Eat Drink Savor

Local brewers engage in a Mad Pursuit of the perfect beer

A new taproom adds to Hollister’s growing craft beer scene.
Menu at Mad Pursuit Brewing Co. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Menu at Mad Pursuit Brewing Co. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The bar at the entrance of the Mad Pursuit Brewing Co. might be the center of attention at this recently opened taproom in Hollister, but the stainless steel tanks on display are where the real action takes place.

“We wanted to go with a modern twist,” said Alex DeLeon, one of three partners. “But we also wanted to suggest mad scientists, so we put the brewery on display, too. It looks cool and science-y. We wanted people to see the tanks and equipment so they can watch the process out in the open.”

The grand opening of Mad Pursuit at 628 San Benito Street in Hollister on July 2 was a hotly anticipated event in the local beer world but I had been hearing about the brewery since early April, when Fran Fitzharris of Brewery Twenty Five told me to keep an eye out for it. 

Since then, many of the local winemakers and brewers I have talked to for this series told me how much they were looking forward to Mad Pursuit’s entrance into the local taproom scene.

Hollister was an easy choice for a location, according to DeLeon.

“Back when we started, four years ago, it just felt like this area was underserved,” he said. “There seemed to be an opportunity for more places that made and served craft beers. Since then we’ve seen Pour Decisions open up, and a few other breweries are popping up now as well, which is awesome.”

The taproom—and the beers brewed there—do not disappoint. The industrial theme of the spacious interior and the tanks are a nod to the other two partners, Lino Gonzalez and Paul Swearingen, who are scientists by trade. 

The earlier history of the building is represented by the use of floorboards repurposed into the long bar running halfway down the length of the building. Those old floorboards gave up some secrets when they were removed—old bottles and items, now on display, that somehow managed to remain hidden for a century or more.

But the focus is clearly on the two-barrel brewing system that produces about 60 gallons per batch. At the moment, that is the limit to their production for a week—but it’s a far cry from their days as hobbyists brewing beer in a five-gallon turkey deep fryer.

They initially just brewed for themselves and their friends. At that point, before they could sell their beer, the public side of Mad Pursuit traded more on their logo and concept, promoting the brand for years with items like stickers offered through an Instagram account.

That has changed now, with 16 taps behind the bar and five of them dispensing beers brewed on-site. At the moment, their system does not allow for wider distribution, but that is an eventual goal.

“Until we get the operation up and running, we will just be selling here,” DeLeon said. “And right now, the system is so small that we can’t keep up with the demand. But there are people already reaching out to us, interested in stocking our beer.”

The partners meet once a week to decide what they will be brewing. They try to get as many ingredients from local or California sources as they can, such as Hollister Hop Yard and Alameda’s Admiral Maltings, to guarantee a consistent freshness in their product.

“We bow towards what people want,” DeLeon said. “We are going to be trying other things including some sours. But our focus is in our name. It’s mad science in pursuit of the perfect pint. You will never attain it but I think we have come damned close.”

I was invited by DeLeon to try all five of their initial offerings a week before the grand opening as they were hurriedly getting the final details in order. We were joined on Zoom by Swearingen.

 

The beers of Mad Pursuit

Wells Hells (5.4%) This golden Helles lager is named after Hollister’s namesake, William Wells Hollister, and is made with German hops with three malts that come from Admiral Maltings. I knew from the light aroma of apple blossoms that I was going to like this beer, and it did not disappoint. It has just enough tang to it to grab your attention, an underplayed hoppiness, and just enough of a touch of bitterness in the finish to make you want more. This would be perfect with spicy foods.

Hopyard Pils (5.8%) All of the ingredients in this Bohemian Pilsner are from California sources including Holcomb hops from Hollister Hop Yard. “This is a very simple recipe—there is not a lot of complexity in the making,” Swearingen said. “But it comes together to make a very complex beer in the end.” The aroma has fresh fruity notes of melon and chardonnay with herbal undertones. DeLeon mentioned a bit of sulfur in the taste but I did not detect it myself—just a nice crisp, slightly citrusy beer that is light in hops and long on flavor. Of the beers we had, this was my favorite and I would have no problem enjoying back-to-back pints on a hot day.

Hog Haze (6.5%) Three malted grains, barley, wheat and oats, and four different types of hops combine to create what Swearingen calls a “citrus fruit cocktail of orange, lemon, and grapefruit.” A layer of sweetness rides above the slightly bitter base and ends with an uplifting hint of toasted coconut or sunflower seeds that lingers on the palate. This beer is a little more aggressive than the other two and I would pair a beer like this with an equally aggressive food, like pizza or nachos, to balance its attention-seeking nature. 

Pain Killer (9.1%) “This has been the fan favorite so far,” Swearingen said. “People are just loving this one.” It is easy to see why this double hazy IPA is so popular. It’s a bit stronger all around than Hog Haze, with the same malts but different hops. There are notes of orange peel and mango in the front that are met with a burst of vanilla and buttery citrus that drifts off easily with just enough hoppiness to remind you that you are drinking a serious beer.

High Octane (10.9%) DeLeon refers to this imperial stout as “dessert in a glass” and, in many ways, it has the dark sweetness of a rich, dense slice of molasses cake. It presents well, with a deep coffee color, a woody aroma and a thick head. With a lingering bitterness, it’s definitely a beer that’s going to take charge of your taste buds, so I would save this one for the last beer of the night, perhaps enjoying it with some dark cherries or warm apple pie.

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink approached me as a photographer by have since encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.