The mountains of Western North Carolina are steeped in tradition: Music, art and culture have solid foundations built on generations of lore.
Highland Brewing Co. Brewer Hollie Stephenson and Pilot Brewer Paul Rollow had a firm hold on tradition when they created the Asheville brewery’s first new seasonal of the year, Saw-Whet Saison. The farmhouse style ale has deep roots as well – roots that reach into quiet farmhouses tucked away in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
Saisons (seasons) were typically brewed during cooler winter months and then stored for consumption by farm hands in the summer. Historically, the pale ales were around 3 ABV – good news for employers who allotted up to six liters per man per day! There was not definitive “style,” each farmer made a house-specific beer.
These sturdy and enjoyable beers were almost lost in history but have enjoyed a revival, especially in the U.S. Here, brewers also craft their own expression of Saison, but the beers are dependably complex; many are very fruity in aroma and flavor. Look for earthy yeast tones with lots of spice and medium bitterness. Farmhouse ales tend to be semi-dry – and maybe present just a touch of sweetness.
Highland’s Saw-Whet Saison pours golden with a creamy head. Aromas tend heavily toward yeasty, bread-like scents. This is a very traditional farmhouse ale – complex, spicy and with a zippy lemon character that defines the beer’s refreshing drinkability. Its 6 percent ABV is masked by the beer’s lip-smacking complexity.
“Paul worked to develop this recipe with hoppy hybrid beers in mind,” said Stephenson. “In this Saison, typical Belgian yeast flavors meet American dry hopping, and the result is complex, spicy and citrusy. This beer excites me because it is a perfect example of what American craft beer is adding to very old and respected traditional brewing styles.”
About the Saw-Whet Owl
The saison is named after the Saw-Whet Owl, which can be found on Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy protected land in North Carolina and Tennessee. It is the smallest owl in the eastern U.S. and can be spotted perched among the conifers during the winter months. A tiny owl with a catlike face, oversized head, and bright yellow eyes, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is practically bursting with attitude. Where mice and other small mammals are concerned this fierce, silent owl is anything but cute. One of the most common owls in forests across northern North America (and across the U.S. in winter), saw-whets are highly nocturnal and seldom seen. Their high-pitched too-too-too call is a common evening sound in evergreen mountain forests from January through May.
More seasonal beers coming from Highland Brewing
The brewery plans two other seasonals in 2016. Every Highland seasonal is named after a land feature or species protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Upcoming releases include:
- Early’s Hoppy Wheat (April) is named after Early’s Mountain, which frames Sandy Mush, a vital agricultural corridor.
- Lost Cove Kolsch (June) is a crisp and refreshing German-style kolsch, and is named for a Prohibition-era hide-out-turned-ghost-town in the Nolichucky River Gorge.
About Highland Brewing Company
Highland Brewing Company has crafted the highest quality beer with North Carolina mountain water since 1994. Family-owned and Asheville’s first legal brewery since Prohibition, it is a local favorite for beer fans, music fans, and families. Highland’s name honors the Scots Irish who settled in the Appalachian Mountains in the 18th and 19th centuries. Adding to the tradition of honor, Highland’s seasonal beers are named after protected features of the North Carolina and Tennessee landscapes. The flagship beer, Gaelic Ale, and other styles of Highland beer are available in nine states and Washington, DC. For details on tours, special events, concerts, sustainability efforts, the new event center and more, visit www.highlandbrewing.com.