Mendocino Brewing Company Beer Review

weekly beer review

Lots of breweries rely on themes to name their beers. It’s a great way to build brand consciousness and simplifies things for their perpetually inebriated marketing team.  It can even be something as simple as leveraging fish names or playful blasphemy.  My only problem with this sort of thing is that the names usually illustrate very little about the beer you’re about to consume (with the notable exception of Ballast Point’s Calico Amber Ale):

Calico Amber Ale label

Nearly every beer that Mendocino Brewing Company produces celebrates a bird of prey.  Obviously hawks don’t have much to do with good drinking, but for some reason it really resonates with me.  It’s as if their marketing department fashioned a time travel device that would intercept what I thought was cool back in Junior High School:

I think part of the allure of hawks is that they are, pardon the pun, completely unflappable. The intensity of their unrelenting stare is positively chilling. It’s the same look you see in the protagonist’s eyes at the apex of every cinematic training montage. These bottles peer into your soul and dare your liver to rise to the occasion, no matter how the odds are stacked against defeating the vicious onslaught of Clubber Lang.

(I know the description lost cohesion there. TBS was running a Rocky marathon all weekend and it’s bleeding over a bit.)

You may have noticed that I qualified my praise of Mendocino’s beer names with the modifier “nearly.” There is most certainly a Black Sheep in the bunch. For some reason the Mendocino Brewing Company was compelled to include one non-hawk in the series with their Blue Heron Pale Ale.  While I’m sure the heron is a fine bird in its own slender, effete way, it just doesn’t have the same cachet as a hawk.  Here’s just a short list detailing why herons have no business commiserating with hawks:

hawk characteristics

Mendocino Brewing Company, I like you. You’re into hawks and beer, and I feel that.  That’s why I’m going to grant you a stay of execution on reviewing Blue Heron Pale Ale until you’ve had a chance to change it to something a bit more hawky. Should you opt not to heed my warning, I can’t be held accountable for how brutally I’ll penalize you for the name alone. Yes, I am that petty.

Blackhawk Stout (5.2% ABV)

Mendocino Blackhawk labelI am almost ashamed to admit this, but the name of this beer makes me giggle. For those that don’t immediately register why, try reading “Black Hawk” very quickly and note what it sounds like. If you’re still not getting it, try blurting out “Massive, Throbbing Black Hawk” aloud and see if your coworkers sic HR on you. If you still don’t follow, don’t sweat it. You’re adorable, and I hope this filthy world never taints you.

This beer is very dark, though technically that description is completely inaccurate since no photons actually escape its event horizon. Few beers are lauded for their capacity to deform spacetime, but color me impressed.

(I apologize if my black hole humor is a bit esoteric for most readers of this column.  I take some solace in knowing that Stephen Hawking would crack the fuck up after reading that.)

stephen hawking

It has a mild roasted aroma with some vanilla and maybe some mild oak notes. The flavor is smoky without the commonly accompanying burnt flavors. It’s got a lactose sweetness that is light and style-appropriate.  Despite being a vortex of matter collapsing on itself, it’s only moderately full bodied. The bitterness in the aftertaste is subtle and very manageable.

Many aspects of this stout are more reminiscent of a black lager, especially in that you could drink these in series without your digestive tract bursting. I look for a little more complexity in my stouts, but this is still very tasty.

Pro-tip: Even when I’m not drinking this beer, I like to keep a bottle around. There are hours of family fun to be had by facing the label toward the hamster cage and watching Fuzzy shit himself.

Grade: B+

Eye Of The Hawk (8% ABV)

Mendocino Eye of the Hawk labelI’ve admittedly got the Rocky films on the brain, but when I encounter a beer named “Eye of the Hawk” I can’t help but revisit it. In terms of describing pure grit and boundless heart, the eye of the hawk has to be the near equivalent to the eye of the tiger.  My research into the matter even objectively confirms it:

Eye Chart

Sadly the name seems wasted on a beverage likely to chill you out. “Eye of the Hawk” really belongs in the domain of the Extreme Sports Drink. However, since “Eye of the Hawk” is taken and “Eye of the Tiger” is likely trademarked, this would be equally effective:


Thankfully this beer has sufficient guts to live up to its name. It’s a bright, cloudy orange brew with a pillowy head. The nose is floral and has an almost Sunny-D citrus smell to it. It’s equally full-flavored, summoning an initial onslaught of peach and pear notes.  The syrupy consistency really bolsters those flavors as well. Thankfully it escapes tasting like a shot of high fructose corn syrup by introducing floral and piney hops into the mix. It has prominent alcohol warmth as well, but our demographic studies suggest it won’t bother TSJ readers at all.

This beer delivers big flavor without the abrasiveness that often accompanies it. I’d suggest trying this as a post-meal treat. I won’t call it a dessert beer because I think that sounds a little demeaning, but if I were marketing this beer I would change the tagline from “Spirit of the Hawk” to “The only thing that tastes sweeter…is REVENGE.”

I really need to stop watching so many Stallone movies in one weekend.

Grade: A-