BEER IN THE COACHELLA VALLEY

For July 4th, my fiancé and I drove out to the Palm Springs for a weekend away. Somehow, she was convinced to drive me around to a couple breweries on my list to scout out…

La Quinta Brewing Company

Opened in November 2013, La Quinta Brewing Company sits in an unassuming business park in Palm Desert. They have 5 core beers: Poolside Blonde (available in cans), Heatwave Red Ale, One Eleven Pale Ale, Indian Canyon IPA (also available in cans) and Sand Storm Double IPA. Recently, they discontinued their American wheat, Windy Point Wheat. I was told that it couldn’t compete against the Blue Moons and Shock Tops that dominate that segment of their market.

If there’s one standout character from all their beers, it’s the use of hops. Their brewmaster is the former assistant brewmaster at Green Flash in San Diego. That should pretty much explain their philosophy to those who are familiar with Green Flash: West Coast to the bitter end.

Hardware-wise, they’ve got a fifteen bbl brewhouse with enough capacity for five thousand barrels per year. From what the bartender was saying, they’re a good percentage over that thus far. To help, they’ve just ordered two new 30 barrel fermenters and one 15 barrel fermenter. By year’s end, they hope to be canning all of their core beers and to have gotten their barrel-aging program underway. All of this to address one of their biggest issues: the relationship with their distributor, Heimark. Heimark, being the main distributor of AB in the valley, has a substantial network but their size dictates a certain amount of difficulty in dealing with the little guys. They keep asking for more but LQBC just can’t deliver, at the moment. Seeing as they have only one brewer with no assistants, the growth that is planned (and needs to happen) sounds like a tall order. But, we’ll hope for the best.

Not being much of a serious hops enthusiast, their Heatwave Red Ale, Indian Canyon and Sand Storm Double IPA were not my cup of tea, though I did appreciate their resolute point of view. Rather, Poolside Blonde and One Eleven Pale Ale were more in my wheelhouse. Balanced, crisp and refreshing – well-suited for the desert sun.

Coachella Valley Brewing Company

Despite a grand opening on August 30, 2013, only 3 months before La Quinta,Coachella Valley Brewing Company, located in another unassuming business park in Thousand Palms, gives off a much more established feeling. This isn’t to say that La Quinta is amateur, it’s clear though, that they are the scrappier of the two. Perhaps, CVB had a bigger bank roll when they started.

Unfortunately, the tap room staff weren’t as willing (or able) to discuss the details of the brewery. Suffice it to say, they have have a 40 bbl brewhouse. The annual capacity was unknown. CVB bottles several of their beers and I was unsure of what their core was, nor their flagship. I sampled: Big Cat Brew (a saison brewed with spices grown at one of the local zoos), Dubbel Date, Desert Swarm (honey double wit), Momentous IPA, Kölschella, Oasis Apple Ale (a blend), Luke Rye Walker (Belgian Rye IPA), and Black & White IPA (another blend). My chosen few were Kölschella, Luke Rye and Black & White. Also bottled but not available on draft are a barrel-aged Quad and a barrel-aged Milk Chocolate Stout.

Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse

Our day was too short to visit Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse but the following day, I did get the chance to grab a pint of their American schwarzbier, Blackfin Lager, for brunch. Looking at the listings on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. But I also believe BeerAdvocate and RateBeer to be full of crap, sometimes. Like in this case. To my taste buds, it was the preferred beer of all that I tasted over the weekend. This brisk lager sported some rich (but not too rich) caramel and roasty accents with just enough hop character to keep it all in check. If it’s any consolation, this beer has several medals to its name. So…to hell with internet ratings.

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