Tag Archives: highland brewing

One Beer Article You Should Read And Why, 11/28/16

One of the things that bothers me about how we consume culture today is the constant chase for what’s next.  Sometimes, we get so carried away with finding the next cool thing that we forget to enjoy what we have now.  We forget to live in the moment.

Craft beer in this country is an example of an industry always looking for the next cool style.  I can’t figure out if it is the newer craft beer drinkers or just craft beer drinkers in general who push for new flavors and new styles seemingly every six months.  Whoever it is, these consumers are aided by the fact that there are new breweries with new ideas popping up all the time.  There is always something new to try.

Most of these younger breweries have also adopted to this consumer mindset by constantly rolling out new beers.

However, what if you are a legacy craft brewer who built your very successful business around one flagship beer and three or four other core beers.  That is what is happening to Geary in Maine.  It is what happened to Highland in North Carolina.  It is what has happened to Sierra Nevada and Avery.  How do these breweries that have been around for so long adapt to the world that they built changing right under their feet?

In the case of Highland, they brought in a new younger brewer to update their lineup.  It has worked. They added four new beers last year including the very successful Mandarina IPA and are planning to add another four in the first half of 2017.  There is a different feeling around Highland now then there was just 12 months ago.  The Mandarina IPA and the Pilsner, also added this year, have revitalized sales and jumpstarted something of a renaissance of the brewery among younger craft beer drinkers.

Avery is cutting six core beers from its lineup.  These beers all still sell well for Avery, but they have been around for a while and it seems the brewery is trying to stay ahead of the curve and dumping them before they become stale and a drag on the brewery.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the beers the whole craft beer enterprise is built upon.  However, the brewery has seen the sales numbers slip for the stalwart in recent years.  Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to retire it, but Sierra Nevada has added hoppier and beers that hue towards the newer taste profiles preferred by today’s craft beer drinkers.

The legacy brewers must adapt to the times and to today’s beer drinkers.  That doesn’t mean jettisoning your flagship beers.  The beer world would be a worse place without Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Highland Gaelic Ale.  However, these brewers also should build around those beers with fresher and newer tastes and flavors.  I don’t think they should chase after potential drinkers with hard root beer or anything that egregious, but they should look at some of the things Highland has done in introducing new flavors and styles within the parameters of its established brand.

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 11/20/16

Highland Cold Mountain was released last week.  It is a good beer.  It isn’t a great beer nor is it the best of its style.  I prefer Triple C White Blaze or Anderson Valley Winter Solstice.  But that’s just me.  While Cold Mountain may not top my list of beers, it does top another list.  It is one of the best marketed beers produced in the southeast.  The basis of their marketing is limiting production to increase scarcity.  It sells out quickly because there is a finite amount and it is spread all over Highland’s territory.  Without letting anyone know we had it, we sold all our bottles in less than a week.

This post isn’t about Cold Mountain, but it is about Highland.  After reading this article, it dawned on me that I grew up as a craft beer drinker with Highland.  I remember buying my first six-pack of Gaelic Ale back in 1996 after I moved back to Shelby after college.  However, over the years I stopped buying Gaelic Ale.  I really stopped buying Highland except for the Oatmeal Stout or the Mocha Stout.  Their beers were good, not great, and they didn’t do much to make their experience exciting for old and especially new craft beer drinkers.

That is why I have been so happy about the last year in the life of Highland.  Head brewer Hollie Stephenson came to Highland from Stone Brewing in January.  In that time, she has introduced the Mandarina IPA, which has already changed the trajectory of the brewery.  Now there are apparently four more new beers expected to all debut in the first quarter of 2017.  It would be an overstatement to say these changes have saved the brewery.  It wasn’t going anywhere, they still sell a ton of Gaelic.  However, it isn’t a stretch to say these changes saved the brewery from irrelevance in the changing craft beer market.

Twenty years is a long time and it is an eternity in craft brewing.  There is only a handful of breweries around the country 20 years or older that are still operating independently.  The thing that distinguishes the ones who are still around is that they have adapted to the changing beer world.  They survived the late 90s/early 2000s purging of bad business models and worst beer.  Now, they are managing to stay relevant in an ever-changing craft beer world.

Craft beer drinkers, in general, and newer craft beer drinkers are fickle.  They flit from style to style and brewery to brewery chasing the hot style.  They always seem to chase the next big thing.  However, if you look at the breweries that last, they have one or two beers at the core of their product lines that people always come back to.  Sierra Nevada has the Pale Ale.  Boston Beer has Samuel Adams. Highland has Gaelic.

It is like any business.  You must have that thing that people like and that you do extraordinarily well that you can count on in times of trouble.  Newer breweries should take note of that.  Try your hand at all the hot styles drinkers flock to, but have 1 or 2 beers that you know you do well and that people like.  Those two beers could be the difference between survival and watching some startup buy your used brewery equipment.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/27/15

Saturday morning links are often hard to come by.  This morning was a little different.  There were lots of links, but were any worthy enough to be included in this list?  You decide.

  • I understand that some places use smaller glasses and pour lots of foam. Those places should be shamed and pilloried.  However, if you pour a beer correctly into a 16 oz. glass you should have about a half inch of foam at the top.  Two reasons for this:  it looks better and the foam helps create aroma which helps the beer taste better.  Of course, I’m talking about pouring craft beer which normally has more flavor than your average American light lager.  By the way, this is a weird thing to make your crusade.
  • Highland Brewing is sometimes forgotten in the burgeoning NC craft beer scene. Forgotten in the sense that they make consistently good/drinkable, though not spectacular, beer.  They appear to be going on the offensive go combat that perception with a new “Warrior” series. (See what I did there “combat” and “warrior”. I’m a professional, don’t try this at home.)
  • Even as NC and SC continue to have new breweries pop up seemingly in every town, craft brewers from out of state are trying to enter both markets. It will be interesting to see how the new breweries coming in and all the new breweries starting up will affect the production levels of established NC brewers in the long run.
  • Its 2015 and we are still arguing over the term craft brewery. Unfortunately it will only get worse now the federal government tax code will have a hand in partially defining the term.  The Brewer’s Association has massaged the term over the last few years to keep Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada among others in the ranks of craft beer and they will continue massaging their definition.  That will not change.  However, I’m tired of the endless hand ringing and arguments over who is or what is craft.  You know it when you taste it.
  • This is an article that makes a good point about the ubiquity of the IPA and how it is unfortunately taking over much of the craft world (at least for the general public coming into craft). It also gives a few good alternatives to IPAs.  However, and maybe because it is such a short article, shows little understanding that here in America there are lots of brewers who make beers other than IPAs and they manage to sell lots of beer too.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/22/15

Today’s links have an international flavor.  By the way, this is the second version of the links this morning, the first was lost due to a little user error, but we persevere.