Tasting Notes: Highland Pilsner from Highland Brewing Company

highlandpils1000_edited_editedOur love affair with craft-brewed lagers continues into 2017 by featuring Highland Pilsner from Highland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina) in our latest installment of Tasting Notes.

First released back in April of 2016, Highland Brewing Company developed Highland Pilsner to be a “highly nuanced” traditional German-style Pilsner.  This ambitious goal was achieved with a recipe consisting of four different Hallertau region hops – Perle, Saphir, Hallertau Blanc and Hersbrucker – and a German Pilsner malt that accounted for “100% of the grain bill.”  This beer was then “cold fermented with lager yeast for a crisp, dry finish” that can be enjoyed year-round “on the water, in the mountains, or at the golf course.”  Highland Pilsner is available now in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer establishments in Alabama, Florida, and throughout the rest of Highland’s distribution area.

Since I am a devout fan of German brewing styles and traditions, I simply cannot wait any longer.  Let’s pop the top on this can and get to some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Highland Pilsner from Highland Brewing Company

Appearance: Highland Pilsner pours a pale straw yellow in color that beams with lemony highlights when exposed to direct light.  This allows for a presentation that is quite bright and softly glowing.  The body defines “crystal clear” and shows off a racy carbonation presence.  The pour supplied a finger of snow white foam that is bubbly and loose.  The head swiftly falls to a thin – but complete – ring that lingers throughout to leave sporadic chunks of lace on the glass from time to time.

Aroma: Wonderfully clean and fresh Pilsner malt greets the nose with earthy and lightly sweet grain notes.  The hops are present but well-mannered, lending gentle tones of grass, pepper, white grape and pear.  The aroma closes with just a tinge of lemon.

Taste: To ensure that there is no mistaking that this is a traditional, German-style lager, Pilsner malt and lager yeast arrive first on the tongue.  The hops then work their way to the front – politely of course – with beautiful floral, grassy, and white grape notes.  Pepper then develops to add just a slight, snappy bite.  The beer finishes with nuances of lemongrass, hay, and a touch of citrus.

Mouthfeel:  Just as it should be, this Pilsner is light in body with a sizable carbonation level. This allows the beer to be incredibly easy-drinking and quenching.  Beautifully balanced and crisp is definitely a descriptor that needs to be used here.  The beer dries out effortlessly, leaving just a trace of floral and earthy notes to linger in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: So, the question that we must ask here is do we have a brewery that was named to honor the Scots Irish that settled the Appalachian Mountains actually pulling off a traditional, German-style Pils?  Yep, and Highland Brewing Company did much more than simply pull it off.  They nailed it.  We are talking about a lager possessing grain and yeast notes that are just ridiculously clean.  The hops are beautifully balanced, but are still allowed enough of the stage to properly show just how dynamic and complex German hop varietals can be.  The only gripe I can possibly come up with here is in wishing that the head retained a bit more of its initial size.  Otherwise, every aspect of this beer fits the category and results in a highly enjoyable and flavorful Pilsner.  With beers like Highland Pilsner now widely available on taps and shelves, it absolutely blows my mind that many still decide to settle for – in ordering or serving – a monotonous lager from the Big 3 without even the curiosity to try something new.  That’s a topic for another day though.  As far as Highland Pilsner goes, I simply cannot say enough good things.  The next time you set off on a beer run fueled by a hankering for some lager refreshment, be sure to keep this one in mind.  Prost!

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Southern Sixer IPA to Make Seasonal Debut for Highland Brewing

hbcsouther6er_editedHighland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina) has announced that Southern Sixer IPA will officially release on Friday, January 27 as the brewery’s first Seasonal of 2017.

Brewed in recognition of “a group of Southern Appalachian mountains over 6,000 feet in elevation” known as the “Southern Sixers”, Southern Sixer IPA has a serious fixation with the number six.  Hopped with six varietals (Ekuanot™, Mosaic, Columbus, Cascade, Chinook & Simcoe), this West Coast-style India Pale Ale boasts “assertive citrus and tropical fruit notes . . . along with hints of pine and green pepper.”  Clocking in at 6% ABV and 60 IBUs, this golden “brew finishes bitter and crisp with a lingering, dank hop presence.”

“I am excited about Southern Sixer because the bulk of the hops we are using, Equinox now rebranded as Ekuanot™, have never been used in a Highland beer before. Ekuanot™ and Mosaic® will carry the beer together, and the complementing four others are in the dry hop. Ekuanot™ is a very unique flavoring and aromatic hop that will give us cool characteristics, like ripe berry and cedar forest. Mixed with tropical Mosaic® and others, Sixer is going to be a uniquely fruity and resiny IPA, not just classic citrus and pine.”

Hollie Stephenson, Highland Brewing Company Brewmaster

Highland Brewing Company will officially launch Southern Sixer IPA with an event in their taproom on January 27th at 4pm (click here for more inf0).  Since every Seasonal release from Highland Brewing is named for a protected feature of Southern Appalachia, “every glass of Southern Sixer sold on January 27th will result in one dollar donated to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.”  Shortly after the launch party, Southern Sixer will become available on draft and in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles in Alabama, Florida and the rest of the brewery’s distribution area.  If you are in search of a new hop fix in 2017, keep an eye out for this one when it lands at the end of the month.  Prost!

Vital Information for Southern Sixer IPA from Highland Brewing Company

Release – Seasonal, beginning late-January 2017
Style – American India Pale Ale
ABV – 6%
IBUs – 60
Hops –  Ekuanot™ (a.k.a. Equinox), Mosaic, Columbus, Cascade, Chinook & Simcoe
Malts –  2 Row base, C-20 & C-40
Availability – 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles & draft

Highland Brewing Provides First Look at Imperium Russian Imperial Stout

highlandcap_editedWith the label now officially approved, Highland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina) has announced that Imperium Russian Imperial Stout will join the brewery’s Warrior Series in 2017.

After an incredibly solid stream of releases in 2016, Highland Brewing Company is closing out the year with a little love note – in label form – that subtly implies that the craft beer community should expect more of the same in 2017.  Imperium Russian Imperial Stout will be the brewery’s first big release of the year and the newest addition to their Warrior Series, a limited line of small batch, big brews featuring bold aromas and flavors.  This imposing Russian Imperial Stout sources its power from generous additions of vanilla, coconut and specialty coffee from Octane Coffee / Bar.  The brewery has not yet released all of the details concerning this brew, but we can get a bit more information from Imperium’s full label description:

The dark complexity of a Russian Imperial Stout made more irresistible with the addition of hand-cut vanilla, toasted coconut, and Octane® coffee. Pitch black, velvet smooth and aggressively roasty, Imperium commands all of your senses.  ABV – 8.5%  IBUs – 50

The only release information that we currently have for Imperium Russian Imperial Stout is that it will officially launch on Friday, February 10 with availability in 12 oz. bottles.  Since this was meant as just a little tease from Highland Brewing Company, you can expect more details to arrive soon.  Stay tuned.  Prost!

Vital Information for Imperium Russian Imperial Stout from Highland Brewing Company

Release – Limited/Warrior Series, launch date set for February 10, 2017
Style – Russian Imperial Stout
ABV – 8.5%
IBUs – 50
Added Ingredients – Vanilla beans, coconut & Octane coffee

HBC_Imperium_Label_12oz_Final

Tasting Notes: Mandarina IPA from Highland Brewing Company

highlandmandarinalogo_editedThe Thanksgiving holiday provided us with the opportunity to try quite a few new libations over the long weekend, so let’s kick the week off by jumping right into some Tasting Notes featuring Mandarina IPA from Highland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina).

First released back in June, Mandarina IPA was created as Highland Brewing Company’s answer to the incredibly popular and expanding segment of fruited India Pale Ales filling craft beer shelves these days.  For this offering, the brewers at Highland achieved a massive citrus profile thanks to the use of German Mandarina Bavaria and Hull Melon hops and hundreds of pounds of puréed whole California oranges.  The beer is then supported by a classic IPA backbone reinforced with Cascade, Chinook and Bravo hops.  All of this culminates into a “palate-pleasing, fruity crusher burst[ing] with intense orange and tropical notes and assert[ing] a crisp, bright finish.”  Mandarina IPA is a year-round release available now in 12 oz. cans, 12 oz. bottles, and on draft.  You can find this one in Alabama, Florida and throughout the full distribution area of Highland Brewing Company.  With those details covered, I believe it is now time to fill this Spiegelau IPA glass and jot down some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Mandarina IPA from Highland Brewing Company

Appearance: Mandarina IPA fills the glass with a rich, golden yellow liquid softly painted with subtle brushstrokes of the lightest of oranges.  Held to direct light, the beer softens to expose gentle gold and pale, straw yellow tones.  The body is pristine in its clarity and displays a carbonation activity dashing throughout.  The pour built over two fingers of airy, white foam.  That head eventually drops down to a thin, but complete top cap that lays down traces of lace.  As I gently swirl the beer around, it is easy to see that it is quite slick on the glass. Utterly beautiful in presentation.

Aroma: Have you ever walked into a kitchen where someone is slicing a large amount of oranges or visited an establishment that makes fresh orange juice right in front of their guests?  If so, then you know the exact aroma that is pleasantly permeating my senses at this very moment.  Ridiculously bright, citrusy notes fill the air with ease.  So clean.  So natural.  Such a blatantly spot on representation of orange juice and zest.  Tropical hop notes reside underneath, but stand no chance of competing with this aromatic blitz of citrus.

Taste: Orange zest leads this flavorful charge with a gentle sweetness and a little pithy bitterness.  The flavors then shift to the center of the fruit to produce notes of freshly squeezed orange juice.  The hops surface to complement with tropical fruit flavors of tangerine, grapefruit, mango and melon.  A light malt sweetness balances the hops and encompasses the entire flavor profile by adding a bit of a candied orange-like effect. Incredibly nuanced and balanced here.

Mouthfeel: This IPA rests on the lighter side of medium in body with a bright carbonation presence.  It may be bitter and sweet on the palate, but the beer quickly dries out cleanly and crisply.  There is a slight tinge of ABV heat on the throat, but it is barely noticeable.  The aftertaste is the whole orange: zest, pith, juice and pulp.  This beer is basically the definition of easy-drinking and quenching.

Final Thoughts: The brewers at Highland Brewing Company obviously had their sights set on having Mandarina IPA harness the essence of the orange, and their aim has proven incredibly true.  Although the fruit is the star here, this beer is by no means one dimensional.  Whether they originate from the hops or the malts, all of the notes within the base IPA are allowed to complement and play nicely with the orange character.  From the first to the last sip, it is clear that a lot of care, consideration and attention went into crafting Mandarina IPA.  In conclusion, this is a fantastic offering that can either act as a wonderful introduction to the world of India Pale Ales or as a thirst-quenching, daily drinker for the most avid of hopheads.  In other words, this is a must try brew.  Prost!

Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout Returns for Highland Brewing

highland-brewing-black-watch-double-chocolate-milk-stoutHighland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina) has announced plans to release Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout on Black Friday, November 25.

Black Watch – named for the historic military regiment that protected the Scottish Highlands – was first brewed as a Highland staff collaboration between lead bartender J. Unger and pilot brewer Paul Rollow.  They achieved their goal of creating “the chocolatiest beer” possible, and it proved to be a huge hit with the brewery’s regulars.  The beer’s instant popularity ultimately led to it earning its first packaged release last year within the brewery’s Warrior Series, a limited series of “big beers in small batches.”  After a bit of tinkering from Brewmaster Hollie Stephenson, the recipe for Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout now combines “one pound of cacao nibs per barrel with five malts, roasted barley, and flaked oats to create a rich, high-gravity ale reminiscent of brownie batter and marshmallows.”

“Black Watch was an overnight sensation last year. When the pilot batch was on tap, there was daily talk among our team. We had this totally natural and exciting staff engagement around this beer. Then the public release created an instant following,” said Leah Ashburn, President. “It’s so much fun to see people react to the chocolate sensations, from the first sniff through the finish.”

Highland Brewing Company will hold an official release event for Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout at the brewery on Black Friday, November 25 at 2 p.m.  Shortly thereafter, a limited amount of 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and kegs of Black Watch will head to Alabama, Florida and the rest of Highland Brewing’s 9-state distribution area.  This fan-favorite offering will absolutely move with a quickness once it hits shelves, so be sure to keep an eye out for this one when it drops in late November.  Prost!

Vital Information for Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout from Highland Brewing Company

Release – Limited: Warrior Series.  Black Friday, November 25, 2016
Style – Milk Stout
ABV – 8%
IBUs – 45
Hops – Chinook & Willamette
Malts – 2-Row Base, Munich Dark, Chocolate Malt, Carafa II, Roast Barley, Honey Malt & Flaked Oats
Availability – 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles & draft
Beer Finder – https://www.highlandbrewing.com/beer-finder/

Tasting Notes – The Classics: Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company

highlandgaeliccansThis week’s Tasting Notes pays respect to a true classic by taking a look at Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina).

With a steady stream of new beers releasing every day, it is important to revisit the classics at times to recognize the brews that paved the way for the amazing craft beer landscape that we currently enjoy.  That’s where The Classics edition of Tasting Notes comes in, and Mashing In’s first installment in this series is dedicated to Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company.

Originally released under the name Celtic Ale in 1994, Gaelic Ale went from being Highland Brewing’s first beer to now having the distinction of being “the top-selling native beer in North Carolina.”  This Amber Ale achieved its fan-favorite status thanks to a rich malt body that has been “exceptionally balanced” with the “complex hop flavor and aroma” created by the additions of Cascade and Willamette hops.  Gaelic Ale is truly an iconic craft beer on the East Coast, and it is high time that we give it the full Tasting Notes treatment!

Tasting Notes for Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company 

Appearance:  Gaelic Ale fills the nonic pint glass as a deep and copper-hued amber liquid.  Held to direct light, the vibrant oranges and rich reds one typically associates with amber present themselves and radiate.  The beer is completely clear and displays a moderate carbonation level streaming within.  The pour produces two fingers of lush, off-white head that shows pretty resilient retention.  The foam fades just a bit to a lasting finger, but this is mostly due to the amount of lace that has broken away to grasp onto the glass during the experience.   I cannot stress enough how beautifully the light plays with this ale’s colors.  Absolutely mesmerizing.

Aroma: As soon as the beer begins to course from the can, a spicy and floral hop character immediately blossoms to fill the air.  Lightly fruity, these hop notes easily shift to accommodate the solid foundation that has been laid with earthy grain and caramel malt characteristics.  This aroma may be clean, straight forward and easily discernible, but it is still big enough in presence to be incredibly impactful.

Taste: Naturally sweet, earthy grains, a touch of nuttiness, and caramel malts are the first notes to greet the tongue.  The qualities of those grains build and act as an easy bridge to the earthy and spicy hops that begin to push forward.  The flavors then settle down and finish with floral and citrusy tones. The flavors fade away completely to perfectly execute this beer’s ultimate plan of luring you in for that next sip.

Mouthfeel: Gaelic Ale sits on the lighter side of medium in body with a medium carbonation presence.  This combination creates an easy drinking experience while still allowing the beer to retain some size.  The ABV is light at 5.5% and poses no threat here whatsoever.  The only aftertaste left behind is just a bit of that floral and citrus hop character.

Final Thoughts:  I think it is a quite common occurrence for beer fans to eventually move away from the lighter ales – such as the Amber Ale, Red Ale, Blonde Ale, etc. – that may have introduced them to craft beer for the styles that are deemed more “complex” or en vogue at the time. This shift can often create a false stigma that those “introductory” or “gateway” styles have nothing to offer once your palate develops.  It is times like these that I am so glad that I took a moment to revisit a beer like Highland Brewing Company’s Gaelic Ale to further solidify my stance that any style – when executed well – has something to offer the beer novice, the educated connoisseur and anyone whole falls in-between.  This beer displays an amazing level of craftsmanship and balance that simply cannot go unnoticed.  The hops display an impressive level of complexity, and play a huge role in balancing this beer’s solid malt backbone to give Gaelic Ale the ability to effortlessly tiptoe that line between sweetness and bitterness.  There is no wonder why this beer has been impressing beer lovers and consistently earning Highland Brewing Company new fans for over two decades.  That’s impressive.  That’s iconic.  That’s what makes a true classic.  Prost!

Highland Brewing Prepares for Seasonal Release of Thunderstruck Coffee Porter

thunderstruckHighland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina) announced this week that Thunderstruck Coffee Porter will officially make its seasonal return in mid-October.

Thunderstruck Coffee Porter may be a perennial favorite for Highland Brewing, but the folks at the brewery hope to improve on this beer’s success by tweaking the recipe a bit.  This year’s release of Thunderstruck will feature two coffee infusions from two bean varietals that were carefully selected from and provided by Dynamite Roasting Company of Black Mountain, North Carolina.  A dark roast Mexican coffee blend was first utilized at the end of the boil to extract “the flavors much like the way coffee is made at home.”  A lighter Honduran blend was then employed later during the “cold-side part of brewing.”  The Honduran beans were added to “a portion of the base beer . . ., allowing the coffee to concentrate, after which the hi-test liquid is injected and circulated into each tank.”  To keep each batch as fresh as possible, Dynamite Roasting was an integral part of the brewing schedule by providing freshly ground coffee the morning of each brew day.  This level of attention to detail comes through clearly “in the robust, clean coffee flavor that is dominant in this otherwise well balanced porter.”

“There are some really cool parallels in the sensory evaluation of coffee and beer. I’m now able to experience my second favorite beverage with the same amount of depth that I enjoy a good beer,” said Brewmaster Hollie Stephenson.

Thunderstruck Coffee Porter officially launches at a release party at the brewery on Friday, October 14.  This seasonal release will then see distribution shortly thereafter.  Look for this one in 22 oz. bottles, 6-packs and 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles, and on draft at craft beer establishments in Alabama, Florida and throughout Highland Brewing Company’s distribution footprint.  Prost!

Vital Information for Thunderstruck Coffee Porter from Highland Brewing Company

Availability – Seasonal, Winter
Style – American Porter
ABV – 5.8%
IBUs – 26
Malts – Pale Malt, Carmel 60, Chocolate Malt & Midnight Wheat
Hops – Chinook, Hallertau Mittlefrue & German Select
Coffee Supplier –  Dynamite Roasting Company
Packaging – 22 oz. bottles, 6-packs and 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles, and draft (1/2bbl & 1/6bbl)
Fun Fact – Highland Brewing Seasonals are named after a feature of the Southern Appalachian landscape.  Thunderstruck Ridge, elevation 4680′, is visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 454.4. This area is known for high elevation spruce-fir forest and pristine headwater sources. In this vicinity, you can also visit the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center at Milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Enjoy an ideal spot for watching sunrises & sunsets, and a trail leading to the summit of Waterrock Knob.

Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Now Available in Cans

highlandgaelicsixHighland Brewing Company (Asheville, North Carolina) announced this week that they are officially releasing Gaelic Ale in 12 oz. cans to give craft beer fans another option when it comes to enjoying the brewery’s flagship offering.

Since it was first brewed and bottled in 1994, Gaelic Ale – originally named Celtic Ale – quickly became a fan-favorite offering for Highland Brewing and has been “the top-selling native beer in North Carolina” for quite some time.  Now that the brewery has added a canning line, it only makes sense to have Gaelic Ale join the canned craft beer boom and become available to those who enjoy both the outdoors and fine beer offerings.  Gaelic Ale joins Highland Pilsner and Mandarina IPA as the brewery’s lineup of canned brews.

“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.” said Leah Ashburn, President. “It fits with food or on its own, in cool or warm weather. Gaelic cans will be with me on my next hike.”

If you are unfamiliar with this offering, Gaelic Ale is an American Amber Ale that is a nod to the Scottish Ale style.  Deep amber in color, this beer boasts an exceptional balance between the sweetness of its rich malt body and the complex hop flavor and aroma.  Gaelic Ale comes together as a brew with “universal appeal” and the ability to be a true daily drinker.

Cans of Gaelic Ale officially release at a launch party to be held at the brewery on September 16 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Although distribution of cans from Highland Brewing Company has been limited to this point, the brewery plans to expand availability of all three canned offerings to all of their markets now that Gaelic Ale has joined the lineup.  Look for these cans to start hitting shelves in Alabama, Florida, and throughout the brewery’s full distribution footprint in the coming months.  Prost!

Vital Information on Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company

Style – American Amber Ale
Availability – Year-round
ABV – 5.5%
IBUs – 30
Malts – 2 Row Brewers Malt, Munich, Caramel 40, Caramel 60 & Extra Special Malt
Hops – Chinook, Willamette, & Cascade
Packaging – 12 oz. cans, 12 oz. bottles, and on draft
Distribution – limited area for now with distribution planned to expand to Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Washington, DC markets in the coming months