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Labor & Employment

Yurok Tribe Purchases Mad River Brewing Company

Image of man drinking a beer.
Robert Mathews via Unsplash

Northern California’s Yurok Tribe announced a deal last week to purchase the Mad River Brewing company in Humboldt County.

The sale of the 30-year-old brewery to the Yurok Agricultural Corporation was unexpected, according to Mad River Brewery CEO Richard Hanger.

“Frankly, we were looking for new investors so that we could modernize some of our plant and be more competitive and it just kind of evolved into a sale that wasn’t anticipated,” Hanger said.

As the craft beer industry has grown, competition caused Mad River to lose market share, but the new ownership will provide capital to expand in California, according to Hanger. The negotiations took just two months and no changes are planned for the brewery.

“Mad River was looking for a different marketing and sales strategy,” said Linda Cooley, deputy director for the Yurok Economic Corporation, “They took note of the growth of the Yurok Tribe.”

According to Cooley, despite the stigma associated with alcoholism in native communities, the brewery and taproom are not on the Yurok Reservation and the business won’t be targeting any particular group.

“I know as a tribe we do a lot with healing and sobriety and we’ll continue to do that and this will be completely separate,” she said.

Cooley would not disclose the purchase amount of the brewery but said the change will allow the tribe to further diversify their business assets. It will be up to 90 days before the tribe takes ownership.

The Yurok’s purchase is not the first Native American-owned brewery or distillery in the U.S. Others include Seven Clans Brewing in North Carolina, Bow and Arrow Brewing in New Mexico and Copper Crow Distillery in Wisconsin.

“It’s an exciting time in Indian country and we’re paving the way,” Cooley said.