And Now for Something Completely Different

Recently, Highland Brewing Company, Asheville’s oldest brewery, launched a new beer line called the Warrior Series. Highland describes it as, “Calling on the brave legends of the Scottish Highlanders as a guide…. High gravity, with bold aromas and flavors, styles will vary widely and will be released four times per year in limited quantities.” The first beer in the series is King MacAlpin, a big, balanced, hop filled Double IPA.

Luckily, I snagged a bottle at the recent Beer Blogger & Writers Conference in Asheville.

King MacAlpin surprised me. The King explodes with big citrus and piney aromas that carry over in the flavor. The strong malt backbone holds up the huge hoppiness, but does not overwhelm it. A very balanced, dare I say, West Coast IPA. As I enjoyed it, I thought, “Highland brewed this?”

Don’t get me wrong, Highland makes great beers. June & I are big fans. The Gaelic Ale bursts with toasted malt flavors and is one of  the finest American Ambers you’ll ever taste. Thunderstruck Coffee Porter has beautiful coffee roastiness, from a local Asheville coffee roaster, in a chocolatey Porter. And the Kashmir English-style IPA balances rich malt with herbal hops, a great American interpretation of a classic British beer.

And that’s the thing.

Highland is a top-notch brewer of mostly British-influenced styles. The Highland wheelhouse did not contain a West Coast IPA.

Until now.

Highland’s 21 year history of making great beer began with founder Oscar Wong in a tiny brewery in the basement of a pizza shop. Highland has grown steadily and at the beginning of 2015, Oscar handed over daily operation to his daughter. Leah Wong Ashburn continues the legacy of the past, while expanding capacity, distribution, and more importantly, the beer offerings. When the time came for a new head brewer, Highland looked west and found Hollie Stephenson in San Diego at Stone. Yeah, that Stone. She probably learned a thing or two about making hop-loaded beers there. (On a side note, Mitch Steele, Stone’s head brewer literally wrote the book on brewing IPAs. It should be required reading for all homebrewers.)

KingMacAlpinHollie describes King MacAlpin this way, “Highland is known for balanced traditional styles, rather than high-gravity hop forward beers.  If there is balance, this beer is balanced in its extremes.  It clocks in at 90 IBUs, with slight malt sweetness, and is double dry hopped with piney and citrusy Pacific Northwest Centennial, Amarillo, Chinook, and Simcoe hops. This beer will uphold Highland’s commitment to high quality and consistency, while expanding the style profile one can expect from the brewery.” If it sounds delicious, it is.

Highland’s Warrior Series features limited-release beers, each available only for a few months. They have not said if the the series features one-off beers or regularly rotating seasonal brews. I’ll be disappointed if King MacAlpin does not take the throne again. June & I are excited about what Highland, Leah, Hollie and their team have up their sleeves. Future Warrior series beers will include a chocolate milk stout, a Scotch ale, a Belgian tripel and more. Look for them in better beer shops throughout Highland’s distribution area.


Images courtesy of Highland Brewing Co, except the last image which I took at home. 

Disclosure: I picked up the bottle from the leftovers after Night of Many Bottles at the conference, so I’m not sure the source. Highland my have brought it, or a local Asheville Beer Blogger may have supplied it. Wherever it came from, thank you.

Leave a Comment