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Serious Madness | Mad River Brewing Company

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Serious MadnessSerious Madness

Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company
California, United States

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:
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Reviews: 126 | Ratings: 217
Photo of cjgator3
4.15/5  rDev +5.3%
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!

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
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!

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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.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.85/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

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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.

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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...


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Photo of thain709
4.02/5  rDev +2%
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

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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.

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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.

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Photo of jondeelee
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

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Photo of Brent
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

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Photo of metter98
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
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.

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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

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Photo of Briken
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.

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Photo of katybee
4.13/5  rDev +4.8%
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!

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Photo of PorterForMe
4.38/5  rDev +11.2%
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!

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Photo of meeekyh
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This bottle went into a Hennepin glass.

The ale is very dark, as advertised. Head it tall, thick and deep tan.

Smell is hoppy and there is a hint of toasty.

Taste is clean, dry, bitter and refreshing.

I note chocolate bitterness and a tiny bit of piney hops. The mouthfeel of the beer is so light and clean that it is surprising, as is the extreme drinkability. Downright dangerous at 8.6%.

I really like this beer. It is awesome in many ways and reminds me of my first experiences with the Guiness export as a kid (adult kid if you like).

Get some.


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Photo of chugalug06
3.61/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - WOW. Quite the lacing left behind! Nice soapy/foamy head. Head builds nice a quick; it's a straw color. Brew is jet black.

S - Serious roasty goodness. Chocolate, candy, caramel, and slight sweetness. Mild funk too,

T - Quite stout like... More of a stout than a black ale. Lacks the black ale hop. Lots of dark chocolate and caramel. A little licorice and molasses too.

M - No bitterness of you "standard" American Black Ale. Very smooth and buttery. Light bodied with great flavor.

O - Very nice brew, but doesn't fit the style at all. This should be considered a stout. Quite a nice brew, but not quite the style they were shooting for. Try it if you can find it...

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.15/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Went to Ohio for this one. Picked up a bottle for $2.99

My bottle has an abv of 8.2%

A - Nice deep dark brown with some sediment in the bottom. Very little mocha colored foamy head that turns to a small ring on the glass.

S - Has a very solid bit of charred goodness with a solid bit of smokiness. Hops are very subdued but there.

T - Actually tastes more of a balanced oatmeal stout really. Maybe a bit of smoke and a touch of roast but really smooth and drinkable with hints of chocolate.

M - Surprisingly no burn even though it's almost 9 percent. Tasty stuff.

Overall I guess this is a very balanced black ale even though I was expecting a Black IPA I was pleasantly surprised it being more roast and chocolate over bitter hops. Will have to find a fresher bottle since this one has quite a bit of yeast.

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Photo of harrymel
3.83/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: pours a deep black ale with no translucency until only an ounce or so is left in the glass and tilted. single finger light mocha head falls over a few minutes to a thick sheet of the same. spotty lacing.

S: Lots of piney, resiny hops, with plenty of oat malt. somewhat charred nose, hint of coffee. Robust.

T: Reminds me of a good oatmeal stout, but with gobs of hops. Plenty bitter, with creamy and dark maltiness. the smallest hint of alcohol.

M: Heavy, healthy body on this. medium to lo carb.

O: one of my favorite black ales so far. Really nice.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.9/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottle offered at Pizza Paradiso DC poured into a tumbler.

A very simple light cococa head almost tan in color, sitting on top of a very dark brown walnut body that is opaque. There's some slight red hues around the edges.

Smell is quite interesting and unexpected. Roasted malt, and a very big presence of good coffee. There's however a sense of gas/sulfur but also some nice chocolate but also a bit of heat.

Taste though at first is like pressed coffee, but it's the body and mouthfeel that comes out the most noticeable. Extremely carbonated and prickly and very light bodied. Finish though is a nice toffee like and bit of milk chocolate. Malt finish and there is a big sense of stickyness in the palate.

Overall not too bad, just wish it had a better feel.

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Photo of shand
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a nonic.

This pours super black, no tinges of brown or anything. A tiny off-white head crests the brew and stays there for quire some time. The aroma is super-roasty, and the taste follows that. It's full of roasted malts, chocolate and coffee, with a nice, fairly subtle hop kick that comes in on the finish. Alcohol is completely masked, this is a good brew, but I really wouldn't consider it to taste like a black IPA.

The mouthfeel is full, thick, and creamy, and the drinkability is quite good for it's ABV. Black IPA? I'm not so sure. This almost tastes a lot more like a hoppy imperial stout. That said, it's hoppier than any imperial stout I've had so far. It's also crazy delicious. Imperial black IPA, perhaps?

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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.

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Photo of birdypowder
3.67/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A decent black ale with an interesting and appealing aroma, good taste and nice finish. I would like to see a fuller and more complex hop aroma, maybe through an increased back end hop regime or through increased dry hopping.

Approaching jet black with a little light escaping through around the edges. Dark tan head that doesn't stick around too long and leaves minimal lacing. Clarity issues, floaters abound

Roasty and slightly chocolate, very faint whiskey aroma with some leather mixed in, becoming more interesting as it warms, slight DMS, hops contribute an herbal and earthy character that is subdued

Roast hits you first and it's astringency masks the claimed 74 IBU's and their bitterness. The alcohol is hidden well throughout. Somewhat astringent finish, though it is not overwhelming.

Surprisingly light, but good

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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.

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Serious Madness from Mad River Brewing Company
3.94 out of 5 based on 217 ratings.
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