It started as a dream… Or maybe a flashback. Back to the days of the hometown brewery…before Prohibition. A time and a place where citizens in towns and districts all over America rallied around beer that was theirs. Beer that was crafted for them, in accordance to their tastes. Beer that was an expression of their lives and passion. This passion, in a tiny tucked away town aptly called Hopland, drove the dream into existence in the humble but intrepid foundation of the Mendocino Brewing Company on August 14th 1983.
The Hopland Brewery was the first brewpub opened in California (2nd in the US) after the repeal of the 18th Amendment (by the 21st Amendment) in 1933. The passion, it seems, was a shared one (currently there are about 1500 craft breweries in operation in the United States). It did not take long for the Hopland Brewery to become a landmark, a point of pilgrimage on famed California Highway 101 (“take the Golden Gate Bridge out of town for 2 hours; the brewery is on the right”).
In December ’83, the brewery rolled out the “World’s Largest 6-Pack” featuring 6 magnums of Red Tail…an OSHA nightmare tipping the scale at a brutal 42 pounds (the original magnum bottles have become a collectors’ item, some even becoming lamps).
Within 5 years of that first batch of Red Tail, distribution had increased to 300 outlets in Northern California. Red Tail, Blue Heron, and Black Hawk had extended their habitats to 14 states nationally. By 1989, the demand of distributors made plain the need for 12oz bottles.
Putting beer into 12oz bottles was easy enough, but the question of how to adequately represent not only the beer, but the raptors for which they have been named became paramount. After searching for an artist with not only the ability to represent the creature, but with an exceptional grasp of the subtle power of color, Randy Johnson brought forth the Red Tail, Eye of the Hawk and Black Hawk labels as well as our hop-adorned company logo. Numerous packaging and product awards followed, but there was no time to kick back and enjoy the success.
Expansion and Growth
By the 1990’s, the need for a dramatic expansion became evident. Land was acquired in Ukiah, CA, the facility remaining near the scenic California 101, just 12 miles north of the Hopland Brewery. Architects were charged with making the facility appealing to the eye in its surroundings as well as providing for efficiency and growth in the interior. A Mission style was chosen and the building is still timeless in its backdrop of the golden-green hills of Mendocino County. It was in 1997 that Dr. Vijay Mallya, a global entrepreneur, took interest in Mendocino Brewing Company. Dr. Mallya, the head of “The UB Group”, a worldwide manufacturer of spirits and beer, believed that given the capital, Mendocino Brewing could remain in a position of strength for years to come. The addition of Olde Saratoga Brewing in New York State vaulted Mendocino Brewing into the sphere of East-Coast/West-Coast distribution, fostering the delivery of fresher product through dramatically shortened supply lines (a concept that has recently become vogue in the current fuel-obsessed economy). Though the scope had changed, the dream and passion remained intact.
It’s been a long strange trip from Hopland in 1983. We’ve trekked from a 1983 production of about 400 barrels (5500 case equivalent) to the current production of about 75,000 barrels (over one million cases)…from distribution over the bar in Hopland to nearly nationwide distribution in countless stores, restaurants, bars and tap houses. As we roll into the second decade of a new century, we’ve come from making a handful of ales to the manufacture and distribution our Seasonal Releases, the new Imperial Series, (IPA, Stout & Barleywine) Organic Ale and Lagers (under our Butte Creek Label), our industry jarring Cast-of-Hawk “mix-packs” and an ever-growing number of contracts brewed for other entities (a growing industry trend). Currently, Mendocino Brewing is responsible for the production of well over 20 nationally recognized labels.
Red Tail Ale
Blue Heron Pale Ale
Eye of the Hawk
Black Hawk Stout
White Hawk Select IPA
Imperial Barley Wine Ale
Butte Creek Pale Ale
Butte Creek Porter
Butte Creek India Pale Ale
Butte Creek Pilsner