CVIndependent

Thu12132018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Local beer weeks celebrate the culture and community of craft brewers across the U.S. These events give the beer-lover a chance to taste a variety of rare and new beers, meet area brewmasters and hang out with fellow beer-drinkers.

Featuring local breweries, pubs and restaurants at their best, beer weeks allow attendees to experience a “beercation” filled with gastronomic pairings, rare tastings, beer dinners and festivals showcasing thoughtfully crafted suds.

While the Coachella Valley may not have as many breweries as, say, Los Angeles or San Diego, the rate at which the craft-beer revolution has taken hold and demanded attention here is impressive. Two award-winning Coachella Valley breweries—Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and La Quinta Brewing Co.—are celebrating their second anniversaries this year, while Rancho Mirage’s Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse has taken home a lot of notable craft-beer awards—including the 2015 California State Brewery of the Year honor from the California State Fair.

Therefore, it’s time for our area to have a beer week of its own: Introducing Coachella Valley Beer Week, to be held Nov. 13-22.

CVBW is a 10-day, valley-wide celebration aimed at attracting beer and foodie tourism. It focuses on our fantastic local breweries as well as surrounding Southern California craft brewers. It will feature festivals, beer dinners, tours, pub/restaurant crawls, tastings and more. Full disclosure: I am one of the two founders of the week; Brent Schmidman, aka Schmidy, is the other.

We will be kicking off the week with the Beer Goddess Brewmasters’ Dinner on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Purple Room in Palm Springs. Chef Jennifer Town is preparing the perfect menu, using a handful of Southern California craft beers. Mingle and chat with some of your favorite brewmasters, the Beer Goddess (aka me!) and chef Jen; then sit down for a delicious dinner while the brewmasters head to the stage to talk about their beers. The cost is $69 per person.

On Saturday, Nov. 14, join us for the first Indio California Barbeque State Championship and Festival, at the Lights at Indio Golf Course. The festival, put on the city of Indio and various groups, will include a sanctioned state barbecue championship contest featuring up to 50 of the best pit-masters in the state, all competing for a prize pool of up to $10,000. Of course, great barbecue will also be sold to the public. Additional activities include a local “King of the Desert” BBQ competition, live music, games, craft beer and more. Entry is free and open to the public.

After the festival, head over to Coachella Valley Brewing Co. for a rare event: the “Below Sea Level” Hi Low Beer Release. This Guinness World Records contender is believed to be the first and only beer brewed at the lowest elevation in the country. CVB’s brewmaster Chris Anderson and Brent Schmidman brewed this 13.6 percent alcohol-by-volume imperial blonde stout in Death Valley, Calif. No tickets are required.

On Sunday, Nov. 15, join us in Palm Springs for the Beer Goddess Buzz Crawl, aboard the one and only free Palm Springs Buzz bus. Take a ride around Palm Springs, and savor favorite craft beers at some of the most swanky Palm Springs bars and restaurants. Buzz Crawl pick up will be approximately every 15 minutes at each stop. Stay as long as you want at any location, or make it a night and hit our top favorite craft stops from these participating locations: Workshop, Trio, Bar, Fame Lounge, Matchbox, Gyoro Gyoro, the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, the Ace Hotel and the Purple Room.

If you’d rather stay in one place that evening, head over to Eureka Burger in Indian Wells for “Nite of the Barrels 1.” This is an evening of learning, featuring one of the most popular craft beer styles: wine-barrel-aged beers. Taste a variety of California beers with their accompanying wine varietals, and compare the nuances. A variety of cheeses and crackers will be included in the tasting. Make sure to reserve your seat; watch the Coachella Valley Beer Week website for details.

Experience a sushi craft-beer dinner like none other on Monday, Nov. 16, at Palm Springs’ Gyoro Gyoro. Unlike most sushi restaurants, Gyoro Gyoro has a nice selection of not only American craft beers, but Japanese craft beers. More information will be available soon, so watch the website.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, head back to Eureka Burger for “Nite of the Barrels 2.” Bourbon-barrel-aged craft beers have a unique complexity that is full of flavor and perfect for cooler evenings. Come taste these complex beers alongside the very same bourbons that were aged in those barrels. Note the similarities, and see how the beers pick up different flavors and nuances from the bourbons.

On Friday morning, Nov. 20, come hit some balls with your favorite brewmasters from various breweries! You don’t need to be a great golfer to participate in the Brewmasters Shotgun Golf Event; everyone’s welcome. Get paired with a brewery team, and enjoy free pours as you play to win various prizes and awards. Cigars and snacks are also available. It costs $120, and there’s limited availability, so reserve soon!

On Friday evening, Nov. 20, the largest area guest-bartender brewfest will commence. This mini-block party will feature eight Southern California breweries and eight local charities. Watch the website for details.

That same night, head to Indio to check out live music and live ale at the Tack Room Tavern’s Caxton-n-Cask event. Sip local cask ale from our three local breweries while listening to one of our favorite local bands, Caxton. The breweries will be adding special ingredients, using some of the oldest and traditional methods of secondary fermentation, to create these amazing one-time cask ales.

On Saturday, Nov. 21, don’t miss out on the annual Props and Hops Craft Beer Festival at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Last year, we put together a rare in-flight beer-tasting in a vintage World War II airplane—and we’re doing that again this year! Enjoy more than 30 craft breweries, great food and live music, all while taking in the Palm Springs mountain views.

More events are being added, so watch the website for updates, changes and additions. Be a part of the first ever Coachella Valley Beer Week, and find out what makes our valley a great part of the craft beer revolution!

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

A little more than three decades ago, Coors Banquet Beer was the best beer that American breweries had to offer.

It was brewed with Rocky Mountain spring water near Golden, Colo., and was only available in the West. President Eisenhower had supplies of it airlifted to the White House via Air Force One. Keith Richards would keep cans onstage; Clint Eastwood and Ray Charles even sang a duet praising the beer. Heck, bootlegging Coors was part of the plot line of Smokey and the Bandit.

Yep, there even were Coors connoisseurs. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

In 1974, a story in TIME magazine, “The Beer That Won The West,” told the tale of one enterprising fella who made weekly runs with a refrigerated truck from Denver to Charlotte, N.C.—making a nice profit along the way. A different fella, named Tom Del Sarto, witnessed this beer bootlegging firsthand, as a promising Coors salesman back in 1978.

More than 35 years later, Del Sarto is still in the beer business, working as the director of sales at Coachella Valley Brewing Co. His beer career actually began in 1975, when he was just 18 years old.

“I actually made a wrong turn looking for my summer job, and they told me that it wasn’t there any more. So, as I was driving back home, I thought, ‘What do I do now?’” he recently told me as I sipped a Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale.

It was then that Tom saw a Coors distributor sign and stopped—only to discover that his baseball coach was working there. His coach gave him a shot—and that ‘wrong turn’ turned into a 25-year career with the same distributor. Del Sarto began in Redwood City, Calif., in the recycling department. At 20, Tom was promoted to district supervisor, managing a team of five people. By 23, he was the youngest sales manager in the country for Coors. By 29, Tom was the vice president, general manager and partner of Coors West/South Bay Beverage.

Tom learned the business from the bottom up, and worked with the godfather of the business: Bob Franceschini, Bay Area beverage distributor and president of Coors West Regal Beverages. Between Prohibition and 1976, Coors was available in only 11 states, all in the West. It wouldn’t even reach all 50 states until it landed in Indiana in 1991.

Del Sarto’s first big sell was a truck full of Coors Banquet to a liquor store in Millbrae, Calif., in 1978. After lining up the cases along the building and leaving, Tom’s intuition told him to drive back—when he caught the owner restacking the coveted beer in a different truck to resell back East.

Del Sarto said the biggest difference between selling beer in the ’70s and ’80s and selling it today is volume: Today’s craft-beer landscape has brought consumers many, many more choices, meaning distributors carry more beers from more breweries than ever before. To help meet this demand, Del Sarto also consults for two Northern California premium-brand distributors.

“I train distributor management on how to get the most out of suppliers,” he said. “When I have my CVB hat on, I’m the supplier getting the most out of the distributor. So it’s an easy thing to transition, to do both sides.”

Del Sarto handled the agreement for distributor Young’s Market Company to distribute CVB’s Desert Swarm, Kölschella and Monumentous throughout California.

The beer world’s three-tier system requires beer to go through a middle-man—the distributor, or wholesaler. The distributor does on-the-ground sales and marketing for the producer, and sells the beer to retailers, all while making sure breweries are well-represented.

“Brand loyalty is a big thing,” Del Sarto said. “The problem is keeping people from switching to another beer of the week. … It’s all about the consistency of the liquid. I think we’re making better beers than we ever have created. I think the choices are awesome, and people are starting to understand it.”

As of last November, there were more than 3,200 beer brewers in the country. On March 16, the Brewers Association revealed that in 2014, for the first time ever, craft brewers achieved a double-digit (11 percent) share of the marketplace. It’s been a challenge for some distributors and wholesalers to adapt to and accommodate the rapidly growing craft-beer industry.

Because of the massive volume of breweries in the state, California also allows self-distribution with no limits as to production size. Breweries like Russian River and Kern River take advantage of this, as does Escondido’s Stone Brewing Co., which operates a self-distribution network that carries more than 30 craft and specialty brands to Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. In fact, Stone’s Greg Koch and Arlan Arnsten started the Craft Beer Wholesalers Symposium in 2004—and like the craft-beer industry itself, it continues to grow.

“The generation that is kind of moving this, it’s a pretty big age group,” Del Santo said. “They don’t want to be sold to; they want to make their personal selections. They want to work with their buddies and say, ‘Hey, such and such is on tap over here, and you need to try it.’ That, to me, is much more powerful.”

Just as Del Santo was saying this, Anheuser-Busch’s advertisement criticizing the craft-beer industry came on TV.

“What is the chance of that?!” he said, laughing about the commercial that first aired during the Super Bowl.

There’s a reason Anheuser-Busch is on the defensive: Sales of mass-market beers like Budweiser, Old Milwaukee and Miller Genuine Draft have slumped. For example, Michelob Light sales have fallen from more than 1 million barrels in 2007 to around 350,000 barrels in 2012, according to BeerInsights.com. Budweiser sales have been declining for more than two decades.

On the flip side, Forbes magazine this year announced two craft beers from California breweries—Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA, and North Coast’s Old Rasputin—made its list of the 30 best beers available in Brazil.

What a difference 30 years can make.

As for the future, Del Sarto thinks the next big opportunity for the craft-beer industry is in the Spanish-speaking market. He also predicts that innovative packaging and styles will continue to be hot.

We all have our favorite beers and breweries, but what if someone asked about your favorite distributor? A bewildered stare would likely follow. But think about this: Distributors are the go-between that brings delicious craft beers to the bars and stores that carry them—enabling consumers to easily purchase the savory suds.

In other words, thanks to talented beer-lovers like Del Sarto, the beer-bootlegging era is history.

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

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015!

Here’s how these results came to be: Between Aug. 29 and Oct. 3, Coachella Valley Independent readers voted at CVIndependent.com in an open ballot in the categories listed below.

No finalists were selected in advance; readers had to write in their selections.

We then took the top three to five finishers in each category and put them on a final-round ballot, which ran at CVIndependent.com from Oct. 8 to Nov. 7. 

Readers had to provide an email address, and were allowed to submit only one ballot in each round. We sent an email to each voter; if the email bounced, we did not count the ballot associated with that email address.

Here are the results of this first-ever Coachella Valley Independent readers’ poll.

Enjoy!


Arts

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. Gallery 446

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Archangel Gallery

5. Stewart Gallery

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. The Hood Bar and Pizza

5. The Date Shed

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. Backstreet Arts District

 

Best Local Band

Queens of the Stone Age

 

Runners up:

2. Machin’

3. The Rebel Noise

4. TIE

CIVX

Slipping Into Darkness

 

Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha

 

Runners up:

2. All Night Shoes

3. House Whores

4. TIE

CoffeeBlvck

Femme A

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Mark Gregg

3. Giselle Woo

4. Charles Herrera

5. Gene Evaro Jr.

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Elena Bulatova

 

Runners up:

2. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

3. Michael Weems

4. Jennifer Stern

5. Lon Michels

 

Best Movie Theater

Camelot Theatres

 

Runners up:

2. Cinemas Palme d’Or

3. UltraStar Mary Pickford

4. Regal Palm Springs

5. Century Theatres at The River

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley History Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum

4. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

5. Palm Springs Art Museum Palm Desert

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Empire Polo Club

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs

5. The Palms Restaurant


Life in the Valley

Best Alternative Health Center

Stroke Recovery Center

 

Runners up:

2. Nature’s Health Food and Café

3. All-Desert Wellness Centers

4. Live Well Clinic

5. Palm Springs Healing Center

 

Best Farmers’ Market

Palm Springs VillageFest

 

Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres

3. Old Town La Quinta

4. Palm Desert (Chamber of Commerce)

5. Joshua Tree Certified

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

4. Shelter From the Storm

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

 

Best Gym

Gold’s Gym Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. World Gym Palm Springs

3. World Gym Palm Desert

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. 24 Hour Fitness

 

Best Public Servant

Congressman Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Mayor Steve Pougnet

3. County Commissioner John Benoit

4. Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez

5. Assemblyman Brian Nestande

 

Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga University Village

 

Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Power Yoga

5. Evolve Yoga

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Not So Innocent

 

Runners up:

2. Skitzo Kitty

3. Q Trading Company`

4. Gay Mart

5. Red Panties Boutique

 

Best Auto Repair

Desert Classic Cars

 

Runners up:

2. Performance Plus Automotive

3. TIE

Chuck’s Automotive

European Auto Service

Palm Springs Tire and Automotive

 

Best Car Wash

TIE

Airport Quick Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash (pictured)

 

Runners up:

3. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

4. Executive Car Wash

5. Red Carpet USA Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Vintage Nursery

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Cactus Mart

5. Moorten Botanical Gardens

 

Best Pet Supplies

PetSmart

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. Bones ’n’ Scones

4. Cold Nose Warm Heart

5. Exotic Birds

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars, by the AIDS Assistance Program

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Walk, by the Desert AIDS Project

3. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, by the Desert AIDS Project

4. Paint El Paseo Pink, by the Desert Cancer Foundation

5. Center Stage, by the LGBT Community Center of the Desert

 

Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Spotlight 29

5. Augustine Casino

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. CBS Local 2

3. KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

 

Runners up:

2. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

3. John White, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Brooke Beare, CBS Local 2

5. Thalia Hayden, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Radio Station

Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. Big 106 (KPLM)

3. KDES FM 98.5

4. TIE

KWXY FM 107.3

K-News 94.3

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Jeff Michaels, Big 106 (KPLM)

 

Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

4. Joey English, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, EZ-103

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Revivals

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

3. Best Buy

4. Barnes and Noble

5. Video Depot

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Hoodoo

3. Barnes and Noble

 

Best Video Game Store

GameStop

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Video Depot

Walmart

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Riviera Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Saguaro

5. Renaissance Palm Springs


Fashion and Style

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s

 

Runners up:

2. Glossy Boutique

3. R&R Men’s Wear

4. Fine Art of Design

5. Wil Stiles

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Resale Therapy

3. Angel View

4. The POP Shop

5. Fine Art of Design

 

Best Furniture Store

Plummers

 

Runners up:

2. Ashley Furniture HomeStore

3. Marc Russell Interiors

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

The Estate Sale Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Gypsyland

4. Pioneer Crossing Antiques

5. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Hephaestus Jewelry

5. ASC Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. Brien O’Brien Salon

4. Turquoise A Salon

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Spa

DHS Spa Hotel

 

Runners up:

2. JW Marriott Desert Springs

3. Studio M

4. The Canyon Spa

5. Revive Salon Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Jensen’s

5. Blooming Events

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

Bloodline Tattoo

TG Tattoo

5. Flagship Tattoo

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. TIE

Elegant Eye Optometry

Oh La La de Paris Eyeware

5. Desert EyeCare Center


Outside!

Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo

 

Runners up:

2. Downtown Palm Springs (general)

3. College of the Desert

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Moorten Botanical Gardens

4. Ruth Hardy Park

5. El Paseo

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Palm Springs (general)

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta (general)

3. Frank Sinatra Drive

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness (Top of the Tram)

4. Salton Sea State Recreation Area

5. Tahquitz Canyon

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto

4. Tahquitz Canyon

5. Mission Creek Preserve

 

Best Park

Whitewater Park

 

Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Wellness Park

5. Dateland Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Off the Grid

4. Second Amendment Sports

5. Walmart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Cyclery

3. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods Store

Big 5

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Sports Authority

4. Lumpy’s

5. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek

3. Indian Wells

4. Eagle Falls

5. Escena


For the Kids

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. La Quinta Park

5. Whitewater Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s for Kids

 

Runners up:

2. Toys “R” Us

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Goodwill

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Janie and Jack

4. Goodwill

5. Justice

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Ruby’s

4. Islands

5. Dickie O’Neal’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

Wet ’n’ Wild

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. Boomers!

Rock-N-Roll Mini Golf

4. Palm Desert Aquatic Center

5. Chuck E. Cheese

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Children’s Discovery Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese

3. Boomers!


Food and Restaurants

Best Casual Eats

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sherman’s

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Caterer

LuLu/Acqua Pazza

 

Runners up:

2. Lynn Hammond

3. Fusion Flair

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Savoury’s

 

Best Diner

Elmer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sunshine Café

4. Rick’s

5. John’s

 

Best Organic Food Store

Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Sprouts Farmers Market

Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. Appetito

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Pastry Swan Bakery

3. Sherman’s

4. Exquisite Desserts

5. Jensen’s

 

Best Desserts

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Crave (now Plate | Glass)

5. French Corner Café

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Lique at Fantasy Springs

5. Ben and Jerry’s

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Hadley Fruit Orchards

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Lappert’s Ice Cream

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

TIE

Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

Tutti Frutti

 

Runners up:

3. Beach House

4. Yogurt on Tap

5. Cactusberry + Frozen Treats

 

Best Bakery

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery

4. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

5. TKB Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s

 

Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Cowboy Way

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Big Willie’s Catering

 

Best Burger

In-n-Out

 

Runners up:

2. Grill-A-Burger

3. Woody’s

4. Tyler’s

5. Smokin’ Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Grill-A-Burger

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. Woody’s

Ruby’s Diner

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Aspen Mills

5. L’Atelier Café

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza

3. Piero’s PizzaVino

4. Giuseppe’s

5. Ciro’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. LuLu California Bistro

4. Bar

5. Village Pub

 

Best Bagels

New York Bagel and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s

4. Townie Bagels

5. Bagel Bistro

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Juice It Up

4. Jamba Juice

5. Luscious Lorraine’s

 

Best Buffet

Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3 TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

3. Old Town Coffee Company

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Starbucks

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Ernest Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Espresso Cielo

 

Best Tea

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Teavana

3. Ristretto

4. Old Town Coffee Company

5. Espresso Cielo

 

Best Breakfast

Elmer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Cheeky’s

3. Sunshine Café

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Louise’s Pantry

 

Best California Cuisine

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO

3. Acqua Pazza California Bistro

4. Jake’s

5. POM—The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

 

Best Brunch

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Pinocchio’s

4. Escena Lounge and Grill

5. Las Casuelas Nuevas

 

Best Chinese

Wang’s in the Desert

 

Runners up:

2. China Wok

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. New Fortune

5. Supreme Dragon

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Miro’s Restaurant

 

Best French

Le Vallauris

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

Pomme Frite

4. La Brasserie

5. L’Atelier Café

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House

 

Best Japanese

Shabu Shabu Zen

 

Runners up:

2. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

3. Gyoro Gyoro

4. Otori Japanese Cuisine

5. No Da Te

 

Best Italian

Nicolino’s

 

Runners up:

2. Giuseppe’s

3. Il Corso

4. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

5. Mimmo’s

 

Best Sushi

Wasabi

 

Runners up:

2. Gyoro Gyoro

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Edoko Sushi

5. The Venue

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Ruben and Ozzy’s

3. Shanghai Reds

4. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

5. Oceans Seafood Restaurant

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Chop House

3. Mastro’s

4. The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

5. The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Thai Smile Rancho Mirage

3. Peppers Thai

4. Le Basil

5. Thai Kitchen 1

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Bangkok Noodles

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Figue Mediterranean Cuisine (no longer in business)

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Spencer’s

4. Las Casuelas Terraza

5. The Falls

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

LuLu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Village Pub

3. Bar

4. Alicante

5. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel

 

Best Mexican

El Mirasol

 

Runners up:

2. El Gallito

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. La Tablita

5. Tlaquepaque

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Nuevas

 

Runners up:

2. Rincon Norteno

3. Maracas

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Margaritas

 

Best Burrito

El Gallito

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

La Tablita

Santana’s

4. El Taco Asado

5. Jalisco Restaurant


Spirits and Nightlife

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

TIE

2. The Beer Hunter

Eureka!

4. Village Pub

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Local Brewery

TIE

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

La Quinta Brewing Co.

 

Runner up:

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

TIE

Hunters

Palm Springs Lanes

 

Runners up:

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Sharky’s Family Billiards

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Purple Room

3. Eureka!

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Streetbar

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

4. Score

5. Digs

 

Best Happy Hour

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. LuLu California Bistro

3. TIE

Hunters

Stuft Pizza

5. Village Pub

 

Best Dive Bar

Neil’s Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Score

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Maracas

5. Blue Coyote Grill

 

Best Martini

The Falls

 

Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Copley’s

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar

 

Best Nightclub

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Copa

3. LIT at Fantasy Springs

4. TIE

Schmidy’s Tavern

Village Pub

 

Best Sports Bar

Burgers and Beer

 

Runners up:

2. Yard House

3. The Beer Hunter

4. TIE

Tilted Kilt

Village Pub

 

Best Wine Bar

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

12th Floor Cocktail Lounge and Wine Bar at Fantasy Springs

Zin American Bistro

4. Wine Bar Bistro

5. Fame Lounge

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

4. Fame Lounge

5. LQ Wine

 

Best Bar Ambiance

Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Melvyn’s

4. Schmidy’s Tavern

5. Copa


Staff Picks

Best Story From an Annual Festival

“The Moneymaker”

A woman who appears to be about 65 and who is here for the American Heat Bike Weekend event in downtown Palm Springs comes in to Crystal Fantasy and wants to use some tape, because her “moneymaker” is broken. I give her some packing tape, and she takes something out of her pocket she is trying to fix.

After a few moments, she says, “OK, I’ll see if it works”—and proceeds to swallow a foot-long (now-taped) all-beef hot dog down her throat; she then pulls it out of her mouth. The tape wasn’t really sticking, and all I had otherwise was some purple duct tape.

That seemed to do the job. She very professionally deep-throated the hot dog, thanked us and left.

—Joy Brown Meredith, as told to the Palm Springs Neighborhoods Group on Facebook, adapted with permission by Jimmy Boegle


Best Band Militia

Machin’

I first met David Macias of Machin’ for an interview at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, and I was rather surprised when he told me about what he called the “Machin’ Militia”—the band’s loyal fans who turn up for their shows.

Well, I’ve seen Machin’ perform several times over the last year—and I’m not surprised that the Machin’ Militia is growing rapidly.

Perhaps David’s military background explains his terminology. He was born in Mexico and completed two deployments to Iraq as a Navy corpsman. When he gets together with classically trained violinist Bri Cherry and upright-bass-player/accordionist Andy Gorrill, they make attention-grabbing music that combines Latin, hip-hop and rock sounds. Their sound is instantly recognizable wherever they go.

Crowds of all sorts adore Machin’. They have a weekly residency at the Purple Room in Palm Springs; they busk on street corners in various places while on tour. Wherever Machin’ is, people can’t help but clap or dance along when the group performs.

Machin’ is truly what the name means in Spanglish slang—supremely excellent.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Food and Drink Trend That’s Finally Arrived in the Valley

Craft Cocktails

Tucson, Ariz., the city in which I used to live, is the home of one of the leaders in the craft-cocktail revolution. Scott and Co.—a speakeasy-style bar that’s received national attention for its amazing and innovative drinks—was perhaps the place I missed the most when I moved to the desert several years ago.

Look at the Best Cocktail finalists here, and you’ll see why I used to miss Scott and Co. so damned much: When I first started making preparations to move here, four of the five finalists picked by our readers weren’t yet in existence.

Today, however, I don’t miss Scott and Co. all that much—because over the last couple years, the craft-cocktail revolution has belatedly arrived in the Coachella Valley. In addition to our readers’ five Best of Coachella Valley finalists (great picks, readers!), you can find fantastic hand-crafted beverages at locations all across the valley, from Indian Wells’ Vue Grille and Bar, to retro-tiki newcomers Tonga Hut and Bootlegger Tiki in downtown Palm Springs, to Citron at the Viceroy (pictured), also in Palm Springs.

Cheers, folks. The local craft-cocktail scene is getting better by the month.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Local Social Trend

The Increasingly Busy Summer

Let’s face facts: The business and tourism cycle in the Coachella Valley will always have seasonal highs and lows. The power of the weather is undeniable: Temps in the 70s and 80s will always draw people to the valley during the winter, and temps in the 110s will always push people out during the summer.

However, that seasonality is beginning to lessen—just a little.

I live in downtown Palm Springs, and last summer, the streets near my home weren’t as lonely as they used to be in years past. In fact, on some summer weekend nights, Palm Canyon Drive foot traffic was even something approaching busy. (Not April busy, but still.) The reason? More people are starting to brave the toasty temps to come to the valley, thanks to great events like Splash House (which was so nice, they did it twice during the summer of 2014; pictured), fantastic deals (like those offered during Restaurant Week) and the realization that the slower summer pace here has its benefits. (No snowbirds on Highway 111?! YES!)

Can one argue that the Best Season here in the Coachella Valley is, in fact, the summer? No … we won’t go that far. But the summers here are certainly not as dead as they used to be—and that’s something worth celebrating.

—Jimmy Boegle

Photo credits: Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash courtesy of elephant-carwash.com. The Living Desert courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB. Machin’ courtesy of Chris Miller via Machin’ Facebook. Splash House by Guillermo Prieto/IROCKPHOTOS.NET.

Published in Readers' Picks

The weather is starting to cool down in the Coachella Valley—so it’s a perfect time to explore what the craft-beer industry has to offer at local beer festivals. They are the perfect place to experiment, meet fellow craft-beer enthusiasts and even get involved in the community!

For the third year, the Palm Springs Air Museum is combining two things that you may not normally think go together: flying and beer. The Props and Hops Craft Beer Festival commences on Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Air Museum, a picturesque venue with gorgeous views. General admission costs $35.

I am on the festival’s board, and this year, the beers on offer will range from one-off seasonals to perennial favorites.

All three local breweries will be pouring their award-winning beers. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse will be pouring its Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale, which just took home a silver medal from the granddaddy of all beer events, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. will likely be pouring its newest seasonal offering, Condition Black. It’s an imperial black IPA offered every Veterans Day. Another possible offering is the new Saison L'Automne, a fall farmhouse ale with yams, pumpkins and spices.

La Quinta Brewing Co. will have on hand the popular Indian Canyon IPA, the Poolside Blonde and the brewery’s fall/early winter seasonal, the Tan Line Brown. The brewery will also bring either its new barrel-aged porter, or the Sand Storm Double IPA.

Of course, other breweries from Southern California will be on hand, including Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, Stone Brewing, Hangar 24, Lagunitas, Ballast Point, Firestone Walker, Black Market, Refuge Brewery and Golden Road Brewing.

Homebrewers are making an ever-increasing mark on the industry, and the festival will highlight these beer-making champions with the third annual homebrewers' competition. Led by local Coachella Valley Homebrew Club president Brett Newton, the Beer Judge Certification Program-certified competition will only be limited by imagination. Bring your tasty concoction, and get some expert feedback from certified beer judges! Entries must be received at either Coachella Valley Brewing in Thousand Palms, or MoreBeer in Riverside, by Nov. 8. Brewers must bring three unmarked, unlabeled 12-ounce bottles, and the winners will be announced at the festival. Prizes include gift cards, a 70-liter Speidel fermenter from MoreBeer, and, of course, mad respect from fellow craft-beer drinkers.

This year, the festival is offering beer-lovers a chance to literally combine flying and beer: For an extra $175, experience a Cicerone-guided tour of beers while in the sky above the Coachella Valley. This rare beer-tasting will be held aboard a vintage DC3!

The festival will include more live music than last year, with performances by The Anonymous Five, the Independent´s own All Night Shoes, and Long Duk Dong.

The big brain behind the event is an ale-loving, craft beer advocate, Brent Schmidman. He’s the man responsible for making Schmidy’s Tavern into the loved craft-beer spot that it is today.

“We’re always trying to push the envelope with the event and to bring something new,” he said.

Schmidman said he’s excited about some breweries who are new to the festival this year.

“The first two that come to mind are Avery and Three Weavers. Avery is an amazing brewery and makes some insane beers—crazy wild sours and barrel-aged beers that are hard to get. I'm also excited about Three Weavers Brewing, a new brewery from Inglewood. They’re already making a big buzz in the beer scene.”

Yours truly will be hosting a special beer dinner on the night before the festival at the Purple Room in Palm Springs. Join me on Friday, Nov. 21, at 6:30 p.m. for an intimate dinner featuring several Southern California beers. Executive chef Jen Town will be preparing the menu, and together, we’ll pair the food with the perfect beers. Tickets are $55, and capacity is limited to 100 people. Don’t miss out!

Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated if you’re a beer novice. Volunteers, brewers and other festival attendees will be happy to guide you toward amazing beers with which you may not be familiar.

The craft-beer revolution continues to gain momentum, and festivals like Props and Hops are a perfect way to experiment with new and trending California beers. Who knows? You may just find a new favorite.

Get tickets and more information at www.PropsandHopsFestival.com.

Published in Beer

Hard Rock Replaces Sessions With Simon Kitchen + Bar

Another celebrity chef is coming to the Coachella Valley.

Simon Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant under the direction of Kerry Simon, is slated to open in mid-September at the Hard Rock, located at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s replacing Sessions, which had occupied the Hard Rock’s restaurant space since the remodeling of the former Hotel Zozo.

“Palm Springs is hot right now,” Simon said in a news release. “I’m very excited to be a part of this laid-back, hipster getaway. The menu that I’ve developed for Simon Kitchen + Bar is a little edgy, a little fun and full of contemporary takes on the comfort foods we all love.”

As for that menu: It will include “an emphasis on sharing,” with “sandwiches, entrées and stone-oven flatbreads. Social plates include tempura green beans made with pepper jelly and cream cheese; bacon jam served with baked brie and toasted baguette; and ‘devil’s eggs’ complete with crispy pancetta and caviar.”

Sounds tasty to us. Simon should be a good fit for the Hard Rock; after all, Rolling Stone once called him the “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef.”

Watch www.hrhpalmsprings.com for updates and more information.

Cactusberry Getting a Remodel and a Concept Tweak

Cactusberry, the popular frozen-yogurt shop in the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is going in a slightly new direction following a change in ownership.

Johnny Ramirez Jr. and Dale Sutherland are the new owners. After they got the keys, they closed the shop for remodeling. Ramirez tells the Independent they hope to reopen around Oct. 1.

“We are taking ‘Cactusberry Frozen Yogurt’ and expanding the brand, but keeping the same great tastes, as well as adding new items like gelato and frozen custard,” Ramirez said via email. “Our new name in honor of this expansion is ‘Cactusberry+ Frozen Treats.’ We hope to become the Coachella Valley’s go-to shop for frozen treats and drinks!”

Watch Cactusberry’s website (cactusberryplusps.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CactusberryPlus) for updates and more information.

TRIO, Purple Room Shaking Things Up Just a Bit

Trio and the Purple Room, the popular restaurants in Palm Springs owned by Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen, are both going through some minor yet welcome changes.

At TRIO, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, executive chef Van Laanen recently introduced weekly specials to complement the tried-and-true menu. Every week, TRIO is offering an all-day drink special and three new dinner dishes.

“We love pairing fresh ingredients with distinctive flavors, and we are thrilled to cook up these new specials,” Van Laanen said in a news release.

For example, the specials ending the week of Sept. 4 are seared Cajun ahi tuna and carrot cucumber slaw with pickled ginger wasabi; a USDA New York strip steak with caramelized onions and sautéed wild mushrooms; and pan-roasted barramundi with mango pico de gallo and sweet saffron butter sauce. The drink special is the “TRIO Fizz,” featuring muddled orange, Absolut Mandarin, orange juice, lemon juice and soda.

Watch www.triopalmsprings.com for a list of specials throughout September.

Meanwhile, the Purple Room, inside Club Trinidad at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, was slated to reopen after a month off on Thursday, Aug. 28. The slightly rebranded Purple Room Restaurant and Stage also has a new chef and a new menu; a “peek” was posted on the Purple Room Facebook page shortly before the Independent’s press deadline. The new menu includes a wide variety of modern cuisine, ranging from a Brussels sprout salad as a starter ($10) to filet Oscar ($36) and chicken paillards ($23) as main courses.

Head over to www.facebook.com/purpleroomrestaurantstage to get gobs more information on the Purple Room, including a list of upcoming shows.

In Brief

After a seemingly endless construction period, Pho Vu is finally open at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. … The transformation is complete: The former Chop House Palm Desert has been converted into the Kaiser Grille Palm Desert. The moderately priced restaurant at 74040 Highway 111 is now open. … Tell your beer-loving friends in Arizona that offerings from Coachella Valley Brewing Company will soon be available there, thanks to a distribution deal with Young’s Market Company. … The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, which opened in June with the first 2014 Splash House, closed with the second 2014 Splash House in August. However, management says the closure is only temporary, and that the Hacienda will reopen on Friday, Sept. 26. … The Bootlegger Tiki bar is slated to soon debut at 140 W. Via Lola, Suite 1101, in the back of the building occupied by Ernest Coffee. … Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill, which has been a La Quinta staple for almost a decade, recently opened a second location in the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111. Get more info at www.stuftpizzabarandgrill.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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

It’s been the best of times … it’s been the beeriest of times.

My appreciation for craft beer began developing while I attended San Diego State University in the mid-’90s. Rearrange the letters in SDSU, and you get SUDS. Coincidence? Or divine inspiration?

Either way, The Beer Goddess was meant to be.

It was in the ’90s when Stone Brewing Company released the in-your-face Arrogant Bastard—blowing all of the San Diego beer-drinkers’ minds. I often hosted small dinner parties with my college friends. I started switching from Keystone Light and Bud Light (we all have to start somewhere, right?) to Bass, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Pete’s Wicked Ale and, of course, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.

I discovered more taste. I discovered more depth. And dammit, it was good.

However, it was in 2008 when I began to pour my mind and passion into writing about the craft of craft beer. That summer, I received an email from my older brother that our dad was in the hospital, suffering from a fever that wouldn’t subside. We had recently celebrated his 70th birthday on the lake in Westlake Village. I took many trips to the hospital, and began researching his sudden condition—Felty’s syndrome.

He passed away 17 days later. It was devastating. I felt like my world was literally tipped on its axis.

My father was my hero. He spent most of his life as an entrepreneur, growing his company, Franklin Telecom, and later Franklin VoIP. He later became one of the founding fathers of phone-to-phone voiceover IP. He instilled dedication, passion and innovation in all of his five children.

One week later, I was laid off from my project-management job in Culver City. Not knowing how I was going to pay my high Los Angeles rent, and wanting to call my dad for advice, I felt lost. I started feverishly applying for jobs.

My boyfriend at the time and I were living in our new place—a warm, 1930s-style townhome near the Wilshire Corridor. He witnessed my anguish and tried everything to keep my spirits at a manageable level. It was then he suggested I start writing about beer.

I thought it was a funny idea at first—and it was the first funny thing I had heard in more than a month. (Even though it was just six years ago, beer wasn’t quite the widespread and celebrated hobby it is today.) In an attempt to steer my mind toward learning something culinary and crafty, I took his advice and dove headfirst into research and blogging.

I first wanted to figure out an angle, or at least a personality, for my new blog. I started jotting down tag lines, cute sayings and titles. Nothing resonated. Nothing stuck. So I just started attending beer events and writing. I soaked it in like a sponge.

After a family call to talk about how my father’s business would be handled, I recall staring at a plaque that was awarded to him and his company. I dazed at it, motionless, for about 10 minutes as my eyes welled. He named the company Franklin Telecom after his idol, Ben Franklin. His name was Frank.

That was it. Ben Franklin also appreciated beer! I wanted to tie this extraordinary founding father into the tone of the blog, because he was my dad’s idol.

There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking,” was one of many Franklin quotes. You’ll see a spin off to this quote on TheBeerGoddess.com: “There is good living, where there is good beer.”

It was placed there not just an acknowledgement of my recently departed father, but as an appreciation of how he exuded a passion for living life to the fullest. It’s a constant reminder of how lucky I was.

This year, I’ll be celebrating six delicious, fascinating, entertaining and humbling years in the world of craft beer. Beer is an integral part of the lives of many communities. Hundreds of breweries use local foods and spices that are indigenous to their areas. Craft beer tells a story of the land, of the area and of the brewers.

I’ve met numerous culinary, creative and passionate people along the way, from brewers and bloggers to the folks marketing the beer—and, of course, the craft-beer consumers themselves.

It’s not about drinking more (a concern I think my mother had early on—now she’s one of my biggest fans). It’s about drinking well. It’s about creating something from the earth. It’s about feeding our economy, one small business at a time. It’s about the people. It’s about giving U.S. consumers more choice.

I choose beer with innovation, style, integrity, quality and character. I advocate and celebrate what’s become known as the “craft beer revolution.”

Ben Franklin also once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

Join me as I celebrate The Beer Goddess’ 6 Pack Sixth Anniversary, starting at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 21, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. We’ll feature a special collaborative brew between Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and me; there will also be live music and all sorts of fun.

Why haven’t you heard of any of the anniversaries until now? I haven’t celebrated the past years. I was too busy trying to write something worth reading.

Published in Beer

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