Entering a new product niche Beer that’s not for beer drinkers
We were introduced to the team at Highland Brewing several months before they were set to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The first brewery to put down roots in Asheville, N.C., Highland had recently completed a successful brand refresh and were excited to reach out to new audiences with fresh, inventive beers on the cusp of their silver anniversary.
Highland Brewing has built a reputation for crafting a solid line of year-round, seasonal, and limited release beers that incorporate many local ingredients. However, they recently developed an interest in creating beers that go beyond their established repertoire, specifically cocktail-inspired beers. Over the years, Highland’s team has seen the collective market’s palette shift and change — so they wanted to create a beer that wasn’t for your typical DIPA hop head. They set out to make something light and effervescent — something a little bit like an Aperol Spritz and a lot like a perfect beer for a day in the sun.
The brewers set to work — with a few of those famous cocktails in their bellies — blending a kettle sour with another brew so they could get the perfect balance of bubbly tartness and the right flavors to translate the Aperol Spritz profile. What resulted was a great beer for people who, frankly, don’t drink much beer: new drinkers who have eclectic tastes and like special beverages for specific occasions.
With so much of their identity steeped in the culture of North Carolina, the team at Highland Brewing had debated the idea of naming the beer with homage to Appalachia. However, when we sat down to speak with them, it became apparent that this idea was a bit controversial and, more importantly, might not signal a departure from the rest of their offerings. The brewers, marketers, and distributors all agreed that the beer was innovative, and a name that focused too heavily on the cultural history of the region might alienate non-local audiences.
Honor the origin story Channel a moment
The more we heard from the Highland Brewing team the more we realized that this beer was about celebrating, and not just the big anniversary on the brewery’s calendar. It was about toasting the small victories in life, finding time for a stroll in the park, finishing all the household chores for the weekend, hosting a cook-out with your favorite neighbors. It was about leisure and refreshing moments.
The name would need to be fun and approachable. It would also need to work as a clear bar call, or when someone might recommend it at a pool party. Everyone from bartenders to distributors will be saying this name and evangelizing it in one way or the other, so it’s important that the name hit the right note. Even shelf space in grocery stores is a commodity in limited supply — and it’s an opportunity for an interesting name to do some heavy lifting.
Ultimately, the name that bubbled to the top for the Highland Brewing team was one inspired by the key ingredient in the beers inspiration. Aperol is an apéritif made from a flower, a root, and other botanicals that has a refreshing, herbal flavor. Our team at A Hundred Monkeys imagined those ingredients being carefully crushed up and steadily fed into a shimmering brew kettle — a Slow Crush.
The name, Slow Crush, tells a story about the tradition and composition of the Aperol Spritz cocktail. It’s a name that makes you want to take your time with this beer — as to be savored and appreciated. At the same time, it captures a mood and state of mind that embody the sunny afternoons and occasions that the brewers hoped to celebrate. It even has some romance to it, describing that early, effervescent feeling of infatuation. The launch of the beer has been a hit for Highland. Our team hopes to visit them in Asheville someday for a pint of sunshine — until then, we’ll patiently wait for Slow Crush to make its way to the West Coast. Cheers!
+++ Slow Crush +++ Highland Brewing +++ Highland Brewing’s 25th Anniversary celebration (video)