It was a beautiful fall desert day in Palm Springs as locals and tourists alike came to the Palm Springs Air Museum on Saturday for a taste of some California craft beer.
This year brought on some improvements and changes, like a brand new website, Facebook page and yes, a rare beer tasting, in flight!
When I asked the people who were lucky enough to be on the rare DC-3 vintage aircraft, what made them buy their ticket, the overwhelming response was, “it’s just cool!”
But I’ll get to that in a minute…
On the ground, in the hangar, over 20 brewers poured to over 1,500 craft beer drinkers.
Ryan Brooks from Coronado Brewing brought their Orange Avenue Wit, a California Wit and their Mermaid’s Red, their American Amber Ale.
Tom Dunbabin from King Harbor Brewing was pouring their Post Season, a fresh hop imperial IPA and their Abel Brown, a coffee brown ale.
Lagunitas was pouring some lower alcohol beers. Their Fusion 21, a 4.8% ABV session red ale and their Fusion 24 Couch Trippin’ were a hit. Fusion 24 is a red ale that was brewed especially for their promotional music & beer trip to New Orleans. This rockin’ brew was dry hopped with equinox and mosaic hops.
La Quinta brought their Poolside Blonde, One Eleven Pale Ale, Indian Canyon IPA, Tan Line Brown Ale, Koffi Porter, Barrel Aged Koffi Porter and two growlers of their Smoked Napoleon Stout.
Coachella Valley Brewing had their Desert Swarm, Saison L’Automne, Wet Hopped IPA and Condition Black on tap. The Harvester, Monument on Fire and Mayahuel were their special bottle releases.
Babe’s Brewhouse brought their silver GABF winner (Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale), their 2014 Winterfest Ale, Honey Blonde Ale, Blackfin Lager, Das Schwien DunkelWeizen and their Indian Summer Rye IPA.
Meanwhile, Long Duk Dong rocked it with awesome 80s cover tunes.
Three Weavers from Inglewood was in the house with their Deep Roots ESB and Expatriate IPA. This newer brewery first impressed me with their Expatriate at the Great American Beer Festival. It’s a solid West Coast-style IPA that showcases tropical fruit flavors that are clean and refreshing.
Coachella Valley Homebrew Club continued the Props and Hops Homebrew Competition with 75 entries in 21 categories.
Stand outs in the competition were Erik Debellis for the “Best of Mixed” in the Wheat & Rye category, Ketchen Smith for the “Best of Ales” in the American Pale Ale category, Josh Kunkle for the “Best of Lagers” in the CAP category, Bob Givens for the “Best of Ciders” in the cider category and Chris Anderson for the “Best of Meads” in the traditional mead category.
First place winners in each category were as follows:
- Jim Cook: Specialty
- Bob Givens: Spice/Herb/Vegetable
- Josh Hoines: Belgian & French
- Michael Samu: Christmas/Winter
- Nancy Roland: Light Hybrid
- Ed Weber: Belgian Strong Ale
- Stuart Hall: Fruit
- Stuart Hall: ESB
- Devon Sanchez: American Brown Ale
- Brett Newton: Wood Aged
- Taylor York: Irish Red
- Kirk Roland: American IPA
- Brad Berger: Stout
- Robert Hewitt: Porter
- Robert Hewitt: Brown Ale
- Chris Anderson: Other Fruit Melomel
Outside the hangar, the vintage DC-3 got ready for takeoff, while eager beer drinkers gazed on.
I overheard, “Wait, they’re taking people up there? With different beer? How do we sign up?”
As we entered the plane, I suddenly felt like I was transported back to the 60’s. While we were about to take flight from the quintessential Southern California retro city, there were no Pan Am style stewardesses or martinis. Instead, “Cicerone Justin” - as we affectionately call him - started preparing the craft beer pours.
I sat down in the first available bench seat, behind the pilots. Yep, there was a bench seat. And I don’t know much about planes, but the cock pit looked positively…manual. As we waited for the engine to warm up, I glanced up to the neon “Fasten Seatbelts” sign and giggled with excitement.
We were the first 11 people to take flight in this gorgeous plane to taste rare beers, from a craft beer festival, ever. Yeah, it was cool.
The beers? Justin served The Commons Brewery, Biere Royale, a sour ale with black currants, Hose, a dry-hopped Gose, aged in oake barrels, Cigar City Good Gourd, an imperial pumpkin ale, and Three Floyds Dark Lord.
I sipped on a healthy serving of the Hose while we soared stunningly close to the mountains. And damn it was good.
Kelly Grotsky and I pointed out the windmills and noticed just how many hundreds of pools are in this valley. We laughed. And we continued to drink some amazing and rare beers.
Now, I can only imagine what the pilots were saying before we came aboard.
“Hey Chuck, (Chuck just sounds like a pilot’s name, doesn’t it?) wanna’ have some fun and scare some of the folks coming on the plane? Let’s haven ‘em think we’re landing a do a low pass instead!”
I doubt whatever it is they did is called a “low pass”, but I’m no plane goddess. As the plane started it’s decent, still giddy and grateful, we prepared ourselves for landing…which in this case meant nothing, except quaffing the rest of our beer.
We got lower and lower and my right eyebrow got higher.
“Kelly, uh, is this normal? The right wing is higher than, wait, we’re not over the runway anymore….wo, holy shit!”
So, once I realized the pilots were having fun and the guys in the bench seat across from me were laughing hysterically (likely at my expletives), we realized just how cool this really was.
Great beers. Great music. Great venue.