April 11, 2014 marked the first day that craft beer was offered at the innovative, critically acclaimed, six times selected by Pollstar as the “Festival of the Year”, known none other than the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. America’s largest music festival is defined by its diversity and jaw-dropping lineup of musical genres.
Nic Adler of L.A. Vegan Beer Fest and The Roxy, was recruited to develop a tantalizing, foodie paradise within the festival foregrounds. Adler enlisted friend and craft beer advocate, Tony Yanow, (of Golden Road and Tony’s Darts Away) to help assemble the festival’s craft beer list. With approximately 130 beers on tap, many hailing from the Golden State, it proved brews and tunes make perfect music together.
Heineken is still the top sponsor and rocked the festival in the Heineken House, with awesome surprise artists and mash ups. This year, the whimsical and world famous festival has opted for even more. On the 15th year, the groundbreaking, genre bending festival joined the craft beer revolution by serving a savory selection of craft brews in – what’s come to be known as – the craft beer barn. I first gazed upon the barn across the cloudy lawn, at the Empire Polo Field at the Rhythm, Wine & Brews Experience on March 1st. I couldn’t keep my eyes of it.
Located in the marketplace area, the barn supplied music lovers with some of the biggest names in craft beer. And like some of the sizzling superstars, the craft beer barn showcased some surprising cameos.
Beer has always been the drink of the masses. And when Coachelli-ans need reprieve from the dusty crowds, there’s nothing more refreshing that a flavorful craft beer, in the shade.
Okay, here it is: The first Coachella music and craft beer pairings.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – rooted in gritty rock and roll, they draw influences from punk, psychedelic blues garage rock, rockabilly, soul and rhythm and blues. Having started in 1991, long before some of the bands and DJs that performed at Coachella came to be, Spencer has helped lead American roots music. They continue to emphasize creative expression with grizzly, blues-bending riffs, raw mashups and an unapologetic attitude. With a palm tree backdrop, there were no laser light shows. But their cover of Beastie Boys single “She’s On It” was fantastically down and dirty-and a little greasy too.
Pair with: Stone/Kyle Hollingsworth/ Keri Kelli Collective Distortion IPA: Stone Brewing has made its name with bold, aggressively hoppy and – you guessed it – arrogant beers, since 1996. Stone was one of the major forces in craft innovation and hardcore, flavorful beer. Thundering in around 9.2% ABV, this hop face-punch is backed by Nugget, Comet and Calypso hops and then dry hopped with Vic’s Secret, a new Australian hop, cranking the citrus notes with wild abandon. Stone traced the roots of brewing to the days when Old World herbs were used to spice beers, adding coriander and elderberries. The lightly roasted golden oats balances the spicy citrus notes in a visceral, cranked out IPA. Next time you’re looking for a strong and aggressive beer, just asked yourself, “Do you wanna get heavy?”
Aloe Blacc killed it in the Mojave tent. With his crisp white shirt, sharp grey vest and fedora, the Orange County native and USC graduate exuded positivity and rays of California sunshine. Having been compared to John Coltrane, the horn players danced in unison to ‘Soldier in the city’. The beats lifted our spirits to new levels, while the lyrics revealed social awareness. For Blacc, “it ain’t that hard when you got soul.”
Pair with The Bruery, Loakal Red: This American red ale has a ton of soul. It’s oak aged with citrus and floral notes. A tribute to the growing Orange County beer scene, a portion of the older batch left to mature in new American oak barrels was then blended with the fresh dry-hopped batch. There’s a sugary sweetness and funky, vibrant notes. Tastes of grapefruit, caramel, orange zest, toffee and light pine reveal a full body and solid balance. Similar to Blacc’s voice, the texture is silky and downright delightful.
Fishbone: The legendary good-time ska, reggae, punk, metal, funk and soul fusion L.A. band didn’t disappoint fans with their indefinable energy and talent. The second weekend, the band rocked the main stage with the most earnest fierceness I’ve seen in years. Angelo bounced around on stage, bringing us back to the days of raucous shows in the early 90s, pumping up early afternoon Coachella-goers for another amazing day in the desert sun. The band wowed with complex arrangements featuring instruments including the theremin, saxophone, trumpet and keyboard, inspiring uncontrollable and joyous head banging.
Pair with: Drake’s Denogginizer – DIPA 9.75% ABV. Like Fishbone performing live, Denogginizer is packed with flavor and has also been known to blow a few minds. The hoppy, in-your-face Double Imperial Pale Ale features a crazy amount of pungent American hops. This somewhat experimental, high alcohol brew can’t be contained and will leave you wanting more. Awards: Silver 2009 Great American Beer Festival.
Or pair with Golden Road Brewing 329 Lager: Like Fishbone, Golden Road is quintessentially Los Angeles. And it’s low enough in alcohol that you can drink it all day. Trombone member, Flyin Jay, expressed that many of his favorite beers are lighter in flavor. A couple of his personal favorites are Hoegarden and Leffe. When asked the same question to Moore, the non-filtered, ultimate ‘Fishbone Solder’, quickly snipped, “I like Guinness because it’s dark, it’s heavy and it’s in your face.”
Beck is simply one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. Before playing a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies),” Beck told a story about how he waited in a rainy line for 45 minutes to see them perform at a bar-the same bar where he’d seen The Black Keys a year earlier. “You know, that little bar down the street sometimes has the best music. Don’t forget about that little bar.” After “Devil’s Haircut” and “Loser,” the band rearranged “Think I’m in Love.” The crowd erupted in dance with his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He even joined Arcade Fire onstage to cover Prince’s “Controversy.”
Pair with: Faction Brewing, 2 Hop Collab (Nelson/Galaxy): Faction is a brewery out of Alameda that likes to do things a little differently. This is a special beer brewed as part of the experimental and educational “2 Hop Collaboration Project.” Various California breweries have participated, including Alpine, Ballast Point, Beachwood, Berryessa, Drake’s, Faction, Kern, Moylan’s, Stone and Triple Rock. Each participating brewery used the same pilsner malt backbone and then added two hops of their choosing. The Nelson Sauvin hop is named after the sauvignon blanc grape and is grown in New Zealand. Considered by some as “extreme,” it’s one of the world’s most unique and delicious hops. It leans toward tropical notes such as passion fruit, mango and tangerine. Similarly tropical, Galaxy has rapidly become the most internationally recognized Australian hop. Thanks to notes of passion fruit and citrus and a high alpha acid level, this versatile hop is great as a late addition in the brewing process. Beck is no stranger to experimental projects, like the “Song Reader” project, so this cornucopia of awesomeness is a Beck-appropriate craft-beer project.
Arcade Fire: Win Butler started the set by introducing two special guests in disheveled robot masks, as a slightly inferior version of “Get Lucky” began to play. But, Butler assuredly didn’t need the fake Daft Punk cameo, becauArcadeFirese their set was one of the most passionate and searing in Coachella history. Butler talked about gay human rights and belted out introspection, urging people to get behind a cause. The multi-instrumentalist band played Reflektor, showing off the romantic deep grooves and grandiose rhythms.
Pair with Blazing World, Modern Times: The relatively new San Diego brewery is making waves with their complex, flavorful, hybrid styles. They were named one of the “Top 10 New Breweries” in the world by RateBeer. Blazing World has a ton of hop character and makes a presence with bursts of pine, citrus and grapefruit flavors. This effervescent brew has a fantastic complexity, but still remains well-balanced with the malt backbone. This could be confused for an IPA, but has definite amber characteristics. The use of Nelson, Simcoe and Mosaic hops play together beautifully. As with Arcade Fire, there’s something for everyone with this beer.
The DoLaB’s 2014 Coachella stage line up for their 10 year Coachellaversary was stunningly energetic. The Los Angeles based company specializes in interactive eveDoLaB2nt productions, sustainable art installations and limitless self-expression. Nicknamed “The Heart of Coachella”, the Do LaB stage has been a crowd favorite for the last decade. With their giant water guns and cozy shade structures, it was an amazing place to cool off. The avant-garde vaudeville troupe, Lucent Dossier Experience, headlined the amazing lineup of visceral, electronic acts.
I spoke with Dream Rockwell, the cofounder of The DoLaB and the director of Lucent Dossier Experience and Russell Ward,
Both expressed their excitement that Coachella has continued to “push back the fence,” in regards to giving them more room to play and express themselves.
Rockwell said, “The crowd is younger, different and there’s more art every year.
Pair with Clown Shoes, Chocolate Sombrero:
Clown Shoes prides themselves on silliness and self-expression, not just on their labels, but in the beer. The multi-limbed, clown shoes wearing Mexican wrestler on the label is just a taste of what you’re in for in this Mexican-style chocolate stout. Coming in at 9% ABV, the imperial stout is brewed with an intimate combination of roasted dark malts, ancho chile, cinnamon and organic vanilla extract. A sharp sweetness arrives with an interesting variety of aromas, all working quite well together. This sucker hits on all levels with nice texture, good flavor and balance.
Just some of the other featured craft beers:
Avery Brewing Company, The Reverend
AleSmith Brewing, Lil Devil
Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse, 29 Palms Pale Ale
Ballast Point Brewing, Sculpin IPA
Bear Republic Brewing, Racer 5 IPA
The Bruery, Saison De Lente (2014)
The Bruery, Oude Tart (w/ Cherries)
Coachella Valley Brewing, Kolschella
Coachella Valley Volstead IPL
Eagle Rock, ERBS IPA
Faction Brewing, Pale Ale
Faction Brewing, Winter IPA
Gigantic Brewing, Bang On!
Golden Road Brewing, Point The Way IPA
Green Flash Brewing, West Coast IPA
Great Divide Brewing, Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
Hangar 24, Orange Wheat
La Quinta Brewing, Windy Point Wheat
The Lost Abbey, Judgment Day
Magnolia Pub and Brewery, Prescription Pale Ale
Noble Ale Works, Simcoe Showers
Noble Ale Works, Rosalita
Brouwerij Mort Subite, Kriek
Pizza Port, Ponto Session IPA
Port Brewing Company, Dawn Patrol Dark
Port Brewing, Mongo Double IPA
Wiens Brewing, Type 3 IPA
Stone Brewing Co, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA
Smog City Brewing, Hoptonic IPA
Smog City, Groundwork Coffee Porter
Wiens Brewing, Millennium Falconers
Zipline Brewing, Oak Aged India Red Ale
Just as Beck was reminiscing about the humble beginnings of Coachella, saying, “this Coachella seemed like a good idea”, the addition of craft beers has proved to be a tasty success.