Crowds couldn’t get enough of Mad Yeti Fermentation’s beers

Published in Morgan Hill October 12-25, 2016

By Staff Report

Photo by Marty Cheek Jon Berkland, left, and John Phelan pour their homemade beer to those on last month's Brew Crawl.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Jon Berkland, left, and John Phelan pour their homemade beer to those on last month’s Brew Crawl.

Just outside the doors of the Trail Dust BBQ restaurant, two South Valley men poured glasses of beer they had made to participants in the Sept. 17 Brew Crawl put on by the Morgan Hill Downtown Association. Jon Berkland of Morgan Hill and John Phelan of Gilroy are fast becoming masters in turning hops and water into delicious home-brewed beer.

The two were amazed by the overwhelmingly positive reaction the attendees had in sampling what was for them the public debut of their beer. The crowds couldn’t get enough of their brew, said Berkland, who works as sales representative for a Wine/Beer/Spirits wholesaler in the South Valley.

“People started coming up talking about several of our beers that they heard about and simply had to have it, and many people were asking for more tastings or where they can buy our bottles,” Berkland said. “One gentleman was so frustrated that he couldn’t buy any of our beers, he wanted to complain to our manager (who doesn’t exist) out of frustration of being unable to extend his experience with us.”

The reactions kept coming even after the two brew buddies ran out of beer, with one woman even asking if she could get the suds that remained in the kegerator plumbing lines. They remained humble and excited about the crowd’s reactions.

“It’s always been a dream to have our beer poured at an establishment, but the community’s reaction was surreal,” said Phelan, who works as paramedic in the Santa Clara County 911 system and moonlights as a local volunteer firefighter.

The interest in brewing beer started early for Phelan. His father had a homebrew shop, J.P. Brewing Supplies, and when he was a child he would push the broom or measure out supplies. As a kid, he hated it. Then 20 years later, at the beginning of the craft beer boom, a lightbulb went off in his head while drinking an IPA, he said.

“Wait, I can do this … I think,” he told himself.

His father took him out for a birthday outing and bought him his first beer-making set up and it had a snowball effect.

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“Once I moved back to Morgan Hill, Jon started hanging out, which was like throwing rocket fuel on a match,” he said. “We’ve upgraded our brewing rig several times over and brewed many batches — most we were proud of, several will not be named. We’ve been fortunate enough to have our beer tasted by many locals that are highly respected in the local beer scene.”

Eventually, they named their enterprise Mad Yeti Fermentations — “Mad” was for their science experiments and “Yeti” was a playful yet respectful tip of the hat to the local Santa Cruz mountains.

The backbone of their brews tend to be the hoppier beers such as the West Coast-style pale ales and IPAs, high ABV (alcohol by volume) stouts, which take several months to let the yeast ferment and let the alcohol mellow out, and sours with locally-grown fruits.

“We’re really at an advantage in South County with all of its fresh agriculture,” Phelan said. “Some of the fruits we’ve used have come from Jon’s backyard, Andy’s Orchards, and Gizdich Ranch. Recently we’ve been brewing pilsners which are so simple and refreshing with this hot summer but can be challenging since you can’t hide their flaws behind heavy flavors.”