Beer Review 0176: Highland Razor Wit Belgian Wheat 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.

Razor Wit is Highland’s summer beer, an unfiltered wheat ale brewed with traditional ingredients but with a twist; unique spices (cumin, coriander, grains of paradise, ginger root, sweet and bitter orange peel) are added to create a crisp finish. Sticking with the summer theme, this beer is only 4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), making it a sessionable drink.

Escape from the bottle made for an average size head, soapy in texture and it did hang around for a spell. This is a beautiful summer beer, bright golden in color, and cloudy, but absent of particles and sediment. The lacing was good, leaving behind thin bubbly sheets on my glass.

The aromatics continued the “very nice” theme, with a big whiff of Belgian yeast up front, doughy with hints of banana and bubblegum. There’s a great orange presence here that rides sweet/bitter perfectly, giving aromas from each end of the spectrum, and it’s all backed up by wheat grain. This beer is almost perfume-like, and it’s incredibly nice, especially the orange, which was complex and juicy ripe.

On the taste, there’s orange and big wheat up front, with yeasty flavors. The liquid is light and thin, slightly creamy, and the flavors that are here don’t linger long. But I guess that’s the point of a summer beer: refreshment, and this is very much so. The finish gets you with a big dose of bright grain and sweet orange, leaving your thirst quenched.

I was impressed by this beer, as some of Highland’s other seasonal offerings have been less than stellar. This is a great beer at a good price, and in the wheat beer category (where, in my opinion, things tend to be a little bland) this is exceptional. But all those spices mentioned earlier? I didn’t taste hardly any of them — but maybe they come together in some weird combination to make this razor sharp and crisp, which it is.

Highland Razor Wit Belgian Wheat Ale, 89 points. Price: $8.99 US for a six pack.

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