Plenty of kids start their baking career by congealing brownie mix with the incandescent bulb of an Easy-Bake Oven. If Hasbro gets to take credit for the ones who go pro, Mr. Beer's got the rights to Scott Stokes. The kit Scott's wife gave him a few years back has since turned into the 15 BBL brewhouse at his brewery, La Quinta Brewing Company, located in the lovely in winter but hellish in summer Palm Desert. I was fortunate to visit with Scott during the lovely winter, and he toured me through his 2 year old brewery, unfortunately there were no Mr. Beer sightings.
Of the many issues that Scott confronts in Palm Desert, 116 degree summer days probably are near the top. Scott’s $16,000 chiller, which is one of the most critical pieces of equipment in the brewery, temporarily failed when temps hit that mark last summer. Without a functional chiller, fermentation temperatures get out of control, leading to off-flavored beer. That heat also makes using outdoor space for fermenters impossible, as well mandates a well air-conditioned brewery and tap room so employees and customers don’t pass out.
Another hurdle that Scott faces in Palm Desert is the seasonality of the economy. That beautiful weather during the cooler months brings in people from across the country (and strangely, a large number of people from Alberta), which peaks demand for his product. The flip side is the summer months where tourism drops off a cliff and beer consumption is left to the locals, who you have to convince to leave their air conditioned houses. To remedy this, they have developed a mug club which, according to their tap room manager Mychal Renteria, has picked up the slack left by the tourists, who make up 40% of their tap room customers. Here is their deal, which was capped at 60 members and sold out in 2 weeks: $150 gets you half off your pint, plus your pint is upgraded to a 20oz pour, plus you get 20% off of kegs and cans. Mychal says that August (average high of 106, average low of 80) is now their most busy month and the mug club is most of the reason why. That kind of blows my mind.
As always, here are some tidbits from our meeting that most of you will only find mildly interesting, but a select few will find sort of interesting:
Unfortunately, none of their current beers are brewed on a Mr. Beer system
The brewery is in a 4500 sqft building, located in a relatively new industrial park that is in close proximity to the I-10 freeway
The tap room is on the smaller side and sees about 15-20 bbl a month in sales - with pretty even distribution between pints, tasters and growlers
Their beer is packaged in both kegs, going to 150-200 draft accounts and 16oz cans, which are sold in 4-packs. They will soon be distributing to LA and Long Beach.
They sell some of their canned 4-packs (Blonde and IPA) out of the tap room - about 10 cases a week
Their system is a Premier Stainless 15bbl brewhouse, with one 15bbl and five 30bbl fermenters, along with a 30 bbl bright tank - Annual production right now is around 1500bbl
The staff includes a head brewer, assistant brewer, salesman and 2 taproom employees (one full time and the other part time)
It was approximately 8 months from when they signed their lease to when they sold their first keg - The Conditional Use Permit took 6 months
After hearing this story, a dear friend bought me a Mr. Beer kit so that I too could be inspired. If any of you are wanting to buy me an Easy-Bake over, hit me up - I’m thinking some kind of collaboration beer - Maybe an Easy Bake Brownie Mr. Beer Stout? Is it just me or does that sound like it has potential?