CVIndependent

Thu08132020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Erin Peters

The soon-to-open La Quinta Brewing Company is part of a deliciously welcome trend.

According to the national Brewers Association, as of June 2013, 2,483 craft breweries were operating in the United States. That number is up 6 percent over just a year—and it’s the most craft breweries the U.S. has ever seen.

Whether the craft-beer boom is due to new beer-friendly state laws, or the fact that more Americans are realizing that beer can have a variety of flavors that are perfect for food-pairings, the boom means there’s more choice for all of us.

The Coachella Valley has taken part in the recent craft-beer boom. Coachella Valley Brewing Co. opened in August in Thousand Palms, and the folks at Palm Desert’s La Quinta Brewing Co. are busy getting ready for production.

The County of Riverside approved La Quinta Brewing’s conditional-use permit in August. By the end of September, the owners hope the brewery will be fully operational.

Palm Springs native and former real-estate developer Scott Stokes started making the plans for LQBC in December 2012. After retiring in 2005 and taking up home-brewing a few years ago, Scott wanted to start something new, and make something that the Coachella Valley could use more of—great craft beer.

Green Flash Brewing alum Ryan Pearson will be brewing 2,000 barrels per year to start. La Quinta Brewing has a 15-barrel Premier Stainless system. Currently, the brewery holds two 30-barrel fermenters, with one more arriving soon. The facility has room for four additional fermenters, which would allow Stokes and Pearson to expand to 5,000 barrels annually.

“Considering it is 100-plus degrees nearly half the year, and craft beer is in its infancy in the desert, our focus for the beers we distribute to local accounts will be on ‘drinkable’ beers,” said Stokes.

Initially, La Quinta Brewing will have three flagship beers: One Eleven Pale Ale, Windy Point Wheat and Poolside Blonde, with a West Coast-style IPA likely joining the group soon thereafter.

The IPA (which has yet to be named) is a dry, crisp beer, using at least three hops: Columbus, Cascade and Chinook. High on the bittering scale, Columbus is typically regarded as having a nice herbal character that offers an interesting dichotomy of sharp and herbal. It can be used to flavor everything from IPAs and lagers to all types of stouts. Cascade is often used in highly hopped West Coast ales that have citrus-floral and spice accents. Hailing from Washington, Chinook is a bittering variety with aroma characteristics of a dank, piney forest.

The addition of the IPA to La Quinta’s initial three offerings is a smart move; it’s sure to be a hit in hot weather. Ryan Pearson is no stranger to West Coast-style IPAs; after all, he came directly from one of the most highly regarded brewers of the West Coast-style IPA, Green Flash Brewing, in San Diego.

In addition to the four staple beer styles, Pearson plans on brewing small batches using their pilot system, specifically for their tasting room. From there, they will see what’s popular and possibly expand those brews to a larger scale.

At first, La Quinta Brewing plans to offer their beers by draft, in bars and restaurants throughout the valley. The director of sales, Derek Lloyd, was formerly the Coachella Valley division sales manager with Young’s Market Company and is reportedly getting a great reception from potential accounts.

Stokes’ next undertaking will be bottling and canning the beers for pools, golf courses and various hotels. The guys at La Quinta Brewing have a mobile bar, and they plan on using it to distribute their product at events and various venues. The mobile bar holds 25 kegs and has multiple taps on one side—so they can serve beer, food-truck style.

Eventually, they would like to open additional tasting rooms in the desert, and distribute the beer outside of the desert to neighboring cities.

Part of the draw of craft beer is offering people new suds to sample, and it’s great to see Coachella Valley residents working hard to increase crafty offerings to tourists and locals alike. Camaraderie and collaboration are common in the craft-beer industry; considering the burgeoning scene in the desert, it will be interesting to see if these breweries will work together—and to watch how they will grow.

For more information on La Quinta Brewing Company, visit www.facebook.com/LaQuintaBrewingCo. The Beer Goddess’ column appears every month at CVIndependent.com and in the print version of the Independent. Read more by Erin Peters at www.thebeergoddess.com. Below: The folks at La Quinta Brewing Company plan on taking their beer on the road, food-truck style.

The internationally famous desert resort destination that we call home, as of this moment, has never had a larger-scale commercial brewery that focused on one thing, and one thing only: beer.

Who knows why? Blame the caviar crowd, or maybe the midcentury martini surroundings. In any case, this omission will soon be no longer, thanks to Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

Every craft-beer drinker knows that good beer isn’t possible without competent brewers, proper equipment and a vision. CV Brewing’s chief operating officer and brewmaster, Chris Anderson, started home-brewing in college with an extract kit nearly 20 years ago, and has been brewing his way through competitions and breweries ever since.

He, his colleagues and beer-lovers across the Coachella Valley are all keeping their fingers crossed for a mid-July opening.

Before joining forces with other beer-lovers to start his own brewery in the Coachella Valley, Anderson was part of some incredible commercial craft-brewing teams. Those teams grabbed a bronze at the World Cup of Beer, gold at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival, and gold at the Toronado Barleywine Festival (peoples’ choice), among other honors.

His first medal was Best of Ales and Best of Show at the Alaska State Fair for raspberry/cranberry lambic-style ale, a brew that he will be making seasonally at CVB called “Cranboise.”

An extensive brewing resume isn’t the only thing Anderson brings to the new brewery: CV Brewing is employing a high-efficiency brewing system (or H.E.B.S.). It brews with less malt than other breweries. The system uses 60 percent less water, and produces 65 percent less spent grain solids. It takes only two hours to produce 527 gallons, or 17 barrels, of wort, thus keeping energy costs low. Anderson and company also chose to employ a 50-horsepower Miura steam generator, which is one of the most efficient boilers in existence: It can boil 1,054 gallons of water in less than 40 minutes, while still heating all of the other brewhouse vessels.

So, just how much craft beer can this system produce? Initially, the brewery will have a capacity of 4,500 barrels, or 139,500 gallons, per year, with the ability to quadruple that within the next few years.

“I gravitate to anything beer-related and always have been attracted by the craft-brewing industry and its people,” Anderson says. “Craft brewers are so friendly and welcoming, and many of my fellow brewers are like family to me.”

 

While the Coachella Valley has been home to several breweries—most notably the highly regarded Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, as well as defunct operations by Indio Brewing Co. and Palm Springs Brewing Co.—none of them have produced beer on the scale planned by CV Brewery.

Anderson blames the relative lack of breweries, in part, on the heat.

“It creates a totally different vibe,” he says. “The valley is tough because of our peaks during season and valleys during the hot months.” That’s why CV Brewing is employing warm-weather brewing techniques which will make brewing in the desert more affordable.

David Humphrey is the CEO, and his wife, Jamie Humphrey, is the director of special events; she’s involved in all aspects of the operation. Gary Grotsky is the director of sales, and Dana Crosby is Coachella Valley Brewing’s CFO.

Chris AndersonAnderson (pictured) previously ran the “Beer School” at Schmidy’s Tavern, and he and Jamie Humphrey both served on the advisory council of The Living Desert’s popular The Brew at the Zoo event. Less than one year ago, Crosby, Jamie Humphrey and Chris Anderson started discussing their shared vision of opening a large scale brewery in the Coachella Valley. David and Chris married their two separate business plans together, and pitched it to a select group of potential investors.

Incorporating local ingredients into the beer is important to Humphrey and Anderson. Coachella Valley Brewing is working with several farms in the area, such as Hadley Fruit Orchards, Seaview and Golden State Herbs.

“We feel like many who visit or live in the valley seasonally don’t even know how important the east valley agriculture is to the state as well as America. Hell, some don’t even know it exists,” Anderson says. “The valley sets the pricing for the year, because our products are first to hit the market (due to the warm climate). I have always wanted to integrate a popular culinary trend, farm-to-table, into beer-brewing, and we thought it would be an incredible way to promote the efforts of the east valley’s farmers while providing our customers with a distinctly desert offering.”

The brewery will be using citrus, kumquats, tangelo, mandarin and various oranges. They will also be incorporating spices like coriander, sage, Thai basil, jasmine, lavender, rosemary, bergamot, paradise seed and thyme. They plan to use berries, Oak Glen apples and—of course—the Coachella Valley’s famous dates. To top it all off, they have a small farm that yields approximately 100 pounds of hops annually. The brewery will use these in a wet-hop or green-hop India pale ale.

The facilities will keep 14 taps flowing at all times. Anderson loves all of his beers, of course, but one of his favorites is the Big Cat Saison, which is made with local sage, paradise seed, rosemary and thyme. This will be brewed for The Living Desert, and a percentage of the profits will go to the zoo and botanical garden.

Other favorites: Monumentous IPA is a West Coast IPA made with New Zealand hops. Dubbel Date is a Belgian abbey-style dubbel made with Medjool dates. Desert Swarm is a honey-double witbier made with local Africanized killer-bee honey, east valley citrus, and coriander. Oasis is an apple ale made with Oak Glen Spartan apples.

Palms to Pines Imperial India Pale Ale is named after the historic California State Route 74, aka the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway. The CV Brewing founders felt that a seasonal release was in order to commemorate the topography changes when driving from the desert floor to the Idyllwild forest. Only American hops are employed in this beer: Warrior, Chinook, Simcoe, Cascade, Citra and Centennial. To tie the pines in, they added freshly picked spruce tips from the mountains of Idyllwild; for the palms, they incorporated a palm sugar.

CV Brewing will also be making Belgian-inspired ales, hoppy West Coast-style ales and sour ales. The Belgians and hopped-up brews will be released immediately, while the sours will likely not make an appearance until 2015. CVB’s barrel-aged offerings will make appearances in late 2013 and early 2014.

The craft-brewer ethos embodies kindness toward fellow brewers, and many craft brewers are taking that inspiration to the bottle—by creating special, limited-edition beers, usually with special ingredients, and with both breweries getting top billing. CV Brewing plans on collaborating with Black Market Brewing Co., Ritual, Hangar 24, Rip Current, Anchorage Brewing, Broken Tooth Brewing, and Gilgamesh.

Anderson wants to collaborate with more breweries beyond those, too.

“I would love to work with Alpine. I love their beers, and they are bar none my favorite brewery,” he says. “I am a fan of Mikkeller. His beers are so imaginative and innovative. … Also I would love to work with Russian River. I love everything they do, and I am also a sour-ale maniac. I love Societe as well. Everything they do is stellar.”

 

CV Brewing has some fans in high places who are eagerly anticipating the opening. One such fan is Steve Pougnet, the mayor of Palm Springs.

“The fact that Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is partnering with local farms is fantastic and definitely affects our local economy,” he says in an email. “This is a strategy that any new business in the Coachella Valley that is in the food and beverage industry should emulate. We hear from the farmers at our local farmers’ market about the quality of the food and how much it benefits them to work with the local community. From a sustainability standpoint, you are looking at less vehicle miles traveled, reductions in emissions, support of local pollinators and biodiversity, and most definitely support of our local farmers and their families. … This will be a wonderful new attraction for our residents and visitors from all over the world!”

Currently, CV Brewing has approximately 30 commercial customers awaiting their brews, which will be available in bars, restaurants and stores. Special releases will only be available at the tasting room or at special venues, like the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, Schmidy’s Tavern, Mic and Moe’s, and LQ Wine.

CV Brewing’s operators plan to saturate the valley first, using self-distribution. Then, they plan to take on outside distribution, working first in Southern California and later moving north. Hawaii is slated to be the second state where the beers will be available, followed by Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and the Southwest. Anderson and Humphrey want to stay in areas not totally saturated with craft beer—and desert areas that can identify with their branding.

As part of their ambitious five-year plan, they hope to open a second tasting room on El Paseo in Palm Desert. In 10 years, the brewery hopes to acquire a still and create small-batch spirits and honey wine.

They know that to reach these lofty goals, they’ll need to maintain passion, creativity and commitment.

“I love that it’s an outlet for my creative and artistic side. … I am passionate about it, and I truly enjoy doing it,” Anderson says.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is located at 30640 Gunther St., in Thousand Palms. Its owners are hoping for a mid-July opening. For more information, call 760-343-5973; visit www.cvbco.com; or track down the brewery on Facebook.

Among the chic desert shops and restaurants of downtown Palm Springs, and mere steps from the Sonny Bono fountain, is an oasis for cigar-smokers, wine-enthusiasts and craft-beer-lovers alike.

The unassuming Fame Lounge attracts tourists, locals and a fair share of cigar-aficionado celebrities. A wall of wine and beer, and spicy scents from the walk-in humidor greet visitors. My curiosity immediately led me to this herbaceous alcove. As a cigar newbie, I honestly didn’t know what to look for, but I found myself sniffing the various cigars as if I did. With the help of the owner, Mel Shaw, I learned I wanted a lighter, vanilla stogie with earthy and sweet woody undertones.

Fame owner Mel Shaw at the lounge's bar. (Photo by Sean Planck)Beyond the retail store—which features cigars, wines and an amazing selection of craft beers—lies a backroom lounge in the classic sense of the word: a living-room setting with comfy leather chairs and couches, dim lighting and a not a Bud Light drinker in sight. There were 10 tap varietals at the small bar in the corner; it was obvious the owner had a taste for the rare and specialized brews. To keep customers coming back, Shaw rotates the taps weekly. Whether you seek an Austrian Trappist like Engelszell Gregorius, or San Diego’s Karl Strauss 24th Anniversary Flanders-style Sour Red Ale, the quality selection doesn’t disappoint.

The ambiance caters to the true desert gentleman, but Shaw’s $10 beer and cigar “back room special” makes it easy for the novice to taste the sophisticated life. As a relatively new resident of the Coachella Valley, this was the Palm Springs I was looking for. It was a welcoming feeling. Pair an Indian Tabac Box Pressed Double Corona cigar with Allagash Fluxus on tap, and tell me you won’t be grinning like a kid with an ice-cream cone on a hot day.

Shaw obviously enjoys guiding people toward the perfect wine-and-cigar or beer-and-cigar pairing. He said matching lighter-flavored beer with a lighter-flavored cigar is a great way to start.

“Similar to beer, different flavor profiles, when you are drinking, how you’re drinking, how you’re pairing with food—it’s the same thing with cigars,” Shaw said. “A cigar will taste seven different ways during the day. If you smoke it early the morning, it will taste different than if you smoke it after lunch. It’s how your body reacts to the flavor.”

Shaw started smoking cigars in 1996 and opened the store in 2001. Fame has been in this Palm Canyon Drive location since January 2005. His consistent curiosity has made Fame one of the leading places in the Coachella Valley to enjoy not just a stogie, but a flavorful beer or wine. Shaw even had a shipment of cigars infused with Washington hops, specifically to pair with IPAs and hoppy pale ales. As a craft-beer writer, my mouth immediately dropped on the wooden bar when I heard this.

However, Fame isn’t the only cigar game in town. What’s the difference between Fame and the other cigar shops?

“I would classify them as cigar shops. Here, we enjoy cigars. It’s about the experience,” he said.

Just at that moment, my smoking cohort said, “Isn’t that John Salley from the Lakers looking at the wine over there?”

Yep, it was. After attending to his latest celebrity guest, Shaw rejoined us at the bar and embarrassedly chuckled as he told us about the time that Chris Noth, aka “Big” on Sex and the City, came into his lounge.

The cigar lounge owner was not a frequent viewer of the sexy show full of witticisms. When “Big” came casually walking into Shaw’s lounge, puffing on his own cigar, Mel politely asked him to put it out. As the other smoking patrons attempted to nudge Shaw with their eyes, Shaw smiled, as he had no idea who the “Big” man was.

Moments later, he glanced down at an issue of Cigar Aficionado, with none other than Chris Noth on the cover.

The scents, sophistication and overall surroundings bring to mind the concept of an old-school gentleman’s club. Fame keeps one foot anchored in this classic ideal, and the other in the contemporary world, while opening the eyes of its patrons to the appreciation of a good wine, a good beer and a good smoke.

Whether it’s a 2007 L'Aventure Estate Cuvee blend, a California craft beer or a multidimensional cigar, assuage your desire for rich flavors in an upscale, yet cozy atmosphere.

Fame Lounge is located at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 3. For more information, call 320-2752, or visit www.fame-lounge.com.

The beer selection at Fame—both in the shop and in the lounge—is surprising and unique. (Photo by Sean Planck)

Awards and medals for Babe’s brewing excellence adorn the dining room at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage, like golf courses adorn the Coachella Valley.

Decades ago, Don Callender started a Southern California chain of American-style restaurants that was known for its pies, its fully stocked saloon and its salad bar. As the years passed, and the restaurant chain was sold and merged with other restaurants, Don had a slightly different vision of barbecue and beer.

It’s not as well known that Don was fascinated with craft beer. In the late ’90s, when the craft-beer revolution took hold, Don’s passion for these new styles led him to taste what Southern California brewers had to offer.

Don knew excellence when he tasted it. Strawberry blondes, pumpkin ales and fruit beers from upstarts like Belmont Brewing Company satisfied Don’s sweet tooth and culinary prowess. Don was also one of the first Californians to enjoy the Pasadena based Craftsman Brewing. The Marie Callender’s founder and craft beer aficionado drank their Heavenly Hefe and Orange Grove Ale, while brewing a legacy all his own.

Don opened two small breweries in 1998 and 1999. The first, P.H. Woods, was a popular BBQ and brewhouse with beer brewed by Hans Johnson. Johnson later came up with the award-winning craft beers for Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, which opened in April 2002.

In 2001, as Don prepared to unfold his ultimate beer-and-barbecue concept, he and his manager, Arthur Vasquez, couldn’t foresee the volatile socioeconomic climate they were about to face. Just a few months before opening, the Sept. 11 attacks shook the core of America. Spending was down, and the slower, warmer months of the desert didn’t promise a hugely successful launch.

The most-pressing problem with opening a barbecue and craft-beer brewhouse in an area known for its spa resorts, art galleries, 60-something golfers and Rat Pack heritage was introducing the relatively new culinary art of craft beer. While nearby San Diego and Orange County were quick to catch on to the craft-beer calling, the gin-and-tonic crowd of the Coachella Valley was a little slower to heed the call.

“There were no hop heads out here,” Vasquez said—not smiling.

For several years, they pushed their light-to-medium beers. Vasquez carefully crafted the menus and tap offerings in order to please the Coachella customer.

The Honey Blonde Ale and Blackfin Lager caught on. But the passion to offer a bigger variety of microbrews smoldered inside Vasquez.

After all, Babe's Brewhouse has a beautiful, custom JV Northwest brew system with a hand-hammered, aged copper exterior, four fermenters and five serving tanks. Its massive functioning malt silo stands tall next to the restaurant's entrance and holds 15,000 pounds of malt. Coming in at a cost of just more than a half-million dollars, who wouldn’t want to show off what this thing can really do?

Hans Johnson (now with Blackstone Brewery in Nashville, Tenn., developed the recipes for the Honey Blonde Ale, Blackfin Lager and 29 Palms Pale Ale. Still served today and brewed by Scot Grabbe, the Honey Blonde Ale comes in at 5 percent alcohol by volume and has won bronze, silver and gold in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 medals in the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition. Golden in color, light- to medium-bodied, this is a smooth beer with a subtle finish from the orange blossom honey.

Named in honor of the brave 29 Palms Marines, the pale ale is a deep, copper color with cascade hop floral aroma and sweet caramel malt notes. The Blackfin Lager has the most accolades, winning a bronze medal in the 2003 Australian International Beer Awards. Taking the gold in the 2009 and 2012 L.A. International Commercial Beer Competition, the dark German style beer has a hint of roasted barley and toffee sweetness.

Vasquez credited an assistant manager for giving him a nudge to expand Babe’s beer offerings.

“My assistant manager, Josh (Levish, who has a beer podcast at beermepodcast.com), he kind of brought it to my attention and said, ‘Art, there’s a lot more going on here with craft beer; we should start paying more attention,’” Vasquez said. “And I was kind of in this funk, and I said, ‘No, no, we gotta keep the product medium bodied.' That’s what’s selling.

“Y’know, I lost that spark from the ’90s. Then Stone (Brewing Co.) started doing their own distribution and so we started to bring in a few more things. … And by summer 2011, I said, ‘You know what? Eff this. We’re going to go big.’”

As the years passed, and the American craft-beer industry continued to grow, Vasquez and co. bumped Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse up to six taps. They featured two seasonals and made smaller four-to-five-barrel batches, so they could rotate the beers more often. They phased out Southern beers and offered more bombers and the likes of Flying Dog and Dogfish Head. Every seasonal was higher than 8 percent alcohol by volume, and they started wood-aging some of their beers.

In other words, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse was getting real with their beer. And it took off.

While the quality of their beef short ribs can’t be overstated, Vasquez has shown that he is serious about not just the quality of craft beer offered, but the quantity. Because of his passion and due diligence, Babe’s is now on the allocation list for Southern California-based Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Co., so all of those breweries’ new and interesting releases are automatically sent to the brewhouse. Babe’s BBQ and Brewhouse is one of only three places in the Coachella Valley to be on this special beer list.

Callender passed away in 2009, and while the restaurant pioneer and innovator may no longer be with us, it’s apparent that Vasquez, Babe's chief operating officer and executive chef, is committed to making sure that Don's spirit stays alive.

Budget-conscious beer-lovers will be pleased to find craft beer at half-price from 3 p.m. to closing on Monday. Even the growlers are half-off: Refill a 32-ounce growler for $7, or the 64-ounce growler for $9. Happy hour is Monday through Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m., and 9 to 11 p.m.

“The Cicerone” flight consists of four smaller beer tasters. Currently, you can enjoy the 58 Palms Imperial Pale Ale (7.2 percent alcohol), the Babe’s 10th Anniversary Ale (seasonal), guest Belgian draft Delirium Nocturnum (8.5 percent) and guest American draft Stone Brewing Co. 12.12.12. Vertical Epic (9.4 percent).

I’ve become a fan of the 10th Anniversary Ale. With eight malts, 50 pounds of Belgian rock candy, California cherries, blackberries, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cherry-and-cinnamon bourbon-aged American oak, this beer is the perfect complement to slightly spicy barbecue during the chilly, winter months. The guest drafts were also impressive, proving that Art and the rest of the Babe’s team know more than your average restaurant about good beer.

Babe’s just renewed its 10-year lease and is starting to market the beer outside the brewhouse.

“I just want outside accounts in the Coachella Valley,” Vasquez said. … “I want people to know, when they’re coming here, if they don’t see our beers on tap, I want them to ask for it.”

And the gospel of Babe’s is spreading. LQ Wine has all of their bottled products. Grill-A-Burger in Palm Desert also carries their pale ale.

Love barbecue? Love beer? Love Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse.

Call to schedule a free tour of the brewery 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., December through June (excluding Wednesdays and Thursdays) or July through November (excluding Sundays and Mondays). Babe’s is located at 71800 Highway 111, in The River in Rancho Mirage. For more information, call (760) 346-8738, or visit www.babesbbque.com.

About the author: Erin Peters has been enticing beer drinkers since before beer blogging was really cool. (It’s cool, right?) She started down the carbonated path of intoxicating reviews and articles about craft breweries and the people behind the beer in 2008 and hasn’t turned back since. Erin studied journalism at San Diego State University. Rearrange the letters in SDSU, and you get SUDS. Coincidence—or, divine inspiration?

Below, from left to right: Erin Peters (the article's author), Arthur Vasquez and Scot Grabbe. Photo by Sean Planck.

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