Earlier this year, Eel River Brewery produced a specialty beer to promote Earth Day and raise money for California Certified Organic Farmers. The name? Earth Thirst Double IPA.
In an age when "green" branding is almost inescapable, Eel River Brewery has promoted itself as "America's first certified organic brewery" since 1999. But owner Ted Vivatson has a warning for other brewers who might try to capitalize on the environmentally friendly image.
"If you look at it as a ‘good marketing tool,' you shouldn't be in it," he says. "It's hard."
Vivatson admits that it can be difficult and downright frustrating to faithfully adhere to Eel River Brewery's organic creed. There are times when styles of beers he'd like to make simply aren't an option because organic ingredients aren't available. He also estimates that it costs him about 15 percent more to produce some of his beers than other local brewers.
While Lost Coast Brewery may be getting too big for its facility's metaphorical britches, Eel River has plenty room to stretch out. In 2007, the brewery moved its organic operation into a portion of the ginormous Mill A shell left in Scotia by the Pacific Lumber Company.
Eel River Brewery is also increasingly an ambassador for its region, with an over-glorified Fernbridge emblazoned on every bottle. It's as if "I send out 40,000 maps to Fortuna a month," Vivitson says. Its pub on Fortuna's hotel-heavy Riverwalk Drive is arguably the Friendly City's liveliest destination -- and often the first stop for beer tourists. Vivitson says it's common to catch "brew cruisers" on a San Diego to Seattle trek after their obligatory night in Fort Bragg.
"We're a destination," Vivatson says of the North Coast brewery abundance. "Humboldt's blessed."
But c'mon: Is it at least a little bit odd to anyone else that Humboldt's organic brewery is located in Fortuna? Anyone? OK, we'll let it go.
Founded: 1995; Barrels produced annually: 8,000; Annual revenue: estimated $3 million to $5 million; Notable beers: Triple Exultation, Raven's Eye Imperial Stout; Owners: Ted Vivatson and Margaret Frigon.