Brewer Profile: Simon Nielsen of Central Waters Brewing

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Photo by Ellen Burkhardt

At first glance, Central Waters’ location in Amherst’s “business park” doesn’t look like much: just a flat plot of land on the outskirts of a small Wisconsin town. But the space provides the brewery with ample room to expand, develop, and, most importantly, house the large solar panel arrays that heat their water and produce roughly 20 percent of the 12,500-square-foot facility’s energy needs.

Minimizing their environmental impact is a focus for Central Waters’ operations. Packaging is made from post-consumer recycled cardboard. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible. Motion-detecting switches are installed throughout the buildings. The brewing system reuses as much water as possible. And unlike some companies who “go green” as a marketing gimmick, Simon says the opposite is true at Central Waters. “Those guys never did it for branding,” he says. “When they were tiny and could barely afford it, they were doing it, because it was what they felt was the right thing to do.”

Simon says the brewery’s water-efficient setup affects his job somewhat, but not incredibly. A little extra time to transfer water from tank to tank, no reverse osmosis system (which, Simon explains, sends 50 percent of the water down the drain after being run through the filter)—that kind of thing. But otherwise, Simon says it’s not a big deal. “They set the whole thing up where you don’t have to think about it. Besides the solar, it’s not a lot different than other breweries.”

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Simon is excited to extend Central Waters’ reputation to include more hop-forward beers // Photo by Ellen Burkhardt

Central Waters has long been regarded for its barrel-aged beers, but Simon wants to extend the brewery’s reputation to include a solid lineup of more hop-forward beers. “IPAs are my jam,” he says. “I feel like I understand hops more than I understand malt.”

He’s well on his way toward achieving that goal. Two of his one-off beers are now regulars at Central Waters: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades American Pale Ale, offered year-round, and Summarillo India Pale Lager, a summer seasonal. When their pilot system is up and running, he’ll get to experiment even more.

Now that his hobby has become his full-time job, Simon is on the lookout for a new pastime. Perhaps he’ll reinvest in woodworking equipment (he sold it all to buy brewing equipment)—once he and his fiancée find a place with more space than their current apartment. Or maybe he’ll bring his drum kit to the barrel warehouse and play among the 2,000-some barrels—although with goals to expand from 13,350 beer barrels in 2015 to over 15,000 in 2016, there soon might not be enough room. Regardless, he’ll figure something out. He always does.

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Ellen Burkhardt About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.

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