When the well runs dry

As Rudyard Kipling so famously wrote in his epic poem Gunga Din

YOU may talk o’ gin an’ beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But if it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.

It’s been the nicest winter imaginable for riding a bicycle, so warm and sunny and pleasant that the news from Chicago and the East Coast and other weather-challenged climes seems almost unfair. Then I remember that Karma Bitch and Karma Bastard always have the last laugh. That’s always as in “always.”

This afternoon I got my first taste of what it means to experience earth’s warmest January since humans began keeping temperature records, when I read a brief little article about California’s drought and how it has caused the Russian River to essentially dry up. You see, even though bicycle riders love sunny, warm winter days, and even though it makes them happier than a stoner at Hempcon to be out pedaling when their Midwestern counterparts are chained to the trainer in a cellar, there is one thing that California bicycle riders love every bit as much as riding bicycles, even more, perhaps.

Beer. Because unlike the soldiers in Gunga Din, bikers don’t do their work on water. They do it on beer. Over ‘ere.

And they don’t just love any old beer, they love California beer. And the California beer they love more than any other liquid refreshement in the whole pantheon of malt, barley, hops, and yeast is the beer with names like Lagunitas, Pliny the Elder, and Racer 5. Each of these treasures shares at least one thing in common: They exist due to the rolling blue bounty of the Russian River, which in turn depends in large part on Lake Mendocino, which in turn will go dry this summer if California doesn’t get more rain in the next two weeks than it’s gotten all year. That would be “last year.” The river itself is barely gurgling in the middle of a “rainy” season barely worthy of the name, a time when it should be raging, roaring, and plunging with clear blue water.

The deluge predicted for the next few days, if it happens, won’t be more than a tiny Band-Aid on a gashed, gaping, open wound. We’re in negative water territory and a few days of hard rain won’t save us.

How will California’s bicyclists get their beer?

“Nothing ever happens until it happens to you,” or so goes the old saw.

What’s about to happen to California cyclists is this — they’re going to finally have an endless summer, and it’s not going to be pretty. Most of the state is naturally a desert anyway, and if the megadrought that’s already in the works comes to full force, the manmade greenery here will wither and blow away like dust. Car washes will shut down, pools will empty, and a lawn or two in Palos Verdes may actually go brown (a little bit, maybe).

But we can still ride our bikes, right?


You can’t ride your bike if there’s no West Coast IPA at the end of the trail. It’s not so much that you can’t, it’s more of a “Why would you?” kind of thing. Tens of thousands of California drinkers have a cycling problem, and without the beer, well, the drinkers just kind of go away. And you can forget your precious California wine. The 2014 vintage isn’t even a hope anymore.

Until now you’ve probably not given a second thought to your 30-minute showers, your weekly carwash, and those endless lawn-watering sessions where you also make sure the asphalt gets good and doused as well. I hope after reading this you’ve gotten religion.

Your beer depends on it.


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27 thoughts on “When the well runs dry”

  1. Time to get back on the wagon & you can blame it on the climate…sounds like a win/win in my book.

  2. “Nothing ever happens until it happens to you.” I suppose it is a good day to turn off the sprinklers, eh? Thank you for writing, Seth.

    1. Welcome!

      I know in PV there will still be many who need to keep watering the grass, along with the asphalt. It grows better that way.

  3. Been looking for Pliney The Elder here on the East Coast for about 6 months now. Looks like I will never find it now, and damn it, we are submerged in a sub-freezing-arctic-boiling-water-to-instant-snow-demonstration cold air mass once again :(.

    1. I read an interesting thing about Pliny on some beer blog. They’ve pulled it from the Seattle market and are apparently only selling it in California. Then there was a long discussion about whether there are any true substitutes. The snobs came in force on that one.

      Here’s a little food for thought: http://blog.seattlepi.com/thepourfool/2013/06/07/pliny-the-elder-pliny-the-younger-and-the-wine-ification-of-beer/

      And some drink for thought:

      1. There is no such thing as an IPA that will make you forget about Pliny, period. I just had my first taste of the Younger and I have to say that although it was great, I still prefer the Elder. I must add after reading the links, with Master Nats leaving Bend I will miss Boneyard RPM, it is also a very good IPA.

  4. Ho Hum. I’m so old I remember when the big deal was getting Coors east of the Mississippi, or Little Kings Cream Ale south of the Ohio. (Please note that I am continuing the river-based theme of your post.) Meanwhile, Robin Williams, who I think lives in California, said once “One day this will be the new gold” as he poured a bottled water over his own head. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet and a consortium led, apparently, by Jenna Bush are buying up pretty much all the water in the Amazon. Not the book and toy selling Amazon, I mean the REAL Amazon, the RIVER (HA) At least I think it is real. These days, who can tell?

  5. We live on the river – the last couple of storms have been great help – it’s raging now

    1. That is great news. Hopefully my blog was responsible.

      I just read a follow-up story that says we would need twenty more of the storms like the one we just had in order to fully alleviate the drought.

      Hope we get more rain!

  6. roger crawford

    Wait! What? I have my Pliny connection that reserves a bottle a week for me. Are you saying that’s at risk? Will it help if I stop watering my lawn and let it die out.

  7. Long live the Cali craft beers. I will never buy the domestic corporate water beers again.

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