I'll never forget sitting in an upper division hotel management class at UNLV when my professor went around the auditorium and challenged our class to name a noteworthy boutique hotel group or property that was currently trending. Although the term "boutique hotel" was coined somewhere around the mid-eighties/early-nineties, it was still a new phrase for me circa 2006. The hotel scene at the time in Las Vegas seemed to be "the bigger, the better." We were all enthralled by the opening of the Michelin five-star, Encore tower that had just joined it's sister property at Wynn. Together they made the 7th largest hotel in the world with over 4,750 rooms. Yet here was our professor turning our attention away from the gargantuan to something smaller, much smaller, more exclusive... something that catered to a hyper-specialized clientele. Believe it or not our classroom was rather silent. I raised my hand and questioned shakily, Artisan on West Sahara? "Yep," said my professor, there's one take.
Although I can't vouch for it's reputation today, at the time, Artisan was a relatively underground hotel that catered to a non-gaming, art-appreciating, gothic-chic sort of Vegas crowd if you can believe it. My answer was awarded some pause, yet my professor pushed further for his intended response. From across the room a rival classmate chimed-in coquettishly, "Ace Hotel, Seattle, Portland, Palm Springs"
Ding, ding ding, full marks!!! This was the winning response our professor was seeking. Unapologetically small, ahead of the curb, unpretentious, yet simultaneously exclusive. This is what comes to mind when I think of Ace Hotels. According to my classmate, the first Ace opened in 1999 when buddies Alex Calderwood, Wade Weigel, and Doug Herrick redeveloped a Seattle halfway house into a stylish sort of "highbrow-lowbrow" hotel property that appealed to a certain creative class (think pre-hipsters). Of course all of this was just speculation on my part. You see, living in Las Vegas at the time, I hadn't yet experienced that level of boutique-iness in the flesh. Our local resorts as I mentioned where huge, albeit luxurious, they appealed to crowds en masse.
It wasn't until a year or two later, when working at a quaint (read: boutique) hotel in Laguna Beach that I really started to research the competition in our region. This is when I rediscovered Ace Palm Springs. I remember going home to tell my then boyfriend (now husband) that I'd been stalking the Ace so hard I was in danger of falling for a "hotel crush." In the days of pre-Instagram, this was really saying something. I admit my connection to the property's style might have something to do with the fact that Palm Springs in general and specifically the late "Sands" hotel was a familiar haunt of my maternal grandfather throughout early 1960s. Therefore the desert's mid-century architecture and sparse drought tolerant flora has always held an indescribable feeling of yearning and nostalgia for me personally.
Custom motorcycle art by Joel Meyer of 845 Motorcycles.
You can imagine my excitement when around 2012 my husband Clay announced we'd be heading out to the desert that very weekend to attend an Ace Hotel Craft Beer Weekend! I was instructed to pack an empty stomach for the multi-course beer dinner to be held in the Commune that evening, and my bathing suit for a pool-side festival of hops the following day. I was beside myself with excitement. On that first visit I fell utterly in love with the entire VIBE of the place.
Six years later we're still venturing out to the desert each September to attend Ace Hotel's annual Craft Beer Weekend! Notable memories include cigars post a prix-fixe dinner with the infamous Dr. Bill, or dancing with two-stepping Joshua Tree natives that showed up in droves to hear The White Buffalo play in 2013.
This year's fest however, brought a whole new set of highlights. First of all my husband Clay has joined his fellow mountain men and women at the decorated Denver brewery, Great Divide. Its amazing how the craft beer community has grown, yet each event still feels like a family reunion of sorts! This was the largest craft beer weekend Ace Palm Springs has ever hosted with over 30 breweries in attendance. Admission included unlimited tastings, and a small bites menu of finger-licking sticky pork ribs, seasoned watermelon slices, and craft crudités.
I chose to wash these snacks down liberally with Great Divide's sweet-tart Strawberry Rhubarb sour ale, or Call Me Ginger a spicy blonde by Mother Earth.
Ace Hotels are pet friendly too! So you don't have to leave fido home here. All beer fests should allow dogs if you ask me. I loved meeting this fren poolside.
Around mid-day the mid-mod pool looked glittering and refreshing under the backdrop of dramatic Mt. San Jacinto. I jumped in for a dip only to be ushered out shortly after by hotel security saying a lighting storm was on it's way!? How very exciting and unexpected. Sure enough, 20 minutes later we experienced a downpour the likes of which Palm Springs will only see but six days per year! It rained cats and dogs and the whole place was flooded with several inches of rainwater. Buzzed and unperturbed we skedaddled off to Kings' Highway Diner still in our bathing suits to take shelter.
The beer fest/pool party turned monsoon was perfect excuse for Clay to bust out his newly acquired yeti suit. The tipsy and rained-out crowd tuned rather raucous as Clay stepped from board shorts to into head-to-toe fur in honor of Great Divide's world famous, Yeti Imperial Stout. He was quite the spectacle! (Yetis prefer rainy pool parties.)
All in all it was another excellent Craft Beer Weekend for the books. I have to hand it to the hotel staff who kept their spirits and service high throughout the entire stormy experience! The beers we've imbibed over the years may have changed somewhat, but the fact remains that Ace is the place to see and be seen, drink, dance, howl at the moon, stay up late, wake up late, and do it all over again! If you too have experienced this place (or another of it's caliber) please subscribe and share in the comments!
Just like in my 06' hotel management class room, I like to stay in the know...