One of the latest beers to appear on Madison shelves might not have been made had it not been for a slight miscalculation at Central Waters Brewery. It's no secret that the Amherst-based brewhaus has been giving more attention to the development of barrel-aged beers recently. Co-owners Paul Graham and Anello Mollica even constructed a special building to house more than 500 oak barrels. Late this spring, while working on a recipe for a Belgian beer, they ended up with more beer than empty barrels on hand. What was left over was kegged and offered in the brewery's taproom. The beer quickly developed a following, selling so well they decided to make more. Thanks to this, the first shipment of six-packs of their new Belgian Style Blonde Ale arrived in Madison this past weekend.
What is it? Belgian Style Blonde Ale from Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wis.
Style: The Belgian blonde ale is blonde to golden-colored and light- to medium-bodied. The style has a spicy sweetness, with medium fruity tones in the aroma and flavor. It is not hoppy, but some bitterness should be noticeable in the overall crispness of the beer; such hoppiness is often found as a light dryness in the finish. Despite having the look and mouthfeel of a lighter-bodied beer, the Belgian Blonde is moderately strong at 6.0&%7.8% ABV.
Background: Mike Spilker, who joined Central Waters as a brewer last winter, helped develop the recipe for this beer. In addition to the brewery's standard base malts, this beer is made with torrified (pre-gelatinized) wheat, which adds body and head retention. It has a crisp, even snappy, hoppiness from Saaz and East Kent Goldings that lingers into the finish. The beer is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain that gives it mild spiciness. Central Waters Belgian Style Blonde Ale takes about four weeks to make and finishes at 6.1% ABV. It sells for ~$9/six-pack. This beer is also available on select tap accounts, and will appear at the Malt House in late July or early August.
Not only was this new beer a surprise release, it also had to overcome issues associated with federal label approval. Its initial name didn't include the word "style," which regulators felt was needed so as not to imply this beer was made in Belgium. Resubmitting the revised label created a delay of an extra month.
- Aroma: A yeasty-fruity nose with a light hint of hoppiness.
- Appearance: A deep golden, almost amber-copper color, and slightly hazy. Medium soft, marbled white head.
- Texture: Light- to medium-bodied, round and bubbly.
- Taste: The yeast tones appear first with a crisp fruitiness. It has a sweet and sour spicy flavor that is accentuated by its bubbliness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The spiciness of the Belgian yeast combines with a light hoppiness for just a faint dryness.
Glassware: I really like the tulip glass for beers like this. Its shapely body shows off the beer's bright golden-copper color, and the flared lip supports its medium soft, marbled head.
Pairs well with: Central Waters Belgian Style Blonde Ale will complement light summer dishes, especially salads. It's yeasty and slight sweet fruity tones go very well with seafood, especially fish and shrimp on the backyard grill.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Central Waters Belgian Style Blonde Ale is a great entry among Madison's summertime beer offerings. It's an unexpected pleasure from the brewery, not only because it's a surprise release, but also because it fills a void in locally made Belgian blonde ales. It's bubbly, spicy with a slight fruity sweetness that makes it a very drinkable brew, especially given the recent heat wave.