Ted Vivatson’s Eel River Brewing Company

Organic IPA Style: English-Style India Pale Ale Original Gravity: 15.5 P Alcohol: 7.2% by volume IBUs: 55 Color: Deep Copper

Organic IPA
Style: English-Style India Pale Ale
Original Gravity: 15.5 P
Alcohol: 7.2% by volume
IBUs: 55
Color: Deep Copper

Organic Porter  Style: Brown Porter Original Gravity: 14.0 P Alcohol: 5.8% by volume IBUs: 19 Color: Dark Brown with Ruby Highlights

Organic Porter
Style: Brown Porter
Original Gravity: 14.0 P
Alcohol: 5.8% by volume
IBUs: 19
Color: Dark Brown with Ruby Highlights

Without ever hearing one word come from Ted Vivatson’s mouth, just take a glance at his right arm and you’ll be able to tell exactly what’s important to him, and what has made Eel River Brewing Company unique. A magnificent hop plant trails down his arm — a quick reminder of why he has strived for so many years to let his hops drive his beer. Opened in 1995, Eel River Brewing (ERB) in Humboldt County, Calif. is one of the only organic breweries in the U.S.

In the mid 70s Vivatson had spent years in Europe enlisted in the U.S. Army where he was able to enjoy great tasting beer. However, when he came back to the states, he quickly realized that there was nothing like what he had experienced.

“I started playing around with home brewing,” says Vivatson. He’s been home brewing since 1978, and still strives to find a little time to practice today, despite owning a fully functioning brewery.

Vivatson, working as an engineer, had decided he didn’t like what he was doing professionally in the early 90s, and his wife was in agreement with her own profession. As business partners, they decided to stop, and dive head first into their passion of brewing — thus founding ERB.

“One day we just pulled the trigger,” Vivatson says. “We sold everything we owned, took out some loans and started building. We started out with a 15 barrel pump system and in the first year did about 900 barrels.”

ERB first launched with its Organic Amber Ale (4.8% ABV). “We’ve been famous for making balanced beers,” says Vivatson. However, what helped with the balance was the amount of effort they put into importing hops from New Zealand and throughout the rest of the world. It was important to ERB to stay organic and produce fully organic beer.

The company was certified organic in 1999, but Vivatson says that ERB has been brewing organically since its inception. “I tell people you get different IPA’s, but you have your traditional English IPA and your West Coast IPA. We brew a traditional English IPA (7.2% ABV),” he says. They went the route of the English IPA “because of what we had available organically.”

Organic AÇAI Berry Wheat Style: Wheat Ale Original Gravity: 9.5 P Alcohol: 4.0% by volume IBUs: 15 Color: Light Gold

Organic AÇAI Berry Wheat
Style: Wheat Ale
Original Gravity: 9.5 P
Alcohol: 4.0% by volume
IBUs: 15
Color: Light Gold

Organic Amber Ale Style: Amber Ale Original Gravity: 12.5 P Alcohol: 4.8% by volume IBUs: 13 Color: Light Gold

Organic Amber Ale
Style: Amber Ale
Original Gravity: 12.5 P
Alcohol: 4.8% by volume
IBUs: 13
Color: Light Gold

According to Vivatson Humboldt County has been known for its production of marijuana over the years, which he says made farming and an organic sustainable lifestyle important to residents. ERB simply took that standard and put it deep into its beers.

“We have a culture here that is very into organic farming, growing and there have been a lot of customers asking for it,” says Vivatson. “We decided that if we were going to do it, we were going to go all the way.”

When the organic law was changed in 2013 it completely changed the buying opportunities for ERB. Not only did it become more difficult, but Vivatson also says that it increased the cost of hops by more than 100-200%. “People are willing to pay for a great beer,” he says. “I haven’t seen a change in the buyer in more than 20 years. I’ll still go into the grocery store and talk to people about what they are buying. You’ll see them buy a six pack of ERB and a case of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon). I ask them why and they say, ‘we start off with the good stuff, and then switch to the other afterwards, when it doesn’t matter anymore.’ That’s the way it’s always been.”

Vivatson doesn’t worry about other breweries throughout the U.S. or someone trying to undercut his product. He has faith in what he does, and the people that buy ERB. It’s been important to him to stay focused on ERB, continue to make great tasting beer and reflect the sustainable perspective of Humboldt County.

 

For ERB it will continue to follow its tag line, “Be Natural, Drink Naked.” A quality message that everyone can dive a little deeper into.

 

Ted Vivatson, Founder of Eel River Brewing Company

Ted Vivatson, Founder of Eel River Brewing Company

Ted Vivatson, Founder of Eel River Brewing Company

Ted Vivatson, Founder of Eel River Brewing Company

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