Update on the Future of Kern River Citra DIPA
(Kernville,CA) – I will never forget the first time I took a sip of Kern River DIPA. A generous fella brought a growler of the fairly new beer to a bottle share for all to try. It was magic in my mouth. Bright citrus notes, soft, clean bitterness. Surely it couldn’t have been over 6% abv., I was shocked to learn it was a double IPA in the neighborhood of 8% abv. Shortly after that experience, local bottle shops and Whole Foods Markets began receiving bottles of this mind blowing beer. It would only take a few phone calls to find out who had some in stock, in which I would stroll down to get a few bottles for myself. It had never even crossed my mind to trade away this beer. It was just too good.
But then that dreadful day came. Word spread as to how magical this beer was. Long before today’s current generation of opportunists, this beer became ultra scarce. It stopped being distributed, and just as bad, stopped showing up on tap around SoCal. Kern River Brewing put themselves into a corner by blowing everyones mind with this beer, but not having the resources to make enough to go around. The most fair thing they could think to do to let some people have this beer was to hold semi-regular lotteries. Basically, Kern River Brewing makes an announcement over email that a batch is being brewed, and you can enter a lottery for the right to drive up to the Kernville based brewery and purchase a set amount of bottles to go. Just last week, they announced their latest lottery for the right to purchase, and it got me thinking. How much longer will it have to be a pain in the ass to get our hands on this beer? For those who don’t live in California, or think that Los Angeles and San Francisco are next to each other, it’s a 4 hour ride into the middle of nowhere from Los Angeles to Kernville, and 6-7 hours from San Diego, not taking traffic blunders into account.
We reached out to Kern River Brewing’s Eric Giddens to find out when there will be more Citra DIPA to go around, and if we will ever return to the glory days of being able to buy this beer at a store.
When will Kern River be able to produce enough Citra for bottles to get into regular distribution?
“We are currently constructing a new 6000 sqft facility behind our existing one. This should increase our capacity from about 1500 bbl to (eventually) 10,000 bbl. That means that all of our beers will be more readily available. Citra will still be a “seasonal” beer, but we expect that we won’t have to use the lottery system any more since batches will be much larger; approximately 60-120 bbl as compared with 14-21 bbl. As long as this beer remains as popular as it is, “regular” distribution is probably not the best word to describe it. I’m sure that it will remain limited, but not just for pick-up at the brewery. We are hoping that the new facility will go online this summer, making a fall release of Citra on a bigger scale a possibility. Of course we will have to dial in the recipe on the new system before we announce anything official.”
When will Kern River be able to produce enough Citra for it to go into draft distribution?
“Most of our current distribution is in 22 oz bottles with occasional draft availability. There are several reasons for that, but the bottom line is that that should change with the new brewery. I would expect that Citra on draft will happen; the important thing for us is that we try to coordinate with accounts to make sure that they get it fresh and serve it fresh.”
Is the current lottery system significantly helping out your business?
“First of all, we wanted people to come in and actually see where the beer is made and meet the people who make everything happen. I think this is an important component of craft beer; beer tends to have a personality that is best understood and enjoyed where it is brewed. Often people “get” us a little better after they’ve actually been to the brewery. We also try to time these Citra releases to coincide with slower periods for the town of Kernville. As a whole, the town relies on tourism and, believe it or not, Citra releases have a very positive effect on all of the local businesses. It also happens that those shoulder seasons are beautiful here. Fall and winter are spectacular and, with the exception of the bar when Citra is being poured, nice and quiet. I would like to think that coming to Kernville for a Citra release is only 50% about the beer.
Now, we do get some hate from time to time about the lottery for various reasons. The most common is that it is self-promoting and that it artificially “hypes” the beer. I think the best way to respond to this is simply that we were no longer able to sell the beer on a first-come-first-serve basis and had to figure out a different system. We were turning people away who had driven hours to get here. Now, at least you know whether or not you are going to get bottles before you make the trip. Is the lottery perfect? Probably not, but at least it is fair.”