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Catching up with Washington brewing legend Skip Madsen

Where in the world is Skip?

Washington beer fans, and especially those who love hoppy beers, are familiar with the name Skip Madsen. Over the years, whether it was Water Street Brewing’s Queen Nina IPA, Boundary Bay Brewery’s Imperial IPA, American Brewing’s Breakaway IPA, or one of Skip’s many other award-winning creations, you’ve probably tasted his beer and said, “Damn, that’s good.” His beers have won more medals than I can remember.

But where is Skip these days? Since leaving American Brewing Company last year, he’s been curiously absent from the local brewing scene for the first time in decades. Skip’s brewing career brought him to Seattle back in the 1990s and around here he is best known for his work at Pike Brewing, Big Time Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewery, Water Street Brewing, and American Brewing.

Last year Skip moved on to New Mexico, where he went to work for a brewery in planning, but that brewery was coming together too slowly and still hasn’t opened, so Skip decided to take advantage of another opportunity and headed to La Quinta Brewing Company in Palm Desert, California, where he started brewing in January.

The obligatory "brewhouse" shot at La Quinta Brewing.
The obligatory “brewhouse” shot at La Quinta Brewing.

That’s where I found Skip earlier this week, now brewing in a sub-region of Southern California desperately in need of his services.

For unfortunate and unexpected reasons, La Quinta Brewing has gone through a couple of brewers since it opened in the fall of 2013. The beers were great right from the start, but the personnel changes caused the beer to suffer. Now, with Skip at the helm, that’s changing and he’s already introduced a couple of new beers and is reformulating some others.

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The other day, while visiting the warmer environs of the Coachella Valley, I tasted Skip’s first creations at La Quinta Brewing, a new IPA (Even Par IPA) and a new Double IPA (Sandstorm Double IPA). Also, his re-formulated version of their Indian Canyon IPA. They are all excellent, as you might expect. FYI, the Even Par IPA clocks in at 7.2 percent ABV. For those of you familiar with the game of golf, that makes sense—72 marks an even par golf score.

Plenty of palm trees and sunshine, but not nearly enough craft beer

Imagine a city the size of Seattle (in population) being served by just two breweries and one brewpub. Unfathomable.

The Coachella Valley stretches from Palm Springs in the north to Indio in the south, two cities that act as bookends for other communities like Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Cathedral City. It is a region oddly devoid of craft beer. In fact, the Coachella Valley has over a half-million permanent residents, plus over 100,000 seasonal residents (snowbirds), but only three breweries, one of which is basically an onsite-only brewpub that only recently began distributing and packaging beer.

The two main breweries around the Coachella Valley are La Quinta Brewing Company and Coachella Valley Brewing Company. Both opened just over two years ago in 2013 and hit the ground running, coming out of the gates making excellent beer. Trust me. I know. I’ve been visiting Palm Springs regularly for the past six years and watched both of these breweries emerge and evolve. The third player, Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse, is a great barbecue spot that happens to have a brewery and just recently began distributing a bit of its beer locally.

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There are two La Quinta Brewing locations: the brewery and tasting room is located in Palm Desert just a couple blocks off of Interstate 10. The Old Town Taproom is located a few miles away in the heart of downtown La Quinta.

La Quinta Brewing currently packages two of its beers in 16-ounce aluminum cans: Indian Canyon IPA and the Sundaze Session IPA. Around the Coachella Valley, you can often find these beers on the shelves of better grocery stores, like the Whole Foods Market in Palm Desert, which has the Valley’s best beer selection.

 



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3 comments

  1. So great to hear how skip has been. I got my start in the industry at American brewing under skips guidence. He has always been a positive and joyful influence on the beer industry, the coachella valley is lucky to have him. Best wishes skipper!

  2. Hoorah for Skip! So how soon can we get his beer up here? I hope he gets to make a stout too. He is good at the that. Or, you could bring a whole bunch back with you for the rest of us.

  3. Now when Skip checks your ID it is not to see if you are 21 but if you qualify for the Senior Citizens discount. The Blue Hair, Brew there or be square Chewbacca..a rolling Beer Stone gathers no Spanish Moss.. Love Lloyd and Molly.

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