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Monday, March 4, 2013

Central Waters Brewing's Satin Solstice Imperial Stout

  • Style: Imperial Stout
  • ABV: 7.50%
  • Season:Year round
  • Ease to locate: The brewery is located in Central Wisconsin.  I  bought mine in Chicago.  Other than that, I have no clue.  Their website  details exactly how they make their bottles but not one bit on where to buy their beers. 
  • Color: Dark, dark brown with red hints 
  • Head: Generous three finger beige foam with lots of sticky lacing
  • Aroma: Roasted, dark coffee, good chocolate and dates
  • Mouthfeel: Just this side of lush, but still a bit chewy
  • Finish: Medium
  • Food friendly: Smoked meats, roasted meats and thick stews.  Serve it with buttery cheeses such as Brie and Havarti to match the thick mouthfeel 

 We've reached the point of the year where I begin to hate snow.  I don't particularly hate winter.  Winter means comfy sweaters, hearty foods and the return of favorite cable shows.  But that stupid white stuff?  I hate it with a red hot fiery passion (if only passion was enough to melt the damn thing.)  I hate the way it piles up on my car making me late to work each morning (because that's the only reason I'm late, I swear to God to a nonspecific deity who will not strike me dead for lying, but understands that sometimes an extra 10 minutes of sleep really does make a difference.  For our purposes here, I will call him "Carl".)   I hate that I have to clear paths like a tracker in the Amazon in order just to leave my house (you don't have to shovel cold.)  And I really hate that I have to wear ugly shoes so I don't do a face plant on a daily basis.

What I do like about snow is that it that means there still time to try new porters and stouts before the Spring thaw makes me crave lighter fare.  I recently picked up a bottle from a brewery located in Central Wisconsin that has been gathering a bit of good press lately.  Central Waters Brewery is located in Amherst, WI (about three and a half hours north of Chicago) and claims to have 200 retail outlets in Wisconsin.  Of course, as anyone who has ever driven through Wisconsin knows, you can buy great craft beer at just about any reliable gas station,  So maybe this isn't that amazing of a claim to fame.  However, they celebrated their 15th anniversary with a party that got a lot of Chicago beer geeks talking and traveling north, so I thought I'd grab a bottle or two and give them a shot.   I'm sort of glad that I did.

Excuse me, Mr. Imperial Stout.  Your bubbles seem to be showing
My Satin Solstice poured a rich dark brown color with reddish tints when held to the light.  I could easily see the individual bubbles from  the carbonation rising quickly in the glass, which I'm not really used to finding in an imperial stout..  A generous three finger, light beige, spongy head quickly formed.  Sticky, encompassing lace clung to the glass and stayed that way almost to the last drop.  I was really impressed with the foam's retention and thought that it's presence greatly added to the creaminess of the beer.  The top note of roasted coffee and roasted malts rose from my glass and mixed with scents of quality chocolate and dark chewy fruit (dates, I believe.)  It was a delicious aroma that perfectly set me up for the taste to follow.  I could discern the roasted malts, roasted coffee and rich chocolate flavors immediately.   The dark fruit and booze notes that one expects in an imperial stout found me in the middle of the sip.  I thought that the boozy note was well balanced for the most part, but that it didn't really add anything wonderful to the beer .  Some imperials are able to use that alcohol flavor component to their advantage in order to add an extra layer to their beer.  Personally, I don't think Satin Solstice used their's to up the ante any.  It was sort of just another note.  Nitpicky?  Maybe.  Definitely.  But the devil is in the details.  The mouthfeel was just this shy of lush.   I've had thicker and more luxurious imperial stouts, but I certainly wouldn't classify this one as watery.  The beer  was thick, a bit creamy and just carbonated enough to make it drinkable.  The finish was smooth like it's namesake.   It was moderate in length, with a hop note finally emerging on the end.

Like frosted window panes.  Only lickable.

You can almost see the creaminess 

Central Waters has apparently jumped on the bottling date label bandwagon.  I was a little surprised to see  that they bothered to mark the beer's birthday on the side of their label.  I can understand why a freshness date is important when I'm drinking an IPA or another hopped up beer, but for a regular old imperial stout?  In any case, mine was bottled in December and I bought it in February.  Now, if they marked the year on the imperial stout's label, I'd be a bit more impressed.  I could see cellaring this beer for a year to discover if the boozy note changed enough to enhance the beer complexity in any way. 

DOB December.  Could be 2012, could be 1996
Like most heavier beers, I'd pair Central Water's Satin Solstice Imperial Stout with  food that matched it's weight, such as a hearty stew or thick pot roast.  The level of carbonation and relatively low ABV (for an imperial stout) in this brew actually makes it a little easier to serve with food than other beers in the same category.  If you wanted to try it with something a bit out of the ordinary, pair the Satin Solstice with balsamic strawberries and ricotta cream for a desert.  And then invite me over.  I'll start shoveling a path to your door right now without one complaint, I swear to "Carl."