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 private tasting at Mad Fritz included just the three of us (myself along with two friends) and Brewmaster and owner Nile Zacherle.
Nile Zacherle, is a highly regarded winemaker in Napa Valley. Along with his wife Whitney Fisher, he’s spent years working on brewing beers that match his high standards.
Zacherle, featured here with Matthew Laconis, is part of a new younger, more innovative generation of winemakers that are shaking up Napa Valley.
With a degree in fermentation science from UC Davis and a stint in the 1990’s working in quality control for Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Zacherle has been able to make a name for himself in both the wine and beer worlds.
The names and artwork of all of Mad Fritz’s brews comes from Aesop’s fables.
Raw, artisan materials are what makes their beers stand out from other craft breweries.
The brewery has been crafting beers out of a nondescript building in an industrial section of St Helena since 2014.
Mad Fritz is a combination of the couple’s two children’s names, Madeleine (Maddie) and Frederick (Fritz).
Each batch undergoes secondary and even tertiary fermentation and often incorporates unusual ingredients.
Each beer is a unique bottling from a single barrel between 55 and 120 gallons. Below is a sampling of three of the beerswe purchased during our visit.
BREWER’S NOTEThis strong ale of sorts was the first to be crafted using a local well in Calistoga. An area known for minerality and beneficial health properties we thought it wouldn’t hurt us to make a little beer with it. This ale’s core malt is the Full Pint barley grown in Brownsville, OR while the Rye Malt was grown in Fallon, NV at 26% of the total grain bill. The generous spice and lift that Rye malt brings an aroma that is completely seductive as well as the synergy with the Ivanhoe heirloom hop this beer seems to get better and better with age. It clocks in with about 65 IBUs, 8.1 -8.6% Alc v/v and a pH of 4.7. Its terminal gravity of 1.004 adds to a crisp savory finish. Our lot code 15053041 was aged in Bourbon barrels for about two weeks and is unmistakeably intense. We partnered up with The Bounty Hunter andtheir great source of Bourbon to make this happenThis batch will be available for a very short time although its possible a few bottles may leave the brewery and could end up in your glass. – Source
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. Our original maltster, Rebel Malting Co, used to supply us a good supply of malted blue corn from New Mexico but in 2017 this sourcing ran out. We acquired Rebels’ Gen 2 malting kiln and began malting it ourselves beginning with our first batch in 2018. The flavors of this beer are incredibly unique due to the layering of malted corn, cascade hops and yeast esters offering lots of stone fruit. The color tends to be dictated by the blue corn and has a light red-blue hue to it. – Source
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 (Version A) then more and more and more on the finish. We introduced Version B (Chinook, Glacier and Magnum) in the fall of 2015 to offer a different expression of hops. 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 hops as well as subtle barrel tones and 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. – Source
Try something a little different the next time you’re in Napa Valley. You’ll find 11 cask conditioned Mad Fritz beers on draft for tastings and standard pours as well as bottles available for purchase at their taproom located at 1282B Vidovich Ave St. Helena CA 94574.