This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

State #28: North Carolina

Beer: Highland Oatmeal Porter

Brewery: Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC

ABV: 5.9%

A Highland beer in a class from a brewery in the lowland part of North Carolina (Wilmington). These are the things that amuse me.
Ah, the quirky liberal enclave. Lots of red states have them. Texas has Austin, home to South by Southwest and one of the best live music scenes on the planet. Georgia has Athens, home to REM and the B-52s. And North Carolina has Asheville, home to hippies and various other left-leaning, artistically-inclined folks otherwise uncharacteristic of the southern Appalachians.

Much like the fellow on the Highland beer bottle, this guy, spotted in downtown Asheville (source), is also a fan of skirts.
It’s not surprising that we find breweries in all of these places either. Austin is home to at least six breweries, Athens is home to Terrapin Beer Company, one of Georgia’s biggest and best craft brewers, and Asheville is rapidly becoming the beer capital of the Southeast. While sprawling Austin crams six breweries into 300 square miles, tiny Asheville, home to only 83,000 people in only 41 square miles, is also home to six breweries, and most of them are very highly regarded by the brewgeoisie (yes, I just made that one up, and yes I’m patting myself on the back for it). A recent article named Asheville as one of the eight best beer towns in the USA, and this strong beer culture has attracted craft brewing giant Sierra Nevada to open an East Coast brewing operation in Asheville later this year.

While Asheville is the beer capital of North Carolina, the state as a whole is performing quite well on the craft beer scene. It has the highest number of breweries (gross and per capita) in the Southeast, and is home to five of the 50 fastest growing breweries in the country, including Highland (shown on the map above, from this excellent series of maps on the state of craft brewing done by The New Yorker, found here).
Among the cluster of microbreweries operating in Asheville is the Highland Brewing Company. The name is fitting: Asheville is indeed in the highland part of North Carolina, which made it an attractive landing spot for immigrants from the Scottish highlands in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Highland Brewing Company has used this Scottish heritage as their branding motif, featuring as their logo a grizzly, bagpipe playing chap wearing a tam o’shanter and holding a massive mug of beer. The bottle also features a tartan pattern, though I’m not about to spend ten hours looking at swatches of plaid to figure out which clan it belongs to. Anyone who can figure this one out gets a free pint.

A slight resemblance, nay?
While Highland makes a variety of brews, oatmeal porter is a fitting style, given the association of oatmeal with Scotland. Porters are usually sweet and malty, and this one is no exception, but the sweetness is fortunately understated. Oatmeal is added to beers to give it a smooth texture rather than a distinct flavor, as the oils and proteins and such in the oats give it a nice creaminess. Normally one finds oatmeal stouts rather than oatmeal porters, but as far as the difference between a stout and a porter is concerned, it’s very much up for debate. Either way, a brown creamy ale like this one goes very nicely with a foggy afternoon in the crags, be it in the Appalachians or in Scotland.

Asheville is located in the high part of North Carolina, and also in the high part of North Carolina.