by Rick Riozza
YOU can be forgiven a bit of indecision when ordering suds at LQ Wine and Craft Beer Shop, 46520 Washington, La Quinta Ca. 760.771.8466. The cooler glistens with bottles of the world’s choicest beers, and the place offers an exhaustive selection of bottled craft brews that patrons can sample in-house or take away. “There’s a huge movement brewing — every month there’s a new small craft brewery opening,” said Jimmy Absmeier, a co-owner of the shop. “There’s literally a beer revolution going on,” says Jimmy. He then fakes a serious grin, “Beer has become the new wine!”
We both break out laughing because not only have we been enjoying a few brews but we also know there is plenty of room out there to enjoy both beer and wine. There’s no separate club of beverages. Indeed! We beer & wine people heartily welcome the “spirits” crowd with their morning Bloody Marys, afternoon Margaritas, five o’clock Martinis, and mashes of different Scotch & whiskey drinks (neat or like a Manhattan) that mellow us into the moonlight.
But right now in the midday sun, we’re playing in the suds! On last week’s article, I cleared off the wine bar and threw a beer party—it’s still going on! I touched upon the light beers and lagers we like to drink. Now it’s time to dive into this “craft beer revolution”.
There’s some crazy-fun phenomenon going on in the midst of our down economy: craft beer and craft beer establishments are booming! Call it a revolution or an “explosion”, but it’s so interesting to see the beer crew put up 5 to 25 dollars for a bottle of their most cherished brew. And one has to admit the flavor profiles are across the board! (Yeah—we wine bibbers get it—think what we’ve paid for a bottle of wine.)
Last time I checked, there were over 1800 craft breweries in the U.S. The national Brewery Association defines a craft brewery as one that is small, independent, and traditional. The “flagship” craft brewery for the association is Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams Lagers & Ales). Of course I remember the Anchor Brewing Co. (Anchor Steam Lagers & Ales) and Sierra Nevada Brewery from the old days who continue to put out some great tasting beers.
The brewing story among the purists is that when the Samuel Adams production went beyond the “small” limitation of over 2 million gallons per year, they re-vamped that number to 6 million gallons, so to keep Boston Beer in their association!
And what do you do with Blue Moon Ale? The “independent” qualification means no mega-brewery can substantially be involved; but Molson-Coors is the major producer. The same thing goes for Michelob with their Stone Mill Organic Pale Ale.
Fortunately, these aren’t our problems to resolve—we just want to have fun at the beer tasting! LQ’s weekly craft beer tastings take place Saturdays from 2-4 pm. It’s $10 for 5 tastings but if you purchase 3 bottles you’ll receive $5 off your next tasting.
For last week’s tasting, my son, Paolo, joined me. He’s a beer hound and still has Arrogant Bastard Ale decals on his SUV. He’s a good kid with a great wine cellar which he lets me “play” in. Right off the bat, we knew LQ was a reputable craft beer shop, as we met Brett Newton, VP of the Coachella Valley Homebrewers Assoc., who was casually tasting a few beers.
Brett’s really impressed with LQ’s selection of bottles. Immediately he finds and pulls out some of his favorites: Samaels from Avery Brewing is an oak-aged English-style strong ale that is light on the hop flavor but is bitter sweet with vanilla and caramel notes, and, Galaxy White IPA from Anchorage Brewing in Alaska. We’ve had this before and it’s an outstanding beer and an adventurous brew with its use of fresh kumquats, Indian coriander, and black peppercorns. “Horse blanket funky, wonderfully hoppy, tart and sour from lemon citrus and a smidgen of sweet from pineapple.”, are just some of the comments of this tasty India Pale Ale.
In the midst of some great tasting ales, Co-owner Greg Hansen was also pouring wine for a wine tasting going on that afternoon as well. He decided to “cross” party lines and opened a bottle of Tangerine Ale from Lost Coast Brewery for everyone to try. Brewed with a combination of wheat, malt and tangerine juice, it received mixed reviews. It had a pretty good aroma of tangerine sweet tarts—maybe some mango and lemon as well, but fell flat with a flavor of weak orange soda, although, it was a favorite for the women in both beer and wine groups. Lost Coast does a great job however with their Downtown Brown Ale.
When you’re looking to get away from the heat, there are some great craft beer destinations close by. I recommend stopping over at the Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido Ca. right off U.S.Hwy 15, 760.479.4999. Tour the brewery and enjoy a nice beer tasting or pair your meals with their array of beers in their beautiful indoor/outdoor paramount ceiling restaurant.
And when in San Diego, you’ll definitely want to stop over at Hamilton’s Tavern where they’ve got 27 craft beers on tap, good beer grub and one of the best rock and blues jukebox in town. 1520 3oth Street in Historic South Park, 619.238.5460.
Have fun in the Suds! Cheers!
Rick continues to host corporate & private wine tastings and events. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
by Rick Riozza