CVIndependent

Tue07072020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the local craft-beer scene is … puzzling.

I've racked my brain for ways that I can approach this topic, and I’ve decided to just write what comes to mind. I wonder if it will get me in as much trouble as last year's version of this column did. (Caring if it gets me in trouble, however, is something I cannot bring myself to do.) I've done something unusual for me and made a resolution for the new year: I’m trying a more Buddhist approach, to not let what could or should be happening (in my opinion, of course) cause me to suffer over what actually is happening. I don’t want my hopes for the craft-beer scene to overshadow what good exists here.

With that ominous foreword, let's get this show on the road.

There have been some positive changes over the last year. Before I began writing this, Will Sperling at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club announced a barrel-aged beer festival, also featuring ciders and meads, coming in March. Some of the participants should include De Garde, Mumford, Bottle Logic, Bagby Beer Company and Superstition Meadery (which makes world-class meads like the Peanut Butter Jelly Crime, which is life-altering in its deliciousness). This is, by far, the best news for the valley's beer scene, as we were deprived of the Rhythm, Wine and Brews festival last year (for a laughable reason). However, the RWB, Props and Hops, and Brew in LQ festivals are really just get-togethers that also include some craft beer, if I'm being honest.

This past year has seen an influx of some great breweries' beers ending up in stores and on tap in select places. I've noticed expanded lists of beer—like some of Bottle Logic's barrel-aged releases—at places like Whole Foods, which stocks all of the beer cold. I cannot stress how important that last point is. I just wish the Tap-In Taproom inside the Whole Foods would get beer on draft that’s half as good as what's on the shelves.

(Remember, Brett: Concentrate on what is and not what should be.)

In other news, there was a somewhat comical game of musical chairs in the local brewery world. This is the spot where I should note that I work for one of the local breweries, and I don't like to mention names when discussing them in this column due to a possible appearance of bias. I feel like I'm just as hard—if not harder—on my own brewery than the others, but I'd rather just avoid the whole issue. That being said, strap in for this roller coaster: A long-time head brewer went over to another local brewery. The former brewery then promoted someone with minimal experience to the position of head brewer, and then proceeded to hire a head brewer from a different local brewery to be the assistant brewer. I wish I were making this up as some sort of Twilight Zone episode for my own amusement, but I am not. I hope it somehow leads to better beer from all the parties involved (and it tentatively seems to have done so for one of the parties). Stay tuned and decide for yourself; you'll just have to forgive my skepticism in this regard.

A series of beer dinners happened courtesy of the Juniper Table at the Kimpton Rowan in Palm Springs. I helped with one over the summer, and the food was fantastic. However, they made the common mistake of just picking some beers they liked and somewhat blindly pairing them with these amazing dishes. Overall, it turned out fine, but as far as beer-pairings go, it was less than ideal. This is a point I wish I could get to every chef who wants to put on a beer dinner: There is more to pairing beer with food than picking a beer, using it in the dish, and then pairing said beer with that course. I've been to events where the beer and the food was really well-paired, and it's a magical experience for which every chef and beer-lover should strive. The best part is that there are so many right answers to the question of what to pair with any given dish; the only limits are beer availability and one’s imagination. The desert really has some amazing restaurants of all stripes, and I would love to see a proper beer dinner in the near future. In fact, if I have my way, there may be one soon enough.

My last compliment and criticism is aimed at Eureka! Burger in Indian Wells. Last year, they changed some of the (in my opinion, far too many) "permanent" taps, and it resulted in the appearance of some beauties such as Modern Times' Black House coffee stout, Beachwood's Citraholic IPA, and Melvin's 2x4 double IPA. They then proceeded to put the permanent beers they replaced on their rotating taps and sell them on their "Steal the Glass" nights for months afterward.

As I've stated before, Eureka! is a place I frequent; I love the staff, the food, the whiskey, the cocktails and sometimes the beer that is on tap. However, I don't think they prioritize craft beer very highly (and I'm fairly certain it's not their leading moneymaker), and I don't think the people making the decisions on which beers to purchase know much about the subject. Despite all of this, it is still a place I recommend, and I hope they will eventually "get it." We now have considerable resources for bars here to have a killer craft lineup. The Amigo Room at the aforementioned Ace Hotel is leading the way in this respect.

I still have hope for our beer scene. It has grown a bit in the past year, including the opening of two small breweries, Desert Beer Company and Las Palmas Brewing. I have also seen some plans for another, larger brewery that I hope will happen sooner rather than later—but that is all I can say about that here. I bring it up only to say there is more change on the horizon, and I want to help build our craft-beer scene into something special and worthy of being in the shadow of the neighboring giants in Southern California. Higher standards, hard work, some imagination, some time and a bit of luck, perhaps, is all we need to get there.

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

At Long Last: O’Caine’s Irish Pub Is Finally Open in Rancho Mirage

It seems like as long as there’s been a city called Rancho Mirage, O’Caine’s Irish Pub has been under construction.

OK, I am exaggerating here, but I do so to make a point: The bar and restaurant at 36101 Bob Hope Drive—that’s the shopping center Gelson’s is in—has been “coming soon” for a really long time. But finally, the wait is over: O’Caine’s opened in March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

You’ll find the beer and cocktails one would expect to find at an Irish pub, and O’Caine’s menu offers tasty-sounding fare like sausage rolls, king salmon, bangers with mashed potatoes, fish and chips—and, of course, corned beef and cabbage (with bacon, too!) and shepherd’s pie.

“Chef Gavin’s menu offers high-quality, freshly crafted dishes, which reflect the authentic flavors of Ireland. We work with local vendors to procure the freshest ingredients and to source organic, non-GMO, sustainable items for the menu,” the website says.

We’ll be in soon to check things out with our own eyes. For more information, call 760-202-3311, or visit ocainesirishpub.com.


Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta Opens in La Quinta, Boosting the Local Craft-Beer Scene

In 2013, the valley’s nascent craft-beer scene got a boost when the number of local breweries tripled—that is, went from one to three—with the openings of Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and La Quinta Brewing Co. The future of craft beer in the Coachella Valley was looking bright and promising.

Today, in 2019, the number of local breweries is … still three.

Yeah, there have been endless rumors about other breweries popping up, and La Quinta Brewing has expanded its footprint by opening two taprooms in addition to its flagship Palm Desert location. Revel Public House has started the Palm Springs Brewing Company—although the handful of beers with that moniker are actually as of now brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works. In other words, there has been some progress in the local beer world—but the fact, is the number of companies actually making beer locally has stayed the same for almost six years.

However, that number will finally be increasing. Desert Beer Company will be opening this year in Palm Desert, according to its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/desertbeerco). And then there’s Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta.

The restaurant and brewery recently opened at 78772 Highway 111, in La Quinta—a site that has some local beer history, as it was once the site of Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery. It’s a project of two Yucaipa-based businesses: Tuscano’s Pizza and Pasta, and Brewcaipa.

As of now, Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta aren’t brewing any beer onsite. However, according to the Coachella Valley Beer Scene (CVBeerscene.com), that will soon change.

“In the early days, they’ll be bringing beer in from Yucaipa, brewed by none other than our local valley friend and beer writer, Aaron Ramson,” writes CVBeerscene.com. “Aaron has been the head brewer at Brewcaipa for a little over a year, and was formerly the assistant brewer at Babe’s. They plan to put a brewery in the La Quinta location within six months.”

This is all very exciting news for the local beer scene—and we’ll keep you updated as it develops.

For more information on Tuscano’s and BrewQuinta, call 760-625-1129, or visit www.facebook.com/TuscanosBrewQuinta.


In Brief

The Ingleside Inn, at 200 W. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs, has changed management—and that means so, too, has Melvyn’s Restaurant. Out is the PlumpJack Group, owned by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s family; in is the team that also runs the nearby Avalon Hotel. Executive Chef Jennifer Town has departed, and Melvyn’s is now being run by Jason Moffitt, the executive chef at the Avalon. … Congrats to Chelsi Bishop, the manager of the Ben and Jerry’s store at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage: She has been named by the corporate office as the nationwide Manager of the Year. Congrats! … The Steakhouse at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has a new executive chef. Kenneth Williams’ resumé includes a stint at Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, where he helped open the Bellagio; most recently, he worked as the executive chef of theme park operations at Universal Studios Hollywood. Get more information at www.hotwatercasino.com/steakhouse. … New to 73130 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Kitchen 86 + Bar, a “modern eclectic small plate restaurant.” The menu includes all sorts of “sharables” including various dumplings, rosemary lamb chops and boom-boom shrimp, while “mains” include a cowboy rib eye and a house curry. View the menu and more at www.kitchen-86.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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