Highland Brewing Co. head brewer Hollie Stephenson is leaving the company this week to take a major role with Guinness at its new U.S brewery in Maryland.
Stephenson, who has been at Highland since early 2015, will be head brewer at the Guinness U.S. site in Baltimore County — a $50 million version of its Dublin, Ireland, brewery. She will be working with Peter Wiens, who was recently named Maryland brewmaster, and the team of brewers at the Guinness St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin.
The Maryland brewery will make Guinness Blonde American Lager, among other beers, but Stephenson says it will not brew the company’s famous stout, which will continue to be produced in Ireland. Formerly of San Diego’s famed Stone Brewing Co., Stephenson says she’s excited to join the Guinness team and be part of the iconic brewery’s storied history but notes it is bittersweet leaving Highland, where she has built up the company’s brand to include many new beers.
“I’ll be leaving behind incredible co-workers and friends, an amazing beer portfolio that we have built together, and a family that I love dearly — [Highland founder] Oscar [Wong] and [president] Leah [Wong Ashburn],” Stephenson says. “I feel privileged to have worked for the pioneers of craft [beer] in North Carolina. So, yeah, this decision was not without weight. Also, I love Asheville and all that this city’s beer scene and beautiful surrounding landscape has to offer. All will be sorely missed.”
Stephenson will not be immediately replaced, though the company will begin a search for a new head brewer “in the next couple of months,” says Wong, who opened Highland as Asheville’s first craft brewery in 1994. He adds that Highland’s team of employees is well-trained and prepared to keep the company going.
“She leaves behind a strong team. We are not in a rushed situation,” says Wong, who credits Stephenson with “bringing us into the modern era of beer styles” with such products as Mandarina IPA, Daycation IPA and Highland Pilsner. Her departure will not impact this year’s release of Highland’s wildly popular Cold Mountain Winter Ale, which Wong says will be rolled out in early November.
Stephenson’s last day at Highland is Friday, Aug. 18, the same date as the release of the brewery’s new Radical Departure IPA, a New England-style IPA, which be sold on-site only in cans.
Stephenson is only the third lead brewer in Highland’s history, following founding brewer John McDermott and longtime brewmaster John Lyda, who worked there from 1994 until February 2016.
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