Kern River Brewing Co. is located in the stunning southern Sierra Mountain Range’s quaint town of Kernville, Calif. Isolated and with a population of under 1,500 people one has to ask, why would anyone start a brewery here?
Having been there myself, I can safely say that the southern Sierras is one of the most picturesque and awe-inspiring ranges in the world. All along the Kern River, into Sequoia National Park, to Monache Meadow, and to the absolutely insane granite crags of the Palisades are the vistas that inspired Kyle Smith, Eric Giddens and Rebecca Giddens to settle down in Kernville and create Kern River Brewing Co. The real question is, why would anyone not start a brewery here?
I’m sure being that isolated has its logistical challenges, however, Kern River Brewing Co. has done so well that they are currently expanding to a much larger 30bbl brewhouse with 60bbl fermentors. That facility will be located directly behind their current location.
Every year in June, Kern River celebrates its anniversary by releasing a new beer. They typically utilize a Belgian yeast strain and today’s beer is no exception. Shuttle Bunny started out as Kern River’s eighth anniversary beer, and like a few other of their anniversary beers, was so well received that it became a rotational offering instead of a one-and-done. Two other anniversary beers that also became rotational offerings include Winter Ale, which was the fifth anniversary ale, and Dirty Hippie, which started out as the sixth anniversary offering.
For those interested, the label defines the name Shuttle Bunny as “an endearing term for someone who drives boaters/bikers/hikers etc. to the start of their activity and then picks them up again at another location at the end of said activity, preferably with an ample supply of cold beer.”
Shuttle Bunny pours a beautiful clear yellow gold with enough carbonation to produce a rather large, rocky, three finger, white head. The aroma on this beer is massive; showcasing an incredible amount of tropical fruits. Think mangoes, papayas, guavas, kiwis, and passionfruit. I get zero malt and zero alcohol presence, but I do pick up a touch of the Belgian yeast character in the form of pepper. Not so much that you want to sneeze, but enough to tell you that this is not an American ale.
The ample carbonation that created the rocky head gives this beer a livelier feel on the palate. Leading the way to a clean bitterness that compliments an appropriately dry finish. That dry finish is another indication of the Belgian yeast and really works in favor here. I did not read the label before tasting this beer and honestly thought it was a sub-five percent alcohol by volume beer. I was astonished to read that Shuttle Bunny is, in fact, 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. A testament to Kyle Smith’s mastery of yeast. The flavor is similar to the aroma but with adding pine, more Belgian yeast phenolics, and a good bit of light malt coming through.