Bogey went to Casablanca for the waters and was famously reminded by Claude Rains that they were in a desert. These days, those in the know head to Palm Springs, California, another desert oasis, for the craft beer, the locally distilled gin, and the indigenous whiskey. That’s right - this desert resort town is brewing up a proper beverage revolution, even including a rethink of the most popular drink of the day, around these parts: the first cocktail of the evening. Next time you’re in town and the heat is on, escape indoors for a sip.
Beerwise, things started off a good awhile ago with Babe’s, a brewpub known for its barbecue as much as for its beers, which now take home their share of awards - start with their Blackfin Lager, a crisp, dark, German-style lager that cuts right through that famous Palm Springs afternoon heat. (Don’t leave, however, with at least a sampling of their Belgian-style blonde ale, a refreshing treat spiked with Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.)
It’s way up across the freeway, but serious beer lovers should definitely slot in time at the more recently arrived Coachella Valley Brewing Company. Known for their experimental, free-spirited approach - if a witbier with locally grown kumquats and killer bee honey sounds like your speed, book it to their welcoming tap room for a taste or four. They also offer free tours on weekends. Serious hopheads shouldn’t miss out on a chance to sample La Quinta Brewing’s lineup, available in their Palm Desert and Old Town La Quinta taprooms, seven days a week. Known best for crowd-pleasers (and award-winners) such as their Heatwave Amber Ale, not to mention the location-appropriate, eminently quaffable Poolside Blonde, it’s worth a stop to sample their more unusual, tap room-only brews, which can disappear as quickly as they’re made available.
Not crazy about beer? No problem - the brothers behind Desert Distilling, the first such operation in the valley, have been perfecting their clear spirits (vodka, gin and white rum) since opening for tastings in 2013. Now they have whiskey in their sights. Due to state law, spirits can’t flow quite so freely as beer, but scheduled tours (with samples, naturally) are offered Fridays and Saturdays, with appointments available on Sunday. Not that you need to clear your schedule to get a taste - you’ll find Desert’s product on the bar at spots such as Dish Creative, a popular restaurant in Palm Springs’ design-crazy Uptown district.
If, of course, like many visitors to the desert, you’re not looking to chase down your own drinks and prefer to just stick with whatever’s on offer at the nearest pool bar, you’re in luck - around town, there’s been a distinct uptick in the sophistication of the beverage programs. At the new and fashionable ARRIVE Palm Springs, for example, local beers can now be found on tap (or by the bottle) fairly consistently, complimented by more good stuff from other regional breweries. (San Diego, after all, is just a short drive away.) Not that it’s just the hotels getting in on the game, far from it - serious drinkers would do well to include Palm Springs’ diminutive, design-focused Dead or Alive bar on their evening schedule. No cocktails here, just a heavily curated list of beers and wines, one that will make lovers of either well pleased, mixing up local brews and unusual California wines with the best of what’s on offer from around the world. If you want a martini, you’ll just have to go to Melvyn’s. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
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