Carolina Beer Guy: Hi-Wire and Highland women brewers collaborate

PLUM DEAL: Highland Brewing Co. and Hi-Wire Brewing have teamed up on Plum Nectar Dry-Hopped Berliner Weiss. A dollar from every pint sold at each brewery on Oct. 17 goes to the Pink Boots Society, which represents women in the beer industry. Photo courtesy Highland Brewing Co. and Hi-Wire Brewing

As Asheville’s oldest craft brewery, Highland Brewing Co. has turned out many beers, from its flagship Gaelic Ale to such limited seasonal releases as Cold Mountain Winter Ale.

But over its 24-year history, Highland has not done many collaborations with other breweries. Instead, the company has focused on its own production brews and small-batch, taproom-only beers made on its pilot system.

But those ways are changing, as evidenced by its recent teaming with nearby Hi-Wire Brewing on a beer called Plum Nectar, a dry-hopped Berliner Weisse with the titular fruit.

Eighty barrels of the beer were made at Hi-Wire, and it will be released Wednesday, Oct. 17, at both breweries. It will also be distributed in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.

“[Collaborations] are newer for us,” says Highland President Leah Wong Ashburn. “We’ve been selective, but we’ve discovered a new spirit of inventiveness.”

The project was created by Highland brewer Katie Smith and Hi-Wire production brewer Sarah Gulotta. The release parties will benefit the local Pink Boots Society, which represents women in the brewing industry. The Asheville chapter has 45 members. Smith is its leader, and Gulotta serves as its secretary.

One dollar from each pint sold at the release parties will go to Pink Boots, which in 2019 will host its third yearly Bierre de Femme festival celebrating North Carolina’s women brewers — the first time it’s been held in Asheville. The organization was also where Gulotta and Smith first became friends.

“Hi-Wire and Highland had been wanting to work together for a while,” Gulotta says. “When we finally got the green light, Hi-Wire leadership approached me and suggested that Katie and I spearhead the project.”

Hi-Wire is well-known for its kettle sour beers — including a year-round gose — and Gulotta says she has a good understanding of the style. As such, she and Smith agreed that a fruity Berliner Weiss seemed like a good base for the collaborative project. “The hard part was deciding what fruit to use,” Smith says. “We decided on plum puree.”

In producing the beer, Hi-Wire offered the use of its 30-barrel brewing system. “It let us keep cranking out Cold Mountain over here,” Smith says.

When the decision was made to package the beer, it posed another challenge to incorporate both breweries onto the can design. Hi-Wire’s Javier Bolea, however, was up to the challenge and combined what Gulotta calls the “simplicity” of Hi-Wire’s specialty cans with the mountains found on Highland’s packaging.


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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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