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Highland Brewing Company to launch new look
How the assembly line at Highland Brewing Company bottled its 20th anniversary liter bottles of Imperial Cold Mountain winter ale. Angela Wilhelmfirstname.lastname@example.org; Angeli Wrightemail@example.com
ASHEVILLE – After 24 years of brewing beer in Asheville, Highland Brewing Company, the city's oldest brewery, will soon launch a rebrand.
The new look launches in February, and will introduce sweeping changes to the brewery's aesthetics, from labels and logos to taproom design.
And yes, the iconic Scotsman on the brewery's labeling is going away — but it's not as though he's been banished from the building, said Highland's Marketing Manager Molly McQuillan.
"He's not something we're ashamed about and hidden forever," she laughed.
But he will be relegated to a history of Highland memorabilia wall, with a big paper mache mascot still standing sentry in the brewery.
And though marketing materials, labeling and tap handles will no longer bear his image, McQuillan said the packaging will still retain enough iconic imagery that it will be easily identifiable on store shelves. "I don't think we're changing so much that people won't be able to recognize the brand."
The Austin-based Helms Workshop, which has experience with craft beer and working with heritage brands, has assisted the brewery in the rebranding, designing an entirely new look in labeling, packaging, point of sale, marketing and even in the brewery’s tasting room.
Highland Brewing's labeling will now highlight locally focused, outdoorsy imagery, including the Blue Ridge Mountains and a pioneer’s compass. Labels and other marketing materials will also carry the clear messaging that Highland is the city's first brewery. "There will be more ownership of our status as Asheville's original craft brewery," said McQuillan.
The tasting room is also getting a facelift, with fresh paint and other updating to come.
Highland Brewing was founded in 1994 by retired engineer and entrepreneur Oscar Wong as the city’s first brewery, then located in a basement in downtown Asheville.
Now distributed in seven states, and with an annual production of more than 46,000 barrels, Highland is one of the largest breweries in the Southeast. Today, the company is led by Wong’s daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn, and has more than 50 full-time employees.
With the brand such a familiar face of the local brewery scene, an image overhaul is a bold move.
“We’ve been refreshing our brand through our beer for over two years," Ashburn explained in a statement.
She referenced the company's foray into canning and introduction of newer beers, including several IPAs and a forthcoming barrel-aged and sour program. “Because we lead with beer ... we created a divide between our beer and our brand — it’s time to close the divide.”
On the barrel-aged front, the brewery recently acquired some Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels, into which it's added the Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout.
And in April, it will release its first kettle sour in brewery-released, limited-edition cans, emblazoned with local artwork.
The new look arrives in February, with a brand relaunch party. The event won't be all forward-looking, however.
McQuillan said the brewery plans to resurrect some retired usual subjects and seasonals for the relaunch, so perhaps old friends like the Kashmir English-style IPA might make an appearance.
"We want to make people feel really comfortable with the refresh with a little nostalgia," she said. "We're still Highland."
Highland Brewing is at 12 Old Charlotte Highway. More: www.highlandbrewing.com