Friday, February 23, 2018

Beer Adventure #0218 - Palm Desert

February took us to Palm Desert, primarily to visit family but also, as always, to seek out local beer. We stayed at Marriott's Palm Desert Springs Villas II right next to their recreation facility, called The Shade. That's my recommendation if you have kids. There's so much to do there, they'll never be bored (and neither will you).

It's also smack dab in the middle between La Quinta Brewing Company and Babe's Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse, each less than five miles away in opposite directions. Curiously, we didn't go to either one on this trip. We did make the trip to La Quinta's Old Town Taproom, a favorite stop whenever we're in the area. Located in Old Town La Quinta, with its shops and restaurants, it's always worth the visit and was less than 10 miles away.

Just inside the taproom are banners for their award winning beers of which there is a plethora. Rest assured, nearly everything on tap has won a medal sometime, somewhere. On our last visit, I had the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Koffi Porter, gold-medal winner of the World Beer Cup (2016, 2017) and the 2017 US Open Beer Championship (held in Oxford, OH, btw). Aged in bourbon barrels for 9 months, it was a super smooth sipper at 8% ABV.

There are very few breweries in the Palm Desert area (three, plus La Quinta's Old Town Taproom). After that, the closest brewery is a good hour away. (For those of us who live within minutes of a brewery, this is an eternity.)

On the recommendation of the La Quinta beer tender, we we set our sights on Claremont Craft Ales the next day (in Claremont, CA). The taproom was open and inviting in a a small business park with ample parking. There was no food but plenty of seating inside and out. With comfy chairs in one area, it's a mostly industrial setting. Corn hole was available in the patio area.

We had a sampling of six which, of 24 offered, is hardly a worthy sampling. (Meaning, we will have to go back.) Our favorite was the Jacaranda Rye IPA which turns out to be their flagship beer, another award-winner. A slight sweetness floated above the rye spiciness to make it enticing  and entirely drinkable. Our second favorite was the Buddy Black IPA which was bold yet smooth. (I have to say, I do like the rye.)

Next, we decided to stop at Wicks Brewing Co (Riverside, CA) and I'm glad we did. As it happened, on this Sunday afternoon, Zach Thomas was playing. What fun! It was a perfect combination of beer, music, atmosphere, and food. 

Wicks is located in an industrial park, as are so many breweries, but the inside belies its exterior presence - marble countertops, spacious, and plenty of seating with table service for beer and food. We sampled the Riverside Pils, Paladin Hoppy Pale Ale, Best Coast IPA and Midnight Rye Black IPA and had very hard time picking a favorite. Paladin Hoppy Pal Ale is their 2016 World Cup bronze medal winner. While we favored their Riverside Pils for it's easy drinkability, I would be very happy to take home any one of the ones we tried. 

Wicks has a full food menu to go along with their beer. We enjoyed the pulled pork quesadilla which was delicious. A great stop.

From there, we needed to make our way back to Palm Desert but had a few minutes to spare before meeting others for dinner so we made a quick visit to Coachella Valley Brewing Co in Thousand Palms, CA. The mistake was that we didn't plan to spend more time there. We sampled the Kölschhella and the Chocolate Mountains American-style Porter. The Kölschhella had just enough hops to stave off the sweetness of the malts to make this beer highly drinkable and refreshing. The Porter was slightly sweet (think milk chocolate versus dark). While I prefer a roastiness to sweetness, I wish I'd had time for more than one. The Monumentous IPA is the flagship award-winning beer to try here. Plus there are some very impressive vintage, cellerable beers available by the bottle. Next time, we'll set aside more time for this Palm Desert brewery. 

A few days later, we ventured back to Redlands, CA, stopping at Brewcaipa, (Yucaipa, CA) along the way. However, this faithful beer traveler failed to check the brewery's website and arrived on a day it was closed. Alas, we had a nice lunch of tamales up the street from the brewery and pressed on.

Hangar 24, in Redlands, CA, seemed to be a natural stop because A) it's across the street from a municipal airport (it's a family thing), and B) is for beer. Hangar 24 is in an open air warehouse space (with plenty of heaters, which we needed on this day). There is good outdoor space directly across from the airport hangars with small planes parked here and there. On this Tuesday afternoon, it populated by local regulars which is the best kind of recommendation. 

We tried the Orange Wheat (brewed with locally grown oranges), 24 Blonde Ale, Alt-Bier, Hoppy Pilsner, and Amarillo Pale. My favorite was the Alt-Bier: toffee aroma with burnt sugar/caramel flavors. After that, it was hard to decide. The Blonde was easy to drink (must come back on a warmer day). The Orange Wheat was creamy with a juicy, but not overwhelming, orange flavor. The Pilsner was well balanced with an intriguing malt character, and the Amarillo Pale begged us for another try. These beers were in want of warmer weather than we had on hand to showcase their lighter side.

Our last stop on this adventure was Escape Craft Brewery, also in Redlands. In yet another industrial park, Escape is in a warehouse decorated with a travel theme: suitcases, trunks, airline seats, and reclaimed doors make up the decor. It's a large space with more opening up soon featuring indoor bocci and event space. It's kid and dog friendly with a small outdoor patio, and games. (No food.)

We tried six beers here: Irish Crossfit Red Ale on Nitro, Civil Disturbance IPA, Czech Out My Pils, All The Magic NE IPA, Who Dat Chickory Coffee Golden Ale, and Carry On Berliner Sour. While Irish Crossfit is their award winner, we focused on Who Dat, a coffee pale ale. It's a chicory coffee golden ale, if you missed it the first time. It tasted of hazelnut with hints of dried fruit. Our favorite? We were undecided. I like my coffee unflavored (as well as my potato chips, btw - a purist, I am) so it was not my favorite golden coffee ale while Hubby favored the slightly sweet hazelnut compliment. In any case, we need to come back, kick back, and enjoy another one to settle the score.

Bottom line: Palm Desert has some great beer and you don't have to go far to get it if you're staying there. (There's no place like home....) But if you're looking to sample more, and there's a lot to discover, stay closer to the well. 

~your faithful beer traveler

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What goes down waaaay over there.

If you happen to be in South Korea, these are the beers to know.

Just as AB InBev and MillerCoors dominate the U.S market with light lager beer so is South Korea dominated by Hite-Jinro, Oriental Brewery (owned bye AB InBev), and Cass (which was acquired by Jinro-Coors before being purchased by OB). Similarly, or perhaps more so, South Korea was known as the "land of the bland."

Due to the cost of malt, Korean brewers use adjuncts, mainly rice. Out of Korea's mass-produced beers, only Max (brewed by Hite) and OB Golden Lager are brewed from 100% barley malt.

Any of this sounding familiar?

As in the United States, although much more recently, craft beer is finding it's place due to the vacuum created by the dominance of "big beer" and relaxed regulations. South Korea has less than 50 craft breweries but is about 1/100th the size of the United States where we have over 5,000.

Right now, nine of the the top ten South Korean beers on are crafted by The Booth Brewing (who has also has a presence in Eureka, CA), Magpie Brewing, and Wild Wave Brewing and the styles range from Pale to Stout to Saison. Others to look for include Craftworks Taphouse and Brewery, The Hand and Malt Brewing Company, and Galmegi Brewing Company.

Take a look at some of these websites, and South Korean breweries look a good deal like the breweries right here. On the one hand, one doesn't really have to go far to get a good beer. On the other, if you're already there or have plans to go, there's something comforting in knowing you can find something that looks familiar in an unfamiliar place.

Wherever you are, raise your glass to the Olympic athletes and enjoy the games. Just be sure you're drinking a really great brew.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What goes down round here. Or there.

According to the The Most Popular Beers by State Slideshow from The Daily Meal, the favorite beer in Washington (behind Bud Light) is Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable: Coffee and Cinnamon. (I believe they mean Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Ale with Coffee and Cinnamon from Fremont Brewing.) The United States of Beer: The Best Brew From Each of the 50 States put out by First We Feast focuses on craft beer. The list, compiled by people in the beer in the industry - local experts, writers, and seasoned drinkers - puts Fremont's Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star: Coffee Edition at the top of their list. The consensus is Fremont Brewing and boozy, bourbon barreled beer. At 13% and 14%, respectively, these beers give you a reason to look forward to winter!

In Oregon, the favorite (again, behind Bud Light) is The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery. This beer is aged 50 percent in bourbon, Oregon oak, and pinot noir barrels for 12 months. At 11.4% ABV, this is another cellerable beer and makes for a good winter warmer. The Broken Truck, an American Wild Ale, from de Garde Brewing is the top craft beer.

I'm currently in California where beer drinkers prefer Blue Moon and Stella Artois. First We Feast picks Supplication, another barrel aged beer, by Russian River Brewery as the top craft beer. Supplication is a sour brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries and fermented with 100% brettanomyces. Blonde in color and 6.75% ABV, this is a refreshing beer.

May will bring me to Arizona where, again, Bud Light is the favorite beer. Other favorites are Tower Station IPA (by Mother Road Brewing in Flagstaff) or Dragoon (by the Eponymous Brewing) according to The Daily Meal. I found an Eponymous Brewing that is due to open soon in South Dakota so perhaps they meant Dragoon IPA, a highly popular beer made by Dragon Brewing in Tucson. The top craft beer is American Presidential Stout by Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert. A Russian Imperial Stout at 11.4% ABV, it tastes of coffee and chocolate with a slight spiciness from peppers and cacao nibs. It seems that Arizonians have good taste in beer and like to keep it local!

June will take me to Illinois. There, Coors and Guinness are the top choices - opposites, it seems. Bourbon County Brand Stout by Goose Island makes the top of the list for craft beer even though it’s owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. (A good beer is still a good beer.) Another barrel aged beer (bourbon), this 14.1% ABV Imperial Stout is available annually by limited release. It's worth getting your hands on a few. Drink one now but put the rest of this award-winning beer in your cellar for a few years.

Finally, we plan to take a trip to Denmark in August. There, the beer market is dominated by Carlsberg ("Probably The Best Beer In The World") and Tuborg while the most influential craft brewer is Mikkeller who plans to open a location at the Copenhagen Airport. I'm sure I'll be able to get their beers elsewhere but finding good, craft brew at an airport makes a long trip more enjoyable.

It seems I will be busy this year! Where will you go and what will you be drinking?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

What cha drinkin?

...was the question posed by Kimberly @ABVGirl on Twitter on Super Bowl Sunday. I was too embarrassed to Tweet back, “Um, Coors Light.” I typed it out, then deleted it. Re-typed it with emojis to express my embarrassment or, dare I say it, shame but I didn't send it. I tried to make some sort of joke but failed there as well. I went back to watching the game and thanked my hosts for the refreshments offered.

The funny thing about beer is it’s a much more vast subject than whatever's in the pint before me. The more I learn about craft beer, the more I necessarily learn about big beer because big beer is part of craft beer’s history and vise versa. Budweiser wasn’t the first light lager but it was the first American-style lager that was successfully mass produced and distributed. And, it's won awards as has Miller, Pabst, and Coors.

Nearly 100 years after Budweiser paved the way for American-style lager, Coors helped the USDA develop the first new hop cultivar released by the USDA hop research program since the end of ProhibitionCascade, as it came to be known, has remained the number one most utilized hop variety in craft brewing since 2007. As for awards, Coors has many including Gold in 2012 and 2014 for Coors Light at the Wold Beer Cup for American-Style Lager or Light Lager.

Given a choice, I would have had something else on Super Bowl Sunday. (An offering from Final Draft Taphouse, perhaps?) As it was, I didn't have a choice but I ended up with an award-winning beer nonetheless. And you know what? It wasn't bad.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hop Saturation?

New report says demand for hops in U.S. has peaked | The Columbian

" Production of hops has grown dramatically in the United States since 2012, and no more acreage is needed to meet the demand for the plant that flavors beer. That’s according to a new report from the Yakima-based trade group Hop Growers of America. Most of the nation’s hops are grown in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. The report says the U.S. has hit a saturation point with production of 104 million pounds last year. The report says that’s a 77 percent increase from 2012. The report also found that Idaho has surpassed Oregon to become the second-highest hop producing state at 13 percent of the crop. Washington grows 75 percent and Oregon 11 percent. "

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Super Bowl L2*

There's still time to get to your local brewery to get cans, bottles, crowlers, or a growler of your favorite beer before kickoff. In case you're not near one, or are undecided, here are some ideas:

2017 Washington Beer Awards

2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards

Many of these may be at your local grocery store or Total Wine. Even convenience stores offer a diverse selection of beer (and sometimes growler fills). The point is, you still have time to go out and get some good beer.

Enjoy the game! Enjoy your beer!

* My sister-in-law and I have the same name. Sometimes I'm referred to as L1 and she's referred to as L2. As a nod to her, Super Bowl LII shall be henceforth be known as Super Bowl L2. Cheers, Sister!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Award Wining Beer, Right Here.

We have a lot of award winning beer, right here, in Vancouver WA - almost too many to list. Curiously, Sip Northwest did not include any Vancouver (or North Bank) breweries in their 2017 Best of Beer list. This seems like a gross oversight. Vancouver and North Bank beers have won awards at the Best of Craft Beer Awards, Washington Beer Awards, and the World Beer Cup.

This is by no means an exhaustive list - I'm exhausted just putting it together - but these award-winning beers are on tap right now, right here:


Fortside Brewing Company has their 2018 Best of Craft Beer award winner Orange Whip on tap. Last weekend they took home Silver for this beer in the Northeast-Style Pale Ale category. Get your hands on some of this!

Phantom Rojo is on tap at Ghost Runners Brewery. This beer took Gold in the Imperial or Double Red Ales category in the 2017 Washington Beer Awards as well as a Silver in 2016. I have a bottle of this in my wine fridge that's calling to me right now.

Loowit Brewing Company is pouring Two-Sixteen Red Ale. This beer took Gold in the Irish Red Ale category at the 2014 Washington Beer Awards and Silver in the 2016 Best of Craft Beer Awards. Also on tap is Grimlock Rye Porter, one of my favorites. This award winner took Silver in the 2016 World Beer Cup, Gold in the 2016 Washington Beer Awards, and Silver in 2017. At 5% ABV, you can have more than one!

North Bank:

On tap at 54°40' Brewing Company is their Kascadia Kölsch-Style Ale, Hubby's favorite. This ale took Gold at the 2017 Washington Beer Awards. Also pouring is Half Cocked IPA which took Silver in the Best of Craft Beer Awards.

Barrel Mountain Brewery has Metalhead Red IPA and Luv Ya Lager, both medalists in 2107 at the Washington Beer Awards. Luv Ya Lager also took a medal in the 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards along with their Ash Cloud Amber and Starway Stout, also on tap. You can't go wrong with Barrel Mountain!

For an award winner in the American-Style IPA category, try The Cryo-Chronic Cryo-Hop IPA from Everybody's Brewery. At 6.9% ABV and 80 IBU, it's all-American! Get some food while you're there. Their food menu is very good.


Ben's Bottle Shop
Wookus Black Ale, Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Silver, 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards

Final Draft Taphouse
Breakside Pilsner - Gold, 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards
Half Cocked IPA, 54°40' Brewing Company - Silver, 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards
Wookus Black Ale, Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Silver, 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards
Gluten-Free Grapefruit IPA, Ghostfish Brewing Company - Bronze, Washington Beer Awards

Grapes 'n Growlers (192nd Ave.)
Love Ya Lager, Barrel Mountain - Gold, 2017 Washington Beer Awards; Gold 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards
Johnny Utah, Georgetown - 2017 Washington Beer Awards

Grapes 'n Growlers (Lakeshore Ave.)
Ash Cloud Amber, Barrel Mountain - Gold, 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards
Johnny Utah, Georgetown - 2017 Washington Beer Awards

Happy Friday! Now, go out and get yourself an award-winning beer!