agua caliente casino rancho mirage

Something Creative is Brewing

Local craft beers go down smoothly at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage and Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs.

Lizbeth Scordo Current Digital, Restaurants

agua caliente casino rancho mirage

If you’ve spent even a short time in the Coachella Valley, you’re already familiar with our most notable homegrown specialty: the almighty date. (We are, after all, responsible for nearly all of the nation’s date production and, of course, for inventing the delectable date shake.) But there’s another locally produced product that’s been gaining traction here in recent years: craft beer.

The valley is now home to several independently owned breweries that churn out signature and seasonal brews, with many utilizing area ingredients — from honey to coffee — to make one-of-a-kind offerings that reflect the region. And there couldn’t be a better time to be brewing. The craft beer biz is on the upswing with craft brewers now making up nearly a quarter of the U.S. beer market, according to trade group Brewers Association. But even non-aficionados are starting to take notice.

“People are becoming more curious about going beyond the regular Coors Light, Bud Light, and Budweiser,” says Kalena Harris, food & beverage operations manager for Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. “We do get a nice amount of people asking, ‘What else do you carry?’ Especially this younger generation. They want to be in the craft beer movement. They want to learn more about it.”

At Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage’s newest addition, the sleek and sophisticated Pivat Cigar Lounge, the beer menu includes four different beers from two local breweries, La Quinta Brewing Co. and Babe’s Brewery. The latter was launched as a microbrewery in 2002 within Rancho Mirage’s Babe’s BBQ restaurant by the late Don Callender, founder of the Marie Callender chain. In 2018, Callender’s son Lucky, an avid homebrewer, took over operations, working with the venue’s longtime brewmaster to come up with new offerings and continuing to create Babe’s flagship beers based on his dad’s original recipes. Two of its most popular are the Blackfin Lager, a lightly hopped dark beer, and Honey Blonde Ale, infused with local orange-blossom honey, both of which are offered at Pivat in bottles that tout eye-catching labels featuring original retro pin-up-girl-themed art.

“The Blackfin Lager is really popular and it’s doing really well and we want to grow into getting a couple more options from them,” according to Harris.

One of its local offerings on draft is the Koffi Porter from La Quinta Brewing Co., a brewery opened by homebrewer and desert native Scott Stokes in 2013. The label now produces 5,000 barrels annually from its Palm Desert brewery, where it also has an onsite taproom, along with taprooms in Palm Springs and its namesake, Old Town La Quinta. The porter is brewed with dark roasted chocolate and crystal malts before coffee beans from the Rancho Mirage-based roastery of local coffee shop chain Koffi are added after fermentation.

While many Pivat patrons may not have tasted java-infused suds before, Harris says it’s an interesting option for the many guests who are up for something different. “With Pivat being one of the newer venues that we have, people walk in and it gives you that feeling of wanting to go out of your comfort zone a little. So, guests will say, ‘Let me try this rather than what I would usually get.’ It’s the same with cigars or craft cocktails.”

"When someone comes in and is looking for something different or asks what’s good, we’ll tell them what’s local."
— Silviano Medina
Food & Beverage Manager, Indian Canyons Golf Resort

The restaurants and bars at the North and South Course at Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs also boast beers from the same local brewers, offerings that the resort’s food & beverage manager Silviano Medina tries to showcase. “We have nine taps, six behind the bar and a three-tap at the bar, so we try to keep the local, craft offerings there up front,” he says. “When someone comes in and is looking for something different or asks what’s good, we’ll tell them what’s local.”

That includes La Quinta Brewing Co.’s Even Par IPA, a beer the maker has jokingly dubbed “aiming fluid,” and one that, not surprisingly, is popular with the courses’ clientele. “That sells really well out on the course. It’s in this bright yellow 16-ounce can and lots of the golfers go for it. It’s become popular.”

Not sure what you want? Both Silviano and Harris recommend asking the expert — otherwise known as your bartender — who can help you figure out a new brew to roll the dice on in addition to which style might pair best with everything from a certain cigar to a big burger. Says Harris: “The bartenders are really good at making guests feel comfortable and are knowledgeable in what goes with what.”

Tips for 
Being at Your 
Beer-Drinking Best
Take it from the Tap

Beer on draft has plenty of advantages: It usually stays at a consistently controlled temperature and is shielded from light, unlike bottles. And since kegs are replaced frequently, the beer is often fresher than what comes in a can or bottle. “It gives you that perfect crisp beer,” says Harris of the turbo tap system Agua Caliente offers at its multiple bars and restaurants. “And then you’ll get that foam at the top of the rim of the glass. It’s just perfect.”

Chill Out

Pouring a cold beer into a warm glass kind of defeats the purpose. Instead, make sure you’re drinking your brew from a cold, frosty vessel. To DIY one at home, wet a pint glass or beer stein and then lie it flat on a shelf in your freezer for a few hours or until you’re ready to pour.

Sip and See

Many venues will let you try before you buy if you’re interested in something they’ve got on draft. After you ask the barkeep for a few recs, see about getting a small sample of the stout or sip of that sour from a shot glass to make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy.

Find Your Flavor

Brewmasters are more creative than ever and now is the time to try suds infused with unique ingredients. Redlands-based Hangar 24 Orange Wheat is made with local oranges while Coachella Valley Brewing Co.’s offerings include a Medjool date-infused Belgian ale dubbed Dubbel Date along with the Desert Swarm, a honey double wit brewed with local kumquats. Both breweries are in the rotation at Indian Canyons Golf Resort and Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage’s 360 Sports bar and restaurant.

This story originally appeared in MeYah Whae, The Magazine of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Spring/Summer 2020. To read the current digital edition, click HERE.