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Highland Brewing Oatmeal Porter

By Andy Murphy
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highland oatmeal porter2Just three more beers remain in my North Carolina Beer Week sponsored by reader Kevin, whose selections for today and tomorrow include two dark beers from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville.

The Highland motto is “just a wee bit different”, and this beer’s name is a nice example. Though oatmeal stouts abound on the beer market, I’ve never come across an oatmeal porter before. The name conjures to mind a creamy, smokey, sweetly-roasted ale — but I’m ready to stop imagining and start tasting.

I poured the Oatmeal Porter into a standard pint glass, and even before the 12 oz bottle was half-empty, the energetic head nearly overflowed. That huge, creamy head crowned the top of this dark beer like a beige pillow. The foam was determined to stick around and laced the glass heavily as I drank.

Though the foam was effusive, the aroma was restrained. Highland Oatmeal Porter reluctantly released a roasted malt aroma. The scent was delicate, with hints of chocolate and soft oatmeal sweetness. It’s pleasant, but it left me hoping the taste would give me something more to write about.

I’m pleased to report it did.

The Highland Oatmeal Porter is rich and bitter, yet strikingly smooth. Roasted malt and herbal hops caress the tongue as you begin to drink. The bitterness falters for a moment as the taste crests into a creamy, sweet-coffee middle — but the roasted malt returns, easing into a delicately bitter finish. These aren’t flavor extremes — the hops, roasted malt, and oatmeal sweetness oscillate through the medians of flavor. It creates a smooth but rich drinking experience that makes this beer quite a pleasure to quaff.

It’s label describes the beer as:

“A unique Highland creation, this robust beer is black in color, very malty with hints of chocolate-roasted flavor and a well balanced hop character.”

The description is brief, to the point, and accurate. I can only hope to learn from Highland’s example!

Tomorrow’s Highland brew is the Black Mocha Stout. Judging from the name alone, I’m sure the Black Mocha Stout will be as assertive as the Oatmeal Porter is restrained. Join me tomorrow to find out!

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Categories : Beer a Day



Glad you enjoyed it, and the fact that it seems (at least to my somewhat limited experience) a uniquely-brewed beer coming from North Carolina is part of what prompted me to include it in the batch. The other part is that I just really, really like the beer.

It’s interesting that you described it as ‘restrained’. I wonder if that is because we are so used to the massive flavors of Imperial Oatmeal stouts, like the wonderful Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S., which is almost overwhelming in it’s flavor profile. One of the reasons I like this beer is because while all of the elements are there when compared with an oatmeal stout (with the additional slight bitterness that seems to be unique, and appropriate as a porter), it does not ‘insist upon itself’, to borrow a turn of phrase from ‘Family Guy’.

I won’t pretend to be able to pick out a porter versus a stout blind most days without my trusty BJCP app, but that slight hop bitterness is not something you get in the oatmeal stout beers I have had, where the sweetness of the oatmeal and the roastiness of the malts take over completely and the brewers seem to be going for a creamier mouthfeel. That is part of what I like about this porter ~ it certainly gives you the elements you are familiar with, but the additional bite of the finish make this a unique beer.


Taddy Smith’s Oatmeal Porter is probably (in my humble opinion) a better (if more largely batched) version of the style.

But I like this one as well. Great to see you doing some Carolina beers - I live in Chapel Hill (home to the Carolina Brewery and of course the Carolina Pale Ale … not their greatest beer in my opinion, but certainly still of good quality).

I don’t know the name, but Durham, NC now has a brewing company (Left Hand, maybe? Don’t know why that name is sticking in my head) that is producing some serious (and seriously expensive) high-quality small-batch beers. They will definitely be a bigger player in the coming years in NC local beers.

Two great (and rather large) microbreweries here in Chapel Hill give us a tiny taste of what it must be like to live in Oregon … ;)

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