Ever sipped a beer that, when you sit back to appreciate it, it's like a little light bulb comes on? Central Waters Brewing Company's Shine On might give you that feeling. Named for the brewery's solar thermal commitment, the beer was introduced last summer, and bottles began appearing in Madison last fall. It certainly seems to have a bright future -- in less than a year it's become the Amherst brewery's best seller.
What is it? Shine On from Central Waters Brewing Company.
Style: Shine On is an Irish red ale, a style known for its light- to deep-reddish-amber color and moderate caramel-malt flavor. While there may be some hop bitterness, the style of ale doesn't have much hop aroma. There can be a light roastedness in the finish, which lends a hint of dryness. These beers commonly range from 4% to 4.5% ABV.
Background: Shine On makes a statement about the brewery's green footprint, with specific reference to its solar panels. In 2009, Central Waters installed 1,000 square feet of thermal panels, which preheat water needed for brewing and help with winter heating bills. The panels reduce the brewery's use of natural gas and water, and have an expected payback of just five years.
The green beer signature of Shine On is also due to the organic barley used in it, grown on a local farm less than five miles from the brewery. The beer also features East Kent Golding and Fuggels hops, but brewmaster Anello Mollica hopes those can soon be replaced with locally grown hops. Last fall, Central Waters released Hop Harvest Ale, a beer made with hops grown on a farm near Wausau, so Mollica is optimistic that within a few years several of his beers will showcase Wisconsin-grown hop varieties.
Shine On is based on the recipe of the brewery's former seasonal Irish red ale, which had been a perennial favorite around St. Patrick's Day. However, it has since become a year-round beer. A percentage of its sales go to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Mollica says the donation is important, and he hopes his brewery will be a model for others who want to go green.
Shine On is about 4.5% ABV and sells in six-packs for around $9.
- Aroma: Light, but firm maltiness.
- Appearance: A clear, deep copper-bronze color with a thick, soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and soft.
- Taste: Smooth, rich caramel maltiness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Balanced, yet overall clean and fast.
Glassware: Because of this beer's Irish roots, a Guinness or tulip pint gives a nod of respect, and the slight inward taper near the lip helps focus the nose just a bit to bring out the timid malty notes.
Pairs well with: This is a favorite companion for bratwurst, with just enough malty sweetness to complement the juicy nature of sausage topped with a little sauerkraut. On the vegetarian side, the subtle sweetness of a walnut burger goes wonderfully with the maltiness of the red ale.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Shine On offers brilliant reddish-bronze color and firm malty body. It is a middle-of-the-road red with caramel sweetness that blends well with most food selections. This is a nice beer with firm malty backbone, making it a good choice for most refrigerators and a great flagship for an environmentally conscientious brewery.