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

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