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Highland Brewing Company Ales

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria.”


No truer words have ever been spoken. Those who live by this German proverb most assuredly deserve the respect of The Beer Wench.

And so when I learned that this German saying was the favorite quote of Oscar Wong, Founder, Owner & President of Highland Brewing Co., my curiosity became peaked.


As it turns out, Oscar Wong is a pretty damn interesting dude. Oscar Wong, although from Chinese decent, was born and raised in Jamaica. He majored in civil engineering at Notre Dame, where he also dabbled in the art of homebrewing. Post graduation, Wong found himself “saving the world” by ridding the planet of nuclear waste for nearly 30 years.

In 1994, Oscar rekindled his passion for brewing and opened up Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC.


Until recently, I was unaware that Highland Brewing Co. even existed (yet another reason why I am not a fan of the whole “state regulation of beer, wine & alcohol distribution and sales” thing). As it turns out, Highland Brewing Company is North Carolina’s largest microbrewery. Unfortunately, its beers are only distributed in North and South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, Georgia and Central Florida.


The other day I picked up three Highland Brewing Co. brews: Galic Ale, St. Therese’s Pale Ale & Kashmir IPA. And here are my notes:

Gaelic Ale

Gaelic Ale

A deep amber colored American ale, featuring a rich malty body. Cascade and Willamette hops add a complex hop flavor and aroma. This ale is exceptionally balanced between malty sweetness and delicate hop bitterness.

IBU: 32
Alcohol content: 5.8% by volume
Hops: Chinook, Willamette and Cascade

Wench’s Tasting Notes:

Style: American Amber Ale

Color: Cloudy, mahogany red

Carbonation: Moderate carbonation, pours a very small off-white head & leaves very little lacing.

Aroma: Notes of sweet caramel, toasted malt, sweet grassy hops … and there is something else but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I want to call it roasted almonds (which tends to be popcorn-esque).

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, low alcohol content … over all, really smooth.

Flavor: Sweet caramel and lots of malt … which is balanced out nicely by the crisp, bitter flavors of hops. Relatively low acidity.

Finish: Moderately bitter with decent longevity.

Pairings: Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Shepard’s Pie (aka heavy, hearty & fried foods)

Comments: Despite the dark color and malty aroma, this ale has a surprisingly bitter bite to it. It is pretty damn smooth, making it easy to throw back a few of these without blinking an eye. CHEERS!


And then there were two …

St. Terese's Pale Ale St.Terese’s Pale Ale

A golden pale having a slightly malty body balanced by an assertive American hop flavor. This pale ale displays a delicate hop nose due to the process of dry hopping. A crisp and refreshing beer perfect for any occasion.

IBU: 24
Alcohol content: 5.2% by volume
Hops: Chinook and Cascade

Wench’s Tasting Notes:

Style: Pale Ale

Color: Cloudy, golden orange

Carbonation: Once again, this beer pour a very small off-white head … that does not last very long. I find that by swirling the beer as if it was wine … helps to show the level of carbonation as well as generates a bit more head. Leaves a moderately decent lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Sweet notes of fresh cut grass. Notes of citrus (mostly lemon) & floral hop aroma, which is very characteristic of Cascade hops (quite possibly the most commonly used hops varietal in North America and one of the very few that I can recognize). Slight hints of honey.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with mild alcohol content.

Flavor: Citrus (lemon rind?) and pine hit the palate first and eventually yield to a doughy, sweetness with hints of honey. Hops dominate the palate, without overwhelming it.

Finish: Clean, lightly bitter, slightly metallic, with a decent duration.

Pairings: Pizza! But then again, I always think that a pale ale goes perfectly with pizza. Hell, most beer goes with pizza.

Comments: The Wench is an ale girl at heart. This is a nice, crisp pale ale. Very fresh and easy to drink. Since it is fairly low in alcohol and extremely smooth, I could easily drink several of these in on sitting. It would make an excellent brew to accompany a sailing trip, a game of beach volleyball … or even just a tailgate party!!! Cheers!


And then there was one …

Kashmir IPA

Kashmir IPA

A brilliant, dry pale ale with an aggressive hop character balanced with a smooth finish. A bold beer best consumed with a stiff upper lip.

IBU: 60
Alcohol Content: 5.6% by volume
Hops: Stryian Goldings, Mt. Hood, Fuggles, Magnum, Willamette

Wench’s Tasting Notes:

Style: India Pale Ale

Color: Hazy, almost clear burnt-orange amber

Carbonation: Moderately carbonated with a very small off-white head and light lacing.

Aroma: Not as hoppy as I was expecting, being that this is an IPA. Caramel & honey with fleeting hints of floral and citrus hops.

Mouthfeel: Very light-bodied with relatively low alcohol content. Very smooth.

Flavor: Despite the lack of hops on the aroma, they are definitely present on the palate. Tastes of pine, citrus and sap. Very little malt … slight hints of honey. Nicely balanced.

Finish: Bitter, and fairly short lived.

Comments: Although this beer is labeled as an IPA, it does not entirely fit the profile. For an IPA, it has a low ABV and low IBU. However, I like its mildness. This is a very approachable IPA for those who do not typically like IPAs because they tend to be overwhelmingly hoppy.

Although it is pretty tame for an IPA, I do like it. It is not my favorite IPA, by any means … however, it is not the worst.


Of the three Highland Brewing Company beers that I have tasted, the Kashmir IPA is my favorite. All three were very well-balanced and rather enjoyable. I am interested in the Imperial versions of both the Gaelic Ale and the Kashmir IPA. Perhaps, one day in the future I will get the opportunity to try them.



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7 Responses to “Highland Brewing Company Ales”

  • cwylie0 January 22nd, 2009 at 12:02 am

    this brewery is participating at the Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival this Saturday Jan 24.. Jupiter as in South FL, people. I’ll be sure to check them out.

  • The Beer Wench January 22nd, 2009 at 12:06 am

    DAMN! I wish I had known sooner about this beer festival … I totally would have driven down from Orlando! Let me know how it goes!

  • Chris Butts January 22nd, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Good stuff! Likewise, I am a big fan of the pale ales and IPAs. Although my first thought, with a name like Highland, was that this brewer would have something akin to Scottish Ale (which I dearly love as well). Moylan’s Kilt Lifter came to mind.

  • Frank Tew March 25th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    I love your beer comments. It is the best site for beer information that I have used.

  • The Beer Wench March 25th, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Wow. That is one of the best compliments I have ever gotten. Thank you so much. I am humbled!

  • Gerry Sigmon January 28th, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Most of your tasting notes on our beers were spot on. I would take a couple of minor exceptions however. First, we ordinarily have no lack of lacing or head on our beers. The carbonation level is very accurately calibrated on packaging, and the quality of the barley we use usually promotes great head retention and lacing. I just hope that the beers you tasted were fresh. There is a date code etched around the bottom portion of the bottle providing a “born on” date in the very unlikely event you happened to still have a couple lying around.

    Secondly, you are absolutely correct that our IPA does not leave the “over the top” bittering impression that most American style IPAs have. The reason is simple. It is a British style IPA. The best illustration of that is to ask you to compare Highland’s Kashmir IPA with Belhaven Twisted Thistle, which is one of the best examples of modern British IPAs. Just FYI, the style guidelines for British IPAs call for IBUs of 40-60, for American IPAs from 40-70, and for Imperial IPAs from 40 to 120. Highland Kashmir IBUs well exceed the minimum IBU guidelines for any IPA version.

    We are a little sensitive on this issue because hop lovers tend to discount very true to style and balanced IPAs versus the over the top ones. However, we love all beer drinkers and recognize that everybody can find many beers to love in the great world of ales and lagers. We just hope that most drinkers can find a Highland style they love.

    Thank you for your devotion to the world of beer. You blog is a class act.

    Gerry Sigmon
    Highland Brewing Co.

  • Wenchie February 1st, 2010 at 2:34 pm


    Thank you so much for your response to my review. I enjoyed tasting your beers. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to them — I moved to Northern California this summer. But the next time I’m back out East, I will definitely look for you guys. Anything new I should put on my radar?


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