I came across this beer on one of the ‘rotating taps’ at a decent tap house I sometimes frequent. I haven’t had much Mad River beer in the past, so I didn’t come in with any particular preconceived notions about the potential quality of the brew. I have been somewhat going out of my way lately to sample a broad selection of Cascadian Dark Ales (or, if you prefer, American Black Ales or Black IPAs), as I think it’s a style that’s beginning to come into its own. So obviously I couldn’t resist grabbing a pint to see what might be going on with this one. Incidentally, I believe this used to be Mad River’s winter seasonal, but to the best of my knowledge it’s now in year-round production.
Mad River Serious Madness
NOTES: Pint on tap at Walt’s Pourhouse in Coos Bay, OR
STYLE: American Black Ale
APPEARANCE: A very dark black-brown, opaque unless held directly up to a light when it becomes just a smidge translucent.
HEAD: Half inch of khaki foam, fading quickly to a ring around the glass.
LACING: Significant, sticky lacing throughout.
NOSE: Sweet roasted malts dominate the nose of this beer. There’s also a bit of espresso (distinctly more roasted than what I’d call a coffee aroma), and a small bitter hop presence.
TASTE: This beer is ALL about the dark roasted malt. There’s some coffee and chocolate flavors present, and a minor hop bitterness with a somewhat astringent alcoholic finish, but the caramel/molasses/toffee malt flavors completely dominate.
MOUTHFEEL: A somewhat thin mouth feel with a bit less carbonation than I was looking for. The edge of the glass became tacky upon my first sip, and by the end I felt like I had an entire face full of sticky sugar residue.
DRINKABILITY: I somewhat enjoyed this beer. I had no problem finishing it, and the flavors opened up some as it warmed, but I didn’t want another one. Honestly, I have no idea why they decided to call this a black ale. First of all, it’s bordering on imperial strength and comes in around 75 IBUs, so why not call it an imperial black ale? Secondly, this beer tastes nothing like any CDA/American Black Ale/Black IPA I’ve ever sampled. It’s a malty porter. In fact, if they’d called it a porter I probably would have rated it higher. But I expected a black ale and got something that just wasn’t. 2.5 hops for this misnomered confusion.