Carolina Beer Guy: The return of Ninjabread Man and Cold Mountain

WINTER IS COMING: Asheville Brewing Co. releases Ninjabread Man Porter on Oct. 19, followed by Highland Brewing Co.'s Cold Mountain Winter Ale, Nov. 8-10. Image courtesy of Asheville Brewing Co.

Cooler temperatures have finally arrived in Western North Carolina, making the timing more apt for the return of two of the area’s most popular seasonal beers.

Asheville Brewing Co.’s seventh annual Ninjabread Man Porter (5.6 percent ABV) will be released Friday, Oct. 19, at all three of its locations. Head brewer Pete Langheinrich developed this take on the company’s Ninja Porter, which was created by original head brewer and current co-owner Doug Riley. Langheinrich adds such flavors as vanilla, toasted cinnamon sticks, raisins and molasses. The recipe also includes caramelized ginger, much of which was sourced from Rayburn Farm in Barnardsville.

Because the beer is so popular, company President Mike Rangel says Asheville Brewing will probably do four 30-barrel batches of Ninjabread Man. “Every year, we’ve gone up at least a batch,” he says.

Ninjabread Man will be available on draft and in 22-ounce bottles ($12 each), and will primarily be sold in Western North Carolina. Bottle shops in Charlotte, Raleigh and Charleston will also get some, but Rangel says the brewery has received emails “from all over the country” looking to purchase it, and for those U.S. drinkers outside the Carolinas, Asheville Brewing will ship the beer to them.

Meanwhile, Highland Brewing Co. will release this year’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale (5.9 percent ABV) over the course of three days, starting Thursday, Nov. 8, at its brewery. Bottles will be sold in the brewery meadow — a tent will be set up in case of bad weather — and it will be available on draft in the indoor tasting room. “If weather allows, we’ll have the rooftop bar open as well,” says company President Leah Wong Ashburn.

2018 marks the 22nd year for Cold Mountain, which is crafted with an undisclosed blend of flavors that changes a bit from year to year. In addition to the regular version, an imperial edition (8 percent ABV) will be available for the third consecutive year, exclusively at the brewery over the release weekend.

Cold Mountain’s appearance annually sets off a frenzy as determined drinkers arrive early at the brewery. (It doesn’t last long in stores, either.) “[Thursday] is the first crack at the beer,” Ashburn says. “The lines are longest, but we are also staffed with the most people. We will be prepared with a shuttle [as the parking area fills up.] I would encourage people to carpool.”

Each customer can buy as much as a single liter bottle of regular Cold Mountain ($13), up to three 22-ounce bottles ($7 each) and one 12-pack of 12-ounce bottles ($23). They may also purchase a single liter bottle of Imperial Cold Mountain ($18) and up to three 22-ounce bottles ($10 each). Most of the Cold Mountain allotted for distribution will be sold in Western North Carolina, but Ashburn says small quantities will go to other states.

There is never enough Cold Mountain to satisfy demand, though production has increased. Ashburn notes that more than one batch was made of the 2018 version and that doing so was a difficult but worthwhile endeavor considering Highland’s overall output. “It’s a stretch to produce Cold Mountain,” she says. “We are brewing all of our regular beers, and a seasonal lineup and this on top of all that.”


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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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