Program exam-prep courses, as well as other Internet-based educational services to improve home-brewing skills.

Published in Beer

It’s time to take a look back at another glorious year for the craft beer industry. The year that was 2014 wasn’t just great for beer; it was a push-the-envelope, challenge-the-palate, variety-exploding year.

In November, there were more than 3,200 breweries in the United States, with more than 2,000 in the planning stages, according to the Brewers Association. The majority of Americans now live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.

So, what were some of the largest and inspiring stories and trends of 2014?

Transporting American Craft-Beer Culture to the Old World

History was made in July 2014, when Green Flash became the first U.S. craft brewery to begin making and selling fresh beer in the European market. The San Diego brewery started selling its signature West Coast IPA, brewed and bottled at traditional abbey brewery St-Feuillien, in Belgium.

Around the same time, Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company announced plans to open a Stone facility in the old world: America’s 10th-largest craft brewer will build and operate a brewery and beer garden in Berlin, Germany, with an expected opening in late 2015. The Brewery’s “Stone Groundbreaking Collaborations” campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year had a stated goal of $1 million; the brewery wound up bringing in more than $2.5 million.

These two breweries make in-your-face, West Coast style IPAs. This speaks volumes about the craft beer drinker’s voice and the recent global domination of American craft beer.

This brings me to the next obvious trend.

India Pale Ales (IPAs) Remain the Most Favored Craft-Beer Style

These hop-laden beers have come full circle: IPAs are up 47 percent by volume and 49 percent by dollar sales, according to the Homebrewers Association. The style was the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival in September.

Because of the massive popularity, a new, more “sessionable” version of the IPA is now favored by many. At less than 5 percent alcohol by volume, session beers are easier to sip by the six-pack. Try Stone Go To IPA, Firestone Walker Easy Jack, or—one of the newer Los Angeles beers on the block—Three Weavers Stateside, a 4.5 percent session IPA.

Canning Continues to Get More Craft Beer Into More Places

Tin is in!

Can are cheaper to produce, and require less energy to cool down. Less packaging means packing more beer in less space, which reduces a brewery’s carbon footprint.

According to CraftCans.com, there are now 453 breweries with more than 1,600 craft brewed canned beers now available across the United States.

As a matter of fact, the airlines are getting in on the craft canned trend. In early December, Delta Air Lines began stocking carts with a selection of regional craft beers from breweries like Ballast Point, Lagunitas Brewing and Stone Brewing.

On a local level, La Quinta Brewing started canning in February 2014 with The Can Van. New painted cans that are now making their way into stores.

The Rise of American Wild Ales

Sours are made by introducing bacteria and/or wild yeast strains into the beer. And the results? Think bright, tart, funky and mysterious. Building off classic Belgian and German styles, U.S. breweries are harnessing wild yeast, creating beers with novel dimensions of aroma and flavor.

Coachella Valley Brewing started a sour program when they first opened their brewery, more than a year ago. CVB’s sours will be offered in small allotments for Fault Line Society members, and in the tasting room in 2015, starting with Framboys, a boysenberry raspberry framboise. Keep an eye out for Flame Rouges, an American wild brewed with red flame raisins. Both are aged in port and cabernet wine barrels.

CVB will also be releasing Epineux Poire, an American wild brewed with locally foraged prickly pear cactus fruit. Persnickety, CVB’s persimmon sour, will also make an appearance next year. If the beers don’t sell out to the FLS members, the remainder will go on public sale.

“I think in 2015, you will see more and more of beer-style fusion,” said Coachella Valley Brewing’s Chris Anderson. “Think along the lines of a Belgian IPA. I think farmhouse ales, wild ales and Brett beers (created by a funky wild yeast) will all continue to be hot.”

The Rise of the Farm-to-Table Movement

The convergence of the slow-food movement and the craft-beer revolution has led to fantastic events and exhibits, like the Great American Beer Festival’s Farm to Table Pavilion. The Pavilion provided 28 pairings designed and prepared by small and independent breweries and chefs from around the country. Coachella Valley Brewing was specially selected to pour, and was also chosen to present a special “Farm to Glass” tasting for 200 people.

“I found that our beers were very unique and innovative compared to other breweries, and it inspired me to see more breweries jumping into the concept of farm to glass,” he said, referring to the use of more fresh, local ingredients in beers.

Farmhouse ales have also seen a huge spike in sales. With applications of new-wave hop varietals like Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado and Hallertau Blanc, more people are asking for those less-bitter beers and raising their glass to juicier brews.

Breweries, like CVB, are embracing agriculture and sourcing even more local fruits, vegetables and grains. More people are recognizing the compatibility of craft beer and contemporary cuisine, too, with more beer-and-food pairings. If in the Los Angeles area, stop by Hook and Plow. Locally, don’t miss Workshop Kitchen + Bar, which offers farm-fresh heirlooms, wild arugula, watermelon, champagne grapes and lemon cucumbers in season, along with a nice selection of Southern California craft beer.

Nano Breweries Continue to Open

When it comes to beer, size really doesn’t matter. Nano breweries, often started with a single batch of homebrewed beer, typically produce one batch at a time. They represent craft in the truest sense. Also referred to as pico breweries, nano brewers make beer on a three-barrel system or smaller. There were reportedly more than 300 breweries operating in the United States as of the summer of 2014 that would qualify as nano breweries.

San Diego’s Hess Brewing opened in 2010 and produced about 1.6 barrels of beer per batch. Mike Hess Brewing has since grown to include two locations: the original “nano” in the Miramar area, and a production brewery in North Park, San Diego.

Big Success for Local Breweries

In Rancho Mirage, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse celebrated a massive win this year when the brewery took home a medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The beloved restaurant and brewhouse nabbed its first-ever GABF medal in the “Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale” category for the Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. Babe’s is also reportedly celebrating a 110 percent increase in off-site sales from 2013 to 2014.

Over at CVB, Tom Del Sarto, the director of sales, spearheaded distribution deals with Young’s Market Company to sell the brewery’s beers throughout California and now Arizona.

It’s a trend: More and more people are eschewing big, mass-market brands in favor of craft beer. Del Sarto noted the fall of Budweiser’s annual barrel sales from 30 million barrels in 2003, to 16 million in 2014. Meanwhile, the craft-beer industry has gone from selling 5 million barrels in 2003, to 16.1 million barrels this year. As a result, more craft beer is appearing in restaurants and grocery stores alike.

“National chains are giving more autonomy to regional stores as customers are seeking local brands, adding to the major breweries’ decline in volume," said Del Sarto.

La Quinta Brewing, as noted earlier, has also had a big year. Owner Scott Stokes said he’s been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance and support of craft beer in the desert in 2014.

“Just the attendance and success of this year’s Props and Hops Festival, compared to two years ago, illustrates the passion that desert residents have for craft beer,” he said.

He went on to add: “We’re proud to say that after only a year, La Quinta is the second-most-widely distributed craft beer in terms of bars and restaurants within the Coachella Valley, just behind New Belgium (Fat Tire).”

Bring on the next round, 2015!

Published in Beer

What is a hop? Why should we care?

This is why: They lead the way toward flavorful, delicious beers like Pliny the Elder, Stone IPA, Dogfish Head 60 or 90 minute IPA, Tröegs Nugget Nectar, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA and Green Flash Imperial IPA.

Hops can inspire legends. They contain two types of acids—alpha and beta, which act as natural preserving agents by killing or hindering the growth of various bacteria. British brewers took advantage of this in the 16th century by brewing intensely hopped beers (which eventually became known as India pale ales, or IPAs) in order to prevent spoilage on their long journey to the colonies in India.

We’re in the thick of harvest season now. Hop plants sprout in the spring, and harvest starts in August, continuing into October. After harvested, hops can be used fresh, but are often dried for long term storage.

The craft-beer industry in the United States is as large as it’s ever been, and new hop strains and small hop farms have sprouted as a result. The craft brewing industry used an average of 1.3 pounds of hops, per barrel, as of the end of 2013.

Despite the new farms, however, there has been concern about hop shortages. The craft-beer revolution (craft brewers use far more hops than corporate brewers do proportionally), debilitating drought and the popularity of IPAs and double IPAs (which rely on temperamental aromatic hops) have made many hop varieties more scarce in the U.S. According to the Hop Growers of America, the average price for a pound of hops was $1.88 in 2004. In 2013, the price jumped to $3.59 per pound.

Bittering hops usually have a high alpha acid content. Aroma hops, with low-to-medium alpha levels, mainly offer characteristic hop aromas. Demand for these aroma hops continues to increase: Almost 42 percent of U.S. hop acreage was dedicated to aroma hops in 2012. A year later, that number had risen to an estimated 63 percent—and is expected to continue to increase.

The price increase in hops is one of the reasons many brewers have started producing “single-hop” beers. Another reason: Single-hop beers honor the hop varietal. Each hop variety possesses unique flavors, whether piney, floral or citrusy. Much like adding spices to a meal, hops add the seasoning to a beer—and singling out hops lets them shine on their own.

As Boston Beer President C. Jim Koch once stated, “Hops are to beer what grapes are to wine.”

All hop varietals come in one of two forms:

Whole-leaf hops: During harvest, whole dried hop cones are removed from the plants, dried and compressed into bales. Leaf hops are believed to have greater aromatic qualities and are often used after fermentation in dry-hopping. To increase hop aroma, leaf-hop additions can be made at end of a boil so more of the volatile oils are captured. There are some downsides to whole-leaf hops: Because leaves will absorb some water from the wort, there will be a volume loss. Leaves can also clog equipment.

Pellets: Dried hop cones are shredded, compressed and extruded into pellets. They are the craft-beer-industry standard, because of the advantages in measuring, storage and shelf life. They stay fresher longer, because they have less surface area to oxidize. There’s also higher extraction due to more exposable surface area. However, because of the drying, they tend to lose some of their aromatic quality.

Hop varieties are chosen for the properties of bitterness, flavor or bouquet that they lend to the beer, helping to balance the sweetness of malt sugars. Beer would be annoyingly sweet without it.

The most widely used American-style hops include:

Cascade: One of the most popular varieties, this hop has a moderate bitterness level and a fragrant, flowery aroma. It’s typically used in West Coast ales. The iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale propelled the Cascade hop. Other notable cascade beers include Deschutes Brewery’s Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Anchor Brewing’s Liberty IPA.

Chinook: With a high (11-13 percent) acid range, Chinook has distinctive pine and spicy flavors. The alluring pine-and-grapefruit aroma makes it popular in American-style pale ales.

Amarillo: Used primarily for aroma, these medium-bittering hops come from Washington. They give off unique flowery, citrus notes and are commonly used in American IPAs, American ales and wheat beers. To taste a single-hop Amarillo beer, pick up a Rogue’s Yellow Snow IPA, Noble Ale Works Amarillo Showers, or Mikkeller Single Hop Amarillo IPA.

Centennial: A relatively new hop on the market, Centennial is often used for highly hopped pale ales and IPAs. Notable Centennial beers include Bell’s Brewery’s Two Hearted Ale and Flying Dog Brewery’s Centennial Single Hop Imperial IPA.

Galaxy: This hot, newish Australian-grown hop variety showcases grassy, citrus and passion-fruit notes. It can be found in beers like Anchorage Brewing’s Galaxy White IPA or Noble Ale Works’ Galaxy Showers Imperial IPA.

Citra: This widely popular aromatic hop resulted from a cross-breed of several varieties from the United Kingdom, Germany and the U.S. After Sierra Nevada introduced Citra in 2009 in the Torpedo IPA, it quickly became one of the beer world’s most-sought-after hops. It’s spotlighted in Three Floyds Zombie Dust and Kern River Citra. Also try Ventura-based Surf Brewery’s Shaka Citra Session IPA.

If you’re looking for a locally brewed and refreshing “hop bomb” of a beer, try Coachella Valley Brewing Co.’s newly released Coriollis Effect. It’s a wet-hop imperial IPA brewed with fresh Sorachi Ace and Amarillo hops. CVB also incorporated a ton of Southern Hemisphere hops; in fact, this beer includes nearly 10 pounds of hops per barrel.

Coachella Valley Brewing purchases hops from seven countries and works with 10 different brokers to get their much-needed bittering flowers.

“We even buy farm-direct from growers in Yakima and Willamette valleys,” said Coachella Valley Brewing's Chris Anderson.

Just for fun, Anderson grows about 16 varieties of hops on his personal property.

Tests done on hop oils have found more than 400 different compounds. That’s a lot of flavor potential. It proves that hops not only put the bitter in beer—but the character in the craft.

Published in Beer

Back when Palm Springs was a frequent destination for the truly hip, Frank Sinatra would hoist his Jack Daniel’s flag on the pole in his luxurious Movie Colony neighborhood. It was like a smoke signal to Frank’s cohorts—it was cocktail hour.

Today, the Coachella Valley is once again becoming a frequent destination for the truly hip—but in a younger way. There’s new blood pumping into the area, and instead of a Jack Daniel’s flag, the craft-beer flag is flying high.

Aug. 30 marks the first anniversary of Coachella Valley Brewing Company, and what a year it’s been. Most recently, CVB signed an agreement for statewide Arizona distribution with Young’s Market Company.

Head brewer and chief operating officer Chris Anderson attributes the company’s fast success to “quality beer matched with a quality brand—but most importantly, the hardworking team at the brewery.”

CVB has secured more than 100 tap handles in the Coachella Valley, and earlier this year was featured at the renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (better known around the world simply as Coachella).

I asked David Humphrey, the company’s CEO, if he expected this rapid success.

“Hell no,” he declared. “Honestly, you’ve got to understand, I had no preconceived notions of how this was going to go.

“We made a lot of calculated, risky decisions—underline ‘calculated,’ I suppose—and just hoped that it worked, and so far, it’s totally blown away our expectations, and even other people’s expectations.”

One of those recent “risky” and “calculated” decisions is to start a sour program. Sours are a great option for hot-weather drinking, and they have a wine-like quality that may attract an even wider audience of drinkers.

Anderson has been preparing a wild yeast and bacteria blend that is almost 15 years in the making. Now that is calculated. It’s a blend of Roeselare, the Rodenbach strain, Cantillon, and Russian River sour yeast blends. It also includes Pediococcus Lambicus, three strains of Brettanomyces, and a lactic strain Anderson isolated back in Alaska while working at Midnight Sun.

Framboys is a framboise made with raspberries and locally grown boysenberries; it will be released in November. Flame Rouges will be available in January; it will be brewed with red-flame raisins, re-fermented in cabernet barrels. Epineux Poire is a prickly pear sour, aged in port barrels, and will be ready around April 2015. All of these offerings will only be made available to CVB’s Fault Line Society.

On the non-sour side, CVB recently released its Whopper, a 10.4 percent alcohol by volume imperial chocolate milk stout that was aged in Old Fitzgerald bourbon barrels for six months, and brewed with 98 percent cocoa Callebaut chocolate, as well as Ecuadorian cocoa nibs. Dark Candi Syrup and Vermont maple syrup bring even more warmth for a sweetly decadent and Sinatra-approved beer.

The Harvester IPA was recently tapped. Humphrey especially loved this batch.

“Harvester IPA turned out better than the first time,” he said. “We use grapefruit that was picked a day or two beforehand, and the freshness is all about the Harvester. I think that’s the best IPA we’ve done.”

CVB is also busy getting ready for the Great American Beer Festival, held in Denver in October. Coachella Valley Brewing was specially selected to pour and was also picked to present a special “Farm to Glass” concept with a tasting for 200 people.

“It’s great to have good beer,” Humphrey said. “And it’s great to be able to do the ‘farm to glass’ local angle, but you know, you really worry: Are you going to be able to make it out of your own backyard?

“I think where we took our time is to really think about the brand. … I think that it comes down to great beer, but also having an iconic brand, that is something that’s going to be exportable.”

Just a bit east in Palm Desert, the folks at La Quinta Brewing Co. are busy with new releases, a new brewery club and expanded distribution—which is impressive, considering that the brewery is not yet a year old.

La Quinta Brewing just released a new imperial stout, coming in at 8.3 percent alcohol (80 IBU), that’s only available in the taproom. The brewery will also release a brown ale in mid-September, and the brewery’s popular Koffi Porter will be released any day now.

La Quinta Brewery is also starting to barrel-age for the first time, beginning with its porter. It’s aging in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels and will be available in the fall.

Of course, La Quinta’s popular usual suspects—the Sandstorm Double IPA, Poolside Blonde and Indian Canyon IPA—remain available. La Quinta’s also busy taking memberships for the Inner Circle club. The brewery only had eight slots left as of this writing, so hurry while there’s still availability.

La Quinta is in approximately 45 local retail stores, including Albertson’s, Total Wine, LQ Wine, Jensen’s and Bevmo. Currently, the brewery is distributing within the Coachella Valley and Idyllwild, but should begin delivering beer outside of the valley within 60 days. La Quinta is currently in 115 bars and restaurants (with more than 160 tap handles), and in about 45 stores.

More good things are coming: La Quinta installed two additional fermenting vessels in July, increasing the current production capacity to near 3,000 barrels per year. The brewery’s tap room will also be installing a new walk-in cooler behind the bar to increase the number of beers on offer.

Heading south to Rancho Mirage, the valley’s veteran brewery, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, has big plans for the remainder of the year.

Upcoming releases include Das Schwein (The Pig), a dunkelweizen available through late September. In the fall, keep a look out for Fall Amber Rye IPA, due in October. Babe’s annual Winter Nipster will hit taps around Thanksgiving, so make sure you drop in for this tasty colder-weather, seasonal brew.

Starting Sept. 4, Babe’s will host Thursday Night Football with Team 1010 Sports radio—and will tie in a segment called Beer Scene, discussing the growing Coachella Valley craft-beer culture.

The brewhouse is also attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Keep a look out for Babe’s and the other breweries at the Ace Hotel’s Craft Beer weekend on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12 and 13. Join the local breweries and other popular craft brewers on Saturday afternoon for a pool party and barbecue with craft-beer tastings and live music. It’s ultra Palm Springs cool!

Published in Beer

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