2 O'Clock Tasting:
Central Waters Brewing Company
With roots tracing back to an old, brick building in Junction City, Wis., Central Waters Brewing Company (now located in Amherst, Wis.) can evoke a sort of rags-to-riches story. The space, which used to be a barbershop—and before that, a Model-A Ford dealership—was purchased in 1996 by Mike McElwain and Jerome Ebel, two friends with some serious beer-making plans. After two years of planning and countless hours of cleaning and renovation behind them, Central Waters opened its doors in 1998 with a makeshift brewing system made of modified dairy equipment to produce its very first batches of beer.
The rest is brewing history.
Now offering a portfolio of beers sold in more than 200 retail locations in Central Wisconsin alone, it’s clear that Central Waters has grown considerably since its founding, offering seven year-round beers and adding a selection of seasonal varieties to the mix.
The beer list isn't the only component of the business that’s advancing, either—Central Waters has earned itself a beaming reputation, along with a tucking a few awards under its brew belt, thanks to its focus of Earth-friendly, sustainable brewing. Using a combination of solar panels, careful recycling and local hop production, the 17-year-old brewery can proudly boast a position as one of the nation’s most eco-friendly breweries.
We picked up a selection of their beers—an English Style IPA, American Style IPA, Double IPA and a Porter, for good measure—to taste them for ourselves, and it's safe to say they passed the test. Have any favorites from Central Waters Brewing Company? Leave a comment below!
Lac Du Bay
7.5% ABV Central Waters Brewing Company's lone English Style IPA, the Lac Du Bay, pours a glowing, hearty gold, described by one taster as "mid-boil maple syrup." Once settled, the ale is clear, though not quite crystal, and topped with a delicate, khaki-colored crown of foam. A floral nose, with fleeting hints of leather and malt, foreshadow a toasty, yet pleasantly dry beer that finishes clean and doesn't linger. Drinkers will appreciate both the beer's initial sweetness and the steady growth of bitterness that follows a sip, promising a smooth, complex and most importantly, delicious swig each and every time.
Glacial Trail IPA
5.5% ABV Darker than its English cousin, this American Style IPA sits somewhere between [museum amber] and waxed leather in color, betraying its surprisingly juicy aroma. There is no doubt the Glacial Trail is an IPA, with its hoppy, piney skeleton. However, the meat on its bones—the complexity to this beer—comes from its gently fruity bouquet of flavor. With its bright, bursting notes of grapefruit and a floaty, lingering bitterness, this IPA had more than a few tasters dubbing it "tropical."
Illumination Double IPA
9% ABV Described by Central Waters as a "palate wrecker" and boasting a 9% ABV, the Illumination Double IPA is the "Godzilla" of this tasting. Promising a haymaker of Simcoe, Centennial and Chinook hops, we were ready for a boozy wave of biting, hoppy flavor. However, within this beer's beaming, golden body is instead a curious mingling of mango, pineapple and powerful bitterness. This combination makes for a [biting] but lighthearted Double IPA that begs for summer and stands apart among its "hop-bomb" brethren. Even better, that 9% ABV goes a long way, leaving one taster to note, "you can feel it in your ears!"
5.5% ABV Among Central Waters' many IPAs stands this lone porter, the black sheep of our tasting. In color, Mudpuppy is a dusky shade of red-orange, and with its light, white head, it could easily be confused for Vanilla Coca-Cola at a glance. Its aroma promises a sweet, malty beer, with prominent notes of vanilla and graham cracker quickly venturing to the top. In flavor, this beer is supremely roasty, with a delicate char that tasters likened to "roasted marshmallow." Pair this with the subtle notes of tobacco, and what results is a powerful, full-bodied porter born to join you around the fire (or in our case, the tasting table).