Let me set the stage and unpack what descends upon a small central Wisconsin town once every January.
Amherst, WI, population 1,046 (as of 2016), takes on a swoon of loyal beer fans & nerds nearly quadruple the size of the entire town. So loyal are people for this event and so heralded is the beer that is up for grabs, that the line starts somewhere around 12:00 in the afternoon in usually frigid temperatures all to be one of the few to get the limited bottle release allocation which starts at 3pm. Additionally, you get to sample that year’s Anniversary beer in the taproom and/or the barrel warehouse.
The brewery – Central Waters
I was granted the exciting opportunity to attend the Central Waters 20th Anniversary event again this year. Last year I was fortunate enough to attend with some friends to the wholesaler VIP event which starts at 12pm. That event was fun which includes free pours of the anniversary beer and others, but it did not seem at all the same as what I experienced this year.
Like I mentioned, people start lining up by 12pm for an event that is ticketed, in which you will get your allocated bottles no matter what. So why wait? Well, I found out why. Upon entry you get two free drink tickets, after that, everything is cash. Granted the pricing is good considering it is an 8oz pour or better of pretty much everything. However, the main reason people want to be in early is to sample the limited quantity variant beers. Of which there were some intriguing options this year. These were over and above their standard Brewer’s Reserve Series beers which were also available
- XX – 20th Anniversary 2yr aged BB-Imperial Stout
- Rum Barrel Aged Boysenberry Stout
- BB-Blackberry Stout
- BB-Vanilla Bean Stout
- Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Porter
- Orange Curacao Barrel Aged Rift IPA
- El Ganador – Tequila Barrel Aged Stout
- Maple Barrel Stout
We got in and started lining up at 3:30 and were the 4th people deep from the start of the line of variant beers. Upon finally getting my chance to sample them (I initially chose the RB Boysenberry, BB Blackberry, RB Aged Coconut, and thanks to Lee’s hands, the BB Vanilla). I would rate the BB Blackberry and BB Vanilla as those I would like to see bottled. The other two were alright with the RB Coconut being better than the RB Boysenberry the latter being my least favorite of the evening. Regardless I think it was awesome that CW was willing to share these with their fans. They are doing some awesome things there with their barrel program and expanded barrel aging warehouse.
- Note to Central Waters, you need to work out a better flow for the tap beer portions of the event. There is no dedicated exit point from the mob of beer fans. It was difficult to get out of the line with my three choices without some spillage from the tight confines of said mob. Others fared much worse than I with dropped beers.
The main event inside the Barrel Aging warehouse was host to many food truck vendors, merch tables, partner merchandise tables (B&E’s Trees and their bourbon barrel maple syrup – the barrels used for the maple barrel stout), and of course the beer taps. My quibbles aside it is a very well run event and a lot of fun.
On to the point of the party…
XX – The 20th Anniversary beer is outstanding. I rated it five stars on Untappd joining an elite group. Aged for two years in bourbon barrels it is bourbon forward but well balanced with medium to thick body, deep brown color with quickly dissipating head. Once the initial bourbon comes through it is followed by a layer of sweet chocolate carried on by a bit of coffee with a little more roasted character than Nineteen and a smooth finish with a slight burn.
I was able to get my full allocation of 6 bottles conveniently bagged and ready when I was getting ready to leave. The bottle pickup line is very well managed and goes very smooth.
Wrapping up, I will say that the regular ticketed event is a quite a bit of fun in comparison to the VIP event mainly due to the crown being a bunch of fellow beer nerds.
I will admit, I did a poor job of taking pictures this year. I wish I would have to better share what the event is like. Here’s to next year I suppose.