Building Begins on the Site
Our Bottling Line
Our Bottling Line
Our Founder paid his dues in Sweat
Brew Master Bob Smith’s dream to open a small brewery specializing in craft beers started in the late seventies. In 1977 Bob became a member of the original group that founded the “Humbrewers Guild”. Excursions to buy brewing supplies led Bob to Ken Grossman’s Homebrew Shop in Chico, California. After Ken shared his plans to build a brewery in Chico to be called Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Bob became determined to found a similar brewery in Humboldt County. Bob’s contact with Ken becomes pivatol in the founding of Mad River. In the spring of 1989 Sierra Nevada, having outgrown its starting brewery and with a new larger plant under construction, offered to sell their original equipment to Smith. At this point the micro brewery business in general had proven its viability and the overall financial climate had changed so financing looked possible. Smith developed a prospectus and by fall found the investors necessary to establish the corporation known as Mad River Brewing Company.
Construction began that winter and the brewery took shape as the building was being built around it. Smith, with lots of help from investors, was hands on involved with designing the facility, building the improvements and installing the equipment purchased from Sierra Nevada. On December 4 1990 the first draft Steelhead reached the market with the start of weekly deliveries to local taverns, and then, just over two months later bottled Steelhead Extra Pale Ale was available throughout Humboldt. Occupying just 4000 square feet and having a bottling line that took all six employees (including the office person) to run 400 cases in a day MRBCo sold twice as much beer as projected for its first full year of sales at about 1500 bbl.
The early ‘90's saw increasing demand in many markets outside of the Humboldt area allowing MRBCo to post yearly sales growth averaging about 30% per year. To keep up with demand the plant grew to 12,000 square feet by ‘96, with 20 employees, the bottling line doing 1200 cases a day with five full time packaging people and a capacity of 10,000 bbl per year. Through the next decade the Brewery continued producing high quality craft beer while slowly working on plant improvements.
Now in our third decade we continue our commitment of producing fine ales combining the most traditional brewing methods with an environmentally sound approach. For centuries the English have been known for their brewing expertise. At Mad River Brewing Company we are long on tradition and continue to handcraft our ales in the truest sense. Our award winning ales have become renowned for their unique flavor profile and consistent quality. Steelhead Extra Pale Ale and John Barleycorn Barleywine have received gold medals at The Great American Brew Festival, the penultimate award in our industry. Mad River is perhaps best known for our Steelhead Brand Ales, including our flagship Extra Pale as well as an Extra Stout, a Scotch Porter and Steelhead Double IPA. We also produce the popular Jamaica Brand, originally produced for the legendary Reggae on the River festival in Northern California. Our annual fall Artisan Reserve release of John Barleycorn Barleywine is very limited, eagerly anticipated and quick to sell out. In 2009 we added three other Artisan Reserves; Serious Madness Black Ale, Double Dread Imperial Red Ale, and the Mad Belgian Golden Ale. All of them equally received by our customers.
Mad River Brewing was built on the foundation of reuse and recycle. This is still in practice today. We are still utilizing used and modified equipment such as Sierra Nevada’s first brewing system! We recycle all of our paper and metal products, use innovative waste water management techniques and have contracts to give the spent brewing grains to local farmers. These practices have always been apart of Mad Rivers’ history, long before it became cool to be a “green” business.
The brewery has always been about the beer and the hard working people that show up for work everyday to produce the best handcrafted ales to share with family, friends and the rest of the world! Since the beginning Mad River has had the good fortune to employ people that are dedicated and persevere, even when faced with serious challenge. Their dedication to Mad River’s Mission statement, “to produce the highest quality craft beer possible” has pulled us through to our third decade of production. There have been many changes in the last two decades, new brewers, managers, automated packaging machinery, new art for labels and 6 packs, but one thing that hasn’t really changed is the quality of the beer that this little plant on Taylor Way brews everyday.