Reviewed: Roadhouse Brewing Highwayman Belgian Session Ale
Product description: Pairs with a cabin on the river, wild mushrooms, light fuse getaway. 5% ABV, 35 IBUs.
Highwayman is part of Roadhouse Brewing’s (Jackson Hole, WY) core lineup of six beers, which includes an IPA, APA, Session IPA, Blonde Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale, and this Belgian Session Ale. I was fortunate enough to try four of these six, and all of them were impressive.
Highwayman is clear pale golden in color with soapy-looking, large-bubbled, white foam powered by hefty carbonation. Surprisingly, there’s a full layer of yeast sediment in the bottom of the Red Stripe-style stubby brown bottle.
The aroma is on point with a prominent yeasty character. You get phenolic white pepper, herbal sage, lemon peel, and perfume. The taste is similarly Belgian in feel: bone dry and herbal to the max. There’s a slightly soapy and chemical bite in the mid-palate, but the sage-like herbal bitterness ends up dominating through the long finish. Bitterness is perhaps a touch higher than one would expect at a 5 out of 10 intensity-wise. Meanwhile, good acidity builds like real sourdough after each sip creating a lactic style buildup in the back of the palate. For balance, there’s a nice bran/cracked grain character that brings this closer to the beer I was expecting.
When I see “Highwayman Session Beer” from Wyoming with a big pickup truck on the front, I’m thinking a very American blue-collar beer like a pale lager or cream ale. To get this Belgian pale ale is definitely a surprise. Sure, the side label does indicate the beer is a Belgian-style pale ale, but it’s in ant-sized font and is written vertically. It’s glaringly absent on the primary obverse label most consumers will look at when shopping for beer.
In addition, the body is actually more substantial than the 4.8% on the label (5% is mentioned on the website) would indicate. Halfway through the glass, I would guess that this was closer to 6.8%. It becomes a filling beer that is spicy and prickly on the palate rather than smooth and refreshing. I think part of that may be the combination of the sharper bitterness with the dry finish. Because of that, Highwayman is not a great substitute for the quenching every day after work beer in my opinion, so doesn’t really match the branding.
Overall, it’s not what I expected, but Highwayman is nicely executed – ticking the boxes for assertively yeasty aroma, herbal bitterness, and dry finish that point towards a Belgian pale ale.