Beer Review 0152: Highland Little Hump Spring Ale

Here’s a new offering from Highland Brewing Company, which is a local brewery to me, based in Asheville, North Carolina. Highland began brewing in December 1994, where they produced beer almost entirely out of retrofitted dairy equipment.

After becoming more popular and having demand soar, Highland contracted out operations to a facility in Maryland — but in October 2006, they returned to Asheville in a much larger facility with greater capacity.

Highland began as a staff of three and now employ more than twenty. The company has a limited distribution, so unless you’re in the southeast (AL, FL, GA, NC, SC, TN, or VA) you won’t be able to find their beer.

Little Hump Spring Ale is a new release for Highland; a spring seasonal beer brewed with session drinking in mind. Coming in at just 4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), the company says this beer is crafted so you can have a few and “your freshly mowed lawn will still have arrow-straight lines.” Little Hump is named after a North Carolina mountain peak.

This beer is an American Pale Ale, brewed with Simcoe hops for bittering, Amarillo and Cascade for aromatics, and grain from America’s heartland.

Pouring produced a beer with a small and frothy head, but long lasting, eventually forming a nice foamy cover on the surface. The beer was yellow in color, not quite to the golden hue, with a clear body that had some suspended light particles floating throughout. The drink left behind some excellent thin sheets of sticky lacing.

The aromatics were quite hoppy, with a big grass and citrus note up front, with some grapefruit and hints of tropical fruit coming out at first sniff. There was a definite big waft of grain to be found, along with a touch of a generic roasted note and an unpleasant burnt aroma, which bordered on melting plastic. I don’t know if it was a burnt scent from the malts mixing with all the hops in this beer or what, but I didn’t find the scent of this beer to be very impressive, other than the initial hop aromas.

On the taste, this beer delivers some citrus up front, with some grass and grain. The mouthfeel is very light but creamy when swished in the mouth, and the finish turned moderately bitter before cleaning itself up with a final exit of grain.

Compared to other offerings from Highland that I’ve had, I was not impressed by this beer. I get what they’re trying to do, but there are several other session-type beers out there that I find much more drinkable than this. Not that Little Hump isn’t drinkable, but it’s just not extremely pleasant to drink, which kind of ruins the whole “session” thing, no? Perhaps it’s just my palate, but I wouldn’t return to this one.

Highland Little Hump Spring Ale, 77 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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