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Beer Reviews

Glacial Trail IPA

Central Waters Brewing Company
Amherst, WI
USA

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)


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Craft beer fascinates Nigel for a number of reasons. Most obvious is the plethora of styles and brews available overall, as well as the desire among brewers to experiment and push the envelope. But there’s another, more obscure aspect of the craft brewing revolution that fascinates Nigel: small town breweries.

Small town breweries used to be as common as grain elevators in the upper Midwest, particularly in German-influenced areas like Wisconsin. Prohibition dealt a death blow to many of these establishments, and those that survived the dry decade were eventually eliminated by corporate consolidation, which left the U.S. beer market with essentially three options (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors) by the 1980s. The craft beer boom of the past two decades has led to a re-emergence of small town breweries, although these new versions are far different than their late 19th/early 20th century predecessors. Old school breweries brewed the standard macro-style lager or pilsener, occasionally mixing in a weak bock. Nowadays, small brewers are on the precipice of new ideas and inventions, and modern technology allows for their products to be distributed with relative ease.

One thing that we typically don’t consider as we sit in the comfort of our homes enjoying a fine brew is the circuitous journey that brought it to our beer fridge. An experience last month made Nigel more appreciative of this: my fruitless journey to find Central Waters Brewing Co.

Central Waters is a small brewery located in Amherst, Wisconsin, in the middle of the state, about 10 minutes east of Stevens Point. On an early May weekend, Nigel accompanied Edward G. Glick in his parent’s Gremlin for a trip north, taking advantage of a rare public appearance by our head honcho and notorious recluse . Our goal: finding Central Waters Brewing and making a haul (this wasn’t actually our goal, but work with me here). Amherst is conveniently located off of Highway 10, a four lane artery that connects the central state to the Fox River Valley. While none of us had actually been to Amherst, finding a brewery in a town of 1500 people can’t be terribly difficult, right?

Wrong.

On the way up, we exited at Amherst and drove around town for 30 minutes without any success; we literally scoped out every potential commercial building. I called Father, and he placed a call to a friend of the Tanner family who just happens to work in Amherst. Unfortunately, our source on the inside had never heard of Central Waters. Giving up, we decided we’d try again on the way back. While at the Tanner family estate in the Northwoods, I contacted my lovely girlfriend, Danish Princess, who did extensive online research and provided us with an address and detailed directions. The return trip proved more successful, as we found it after getting lost a few more times. Unfortunately, we discovered that the Tap Room hours were from 2 p.m. to 2:07 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; this being Sunday, the discovery provided no haul. We did get to see the outside of the building, however, which was frickin’ wonderful. Considering our first attempt to locate it was on a Thursday evening, it didn’t really matter … we were out of luck either way.

This debacle perfectly illustrates that obscure detail about craft brewing that so fascinates Nigel. I see Central Waters brews all over the place in Milwaukee, and all of the styles I have sampled thus far have been of high quality. Yet they are produced in a tiny, rural town in a brewery that is smaller than a standard barn and is nearly impossible to locate (FYI … you can see it from the freeway). The survival and growth of such a small operation in a remote town where even the local population knows little about them is incredible, but then again Nigel is easily impressed.

Needless to say, I purchased my six pack of Glacial Trail IPA in Milwaukee, not at the Amherst brewery. I’ve noticed that as Central Waters distribution has expanded following the opening of the new facility, some of the names and brews have changed. The Bourbon Barrel Barleywine I reviewed a few months ago appears to be a renamed version of Bourbon Barrel Kosymk Charlies Y2K Catastrophe Ale, and Glacial Trail IPA looks to have replaced Lac du Bay IPA, though it is apparently a new recipe. Having been largely enamored with Central Waters thus far, I’m excited to see what they do in the hops department.

Glacial Trail IPA pours a cloudy apricot color, with a pillowy head of about an inch or so that dissipates into a creamy lace with some stickiness. The translucency indicates an unfiltered brew, which is exactly as it should be. Initial aromas are a bit surprising for an American IPA; it has a large amount of sugary malt, with hops a secondary player. A nice, sweet caramel dominates, as does a touch of darker sugars resembling toffee and molasses. The distinct zest of American hops comes through next, very citrusy with a touch of pine. Grapefruit and orange zest combine with a bit of green apple, topped off by a noticeable coniferous tinge. It’s an aroma that is strong, pleasant, and somewhat unique.

The flavor is very good, but not enough to place this in the upper echelon of American IPAs; it’s a three mugger through and through. The overwhelming sweetness of the aroma translates to the taste, though not quite as significantly. A light, sweet, caramel malt is very present, but hops take over quickly as they should in an IPA. The distinct citrusy zest of Northwest hops is the major player throughout, with the sweet malt playing a nice second fiddle. A muted earthy flavor comes through in the background as well, likely aided by the piney notes characteristic of the hops. As far as AIPAs go, this is relatively light and refreshing, which is a welcome presence during the warmer summer months. Well balanced and flavorful, Glacial Trail is medium in body and smooth on the palate, with a mild aftertaste. I didn’t find an “official” ABV listing, but I’m guessing it’s in the tolerable 6 percent range, making this a potential session brew.

While I enjoyed Glacial Trail IPA (erroneously referred to as “Glacier Trail” on a number of craft beer sites), it didn’t do enough for me to consider it anything other than an average attempt. It’s worth a try if you’re so inclined, as it’s still a tasty, refreshing brew, but there are other Central Waters brews that top this. And should you find yourself in Amherst on the fourth Friday of the month at exactly 2:03 p.m., be sure to catch the Tap Room while it’s open.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 2, 2008.
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