Serious Madness - Mad River Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Serious MadnessSerious Madness

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BA SCORE
88
very good

125 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

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Reviews: 125
Hads: 212
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 8.1%
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
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Reviews: 125 | Hads: 212
Photo of spinrsx
3.69/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz Bottle from the Total Wine in Tampa FL for 3$

Appearance - Black/brown colour with a large size fizzy dark beige coloured head. It's too dark to make out the amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 3-4 minutes.

Smell - Malts, coffee, chocolate

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste caramel and malts. There is also a light smokiness and some chocolate and some very light hops. It ends with a chocolate/coffee aftertaste and only a very faint hit off hops.

Overall – Can't find a date on this bottle.. but I have a hunch it is not at it's best. I can hardly taste any of the hop/grapefruit flavours I'd expect to find in a California Black Ale. Still a good RIS taste going on though. (779 characters)

Photo of horshack7
4.21/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: It's quite dark with a dark beige head around one finger thick.

Aroma: Hazelnut, dark fruits, espresso, vanilla bean, dark chocolate, roasted hops with some light citrus notes.

Taste: Large roasty notes notes in the front. Vanilla bean, chocolate malt, dark roasted hops that have a dry floralness. Espresso and dark coffee and a very smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Drinkable all the way around the dry finish is a nice touch as well the hops being in the background of it all. Cheers. (494 characters)

Photo of BB1313
3.33/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Pours black with brown hues. Kakhi head that fades and leaves decent lacing. The aromas are full of roasted chocolate malts. There's hints of smoke, oak, caramel and vanilla. There's a subtle anise/black licorice notes, but it definitely doesn't dominate. Not much of a hop aroma. Flavors are loaded with dark chocolate giving it a nice bitterness. Hop bitterness is there; hop flavor not so much. But I don't really think this is intended to be a "Black IPA". This truly is a black ale. It's more reminiscent of a stout or a porter, but not quite. Very roasty. Coffee notes are there as well. Mouthfeel is somewhat thin for a big beer and there's alot of carbonation. It doesn't exactly match with the flavors, imo, but still works. Alcohol is hidden.

Starts off interesting and then becomes redundant, but it's still pretty solid. This would be good for the winter or during the colder weather. (932 characters)

Photo of TheSixthRing
3.97/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance - Pours near opaque black with a tan, finger width head. Good retention, leaving behind a nice layer of microbubbles that coats the surface. Lacing is thin and sheeting before clumping into spots on the glass.

Smell - Predominantly earth on the aroma. Chocolate mocha. Faint floral hops.

Taste - Strong roasted malt character upfront and throughout. Bitterness comes through as baker's chocolate and moderate anise character. Milk chocolate sweetness hits mid-taste before a nice, balanced finish.

Mouthfeel - Medium to full body with moderate carbonation. Creamy at first, then turns a touch chalky and dry on the finish.

Overall - I wouldn't categorize this as an American Black Ale (or Black IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale, whathaveyou)... it drinks just like an Imperial Stout. In fact, I think it's been completely miscategorized here, and a perfect example of why I don't like that CDA's have been renamed American Black Ale. Black Ale is a generic term for any ale that's black in color, such as this. But it's nearly 75 IBU's you say? So what. Ten Fidy comes in at 98 IBUs. CDA is not only a more unique and less confusing term, but it also pays homage to that style's localized roots... but I digress. This is a solid all-around beer. Great balance. Wonderfully drinkable. Don't expect it to be a CDA, or 'ABA'. It's not. (1,339 characters)

Photo of tdm168
3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - black with a big, thick, brown head that has great retention; some sediment floating in the dark liquid

S - very faint nose; some chocolate

T - chocolate, roasted malts, black licorice, dark fruit, faint citrus, mildly bitter

M - medium bodied, well carbonated

This was a decent beer. It wasn't as hoppy as I was hoping, but the rich, complex maltiness was enough to keep me intrigued. The hops seem to get buried revealing only a slight citrusy undertone. Something a bit more bitter may have had a better chance against the depth of the malt. All in all, I did enjoy this beer, and I would recommend it to any fan of the style. (637 characters)

Photo of Greywulfken
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: center-pour into a nonic pint: opaque black body, dense head of rich tan foam, ample lacing

S: roasted bittersweet dark malts

T: flashes of anise over sweet malt, roasted bittersweet chocolate, espresso coffee; earthy and herbal undercurrents

M: thick, chewy, bittering, crisp on the finish

O: I found this to be a very enjoyable beer, approaching a stout in character and an Imperial in strength. (404 characters)

Photo of NoLeafClover44
3.55/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. I can't find a bottling date, but the dust on the bottle neck tells me it wasn't bottled yesterday.

A - The black body is speckled with tiny cocoa colored floaters. A long-lasting finger of almond head sits on top. Good lacing.

S - Smells of rich chocolate, roasted malts, and marshmallow. Subtle and comforting aroma with little to no hops. Smells like a chocolate stout. The hops have faded from the nose if there ever were any. Nonetheless, it smells delicious.

T - Much more bitter than I would have expected from the aroma. Chocolate malts dance with bitter pine on the forefront. Some char on the back end with a lingering alcohol bite.

M - Nearly flat with a medium body.

O - I love this style and I rarely pass up an imperial black ale that I have not yet tried. This one was a bit disappointing. The aroma was very good, and the flavor decent, but the lack of carbonation ruined it for me. Without bottle dating, I won't grab this one again. (1,006 characters)

Photo of aquatonex
3.69/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours pitch black with a small head that dissipates leaving a brown ring around the beer as well as a lacing, a single sheet of tiny bubbles. Smells like hot chocolate without the hot, chocolately, earthy, and slightly sweet. Taste is not as good as it smells, but still it good. Malts are dominant, thin chocolate flavor then changes to bitter and solid alcohol notes. The flavor starts off rich but thins out and leaves you wanting a bit more. Overall, a nice smelling decent tasting beer for the ABV. (503 characters)

Photo of Danny1217
4.3/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours black, letting very little light through. A small tan head with good retention.
Smells nice and roasty. Some nice earthy scents, but the roasted malts dominate.
Tons of flavor in this one. Roasted coffee, caramel, and a nice hoppy bite at the end. Almost like a stout with just a bit of an IPA character. It's got some bunch too, at 8.2% ABV. Full bodied, somewhat light carbonation.

This black ale gives sublimely self-righteous a run for its money as far as I'm concerned. Mad River has to be one of the most underrated breweries in the world. (553 characters)

Photo of cjgator3
4.15/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle

A- Pours a dark black color with a light tan head with good retention and lacing.

S- The aroma is dark roasted malts and hops. Good aroma, just a little fainter than expected and desired.

T- The taste is bursting with flavor. Dark roasted malt and a lot of bitterness from the hops. Very enjoyable!

M- The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a perfect amount of carbonation. Perfect!

O- Overall, this is a fantastic beer that I really enjoyed! Recommended! (469 characters)

Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.08/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I’m glad to digging into the black ale style a bit further. As of now, I’ve only had Stone’s adaptations, so it’ll be good to try some offerings from another brewery.

A: Pours like dark, ashy-black coffee – thick and opaque, but watery enough to give away its <10% ABV. Two finger high, moderately tan head, with a foamy, micro-bubbled texture. Retention is thin but creamy, with a protruding bump over the nucleation site. Lacing is creamy and abundant.

S: Aroma is all stout mixed with mineral water; an Americanized version of a British RIS, you might say. Caramel, mocha, and vanilla are rich and syrupy, showcasing a buttery cinnamon-pastry scent. These malts and residual sugars create a wholesome, savory darkness. Earthen minerals, with peat, roasted chocolate malt, and new leather. Light hops show some citrus, as well.

T: Pleasantly roasty: big, big char, toasted biscuits, and bourbon barrel oak. Sweet cinnamon roll with vanilla icing, brown sugar, mild toffee malts, and toasted grainy flavors dance across the tongue; not thick in any way, but playful and smooth. The bitters are mainly from the burnt nature of the palate, but a nice taste of coffee, pine, light citrus, and peppery spice. The aftertaste comes out chocolaty and a little chalky, with a resiny dryness and a finish of smoke.

M: Quite smooth; a very drinkable ale. Feels a little thin at times, but that’s to be expected from the not-too-huge flavor of the beer. Wonderfully viscous.

O: I really like this beer; it might just be my favorite black ale so far. The roasts are much larger in this example of the style, without the anise-heavy character of Stone’s brews. Mad River, you rock! (1,691 characters)

Photo of Immortale25
3.04/5  rDev -23%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a Sierra Nevada tumbler. Sticker placed on the bottle by the liquor store says 3/29/2012

A- Pours a mostly opaque black color with a 1/2 inch dark tan head that retains well before descending into a thick ring around the edge of the glass and light surface foam. Slippery, average lacing.

S- Dark, roasty nose that's reminiscent of coffee and dark chocolate. Semisweet.

T- Deep roasted malts that are almost charred. Off-putting bitterness that kind of clashes. Booziness isn't kept in check very well either. Pretty blech.

M- A bit stingy and thick. Almost like it'd be better off just being a stout. Medium-low carbonation.

O- Only the second beer I've had by these guys and I'm not very impressed. Steelhead is all right but I'm not drinking this again. (773 characters)

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

loved this one. pours dark and thick, feels like a porter or even a stout in all categories. has a very dark roasty nose, coffee and bitter hops, like a black ipa. also some of the booze comes through in the nose. flavor is excellent, balanced dark malt and hops with a great feel. huge body but drinkable, a nice hoppy finish and an alost oatmeal stout type smoothness going down. this is one of the better mad river beers ive tried (behind only the scotch porter i think). althogh its available all year, this is a great seasonal beer for the spring nights that still have some chill. a must try, great interpretation of the style. (633 characters)

Photo of Murrhey
3.1/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Reviewed live.

A- Quarter inch tan head. Surprisingly long retention. Black body. Sticky lacing.

S- Dark chocolate, some wine or bourbon notes. It's a stronger beer and even the chocolate and coffee notes can't hide that.

T- Rich coffee notes and dark roasted barleys and malts. Deep dark flavors. Fairly nice if not a bit over roasted.

M- Very bubbly for a dark beer, but still smooth. Very dry.

O- I had anticipated a better beer. It loses me in the over roasted flavor and kind of simple feel. (548 characters)

Photo of Drinkerofales
3.53/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black, no light penetration. A huge light mocha head is quick to dissipate, but leave tons of lacing.

Smell is of tangerine hops? WTF!? I was expecting a stout here by the look of it. Some sweet malts are in here too, with some boozy scent to round it out.

Taste is strangely mellow, some roasted malt, with a bit of citrus hop tartness on the finish.

This has some hop bite to it. There is some boozy hotness, and a very smooth finish.

Kind of a strange beer, I would drink one again if free, but not buy one again. Black IPAs are still not my thing, and this was black with huge hops, just not as much in the taste for me...

DOA (641 characters)

Photo of thain709
4.02/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Poured a deep, dark brown that bordered on being black...one fingers worth of tan head disappeared rather quickly...only some light lacing was left behind

S - There is a lot of milk chocolate coming off the nose...a roasted characteristic pokes through and is balanced by some sweet vanilla notes...slight hop presence

T - A dark roasted malt flavor starts the beer off...there is a slight charcoal presence lingering in the background...all of that turns sweet though...dark fruits and vanilla help with the sweetness...dark and milk chocolate settle in for the finish...the finish comes across bitter

M - Medium bodied...not quite full...roasty, dry, bitter...lingering chocolate notes

O - This was a serious beer...it's not your typical "black ale/IPA" which I was okay with...the hops were at a minimum and the roast was strong and enjoyable...I would have this again (879 characters)

Photo of Beaver13
3.01/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz bottle. Pours a dark brown black with a thick creamy tan head that foes to a thin film and leaves some lacing.

The aroma is subdued - roasted chocolate malts with some dark fruits.

The flavor is a lot of roast - some chocolate and coffee, with a big acidic bitter roast finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and slightly watery.

Overall, it's an OK, very roasty black ale. (381 characters)

Photo of drabmuh
3.53/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

At the time of this review, this is the #33 American Black ale on the beeradvocate.com best of lists. Served in a goblet.

Beer is black with a big tan head of soapy big bubbles, some lacing, moderate to low carbonation.

Aroma is a little malty, mild hops, sort of boring.

Beer is sweet, a little boozy, nice malt, minimal hops, kind of tastes like a porter, a big porter, but a porter. What about this beer makes it an "American Black Ale?" I guess the label calls it that but there is close to no hops in it. As a porter though it is decent. I might have it again but I'm not excited about that possibility. I won't have trouble finishing this little bottle. (662 characters)

Photo of jondeelee
4.2/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serious Madness is a seriously dark ale, noticeable even in the nose, which bears notes of milk and dark chocolate, chocolate malt, peat, tobacco, and just at the edges, a slight floweriness from the hops.

On the tongue, the brew is instantly dark and black, with strong chocolate malts hitting the tastebuds, accompanied by ash and tobacco, as well as peat. The level of black malt flavors is more pronounced than a Guinness, and more geared toward ash and tobacco. Toasted pecans and slightly burnt grains round out the malt flavors. A good smattering of hops gives the beer a nice bitterness, though the grapefruit/pine notes normally associated with hops are largely overwhelmed by the malts. Aftertaste is mainly ash and chocolate malt, and lingers at the back of the throat for a while. Mouthfeel is medium-light and silky, and carbonation is medium-light.

Overall, this is a good black ale, with plenty of flavor to go around. Some might find it a bit too ashy, and the brew is more watery on the tongue than I would have expected, given the flavors, but it's still a nice addition to the collection. (1,111 characters)

Photo of Brent
4.2/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

With the label proclaiming it as a black ale (I still think of them as "Cascadian," showing my age), I expected the black IPA characteristics. I was surprised at how much this came across as an American Stout. Big, deeply roasted malt flavor. Some dextrose sweetness and a bit creamy in the mouth. Hopping was firm, but not the centerpiece of the beer. Quite good, but I'm not sure it really hit the style it was aiming for. (424 characters)

Photo of metter98
4.08/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is very dark amber (near black) in color and has a bit of particles visible floating near the bottom of the glass when it is held up under close inspection to a bright light. It poured with a finger high creamy tan head that has excellent retention properties and consistently covered the surface and left a thick coating of bubbles down the edges of the glass.
S: There are moderately strong aromas of roasted malts in the nose.
T: Like the smell, the overall taste is dominated by flavors of burnt and roasted malts from start to finish. There is also a light amount of bitterness from the hops, but this is overshadowed by strong amount of malty flavors. Notes of chocolate become evident as the beer begins to warm up.
M: It feels medium-bodied, dry, smooth and somewhat crisp on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: The beer isn’t that difficult to drink because the alcohol content is well hidden from the taste. There’s also a good balance in the flavors—just enough hops are present to keep the malts from overpowering your palate. (1,073 characters)

Photo of shanblur
3.19/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Recently purchased at the liquor locker Weinbach location in Evansville, IN. Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a tulip. No date on bottle, so no telling how long it has been in their cooler.

A - Pitch black color with a thick fluffy tan head and extreme retained lacing

S - Somewhat muted chocolate, coffee and some piney hops

T - Similar to the smell with some Dark chocolate and coffee notes with a well integrated piney hop flavor

M - Full bodied with a good amount of carbonation

I don't know if this bottle is well past it's prime or if I just didn't like it as much as others. As tasted, an average brew which I would not go out of my way to try again. I have another from this brewery which I look forward to tasting (726 characters)

Photo of Bfarr
2.58/5  rDev -34.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Clear dark brown and big tan fluffy head on top foamy on the bottom with great retention Chocolate, shades of licorice and roasted malt aromas. Chocolate sweetness but roasted malts dominate with hints of licorice. Smooth mouthfeel with a tacky linger.

Any good flavor is drowned out so your left with a charcoal beer relatively high in alcohol. (346 characters)

Photo of katybee
4.13/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours deep, translucent, cola brown, with a light quickly disipating creamy head. Light rim remaining.

Very light smell, mostly clean malty, light bitter hops.

Immediately a molasses tone and texture hits the tongue. Sweet; yet nicely bitter and malty, but clean, not creamy. Toasted malts, perhaps towards choc-coffee and dates, but mostly the molasses bitter-sweet breadiness. Perhaps faintly citrus hops, but malt predominates. A nice clean rich flavor, smoother than some stouts.

Medium body, smooth and definitely creamy both due to the carbonation and bready body.

Overall a nice strong beer, without any residual off tones like Guiness strikes me as having. Not overly sweet , just a hint. Very palatable! (716 characters)

Photo of PorterForMe
4.38/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a beautiful black with a one-finger light tan head. Awesome lacing. Can't wait.

S: Holy malt batman. A plethora of sweet malt aroma with hints of licorice and slight hoppiness.

T: Delicious. Sweet caramel and toasty chocolate with great alcohol balance and a hint of hops. Only thing I would ask for is a slightly stronger hop profile in an ABA.

M: Somewhat chewy for an ale; more like a stout (I'm not complaining). Solid carbonation

O: This is a great beer. Maybe a touch too sweet and a little lacking in hops, but that is nitpicking this tasty brew. Give it a shot! (582 characters)

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