Carolina Beer Guy: Sturdy brews beat the fall and winter chill

THE KING OF BEERS: Highland Brewing Co. releases Cold Mountain Winter Ale and Imperial Cold Mountain Winter Ale, Nov. 9-11 at its brewery. The seasonal favorite is one of many local cold weather brews arriving on the beer scene.
THE KING OF BEERS: Highland Brewing Co. releases Cold Mountain Winter Ale and Imperial Cold Mountain Winter Ale, Nov. 9-11 at its brewery. The seasonal favorite is one of many local cold weather brews arriving on the beer scene. Photo courtesy of Highland Brewing Co.

Ready for some local cold weather beers? With cooler temperatures settling in the mountains, winter brews are heading to taprooms and store shelves.

Hi-Wire Brewing celebrates one of these traditional seasonal styles with the Stout Bout festival, 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at its Big Top production facility. Visitors can blind-taste stouts from over 20 local and national breweries and vote for their favorites. Admission is $10 and includes glassware and two beer tokens. The event doubles as the release of Hi-Wire’s Pulcinella Russian Imperial Stout (9 percent ABV).

Outside of festivals, winter warmers are often quick sellers with some disappearing almost as soon as they’re released. That’s long been the story with Highland Brewing Co.’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale (5.8 percent ABV), which returns with a brewery release 3-10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, and noon-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11. The beer will then make its way to area stores.

Supplies of Cold Mountain are always limited, says Highland President Leah Wong Ashburn. While some wonder why Highland doesn’t make more, Ashburn notes that brewing Cold Mountain “stresses every part of our system — our brewers, our quality team, distribution and our tanks. We make eight year-round beers, we have a seasonal line-up and Cold Mountain is in addition to everything else that we do.” For the brewery release, customers are limited to a single Cold Mountain liter bottle ($13), three 22-ounce bottles ($7 each) and a 12-pack of 12-ounce bottles ($23).

Imperial Cold Mountain (8 percent ABV) will also return for a second year. Customers may buy up to three 22-ounce bottles ($10 each) and a single liter bottle ($18). Imperial Cold Mountain bottles are sold exclusively at the brewery on release weekend, though Ashburn says a limited amount of draft will be available at local taprooms and restaurants. Highland will also release Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout (8 percent ABV) on Friday, Nov. 24.

Elsewhere, Asheville Brewing Co.’s popular Ninjabread Man Spiced Porter (5.6 percent alcohol) is now out on draft and in 22-ounce bottles. “It’s selling quickly, but we have three more batches planned,” says brewery President Mike Rangel. “It’s definitely our fastest-selling seasonal.”

Green Man Brewery has just released Forester Winter Stout (6 percent ABV) in 12-ounce bottles and draft. Brewer John Stuart says it will be joined by Holly King Barleywine (11 percent ABV) on Friday, Nov. 24. The new beer will count as the 2017 iteration of Holly King, close on the heels of the late October release of the unexpectedly delayed 2016 version — a barrel-aged holiday ale clocking in at 9.8 percent ABV.

Around the corner on the South Slope, Catawba Brewing Co. has several cold weather beers this year. In addition to Deep State Baltic Porter (7.2 percent ABV) on Friday, Nov. 3, marketing director Brian Ivey says to be on the lookout for L.D.’s Belgian-style Tripel (10 percent ABV) and Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout (5.4 percent ABV) on Friday, Nov. 24, and Hooligan Scotch Ale (8 percent ABV) on Friday, Dec. 15. All four beers will be available on draft and in 12-ounce cans.

Over in Franklin, Currahee Brewing Co. brewer Taylor Yates says his establishment has just canned a batch of Kawi Coffee Milk Stout (7 percent ABV), which won a bronze medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. And in Brevard, Oskar Blues Brewery’s Ten Fidy Imperial Stout (10.5 percent ABV) is available in cans.

Putting a twist on winter brew expectations, however, is New Belgium Brewing Co. Rather than release a big stout, its seasonal offering is Accumulation White IPA (6.2 percent ABV). The brew is snowy white in color, says brewery spokesman Michael Craft, who notes that about a third of the beer’s national supply is made in Asheville, with the remainder brewed at New Belgium’s original Fort Collins, Colo. brewery.

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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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