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A highlight from Central Waters, 12 beer fests to attend in 2017 and more craft brewery openings.

Tasting an Amazing Beer
Last week, I received an email from local beer guru Tom “Grynder” Ciula. He explained that he’d procured a bottle of Central Waters Ardea Insignis – an extremely rare imperial stout aged for more than three years in 25-year-old bourbon barrels. Grynder asked if I wanted to join him, Champps Americana owner Tony Lewanovich and Journal Sentinel beer scribe Kathy Flanigan for a tasting of this endangered bird.

I was thrilled to get a chance to try the beer, honored to have been included in such great company, and excited to get spend an hour or two talking beer with some pretty knowledgeable folks.

We all met at Champps, where Grynder opened the bottle and doled out generous pours in snifters.

I’m always thrilled to try rare brews, and this was something special. Ardea Insignis lived up to its billing. The beer has a hint of booze in the aroma, but the taste isn’t nearly as hot as you’d think after a whiff from the snifter. Dark chocolate is prevalent, and there’s a slightly boozy finish that doesn’t linger for too long. One of my favorite things about the beer is that it isn’t cloying or overly sweet. Instead, it’s a flavorful stout with a hint of whiskey that isn’t concerned with being rich or decadent. Central Waters has a world-class barrel-aging program. Ardea Insignis is another strong reminder of that.


The New Brewery Trend Continues
2017 is getting off to a good start when it comes to the brewery scene in Milwaukee. Last week, the Explorium Brewpub (5300 S. 76th St.) announced that it is opening to the public on January 25. It’s hosting a Milwaukee Craft Brewery League tap takeover from 6 to 10 p.m. to mark the occasion.

And, City Lights Brewing (2210 W. Mt. Vernon Ave.) plans to open on February 1. If you haven’t seen the amazing things that City Lights is doing from an architectural standpoint, check out the photos by Kristine Hinrichs documenting the process. Very cool.

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Barley Pop of the Week
For a couple of weeks every winter, Bell’s Hopslam makes a splash in the beer world. The imperial IPA has its diehard fans and a few detractors. I reside in the former category and was excited when I opened my first can of the brew this year. Honey seems to be more prevalent in the 2017 version, giving the beer a slighter sweeter flavor than in  recent past. But don’t worry, Hopslam fans. The bitterness you’ve grown to love is still there.


Quick Taps
Cheers to Grynder (see above) who begins his annual beer abstinence this week. He’ll be back sampling brews in a few weeks.

Paste Magazine listed “12 Beer Festivals You Have to Attend in 2017.” The three within easy driving distance are Madison’s Great Taste of the Midwest, FoBAB (Chicago) and Three Floyds Dark Lord Day (Munster, Indiana).


Events Brewing
Tuesday, Jan. 17: The monthly beer dinner at Erv’s Mug (130 W. Ryan Rd., Oak Creek) features 3rd Sign Brewing. The cost is $40 for a seat between 5 and 8 p.m. Make a reservation by calling 414-762-5010.

Wednesday, Jan. 18: The Stilt House (W62 N630 Washington Ave., Cedarburg) hosts a beer dinner with Deschutes starting at 6 p.m. The cost is just $35 for three courses and four different beers. Check out the menu and call 262-618-4889 to make a reservation.

Wednesday, Jan. 18: Chef’s Palette Bierklasse at Café Hollander (7677 W. State St.) gives seven chefs the chance to share seven beers and talk about how they pair with food. Cost is $30, and tickets are available online.

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Wednesday, Jan. 18: The good folks at Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.) host a tap takeover from 5 Rabbits starting at 5 p.m. Included in the fun is a visit by Randy Mosher – a prolific author and well-known beer expert.

Wednesday, Jan. 18: Breakfast beers are the subjects of this week’s meeting of the Milwaukee Beer Society at Best Place (901 W. Juneau Ave.). Taste brews ­– made with oatmeal, coffee, maple syrup and bacon – starting at 6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 19: Lakefront’s My Turn: Mike Imperial Brown Ale with Hazelnut and Coffee celebrates its release at Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.) starting at 6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 19: Shorts Brewing heads to The Malt Shoppe (813 N. Mayfair Rd.) at 5 p.m. Try samples from the Michigan brewery and get special prices on taps.

Friday, Jan. 20: The second anniversary celebration at The Brass Tap (7808 W. Layton Ave.) kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs through Saturday. I recommend getting there early because they’re tapping some amazing brews, including Founders KBS, Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee, Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy, and more. Check out the full list here

Saturday, Jan. 21: Sprecher (701 W. Glendale Ave.) is throwing a party for the release of its barrel-aged (and highly underrated) Czar Brew Russian Imperial Stout and Commando Scotch Ale. The festivities run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are free.

Saturday, Jan. 21: Try brews from Wisconsin Brewing from noon to 3 p.m. at Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow Ave.) and Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.).

Saturday, Jan. 21: Belgian beers are the subject of the weekly sampling at both Three Cellars locations (7133 S. 76th St., Franklin; N72 W13400 Lund Lane, Menomonee Falls) from 1 to 4 p.m.