I'm Eric Giddens, Founder & Brewer at Kern River Brewing Co. Beer Me Anything!

Discussion in 'Beer Me Anything' started by KRBCEric, Oct 28, 2019.

  1. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    My name is Eric Giddens and I’m co-founder, brewer and head janitor at Kern River Brewing Co. located in Kernville, California. My wife, Rebecca, and I opened our doors as a small brewpub in 2006, adding our larger “Backyard” production facility in 2016. Known initially for our hoppy beers like Just Outstanding IPA and Citra Double IPA, KRBC recently brought home 2019 Brewery Group and Brewer of the Year awards at GABF by winning 4 medals in a wide variety of styles including: Session IPA, Double Hoppy Red, Belgian-Style Blonde and Brown Porter.

    In previous lives, I competed on the U.S. Whitewater Kayak team (as did Rebecca) before pursuing my Ph.D. in Oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA. Both of these endeavors eventually lead us to opening our brew-pub in the Southern Sierra Mountains near the banks of the Kern River, where we still live along with our two daughters, Maggie and Peyton, and a rather scruffy street mutt named Jethro.

    A lot has changed in the craft beer scene since we opened in 2006. Likewise we have gone through our share of ups and downs. Over the years, however, KRBC has steadily grown into a gathering place for folks that love the outdoors and love beer, which is exactly what we hoped would happen.

    I’ll be on-and-off to answer any questions you may have and look forward to chatting beer or anything else!

    Cheers,

    Eric

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. JayORear

    JayORear Meyvn (1,112) Feb 22, 2012 New York
    Society Trader

    Hi! Former SoCal resident here who misses Kern River terribly. Used to make the drive for Citra bottle releases, loved Just Outstanding and Hop Nookie even more, and Class X is one of the best BA stouts I've ever had. Two questions: any chance you'd ever expand distro to the East Coast, and have you considered doing hazy/NEIPAs?
     
    TheBrewsky, rozzom, Roguer and 2 others like this.
  3. Jacksky2

    Jacksky2 Initiate (74) Nov 11, 2010 Pennsylvania

    Congratulations Eric! I enjoyed talking to you at GABF on Thursday! Your Brown was my first beer at the fest. :beers:

    "John" from Lavery Brewing
     
    dukeandduke likes this.
  4. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,624) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Society

    Congrats on the big wins at GABF. When I walked by on Saturday it felt like every beer you were pouring had a medal next to it. All were 100% justified, too.
     
    dukeandduke likes this.
  5. movinvan

    movinvan Disciple (313) Jan 5, 2013 New York
    Society

    What advice would you give to a home brewer to best improve his results?
     
  6. gatornation

    gatornation Poo-Bah (5,178) Apr 18, 2007 Minnesota
    Trader

    Congrats at GABF. One of the 1st CA IPA'S i tried was Just Outstanding , still one of my favorites when visiting CA . Question, Any plans for distro going east? Thanks.
     
    PaulaCorradi and dukeandduke like this.
  7. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Hello Jay, I remember you!

    First off, glad you remember KRBC fondly. Where did you relocate to?

    As far as your questions go, we are very hesitant to distribute in any significant quantities to the East Coast. Especially with IPA's it seems traveling long distances creates challenges. That is not to say we would not consider small shipments to certain markets. Regardless, we are just not big enough try to permanently expand our distribution footprint.

    As for NEIPA's, yes, we are making some now. There is still a lot about the style that we are playing with. We have tried French Ale, London III and even Kveik yeast at the pub level as well as a variety of hops. We are looking to put a year-round hazy on the market in 2020 and I'm just signed a contract for 2020 crop year Strata hops with the plan of moving that awesome new hop into production.

    Cheers Jay!
     
  8. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Cheers John! What a scene in Denver huh? I'll have to return the favor next year. Lavery planning on having a booth?

    -E
     
    Jacksky2 and PaulaCorradi like this.
  9. EFFCANCR

    EFFCANCR Initiate (10) Oct 26, 2019

    Congrats, Eric & Rebecca on your recent awards! I received an invitation to join this Beer Me Anything and then saw the brewery name. "I know Eric & Rebecca and Kern River". I hope you remember me but my name is Gerald B. and I live in Charlotte.

    I can't say I have tried your beer but would love to at some point. I do however, wear my Kern River Brewing hat all of the time.

    Regardless, keep up the good work. Hope to see you soon and... send me some beer please! (or let me know where I can buy locally)

    Until next time.

    Cheers,

    Gerald
     
    #9 EFFCANCR, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
    PaulaCorradi likes this.
  10. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    First, and foremost, focus on your fermentation. Temperature control, pitch rates, yeast health, all that good stuff. You can't make a great beer with a lousy fermentation. What's more, you can't tell what your recipe changes are doing if the fermentations are not consistent.

    After that get a bunch of friends over to drink all your beer so you can keep making new batches. The more you brew, the more you learn!

    -E
     
    tobelerone, craigo19, riptorn and 2 others like this.
  11. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Thanks, it was a pretty surreal experience in Denver. See Jay's response above, but to elaborate, we have considered small shipments to certain areas. Moreover, I would like to start looking at some collabs outside of California; it would be a great way to meet new folks and see what other brewers around the country are doing.

    Cheers,
    E
     
    PaulaCorradi likes this.
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,185) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Eric, thanks for participating and congratulations on your great showing at this year’s GABF.

    I have never had the pleasure of drinking any of your beers since they do not make it out to my area. I did some quick research and it appears your beers are solely distributed in CA?

    I would be interested in hearing your views about the business prospects for craft brewing in today’s market. With the large number of craft breweries already open in the US and the ever growing number of openings every year (about 1000 new breweries opening every year) does it make sense for breweries such as you to expand distribution of beer? How much of your sales/revenue come from sales at your two locations vs. beer sold via distribution? If you did want to expand sales would it make more sense for you to just open a third location (brewpub)?

    Cheers!
     
    #12 JackHorzempa, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
  13. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Thanks Domingo. It was pretty mind blowing to be pouring 5 beers with four of them having won medals. Funny, we had to jump in the car and drive the 16 hours back to Kernville that afternoon. Slept in a truck stop in Utah!

    -E
     
  14. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    HAHA, hey Gerald!

    Can't believe I never brought any to the studio. Maybe things will change in 2020!

    -E
     
    PaulaCorradi and EFFCANCR like this.
  15. RaulMondesi

    RaulMondesi Poo-Bah (2,164) Dec 11, 2006 California
    Trader

    I hate to be “that guy” but ever since you expanded the brewery have you received any complaints about Citra not being the same? The first time I tried it on tap was in spring of 2018 and I felt it to be underwhelming. Fortunately we got cans last Fall, yet my opinion didn’t change. This was one of the most hyped beers for me, so I was a little bummed. Still love a lot of your beer though! And I would buy it more often if you dated cans/bottles. Any plans on doing that?

    Thanks.
     
    jakecattleco and PaulaCorradi like this.
  16. dukeandduke

    dukeandduke Meyvn (1,236) Feb 2, 2015 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Congratulations on your GABF success and the several years of successful brewing! Thank you for hosting this chat session. Would like to get to Kings / Sequoia next year and check your brewery out.

    I reach to Vegas a 4-5 weeks a year. Do you distribute draft and packaged to Vegas and other west coast cities? Will be looking for your beers during my December visit.

    Also, are your choices in terms if styles a reflection of your personal / team’s preferences, or an attempt to match demand?

    Looking forward to trying your pours down the line.
     
    PaulaCorradi likes this.
  17. Damohotep

    Damohotep Initiate (30) Oct 28, 2019 California

    Hey Eric love your guys spot up in kern. It’s a must when I go camping up there every year.

    I brew at a place called brewLAB in Carpinteria CA. I always love hearing about the water people use to brew with. I’ve always wondered if you use the city water or if you use some type of R.O. Also what kind of treatment does it get?

    Thanks for taking your time this is really rad!

    -David

    P.s. organic malt vs non organic? Thoughts?
     
  18. gatornation

    gatornation Poo-Bah (5,178) Apr 18, 2007 Minnesota
    Trader

    Well then Minneapolis would be perfect for that small shipment! Cheers Eric!
     
    DadwithBeer likes this.
  19. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Poo-Bah (2,110) Sep 3, 2008 California
    Society Trader

    Hi Eric, was just at the pub yesterday for some grub and Wet Exit pints after some time in the Muir Wilderness. My question is similar to Raul's, as I thought at one time bottles were dated but I don't think cans ever have been (excluding the plastic holder).

    Will Dirty Hippie make any more appearances, or just the new Double Red that medaled at GABF? As you can see in my avatar, I happen to like it just a little bit!

    Thanks
     
    dukeandduke likes this.
  20. Jacksky2

    Jacksky2 Initiate (74) Nov 11, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I look forward to it Eric but it's still up in the air about a booth at GABF next year.
     
  21. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Hey Jack,

    yes, very substantive question...

    Craft everywhere is growing and the number of breweries is growing faster than the number of craft drinkers. It's a real issue that Bart Watson, Chief Economist at the Brewers Association addresses frequently, and many breweries are having to pivot on their business model.

    A few years ago the status quo was to buy a 30 bbl brewhouse, a bunch of 120 bbl FVs and crank out beer. Now you see the majority of new breweries looking at the 5-15 bbl range and focusing on in-house sales due to the margins involved. This is probably the more realistic approach, but the bottom line is that you really need to (eventually) make good beer. There are just too many options out there for people and if you aren't making quality stuff, they will move on.

    A quick note about our brewery. At our original location, we topped out at about 800 bbl per year. We eventually talked ourselves into expanding to meet distribution demands and opened our production facility literally in the backyard of our original pub. There was an easement through the property so we could not contain everything in the same building. The result was two buildings, two breweries, and, because we could not build a brewery only in the existing zoning, two restaurants. This, in short, is why we were in the "Brewery Group" category at GABF. We have no plan on expanding again, it was just too painful and too expensive.

    Our off-site production makes up about 30% of our revenue if you include all food, beverage and merchandise sales. Without our two brewpubs (literally 50 feet from each other), I would be a lot more stressed out about making ends meet. I think we were lucky in that our physical limitations prevented us from going too big; a mistake I would warn just about any brewer against in this current market. In my view, slow, organic growth is the current model we are looking at.

    Thanks for the question!

    -E
     
    craigo19, cjgiant, spicoli00 and 6 others like this.
  22. Zorro

    Zorro Poo-Bah (4,468) Dec 25, 2003 California

    Thought about distributing to Lompoc or Santa Maria? We aren't that far away.
     
  23. Jasonja1474

    Jasonja1474 Initiate (83) Oct 15, 2018 Tennessee
    Trader

    Hey Eric,
    Jason here in TN. Your story caught my attention. I’m currently work in a automotive factory as maintenance tech and I dream of the day my wife and I operate a hop farm. We just want to be able to support all our local breweries here in East TN. Any way you mentioned doing collaborations and I think you should contact Blackberry Farms Brewery. They are amazing and the manager Andrew is a really good guy. Cheers and thanks for your time!!
     
    dukeandduke likes this.
  24. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Frankly I'm surprised it took this long to get to the topic of Citra, so don't worry, I don't view you as "that guy".

    Yes, we get this comment a lot. There are two factors that I think play into it.

    1. People's palates and access to really good beer has changed since 2011 when that beer really hit the scene. I think if I took a pint of 2018 Citra and put it into a time portal back to 2011, I think you would have really liked it. With that said, I think the bigger issue is...

    2. Citra is now the most planted hop in the Pacific Northwest. The lovely hop that we had access to from a small select group of fields is now the most sought after hop in the country. It is now grown on different farms, by different people, in different climates, with (often) young root stock. We buy very little, in the grand scheme of things, and people that buy more generally get to select their lots of Citra before we do. In fact, we did not get to select our Citra at all until this fall, when we contracted enough to get into "group selection". We even had to ask for several additional lots before we could agree on a quality lot to fill our contract. Actually, we couldn't even agree at that point, but I digress... By the way, the lot we selected has 3.5% total oil as compared with our current lot, which has 1.7%...

    I hope this does not sound like a cop-out since it might come off as pointing the finger at everyone else, when the responsibility really lies with us to maintain or improve quality. But the fact is, we have brewed the exact same recipe, on the exact same system, and I have also been disappointed that we could not produce the same results that I remember.

    One thing I can tell you, however, is that we are working very hard to get the biggest missing piece back; which is in my opinion, the aroma. We are using new(er) brewing techniques to try and coax more aroma out of the hop. Meanwhile, we are excited to get our 2019 crop year Citra in house to play with.

    Cheers,
    -E

    Sorry, almost missed the second part of the question. We do put dates on all can paktechs (plastic six/four-pack holders). We have pretty much moved away from 22 oz format, but we do date the cases. We spend 15k on a date coder that pretty much never worked, so I am still fuming about that...
     
  25. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Hey Jake,

    Thanks for stopping by the pub. That Wet Exit with Citra is one of my favorite beers and as you can see by my avatar, I like Dirty Hippe too.

    See the answer to Raul above, but yes, we will eventually have to get a better date coding solution in place. Unfortunately I thought we solved that issue with the 15k date coder that we bought when we opened the production facility, but it never worked and it's hard to just turn around and drop another large amount of money on a replacement. I do expect that we will be investing in something before Summer next year, but I really want to do some research on this since we were burned so badly. In the meantime, I hope the stickers on the four/six-pack holders are doing the job.

    I like Dirty Hippie too, but it is one of those love/hate beers for many. Summit is just such an aggressive onion/garlic hop (at least the way we use it in that beer) that we have issues moving it in the market. We are working on the Side Hike a bit more and plan on releasing it as a seasonal in 2020. We will see where the market takes us, but I'm sure the pub will have Dirty Hippie on again.

    Cheers,
    Eric
     
    jakecattleco likes this.
  26. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    We do, but through a very small distributor. Usually in these situations the best thing to do is have your favorite bar/bottle shop reach out to me and we can figure things out. There is nothing I like more than helping out a thirsty customer.

    I'm pretty easy to find on the internet. It's just my name at our website.

    Cheers,

    -E
     
  27. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Thanks for chiming in Jason. Opening a hop farm would be a very challenging but rewarding thing to do. I wish you the best. It looks like Blackberry Farms is a pretty cool spot as well. I have southern roots, so maybe...

    Cheers,
    Eric
     
    Jasonja1474 likes this.
  28. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Got my units wrong here...That's in ml/100g for those paying attention
     
    JA_26 and Jasonja1474 like this.
  29. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Thanks for joining in the chat session! Sequoia/Kings is well worth the visit. Kernville itself is a nice outdoor destination as well, so come on by.

    We do not distribute in Vegas even though it is only a few hours away. Still just in California for the moment.

    As far as whether we brew to personal preference or demand, I guess we are lucky enough to be able to do both. Our production facility mainly focuses on hop-centric beers, which is what sells (also, I really like IPA's). At the pub, we feel responsible to provide a wide variety of beers, like a Belgian-Style Blonde and a Brown Porter. It is not that they sell a lot, it's that we want anyone who walks in the pub to be able to find a beer they like. Without this smaller system, we would really not have been able to work on those recipes and get them dialed in the way we like them. In the end, it is the pub system that has really made us better brewers.

    Cheers and thanks for the question!
    -E
     
  30. dukeandduke

    dukeandduke Meyvn (1,236) Feb 2, 2015 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Thank you for your response. Will try to get to the brewery this March. A few Brown Porters, Belgian blondes and IPAs are right down my alley as well.

    Cheers!
     
  31. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Hey David, I certainly need to get over to your place sometime soon. Not too far...

    Don't tell John Palmer, but we do nothing to our water other than use acidulated malt to adjust pH. In general, it is very high quality and I do monitor water chemistry throughout the year (it changes based on spring run-off vs ground water), but for the most part it stays within the parameter that we like for our IPAs. I have thought of messing around with the chemistry for Hazy beers to soften things up a bit, but we are still dialing that in.

    I think part of me wants to be old school here and say the water defines our flavor profile and the resulting styles that work for us, but that is probably me just being lazy.

    Malt. Another insightful question. I have less opinion on organic vs non-organic, but I do think we are in the process of breeding out some very interesting barley varieties for their agronomics and not their flavor; and I think that is a shame. In our Think Tank IPA series, I often bring in more obscure varieties or products from more obscure maltsters to play with. While I still feel like I have a huge amount to learn in this arena, I really do enjoy it. I know a lot of folks are making IPA's out there with very simple malt bills, but I still enjoy some malt complexity in my hoppy beers.

    Cheers,
    E
     
    meefmoff, cjgiant, spicoli00 and 2 others like this.
  32. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    K everybody. Gonna head to the pub now for a pint or two. I'll do my best to get to any further questions tomorrow.

    -E
     
  33. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,414) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    Man that's no joke, either. Citra - to this day! - ranks as my #12 beer all time (by rating, out of 2,445). Hype is hype, but sometimes it's well-earned, and that beer is the truth.
    @KRBCEric
     
    SlayterWavepool and JayORear like this.
  34. rgordon

    rgordon Savant (983) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Greetings Eric, Dick Gordon here in North Carolina. Why is it that I really respond to nicely rendered brown ales and there are so few available? Am I weird? Really though, I know of very nice options but realize that brown ales are not generally popular these days and I wonder why. What are your thoughts?
    Have you been upon the Nolichucky River and do you love Steinbeck's The Log From the Sea of Cortez as much as I do?
    Dick
     
  35. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    Hi Eric, loved your beers, I traded for some many many years ago when I still active doing so. I have to say maintaining a small footprint on hoppy beers is a wonderful idea, your name is stamped on every beer you send out, and trying to insure it’s as you intended it to be is just good business. It’s a shame watching Cali beers here die on the shelf, the few that are left that is, most are long gone. Hell, even if it sells it about guarantees there won’t be a second buy, and the beer is ruined to that customer forever, and he’ll tell his friends.

    Dale
     
  36. walterfredo

    walterfredo Initiate (189) Nov 22, 2011 California
    Trader

    Hi Eric, I’m somewhat local (Visalia) and have made countless visits to the brewery over the last decade. Add me to the list of people begging for dated cans/bottles. I would buy your beer all the time, whereas right now, while it’s readily accessible here I just don’t buy it, unless in person at the brewery.
     
  37. SledgeHead

    SledgeHead Initiate (0) Sep 26, 2019

    Hey Eric ,congrats on awards and your beers sound awesome.I really would like your advice on a juicy neipa ...When to start hop addition late in the boil. Also the amounts as a rule of thumb. I plan on using citra, Nelson sauvin and mosaic. Any tips you can send forward will be much appreciated. Redding ,CA.
     
  38. SlayterWavepool

    SlayterWavepool Initiate (9) Oct 24, 2019
    Trader

    Hi Eric!! As a fellow whitewater kayaker, ocean lover, and beer enthusiast, I'd love to come visit your brewery and paddle the Kern/Brush Creek!!! I've heard nothing but good things about your spot!! Keep rockin it and hopefully we will cross paths once the rivers and beers are both flowing proper here soon!!
    -Katie
     
  39. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    Hello Dick. HAHA, Yes, you are weird for liking brown ales. Or at least you are in the minority. Malty beers that are drinkable (in the 4-7% abv range) just don't seem to sell these days. When I was getting into beer it seemed like the amber ale was king, then all these great new hops came along and upset the malt cart. These thing sometimes go in cycles though and I'm sure people will come back around and appreciate browns and porters again at some point. Even the Brits, who invented IPA, settled back down over the years to appreciate a range of malty ales.

    Yes, I have been up at the Nolichucky and basically grew up on the Nantahala. Great corner of the world. As for Steinbeck, I was a latecomer to Oceanography and spent more time solving wave equations than collecting specimens, so I'm afraid I have not red The Log from the Sea of Cortez. I will put in on my reading list though and hopefully find some time while I am down in Mexico this winter to read it.

    Cheers!
    Eric
     
    dukeandduke and thesherrybomber like this.
  40. KRBCEric

    KRBCEric Initiate (100) Jan 6, 2009 California
    Industry

    You are correct Dale. Even the best hoppy beers stored warm on the shelf die a horrible death. I think many breweries got sucked into having to move large quantities of beer and expanding their footprint in order to do it. There are some people that do it well, however. Matching supply and demand to keep an IPA on the shelf for two weeks or less is certainly a challenge. Russian River seems to do a good job but I'm sure it gets harder as they grow.

    It is funny to me how much focus we put on recipes in the industry and how little we talk about packaging. Dissolved Oxygen content in packaged beer and how it is handled is way more important than whichever hottest hop you used in your IPA.

    I think this is one of the main reasons that people are looking to their local breweries now. It is clear that people are making great beer all across the country now and sometimes fresher is just better.

    Cheers,
    Eric