Mad River Brewing Company

Mad River Brewing Company                                                          By:  Steph Doan

Mad River Brewing Company is now in their third decade of operation and according to Bob Smith, Brewery Founder, who told us “even now it is hard to think of what we do as a business and not as a hobby. Brewing is a passion here and we spend a great deal of our time trying to perfect the next great taste.”

Nestled west near the redwood coast in the Mad River Valley, California, brewery Founder Bob Smith surely wasn’t “mad” for following his dream. He started Mad River Brewing Company in 1989 this have proven to be a great move. The brewery is located in beautiful Blue Lake, California.

Bob Smith developed an active relationship with Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, who began his career in the industry by selling brew supplies. When Ken’s first brewery outgrew their home, he turned to loyal customer, friend  and future brewing-master-mind Bob Smith. By selling Bob the older brewery’s equipment Ken played a key part in the brewery’s early stages. This bond between the two brew-lovers aided in the birth of Mad River.

Plans moved quickly into action and the brewery released its first draft Steelhead in December of 1990. The first space was 4,000 square feet, which was small for a brewery but felt super-sized in comparison to the only six employees.

In the first year, these six employees ran a bottling line that produced 400 cases per day, exceeding, even doubling what was expected! Before ya knew it, the joint grew to 12,000 square feet, and the high demand made the brewery a huge success.

The Mad River Brewery is now in it’s third decadeand they don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. They’ve built a loyal band of followers who love the brews. A company that keeps centered on good people, great workers and an awesome craft can’t go wrong. There’s nothing mad going on here except for the crazy greatness filled into every craft bottle.

Nightwire asked Dylan Schatz, Brewmaster Mad River Brewing Company the following:

1. How long have you been with Mad River — what growth and changes have you seen??

I’ve been with Mad River Brewing for 14 years now. The growth here has been steady over the years and increasing rapidly over the last 3-4.   Changes have been constant as we are continually upgrading equipment and improving on our process techniques.

2. Any new brews coming out for March/spring that we should know about??

New products for the spring are our Double Dread Imperial Red in April (spring seasonal) in bottles and draft. We’ll also be offering our Barretor-Coxinator Dopplebock (draft only) in March, as well as our Steelhead Bourbon Barrel Aged Extra Stout (draft only) in May.

3. Are there any expansions, for the building or line, in the works??

Expansion plans are underway for increased storage areas (building). Also we will be upgrading our brewhouse to double it’s current capacity and adding additional fermentation tanks by the end of 2013.

4. What’re some of your favorites, or suggestions for the upcoming spring weather??

Suggestions for spring: Pale Ales, IPA’s, Red Ales and E.S.B.


Mad River Brewing Company is centered on reuse, reduce and recycle! The environment matters to this great beer-lovin’ crowd. That being said, they already use recycled equipment from Sierra Nevada. Also, all of their paper and metal products are recycled. The company strives to reduce both water waste and finds uses for spent grain.

That’s not the only stroke of kindness and giving back within the brewery. Featured on their website is a link for non-profits to apply for donations.

It’s all about giving back at Mad River.


Steelhead Extra Pale Ale

The spicy and floral tastes give this light-blonde beer its character. It hints at sweetness with  a smooth malt taste and a dry finish. It has a 5.6 percent alcohol, so enjoy a few.

Steelhead Double India Pale Ale

The color of this treat is darker, with almost an orange hue. Strong notes of citrus are followed by a lighter whiff of pine and flowers. The sips are super dry and the hops sit well on top of the flavor. It has a sweet finish though, of malts, which cut the bitterness of the hops. It has a higher alcohol at 8.6 percent.

Steelhead Porter

Malts play center-stage in this sweet, but well-balanced Porter. It’s an excellent beer to sip on and a great brand of craft porter. The finish really is smoky, which is why it pairs well with slow cooking meats. It has a 6.5 percent alcohol.

Steelhead Extra Stout

This is an American stout like no other. The pitch-black color smells of dark cocoa and licorice, it’s a spicy flare. The taste follows suit. The balance in this beer is the best part. It has a 6.5 percent alcohol percentage.

Jamaica Red Ale

A mahogany hued ale brings an intense spectrum of spicy aromatic hop character, balanced by a  full-bodied caramel richness. It has a 6.5 percent alcohol percentage.

Jamaica Sunset India Pale Ale

A true-blue American IPA, this brew is delicious. The bubbles are at a great level and the smell is very hoppy. Plus, it’s full of citrus. The taste includes malt, citrus, grass, which are the makings of a great IPA. It has a 7 percent alcohol percentage.


The brewery has a taproom as well as daily tours. There are  food vendors beginning in the evening, every Wednesday through Friday. It’s a delicious fare ranging from weenies to falafels and pairs well with all their offerings.  There’s live music and something going on every night at the brewery.

Tours are given in the early afternoon, and there’s a great custom-made bar that is a “must see.” Visit their website – for tour details, an event calendar and news about special beers available. Mad River is a poppin’ fun place.

Mad River Brewing Company is located in the Mad River Valley – 300 miles north of San Francisco in Humboldt County, California: – 101 Taylor Way  Blue Lake, CA 95525 (707) 668-4151