Another big beer from the very small town of Blue Lake, CA. On the nose, expect a prominent, deeply layered hop character. Look for notes of grapefruit, anise/licorice, spruce, a distinctly sap-like resinous character and tangerines soaked in maple syrup. There are stern hop flavors that provide ample bitterness, but the malty sweet character stands strong in balance. Note a distinctly nectar-like character to this beer; it is slightly floral, rather citrusy, and robustly spicy. The beauty here is this all comes from the hops—a skillful hand is clearly at work here! The citrusy character slides away in the finish, leaving behind notes of fresh grains and resinous hoppy bitterness. This is a solid, solid beer and is a tribute to the American microbrewers' skill of packing vibrant, powerful flavors into a balanced beer. The brewery recommends pairing with savory crepes, pasta with white sauce, or grilled chicken. We'd like to add well-done (nearly burnt crust) white pizza from a wood-burning stove to that list. A very memorable red ale. However, at 6.5% ABV, it is quite possible that if you have too many in one sitting, you won't remember much of anything.
In the midst of massive redwood trees in northern California is the small town of Blue Lake, population 2,800. This juxtaposition of small and large, and the imagery it conjures up, is fitting on many levels; the Mad River Brewing Company was founded here in 1989 and is itself a microbrewery, started by a small number of people with a big idea, and this tiny brewery handcrafts some very big beers. They have garnered a plethoric array of awards for the brewery—far too many to list here, but we encourage you to check out their awards listing at their website (http://www.madriverbrewing.com/pages/awards.html).
Having founded the brewery nearly 20 years ago, brewmaster Bob Smith was at the forefront of the microbrewery revolution. Now, he and his brewery staff are leading the charge of the green/eco-centric movement. The brewery's goal is to have 0% waste. A radical idea? Perhaps, but not impossible. In fact, many cities around the world are moving toward similar initiatives such as 0% landfill waste over the next 20 years (Austin, TX is one such city considering this path). The Mad River B.C. has been able to achieve a waste reduction rate of 98%. How do they do it? They purchase and reuse equipment and materials related to all facets of the beer business. This approach saves money, which is critical for a small brewery, but also reduces pollution that would be directly created by the brewery, and created indirectly in the process from the mining of raw materials, energy generation, and production of new goods. The bulk of waste produced by a brewery is organic (spent grains, hops and yeast) and used water (mainly from cleaning brewery equipment, glassware, etc.) Mad River sends over ten tons of spent barley malt and yeast annually as feed for local livestock or fertilizer supplements & composting material. Likewise, all of their spent hops are composted. In 2000 they added a waste-water treatment plant to the brewery.
And we thought they were just bad ass brewers—turns out they're eco-savvy environmentalists too. It's a true feel-good combo. Now helping to save the earth is as simple as drinking a Mad River beer (just be sure to recycle that bottle!!)
For more information about the brewery and scheduled tours call (707) 668-5680, or visit their website at www.madriverbrewing.com.
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