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Tue11132018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

New: Temecula's Snow and Crab Expands to Bring Shaved Ice and Cajun Seafood to Palm Springs

I was driving south down Sunrise Way past Tahquitz Canyon Way when I saw the words on the south end of the building that houses the 99 Cents Only store: SNOW and CRAB.

Hmm. I was intrigued. I love crab, after all, and as for snow … well, I wasn’t sure about that. So, I decided to investigate.

Here’s what I found: Snow and Crab is a new-to-Palm Springs restaurant—the first one is in Temecula—and the “crab” part of the name refers to, well, crab, as well as other Cajun-style seafood on offer: snow crab legs, king crab legs, whole blue and Dungeness crabs, clams, mussels, wild-caught shrimp, catfish, and both fresh and fresh-frozen crawfish. Basically … you choose your catch; your flavor (Cajun, scampi, lemon pepper or full house); your spiciness level; and your extras, if desired (hot Louisiana smoked sausage, potatoes, sausage or corn on the cob). Soups, salads, sides, appetizers and several “chef’s specialties,” as well as desserts, fill out the menu. Yum.

As for “snow” … that refers to the shaved ice concoctions available, like the “Let It Snow”: milky shaved ice topped with marshmallow and shredded coconut. Boba smoothies, flavored teas and other specialty drinks may also be ordered.

I decided Snow and Crab warranted some in-person investigation, so I dropped in for a recent lunch. I am dealing with an injured-but-healing left arm, so I decided to save the more hands-on seafood for another time, and instead ordered a “chef’s specialty,” the fried catfish tray with fries ($12), along with the garlic-bread appetizer ($3). Both were tasty—and the amount of catfish and fresh-cut large fries was substantial enough that I could have made two meals out of it. (I said “could have.” Hey, I was hungry.)

The person who helped me during my mid-April visit said Snow and Crab is still in its soft-opening phase, so menu tweaks and additions are possible.

Snow and Crab looks like an exciting, unique addition to the area food scene. It’s located at 186 S. Sunrise Way, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 760-218-6056, or visit www.snowandcrab.com.


In Brief

A new restaurant has opened at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Persimmon Bistro comes from Candice Held and Tristan Gittens, the owners of Palm Springs’ Frankinbun; according to a news release, Persimmon serves “rustic, eclectic cuisine with a twist in a unique café setting on the edge of the museum’s sculpture garden … combining fantastical wallpaper design and chic comfort food.” The “jungle to table” restaurant serves coffee, tea, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, salads, soups and sandwiches, as well as a few “delicacies” like charcuterie and French desserts. Persimmon Bistro is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day but Wednesday at 101 N. Museum Drive, in Palm Springs; visit www.persimmonbistro.com for details. … A couple of Facebook friends have been singing the praises of a brand-new place—and by “brand new,” we mean “opened on April 14”—at 3700 E. Vista Chino, at Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs. It’s called Paul, and the place serves food and great drinks, often served by someone named Paul, starting at 4 p.m. every day but Tuesday. That’s all we know for now; watch www.facebook.com/PaulPalmSprings for more details. … If you like either Lucha Libre wrestling or tacos—and if you don’t like at least one of those two things, something’s very wrong with you—head to Morongo Casino Resort Spa, at 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon, on Saturday, May 19, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the second annual Morongo Taco Fest. More than two-dozen SoCal taco-makers will be present selling $2 tacos, while music, tequila-tastings, a hot-pepper-eating contest and a “Tiny Taco Dog Beauty Pageant” (!) takes place. Admission is $10; get more details and tickets at www.morongocasinoresort.com. … A brand-new—and gorgeous—Koffi has opened in Kaptur Plaza, located at 650 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in downtown Palm Springs. This is the fourth Koffi location—three of which are in Palm Springs, with the fourth in Rancho Mirage. More info at www.kofficoffee.com. … Now open at The River, at 71800 Highway 111, Suite A116, in Rancho Mirage: MidiCi, The Neapolitan Pizza Company, a national chain restaurant serving food made with “mostly non-GMO” ingredients, along with beer and wine. More info at www.mymidici.com. … Coming soon to downtown Palm Springs: a new La Quinta Brewing Co. Taproom, at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, across from the Hyatt and beneath Café Europa/JusTapas. Watch www.facebook.com/LQBCPalmSpringsTaproom for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

India pale ales—you know them as IPAs—may still be the best-selling beer style, but many of us prefer the darker side of things.

Yes, stouts are perfect as the nights begin to get just a little longer; it’s a great time to enjoy oatmeal-y, chocolate-y, coffee-flavored deliciousness in a glass.

For my money, here are some of the best stouts in the world right now:

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout: With more than 12,000 votes and a 4.5 rating (out of 5) on BeerAdvocate.com, this is arguably the best stout in the world. Coming in at 12.8 percent alcohol by volume, the beer offers hints of caramel, bourbon and dried fruit on the nose. This is a full-bodied, smooth stout with flavors of vanilla, oak and yet more bourbon. It’s the epitome of the imperial stout style—a beautifully crafted beer.

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout: Of the most widely known stouts in America, “KBS” is also one of the best, with a 100 BeerAdvocate.com score. This world-class imperial stout is brewed with a hint of coffee and vanilla, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year. KBS shines with bold flavors throughout—and the flavors ramp up a couple of notches as the beer warms. 

“You put the right beer in the right barrel, and you’re going to create some pretty interesting flavors,” says Founders brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki, according to the Founders website.

Firestone Walker Parabola: This barrel-aged beast also has a world-class 100 score from BeerAdvocate.com, and is also aged for a full year in bourbon barrels. With this 14 percent ABV Russian imperial stout, prepare for flavors of sweet, dark berries; oak-y cask vanilla; and malt complexity. The licorice and molasses notes help create a perfectly balanced and amazingly flavorful stout. This is a fantastic nightcap!

While we’re talking about stouts, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to mark your calendars for Nov. 2, when stout-lovers across the world will celebrate the delicious, dark beer on the Seventh Annual International Stout Day. Full disclosure: I created the day!

Here are a few of my favorite places to enjoy stouts, as well as a few of my favorite stouts to enjoy, in and around the Coachella Valley:

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. (30640 Gunther St., Thousand Palms) will be celebrating Stout Day with a newly released stout; the details will be announced soon.

La Quinta Brewing Co.’s Koffi Porter is a 6.3 percent ABV beer brewed with dark-roasted, chocolate and crystal malts. After fermentation, brewmasters add coffee beans from Rancho Mirage’s Koffi. This renowned beer has taken home the bronze in both the 2014 World Beer Championships and the 2016 Los Angeles International Beer Competition. It will be on tap at both locations (77917 Wildcat Drive, Palm Desert; and 78065 Main St., No.100, La Quinta) for Stout Day.

King Harbor Brewing Summer Stout: Redondo Beach’s King Harbor is known for its Swirly stout, and the brewery occasionally releases an imperial stout in the winter, but this year, Tom Dunbabin and his brewing team decided they wanted to develop a Summer Stout—with a chocolate and roasted-malt profile, a subtle refreshing character, a lower alcohol by volume and a clean finish. Expect to see this beer and other King Harbor brews around the Coachella Valley this fall and winter—and if you’re feeling like a road trip, King Harbor will be hosting a Stout Day event at the brewery on Nov. 2.

The Beer Hunter (78483 Highway 111, La Quinta) is not to be confused with the beer writer named Michael Jackson, who used the moniker The Beer Hunter, and was the best beer writer the world has known; he passed away in 2007. I am talking about the sports bar in La Quinta that is stepping up its game with new and bigger selections, as well as its own white-label beers that are brewed locally. Stop in on Nov. 2 to celebrate Stout Day!

Want to stay in to celebrate stouts? I have found the selections of craft beer at Total Wine and More, Whole Foods, Jensen’s Foods and Bristol Farms to all be fantastic. Pour your own stout flights, and have guests pick their favorites!

International Stout Day gives stouts their day in the spotlight, which they so rightly deserve. On Nov. 2, be sure to login and rate your stouts, and check in where you’re celebrating, on Untappd! Every year, the app offers up special badges for celebrating the holiday.

Enjoy!

Published in Beer

New: Chop House at Jackalope Ranch

I must confess: Before I walked into the new Chop House for a media preview dinner on Jan. 31, I thought the move by Lee Morcus and his Kaiser Restaurant Group to re-open the steakhouse inside of Jackalope Ranch was a gimmick.

I am a big fan of the Chop House. If memory serves, the first meal I ever ate in the Coachella Valley was at the old Palm Desert Chop House (which is now a Kaiser Grille), and I had many special meals at the downtown Palm Springs Chop House before it closed last year. I was sad to see the Chop House go, and I feared Morcus and co. were simply taking a room inside the sprawling, 660-seat Jackalope Ranch; calling it “Chop House”; throwing some old Chop House items on the menu; and calling it a day.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only did Morcus revamp and bring back the full Chop House menu; he completely renovated one of the spaces inside the Jackalope Ranch complex, and created a new, dedicated kitchen specifically for the Chop House. He’s treating the restaurants as separate entities: A special occasion here or there aside, diners can only get the Chop House menu in the Chop House area, and can only get the Jackalope Ranch menu in the other areas.

I liked what I saw and tasted. The ahi tuna tartare ($16) was amazingly fresh, and the heirloom tomato and buratta salad ($12) was excellent. Unfortunately, I had to leave early due to other commitments, so I didn’t get to sample any of the main courses, like the 36-ounce Tomahawk rib chop for two ($98, with two sides).

Morcus is clearly taking the new Chop House seriously. He spoke at great length about all of the work he and his team have put into the new space, and talked passionately about the quality of meat he serves—aged at least 28 days, and never pre-sliced.

He also hinted at future plans for the Jackalope Ranch complex: He mentioned the possibility of a separate microbrewery/restaurant concept taking over a third kitchen in the building, and noted that Indio could perhaps use a hotel on some of the adjacent vacant land.

The Chop House at Jackalope Ranch is located at 80400 Highway 111, in Indio. For more information, call 760-342-1999, or visit www.thejackaloperanch.com/chop-house.


In Brief

Do you have your tickets yet for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival? If not, now is the time: The foodie-dream weekend takes place Friday, March 24, through Sunday, March 26. Chefs’ demonstrations, wine dinners and other special events are on the schedule, along with the Grand Tasting main event. Grand Tasting tickets start at $100. Get them and more info at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com. … If you have not yet tried the new menu at the Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, do so. PR goddess Chris Martelo invited me to lunch there one recent weekday, and I was impressed by chef George Gonzalez’s food. The menu offers entrées from locales world-round, and my mouth now waters whenever I think of the fantastic gorgonzola, chicken and pear salad. Mere bar food, this ain’t. Visit palmspringsvillagepub.com for more info. … The downtown Palm Springs Pho Vu is no more. The restaurant, at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has changed ownership and is now called Fuzion Five Vietnamese and Lao Cuisine. We’ll share more details after we check the place out; in the meantime, visit www.facebook.com/fuzionfive. … Congratulations to La Quinta Brewing Co., which nabbed two medals in the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Ore.: a gold for the Heatwave Amber Ale, and a silver for the Tan Line Brown Ale. … Congratulations are also in order for two beloved local restaurants which are among Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2017: Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar came in at No. 78, while Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli is No. 5. Amazing! … Happy Sushi Ro Ba Ta, at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, has seen a change in focus in recent years—and now, it has a different name, too. Kaikou highlights ramen and poke in addition to sushi offerings; more info at www.facebook.com/KaikouRamenPokeSushi. ... Speaking of sushi: You can now get more of it in Desert Hot Springs, thanks to the debut of Best Sushi and Grill. It’s located at 13525 Palm Drive, No. 3. Visit www.bestsushigrill.com for a menu and more info. … At long last, the relocated Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club is open, at 69830 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. More info at bernies.club. … After closing rather suddenly back in September due to the death of the owner, Morongo Valley’s Willie Boys appears to be on the path toward reopening: The restaurant’s Facebook page says the restaurant is hiring for all positions. More info at www.facebook.com/willieboyssaloon.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Great beer and excellent music go hand in hand—so it’s no wonder that craft beer is becoming a bigger deal each year at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, aka Coachella.

Not only did the Craft Beer Barn delight beer fans for the third year in a row; this year’s festival included a smaller rare beer barn, craft beer cocktails and a cabin speakeasy by the Houston Brothers.

Also present were all three of Coachella Valley’s local breweries, including La Quinta Brewing Co.—just weeks before taking home a gold medal at one of the world’s biggest beer competitions. (More on that later.)

As I enjoyed the second weekend of the festival, seeing all of the great beer together with all of the renowned musicians got me thinking about pairings: Which brew goes best with which music?


Prince

Prince was at Coachella in spirit, after passing away on April 21, the day before the second weekend of the festival began. Coachella’s palm trees were awash with Prince’s trademark purple hue. Ice Cube even wore a purple bandana and purple sneakers in tribute.

Before LCD Soundsystem performed, the three massive main-stage screens played the entirety of Prince’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” recorded in 2008 on that very stage.

Prince’s music crossed genres; he was a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop. He went against the grain and refused to bow to big record labels during his nearly 40-year history of artistry.

Because Prince is such a legend, it’s virtually impossible to pair him with just one beer. However, the brewery that comes to mind is Stone Brewing. The 20-year-old San Diego brewery has gone against the grain since unleashing Arrogant Bastard Ale upon the world in November 1997.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Stone announced plans to become the first American craft brewer to own and operate a brewery in Europe. Much like Prince refused to bow down to big business, Stone’s founders just announced a project called True Craft—an effort to invest in craft breweries which are dedicated to remaining true to the definition of craft beer, as an “alternative to being bought or pushed out by Big Beer.”


LCD Soundsystem

The icons offered tribute to Prince by leading off their set with a joyous, funky version of “Controversy,” lifting both spirits and feet off the ground. The anti-cool—yet infinitely cool—electro-rock group also played “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Dance Yrself Clean,” creating a grin-inducing dance party. James Murphy’s Brooklyn demeanor, electro-rock dancing and serious singing all contributed to what was a triumphant return. Murphy proved his comedic talent as well when, over a simple drum beat, he cavalierly proclaimed that he was present at every key moment in underground music.

I found myself memorized and swaying aggressively when a young, dreadlocked hipster came up beside me. His eyes were wide, overwhelmed by the sensation of the beautiful music. “I didn’t know about these guys; they’re amazing!” he said.

I giggled. “Yes, yes they are.”

Pair with: The Bruery’s Confession. Not quite beer, not quite wine, this unique and effervescent wild ale is perfect for the wild and collaborative band. Confession is a sour blonde ale that is blended and fermented with juice pressed from Riesling grapes.

While LCD Soundsystem may be best known for the effect the band has on the dance floor, Confession is best known for the effect it has when flavors reveal themselves on the tongue.


Disclosure

This electronic music duo is definitely one of the cleanest stage acts you’ll see live. Disclosure wowed the crowd by welcoming AlunaGeorge singer Aluna Francis to the visually brilliant stage. “Moving Mountains” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn” brought awesome roars from the audience. Simply put, Disclosure was the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

Pair with: El Segundo Citra Pale Ake. Nearly every craft-beer-drinker I know loves this beer. With notes of guava, grapefruit peel, mango and peach, what’s not to love? It’s refreshing, bright and taste-bud-pleasing.


N.W.A.

The Coachella lineup simply listed Ice Cube. But after he asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” the surviving members of N.W.A. performed together for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Before Dre arrived—wearing all black with the Prince symbol on his shirt—Ice Cube had the N.W.A. vibes in full force with “Fuck tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton.” It was loud, aggressive and totally awesome.

Pair with: Three Weavers’ Hops Needs Friends. With a bold emphasis on hoppy bitterness, this IPA from the Inglewood brewery (not far from Compton) is loaded Idaho 7 and Azacca hops, giving it bursts of pineapple, orange and strawberry flavors—loads of “California Love.”


Guns N’ Roses

I would blast GnR in my Walkman in the mid ’90s as I got ready to swim the 100 freestyle at my high school’s swim meets. Therefore, I was beyond excited to see this large-than-life band.

Sure enough, many 35-to-55-year-olds rocked like it was 1987. Duff played his powerful licks from a white bass adorned with a purple decal featuring Prince’s symbol. He sang The Damned’s “New Rose”—which was extra-cool, since the psychedelic punk legends had just played before GnR.

But it was Slash’s astounding guitar solos and Axl’s wailing falsetto that really drew in the crowd. Despite Axl being confined to a throne due to a leg injury, the band members delivered a mind-blowing set—and, of course, Axl dedicated it to Prince.

Guns N’ Roses didn’t need a special guest, because the band made sure the night ended with a bang.

Pair with: Faction Brewing’s Something Different IPA. This IPA is hopped with Centennial, Citra and Experimental 07270 varieties. With aromas of pine resin and notes of grapefruit, spice and tropical fruit, this beer is highly rated. Another pairing option: Try pairing GnR with Modern Times Infinity Beach, a sour IPA with grapefruit zest coming in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume. This is a special-release beer that is kettle-soured with three lacto strains before fermentation with Modern Times’ Brett blend, resulting in loads of flavors and in-your-face, citrusy awesomeness.


La Quinta’s Big Medal

La Quinta Brewing brought the Sundaze Session IPA and Poolside Blonde to Coachella—but it was another beer that would earn the Palm Desert-based brewery one of the beer world’s highest honors a couple of weeks later.

On May 6, La Quinta won the gold medal in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer Category at the World Beer Cup for the Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter. It bested a whopping 66 entries to take top honors.

The brewery takes its popular coffee porter and ages it in bourbon barrels for approximately four months. The coffee used is from local icon Koffi, roasted in Rancho Mirage.

I chatted briefly with Skip Madsen, who is now the brewmaster at La Quinta Brewing. He lived in Seattle for more than 20 years and brewed at Pike Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewing, Big Time Brewing, American Brewing Company and his own company, Water Street Brewing.

Madsen started brewing in the desert in January. Since then, he’s introduced the new Even Par IPA, which comes in at 7.2 percent ABV—pun intended, as 72 marks even par at many golf courses. The beer is brewed with Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops.

“I like to do all kinds of styles, but I’m known as an IPA guy,” he said.

This marks Madsen’s third World Beer Cup medal—and La Quinta’s first.

Up next for La Quinta: Some new beers and possible bottling of the now-renowned Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter, likely around the holidays.

Published in Beer

The Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience is back on March 5 with an amazing lineup of bands, wine and brews.

Live music, craft beer from 48 breweries and amazing wine from 21 wineries will be enjoyed with the scenic Empire Polo Club as the backdrop.

Kevin Olsen runs Adam’s Bottle Boutique in Redondo Beach; he is the RWB beer curator.

“This year, we have a more unique selection of breweries,” he said. “Some are a little less mainstream, with some smaller breweries that are more artisanal and craft-driven. Last year, we definitely took a step in that direction.

“Belching Beaver came out this year, (as did) Strand Brewing; Ritual Brewing, which is a little closer, is an Inland Empire brewery.”

Here is more information some of the breweries that will be rockin’ this year’s Rhythm, Wine and Brews. Get more information at www.rwbexp.com.

10 Barrel Brewing: This is a favorite in Oregon and a multiple Great American Beer Festival medal winner. There are satellite brewpubs in Boise, Portland and Bend.

Anchor Brewing Company: This brewery is dripping with history: Anchor began during the California Gold Rush and was the first to produce steam beer—effervescent beer now labeled California common beer. Anchor is the only steam-brewing company still in operation.

Ace Cider: Did you know cider is fantastic to cook with? Use Ace cider in place of champagne to lighten up your dishes, and consider Ace Apple with your next pork dish!

Ballast Point: This San Diego brewery is a homebrewer’s fairytale come true. Founder Jack White opened Home Brew Mart in 1992, after wanting more quality and unique brewing ingredients for homebrewers to use. Ballast Point opened their “back room” brewery, behind the shop, in 1996. In November, the UCLA students turned brewery owners sold to Constellation Brands for $1 billion.

Sierra Nevada: Ken Grossman, the godfather of craft beers, opened a homebrew supply store in Chico in 1976. He purchased whole cone hops from Yakima hop brokers directly and began brewing his now infamous hop-forward beers. He launched Sierra Nevada Brewing three years later.

Green Flash Brewing: Green Flash opened Cellar 3 last year, a new tasting room and specialty brewing facility in Poway. The facility focuses on innovation through barrel-aging and wild yeast experimentation.  When not sipping something sour, try the Soul Style American IPA. Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops are layered, giving it tropical and sherbert flavors. It’s a perfect warm weather beer.

Breckenridge Brewery: Colorado’s third craft brewery began thanks to a ski-bum homebrewer in 1990. Today, Breckenridge’s beers can be found in 32 states. In true outdoorsy form, the brewery put nitro—nitrogen-carbonated beer—in cans late last year.

Three Weavers Brewing Company: The female-run brewery is Los Angeles’ second Kickstarter-funded brewery. Brewmaster Alexandra Nowell was the former lead brewer at Drakes and won two GABF bronze medals while brewmaster at Kinetic Brewing Company in Lancaster.

Coachella Valley Brewing Company: CVB, as we locals like to call it, answers the call for a bigger selection of sophisticated and modern beers here in the valley. Head brewmaster and part owner Chris Anderson is a graduate of the University of Alaska-Anchorage Culinary program. Anderson brews using local ingredients. CVB started a sour program in 2015, and the Profligate Society features sours like the cabernet-barrel-aged Epineux Poire prickly pear wild ale.

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse: The Rancho Mirage restaurant and brewhouse was founded by Marie Callender’s founder, Don Callender. Don had a passion for craft beer and opened two small breweries in 1998 and 1999. Babe’s later opened in April 2002. In 2014, the Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale took gold at the Great America Beer Festival.

La Quinta Brewing: One of the valley’s three local brewers opened its doors in the fall of 2013. And after much success and popularity, it recently opened a taproom in Old Town La Quinta.

Goose Island Brewing: Goose Island's brands are sold in 24 states and parts of Europe thanks to the Anheuser-Busch InBev deal in 2011. While craft-beer geeks across the country cried in their beers over the deal, their Bourbon County Stout has remained world class.

New Belgium Brewing: This is one of the coolest breweries on the planet. The New Belgium folks not only advocate for beer, they advocate for the planet. Tour de Fat is New Belgium’s traveling party regarding all things bicycle: In every Tour de Fat city, one awesome role model will step on stage to trade in his or her car keys and pledge to live car free for one year. Oh, and the brewery is now 100 percent employee owned.

Black Market Brewing: Black Market launched the craft movement in Temecula’s wine country. It recently brewed a Rum Matured Deception With Pineapple. The “normal” Deception is a coconut lime blonde ale. Black Market releases a new beer on Cask Night, every Monday.

Lost Coast: Lost Coast began in 1990, in a 100-year-old castle in Eureka, Calif. Barbara Groom, a pharmacist turned homebrewer, now owns the 43rd-largest craft brewery in the U.S. Have a friend who hasn’t turned to craft yet? Give them a pint of Great White.

Founders Brewery: If you haven’t fallen in love with Founders, you don’t have a heart. This brewery is ranked as one of the top breweries in the world by Ratebeer.com over the last five years. If you haven’t tried the Breakfast Stout, you haven’t lived.

Speakeasy Ales and Lager: Speakeasy hales from San Francisco. Last year, a new 60-barrel brewhouse was made with a malt handling system, fermenters, a centrifuge and a canning line were installed. Production capacity increased to 90,000 barrels per year.

Bootleggers Brewery: Orange County craft-beer darling Bootleggers was established in 2008 by husband and wife Aaron and Patricia Barkenhagen. They brew the popular Mint Chocolate Porter.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co.: I can’t say enough good things about Firestone—and neither could the Great American Beer Fest last year: Firestone took a silver for the Feral One in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category. The brewery also brought home two bronzes: for the Hammersmith IPA in the English-Style India Pale Ale category, and thr Sour Opal in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer categories. Then, Firestone was awarded golds for the Pivo in the German-Style Pilsener and the DBA in the Ordinary or Special Bitter categories. It only made sense that it was awarded the Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year awards.

Bell’s Brewery: Bell’s was founded by Larry Bell as a home-brewing supply shop in 1983. It ranked eighth in total volume among all domestic craft brewers in the U.S. in 2010.

Barley Forge Brewery: This was the OC Weekly Best Brewery in 2015. Barley Forge specializes in Belgian, West Coast and German-style beers.

Brew Rebellion: This brewery is true to its name: Brew Rebellion brews beer 30 to 50 gallons at a time. That means an awesome rotating tap list and more specialty beers.

Coedo Brewery: Japan’s Coedo names beers after five classic Japanese hues. Coedo honors traditions: The brewers allow the first sip of beer to fall to the ground from the tanks, as a tribute to the brewmasters who came before them.

Einstök Brewing: This brewer is located just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in the fishing port of Akureyri, Iceland. All Einstök beers are 100 percent vegan, with no GMOs.

Clown Shoes: Funny name, great beer. Check out American black ale dubbed “Lubrication.” The label features a robot at a gas station holding a pump handle in his groin vicinity. Fun tidbit: The artist is a woman.

Pizza Port Brewing: Pizza Port serves delicious craft beer in Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Clemente and Ocean Beach. Each of Pizza Port’s four San Diego County brewpubs won at least one GABF medal last year.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery: Located at the end of a dusty road, with the San Bernardino Mountains serving as a backdrop, Hangar 24 is named after the hangar where owner Ben Cook—a licensed pilot—and his friends would relax after a day of flying. Fun fact: Much of the equipment in Hangar 24’s main brew house came by way of Las Vegas’ Monte Carlo Casino.

Pizza Port Brewing: Pizza Port serves delicious craft beer in Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Clemente and Ocean Beach. Each of Pizza Port’s four San Diego County brewpubs won at least one GABF medal last year.

Mission Brewery: Mission Brewery was originally established in 1913; like most breweries of the time, it went out of business during the first year of Prohibition. The revived Mission Brewery is now in the East Village in downtown San Diego in the historic Wonder Bread Building.

King Harbor Brewing Company: This is first production brewery in Redondo Beach. Last June, it opened the Waterfront Tasting Room, joining Los Angeles craft-beer-bar icon Naja’s Place on the International Boardwalk.

Belching Beaver Brewing: This is a dog-friendly brewery in North Park, San Diego. The Beavers Milk, Milk Stout took a gold medal at the World Beer Championships in 2014 and 2015. Their Dammed! Double IPA also took a gold at the World Beer Championships in 2014.

Strand Brewing: Torrance’s first production brewery has grown so much since 2009 that it moved to Old Torrance last October. Strand Brewing, Monkish Brewing, The Dudes Brewing and Smog City Brewing are all within a short Uber ride from each other.

Deschutes Brewing: Deschutes is awesome—and it’s family owned and operated. The company even set up an employee stock ownership program in 2013 so employees can own a percentage. If you try anything from Deschutes, try The Abyss. It’s a world class, 12 percent alcohol by volume imperial stout.

Alpine Brewing: You may already know Green Flash and Alpine merged in 2014. Green Flash is about 20 times larger than Alpine. Alpine couldn’t previously meet the demand for its popular IPA. Now it can.

Angel City Brewing: Angel City has a special place in my heart: When I first started writing about beer in 2008, I met Michael Bowe, the founder of Angel City. He’s since sold it and is sailing around the world, but the brewery continues to thrive in downtown Los Angeles.

Ironfire Brewing Company: John Maino and Greg Webb met at Ballast Point in San Diego and decided to start their own brewery in Temecula—and Ironfire was born in 2012.

BarrelHouse Brewing Co.:BarrelHouse not only has fantastic beers (Sours!); it also offers beautiful views from the inviting Central Coast patio. The just-announced 2016 Curly Wolf is maple vanilla bourbon-barrel-aged Russian imperial stout.

Rock Brothers Brewing: Music and beer are this brewery’s mantra. Creating custom brews for bands is the focus: It made 311’s amber ale beer.

Elysian Brewing: Elysian was founded in Seattle in 1995. Try the Avatar Jasmine IP brewed with died jasmine flowers.

Golden Road Brewing: All of the beers are delivered in cans. Canned beers stay fresher longer without light oxidation, and they are better for the environment. Anheuser-Busch Inbev acquired Los Angeles’ largest craft brewer last September.

Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment: Acoustic started brewing in 2012, but the building that houses it has more than 100 years of American brewing history: The original facility housed Mission Brewery, which operated before Prohibition.

Karl Strauss Brewing Company: Strauss was former vice president of production and reached master brewer at Pabst Brewing Company. He, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner started the first-ever brew pub in San Diego in 1989.

Lagunitas Brewing Company: The brewery that brews in Northern California and Chicago sold a 50 percent stake to Heineken last September in an effort to expand the brand globally.

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider: The Rev. Nat West started making cider in his basement, and in the spirit of craft beer geeks, grew into to a business that now distributes in five states.

Ritual Brewing Company: This Redlands brewery was founded by Owen Williams and Steve Dunkerken. Williams is a former brewing operations director of BJ’s Brewhouse and teaches at California Polytechnic University. Dunkerken is a Redlands native and long time homebrewer.

Published in Beer

The first Coachella Valley Beer Week—which I helped create—recently wrapped up after 10 days of craft-beer events all over the valley. On Nov. 14, the Indio BBQ and Beer Competition took place, and on that same day, La Quinta Brewing celebrated its second anniversary.

Now that these excellent events are over, where in the Coachella Valley can you go to enjoy the ever-expanding craft-beer revolution?

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club keeps up with trends in music, art, food and drink, and the folks in charge have updated the Amigo Room to carry more craft beer again. You can enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space, or brighten up by the pool.

In the northernmost reaches of Palm Desert, you’ll find the beloved La Quinta Brewing Co. and its taproom. On any given evening, you may find a local band playing, or women enjoying Koffi Porter ice cream floats during Ladies Night. The Heat Wave Amber and Tan Line Brown Ale beers recently returned, and the Napoleon barrel-aged beer was released for the brewery’s second anniversary. The biggest news of all: La Quinta Brewing just opened a taproom in Old Town La Quinta!

In Rancho Mirage, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse has been serving up barbecue (just voted as the valley’s best by Independent readers) and craft beer since 2002. Try the award-winning Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale, brewed with raisins and whole Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. Babe’s also offers new, seasonal brews and a nice selection of other Southern California beers in the restaurant bar. Keep an eye out for the recently released DIPA, a hoppy pilsner, as well as an apricot tripel.

Babe’s neighbor at The River, the Yard House features 155 beers on tap. I’ve recently met knowledgeable bartenders there who will guide you in the right sudsy direction.

Schmidy’s Tavern is a favorite in Palm Desert among the younger crowd. Live music is a constant, and the pool tables are typically full. Enjoy beers on tap like Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and Ironfire Outcast Dead Barrel Aged Imperial Red Ale.

Up Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs is a restaurant offering a farm-to-concrete-table dining experience that’s industrial chic and progressive. While the menu at Workshop Kitchen + Bar is heavy with cocktails and duck fat, the spot also offers a nice selection of beer. With a 34-foot-long concrete communal table and lofty wood-trussed cathedral ceiling, you may feel as if you’re sharing beer steins in Bavaria.

A little closer to the heart of downtown Palm Springs is Bar. The street-art-friendly, chalet-inspired watering hole serves classic cocktails and a nice sampling of Southern California craft beers. Try the Picnic Eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—with the War Gin beer cocktail, with gin and lemon honey pale ale.

The spirit of Sinatra is alive at the Purple Room Restaurant and Stage—but unlike hangouts of the ’60s, this swanky supper club offers a great selection of craft beers. In bottles, you can enjoy San Diego beers like Ballast Point Longfin Lager and Stone Pale Ale. On tap, enjoy CVB’s Desert Swarm, Babe’s Blackfin Lager, La Quinta’s Poolside Blonde and many other brews

Fame Lounge is an upscale cigar, wine and microbrew lounge located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. At the bar, you’ll find a rotation of beers on tap. Recent finds: Stone Wootstout 2.0 and North Coast Indica IPA.

On Indian Canyon Drive, check out the progressive Vietnamese-American beer bar Rooster and the Pig. Try the banh mi burger with one of the California craft beers on draft. Chef/owner Tai Spendley also has a nice variety of Vietnamese beers in bottles.

What happens when you combine traditional Tokyo cuisine with American and Japanese craft beer? You get the upscale-casual Gyoro Gyoro, at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive. The spot offers a nice selection of craft beers from the states and Japan, along with a variety of fantastic sake.

Beloved farm-to-table brewery Coachella Valley Brewing Co. also celebrated its second anniversary recently. Sustainability, creativity and passion are key ingredients in these exceptional beers. Be sure to check out head brewer Chris Anderson’s sour program, as well as the brewery’s Profligate Society, which features rare beers. Palms to Pines, the ever-popular Triple IPA brewed with locally foraged spruce tips and coconut palm sugar, will be released around mid-December.

On Highway 111 in Indian Wells, you’ll find So Cal chain Eureka! Currently, Eureka! boasts 20 impressive taps ranging from Stone’s Barrel Aged Brown Ale with Balaton Sour Cherries to Mother Earth’s Imagination Land. Watch for great beer-pairing events.

The Stuft Pizza locations in Palm Desert and La Quinta have become hot spots for watching the game and sipping your favorite suds. The “not just pizza” joint in Palm Desert has 15 taps, two of which rotate with the latest craft seasonals. There’s a reason why pizza and beer are a match made in heaven: The acids and tannins in wine tend to amplify the acidity of tomato dishes.

Wherever you go … take time to savor your beer and enjoy the craft-beer revolution! 

Published in Beer

Townie Bagels Bakery Cafe Opens On Sunny Dunes

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, things in the Sunny Dunes area of Palm Springs got a whole lot tastier. That’s when Townie Bagels Bakery Café opened its doors at 650 E. Sunny Dunes Road, in the space Tlaquepaque used to call home.

Owners Andy Wysocki and Bill Sanderson had been selling bagels for quite some time at the Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market before moving into the Sunny Dunes space, where they serve breakfast, lunch and coffee from Joshua Tree Coffee Company, in addition to their tasty bagels.

One of the things I like the most about Townie is the space: The café has a definite neighborhood coffee-shop vibe, with comfy seating, a welcoming atmosphere and all sorts of friendly faces from the surrounding area(s). It’s exactly the thing this part of Palm Springs needed. I’m a Palm Springs resident, and every time I’ve gone to Townie since it opened, I’ve run into at least one person I know.

Congrats, Andy and Bill. You’re really created something great.

Townie Bagels is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., every day but Tuesday. Visit www.facebook.com/towniebagels for more information.


Robbie Knievel to Make a Sunset Jump at Spa Resort Casino’s Brews and Bbq

A really interesting event is coming to downtown’s Spa Resort Casino on Saturday, Oct. 24—and a good cause will be all the better for it.

As one would expect from the name, Brews and BBQ will feature beer from great Southern California breweries, as well as food on sale from local restaurants. It’s a family-friendly event, with a play zone for kids; adults will be able to check out motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles courtesy of Palm Springs Motorsports.

But the highlight of the event, at least as far as I am concerned: Daredevil Robbie Knievel will make a motorcycle jump at 5 p.m.

Festivities start at 1 p.m. Admission is $15 (including a souvenir tasting glass); designated drivers and kids age 4-20 get in for $10. Kids younger than 4 are admitted for free. Beer-tasting tickets are a buck each, with the proceeds going to the Rotary Club of Palm Springs.

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


In Brief

Looking for a spiritual chat over coffee? Then check out the “Coffee House Rabbi” chats featuring Rabbi Sally Olins, happening at 10 a.m. the first and third Sunday of each month upstairs at Lulu California Bistro, 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Olins retired from Palm Springs’ Temple Isaiah recently. More info at rabbisally.com. … Applause, please, for the folks at Wally’s Desert Turtle, at 71775 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. As the high-class restaurant heads into its 38th season (!), president and owner Michael Botello recently announced a “complete conversion” of the landscape at Wally’s, including new signs—and native, drought-tolerant xeriscaping taking the place of water-guzzling grass. The restaurant will be reopening after its summer slumber on Friday, Oct. 9. More info at www.wallysdesertturtle.com. … It has always seemed somewhat oxymoronic that the excellent La Quinta Brewing Co. was located in the northern outreaches of Palm Desert rather than, well, La Quinta. However, this “wrong” is being righted: La Quinta Brewing will soon be opening a taproom on Main Street in Old Town La Quinta. According to the Old Town La Quinta folks, the new taproom will feature indoor seating as well as a patio. Watch LaQuintaBrewing.com for more information. … The second annual Taste of East Valley will take place from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the Shields Date Garden, 80255 Highway 111 in Indio. Your $20 will get you tastes from some of the eastern Coachella Valley’s top joints. The event will kick off East Valley Restaurant Week, which runs through Nov. 1; get tickets and details at www.cvdining.com. … Congrats to Zin American Bistro, located at 198 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, for its newly bestowed Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. It joined Spencer’s Restaurant in Palm Springs and Cuistot in Palm Desert as Coachella Valley restaurants that have earned the honor, for an impressive wine list. Less than 1,100 restaurants have earned the honor or better. … Postmates.com has come to the Coachella Valley. It’s a delivery service that includes a bunch of restaurants, both chains and local—but be prepared for the delivery-service fees. Check it out at, obviously, Postmates.com. … Renowned El Paseo Drive breakfast-and-lunch joint Wilma and Frieda’s Café will start offering dinners on Oct. 15. Watch www.facebook.com/wilmafriedascafe for details.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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

La Quinta Brewing Co. has been busy making beer for Coachella Valley locals and visitors since late 2013. Last year, the brewery delivered 1,000 barrels from its Wildcat Drive location in Palm Desert. This year, the brewery is on pace to brew 2,000 barrels.

Owner Scott Stokes said La Quinta may be expanding even more in the near future.

“We’re gonna have to get a couple more fermenters, probably a couple of 60 barrel-fermenters. These are 30s,” he said, pointing to brewery’s fermenters.

However, it looks mighty crowded at the brewery’s current location.

“Well, we would have to modify some of the ceiling, and (the new fermenters) would be taller. There are a couple places. Some people say there’s no room, but I say there is,” he said, smiling.

The quality of the beers at La Quinta—one of the valley’s three microbreweries—has been verified by several awards. Brewmaster Ryan Pearson and the La Quinta team won a bronze medal for the Indian Canyon IPA at the 2014 San Diego International Beer Festival—and they just took home silver for the Tan Line Brown Ale at this year’s festival. The brown ale also brought home a gold medal in this year’s World Beer Championships.

Pearson and his crew recently canned more than 100 cases of their popular Indian Canyon IPA, and 200 cases of the Poolside Blonde. The brewery will be releasing more Windy Point Wheat in June—a great warm-weather brew, coming in at 4.9 percent alcohol by volume.

Also coming in July is one of my favorites, the Sand Storm Double IPA, in 22-ounce bottles. Until then, enjoy it at the taproom on draft.

Session IPAs are all the rage. In fact, the name of this IPA subcategory offers some history: World War I workers in England were allotted two drinking periods (or “sessions”) of four hours each workday. This practice, of course, called for a lower-alcohol beer. Some define the style as meaning that no beer is higher than 3 or 4 percent alcohol, but most in the States categorize any IPA with 5 percent ABV or less as a “session.”

La Quinta’s Sundaze Session IPA is brewed with Citra, Cascade, Ahtanum and Chinook hops and comes in at 4.6 percent alcohol. Expect awesome citrus (grapefruit) and floral aromas—perfect for summer. It’s been such a popular brew among locals and tourists that La Quinta is canning it mid-June for availability at the end of the month.

La Quinta is also releasing a second batch of the barrel-aged Koffi Porter any time now. Also, keep a look out around November for an Imperial Stout aged in barrels, for the brewery’s second anniversary ale.

As for events: On Friday, May 29, play some holes with the brewery at the “9 and Stein,” La Quinta’s golf outing at Desert Falls Country Club.

“Every month, we have our Desert Cancer Foundation fundraiser,” Stokes explained. “…We are talking about having another golf tournament in early-to-mid June. It will be an 18-hole golf tournament … and we’ll probably bring our beer truck.”

Wednesday, June 10, is Ladies’ night, featuring Koffi Porter ice cream floats. Saturday, June 20 is the brewery’s popular “Acoustic Night” with local music and barbecue. On Wednesday, June 24, help the community with a canned food drive. Keep a look out at www.facebook.com/LaQuintaBrewingCo for more upcoming events.

Want to keep up to date on everything that’s happening with La Quinta Brewing, for less? The brewery’s “Inner Circle” will be opening back up on Sept. 1. Members receive a 20-ounce personalized mug, stored at the brewery. Members also can purchase gallon growlers for the same price as a half-gallon growler, and are first to receive specialty growler fills. Every draft beer members purchase in the brewery is 50 percent off, while cans, bottles and kegs are 25 percent off. The annual fee will be $165.

It’s exciting to see La Quinta and our valley’s other breweries thrive! Visit www.laquintabrewing.com for more information.

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

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