Highland Brewing Company
Rating: Home Run!
Brew Basics: In a city known for craft beer, this Scot reigns supreme.
Our first attempt to stop by was unsuccessful as they were closed for a wedding, we decided to try again on our way out of town, and were really glad we did. The skeleton crew, stuck with post-wedding clean up duties along with their daily brewing responsibilities were kind enough not to be annoyed with our interruption on a busy day and passed us along Grant DaSantos, the tasting room manager, who even gave us a private tour and tasting.
Highland offers tours weekdays at 4pm (it’s free, but they will accept donations to a local food bank if you’re so inclined) and it’s worth taking the time to go check them out. Their new building opened in 2006 is located off the beaten path (really. You kind of take the beaten path to even get there). It’s also huge – but they need the space and have divvied it up in fairly creative and fun ways. For example the offices are corrugated box cars inside the warehouse, and they have an outdoor area with tents for summer evening concerts every Friday and Saturday night. The large warehouse that contains their brew works is big enough to also include a large party and tasting room with bar, swag, tables and bands, which also make this spot an excellent venue for any event. And even if it’s not summer, you’ll find they’ve got live music and food in the tasting room on Fridays and Saturdays year ‘round. This area is open to the general public on Thursdays as well, but these days are meant to be a bit more chill; no food, no live bands, just good beer and specials.
The creativity extends outside the brewery walls, and is “doing good”. They have teamed up with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to preserve, protect and educate about the local wildlife and environs. Each season, they produce a beer in tribute to a local mountain (the four seasonals share names with the local peaks; Little Hump, Cattail Peak, Clawhammer Mountain and Cold Mountain). They then stage guided hikes to each peak, and river clean ups as well.
You also never know what you might get to try when you go, as taps include the five standards, seasonals and even experimentals that are available only in the tasting room. But if you’re not into surprises – or just want to be sure they’re not closed for a private event – the crew at Highland does a good job updating their website with upcoming bands and what’s on tap, so you can always check it before you venture out.
We were able to try a bunch of different beers there (they brew somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 varieties) and then picked up a few more in a local beer stores as Highland has sufficiently made their presence known in Richmond, VA. And with 13 tanks and 4 bright tanks they say they are able to now bottle up to 360 cases an hour! So keep an eye out in your favorite beer store, these brews are creative, unique, and pretty good all around.
St. Terese’s Pale Ale ( 5.2% ABV, 42 IBU) – Light caramel color that smells slightly sweet (but not too sweet). Moderately high carbonation and little lacing. The flavor is good, dry, and a little wheaty with some hops, but not much bite. It goes down easy.
Kashmir IPA (5.6% ABV, 60 IBU) – Lighter in color and aroma than the St. Terese, and less dry. They advertise this one as having pronounced hops but in our opinion this beer was actually a bit disappointing in the hop area with just a slight bite in the after taste. Overall it is earthy and light and we’re willing to try it again with open minds – maybe our expectations were just a bit too high the first time around.
Gaelic Ale (5.8% ABV, 32 IBU) – This beer was a pretty brownish copper color with just a hint of red. The aroma was more pronounced than in the first two we had tried, and was pleasant – bit spicy, with a hint of brown sugar. The palate starts our fairly well rounded, but the carbonation kicks in in the middle, and without the spices would really drown out the flavor. It finishes clean and hoppy.
Black Mocha Stout (5.3% ABV, 25 IBU) – Excellent aroma, dark and chocolaty with lots of malts. This beer was so thick it was almost opaque, and a dark black color with deep tan head. Coffee and chocolate hit your tongue first and flows to a dark roasted malt finish which coats the back of your throat and warms your belly. One of their best!
Oatmeal Porter (5.8% ABV, 32 IBU) – Thinner than the stout, with a lighter head and slightly sweeter aroma. As with most stouts, this is very lightly carbonated is similar both in color and consistency to coffee. The palate is somewhat dry and bready with no nutmeg, just a hint of the oatmeal and a slightly nutty finish. In our opinion, the Oatmeal Porter was good, but not as good as the Black Mocha, so drink this one first J
Cattail Peak Wheat (4.7%abv, 17 IBU) – The “mountain” seasonal on tap during our visit. This beer not only supports the environment (drinking for a cause, does it get any better) but is unique in its own right. Made from entirely organic grains, it is similar in texture to a light weizen or a Belgian wit, but they’ve thrown in some rye to spice it up a bit. A clean, refreshing beer that is not as sweet as some summer beers can be, and therefore a big hit among all our beer loving friends. (Or at least those friends we were nice enough to share our case with).
12 Old Charlotte Highway # H
Asheville, NC 28805