By Marissa Willman
Dozens of craft beer, wine and food vendors will descend upon The Living Desert on Saturday to help raise funds for the desert wildlife and nature preserve.
Craft brewers such as Hanagr 24, Big Sky and Coronado will bring a variety of ales, lagers and other brews to the zoo. Wines and non-alcoholic beverages will also be served at the 21-and-over fundraiser.
“It’s a really fun event that has a unique spirit to it,” said Franchesca Forrer, events manager at The Living Desert.
With general admission ($40 for members, $55 for non-members), guests receive ten drink vouchers to sample beers and wines—non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary. An admission ticket also includes eight food vouchers that are good for fare provided by vendors such as Jensen’s Finest Foods, Lavender Bistro, Buffalo Wild Wings and Tommy Bahama’s.
“If you’re looking for an exquisite dinner, it’s covered,” Forrer said, adding that in years past, many guests have found themselves unable to use all of their food tickets due to generous serving sizes.
A VIP admission ($175) grants guests access to the VIP lounge, where La Quinta Resort and Spa will recreate its three restaurants, Adobe Grill, Ernie’s Bar and Grill and 26, on-site. The VIP lounge will also feature animal encounters with two zoo newcomers: Mr. Prickles, an African crested porcupine, and a New Guinea singing dog.
Animal encounters will be held throughout the event with creatures such as baby armadillos, hedgehogs and birds of prey.
Forrer said the zoo considered a host of fundraising options before deciding on a craft beer festival in 2010.
“There are people looking for all different things to do. We wanted to find something that wasn’t too expensive but still so much fun,” Forrer said.
Though initially the zoo was unsure of how well the event would do, Brew at the Zoo sold out in its first year. It attracted more than 1,000 guests in 2011 and Forrer expects a turnout of about 1,500 guests this Saturday.
Along with craft beers, Brew at the Zoo also brings live jazz performances to the zoo.
“We love blues music,” Forrer said. “Our animals love it too.”
Several stages will feature distinct blues and jazz subgenres, such as blues rock, classic blues, Hawaiian funk blues and classic jazz.
A Sustainability and Leadership Award will be given to one of the green brewers by Hot Purple Energy, a local solar energy company that has been carefully screening brewers for their eco-conscious practices over the past few weeks. With the announcement of the winner, a $2,500 gift will donated to The Living Desert at the event.
Event-goers will have a chance to take home big prizes, too, as prizes ranging from free dinners to hotel stays will be raffled off Saturday night. The grand prize is a 7-day stay at a lakefront cottage in North Shore, Lake Tahoe.
“It’s right on the lake,” Forrer said. “I grew up in Tahoe so I know where this is and it’s right where you’d want to be.”
Raffle tickets and t-shirts will be sold at the event in an effort to raise funds that allow the zoo to continue to operate.
“This is the everyday money that goes to things like maintenance and medical care,” Forrer said. “These are everyday needs for our zoo and that’s what Brew at the Zoo pays for.”
If you go:
The Living Desert
47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert
6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.