Highland Brewing Company is closing their doors this week. For four days. When they open again on February 23rd, Highland will look a little different.
For multiple decades now, Highland Brewing has sported a kilted Scotsman holding a pint, with the tagline “just a wee bit different”. This week sadly, the Scotsman is retiring.
Leah Wong Ashburn, the president of Highland Brewing and daughter of founder Oskar Wong knew a little while ago that Asheville, North Carolina’s first craft brewery needed a branding change. “Over two decades, we led with beer, and in recent years, we developed our beer portfolio significantly with fresh new styles and our innovative spirit is firing,” Ashburn says. “I love that we are now aligning the message.”
Highland spent most of 2017 collaborating with Austin, Texas-based Helms Workshop on the refresh. The entire beer lineup will still be labeled under the Highland name, but will now depict the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the brewery calls home. The pioneer compass you see is a reminder that Highland was Asheville’s first craft beer.
” We believe in authenticity…You act the same way when no one else is looking. You deliver the same level of quality every time that only you could notice. You are authentic when your actions align with your words. And when our brand aligns with our beer. This refreshed brand is who we are.”
Highland will host a launch celebration in their taproom on February 23rd. Look for the refreshed look on all Highland bottles, cans, and tap handles hitting shelves in the near future.
Highland Southern Sixer IPA marks the Asheville, North Carolina based brewery’s first seasonal of 2017. It’s a hoppy one. ;
Six varieties of hops make Highland Southern Sixer IPA, including one never used by the brewery before, Ekuanot. (Once called Equinox.) Ekuanot along with Mosaic are the hop headliners, making this beer uniquely fruity and resiny.
Knowing the name well in advance, the brewing team had fun making every possible aspect of this beer relate to “six,” from the number of hops to the ABV and IBUs. Even the packaging, typically offered in 12-packs, is available only in six-packs. – Hollie Stephenson, Highland brewmaster
Highland Southern Sixer IPA will be tapped at the brewery on January 27th. 12 ounce bottles and draft will be available shortly after the brewery launch.
Hops: Ekuanot, Mosaic, 4 Other Varieties
Availability: 12oz Bottles, Draft. Seasonal release.
6% ABV, 60 IBUs
Image: Highland Brewing
Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale is back in action for its 20th year. The beer is officially the longest running seasonal in the brewery’s Asheville, North Carolina home.
Stylistically, the brewery calls Cold Mountain a winter warmer. Honestly, this beer is really unique and in our minds really doesn’t fit that style. Imagine a caramel colored, malt forward ale that isn’t roasty, bitter, or rely on a boozy finish for flavor. Highland really doesn’t disclose the spices in Cold Mountain, but we are placing our bets on hazelnut and vanilla. Perhaps even a light touch of cranberry. Not knowing really makes every pint of this more fun.
We are all in agreement here at Beer Street Journal that Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale is one of our absolute favorite seasonals every year. Two full decades later, can it be called iconic? We hope so.
To celebrate the double decade mark in 2016, the brewery released an Imperial Cold Mountain edition at the brewery only. A beer we hope to get our hands one one day.
Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale is available in liter and 22 ounce bottles, as well as draft, seasonally.
Style: Winter Warmer (w/ Spices)
Hops: Cascade, Mount Hood
Malts: 2 Row, Brewers, Pilsen, Chocolate, Wheat, Caramel 40/60
Availability: 22oz Bottles, Liter Bottles, Draft.
Latest Return: Winter, 2016
5.2% ABV, 28 IBUs
PIC: Beer Street Journal
Highland Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout, part of the brewery’s Warrior Series celebrating “big beers in small batches,” releases for the second time this November.
Highland Black Watch is a 8% alcohol by volume milk stout, brewed with cacao nibs. The recipe is originally designed by brewery bartender J Unger.
The name pays tribute to Scotland’s historic military regiment known as The Black Watch. With their dark tartan and mission to keep watch over the Highlands, Highland salutes these warriors with a dark mahogany colored brew that pours silky smooth. Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout combines more than 100 pounds of cacao nibs with five malts, roasted barley, and flaked oats to create a rich, high-gravity ale reminiscent of brownie batter and marshmallows with an aromatic nose and a lingering dark chocolate finish.
Highland Black Watch re-launces on draft and in 4-packs at the brewery tasting room on Black Friday, November 25th. Shortly after, a limited release of 4-packs will hit shelves within the brewery’s distribution area.
Taste: If you love milk stouts (and chocolate), this beer is for you. It’s smooth, creamy, and hard to put down. 12 ounces of dessert at a time.
The first release in the Warrior series series was Highland King Macalpin Double IPA.
This year, on the 20th anniversary of Cold Mountain’s release, another beer will join the ranks for a limited time – Highland Imperial Cold Mountain Winter Ale.
Yes, the longest running seasonal will have some “imperial” company. The extremely popular base beer is Cold Mountain, that features flavors and spices like vanilla and hazelnuts, amplified with a bigger malt bill, resulting in an 8% alcohol by volume edition. (The regular edition of Cold Mountain hovers around 5% ABV.)
The brewery describes Highland Imperial Cold Mountain as being a bit more chocolate-forward, with hints of fruits and nuts.
Bigger and bolder, Imperial Cold Mountain Winter Ale perfectly accompanies holiday gatherings celebrations. This special version of our beloved season commmemorates 20 years of an Asheville favorite. Malty in body, and lightly hopped, the brew is rounded out with intense, tasty hints of spices, nuts, and fruit.
Highland Imperial Cold Mountain Winter Ale will be a 22 ounce bottle and draft offering, starting November 10th.
Style: Imperial Winter Warmer (w/ Spices)
Availability: 22oz Bottles, Draft.
Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter releases again this year, appearing on draft and in their tasting room on October 14th, 2016. Named for the Southern Appalachian landscape, Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter features fair trade/organic coffee from Dynamite Roasting Company.
This year’s version will feature both a Mexican dark roast blend and a lighter Honduran blend.
Early in the brewing process, referred to as the hot-side, Highland adds Mexican coffee at the end of the boil, which extracts the flavors much like the way coffee is made at home. Later, on the cold-side part of brewing, Honduran coffee and a portion of the base beer are blended, allowing the coffee to concentrate, after which the hi-test liquid is injected and circulated into each tank.
Highland Brewing Company along with Dynamite Roasting Company, show their dedication to the freshness of this offering by freshly grinding the beans the morning of each brew day.
Shortly after its release in the tasting room, Thunderstruck Coffee Porter will release across Highland’s distribution areas.
Additionally, Highland aims to protect the region that inspired this beer. So for every glass purchased on October 14th, they will donate $1 to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
Style: Porter (w/ Coffee)
Hops: Chinook, Hallertau, German Select
Malts: Briess Pale Malt, Briess Caramel 60, Briess Chocolate, Briess Midnight Wheat.
1.5 lbs of coffee per barrel
Availability: 12 oz bottles, Draft. Fall Seasonal.
Latest Return: Mid-October, 2016
5.8% ABV, 26 IBUs
Highland Gaelic Ale appears in cans for the first time this month. The Asheville, North Carolina based brewery first bottled Gaelic Ale back in 1994, and decided now it needed a new home in outdoor friendly in aluminum.
Read More: Highland Mandarina IPA available in cans
“With bottling and canning operations, we are in a new chapter. And Gaelic is the right beer to package both ways because of its flexibility – its medium body and balance. It fits with food or on its own, in cool or warm weather. Gaelic cans will be with me on my next hike.” – Leah Ashburn, President.
Highland Gaelic Ale adds to the growing number of canned offerings from Highland, following their first cans of Pilsner and Mandarina IPA over the summer.
Additionally, Highland stated that with their flagship beer now in a can they will be seeking to expand distribution in the near future.
Style: Amber Ale
Availability: 12oz cans, Draft, 12oz bottles
Distribution: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Washington, DC.