“a woman walks into a bar…” to chat with Kern River Brewing brewmaster, Kyle Smith

on 07/11/13 at 10:36 am

a woman walks into a bar..., Beer

woman-barfinal2I WON THE LOTTERY!!! As if. Well, I did win a BEER lottery…the lottery that Kern River Brewing had to make distribution of their cult favorite beer, Citra, available on a, sort of, equal basis. About a thousand people took part in the lottery and there were 380 lucky winners and, yours truly, was one of them. Now, the lottery had some pretty strict rules: if you won, you and only YOU could pick up the beer and you had pick it up at the brewery which is in Kernville, somewhat off the beaten track, and you had a week to do it. The beer had to be paid for in advance and, in case you couldn’t make it to the brewery, there were no refunds or shipping of bottles. So, naturally I hightailed it up to the brewery. For the second time. And let me tell you, that drive is seriously spectacular.

Kyle Smith in his natural habitat

Kyle Smith in his natural habitat

Winner!

Winner!

After a quick bite and a pint of Just Outstanding IPA, I asked for an impromptu interview with Kyle Smith, magical brewmaster and one of the owners of Kern River Brewing, and he was kind enough to take time from brewmastering to answer a few questions. First of all, he expanded on why they went the lottery route. It’s about managing the amount of people that come into the brewery, and how the staff was overwhelmed last time and that there were too many people getting drunk which was troublesome, of course. Kyle even had to take beer out of some overindulgers’ hands and dump the beer to stop them from drinking more. He even reimbursed them for the dumped pint but he probably saved their lives.

Yes, Kern River is expanding! They’re pushing back to 5 lots in the back of the brewery but, of course, breaking ground depends on the permit gods. Hopefully, soon. The production facility will be a 30 barrel system which will up their current output from 1200 barrels to 7 – 8 thousand barrels. Yes, there will be cans. There are no outside investors…reinvesting revenue from the current operation. Kudos to owners Kyle Smith, Rebecca Giddens and Eric Giddens…terrific beer, hard work and keeping their operation manageable. They have found the holy grail of how to balance their active lifestyles with running a successful brewery by keeping control and not going the route to World Beer Domination.

Expanding back here

Expanding back here

I did ask about a persistent brewing problem…consistency. It is so difficult to get each batch of beer exactly the same as the variations in yeast, fermentation, hops, etc. will never be exactly the same which is one of the banes and beauties of craft beer. The emphasis on ‘craft’. Having had several iterations over time of Citra, it is hard not to notice that it is slightly different every time so I asked Kyle about it and he acknowledged that it is difficult to keep consistency from batch to batch. There are always variations in the freshness of the hops (he uses pellets) – it is dry hopped four times, as opposed to the usual two – so there’s plenty of time for things to change up a bit. No matter. It is a kick-ass beer and worth a five hour drive. Loving it as I’m writing this!

Lastly, I asked about collaborating with other breweries and, lo and behold, Kern River is doing a collaboration beer with Knee Deep Brewing…something hoppy, coming soon in late December, maybe January.

Citra in my fridge. Where it belongs :)

Citra in my fridge. Where it belongs :)

KERN RIVER BREWING CO.
13415 Sierra Way, Kernville, CA 93238
(760) 376-2337