Beer Review 0355: Highland Devil’s Britches IPA
Highland Brewing Company is located in Asheville, North Carolina, and began operations in 1994 using retrofitted dairy equipment. The beers became a local hit, so much so that Highland were forced to contract out their brewing to a company in Maryland.
In October 2006, Highland returned home to Asheville; this time, the brewery found (and were able to afford) a large facility with greater capacity. The brewery employs 20 people and distribution covers AL, FL, GA, NC, SC, TN, and VA. Highland has a core line-up of year-round beers, seasonals, and some one-off brews that you just had to be there for in order to try.
Devil’s Britches is the name of a trail in the Smokey Mountains; all Highland beers are named after mountain landmarks. Coming in at 6% ABV (alcohol by volume), this IPA is brewed with Apollo, Bravo, Calypso, and Columbus hops, and registers 70 on the IBU (International Bitterness Unit) scale. Devil’s Britches is a seasonal offering, brand new for 2013.
I figure there must be someone out there asking what a ‘britches’ is; britches are a southern slang term for pants. Not sure if the term is very widely known beyond Highland’s distribution chain.
Pouring brought on an average size, lasting and creamy head, off-white in color. The beer itself was dark amber with some red highlights, “red as the Devil’s Britches,” indeed. This brew had an exceptionally clear body, free of particles and sediment, and lacing was fantastic, leaving behind solid sheets in the wake of each sip. Good stuff.
The nose features some aggressive and bitter hops up front; lots of grassy and floral notes combine with touches of burnt orange, lime, and some sweet pears. The malt bill is solid, right there hand in hand with the hops, giving off biscuits and bread, along with a rye-like spiciness (no rye was used in this beer). Continuing with the good theme, this was not what I expected and was enjoyable.
On the flavor end, the bready malt is there in spades and is backed up by a brisk grapefruit — this beer is moderately bitter from start to finish, never letting up. The middle of the mouth gives way to some more refined sticky pine and roasted malt notes, while the finish smacks the back of the tongue with another stiff note of grapefruit rind and a roasted (almost toasted) note of grain. Medium-bodied, the mouthfeel was thin and foamy, and did have a slight drying effect on the palate.
To be quite honest, this is the best Highland brew I’ve had in quite some time. Last year, they released a couple of new seasonal beers that I really weren’t into, but they hit the mark here. Think: very hoppy amber ale with almost too much bitterness, or a category above beginner IPA, and you’ve got a drinkable, enjoyable different take on an IPA. Nice.
Highland Devil’s Britches IPA, 89 points. Price: $1.79 US for one twelve ounce bottle.