Central Waters recently expanded its brewery in Amherst with a 5,000 square foot addition that made room for three new 60-barrel fermentors. Improvements with the bottling line will bring production from 15 bottles per minute to nearly 150. And, just last month, installation was completed on 1,000 square feet of solar panels, making it the first Wisconsin brewery to heat all of its in-house water using solar energy.
However, the bigger news for Madison fans of Central Waters is the release of an oak barrel-aged coffee imperial stout called Peruvian Morning. Beer enthusiasts have given high praise for this complex creation, and last fall it was named "Best of Show" at the Between the Bluffs fest in La Crosse.
What is it? Peruvian Morning from Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin.
Style: An imperial stout is usually very dark, with a black body and brown head, and a malty aroma. The style commonly offers toffee-like or deep caramel and roasted chocolate malt flavor, while any hoppiness eventually gives way to sweet malt tones. The brew is sometimes called "Russian Imperial Stout," referencing the beer exported by Thrale's brewery of London to the Romanov court in the 18th Century. This beer can be quite strong, ranging from 7-9% ABV.
Background: Peruvian Morning begins its life as an imperial stout, actually made from the popular Satin Solstice brewed by Central Waters. The addition of fair trade coffee and fermentation in bourbon barrels changes it dramatically, though, making the beer very distinctive. "We are home brewers at heart and we really like to be creative, experiment in trying something different," says Anello Mollica, brewmaster and co-owner of Central Waters.
The coffee is provided by Emy J's of Stevens Point. The beans are roasted just for the brewery, and subsequently cold-pressed before its addition during the brewing process, explains Mollica, with about a pound-and-a-half used per barrel of beer. Before it's completed, though, the stout is aged in bourbon barrels for at least six months. Central Waters obtains its barrels from Buffalo Trace, a distillery in Franklin County, Kentucky that's located on a farm site known for bourbon-making roots that extend back to 1787.
Peruvian Morning is released just once per year in late winter, and the 2009 batch showed up a few weeks ago. Central Waters made only 120 cases of it, and Madison received half of that. It's not available everywhere, but Steve's Liquor, Star Liquor and the Jenifer Street Market currently have several cases on hand. The beer finishes at about 8.5% ABV, and is sold in single 12 ounce bottles for around $3.50/each.
- Aroma: Warm hints of bourbon.
- Appearance: very dark, looks thick and viscous with a marbled brown head.
- Texture: Full bodied, thick and soft.
- Taste: Lots of caramel and toffee maltiness up front that gives way to bourbon.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Roasted toffee with smooth hints of liquorice. There is not an overly alcoholic bourbon flavor, just a smooth lingering accent that becomes more pronounced as the beer warms.
Glassware: Sipping this beer from a brandy snifter is a way to appreciate its appearance, focus the nose and allow it to warm slowly to room temperature. This will bring even more of the oak, vanilla and sweetness from the bourbon barrel aging.
Pairs well with: Despite the reference to beginning of the day in its name, Peruvian Morning makes for a wonderful after dinner beer or night cap. It would go well with desserts like raspberry cobbler or crème brule, or best by itself.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Central Waters has made a big, robust yet very smooth full-bodied imperial stout that packs an abundance of flavors ranging from roasted malt, oak, vanilla, and chilled coffee. Bourbon and oak flavors are also evident, but not overly so, just enough for a solid backbone to the beer. Peruvian Morning is not a brew to quench your thirst on a hot day, but, wow, what a beer for a cool spring evening sunset! Or if you are as adventuresome as the folks at Central Waters, try it at sunrise with the Andes in mind.