In day 2 of our Oktoberfest, we get down and beery with Highland Brewing of North Carolina. You might be asking what Ashville’s original brewery knows about true-blue Oktoberfest.To find out, we chatted with Robert Stockdale, Highland’s Marketing Assistant. Some of his answers reveal a little more insight into the pioneering spirit behind their brand.
ABC: Why Clawhammer Oktoberfest?
Highland: Clawhammer Oktoberfest was first released in 2008 as Highland Brewing Company’s fall seasonal. Originally brewed in reaction to the fact that so many other breweries at the time were releasing pumpkin beers as their fall seasonal, our then-brewmaster decided to buck that trend and create a classic rendition of a Märzen lager. The Clawhammer’s recipe has remained the same over the past decade, but this year it makes its debut in brand new packaging to align with Highland’s company-wide rebrand which occurred in February of this year.
So you felt like you needed a new label for the rebrand?
Yes. This new packaging features a pattern that recalls different elements of story behind Clawhammer. The German alpine hats and handlebar moustaches are a reminder of the original Oktoberfest that is celebrated in Munich every year. The bicycles on the packaging relate to this beer’s namesake, Clawhammer Mountain, which is known for its mountain biking trails. The banjos, meanwhile, refer to the clawhammer style of banjo playing that has long been a feature in Appalachian folk music.
How is Clawhammer different from your original Oktoberfest?
Brewed as an authentic representation of a Märzen lager, Clawhammer is smooth, complex, and crisp. Clawhammer places an emphasis on the spice of the noble hops that we use. Hallertau Mittlefruh, German Select, and Sterling hops (an American hop variety known for its noble-esque character) provide a spiciness that beautifully balances the rich, toasty malt character of this beer.
What does Highland bring to the Oktoberfest style that others don’t?
As Highland moves forward with creating new and innovative beers, the annual release of Clawhammer remains a benchmark that ties us to a long brewing tradition stretching back hundreds of years. Highland’s focus on quality and consistency is a promise to our fans that Clawhammer, and all our core beers, will remain the same year after year.
Ok, we’re in love with your Oktoberfest. When can we get more and are you working on any other version?
Clawhammer fans who visit our tasting room will be excited to know that more German-style beers will be tapped in the near future thanks to brewer Katie Smith. She has an affinity for all beers German (she’s fresh from a scholarship with the Pink Boots Society, and was able to travel to Germany to study brewing techniques earlier this year). Upcoming beers include a modern festbier and a more traditional Helles.