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Quench your thirst with Bring Back the Kern's local beer collaboration

Although the city's slogan is "the sound of something better," what sounds more like Bakersfield is "good times for a good cause." That's certainly the case with the upcoming Thirsty for a River campaign from Bring Back the Kern.

To bring awareness to ongoing efforts to return water to the dry river bed, residents can slake their own thirst by enjoying seven new themed brews from local breweries launching Saturday.

Miguel Rodriquez with Bring Back the Kern credits fellow member Jonathan Yates for bringing together this massive local effort.

"He was already collaborating with the breweries in town and Kern River Brewing on doing something," Rodriquez said. "They had agreed on releasing a specialty beer for the event. In a meeting, they said, 'Hey why don't we release a glass?'"

So in additions to new brews at the six Bakersfield breweries — 2nd Phase, Crusader, Dionysus, Great Change, Lengthwise and Temblor — and Kern River Brewing Co., imbibers can also pick up a pint glass with a Bring Back the Kern logo.

"It's really exciting to see the beer culture here in Bakersfield be able to stand behind a message that we felt all of the citizens can get behind," Rodriquez said. "Bring awareness to the dry river in lower Bakersfield. Lower Bakersfield is missing out on so much nature, recreation and good habitat for wildlife."

This collaboration is meant to ignite both pride in the river and indignation that the riverbed is persistently dry, despite the presence of Kern River water year-round in the canals that abut the river.

Bring Back the Kern is focused on increasing community awareness and appreciation of the river. Last weekend, it held a community cleanup along the riverbed by San Miguel Commemorative Grove. The group also helped inspire “The Mighty Kern River," a new book in the local children’s book series “Indy, Oh Indy," whose first printing is being funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

It also continues its efforts to pressure the state Water Resources Control Board to deed some portion of the river back to the public to run in the river bed.

In 2010, the state board determined there is unappropriated water on the river, and several entities have applied for the water with the city pledging to run it down the riverbed through town. Over the past year, Bring Back the Kern has made frequent appearances before the board seeking a hearing on the available water.

Although the state board recently announced it will begin the hearing process on the Kern River, a date has not been set for the first hearing.

The beers

So while the community waits, it can do so with a cold beer. The breweries all brought their own brewing strengths to each beer, coordinating on a collection appealing to a variety of tastes.

Brewer Eric Giddens, who owns Kern River Brewing Co. with wife Rebecca, said he waited to see what other brewers were doing to find something to help fill a gap in the lineup, coming up with "Once a River" double India pale ale.

"After looking at the list of beers we noticed there were lighter beers and hazy beers, so we decided to make a West Coast-style hoppy beer, and might as well make it a double," he wrote in an email.

Giddens describes it as an "aggressive beer with a good hop bite" that also has some tropical and dank notes from the hop combination of Citra, Simcoe and Sultana.

KRBC is the only brewery outside the city taking part but Giddens said the goal of improving the quality of life with a flowing river is one he shares.

"We fully understand the pragmatic issues of water and water use in California, but the river is an everyday part of our lives in Kernville and why we live here. I think a lot of folks in Bakersfield would just find themselves a little happier with water flowing through the Kern again."

Jeff Williams, owner of Lengthwise Brewing Co., said he was also passionate about the cause, creating the hazy IPA "Let It Flow."

"We felt naming the beer 'Let It Flow' fitting for the purpose of this seven brewery collaboration to create awareness of Bring Back the Kern’s mission of having water flow in the Kern River," he wrote in an email.

"We feel the beauty of a flowing river through Bakersfield will add to the enjoyment for all Bakersfield residences."

Wanting to experiment with brewing a 10-day start-to-finish beer, Williams said they used a special yeast strain that ferments at 100 F (compared to normal ale yeast that ferments at 68 F).

"We dry hopped the hazy at these very warm temperatures to exact as much dry hop character as possible," he wrote.

Temblor Brewing Co. also went hazy with "Rivers Need Water," the first hazy session IPA it has ever made.

Co-owner Don Bynum said the name was both a little snarky and a tribute to his niece River, although she's too young to try it.

With 5 percent alcohol by volume, this is a lighter beer that should be great heading into these warmer days.

"I'm confident it's going to be delicious," Bynum said. "We want to bring a little attention to that style."

Bynum said he's excited about the variety of the collaboration's lineup and plans to try them all.

"Everyone making different styles is more exciting for the community. Each brewery is good at certain things or wants to be doing different things. ... All the breweries are making high-quality stuff right now so I'm excited to try them all."

For Saturday's launch, each brewery will have a limited number of branded pint glasses available with purchase of the beer. 

Crusader Brewing co-owner Chris McEnulty said that people who want to pick up a glass should head out this weekend. While Saturdays are normally busy, this one will be more so because the southwest brewery is also holding an early Cinco de Mayo celebration including the release of its Mexican lager.

McEnulty is excited for people to try Crusader's "Honey Hole" honey pale ale, made in a more traditional style that included local wildflower honey fermented with the beer.

This brew was hopped with El Dorado, which McEnulty describes as a "very watermelon forward hop."

"The honey beer drinks super, super clean. With El Dorado, it's a sort of summery, watermelon kind of beer. Most of what we do is already easy to drink but we wanted to do something that felt like you'd grab a six pack and take it down to the river."

An avid outdoorsman, McEulty said the name — referring to an ideal spot to catch fish — and the taste reflect the recreational aspect of reviving the river.

"We’re super into the outdoors, conservationism and recreation. ... I love backpacking and fishing."

Along with supporting your favorite local spots, McEnulty said this campaign is a good way to branch out and expand your palate.

"Go try one of the breweries that you haven’t tried before. Go outside of your wheelhouse and ask them what other beers they have on tap."

Kyle Pittser, brewer and co-owner of Dionysus Brewing Co., said he was thrilled to team up for a united cause.

"This is something bigger than just us and what we do. It's obviously great being able to work with colleagues as well as working with a group of people that care about our local environment and our resources, letting water flow where it actually should."

Given the campaign, Pittser said they went all American with the "River Rope Swing" American-style pilsner (rather than a German style). And, like Crusader, Dionysus used El Dorado hops for its Thirsty brew

"We’re testing the waters, no pun intended, with a hop we’ve never used before," he said.

The result is a fruity, tropical forward, light, crisp beer.

If your interests lie in a headier brew, 2nd Phase Brewing has your number with its "Downtown River Float" triple IPA.

The New England-style IPA is "hop forward," not super bitter and clocks in at 12% ABV.

"It's a pretty big beer and showcases the potential that we can push forward with," said brewer and owner Frank Miranda.

The newest brewery of the bunch, 2nd Phase remained opened during much of last year but the changing business model meant Miranda didn't have time to do anything big with a new beer.

He's looking forward to having his triple IPA alongside the others in the collaboration.

"The beer is super sweet, and a 12% ABV beer in Bakersfield I haven't seen one. We're hoping it will be good for this project."

Along with supporting a good cause, Miranda said working alongside longtime local breweries like Lengthwise has been a thrill.

"I can't explain how excited I am to be working with these guys. They helped us out over the last year. To get at the end of all this, we see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Giddens at Kern River Brewing Co. also thinks this campaign will help invigorate and support the local craft beer scene.

"The brewing community in Kern County has grown quite a bit over the last several years with each brewery taking on its own personality and style," Giddens said. "I think this is a great chance for everyone in Bakersfield to get out and get acquainted with the craft brewers in their own backyard."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.