Beer Review 0397: Highland Imperial Kashmir IPA

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Turn on the Way Back Machine: back in January 2011, when I first started reviewing beer, I took a look at Highland’s Kashmir IPA. It was only my twelfth review, and I rated it 79 points, noting it was a bit out of balance with lots of grapefruit bitterness and not much else. My, how my palate has changed since then — perhaps Kashmir would be a good candidate for a redux review, if I can find the time to get around to it some day.

Here we are, over two years later, and Highland (Asheville, North Carolina) have made a very limited amount of an Imperial version of Kashmir, which nearly doubles the ABV (alcohol by volume) from 5.6% to 10.2%. Each 50 barrel batch contains over 200 pounds of hops — six different hop varieties are added at seven different times while making the beer, including 60 pounds of dry hops.

Highland Brewing began as the hobby of Oscar Wong. Wong was born in Jamaica; attended college at Notre Dame, where he completed his masters in Structural Engineering. He had a successful career in engineering, but retirement led him to beer, and Highland was founded in 1994 in the basement of Barley’s Taproom in Asheville. Today, Highland are growing at a rapid pace, like most artisan breweries in the United States.

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Pouring produced an average size, bright white, creamy head that lasted atop a very clear golden beer. There were no particles or sediment, and lacing was superb, leaving behind solid and sticky sheets of suds.

The aroma is quite nice, hop-forward, and changes drastically as the brew warms. On the initial sample, there were plenty of citrus and tropical fruits, especially papaya and mango, giving this a Hawaiian Punch-like scent. Grapefruit lingers to provide just a hint of astringency; allow it to warm some and you start to get notes of lemon and lime, a hint of the rind/peel, and significant malt backing in the form of sweet caramel and grains. After about thirty minutes in the glass, the aroma starts to get a little catty, and the hops give you a sticky/menthol/fruit kick. Very nice!

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On the palate, there’s deeply sweet papaya and pineapple, which transitions into more of an orange and lemon base in the middle of the taste. The malts are indeed quite significant, issuing up a wad of sweetness that isn’t cloying and plays well with the heavy dosage of hops. Imperial Kashmir finishes with a slight pine bitterness, lots of caramel sweetness, and grapefruit — as it unwinds, the bitterness amps up, drying out the palate, and the alcohol provides a full-body warmth. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

Color me impressed! This is a nice offering from Highland. The last few from them that I’ve reviewed haven’t really been much to write home about, but this is a wonderful Imperial IPA from my home state. If you tend to have a sweet tooth when it comes to your Imperial IPAs, you’ll like this. A limited release worth seeking out.

Highland Imperial Kashmir IPA, 91 points. Price: $9.49 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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