Monday, December 22, 2008

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout

You've probably seen it on the shelves for $15 for a six pack. That probably seems like a lot. $2.5 per 12 oz. bottle is much more than we are used to paying for beer. Heck, Autumnal Fire is $9.99 for a six. New Glarus' Alt is only $7.99. PBR is, what?, $5.00?

I'll do some math for you: $15/six comes out to about $.2083 per ounce. Which, if we do our handy, dandy conversions is about $4.58 for a 22oz, or $5.28 for a 750ml. Well, that doesn't seem quite so expensive now, does it? Which, to me, seems like a weird way to sell beer. $15 seems like a lot for a six pack. But we don't blink at $5-7 for a 22 or 750. In fact, it's not really until the $10 mark that we really start to evaluate the "value" of a 22 or 750.

With that said, why aren't Wisconsin brewers bottling these more desirable beers in different package sizes that provide much higher margins? I mean, as a consumer, hey, great, I'm all for it. But it seems like there is a huge missed opportunity here. For example, what if Tyranena released its Brewers Gone Wild Series in 22oz's instead of four packs? Four pack = 48oz. It sells for about $9.99 for a four pack, or, magic of magic, $.2081 per ounce. The Brewers Gone Wild Series are always in high demand, so let's assume Rob will sell all of the beer that he brews under the Brewers Gone Wild. If instead of $9.99 for a four-pack, he sold his BGW's for $6 in a 22oz package size, that translates to $.2727 per ounce: 23% more income without exceeding consumer expectations in the slightest. Yes, the 22oz bottles are slightly more expensive, but they use standard caps. And, really, are they $.06/ounce more expensive than 12oz bottles?

And that's assuming a relatively reasonable $6 for 22oz bottles – Three Floyds sells for $9 or $10 for their regular beers; Rogue sells for $6 for their regular beers. Etc.

For Central Waters, perhaps the Coffeehouse Stout is an experiment to see how well the package size sells? In the meantime, we're left with 12oz bottles of the Bourbon Barrel Stout (BA, A-; RB, 98).

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout

Appearance: deep dark brown with a thick, foamy beige head; the head falls away somewhat quickly leaving some alcohol, but no lacing, on the sides
Aroma: sweet and bourbonish with a dense aroma of chocolate and malt – almost of bitter chocolate, with a long, lingering brightness
Flavor: chocolates and bourbon with a long, lingering bitter dark chocolate finish
Body: deep and thick; like drinking chocolate out of bottle with a slight cordial flavor, without the cherry
Drinkability: perfect for an aperitif, a six pack would be nice to supplement and sustain throughout the winter
Summary: a great beer that is rapidly becoming the hallmark and calling card of Central Waters – a reputation maker and a business sustainer; a damn fine beer.


  1. Honestly, brewers selling their higher-alcohol brews in larger containers seems exactly backwards to me, and selling some beer only in the larger containers is a turn-off. 22 oz of an 8-10% ABV brew is frequently more alcohol than I want to consume in a sitting, and beer keeps poorly once opened.

  2. As a Wisconsin brewery owner, the reason we have gravitated toward 12oz packaging is that our packaging lines are designed around these. If we fill 22oz, it takes either more machinery, or a lot more labor. Plus as the previous comment mentioned, 4packs allow less commitment once opened. Just my two cents. Cheers!!

  3. As an unnofficial beer expert, but with years of experience, Central Waters is the Schrader or Harlan Estates of breweries. Beer at Central Waters is consistant and ageworthy with even their most robusto beers go down smooth. I'd give the 09 Bourban Barrrel Stout, 09 Bourbon Barrel Barley wine and the 09 Peruvian Morning a firm 99/100 in each of their respective categories; the Barleywine being the superior of the 3. Cheers to Paul and Annello for your hard work and best beer from any brewery world wide.
    -Brandon's buddy Todd.

  4. Good call @Anonymous. Central Waters has BY FAR the most underrated barrel program in the country. Last year's Bourbon Barrel Stout is drinking amazing right now and the bourbon barrel barleywine is just slightly behind the legendary King Henry. And for $65 a case for their barrel aged beers? Yes please. I've been a huge central waters fan for years and now they are starting to get the recognition they deserve. Some other amazing barrel aged beers to try from Central Waters are (if you can find them) 1414 and Barrel-Aged La Petite Mort.


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