Barrel aged nano craft brewing in Napa Valley.

When our friend told us about a small brewery serving up superb quality barrel-aged beers in California's wine country, we knew we had to work extra hard at getting one of the extremely rare invitations to check it out while passing through on our road trip. Our tasting was just the three of us and Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

When our friend told us about a small brewery serving up superb quality barrel-aged beers in California’s wine country, we knew we had to work extra hard at getting one of the extremely rare invitations to check it out while passing through on our road trip. Our tasting was just the three of us and Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle.

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“Mad Fritz is the only brewery that actually tells you where the ingredients come from.”“ How many beers have you had where you look at the label and say, ‘Oh, I know where every one of these ingredients is from?’ You know where the brewery is, but 99.9 percent of the beer you drink, they’re using all the same sourcing. It kind of takes the personality out of the beer.” - Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

“Mad Fritz is the only brewery that actually tells you where the ingredients come from.”“ How many beers have you had where you look at the label and say, ‘Oh, I know where every one of these ingredients is from?’ You know where the brewery is, but 99.9 percent of the beer you drink, they’re using all the same sourcing. It kind of takes the personality out of the beer.”
– Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

Mad Fritz is the dream of Nile Zacherle, a highly regarded winemaker with David Arthur Vineyards and Montagna Napa Valley. With the help of his wife, Whitney Fisher, who is also a winemaker, he spent years developing plans to brew first-rate beer with impeccable – and improbable – standards.

Mad Fritz is the dream of Nile Zacherle, a highly regarded winemaker with David Arthur Vineyards and Montagna Napa Valley. With the help of his wife, Whitney Fisher, who is also a winemaker, he spent years developing plans to brew first-rate beer with impeccable – and improbable – standards.

They craft ales and lagers with an emphasis on controlling the raw materials furthering the expression of a time, place and the people that make it happen.

They craft ales and lagers with an emphasis on controlling the raw materials furthering the expression of a time, place and the people that make it happen.

Nile is featured here with Matthew Laconis who is also part a new younger, more innovative generation of winemakers that are shaking up Napa Valley.

Nile is featured here with Matthew Laconis who is also part a new younger, more innovative generation of winemakers that are shaking up Napa Valley.

Zacherle and Fisher have plenty of smarts to go along with their passion for making wine and beer. He has a degree in fermentation science from UC Davis and, in the 1990s, worked in quality control for Anderson Valley Brewing Co. He then switched to winemaking and, after working at wineries in Australia and France, returned to the Napa Valley, where he’s worked in the wine industry since 2000

Zacherle and Fisher have plenty of smarts to go along with their passion for making wine and beer. He has a degree in fermentation science from UC Davis and, in the 1990s, worked in quality control for Anderson Valley Brewing Co. He then switched to winemaking and, after working at wineries in Australia and France, returned to the Napa Valley, where he’s worked in the wine industry since 2000. His wife earned a degree in molecular biology and American history at Princeton before shifting her focus to her family’s winery, Fisher Vineyard.

All of the beers names and artwork comes from Aesop’s fables.

All of the beers names and artwork comes from Aesop’s fables.

Most of Zacherle’s beers are classic styles with various twists and all are aged in barrels, including IPA, porter, imperial rye stout, pale lager

Most of Zacherle’s beers are classic styles with various twists and all are aged in barrels, including IPA, porter, imperial rye stout, pale lager.

There is no bustling taproom and Zacherle seems almost averse to such common craft beer terminology as expansion, market share and distribution. “The business model is to stay small and be on the leading edge of quality,” said Zacherle.

There is no bustling taproom and Zacherle seems almost averse to such common craft beer terminology as expansion, market share and distribution. He prefers to stay small and be on the leading edge of quality.

You won’t find Mad Fritz in stores. The beer is on draft at only three restaurants, including the Michelin-rated Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford.

You won’t find Mad Fritz in stores. The beer is on draft at only three restaurants, including the Michelin-rated Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford. The majority of Mad Fritz beer is reserved for its exclusive membership, which is full at the moment and has a fairly long waiting list.

“We’re adding the transparency to the product and that artisan approach you might (associate) with winemaking. This isn’t a recipe. If I give you my recipe, I don’t care. The recipe isn’t important – the raw materials are important.” - Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

“We’re adding the transparency to the product and that artisan approach you might (associate) with winemaking. This isn’t a recipe. If I give you my recipe, I don’t care. The recipe isn’t important – the raw materials are important.”
– Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

Raw materials include everything from the barley to the barrels. “We’re paying more for our barley than most people would even consider. We haul in different waters from different wells (in Napa County) and add that element to the beer. Then we use barrels from the different wineries we work at and add that element as well.” - Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

“Raw materials include everything from the barley to the barrels. “We’re paying more for our barley than most people would even consider. We haul in different waters from different wells (in Napa County) and add that element to the beer. Then we use barrels from the different wineries we work at and add that element as well.”
– Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle

Zacherle goes about his work with a passion and an intellectual rigor that shines through the moment he starts talking about wine and beer, both the process of making and the joy of tasting them.

Zacherle goes about his work with a passion and an intellectual rigor that shines through the moment he starts talking about wine and beer, both the process of making and the joy of tasting them.

Open for a little over a year now, Mad Fritz is tucked away in an industrial section of town. Out front, there’s nothing more than a small paper sign on the glass door.

Open for a little over a year now, Mad Fritz is tucked away in an industrial section of town. Out front, there’s nothing more than a small paper sign on the glass door.

Mad Fritz is named for the couple’s two children, Madeleine and Fritz.

Mad Fritz is named for the couple’s two children, Madeleine and Fritz.

The barrel aged brews undergo secondary and even tertiary fermentation rather than being injected with carbon dioxide from a cylinder as is common, and some incorporate unusual ingredients.

The barrel aged brews undergo secondary and even tertiary fermentation rather than being injected with carbon dioxide from a cylinder as is common, and some incorporate unusual ingredients.

Each beer is a unique bottling from a single barrel between 55 and 60 gallons.

Each beer is a unique bottling from a single barrel between 55 and 60 gallons.

Because the beers are made in small quantities, Mad Fritz sells basically only to members who have to sign up for a year’s worth of beer, 12 to 48 750 ml bottles. They don’t ship the beers, but they do have a release party four times a year.

Because the beers are made in small quantities, Mad Fritz sells basically only to members who have to sign up for a year’s worth of beer, 12 to 48 750 ml bottles. They don’t ship the beers, but they do have a release party four times a year.

BREWER'S NOTE The idea behind this beer is to single hop with our locally grown Cascade and have a grain bill with approximately 30% micro malted blue corn (milled at our local Bale Grist Mill-est.1846). To craft a refreshing style while showcasing some of the color and flavor you get from the blue corn. The barrel age program is limited with another hop addition prior to racking for bottling. The result is a crowd pleaser that parallels many milder IPAs yet offers aromatic beauty of one of the greatest hops currently cultivated.

BREWER’S NOTE
The idea behind this beer is to single hop with our locally grown Cascade and have a grain bill with approximately 30% micro malted blue corn (milled at our local Bale Grist Mill-est.1846). To craft a refreshing style while showcasing some of the color and flavor you get from the blue corn. The barrel age program is limited with another hop addition prior to racking for bottling. The result is a crowd pleaser that parallels many milder IPAs yet offers aromatic beauty of one of the greatest hops currently cultivated.

BREWER'S NOTE The Eagle's Nest fable is just bad ass and the artwork by Barlow does it justice thus we needed to craft a beer that could be held to same level of morality! West coast IPA is the style framed with Colorado's Scarlet Malted Barley and a pinch of Belgian Special B to color it, a long bittering hop time 110 minutes with Amarillo and Citra then more and more and more on the finish. W... See More

BREWER’S NOTE
The Eagle’s Nest fable is just bad ass and the artwork by Barlow does it justice thus we needed to craft a beer that could be held to same level of morality! West coast IPA is the style framed with Colorado’s Scarlet Malted Barley and a pinch of Belgian Special B to color it, a long bittering hop time 110 minutes with Amarillo and Citra then more and more and more on the finish. We opted not to dry hop as we feel there is adequate punch from the whirlpool/knock-out steep. After a warm fermentation we racked to a 3rd use Chardonnay barrel for aging for two to three weeks only. This highly aromatic beer is bright with citrus and tropical notes with a rich yet dry texture terminating at 1.006 to 1.008 and alcohol at 8.4 to 8.8 % v/v and 85 IBUs.

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