Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Brewhouse Coffee Stout

Central Waters Brewing Company
Amherst, WI

Style: Stout

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Encore! Encore! Encore!

While I officially wrapped up my “Tour O’ Dark Beers” last week with Lakefront’s Fuel Cafe, the response was so overwhelming that I felt an encore performance was needed (to answer your question, yes … Nigel does live in an alternate reality that differs from the rest of the Dorks). While spring is in the air here in the Midwest and the dark beer season has essentially drawn to a close, I have one more selection in storage that qualifies for a tour stop, and the cool breeze blowing off Lake Michigan into my apartment has me feeling properly chilly and ready for another dark stout.

Appropriately, my encore destination is Central Waters Brewing, a brewer that is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Having secured two stops on the regularly scheduled tour, it seems only fitting that Central Waters hosts the encore. Typically I try to spread my reviews among various breweries and regions, but with Central Waters having impressed Nigel thus far and having only recently entered my market, I’ve been trying to catch up on all they have to offer. After a disappointing first selection, Happy Heron Pale Ale, I’ve gone to the extreme with Central Waters via Bourbon Barrel Barleywine, Satin Solstice Imperial Stout, and now Brewhouse Coffee Stout. I’m probably going to take a break from reviewing Central Waters after three reviews in the past month, but rest assured they’ve garnered a regular spot in my rotation.

I shared my opinion of coffee stouts in my Fuel Cafe review. Fuel Cafe’s main problem was that it was a weak stout with a profile that resembled wet coffee grounds. While it’s hard to get the sensation of freshly roasted beans while maintaining standard beer qualities, a well made coffee stout should avoid the watered down staleness that often plagues the style. The key in my opinion is to make a thick, powerful, imperial-style stout and brew it with actual roasted coffee beans. While Lakefront used the proper coffee formula, they didn’t make a strong enough stout, so the combination didn’t quite work. It seems that many coffee stouts have that same formulaic problem: they utilize a weaker version of the stout, and thus have a saturated flavor. Let’s hope Central Waters has bucked that trend and created a ballsy stout with fresh coffee, rather than the standard blah coffee stout.

Brewhouse Coffee Stout comes in bomber form, reasonably priced at around six dollars. The pour reveals a mild tan head that quickly dissipates into a vague creamy trace. The color is sort of two-dimensional: the interior is as black as night, but the surface and edges are a nice, translucent dark brown. The aroma is … WOW! It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted from this style. Beautiful fresh roasted coffee aromas dominate, as Brewhouse smells nothing like a beer and everything like that wonderful little neighborhood coffee bistro. Freshly ground gourmet coffee dominates, with a surprising tinge of vanilla. Dark roasted and chocolate malt is present in the background, but ultimately this is a coffee aroma through and through with a sweet tinge. It smells fantastic … at least for those of us who love good coffee.

There’s no way the flavor can match the exquisite aroma, right? Wrong. Once again, this is EXACTLY what I’ve always wanted a coffee stout to be, but until now had never been able to find. The flavor is not only tasty but powerful (I couldn’t find an official ABV, but I’m guessing it’s 7 percent or higher), giving Brewhouse an imperial stout façade with milder coffee stout characteristics. Initial flavors of freshly ground, roasted coffee beans dominate, again with a surprising tinge of creamy vanilla. If I stuck this in the microwave for a couple of minutes, I could probably substitute it for my morning cup of joe. Secondary flavors of dark chocolate malt with occasional sugary sweet tinges of toffee and molasses make for a wonderfully rich flavor that is equal parts stout, equal parts mocha. The complex roasted profile leaves little room for any fruity or hoppy tinges, so if you dislike coffee or dark roasted malt, then this is probably not for you. As the beer warms, the rich mocha java flavors come through even more, making this easily the most flavorful coffee stout you’ll likely ever experience. Full bodied and exceptionally smooth on the palate, Brewhouse leaves a lingering coffee aftertaste, but all in all is a superb drink.

Man, am I glad I decided to do an encore. As much as I enjoyed Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine and Satin Solstice, Brewhouse Coffee Stout is easily the cream of the crop. This is the first coffee stout I’ve ever had that is so damn flavorful, you can easily forget you’re drinking a beer. Any lover of thick, powerful, roasted stouts should definitely give this a try, as should any coffee lover who’s looking for a wonderful brew that combines the best of both worlds. Kudos to Central Waters for creating a unique, quality beverage!


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 1, 2008.
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