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Warm up with winter warmers

winter_warmerI like to tell my out-of-town friends that here in North Florida, we have two seasons summer and two weeks of winter. Most people laugh and think I am kidding when I say that, they truly do not believe we have anything resembling cold weather. But, because we do have winter weather, we can have a legitimate discussion of Winter Warmer beers.

The history of Winter Warmers leads us to two older brews; Wassail and Strong English Ales. While Wassail is slanted more towards holiday imbibing with its aromatic spices, Winter Warmers are geared to warm drinkers from the inside out by pushing the alcohol content to between 5.5 percent and eight percent.  Today, it is common for brewers to apply the name Winter Warmer to any dark, malt forward strong brew that may or may not contain spices or flavorings.

Something to keep in mind when drinking this style of beer is that colder is definitely not better. While this adage is true with many styles of beers, Winter Warmers tend to release their fullest flavors as they warm. The ideal serving temperature for these hearty brews is 45 degrees to 55 degrees.

Since we are coming to the end of the Winter Warmer season, if you want to try some of these luscious ales, you should brave the cold weather and seek them out now.  Some to look for include:

North Peak Brewing Company – Blitzen Festivus Ale

This beer pours a deep red color and produces an active and healthy head. It smells of dark fruits like cherries, raisins and plums. The first sip reveals a hoppy bitterness and perhaps a touch of spiciness lent to the brew by the addition of rye in the mash.

SweetWater Brewing Company – Festive Ale

SweetWater has been producing this winter favorite for several years now. As a matter of course, I usually purchase several 22-ounce bombers every year and cellar them to savor beside the next year’s iteration. Over time, this brew smooths out and becomes pure, silky decadence.  It pours a dark chestnut brown with a light brown, frothy head. The aroma is heavy with spices like cinnamon and mace and the flavor is malty with plenty of cinnamon that reminds one of a cinnamon roll.

Highland Brewing Company – Cold Mountain Winter Ale

One of the oldest Winter Ales on our list, Highland has been brewing this beer for 19 years. Each year they make subtle changes to the brew making it a favorite for cellaring. After pouring into a glass, the aroma hints at hazelnuts, vanilla, cinnamon and piney hops. Upon tasting, flavors of toffee, vanilla, dark fruits and spices are revealed.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2016 in Beer

 

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Highland Brewing company releasing 2015 Cold Mountain Winter Ale

CMWA_litreWhen the trees are at their peak of autumn color and the air in North Carolina has taken on a distinctly cooler snap, Highland Brewing Company releases one of its most coveted brews, Cold Mountain Winter Ale. The seasonal release is a malty, spiced ale that is named for Cold Mountain in the Blue Ridge range. The release is accompanied by a festival bringing together lively music, food trucks and plenty of Cold Mountain on tap.

If the name Cold Mountain seems familiar aside from the brew carrying its name, it is because it shares its name with a best-selling novel by Charles Frazier and later a major motion picture. The novel, published in 1997, won the National Book award in its year of publication. The movie, starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger, won an Academy Award for Renée Zellweger’s performance as a supporting actress. Both the novel and the movie follow the story of a Civil War deserter’s journey home to his wife and home on Cold Mountain.

The beer is not named for the novel or the movie, rather it is named for the mountain itself as are many of Highland’s other beers. But, the historical contexts of both are, in a way fitting on a personal level for me. After going through a difficult divorce and enduring several years of depression I made a November journey to Asheville and the Cold Mountain release party with my girlfriend in 2013 and proposed to her in front of the entire event. And, this year, we will return to the event to celebrate one and half years of marriage and enjoy the pleasant company of our friends at Highland along with the wonderful beer they are releasing.

Highland Brewing Company was founded by Oscar Wong who, after retiring from a career as a successful civil/structural engineer, landed in Asheville in 1994. He started Highland Brewing “as a hobby” in the 3,500 square foot basement of Barley’s Taproom in downtown Asheville. Over time his brewing ambition grew and the brewery moved to its current location.

The Cold Mountain Release Party takes place on Thursday, November 12 with bottles of the brew going on sale at 4:00 p.m. Bottles of Cold Mountain will be sold in a variety of sizes ranging from a special one-liter, swing-top bottle, 22-ounce bombers and 12-ounce singles. Guests may purchase a limited number of each size bottle or choose to purchase a bundle that includes one, one-liter bottle, two bombers and one case of 12-ounce bottles for $50.

Guests at the release party will enjoy music from several bands and specialty kegs of Cold Mountain. They will also be treated to the opening of the brewery’s new event center. For full information about the release party and bottle pricing go to the event’s web page at: http://www.highlandbrewing.com/coldmountain.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Beer Releases

 

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Highland Brewing hosting several Jacksonville events in May

???????????????????????????????Highland Brewing Company has been a staple in Asheville, NC for more than 20 years where they have created beers that they describe as a, “Wee bit different.” The brewery along with their local Jacksonville distributor, Brown Distributing Company, has recently announced several fun and exciting events scheduled to highlight their exceptional brews.

The first event will take place Tuesday, May 12 at The Parlour behind Grape & Grain Exchange in San Marco. The tasting event will feature Highland’s Gaelic, St. Terese Pale Ale, Black Mocha Stout, Kashmir IPA and current seasonal on tap as well as a selection of shandies created by the Craftologists at The Parlour. Also at the tasting, guests can enjoy samples of Troy & Sons Platinum, Oak Reserve, Blonde and GGX-barrel aged whiskeys. Cocktails will also be available. The event runs from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Oscar Wong, founder and owner of Highland Brewing Company with your's truly, The Jax Beer Guy.

Oscar Wong, founder and owner of Highland Brewing Company with your’s truly, The Jax Beer Guy.

The second event is a Highland Brewing Company beer dinner hosted at Total Wine & Spirits in the St. John’s Town Center in Jacksonville. The dinner will feature dishes created by the culinary wizards at Southern Roots Filling Station and paired with five to six Highland brews. In addition to the delicious food and drink, Leah Wong Ashburn, Highland’s president and co-owner will be in attendance and will speak about the brewery and the impact it has had on her life, Asheville, NC and the region’s amazing beer culture.

Highland Brewing Company was founded by Oscar Wong who, after retiring from a career as a successful civil/structural engineer, landed in Asheville in 1994. He started Highland Brewing “as a hobby” in the 3,500 square foot basement of Barley’s Taproom in downtown Asheville. Over time his brewing ambition grew and the brewery moved to its current location. The brewery operates from a 50 barrel main brewing system and a 3 barrel pilot system that is used for special projects and test batches. In a typical week the brewery cranks out 500-700 barrels of delicious beer that translates to over 30,000 barrels a year.

Highland is committed to being as green as it can be by recycling nearly everything. Through responsible practices, the brewery is able to restrict waste that must be hauled to a landfill from the brewery to less than a single dumpster a week. Spent grain, yeast, hops and filter media is given to local farmers as feed for livestock. The amount of water used is restricted to about 2.5 barrels per barrel of beer opposed to the typical brewery’s s

even barrels. Highland even installed 1,045 solar panels on its roof to reduce their dependency and draw on local power resources.

Ticket information for the Highland Beer dinner can be found at the Total Wine & Spirits website: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jacksonville-fl-beer-class-beer-and-food-pairing-with-highland-brewing-company-tickets-16616638814.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Beer Dinner

 

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5 seasonal beers that are sure to bring out the holiday spirit

holiday_beersWinter is typically a slow time for the beer industry. Over the years brewers here in the United States have begun falling back on the traditions of their European forbearers and started creating special seasonal brews to not only spur sales, but to show off their brewing skills. The beers that begin appearing on store shelves in November are a collection of specialty spiced beers, imperials, stouts, and winter warmers.

No holiday season would be complete without sipping one or several of these spectacular brews that will only be on the shelves for a short time. Some of my favorites are highlighted below. Try them or search out favorites of your own to create a holiday tradition. But, whatever you do, grab these brews while you can because after the first of the year they will be much harder to find.

Accumulation White IPA – New Belgium Brewing Company, Ft. Collins, Colo.

Smooth and sweet, this IPA was created using four varieties of hops; Centennial and Target in the boil, then dry-hopped with Amarillo and Mosaic. It has a bite just like the winters in Colorado, but the addition of wheat to the mix rounds out the bitter edges and makes this a winter IPA worth seeking out.

Winter Solstice – Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Rich and malty, this brew features a smooth and creamy mouthfeel that rewards the drinker with flavors of toffee, spices and caramel.  The hops character of this Winter Warmer may be low, but the toasty malts make this a brew full of cold weather goodness perfect for sipping with a hearty holiday meal.

Cold Mountain Winter Ale – Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina

Cold Mountain is flavored with vanilla and hazelnut for a rich, full flavor redolent with sweet malts and seasonal spices. Boasting a creamy mouth feel, this dark ale is supremely sessionable because of its lower alcohol. Share a pint with your favorite partner while cuddled in front of a roaring fire in the backyard firepit.

Festive Ale – SweetWater Brewing Company, Atlanta, Ga.

This sweet and spicy dark ale is a favorite around my house. It contains a heavy dose of cinnamon and mace – a seasoning similar to nutmeg, but without nutmeg’s overpowering nature – for a satisfyingly feisty punch that is sure to warm your bones. For a twist on how to serve it, try drizzling the inside of the glass with honey before pouring then garnishing the full glass with a cinnamon stick.

Delirium Noel — Brouwerij Huyghe, Melle, Belgium

Belgians are known for their love of the holidays and beer to go along with the season. Delirium Noel exemplifies the Belgian holiday spirit with a high alcohol brew with aromas of honey, apples and gingerbread. Flavors like toffee, figs and holiday spices flood the senses  in each sip of this exuberant holiday beer.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Beer Styles

 

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Jax Beer Week — Day Three

jaxBeerWeek2013Mellow Mushroom, Tinseltown

Head over to one of the city’s best pizza joints for a Jax Beer Week evnt that will feature the brews of Cigar City Brewing Co., Swamp Head Brewing Co., and Highland Brewing Co. You can expect lots of great food and even more great beer! You can also expect the first tapping in Florida of Highland’s new seasonal, Lil’ Hump. Be sure to stop by and be one of the first to taste this exceptional new brew.

Beer Specials

Aardwolf Brewing Co., Grape & Grain Exchange, The Grotto, Hurricanes, European Street – San Marco, Northstar Substation, Underbelly, Burro Bar, 1904, Burrito Gallery, Fionn MacCools – Landing, Olio

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2013 in Beer, Beer Tasting, Jax Beer Week

 

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Grape & Grain Exchange hosting tasting of Highland collaboration brew

grapeandgrainThe bustling area of town known as San Marco has long been a destination for great food and wine. But, a new establishment is adding craft and import beer to the mix. Robert Smith, a self-proclaimed “foodie” who has been in the restaurant business since 1987 has opened a new concept for the Jacksonville area with his Grape and Grain Exchange in San Marco Square.

The shop is a hybrid of a package store and a bar. Patrons can choose a bottle of craft or import beer from the cooler and either take it with them or drink it on premises from a clean class presented by the bartender/cashier. But, do not mistake this for one of those package store/bars that are sprinkled around the area and take on a seedier look, this establishment is high-class all the way. The interior is features clean lines, and subdued decorating. Wooden shelves display the small-batch spirits, fine wines, and craft beers that are available and a bookcase in the back of the store contains recipe books that Smith refers to for more esoteric drink requests.

Soon, that bookcase will also serve as the portal to the first speakeasy in the Jacksonville area since perhaps the days of Prohibition. Smith, ever vigilant of hot trends around the country, wants to take advantage of the craft cocktail bars and speakeasy movement that is sweeping the nation. Combine that with the craft beer craze and Smith thinks he has come up with a winning combination.

Tomorrow night, Friday, January 25, Smith will play host to Highland Brewing Company and 7venth Sun Brewing Company for a special tasting of a collaboration between the two breweries. Called Trailblazer, the brew is a 7.7% ABV Belgian-style porter made with raisins in the boil as well as almonds, cacao, and dried cherries in the fermenter. The tasting is $10 and includes tastes of all of Highland’s year round beers as well as one of the first pours of Trailblazer.

The tasting begins at 6:00 p.m. and does not require a ticket. Grape and Grain Exchange is located at 2000 San Marco Blvd.

Keep up to date on all the beer happenings and news going on in town by joining our newsletter mailing list at the ALL NEW www.JaxBeerGuy.com.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Beer, Beer Tasting, Pubs

 

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Highland brewery well worth a visit and a taste

Traveling up a winding road in the mountains of North Carolina is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Particularly when the trees begin their colorful fall foliage coloration and the air has a bit of a snap in it. But, if that road also leads to one of the region’s biggest and best craft beer breweries, it is hard to imagine a better day.

Highland Brewing Company is nestled just outside of Asheville, NC, the sleepy, Bohemian city that has a beer culture worthy of earning it the title Beer City USA for the past four years. On approach to the brewery the building seems unassuming and even a bit modest. But, once you pull around the front you notice the wooden deck in front of the doors and the elaborate decoration around them. This is a place that is, as the wording above the door says, “Just a Wee Bit Different.”

When you enter the Tap Room you are immediately struck by its cavernous size. To the left are several shipping containers that have been converted to offices, as your eye travels around the expansive room from left to right, you notice a large stage, more containers, and finally a long bar with many beer taps on the wall behind it. This is where we made our way to meet our tour guide, Kitty Price.

Kitty immediately offered tastes of the brewery’s fine brews and we accepted gratefully. The first taste offered was of Thunderstruck Coffee Porter. As we sipped the rich, coffee and bitter chocolate brew, Kitty explained that they use coffee beans roasted by Dynamite Coffee Roasters in nearby Black Mountain. The flavors were strong, yet pleasant with a nice shot of hops at the end. A fitting way to begin a visit and, for those in need of caffeine, a nice boost.

Next, we were offered several Belgian-style brews, Belmont Abbey Dubbel and Tripple at 7% and 9% ABV respectively. Both brews were fine examples of their respective styles with the banana and citrus as well as the Belgian yeast funk we all know and love. Kitty explained that Highland’s head brewer John Lyda was at one time studying to be a monk. So, in a nod to his past and at the request of an abbey in nearby Charlotte, Lyda brewed the excellent duo of beers.

But, the visit was not restricted to tasting alone. Kitty was quick to point out that Highland is committed to being as green as it can be by recycling nearly everything. By doing this the brewery is able to restrict the waste that must be hauled to a landfill from the brewery to less than a single dumpster a week. They restrict the amount of water they use in brewing to about 2.5 barrels per barrel of beer opposed to the typical brewery’s seven barrels. Spent grain is given to local farms for feed as well.

Highland Brewing Company was founded by Oscar Wong who, after retiring from a career as a successful civil/structural engineer, landed in Asheville in 1994. He started Highland Brewing “as a hobby” in the 3,500 square foot basement of Barley’s Taproom in downtown Asheville. Over time his brewing ambition grew and the brewery moved to its current location. The brewery operates from a 50 barrel main brewing system and a 3 barrel pilot system that is used for special projects and test batches. In a typical week the brewery cranks out 500-700 barrels of delicious beer that translates to over 30,000 barrels a year.

A walk through the brewing floor revealed the great pride and tongue-in-cheek whimsy the brewery has for its product. Above an office in the front of the building is a huge statue-like edifice of a bagpiper that would be familiar to anyone who has seen Highland’s packaging. Elsewhere in the brewery are row upon row of room center of the room. The cavernous cold room was piled high with keg after keg of the finished product ready for shipment to eagerly waiting customers.

With a line-up of quality brews like Gaelic Ale, Kashmir IPA, and St. Therese’s Pale Ale and specialty and seasonals like Razor Wit, Thunderstruck Coffee Porter, and Cold Mountain Winter Ale Highland is sure to remain a regional favorite throughout the Southeast. And, as a destination while in North Carolina, the Highland Brewery is well worth an afternoon. Not only are the beers the freshest and tastiest you will be able to find, but the staff – like Kitty – are full of wonderful stories and brewing knowledge.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Beer, Craft Beer Brewery

 

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