Dismiss Notice
Hello, is it beer you're looking for?

Learn more about beer. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for as low as 68% off the single issue price.

Subscribe now →

Serious Madness - Mad River Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Serious MadnessSerious Madness

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

125 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 125
Hads: 213
Avg: 3.95
pDev: 13.16%
Wants: 17
Gots: 7 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Black Ale |  8.20% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: klewis on 02-26-2009

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 125 | Hads: 213
Photo of matthewalee
4.27/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 version

A - really off-black colored but with a good brown head to it. you know this beer is going to be wicked...

S - chocolate smell and lots of fruit.

T - this is a really good IPA clashing with a solid porter. I am kind of feeling a BrooDoo<-->founders porter...for midwest folk...

M - stays around for a while. sticky

D - You actually start to want to NOT put down this beer! Love the contrast of the style. Everyone should have at least a 4-pack of this stuff to enjoy because it's worth enjoying... at a medium-paaaace...


 554 characters

Photo of beagle75
3.55/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Hazy, dark brown color, almost opaque, with a discontinuous residue of light beige bubbles adorning the surface. Scant lacing remains on the glass.

S: Coffee grounds, mild and earthy umami, and some juicy tropical fruit are all detected early. Brown sugar emerges as the beer warms. No alcohol is detected in the smell.

T: Begins off-dry, with combined dark and bright fruit, spiking acidity, and some herbaceous hop aromatics that are barely-there. Dark roasted grain surges in the middle, tasting ashy and bitter. This bitterness becomes robust in the finish, with an astringent edge. No alcohol is detected in the taste.

M: Medium to thick viscosity, palate-coating yet sharply acidic early, with moderate carbonation.

D: Mark this as a malt-forward dark IPA, with an abv similar to Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous but lacking the spirited balance between malt and hop influences of that other beer. It brings more to mind a ghost from early 2010, the collaboration brew between Stone and Brewdog called Bashah. At less than half the price, this beer is a welcome alternative, if one is needed.

 1,154 characters

Photo of julian
3.35/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: near black but not completely opaque. Nice showing of wet frothy off white head.

S: toasty, malty, roasty, definite boozy aroma on the nose

T: Big roasty flavors, A little too roasty on the finish.

M: medium high carbonation, sticky burny flavors.

D: Definitely not sessionable, but could drink a few. Not the best example of the style.

 343 characters

Photo of beertunes
3/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into 10oz glass. Poured mostly black, with a bit of reddish translucence at the edges, and had a thin cap of tan head that had low retention and lacing.

The aroma was very roast forward, like a heavy Porter or light Stout, with just a faint trace of hops in the background. The flavors were similar, lots of roasted malt and just a barely discernible hop presence.

The body was well on the thin side, a bit too much actually, but I didn't gig 'em for it. Drinkability was good, but since I don't think it represents the style very well, it's hard to give it a higher score.

Overall, a decent enough beer. If perhaps you approach it as a "Light Porter" instead of a CDA, you'll have a better experience. Give it a shot and decide for yourself.

 752 characters

Photo of Gehrig
4.09/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I loped into the sterling Sun Singer to see if they had something new on their beer menu and, sure enough, Serious Madness caught my eye for I've never had it. Good call! The manager even sauntered over, which was good, for he told me that he got a case of this last year and cellared it for a year.

Dense black body with cherry trim, topped by a fat finger of light mocha froth; dense rings of lacing etched the pint glass with gorgeous decor. Nice nose, but a bit faint--some roasted caramel, a bit of coffee, but very little spice for something billed as a winter seasonal.

This is very tasty beer; very malty, a bit smoky, lots of roasted malt flavor. It almost tastes like a stout, but is smoother and easier on the palate. Lots of caramel, some toffee, a bit of coffee, and some citrus emerges in the second half as it warms. Very nice, almost deserving a higher score, but no slouch as it is.

I am surely won over by the texture, which is delightful--smooth with a touch of IPA grit in the finish, and very creamy. Although I found that the 8.6 ABV snuck up on me unusually quickly, this is very accessible. I readily ordered a second as I saw the bartender re-stocking it in the cooler.

Distinct, an amalgam of a couple styles that definitely veers toward the malty side of a Black IPA, this is REALLY good, a pleasant surprise and, I may attest, ages very well. Terrific.

 1,385 characters

Photo of AndyAvalanche
4.53/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass. Cool label, lightning is on the bottle, it's a twist off cap that I didn't realize till after I opened it with a bottle opener, I tend to forget that sometimes. Pours out very nice. Deep brown with some slight amber highlights. The beer has a tan colored head that sticks around and it produces unbelievably good lacing. Pours out stoutesque, maybe a heavier porter.

Smell is good, chocolate malts and big hop aromas. Both pine and citrus. Big and bold. This beer has all the characteristics beer lovers want. It doesn't try to do anything special, just big malt and hop aromas.

The taste is also on par. A very good Black IPA that has the darker malt flavors to it followed by hops. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, but it's just a perfect balance of the flavors.

Mouthfeel and drinkability are very good. Thick and full bodied and bold with a clean biter finish.

I've really liked several beers from Mad River, and this is another addition. It's very bold and uses classic ingredients to make a very tasty beer.

 1,081 characters

Photo of dwilson01
4.37/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

poured from a 12oz into my arrogant bastard pint glass, a dark mocha colored head tops the brew perfectly to the rim of the glass. It's creamy and dissipates slowly leaving nice lacing on the sides. The body is dark, just a slight tint of dark embery red on the edges when held up to the light.

The smell is very intense and thick, I get a ton of roasted malt which give it a coffee type flavoring with just a hint of bitter dark chocolate. The hopping is very distinctive, floral and citrus in the forefront adding a little fruitness to that malty assault.

The flavor is awesome, really no other way to describe it but I can try...The malty flavors that come out are a smooth sweeter molasses and roasted coffee along with a slight smokiness to it. Reminds me much of a smoked porter. But at the same time while all that is going on the hops are providing a woody hop to the front and giving you a small bitter kick near the end before the sweeter malty reinstates itself in the aftertaste. Very balanced and extremely complex in flavor, I am definitely a fan.

The mouthfeel is just to my liking, smooth, creamy, and thick with maltiness, and refreshing with a lighter hoppy feeling of an ipa. Great job here with this brew, it's a sipper due to its immense amount of flavor but I feel like I could sip and contemplate it all day if I wanted.

 1,347 characters

Photo of rembrant
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

look A Stoutish black with a fat 2 finger froth on top.
Major lace

Aroma Dark and roasty,chocolate,prunes,a hint of Sherry and coffee. Like Dark Horse Black Bier seems between Stout and Porter with a big robust thing and a tease of fruit.

Taste Here,coffee does take the lead with a bit of smokey malt,a hint of dark fruit or Sherry/Port. As the aroma hinted,this does resemble Dark Horse Black Bier,and that's pretty good,something I have often.
There's a semi-sweet lead in with the hop bitter finish posing as a dark coffee. I don't get any " Black IPA" here. Perhaps it's that when freshest. A little bit of citrus hops does hide,and emerge late to extend the finish.

Mouth Pretty thick and creamy,pretty much within the Stout zone for body with some sweet sticky on the lips.

Drinkability. Pretty beefy but tasty enough to be ready for another in a little while.

A real nice beer. Dark Cascadian, Stout,Porter,Black Beer...whatever the tag,it's the type of big and dark I tend to like and a good version.

 1,016 characters

Photo of WVbeergeek
4.33/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark cola pretty much black color with a light beige tan head forming thick with fine speckled lacing. Aroma has faint citrus herabal hops amongst a nice dark fruit and dark roasted malted barley back drop. Dark chocolate with hints of coffee and anise in the nose, herbal citric hops are subtle but interwoven in both flavor and aroma. Dark roasted chocolate dry bitterness on the palate hints of dark roasted coffee accents, with hoppy underpinnings this is a nice Black IPA. Mouthfeel is medium bodied dry bitter finish between hops and malts alcohol well hidden. Moderate carbonation goes down extremely smooth on the palate slight trace hop oils make it sort of slick. Drinkability overall is a smash hit in my mouth nice dark ale qualities that don't fight with the hop profile a well executed version of a hard to do style.

 830 characters

Photo of philbertk
2.71/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Mad River Brewing Company--Blue Lake, CA--Serious Madness Black Ale. 8.60% ABV. 80 IBU's. Lacy tan head. Opaque dark black color. Fruity hoppy dark fruit chocolate body. Imperial Porter CDA. Dry clean end. A little too chocolate for me. (2.0 / 5.0) Sampled 5 oz. Taster @ Fremont Oktoberfest on 9/25/2010.

 305 characters

Photo of DaveHS
4.5/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my 4oz tasting snifter.

A-Charcoal black with 3/4 inch of khaki head.

S-Toffee, caramel, milk chocolate. Smells freaking delicious.

T-It hasn't even been a full year and this beer has transformed. The hops have faded out almost entirely,bringing roasted malts to the forefront. Delicious, well-balanced notes of toffee, roasted almonds and milk chocolate.

M-Medium-bodied with low to moderate carbonation.

D- It's only about $3.99 a bottle, and it's an absolute steal.I'll be looking for this in the future.

 526 characters

Photo of dbexpert
3.95/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into SA perfect pint.

Coffee head on a dark brown beer. A solid 1" on pour, reducing over ten minutes to a 1/4". Light roasted coffee aromas are cut with a subtle citrus note. Good malt sweetness brings across a taste of maple brown bread. The alcohol is quite present but effective on balancing the sweetness.Hops are lightly bitter, creating a quite lengthy finish. Not my favorite Mad River but a good beer.

This beer has 8-9 months on it and has changed quite a bit for me. When I first had it fresh I would and did categorize it as an Imperial Black Ipa, now after seeing it's style and trying it with a touch of age it makes complete sense. This beer is an excellent example of knowing your style. As an ipa I would not have scored it as high but as a strong it ale it carries a ton of merit. This is a really good beer. Try a couple fresh and a few 9 months later. I believe this beer finds it's self with some age!

 936 characters

Photo of herman77
4.23/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Very dark brown, one shade away from black. Big creamy tan head with great retention. A little bit of dark ruby red light pokes through when held up. Lacing is more like a coating of foam left behind.

S: Roasty and chocolatey. In the background there is some minty orange hops...weird, but it smells great and complex.

T: Follows the aroma pretty well. Roasted malt and chocolate are the main staples, but again there are some spicy citrus hops in the background providing a really nice balance. This reminds me of a black IPA. The taste gets even better and more hoppier as it warms. Nice dry-malt and mildly hoppy finish

M: Medium body, feels pretty creamy from the soft carbonation. Nice.

D: ABV is really well hidden. Very good drinkability for what it is, could get dangerous easily. Seems like this should be more of a sipper, but its too tasty and balanced just right to do so.

 892 characters

Photo of Genghis22
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours a dark black with ruby highlight when held up to the light. Nice creamy tan head which slowly dissipated.

S - Rich roasty coffee malts. Slight hint of burnt grain. A touch of unsweetened cocoa powder.

T - Whoa! Big bold flavors. Coffee, molasses and hops. The hops were not very detecable in the nose, but absolutely present in the taste. A bit of alcohol, but considering the abv, not very much is detectable. Aftertaste is bitter coffee and hops.

M - Thick, sticky and chewy. Moderate carbonation. Coats the entire mouth with a syrupy deliciousness. The alcohol dries the tongue at the very end.

D - Dangerously drinkable. This is quite the tasty treat! Big, rich, bold and absolutely delicious. The abv is hidden quite well, which could be a very dangerous thing.

 781 characters

Photo of GRG1313
3.56/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with a thick and firm tan head; very nice looking.

Nose is of weak black chocolate with some sweetness; light licorice and hints of black cherry.

Mouth is medium bodied and nice balance.

Flavors are of bitter black chocolate and bitter coffee with a hint of sweetness; flavors develope into espresso and chocolate and get better as the beer warms.

Finish is a strong point - nice bitter black chocolate/bitter coffee finish with a hint of sweet chocolate in the first part of the finish.

Beer gets better and better as it warms.

 550 characters

Photo of Mora2000
3.68/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to blutt59 for sharing this bottle.

The beer pours a dark brown color with a white head. The aroma is mainly toffee and chocolate. The flavors include toffee, chocolate, roasted malts, yeast and some spices. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

 256 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.78/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Toronado. Perhaps the most interesting beer I had this aft there. Black wth a big soapyhead, and followed u with lace. Creamy above-Average mouthfeel. I was getting more of the black, the roastiness, though that was dominating and it was one-dimensional. More like a shwartzbier to me, although yes there were hops. Aroma was coconutty.
Had a bottle later and was just as good, with better aromas and left aftertaste.

 427 characters

Photo of cal82
3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Mad River, another Northern California microbrewery, not spending a whole lot of time updating their website. I picked up a rather pricey ($2.50/12 oz. bottle) 4-pack at my local BevMo.

I like technical details about my brew, and there aren't a lot here. 8.2% ABV is on the label, but nothing about IBUs or gravity. The website is likewise silent, even about the ales they bother to list there.

Foam was average, color very dark (Coca-Cola), which one would expect in a "Black Ale."

Flavor was fairly intense, although not dramatic. I'm pleased enough to try another of this brewery's ales, but not this particularly variety again. Up for future testing:

OK, after poking around a little more, I did find more information about this brew:

Serious Madness Black Ale (8.6%)
Serious Madness is an inky black brew with amber edges, Light bodied, silky smooth, complex and delicious. Not for the meek and timid this beer ferments out at a gratifying 8.6% ABV with an IBU
of 74.7

This particular Ale is part of their Artisan Reserve series. The "Double Dread Imperial Red Ale" sounds particularly intersesting.

 1,110 characters

Photo of bheilman
3.58/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is not a bad beer, but I am influenced by the twist off cap. I am sad to say that it influences me, but it makes me think of the macros and goose island. I don't know why goose island does it either. And for the trying to be impartial review.

The beer does have a nice dark appearnace. The smell is rich with malt, caramel and a little wood. Sort of like a scent absorbed while walking through the woods in the fall. The taste is even richer with malt. Nicelt approximating a German alt style beer. If I were to describe this beer in a category, I would say dark imperial lager. The taste has the falvor of some old wood along with rich malts and a tang of hop bitterness at the end. Even with the twist off, I am appreciating this beer. It is drinkable, but I would only go for two or three. It has a significant flavor and being a pale ale/ipa man I would rotate back to my staples.

 891 characters

Photo of jbertsch
4.02/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Pours black, with an off-white mocha head. Lacing is substantial. Looks like a porter.

The primary aroma is smoky cocoa, which is then followed by slightly-sweet black licorice. Hops are fairly present. I was pleasantly surprised with its aromas...it definitely has character, like a cast member from Jersey Shore.

It's flavor is layered. At first it reminds me of one of my favorite milk stouts, but with added hoppy bitterness on the back end. Roasted barley and malts solidly underlie it all. You can also find notes of coffee and dark chocolate in there.

Mouthfeel is on the thick side. Drinkability is OK - it might be trying to have a 2nd or third. It's not meant for quantity sake, but drinking one is mighty enjoyable.

Grab it if you see it. It's a treat I say. Parts of it remind me of Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous.

 836 characters

Photo of atsprings
4.36/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Flying Saucer served in a tulip glass an almost opaque not-quite black with a decent frothy light tan head that lasts and leaves great lacing on the glass. Aroma is an interesting blend of sweet malts, dried fruits and Earthy hops. The taste is a very complex blend of many flavors including dried fruits, bitter cocoa, Earthy hops, burnt caramel, mild roasted malts and mild coffee and just enough spice to have me wondering if this should be classified as a Belgian style. The beer is somewhat heavy, but not too overbearing, it certainly would be better enjoyed in the Winter than on a 70 degree Spring afternoon. I must say, this is a very enjoyable and intriguing beer that I would love to have again.

 716 characters

Photo of Gavage
3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a clear dark brown color with a thin 1/4" head that sports some large bubbles.

Smell: roasted malts and a light fruit sweetness are most notable. A hint of bitterness comes through too.

Taste: roasted malts, mild citrus flavors, mild prunes sweetness, and a decent bitterness make up a well balanced ale. Alcohol is well hidden.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer. Lightly crisp throughout with some dryness late. Short aftertaste.

Drinkability: easy to consume this beer. The alcohol is so well hidden this could catch up to you if you have a few. Nice beer.

 576 characters

Photo of ZAP
4.42/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Darb brown with ruby highlights...

Aroma of dark fruits and gummy bears...suagary....smokey molasses..

Taste is sweet candied maltiness with a nice balancing of piney/herbal hops...pretty strong bitterness on the finish.

Body is smooth, creamy, silky...medium to full...

Quality beer...It accomplished all of the following:Big, smooth, flavorful, complex, balanced, drinkable..

 381 characters

Photo of jdense
4.17/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Toronado SFO 4.1.10, $4 a pint during pre-6pm happy hour, score!

One finger light tan head, quick dissipation with big lacing present throughout. Dark brown/black opaque body, no visible carbonation. Floral hops in the nose, roasted malt, some chocolate, pretty dry nose, didn't pick up any Belgian Yeast (described on Toronado beer board as Belgian Black IPA, couldn't find any info on Mad River website to identify style). Taste is roasted malt, coffee more than chocolate, good hop hit on back end, bittier, enough hops to hold a hophead's attention. Mouthfeel is full, heavy, not much effervescence. Drinkability for style and ABV is quite good. I'm going to try and find a bottle of this to take home. I wonder if this should be properly classified as a CDA. Recommended.

 787 characters

Photo of tavernjef
4.53/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Impressively gorgeous pour of thick dark brown that drives a huge capping of dark tan foam nealry flopping out over the edge. Settles black in the glass and the foam smoothes out and stills at a comfortable finger height always present. Lacing doesn't describe what's happening as its more of a left over coating like something leftover in a lasagna dish.

Aroma is wonderfully complex and deeply wonderous as crispy cocoa-esk roastyness is lightly wrapped in a whispy floral orangey-minty spritz of earthy hops and tea. Lots of freshly dried husks emerge as it warms adding even more complexity. Nice!

Flavor follows right behind the aroma with more fun complexities with milky cocoa, roastyness tinged with dark coffee, bitter dark chocolate, and crispy, crusty black malt. The middle slows in some dark sweetness of caramel, hazelnut, and baked blackberry. Finish has a nice grazing dry husk of roasted grains and dashing lemongrassy hops adding in a wonderful twist of citrus peels late in the returning finish.

Body is immaculatley strengthened in a bolder medium body of milky creamyness with tender sweetness scurring underneath and top sided with the dryness of coffee and dark chocolate bitterness, hovered with light husky dryness and citric earthy tea inspired hoppyness.

Ummm...Wow! This grabs hold with very nice complexities and lures you into a 'Serious Madness' to drink some more! YummmmY!

Special note: a side from its apparent labeling of style of American Strong, this has all the makings of a stronger American Porter(Impy. Porter) style in the realm of 3F Alpha Klaus.

 1,594 characters

Serious Madness from Mad River Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 125 ratings.