Amherst, Wisconsin is a small town with a population of 1,051. But for one weekend every year, this small, quaint hamlet almost doubles in size as people descend into the Central Waters brewing facility for their anniversary party. Along with a celebration of Central Waters’ sweet sixteen, bottles of their anniversary beer (16) were released. Did they improve upon last year’s 15th anniversary party?
Check out our review of 16 and other Central Waters’ beers here.
Fifteen: Distributor party 12-3, two bottle limit. Party 3-10, four bottle limit. No tickets.
Sixteen: Distributor party 12-3, eight bottle limit. Party 3-10, eight bottle limit. Tickets for bottles.
Some at the distributors’ party kept repeatedly getting their 2 bottles last year; this year your name was crossed off a list. More bottles too.
Fifteen: No tickets, all beer (15 and other BA stouts) sold from the same location.
Sixteen: Tickets for 16; 16 separate from other bottle sales
Last year’s line for Fifteen snaked around the entire length of the brewery, wrapped around and then out the door. It was so long that it was confusing people in another line (more on that soon). No one knew if they would get any and it took forever.
This year’s line was separated from the party, but the number of people crossing off names and getting bottles wasn’t enough. My group got there at around 2 (which some thought was a bad idea because the line would die down) and bottle sales should have started then. Unfortunately they let people with distributor’s tickets skip the line, so the “general public” line didn’t move. This was also slowed by one guy getting 200+ bottles of 16 (which then caused a worker to ask us how much we were getting). When the line started to move, it moved slowly (not enough people crossing off names), turning the wait for most of the night to about 2 hours. This was still much better than Fifteen, but there is room for improvement.
Fifteen: Main lineup at the bar; special offerings at location in the corner and timed.
Sixteen: Main lineup at the bar; special offerings at the new addition in the back and on until tapped out.
Remember the long, snaking 15 line? It was running into the special taps line and causing confusion. Add to that the fact that some people would get to the front of the line and let people pass them so they could be first for the timed tapping and that it was in a small corner equals a cluster of people not moving very much and few people getting the beer.
With the expansion, the specialty drafts were moved to the back (in a big open space), while the regular bottle sales and merchandise were in the corner. I waited a bit for my pour of 16, but it was miniscule compared to the line the previous year for 1414 and Fifteen. All beers were on tap for most of the day, with the exception of BB Cherry Stout (kicked real quick) and Exodus (but it stayed on for a long time).
Fifteen: Bottle sharing held in an area over to the side (behind the bar), no lighting.
Sixteen: Same, but with lighting. Bottle sharing was also big in the expansion area.
The Fifteen bottle share was a disaster. You couldn’t see, there were bottles everywhere, and there were reports of bottles being stolen as well as being randomly opened. I ventured there 2-3 times during the party but quickly got out.
While in the same area, the Sixteen bottle share was much more normal. People had their bottles and were placing them on the tables to be shared. It still seemed a bit cramped, but the addition was where the real fun was.
My group managed to be a “table” (a barrel with chairs) and we just started pulling out bottles to share amongst ourselves. By the time I left, our starting group of 6 had ballooned to about 40, with various people placing down bottles to share. It was an absolute blast. Plus there was a marriage proposal right in front of us! (She said yes.)
Fifteen: Regular Central Waters bathroom, port-o-potties by the bottle sales; water available to purchase, no jugs.
Sixteen: Regular Central Waters bathroom, port-o-potties by the 16 bottle sales; water available to purchase, no jugs.
Avoiding the sweep, Fifteen comes out ahead here. At Fifteen I never had to wait at all (or very long) for the bathroom. Sixteen there were lines 3-4 deep per port. More ports around in various locations (especially the new expansion room) would have made this a non-issue.
Both needed more water stations. Either have a table dedicated to serving water, or jugs around the area, but only having it to purchase at the food vendors or at the main bar (for free) is very dangerous. Not sure is the specialty tapping had water, but I was told they did not.
Fifteen: Two food vendors; band near the back (with the lights out and very loud)
Sixteen: Two food vendors; band in the back corner of the expansion area (lights on and not very loud)
The food needs to be there regardless of quality. It does the trick (keeping you sober!) so no complaints here. I had the food at Fifteen and it did the job; Sixteen I did not.
The very loud music with the lights out at Fifteen (so loud you couldn’t talk to the person next to you) was replaced by being able to see and the music being at the exact right volume – loud enough to hear it, but not to be a detriment to conversation with the person next to you.
While Sixteen wasn’t perfect (and it seems those are the points most people focus on), it was leagues better than their 15th anniversary party. Central Waters has already said they were going to do something about the special bottle release issues, but even with no changes I would still attend their 17th anniversary party. Job well done, Central Waters.