Founded in 1998 by friends Mike McElwain and Jerome Ebel in an old brick building located on Highway 10 in Junction City, Wis., Central Waters Brewing Co. is now one of the largest breweries in the state with its beer in over 200 retail locations.

In 2012, the Amherst, Wis.-based brewery decided to begin an Anniversary series of releases, the first of which was Fourteen Fourteen , a 11 percent ABV  imperial stout that was aged in 14-year-old bourbon barrels for 14 months. That was followed by the release of Fifteen in 2013, a 11 percent ABV imperial stout aged for 26 months in 14-year-old bourbon barrels.

Central Waters 16 bottle

For its 16th anniversary in 2014, Central Waters decided to use a “bigger, bolder” imperial stout appropriately named Sixteen that came in at 11 percent ABV and was aged in oak bourbon barrels for 21 months. Reservations were sold online for $51 which guaranteed purchasers the ability to buy up to eight bottles of the new stout. The 22-ounce bottles went on sale on Jan. 25, 2014 at a price of $15 each.

Central Waters Seventeen was released on Jan. 24, 2015.

The Central Waters Sixteen pours a soul sucking black, with no light allowed through at all, along with a finger and a half of coffee brown head that dissipates quickly, leaving a thick, viscous lacing of the same color. Carbonation is very evident in the beer, and the aroma coming from the top of the glass is a combination of strong bourbon, oak, coconut, dark cocoa, sweet molasses and vanilla.

Central Waters 16

The flavors of the Central Waters Sixteen pop out immediately after taking my first taste: a dominant dark chocolate note tied with a sweet molasses sweetness, along with notes of charred oak, fudge, vanilla, espresso and barley. The sweetness that is present is obvious, but not as aggressive as something like Bourbon County Brand Stout, and is well integrated into the overall profile. The beer has a remarkable mouthfeel, creamy and thick, and it coats my mouth after every sip. The carbonation level is just right: definitely present, but not enough to contrast with the thickness of the beer on my palate.

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Central Waters Sixteen
BREWERY: Central Waters Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Amherst, Wis.
STYLE: Imperial stout
ABV: 11 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $15
RELEASE DATE: Jan. 25, 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
While I did not enjoy the Central Waters Sixteen as much as I did this year's Seventeen—which is just a better release overall—it is still a hell of a beer. Even after a year of age, the alcohol is quite evident on the finish, where it sometimes takes over dominance in the profile, but not enough to effect the excellent balance that the beer exhibits. Everything about this release screams rich and decadent, and the flavors really jump out at you while you are drinking it, each of them quite distinct. An excellent example of a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, and one that is well worth the effort to track down.
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