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Serious Madness | Mad River Brewing Company

very good
126 Reviews
no score
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Serious MadnessSerious Madness

Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company
California, United States | website

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.20%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by klewis on 02-26-2009

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 126 | Ratings: 217
Photo of Fatehunter
2.58/5  rDev -34.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.5

Pours a half finger of head on a black body.
The aroma is roasted malt, sour milk and grass. It's not a great smell.
The taste starts mildly sweet, then some lemon bitterness in the middle to end. It has a milk flavor to it all.
The texture is crisp and soft around the sides.
The sour smell and milk flavor really through this beer off.

 337 characters

Photo of Bfarr
2.58/5  rDev -34.5%
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 brokenleadedcask
2.68/5  rDev -32%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Sampled on 07/27/09. Reviewed from notes

Typical dark brown body with light brown, almost off-white head. A little bit of lacing and head retention. Smells of campfire, chocolate, burnt caramel, and diacetyl. Dry dark chocolate overwhelms the taste, with a dash of hop bitterness. I found this beer to not have very complex tastes. Dry, chalky and a bit powdery feeling. A few months ago, I enjoyed this but now it's meh?

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Photo of philbertk
2.71/5  rDev -31.2%
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 beertunes
3/5  rDev -23.9%
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.

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Photo of Beaver13
3.01/5  rDev -23.6%
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 Immortale25
3.04/5  rDev -22.8%
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 Murrhey
3.1/5  rDev -21.3%
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 shanblur
3.19/5  rDev -19%
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 zeledonia
3.23/5  rDev -18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

From notes. Pours a dark black with a massive brown-tan head. Smell is strong, roasted malt, coffee, with alcohol kick. Taste is sharp, like a very bitter stout, with strong coffee flavor and smoky aftertaste, but a little bit overpowered by the hops. Finish is somewhat bitter and has that same alcohol kick. Mouthfeel is lighter than I'd expect, fairly smooth with good, but not overwhelming, carbonation. But the flavor is just too harsh and sharp for me to enjoy it.

 470 characters

Photo of BB1313
3.33/5  rDev -15.5%
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 julian
3.35/5  rDev -15%
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 brewdlyhooked13
3.37/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - pours a good looking cola/ruby with a solid finger of light tan foam. Nice stick as the head recedes.

Aroma - light caramel and toasted grain. I may be a little nasal impaired tonight but thought I would pick up more than I did here.

Taste - lots of roast character to the malt. Some hop bite on the swallow, not much flavor to it though. Abv presence on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - smooth, quite crisp, with a medium to medium-plus body.

Drinkability - sort of am 'imperial Schwarz', I guess. I'll age one or two just for kicks, but these drink nicely.

 570 characters

Photo of rodbeermunch
3.39/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Real black beer with a brown 1/2" head on it. Dark black. Lots of roast, some alcohol in the nose.

Taste was fucking roasty and bitter as fuck. Lots of chocolate and coffee malt notes. Tons of carbonation, a good degree of bitterness. Hid the alcohol better in the mouthfeel than it did in the nose.

Total hybrid of a black ipa, porter, stout, all well hopped with bittering hops more than any other stage.

 415 characters

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.41/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pretty much a black beer with a light brown head to it. Roasty smell.

A serious amount of bitterness. Heavy roasting. Chocolate and coffee malt probably. Very carbonated. Slight amount of metallic vibe to it. Not a lot of hop mouthfeel, just the bitterness.

A decent enough black beer, nothing complex, but it hides the alcohol well enough. Tough to really categorize the style, somewhere between a stout, porter and an ipa.

 428 characters

Photo of Drinkerofales
3.53/5  rDev -10.4%
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...


 641 characters

Photo of drabmuh
3.53/5  rDev -10.4%
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 beagle75
3.55/5  rDev -9.9%
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 NoLeafClover44
3.55/5  rDev -9.9%
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 GRG1313
3.56/5  rDev -9.6%
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 jimmah120
3.56/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle with no date

Look is a very dark cola, lots of sediment. So, bonus points for that. Smell is herbal and sweet, like a spiced tea. Some roasted malts, too. Taste clashes: metallic flavors, dark fruits, English tasting hops.

Not my favorite black ale.

 263 characters

Photo of ksimons
3.56/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-very dark brown with a ring of lace around the top

S-malty, coffee, caramel, overall the smell is not very strong

T-rich roasted malts, tastes of coffee and caramel

M-rich, full body, moderate to high carbonation

D-good drinkability but probably not a beer I would seek out again

 285 characters

Photo of bheilman
3.58/5  rDev -9.1%
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 Bizz88
3.6/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured this black brew a little on the agressive side, smallish tan head with some lacing. An aroma of fermenting grains. Burnt semi-sweet chocolate, carmel on the tongue, sweet on top with a bitter metallic finish for this medium bodied ale, not a bad brew for a dark ale.

 273 characters

Photo of WeisGuy
3.61/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

a - pours a deep brown with burgundy highlights, thick one-inch tan head with great retention and lacing

s - dark roasted malt and cocoa powder on the nose, slight hoppiness and boozy notes

t - very smooth roasted malt and dark chocolate flavors dominate, like the aroma, only a slight hoppiness on the finish with very muted bitterness, well-balanced and well-integrated flavors, alcohol is very slight in the taste

m - full-bodied, medium-carbonation, well-balanced finish, not much alcohol warming

d - moderately drinkable because of the smoothness of the flavors and its easiness on the palate

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Serious Madness from Mad River Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 126 ratings.
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