100 Bottles of Beer – Back to Highlander Beer

Highlander Beer

 A Home Brewer’s Personal Journey through His Craft – Part 8

Those of you who have been with me from the beginning through the first 25 brews will remember my mention of Highlander Beer from my hometown of Missoula, MT. It was the local brewery I remember from my childhood which closed in 1964 when I was just 11 years old. It fell victim to the growth of the Interstate highway system when I-90 was constructed through Missoula.

You will also remember Highlander was the name of the home brew shop in Littleton, CO which got me started in this to begin with. Why do I bring this up again you ask? Well, I recently became aware that Highlander Beer has returned to Missoula.

History

Highlander can trace its roots back to 1874. It became known as Garden City Brewery in 1900. The Highlander brand was introduced in 1910 but the red Tartan plaid label I remember was not adopted until sometime in the 1950’s.

The brewery became Missoula Brewing Co. in 1933 and retained that name until it closed in 1964. However, in June 2008, an enterprising local beer enthusiast, Bob Lukes and his wife, Shannon, partnered with Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish, MT to reintroduce Highlander to Missoula and western Montana.

Mr. Lukes has re-established the name Missoula Brewing Co. and the trademark Highlander. However, this is not just another fizzy pale yellow lager as the original was. No, staying true to the Highlander name, the new brew is a Scottish Amber.

I have not had opportunity to sample the new Highlander but I do wish the Lukes and the new Missoula Brewing Co. great success. Check it out at www.highlanderbeer.com.

UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

I  originally wrote this blog in 2009 and in doing some fact checking for re-posting it here have come across further news of Highlander and Missoula Brewing Co. This summer, 2015, Highlander and Missoula Brewing Co. will open a new facility located at 200 International Drive, Missoula, MT. They produce a full line of great craft beers named after mountains in Montana: Lost Peak Montana Lager, Bighorn Peak American Amber, Mount Jumbo Northwest IPA, and Devil’s Hump Red Ale.

Highlander and the Yankees

Another interesting bit of history, originally Garden City Brewing was unable to use the name Highlander because there was an East coast baseball team by the name of the New York Highlanders which owned the rights to the name. But, the ball team granted the brewery the rights because they were going to change their name anyway. So, Missoula got Highlander beer and the world got the New York Yankees.

Highlander Home Brew

This timely information brings us full circle back to Highlander Home Brew and the task at hand. It just happens that the next two brews on our journey are brew kits put together by Keith at Highlander Home Brew. OK, kind of a lame, coincidental connection; but what the hey, it works.

Brew kits such as these are pre-packaged by the brew shops to include all the required ingredients for a specific brew all in one box. Most shops will omit the yeast and hops to keep these refrigerated for freshness but, if so, they are added to the kit at time of purchase.

The first of these kits from Highlander I used was Highlander Cream Stout. Cream Stout is also known as Milk Stout and gets this name from the addition of Lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Lactose is not fermentable by common beer yeasts and so adds sweetness and body to the beer.

Do not confuse Cream Stout with Cream Ale. Cream Ale is light colored, light bodied ale which is typically lagered, sometimes with lager yeast added for the lagering period. Cream Ale also typically has corn or maize and/or rice added to the grain bill to lighten the body and flavor.

Highlander Cream Stout

  • 3.3 lbs Northwestern Dark LME
  • 2 lbs M&F Dark DME
  • 1 lb British 53L crystal malt
  • 4 oz British chocolate malt
  • 4 oz British black patent malt
  • 4 oz British roasted barley
  • ½ lb Lactose
  • 1 stick (.7 oz) Brewer’s Licorice
  • 1 pkg (1/3 oz) Burton Water Salts
  • 1 oz Eroica hop pellets (60 minutes)
  • 1.5 oz Kent Golding whole cone hops (30 minutes)
  • 2 pkg (10g) Danstar Manchester ale yeast
  • 1 pkg (14g) Yeast Lab Whitbread ale yeast
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

The kit included step-by-step instructions for brewing which I followed exactly with the exception of the second yeast addition and the added priming DME.

Step-by-Step

Bring two gallons cold water treated with Burton Water Salts to a boil while at the same time heating one gallon of water and all milled grains to 145F and holding at that temp for 30 minutes. When the big kettle boils, remove from heat and stir in LME and DME. Do NOT add the Lactose yet. Return the kettle to the heat and strain the small kettle of grains into the big kettle; I did not sparge the grains. Bring to boil again and add hops at times indicated. Add the licorice stick broken into small pieces at the second hop addition. Note: we have still not added the Lactose.

Bad Yeast?

Pour wort into fermenter with cold water topping to 5 gallons. Pitch re-hydrated Manchester yeast when cooled. This is where I had a bit of a problem. The yeast did not dissolve very well when re-hydrated and after 2 days of little or no activity I assumed the yeast was no longer viable. Re-pitched with the Whitbread and activity began within three hours.

After seven days total in the primary, activity had nearly ceased. Rack to secondary leaving behind a very thick gooey layer of trub or sediment. Now, we are going to add the Lactose. Boil 1 pint of water and Lactose for 5 minutes, let cool to about 100F and add to secondary. As Lactose is not fermentable, there should be no re-start of activity.

After another seven days in the secondary it is time to bottle. I did not take any gravity readings on this one and Keith’s instructions did not indicate target gravities.

This was very good stout. It had a nice creamy body with light creamy head that lasted to the bottom of the glass. Flavor was sweet from the Lactose and subtle hop bitterness with just a hint of tart, probably from the brewer’s licorice.

Trying a Belgian

The next brew kit was Highlander Belgian Abbey Ale. I was hoping for something close to Orval Trappist Ale. This was a very close miss.

highlander beer - Orval.2011

 Highlander Belgian Abbey Ale

  • 4 lbs Mt. Mellick Amber LME
  • 2 lbs Laaglander Light DME
  • ½ lb Belgian Biscuit malt
  • 1 lb Belgian Caramunich malt
  • 3 oz Belgian Special B malt
  • 1 oz Northern Brewer whole cone hops (60 minutes)
  • ½ oz Tettnang hop pellets (30 minutes)
  • ½ oz Hallertau whole cone hops (2 minutes)
  • 1 oz oak chips
  • Wyeast #1214 Belgian Abbey Ale yeast
  • 1 oz Lactic acid
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

Again, I followed the kit instructions with the exception of the added priming DME and this time I sparged the grains.

Step-by Step

Bring two gallons cold water to a boil while at the same time heating one gallon of water and all milled grains to 152F and holding at that temp for 30 minutes. When the big kettle boils, remove from heat and stir in LME and DME. Return the kettle to the heat and strain the small kettle of grains into the big kettle; sparging with two quarts hot water. Bring to boil again and add hops at times indicated for a total 60 minute boil. Note: we have not yet used the Lactic acid or oak chips.

Pour wort into fermenter with cold water topping to 5 gallons. Pitch yeast, which had been started the previous day, when cooled. Good steady activity started in less than 24 hours, after 3 days it had settled down, ready to rack to secondary.

Place the oak chips in a strainer over a pot of boiling water to steam the chips. This will adequately sanitize the oak. Add the chips to the secondary. After 12 days in secondary the beer is ready to bottle. Add the Lactic acid along with the priming sugars. I did not take any gravity readings on this one either and neither did Keith provide targets in the instructions. It is what it is, and it is good.

It had a very mild flavor, with the required tartness added by the Lactic acid, balanced by the nice malt sweetness. Adequately carbonated but lacks the champagne mouth-feel of Orval. As I said, it’s a very near miss, kind of like Orval amber, if they made one.

Changing it up

Next I’m going to jump ahead about 4 months on the timeline of our journey and go to a remake of the Highlander Belgian Abbey Ale. After doing some research on Orval Trappist Ale, I found they use White Candy Sugar and exclusively Styrian Goldings hops. I made some changes to the malts and extracts as well. Perhaps this will be closer to the mark.

I was unsure exactly what White Candy Sugar was and Keith at Highlander did not know either at that time. I went to Beer at Home, the other home brew shop in my part of town, and they had it. It is like rock candy, large rocky crystals of sugar. Most home brew shops these days carry it. It is usually called Belgian Candy Sugar and comes in light (or white) amber and dark. It is kind of fun when you dump it in the boiling wort. You can hear the crystals popping and cracking as they dissolve.

 Modified Belgian Abbey Ale

  • 3.75 lbs Cooper’s Light LME
  • 3 lbs Laaglander Extra Light DME
  • 1 lb Belgian White Candy Sugar
  • ½ lb Belgian Biscuit malt
  • ½ lb Belgian Caramunich malt
  • 4 oz 30L Crystal malt
  • 1 oz Styrian Golding hop plugs (60 minutes)
  • 1 oz Styrian Golding hop plugs (30 minutes)
  • 1 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker hop pellets (5 minutes)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 minutes)
  • 1 oz oak chips
  • Wyeast #1214 Belgian Abbey Ale yeast
  • 1 oz Lactic acid
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ½ cup DME

Brew procedure was identical to the first Belgian Abbey, adding the candy sugar along with the first hop addition. I also increased the priming DME still going for champagne like carbonation of Orval. I didn’t check any gravity on this one either.

This Abbey turned out a bit lighter than the first and was a bit more acidic, which mellowed out over time. Still did not get the champagne carbonation I wanted and, although this was very good, I actually think the first one was better.

One More Time

I actually tried a third time to replicate Orval about 15 months later, this time using yeast cultured from a bottle of Orval. I won’t go into detail on that one just yet as the yeast culturing will take some time to explain. We will discuss it when we get there. Just suffice to say, it turned out to be the best beer I had made to that point, something to look forward to.

OK, returning now to our place on the journey, I think we have time and space for one more brew. How about an Oatmeal Stout? This one comes from Cat’s Meow on the internet and was credited to Peter Glen Berger. I made a few adjustments just to make it my own recipe.

 Bitch’s Brew Oatmeal Stout

  • 6 lbs M&F Dark DME
  • 2 lbs M&F Amber DME
  • 1 lb 53L British Crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb British roasted barley
  • 1/2 lb British black patent malt
  • 1 lb Quaker Oats
  • 1 oz Bullions hop pellets (60 min)
  • 1/2 oz Willamette whole cone hops (30 min)
  • 1/2 oz Willamette whole cone hops (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
  • 2 pkg (28g) Yeast Lab Whitbread ale yeast
  • Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME

Be sure to use the real original oatmeal, not the instant. Or, you should be able to find flaked oats at your home brew shop.

Soak ½ lb oats and all milled grains in two gallons cold water for ½ hour. Add the other ½ lb of oats and heat to 180F. Remove from heat and strain out grains, sparging with one gallon boiling water. This was a difficult sparge because the oatmeal really thickened the mash.

Add the DME and return to boil, adding the hops and Irish Moss at times indicated for a total 60 minute boil. Pour the wort into fermenter with cold water topping to 5 ½ gallons. Pitch re-hydrated yeast when cooled.

Attenuation

Fermentation activity began in just over an hour and by 12 hours was over-flowing the fermentation lock. I removed the lock and attached a blow-off hose into a bucket of water. The original recipe stated that Whitbread yeast was used because of its low attenuation rate. I commented in my notes back then, “Either they are wrong or I don’t know what attenuation rate means.” Actually, it means how well the yeast fully consumes the sugars available, not how rapidly or vigorously it goes about it.

Activity settled down after 24 hours so I could remove the hose and re-attach the fermentation lock. After eight days in the primary it was ready to rack to secondary. It left behind a very thick layer of trub in the primary, about four inches; probably lost about a gallon of beer to this trub.

Beer was ready to bottle after 12 days in the secondary. I probably should have cut back the priming sugars due to the lost volume of beer in the trub, but I didn’t think of it at the time. It could have come out over-carbonated but did not, so all was well. I did not check gravity, was really getting lazy about that. Original recipe indicated OG 1.052 and FG 1.029 for an ABV of about 3.1%. Honestly, it tasted and smelled much higher than that.

This stout was very good with lots of body and a lighter taste than very dark color would indicate. It had a very nice hop bitterness which developed into starchy dry bitterness as the beer warmed toward the end of the glass.

29 Down

OK, that does it for this installment. We did a couple different styles of stout and two Belgian Abbeys with a teaser for a third. That makes a total of 29 with 71 left to go.

Next up: A cup of Joe, an Armenian, and a couple of weizens; one good, one not so much.

Keep on Brewin’

To be continued…

References:

Charlie Papazian, The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, 2nd edition, October 1991

Karl F. Lutzen & Mark Stevens, Homebrew Favorites, Third printing, February 1995

Karl F. Lutzen & Mark Stevens, Cat’s Meow

About

I am the HomeBrew Guru… My name is Bob Archibald. Some of you may remember me as the grumpy old man behind the bar at Bristol Brewing (bristolbrewing.com) in Colorado Springs where I had been pouring beer for over 12 years. They finally decided I was getting too old or didn’t have enough tattoos or something and replaced me with younger hipper bartenders. Oh well, it was time I moved on anyway. At least they kept my home brew recipe for the annual Christmas Ale! I have been home brewing since late 1994 and have brewed over 150 beers to date. Although I am not a highly technical brewer (its more of a ZEN thing) and still brew on a stovetop, I have created many different styles of beer and have gotten rave reviews for some of my creations. I have also dabbled with mead and wine to equal degrees of success. My latest endeavor is to try my hand at distilled spirits. I have found the basic stovetop method of brewing to be economical and in no way limiting in the quality and variety of beer which can be produced by the home brewer. I also still bottle condition my brews because I like the flavor of a good bottle conditioned beer. It is also more economical than the expense of kegging and the necessary draft system, just a little more time-consuming. A LITTLE MORE ABOUT MY BACKGROUND I am originally from Montana. I went to high school in the little town of Plains and later to an electronics school in Missoula, which eventually lead to a career in the telecom industry for about 23 years. First with Mountain Bell where I did everything from Operator Services to Central Office Installation to Outside Plant. From there I went to Northern Telecom, better known as Nortel, where I did Central Office Installation, Engineering, Grounding, Fiber Optics, and finally Sales Engineer. The telecom industry had a bit of a melt-down after the events of 9/11 and I found myself looking for work. I tried a couple of customer service jobs and ran my own retail business for 5 years. During that time I picked up the part-time gig with Bristol Brewing and I guess it sort of stuck, for a while anyway. 100 BOTTLES OF BEER I began writing my Home Brew Blog, 100 Bottles of Beer, about 9 years ago. It was hosted on Associated Content and then moved to Yahoo Voices. Both of those venues have shut down and I have now moved to WordPress. I went about two years without writing a new one but, I have now revived it here. The blog chronicles my fermentation adventures from how I got started in home brewing, my very first brew through my 100th brew and beyond. All recipes and instructions are included as well as related brewing history, brewing basics and advanced methods, personal experiences, successes, and failures. The most important thing to remember is… KEEP ON BREWIN’

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