Former Employees Mourn Loss of Madera County Brewery Fire

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) — Surrounded by charred remains, ethanol continues to smolder following a chemical fire that destroyed Riley’s Brewing on 15th Avenue and Route 29 near Madera on Tuesday night.

Mike Sumaya is heartbroken.

He was one of seven employees at the facility who are now unemployed.

Sumaya served as Riley’s head brewer for a long time before the devastating fire.

“We had a really cohesive team that really hit our stride. We had a new brewing system that we spent the last year dialing in, we really dialed it down. We were making the best beer we’ve ever made,” Sumaya said.

Sumaya said he dedicated his life to the local brewery.

That experience motivated him to open his own spot at Clovis – Incinerati Brewing Company late last year, working nights and weekends to get the tap room off the ground.

He credits Riley’s and the management team for helping him start his own business.

“What I definitely learned there was everything you need to do in a brewery. It’s not just about making beer, its plumbing, its electrical, its inventory, its sheets calculation galore,” says Sumaya.

The 10,000 square foot facility also served as a space where Sumaya could store some of its beer-making product, but like almost everything inside the structure, it was all destroyed.

Sumaya says he lost around $3,000 worth of equipment and ingredients to use at Incinerati Brewing Company, while Riley’s beer production was shut down completely.

“All the beer that was on site, the seltzers, everything, we were doing other stuff, all the hand sanitizers, all of that is gone. The only Riley beer that exists is at the distributors,” Sumaya says.

Local breweries are now rallying around Riley’s, with talks of an Oktoberfest fundraiser and a GoFundMe page to help maintain the Riley’s name.

In the meantime, investigators are still trying to find out what started the fire.

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