What was he thinking? With a name like that it takes me back to episodes of “Hogan’s Hero’s,” but Beer Mad Scientist? Fast forward to early January of 2016, I happen to catch an online story featured in the Napa Register “Farm to Foam: ‘Real beer’ on the rise” profiling one Nile Zacherly. I would have ignored it, except one of my event captains (Mark Buckley) told me bout this amazing winemaker he worked with in 2009 (during Crush) in Calistoga, Nile Zacherly who makes David Arther wines.
Such a character he was, and thats what I hoped to find in his new brewery. So off I went nonchalant one late afternoon excursion to a non-descript industrial area of St. Helena. Upon first step inside the brewery, it looked like a small winery operation. Tanks, barrels and the “all important” glasses. I got the enhanced tour of pressurized beer barrels (formerly wine barrels). The methodology steps Nile takes making this beer is very similar to his approach to wine. After getting the overview of the process I sat down for a one-on-one interview.
Question 1. So why “Mad Fritz”, you must be the character in this beer story… right?
Nile: Actually, Mad is Madeleine (Maddie) my daughter, and Frederick (Fritz), is my son.
Comment: Awwe, that’s cute!
Question 2: So what gave you the idea to start making beer? I see you are so passionate for the process?
Nile: I like beer, but everything I tasted out there was very sanitized and just cranked out to make money. I wanted to make something focused on the quality, no compromise.
Question 3: So what makes Mad Fritz different from other craft beers?
Nile: I select the finest single variety barleys that are craft-malted suited to a particular style of beer, add quality locally sourced hops that are farmed organically and Napa Valley sourced water from artesian springs and aquifers. I ferment real slow and cold, sometimes taking six weeks just to complete primary fermentation. Most beer brewers only take 2-3 days and bottle in a few weeks. Then I do all secondary fermentation in bottle, which creates natural CO2 (carbonation).
Question 4: Wow, that’s intense! That explains your beer being more expensive ($25 a bottle, right)?
Nile: That’s right, we are making very small batches of beer and time and materials are essential. This is age-able beer, barrel aged. Some of our beers are known as barley wines (over 8% alcohol) and take more time and attention to detail to craft. My passion for making wine gets translated in to the process I go through in making the beer. I think you can taste the difference right away.
Question 5: So whats your goal/motivation?
Nile: I want to produce the best beer I can and to those who appreciate the attention to detail and not to the masses that just care about getting buzzed or drunk off craft beer. I’m about having a cult/hard to get beer and not selling out to scale for distribution.
Question 6: Where can I but this beer and is it in restaurants?
Nile: Our beer is extremely allocated, so you can buy it here at the brewery, or if you join our limited Beer Club, but we are on hold for taking any new members at this time. As far as restaurants, we are only in a few. One that I’m very proud of is The French Laundry in Yountville. Mad Fritz is very food-friendly and we have so many styles that you can probably pair the beer with anything.
Question 7: How many beers are you currently producing?
Nile: Currently about 20 different styles ranging from Belgian to Double IPA and Barley wines. They are all very unique and made at different times of the year. You can only get some beers in certain months. Best way to get your hands on them is to join our Beer Club.
Comments: I’m sold! Where do I signup?
Nile: You can fill out our wine club application online at http://www.madfritz.com and if you want to do a private tasting, email us and we will try and schedule an appointment via email.
Comments: Nile, this was such an amazing experience learning about your process and trying these amazing beer gems. Truly, I’m blown away and excited to try your next batch of beer! Thanks again for giving us a hands-on tour and tasting. I will be sure and recommend your beer to my guests that visit the valley.
Well, there you have it. A unique experience in Napa Valley wine country. If you are a craft beer lover, you are going to be blown away by this stuff. The beers come in unique packaging with a Grolsch style stopper and the beer names and labels are taken from Aesop’s Fables. You will also notice how detailed they are with the ingredients all there on the back of the label. I was super-impressed with every facet of my experience here and I know you will be too.
I’m Crystal-Rose signing off from Concierge of the Valley.