Mad River Brewery introduces Indigenous corn ale, ‘Maize Goddess’

Mad River Brewery CEO, Linda Cooley holding corn used to make ‘Maize Goddess.’| photo by Lila Salinas.

Humboldt beer enjoyers can look for a new Indigenous corn ale by Mad River Brewery. The name “Maize Goddess” was inspired by Chicomecoatl, the Aztec Goddess of Corn. She is seen as the giver of life and is associated with agriculture, “passion and love” accord- ing to Linda Cooley, CEO of Mad River Brewery.

“Women are life givers and used to be the most highly respected in all Indigenous cultures, not just Native Americans,” Cooley said. “I felt like we needed a beer dedicated to women that is not sexualized or a mockery but really, who we are the true story about women and how we should be respected.”

Mad River Brewery in Blue Lake is one of four tribally owned breweries in California, with others located in Corning, Oroville and San Diego, according to visitcalifornia.com.

It is an independent craft brewery that was acquired in 2020 by the Yurok Tribe with intermediary support from Cooley, a local tribal member. When Cooley was asked to take on the role of Chief Executive Officer, she was already well versed with the lifestyle, operations and branding beer products.

“I’ve been in the beer business since I was 21 years old. Literally, the day after my 21st birthday,” Cooley said. “My dad built two Anheuser Busch breweries, he would buy Budweiser save all the cans, and those cans paid for a big chunk of my college tuition.”

Cooley believes there’s a stigma associated with Native Tribes and alcohol consumption. She explained that this biased assumption about Indigenous people is far from the truth. There’s a connotation about “Rez-Life” and its unspoken history filled with genocide and displacement.

The brewery serves themed beverages that promote social justice and awareness for environmental issues. Great thought and creativity takes place behind conceptualizing their products.

“Every single product we have tells a story of what we’re fighting for; I would love to also tell other stories of other Indigenous people, maybe not even necessarily Native,” Cooley said.

Linda Cooley, CEO of Mad River Brewery on Sept. 9 promoting ‘Maize Goddess.’ | photo by Lila Salinas.

Maize Goddess is their latest addition and is regularly on tap at Mad River Brewery. This light Indigenous ale is made from regenerative (non-genetically modified organism) red Aztec corn grown by Ioway Farms, a subsidiary of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

“There’s still that inherent racism and we had to go above and beyond to get someone to even acknowledge this type of corn exists,” Cooley said.

The praise of sacred red Aztec corn dates back to the early 14th century. According to the Codex Chimalpopo- ca, the origin of corn comes from the “Mountain of Our Sustenance, also known as Tonacatépetl.” Written in Náhuatl, these Indigenous scribes illustrate the story of Quetzalcoatl, the god who gave Maize to the Aztecs, people of Mexica.

“This release marks a significant milestone for Mad River Brewery’s goal of developing wholly tribal, farm-to-table products,” said Mad River Brewing Marketing Director, Jessica Carenco.

According to Cooley, the brewery also creates “off reservation” career opportunities while giving the locals a space to share food and drinks with their families, kids and even fur-babies.

Cooley expressed, having a platform to promote Indigenous products while raising awareness to “water, land and justice” creates the essence of bringing communities together and is the ethos of this movement.

“We are all Indigenous people, whether you’re in Mexico, Brazil, Central America, or wherever, we are all Indigenous people, and we should be sticking together,” Cooley said.

Other beers offered at Mad River Brewing include, Historic State Park IPA, Redwood Stout and Slammin’ Salmon double IPA, Maize Goddess canned brew and their other products are available across the state at Bevmo, Safeway and other mom and pop grocery stores with future plans to expand in other states.

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