By Brett Newton
One of my favorite things about the craft-beer world is that you can walk into the most unassuming taproom — and find your world transformed by the quality of the beer.
I’ll never forget my first experience at Alpine Beer Company, outside of San Diego. I couldn’t believe that the beer in my glass was that good after seeing the original taproom. Beer bars can be similar; take O’Brien’s Pub in San Diego. It’s just a bar in a strip mall … with an incredible tap and bottle selection.
There is now a little bit of that magic right at our front door, thanks to Las Palmas Brewing.
The first thing that jumped out at me when I first visited two years ago—in the Before Times—was the styles on offer: There were two saisons on tap at the time. When I recently visited in the name of research (science is quite the taskmaster), I found a Belgian-style table beer and a saison—in a craft-beer market that seemingly has stopped giving a shit about Belgian styles. Well, I give a shit. What’s more, the beers were both delicious.
Meanwhile, I still have to explain to too many people that Las Palmas Brewing exists. Something needs to be done about this.
Sam Gill and Rey Romero are the owners of Las Palmas. I mostly spoke with Gill, who is also the brewer. Gill is originally from Southern California, and the first beers that he took notice of were those like Tecate and Pacifico—and then an occasional Sierra Nevada crept in and planted a seed.
Later, he moved to Eugene, Ore., and found his way into the open garage door of a small place called Ninkasi Brewing Company (which, by the way, is a bit bigger now). The atmosphere there was welcoming; he was told to grab a glass and “fill your boots” at the kegerator in the corner. He was allowed to explore the brewhouse and chatted with the brewers, which, he says, made it seem like there was “a bit of mysterious magic going on.” After moving to the San Francisco area, he got a job pouring beer, and then learned how to make beer, at Black Sand Brewery under Cole Emde.
Gill fell in love with Palm Springs. Perplexed by the relative lack of breweries here, he and Romero eventually decided to take the plunge. They wanted to make a nice place that was a great bar first, then a brewery. This vision includes a carefully curated selection of natural wines by Romero, a relaxed atmosphere, and a small brewhouse which provides, as Gill says, “a ton of freedom to brew what we want virtually all the time.”
This was evidenced by the grisette I found on tap recently. The grisette style originated as the preferred light farmhouse ale of French miners. It was all but dead outside of a small region of France until a few craft-brewing “archeologists” took a crack at it. Las Palmas’ version is a lovely, modern take, with a nice, fruity yeast aroma and flavor, and some tropical and white wine notes from the inclusion of Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc hops, respectively.
If you are one of those people who simply can’t not have an IPA (and if so, good for you for finding what you love and riding it into the sunset!), Las Palmas had an unfiltered IPA on tap for your drinking pleasure.
Yeah, yeah, but have you tried Moonlight? No, my LSD didn’t just kick in; I’m referring to Las Palmas’ 4.9% alcohol-by-volume beer that’s a roasty, rich, dark ale with cacao nibs and coffee beans; it drinks like a full-bodied stout with twice its strength. My only complaint is that I can’t take any home with me. If you want to try it, you likely will have to be at the taproom, and be lucky enough to get some before the keg kicks.
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This brings me to another reason I love this place: that very old-school idea of needing to be there to fully experience something. As much as I wish I could regularly pop in at the breweries and pubs that I love, it’s just not possible. This means I often miss out on special, one-off releases, unless a more-intrepid friend can get there and bring some back. At Las Palmas, you have to have been there and tried the beer—and that’s unlikely to ever change.
“We don’t really have any expansion plans. It is a huge challenge to keep our six taps full of house beer,” Sam Gill told me. At most, the “expansion” plans involve adding a lagering tank so that they can regularly have a lager on tap to enjoy at the end of a shift.
Perhaps the most intriguing and promising thing about Las Palmas is that it opened in 2019, and according to Gill, “The pandemic is all we really know as a brewery.” Locals have rallied and kept this place alive, and I urge you to join in that effort. Go and enjoy this gem of a place.
With that, I will step aside and let Mr. Gill express his gratitude to the community: “Our regulars and locals here in the valley really carried us through the pandemic, and we are so thankful. I would cautiously say we are thriving at this point. We never stopped brewing throughout, and the best part now is that our Las Palmas family has grown into an amazing team. In the depths of the pandemic, it was just Rey and me brewing and doing our best to survive, so it’s really satisfying to now be surrounded by an incredible group of creative and inspiring people.”
Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He can be reached at [email protected]