Mad River Brewing’s Steelhead Extra Pale Ale. Photo credit: Mad River Brewing.
Nestled by the banks of the Mad River in the sleepy town of Blue Lake, California lies Mad River Brewing. It is a place where dreams come true. Especially if one’s dream is about craft beer.
Feeling like kids carrying golden tickets, Emerald toured the brewery, which Mad River’s own Willie Wonka, Dylan Schatz guided.
Though the brewery is located in a region best known for cannabis, Mad River Brewing is quickly earning the area recognition for their locally-made hoppy delights.
Mad River’s brewmaster, Schatz and assistant head brewer, Brian Brodkorb, are responsible for crafting the now famous brews like Steelhead Pale Ale, Jamaica Red Ale, Steelhead Double IPA, Double Dread Imperial Red Ale, The Mad Belgian Golden Ale, and Serious Madness Black Ale.
Schatz fits into the typical brewmaster’s mold; he is equal parts craftsman and alchemist. He’s modest yet deeply proud of his work. And he should be. Among the brewery’s multiple awards are a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for their John Barleycorn Barleywine; a silver for their Jamaican Red Ale; and two bronze medals at World Beer Cup. Additionally, Mad River was also named “Small Brewery of the Year” at the 2010 GABF.
It’s not too shabby for a brewery started in 1989 by one man with a dream (and a few investors). Now, consumers can grab a Mad River brew in 28 states and Canada. Even though consumers can get one almost anywhere, the best place to enjoy a Mad River brew is in the tasting room. It’s extremely cozy and friendly, and has the freshest possible samplings from the tap. It also sports big comfy stools and a gorgeous bar. Plus, the tap room offers special brews that buyers can’t purchase anywhere else. This includes both regular offerings — like their namesake Mad River IPA — and seasonal picks.
Below are some Mad River brews that we got our hands on during our tour.
Post from @madriverbrews on Instagram.
Emerald’s Mad River Taste Test
1. Steelhead Extra Pale Ale
The award-winner is light, crisp, and well balanced. Smooth and easy to drink, this is a great summertime beer. Alcohol content 5.6%
This light brown and sweet-smelling brew starts out light but comes on with an amazing fun flavor. A new favorite. Alc. content 9.05%
3. Saison du Humboldt
This beer is the collaborative product between five North Coast breweries. Light yet complex, there is an initial burst of flavor that lingers throughout. Very nice. Alc. content 7%
4. Double Dread Imperial Red Ale
This hopped red has a vibrant, smokey flavor. Similar to the Porter but with a favorable kick. Alc. content 8.6%
5. Jamaica Style ESB (Extra Special Bitter)
An English Style bitter that has a lively flavor. Smooth with a buttery pop. Alc. content 5.5%
6. Fleur de Jamaica
This is a bubbly, reddish-pink brew that looks like soda. The hibiscus flavor is not overly sweet, however, just slightly floral. Very refreshing. Available only in the tasting room. Alc. content 5.6%
7. Steelhead Extra Stout
This dark brown/black beer seems surprisingly non-pungent at first. A sip reveals a rich, smokey, almost coffee-like flavor. A beer that could sustain drinkers through the winter. Alc. content 6.5%
8. Steelhead Double IPA
Bolder still and robust with a lively taste. Full of mouth-watering sensations, this one is a treat for the taste buds. Alc. content 8.6%
9. Jamaica Sunset IPA
Pouring a beautiful coppery color, this beer is still clean and crisp, well balanced yet slightly bolder. Nice finish. Alc. content 7%
10. Jamaica Red Ale
This sweet, rich and somewhat spicy beer gets its name from its deep reddish color. Bring this to the next BBQ. Alc. content 6.5%
Visit the Brewery
Drink one soon, and please take a moment to silently toast the man behind the beard, brewmaster Dylan Schatz and his crew. Without them, we’d probably be drinking Oly (or the now discontinued Olympia Beer).
Post from @madriverbrews on Instagram.
The tasting room is open seven days a week, and also serves meals. The tap room is closed Monday-Wednesday, and open Thursday—Sunday. But, for those who aren’t in Northern California, or close enough for a trip, Mad River’s website offers a live feed of their beer garden. For a calendar of events and more information about the brewery, including tours, visit madriverbrewing.com.
Written by Benjamin Fordham