Features & Profiles
Local Suds: Can an Ambitious New Thousand Palms Brewery Help Put the Coachella Valley on the Craft-Beer Map?Written by Erin Peters
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.
Anderson (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.