Yurok corporation to purchase Mad River Brewing Co.

All staff will be retained

The Yurok Agricultural Corporation plans to buy Mad River Brewing Co. for an undisclosed amount. The plan is to retain the staff. (Google Maps)
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The Yurok Agricultural Corporation, a business entity owned by the Yurok Tribe, will purchase Mad River Brewing Company with plans to retain all staff at the craft beer staple in Blue Lake.

Mad River CEO Richard Hanger wouldn’t disclose the price of the purchase but said he’s staying on when the sale becomes official after a 60-to-90 day period. The company’s shareholders had no plans to sell, but the Yurok Agricultural Corporation came along and made an enticing offer.

The Yurok Agricultural Corporation is owned by the Yurok Tribe but operates separately. Linda Cooley, a tribal member who will be overseeing the purchase, said she saw the sale as an opportunity to diversify the tribe’s economic portfolio.

“I love Mad River; they’ve always had quality beer,” Cooley said, noting the Blue Lake location’s children- and dog-friendly atmosphere. Cooley has experience in the beer industry, having previously worked for Eel River Brewing Company.

It’s still too early for the sales team to start thinking about ideas for Mad River’s future, Cooley said, and the brewery’s brand is already built. One preliminary option the corporation might explore in its ownership is expanding the brewery to manufacture canned beer in addition to bottles.

Founded in 1989, the brewery has become a staple of Humboldt County’s cluster of beer companies. While beer is the brand, the company bills itself as a family-oriented restaurant, welcoming dogs into its doors and onto the Blue Lake location’s sizable outside patio.

“We bring a lot of business into town,” Hanger said. “To get to us, you have to actually drive through the town. People have developed an appreciation for the (Mad River) and our proximity to it; it’s a great place to have an evening walk… and then stop in for a quick pint.”

For the Yurok Tribe, the brewery will be a unique forage off the tribe’s reservation into Blue Lake. It will also be a new entry into the beer industry. Cooley said she anticipates tribal leadership being receptive.

“I think we might have some questions but we’re excited to answer that,” she said. “It’s something we’ve never done and a lot of tribes haven’t done before… Usually, we focus on our own boundaries in business, so this is a venture in creating that new normal.”

Having the brewery off the reservation is also a reason Cooley doesn’t anticipate the tribe being opposed to buying into beer. In a statement, the tribe’s vice president agreed.

“Mad River Brewery’s story and mission is exactly what we have been looking for in a business,” said Frankie Myers, who also serves as president of the Yurok Agricultural Corporation.

“Practicing the most traditional brewing methods for almost three decades, giving you the Northern California experience every time you raise your glass,” Myers continued. “We intend to expand this tremendous brand, lead with quality and share with the world.”

With her experience in the beer industry, Cooley noted she’s a personal fan of the Mad River brewery. Her favorite of the company’s brews? The Jamaica Red Ale.

“It’s good for cold or warm weather,” she said. “For any occasion, really.”

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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