Saturday, November 1st, 2014

It took her the better part of two weeks, but My Darling B finally found some Headless Heron, the pumpkin-spiced ale aged in bourbon barrels made by Central Waters Brewery. The brewers announced maybe two or three weeks ago that they were going to release it, but it’s taken this long to finally make it to the Madison area and it appears to be in limited supply.

Every night for the past week, we’ve been heading straight over to Steve’s Liquor on University Avenue after work to see if they had any; they just kept shaking their heads and, for the last two or three nights at least, I think they were getting a little tired of us. We stopped at Star Liquor on Willy Street next, then Jenifer Street Market, and finally at Licali’s Market on Monona Drive, just a few blocks from our house.

It was the owner of Licali’s who finally tipped us off that Headless Heron had finally hit down. We were in there two nights ago, for the third or fourth time, when the owner asked B for her phone number and told her she’d just give a call when they got some in. She even offered to hold a couple bottles.

B got the call today. Suspecting that the other stores might have gotten some in, too, we stopped at Star Liquor and scored a couple bottles, then pulled out of the parking lot of Jenifer Street Market with four bottles. True to her word, the gal at Licali’s had two bottles set aside under the counter, so B came home with enough to try one tonight and put the rest away for a special occasion.

headless heron | 1:50 pm CST
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Saturday, February 1st, 2014

At the Central Waters Brewery 16th Anniversary Party last weekend:

barleywine

“What are you drinking?”

“Barleywine.”

“May I try some?”

“You don’t like barleywine.”

“Maybe I do.”

She didn’t.

barleywine reaction | 6:24 am CST
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Monday, January 28th, 2013

We are exhausted after our long, long journey to the distant city of Stevens Point, where we stayed overnight after attending the 15th anniversary celebration of the Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst. Really. I need a nap. Oh, wait, I already had a nap. Guess I’ll write some drivel, then.

If, for some reason, you glanced to the north as you drove along Highway Ten just outside Amherst and your eyes happened to fall on a certain plain white steel-walled utility building in the middle of a corn field, you would very probably never feel the slightest inkling that some of the finest beer in Wisconsin is brewed there. Last night, though, the long lineup of cars parked along both sides of the access road would have given you the idea that something rather important was going on there. That something was the fifteenth birthday party of the Central Waters Brewing Company.

My Darling B and I found out about it maybe a month ago when Paul, one of the brewery’s owners, was in Madison to host a beer tasting at Star Liquor on Willy Street. Star has one of these events almost every Friday. They’re a great opportunity to try new beers, or just enjoy the beers we’ve always enjoyed while chatting up the guys who make them. I mean, really, how can you not like talking to a guy who knows how to make great-tasting beer? It’s like meeting someone who can make happiness.

So while we were asking Paul a few nosy questions about his beer and how he made it, he mentioned that the brewery’s anniversary party was coming up, and that it was sort of a big deal. I was thinking maybe he meant it was a big deal on the scale of big deals in Amherst. I mean, the brewery has a tap room, a small place off to one side of the building where visitors can sit around a bar or at a few tables and partake of a few of whatever beers the brewery has on tap, and when I say small I mean maybe there are seats for twenty-five or thirty people. Sixty or seventy people might be able to get in there if they didn’t mind getting really friendly. How many more people could they get in there?

Paul said that for the party they didn’t confine people to the tasting room, but let them into the rest of the brewery to mingle around the fermenting tanks and brewing vats. I remember wondering then, and again last night, about the wisdom of allowing a hundred or more beer-drinkers to wander around amongst the plumbing and other delicate apparatus that he depended on for his livelihood, but then he’s been doing this for years, so he must have had some idea what he was getting himself in for.

Amherst is a drive of almost two hours from Our Humble O’Bode. There was no way in hell I could possibly have spent the afternoon drinking beer in any amount, then driven all the way back to Madison. As it turned out, I didn’t have to even consider it. The guys at Central Waters said on their Facebook page that they would be running a charter shuttle bus from Stevens Point to the brewery, so My Darling B did a little googling and found a B&B not far from the bus stop. We made reservations to stay the night.

It was a grand old Victorian house known as Dreams of Yesteryear. Check-in time was three but the owners let us in an hour early. That was so we could leave Madison at around noon, be in Stevens Point by two o’clock, and catch the first shuttle to the brewery at two-thirty. And it all went like clockwork, except for the last part.

Since we missed the first shuttle, we hung out in a bookstore downtown for a while where we discovered the new genre of books called “Urban Fantasy.” As near as we could figure them out by reading the jacket blurbs and looking at the cover illustrations, they were all variations on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer story. There were twice as many urban fantasy books as there were of almost any other subject in the store. People in Stevens Point really like their vampires.

I was completely wrong about how many people they could fit inside that building. There were hundreds of people buzzing around inside the brewery when we got there, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find out that thousands of people came and went over the course of the evening. Chartered buses were bringing visitors in from far away, and the cars parked along both sides of the roads bore license plates from several states. This was a big deal.

We took turns standing in the long, long line for specialty beers. My Darling B was especially keen on trying to get hold of the anniversary brew, but we never did manage to get any. While she was standing in line, though, the guy behind her noticed her cup was empty and poured her a shot from the growler he was carrying. He was either being very generous, or he wanted to empty the bottle before he got to the front of the line. Or maybe a little of both.

I tried two brews I’d never heard of before, Exodus and Le Petit Mort, both very tasty, but by the time I got them I had already had enough of standing in line, so I didn’t go back to try anything else. We made do with a couple beers from the regular taps while we listened to the band, or wandered around the brewery to check it out.

Being a couple of lightweights, we didn’t stay late at all, heading back to town on the seven-thirty shuttle. If I remember, we were in bed by nine so we wouldn’t miss breakfast in the morning. A good thing, too, because the hostess cooked up breakfast burritos that were delicious. I’d consider going back to Stevens Point just for that.

fifteen | 6:27 am CST
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Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Note to future self: When attending Great Taste of the Midwest Pre-Party, do not attempt to eat a hamburger that’s bigger than your head. Really, that thing must have weighed a half-pound at least, and they piled cheese, onion rings and two strips of bacon on top of it. Realizing my mistake, I ate just half of it and still my stomach was dispatching complaints as thick as phone books to the admin department of my brain all night long. Next year we’ll get a salad at the co-op and eat it in the car on the way to the party.

After much consultation, we decided to try out the party hosted by The Beer Spot at The Brickhouse BBQ because they had managed to pull in Central Waters, one of our favorite brewers. We visited their brewery just a month ago, as a matter of fact, to enjoy a few brews and a Cajun band that was playing among the fermenting tanks. Along with Central Waters, the party also included three breweries we weren’t familiar with: Short’s Brewing from Michigan brought ten different brews, Nebraska Brewing Company from, um, Nebraska brought eight, and Lift Bridge from Minnesota brought two. We weren’t hoping to try anywhere near that many, and a good thing, too, because there was a crazy big crowd there and the bar was busier than a swarm of bees.

I started with the hoppy beers, because I knew I’d be drinking them all by myself. They were serving 4-ounce tasters, so no problem there. Hop God, a Belgian IPA from Nebraska, was satisfyingly hoppy, but Dan’s Pink Skirt, an American IPA from Short’s, was insanely hoppy, like having Andre the Giant stuff fistfuls of hops right up my nose. I finished them both anyway. I love hoppy, and I had plenty of water on hand. Also, hamburger.

After dinner, we wandered upstairs to try out some of the other brews on offer. Of the brews from Short’s, I wanted to try Bludgeon Yer Eye PA, a Black IPA, but somehow we didn’t get around to it, but they’ll have it at the Great Taste so I’ll try to catch up with them later this afternoon. We did get to try Smoked Apple Ale, a Rauchbier with a distinct apple flavor (and I swear I tasted cinnamon, too); Chocolate Wheat, a porter with chocolate malt that B liked quite a bit; and Nicie Spicie, an American Wheat beer brewed with peppercorns, which would have gone exceptionally well with the giant-sized burger I could still taste.

The only other brew from Nebraska that we tried was the Summer Rye, which I liked quite a lot but B couldn’t abide the aroma. We also tried both beers from Lift Bridge: Farm Girl, a saison that would ideally be served ice-cold on a hot day at the beach; and Chestnut Hill, a Brown Ale that was a little bland.

The rain that had been coming down all the while we were at Brickhouse let up just long enough for us to walk back to the car. How great is that?

pre-GTOTMW | 8:26 am CST
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