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Central Waters Brewing Company

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Amherst, WI


Crusin’ Rating: C

Booze Rating: A


Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Wine Beer Distillery Blogger- Central Waters Brewing Co- Exterior

Just under two hours north of Madison and twenty minutes or so east of Plover, WI lies Amherst, WI and a brewery that you have probably heard of, or at least have seen their logo, Central Waters Brewing Company. A large fishing bird outlined in navy, stalking through swamp water on a field of white, a clever enough play on what I assume is a Blue Heron. It’s one of those recognizable logos that always stuck with me even before I was a beer drinker. Perhaps not quite as well-known as the Wisconsin Thumbprint of New Glarus or the Canoe of Leinenkugel's, but definitely far from obscure. In our experience, Central Waters is well distributed throughout Wisconsin from taps at dive-bars to cans in grocery stores and we decided to see if it was as good as the wide net it casts suggests.

Since we were previously up north checking out breweries, it made sense for this to be our final stop before returning to Madison from our North woods excursion. There were ample places to try out on our way back south but Central Waters was on my must-visit list. At two hours away from Madison, it isn’t the most convenient of places to get to. Very recently (less than a year old) Central Waters has opened a Milwaukee taproom, and while convenient to get to in the future, Hannah and I will always opt to review the original location, or, at least, as original as we can get. Amherst actually started in Junction City, WI and later moved to Marshfield (probably where the name came from) before landing in Amherst. We were equally excited as Central Waters Amherst location was the first brewery in the state to feature green power. Currently, it gets 20% of its power from solar panels on the property (Revolinski, 2018). While it isn’t the only brewery in the state using green energy, to see the brewery at the forefront was an added bonus.

I expected Central Waters to be fairly large, just on account of how often you see them featured around, but this was an instance where the building was just a touch smaller than I had pictured in my head. A brownish-gray sided building featuring stone facade accents, I thought Central Waters gave the impression of a mid-upscale restaurant when pulling into the parking lot. The entrance was flanked by areas cordoned off by old barrels and twinkle lights tangling from wooden posts. Granted, we were there on a Tuesday around 3:00 PM, this gray building, looming against a gray sky, seemed a little foreboding. As some cold rain started to trickle down we really hoped that we were correct in seeing that their weekday hours were during the day, rather than the evening, lucky for us but not so lucky for the crowd that wasn’t on vacation and hoping to visit on a weekday. We supposed that, if there were employees there brewing, it made some sense to have the tasting room open for stragglers coming in, but that was our best guess.

Inside, the warehouse that the front of the building sort of hides, opens the space up quite a bit. Hannah and I agreed that Central Waters has a bit of a goofy layout. Immediately when you walk in, you are in a tall, easily 2.5 story merchandise shop that is quite small but seems large due to its height, and packed with items. There is a small - less than 10 foot- bar with taps to your left with merch behind it, and to your right, another counter that serves as a checkout from what we could tell. I noticed a small fast-food style serving window that allows whoever is at the bar to turn and hand beers out but I do not envy those individuals as there was barely room to turn around. You’d be hard-pressed to push out a high volume of brews on a summer night by the looks of it. From this tall and cramped merch shop, the room beyond is fairly dark. What looks like the tasting room proper lies there with plenty of low four person tables. The front of the warehouse and production facility serves as the tasting room in a manner we’ve seen similarly in Pearl Street Brewing. To the right of the tasting area, which was not in use due to some private tasting going on (by staff maybe?), there is another room with some low tables where a few other scavengers sip quietly. It was almost library-like in the silence present. I second-guessed coming on a weekday for fear of being too loud or intrusive. We elected to order our flight and head back home in a somewhat speedy manner. It wasn’t like Mecan River Brewing where we were all but told we weren’t welcome. There just seemed to be an air of a quiet Tuesday afternoon with those working diligently. Again, we thought it odd they were open during the day with work clearly being done, rather than at night for some after-work brews and chatter.

Now that we were inside and past the merch shop, we noticed the almost total absence of natural light. There were not tons of windows, a few high squares seemingly far off in the distance of the production facility that brought back memories of touring an engine plant in Kenosha. Again, it was apparent that during the week this is a working brewery and not a social hub. Corrugated steel lines the walls of the room we sit in that feature some rusty implements and decor. The reclaimed wood tables are clean but it all definitely reminded me of sitting in a barn. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it was a jarring choice to sit in this intentionally old-looking space with tons of gleaming steel tanks out on the production floor.

We opted for a flight of six because, while we were enthusiastic to try the beer, regardless of how we felt about the space, we were exhausted from our four-day-long booze cruise.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Central Waters Brewing Co- Beer Flight

Honey Blonde Ale (4.6% ABV) - This cream ale features real Wisconsin honey and smelled of the good, raw stuff you get from local stores or Farmer's markets with notes of sweet cream, bread dough, and some farm flowers. There was definite hop presence up front with the matching bitterness that morphed into honey sweetness toward the end with a clean finish. While I wasn’t necessarily in love with this honey-yellow beer and wanted a little more sweetness, it wasn’t bad by any means but I am a big lover of honey so the more, the merrier in my beer. Easy drinking, and easily distinguished as one of those beers to drink that were billed as a cold one to bring a husband after a day mowing lawn on those old dive bar posters.

Mudpuppy Porter (5.8% ABV) - You know this beer, I know this beer. What I would say is easily their most recognizable beer that Central Waters make. This muddy colored beer named after one of Wisconsin’s few salamander species: The Mudpuppy, this porter smells of chocolate milk and a little maple syrup, just a smidge. It tastes similar to its smell, thick in the mouth with plenty of silky chocolate that ends with some strong bitterness. However, I prefer dark chocolate, and the higher percent cacao the better, so this beer is directly up my alley. The bitterness isn’t so much that it ruins the sweet experience you had tasting it, and, honestly, without that bitter character of the cascade and northern brewer hops this beer would be unbalanced and overwhelmingly too sweet. As such, this beer find itself in a pun-intended sweet spot between chocolatey goodness and bitter hop character. After tasting, it was beyond a doubt why this beer is well received and on tap in so many locations.

Peach Bellini (6.0% ABV) - As an avid cocktail maker, I have always insisted that the Bellini is the superior drink for brunch over the overplayed Mimosa, so when I saw a New England IPA promising that flavor profile, Hannah and I both insisted on tasting it. This beer smelled strongly of mosaic hops and some peaches. Just from smelling, it gave the impression of juiciness and was the color of cloudy orange juice. With high carbonation content and plenty of peach flavor paired with an understated hop character when tasting, you could almost close your eyes and fool yourself into thinking you were drinking a Bellini, if not for those few champagne qualities this beer couldn’t quite manage to replicate. But still, citrus, orange, and peach combine to make this a very enjoyable and bright beer.

Late for Breakfast (8.8% ABV) - This fruit beer was made with cara cara orange, Meyer lemon, sweet cherry and Pinot Noir juice. With fruit varieties all used for prized for their sweetness and the color of cherry juice, both Hannah and I expected this beer to be overly sweet and something different with the addition of the grapes. We both picked up orange, lemon, and some red fruit from the Pinot juice but neither of us picked up on cherry. No surprise really since cherry isn’t always a bold smell to pick out. It was true to its ingredients while tasting; it starts out tasting like that first sip of red wine - not necessarily a Pinot, but definitely red - and then orange and lemon. The cherry is again absent and it ends tasting like a standard lager with with a light tap of hoppy bitterness and clean finish. I was not a fan of the Pinot grapes in here. I don’t think the dark, rich notes of this grape matched up well with the lightness of the citrus, like a home attempt at making a blush by simply taking a white wine and cutting it with red. Hannah said this one was enjoyable though, so all hope is not lost if you’re looking to try a beer that’s a little out there.

Clouds and Cream (8.3% ABV) - This Coconut Cream Milkshake IPA featured pineapple, pink guava, and, obviously, coconut creme. This beer featured high clarity and smelled primarily of guava with a touch of pineapple, and I picked up on no coconut, but rather a sweet milkiness that reminded me of sweetened condensed milk but not coconut creme. Hannah, however, said there was so much coconut it almost made her pass out it was so strong (half-joking). While I didn’t pick it up in the aroma, I definitely picked up some heavy coconut cream when tasting along with guava and some slightly floral hops. The pineapple was not present that I could tell but I will say that the creaminess of the creme, the mild sweetness of the guava, and then that earthy, floral character all blended together in a pleasant way. This beer finished dry after a smooth impression on the mouth and had low carbonation. I wouldn’t say that the mouthfeel was creamy and heavy as with some stouts but it was definitely smooth. I really enjoyed this one and Hannah, despite the coconut, gave it her seal of approval as well.

Festival Express (5.6% ABV) - This beer was a collab with a yet-unreviewed brewery, Ahnapee Brewing. A beer style that was new to us, a Kvass, which is a beer type made typically with scraps of fruit or bread, sort of a left-overs fermentation beer. This particular specimen with made with “rejectzels” or pretzels that didn’t quite make the cut, Kveik yeas and festbier mash. A beer that smelled of bread and burnt pretzel crust it had a unique mouthfeel to it. It almost tasted oiling in mouthfeel, not quite smooth but rather a sort of stickiness that coats your mouth, not unlike a greasy soft pretzel hot from the oven. It wasn’t really a bad thing, just different. There were also notes of salty crackers and dough and the saltiness was so apparent it was almost like a Gose and then ended in cooking herbs - as opposed to herbal hops. This beer featured brilliant clarity and was a deep gold color but I was not entirely sold on the mouthfeel or overall flavor. Hannah decidedly passed.

While we were not all on board for the vibe, feeling a little intrusive on clearly hard-working brewery, we were glad they were open on a weekday. The lady on staff was friendly to us and helpful as could be and really, even though it was a little dreary in atmosphere, the beers really lightened our spirits. Even when they tried different things and didn’t hit the mark, those beers were well made and hit many of the points of those styles that we could tell. I wasn’t wild about the beer featuring Pinot Noir grapes, but even then it wasn’t something either of us had seen before. Beyond that, Mudpuppy Porter will be a beer that I can count on to be delicious in the cold winter months and may find a spot in our beer fridge for guests to partake in. If we had not already been beer-weary we would have brought a growler of Clouds and Cream home with us, and probably should have anyway.

Two hours is a long drive from Madison, but if you ever want to try a brewery with some really solid options Amherst isn’t far from Steven’s Point or Wausau. We will definitely be adding it to the recommended booze cruise for the Steven’s Point area and I might even suggest a trip from Madison, if you’re a die hard beer fan like the two of us if you’re looking for a satisfying day trip.

Until next time, keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.

To learn more about Central Waters Brewing Company, please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @CWBrewing or on Instagram: @CentralWaters

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