Highland Brewing Company rolled out its first beer kegs in December 1994. Built almost entirely of retrofitted dairy equipment, our original brewery in downtown Asheville could produce up to 6,500 barrels of beer per year. At the new location we now have capacity to brew over 50,000 barrels annually with room to grow. Until 1998, our beer was available only in kegs and hand-filled 22-oz. bottles. (We still fill our liter bottles by hand today.) That year, we added a four-head bottling machine which enabled us to start packaging in 12-oz. bottles. In 2002, a used Krones bottling line was installed, capable of filling 7,200 12-oz. bottles per hour. Although we brewed twice daily, four days per week, the demand for our beer continued to exceed the supply.
After evaluating short-term options for increasing production, we opted temporarily to brew and bottle some of our beer using the facilities of Wild Goose Brewery in Frederick, Maryland. Our long-term goal was to once again brew all our beer locally, and in October 2006, we were thrilled to begin operations in our larger, more efficient brewery in east Asheville. Here, we brew twice daily, four days per week in a Santa Rosa 50-barrel brew system. We bottle at least twice a week, packing 2,000 cases or more. Our filler is a 1976 model, 28-head, long-stem, Krones Schlippe. In our larger brewery, we have room for much more equipment on the bottling line. Now that the line can keep up with the filler, we can fill about 360 cases an hour.
It wasn't until October 2010 when Highland opened its Tasting Room for people to drop in, sample tasty brews, and hang out with our staff. The Tasting Room is open to the public Thursday-Saturday, 4-8pm, offering food & live music 6-8pm Fridays and Saturdays. Next to the Tasting Room, we installed our brewers' favorite toy - the 3-barrel pilot system. Here, they get to try out new recipes for fun or for future large scale brews. Thunderstruck Coffee Porter was born in the pilot system room and was so loved, we had to let it graduate to a seasonal! We may have one or several pilot brews on tap. They're always changing and it's always fun to try beer only available for a short time and only at Highland.
In Summer 2011, we built an outdoor stage in the field adjacent to the brewery. In 2012, we are building a bigger stage, added an outdoor bar (in a repurposed shipping container, to match our offices), and improved our deck with a stone wall, landscaping and hop vines!
We are still growing. Investments in new equipment for brewing, improvements in quality assurance, more kegs, reducing waste and energy use, and the tasting room are on a long Wish List. We'll keep working at it!
Aside from our commitment to quality, the most important factor in Highland 's longevity and success is the guidance provided by owner/founder Oscar Wong and Vice President John Lyda, who have been at the brewery since its inception. They instill values of integrity and respect in every employee, for people and for our environment. We are thrilled that our humble start, as a three-person operation, has grown into a staff of about forty. Currently, the Highland brand is sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.