Beer Review 0272: Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter
It’s been a while since I have reviewed a Highland beer — this brewery is located in Asheville, North Carolina. Operations started in December 1994, and most of the beer was made with retrofitted dairy equipment.
Highland became a hit, and contracted their production out to a company in Maryland; but in October 2006, things were made right again when they returned to Asheville, this time in a large facility with much greater capacity. Today, the brewery employs more than 20 people, and distribution covers AL, FL, GA, NC, SC, TN, and VA.
Highland brews seasonal beers, and Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is their winter offering. Brewed with chocolate malt and midnight wheat, they also dose in fair-trade organic coffee from Dynamite Roasting Company, a nearby coffee house in Black Mountain, NC.
Like all of their seasonal beers, Thunderstruck is named after a feature of the Southern Appalachian landscape. This beer comes in at 5.8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 26 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The label does carry a somewhat laughable statement; on the ingredient list, it says 1% organic coffee — so that should let you know about how much coffee is actually in this beer.
The pour produced a large dark khaki head, lasting and fairly frothy. The color of the beer was quite dark; it was opaque and very brown, with deep purple edges when held to a bright light. Although dark, the body was clear, as evidenced when I was pouring, and was free of particles and sediment. The lacing was superb, leaving solid, sticky brown sheets all around my tulip glass.
The aromatics were simple but deep, showcasing excellent scents. Right away, there was loads of black coffee, and some sweet coffee, along with dark chocolate and a mild grassy/earthy hop note. The coffee scent was at once roasted and burnt, depending upon how deep you placed your nose into the glass. Very nice.
As for the taste, it showcased a bit of a fruity hop note up front before the coffee came rushing in, dancing on the tongue with an above average carbonation. Layers of robust black coffee and sweet milk chocolate coated the palate, finishing bittersweet with the sweet winning out over the bitter as the long note of black coffee unfolded. This beer was full-bodied with a medium mouthfeel, fairly foamy due to the aforementioned carbonation.
Without a doubt, the best brew I’ve had from Highland to date. If you dropped the carbonation, you’d think you were drinking a stout. The use of coffee here is outstanding, and this beer is highly drinkable. Some coffee beers tend to get either too bitter or acidic when the real stuff is used, but that’s not the case here, at all. Find it!
Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter, 94 points. Price: $9.99 US for a six-pack.