Every now and then, I get the opportunity to collaborate with a brewery on a new beer. I had that opportunity last month with my good friends at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. Last year, Trace and Matt from Highland came to Chilton for our Malt & Brew Workshop. Since that time, we’ve joked about me coming to Asheville to brew with them. Trace finally called my bluff. We brewed a Baltic Porter on their 3-barrel pilot system using the new Briess Dark Munich 30L Malt. I say “we” but honestly I just provided some running commentary while Trace and his crew did most of the work. It felt great to be back in a brewery setting though!
It wasn’t long before I was in the Highland brewhouse again. In fact, it was just last week. This time, it was in the 50-barrel brewhouse, and Trace actually put me to work. Luckily, I brought my brewer’s boots and safety glasses. Why was I back at Highland? Did they just really really like me? Maybe it was my sense of humor? Or maybe, just maybe Highland wanted to celebrate their 25th anniversary with a special collaborative beer. Yup, that was it! I mean, they do say they like me though.
It’s been 25 years since Oscar Wong took a big leap and founded Highland. In those 25 years, Briess has been a valued partner. Oscar has since taken a step back. His daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn, has been running the show and has been running it well. Much like Highland, Briess is also still independent and family-owned and we were honored when we got the invite to participate in this very special brew. And it wasn’t just Briess – there were some other family-owned companies involved as well. Brian Grossman from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was there, along with Matt Ruzich from their Mill’s River location. Like Leah, Brian is also a second-generation brewer/owner. Brian and Matt brought some whole leaf hops to use in the brew. Some other family-owned companies involved included Crosby Hop Farms (got to see my good friend Beau!), Roy Farms, Riverbend Malthouse and CLS Farms.
And what tasty beer did we produce? How about a nice Rustic IPA with lots of Briess malts, as well as some flakes. The hop bill looks pretty amazing, with Motueka, Zappa, Azacca and Strata in the mix. As for the yeast strain, I’ll just say that Trace went in an unusual direction for an IPA. I’m looking forward to how this one turns out. I think it’s going to be a home run!
The best part of this brew day was sharing a pitcher of License to Chilton — our Baltic Porter — with my Highland friends. It was quite tasty. If you’re in Asheville anytime soon, you should definitely order one up.
The next day, I was back home unwinding with a Highland Daycation IPA when I noticed something. There was a hand-written note along with my six-pack. It was a thank-you from Leah; what a kind and classy gesture. So I will say this — thank you Leah and thank you to the Highland crew! I look forward visiting again. Please save a pint of Rustic IPA for me.
Want to read more? Check out this article at The Full Pint.