Eel River Brewing Company: Home of Organic Beer

Eel River Brewing Company

The first certified organic brewery in the U.S., Eel River Brewing is a northern California mainstay. Crafting a large variety of beers in Scotia, Calif., and offering a popular, large tap room in nearby Fortuna at the site of the former Clay Brown Redwood Lumber Mill, the brewery is renowned for quaffs such as it’s organic porter and IPA.

Owners Margaret Frigon and Ted Vivatson began brewing in 1995 and have taken their organic certification seriously over the years. Organic brewing appeared on their radar when a friend asked for a pesticide and preservative free “naked” beer, and they complied, receiving certification in 1999. Today, they run a sustainable, organic brewing facility driven by bio-mass renewable energy, and operating its wastewater treatment onsite. Everything from Eel River’s packaging to its tap room’s tap handles are recycled. It’s an appropriate approach for a brewery located in the bucolic heart of Redwood Country, in the so-called Emerald Triangle – the name of one of the brewery’s IPA’s.

ERB’s beer selection has grown exponentially over the years: including their original Organic Amber Ale, there’s Organic California Blonde Ale, Organic Açai Berry Wheat Ale, Organic IPA, Organic Porter, Triple Exultation, Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout, Emerald Triangle IPA, and Emerald Triangle Session IPA, along with a variety of seasonal and speciality brews. The beers are award winners, too, bringing in Gold and Silver medals from the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brewers Competition to the Los Angeles International Beer Festival, the World Beer Championships, and the Great American Beer Festival, among many others.

Eel River’s Organic IPA is a crisp, copper-colored, hop centric beer with a 7.2% ABV, notes of floral and fruit including citrus, and a smooth balance between caramel malt and dry hops. The brew is crafted with a house yeast strain of strawberry esters. ERB considers this brew an English-style IPA, which means there’s less bitter hoppiness than in its American-style counterparts. This Organic IPA is the winner of the 2010 California State Fair Commercial Craft Brewers’ gold medal, and the 2008 and 2009 Los Angeles International Beer Competition.

Another organic choice with powerful personality is the Organic Porter. With a 5.8% ABV, this flavorful dark brown porter is surprisingly light, despite its heady blend of five different malts. With its smooth and rich notes of coffee and chocolate, this brew took gold in the 2010 Australian International Beer Awards and the 2009 Los Angeles International Beer Competition.

ERB’s initial organic creation is arguably its lightest: the Organic Amber Ale is a light gold, 4.8% ABV beer with a slightly bitter hoppy crispness, and a flavor redolent of caramel.

While these beers are tasty to try at any location, the brewery’s classic tap room may be the place for an introduction. Located just off Highway 101, with a long bar built from recovered redwood and fir, there’s a full food menu offering excellent beer pairings. The Organic IPA is suggested for pairing with calamari, a spicy Ragin’ Cajun burger, or a dessert of beer pound cake; the Amber ale with buffalo wings; the Porter with blackened fish and locally-sourced cheeses.

This is also the spot to experience seasonal offerings like the double IPA Earth Thirst, with a substantial 8.2% ABV, crafted using over three pounds of hops per barrel. With a fresh, slightly orange-citrus flavor, this spring beer was crafted to celebrate Earth Day.

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