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Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...

Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale - Highland Brewing

Not Rated.
Highland Cold Mountain Winter AleHighland Cold Mountain Winter Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
89
very good

308 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 308
Hads: 700
rAvg: 4
pDev: 12.25%
Wants: 85
Gots: 112 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
Highland Brewing visit their website
North Carolina, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  5.80% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: RBorsato on 11-25-2002

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 308 | Hads: 700
Photo of TrappistJohnMD
4.39/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours amber color with thin off-white head that dissipates quickly. No lacing along sides of Firestone Walker snifter.

Smell is chocolate, marshmellow, cranberries, and caramel. Very nice!

Taste is sweet chocolate, malt, and marshmellow. Very mild bitterness.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied. Very smooth and drinkable.

Overall this is awesome! I could drink this all day long! (377 characters)

Photo of tmm313
4.39/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A- Dark brownish red color. Poured a super creamy 1 finger head. Awesome sticky lacing.
S- Raspberry, cranberry, caramel, and a touch of vanilla. Dank hops come out as it warms. Very inviting.
T- Sweetness. Got better and better as it warmed. Rich caramel, earthiness, raspberry, cranberry and vanilla. Cinnamon comes out as temp rises. Slight hop presence.
M- Medium body with medium carbonation. Creamy on the tongue.
O- I really enjoyed this beer. I took it to Xmas dinner to share with family, but drank 95% of it myself. I loved the uncommon flavor combination of the berries, vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. Nicely balanced, as well. (643 characters)

Photo of bigbeerdrinka
4.4/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

First and foremost this is one killer looking bottle if I do say so myself. Pours a deep mahogany color with slight ruby hues and a nice head that leaves a slight lace. Mixes of toffees, caramels, hints of roasted malts, and bits of earthy spices make up the aromas to this brew. There are also some toasted notes and what reminds me of walnuts of chestnuts. Flavors are a heavy dosage of malts throughout with a really powering kick of toffees and toasted malts that just blend together ever so nicely. There are hints of caramels in the mix (in almost a scotch ale sort of flavor), along with some nutty flavors are just a slight hint of spices. The finish is very malty but not overly sweet with hints of vanilla and bits of toffee. Overall this brew was highly drinkable and had a great creamy mouthfeel to it. Unfortunately for me this was my only bottle of this fantastic brew, but at least I get to quaff it all by myself. Get this beer if you can. (955 characters)

Photo of merlin48
4.41/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 edition, just extracted from a fresh case. One liter swingtop bottle crowned with clear plastic shrinkwrap. Served slightly chilled into a St Bernardus goblet.
Pours a clear, dark mahogany body that exhibits a radiant ruby clarity when held to light. Small khaki head quickly falls into a lasting collar and cap. Sporadic sheet lacing is satiny in appearance. The radiant ruby body boasts an exceptional and regal appearance.

Aroma is more subdued than the 2004 version, but is quite intriguing. Toffee, red McIntosh apples, vanilla, and a mysterious floral note comprise the bouquet. My ladyfriend has an excellent sense of smell, and says the floral note is roses. It seems like heather to me. Very lightly spiced compared to last year's version, and there are some vague spicy notes that I can't yet identify.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied. Carbonation is moderated, but still manages to produce a nice tingly sensation.

Taste is exceptional, yet enigmatic and challenging in its superb complexity. Caramel, buttery toffee, fruity red apple, and a floral note that adds a mystery hop bitterness that provides an ideal balance. Spiciness is nicely restrained, with hints of vanilla and allspice. No hint of alcohol, but I suspect that they've cranked this one up a notch, to 6.5 to 7% abv. Lots of flavors and ingredients at work here, mingling together in an exquisite balance. Spices are a minor player compared to the 2004 version. Very tasty, very unique, and stunning in its wonderful drinkability.

The 2005 Cold Mountain is complex and enigmatic. lots of things going on here that are beyond my limited comprehension, but this is an exceptional experience. Very unique, very tasty, and an absolute pleasue to drink. I spent an hour with this liter, and enjoyed every sip. Very smooth and goes down way too easy. So tasty, I was tempted to crack open another liter. Would love to have a keg of this for a Christmas party somewhere. (1,956 characters)

Photo of dirtylou
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber, brought from nc by blackie, on his tractor

appearance: pours light but richens up in the aggregate to a deep copper color, a light foamy beige head forms and leaves a light lacing around the rim

smell: loads of spices - nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, touch a clove...definitely smells of the season...gingerbread, light chocolate, graham cracker aromas..smooth hoppiness, touch of pine

taste: quite tasty, very delicate...tastes like gingerbread, quite nice cinnamon flavours, a very light chocolate flavour in the background...some clove, nutmeg, and other spices of the season...fresh but subdued lightly piney hops, perhaps a touch of pumpkin

mouthfeel: a little thin, moderate carbonation, very delicate on the tongue

drinkability: very drinkable (773 characters)

Photo of beergeek279
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in the wax-sealed 1L swingtop jug, into a pint glass. The color is tawny brown, with a wisp of white head. The smell is a strong raisiny/plum sweetness. The taste is a strong caramel/toffee flavor, with a bit of plum in the flavor and just the lightest touch of hops. Mouthfeel is average. As for drinkability, could have a few.

Thanks to AKSmokedPorter and BIF 8.0 for this bottle. I admit I started by giving this one a 3.8, but as it warmed...wow, so many tastes came out that I just had to adjust my scores. I'm surprised that a sub-6% beer can be this complex, but somehow it manages. Quite good, and this is one I'd likely have again! (650 characters)

Photo of HopDerek
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear ruby copper color with 1/2 inch of thick cream/tan colored head with good retention and lacing. Smells of brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, dough, and a slight hop presence, much like a liquid churro. Big toffee taste mixes with cinnamon, clove, caramel, sugar, and spicy hops for an incredible flavor. Medium in body with good carbonation, smooth and spicy with lots of toffee and holiday spices. Quite a nice winter warmer, very easy to drink and flavorful, but not too sickening, a perfect blend of flavors. (522 characters)

Photo of chaz410
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Got this seasonal fav at Brawley's!
Pours a deep red amber body with a thin white head that deminishes quickly.
Smell is sweet with caramel backbone and loaded with mild spice notes, ranging from corriander to vanilla. Unlike previous years I've had, this year had a fairly tart hop essence.
Taste is sweet and tart with a nice blend of earthy hops and caramel malts. Finishes nicely with spice blended into the grassy and earthy hop character. When it warms a little, the sweet malts come out A WHOLE LOT! Let this thing get to around 55 degrees and enjoy. Definitely my favorite seasonal this year...again! (609 characters)

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Warmly glowing crimson-infused dark bronze that is as clear as the Cold Mountain air. The cap is toasted marshmallow in color with a slight hint of orange; a wonderful complement to the beer on which it sits. It's thick and creamy, in no hurry to depart, and deposits a good bit of lace on the upper portion of the glass. A pleasing look for a winter warmer.

The nose is rich, malty and inviting. It reminds me of warm cocoa with a generous sprinkling of spice. In fact, this is the most cocoa-like (not chocolate-like) nose that I've ever run across. Try as I might, I can't even begin to guess what spices have been added. Warming brings out definite brown sugar notes, upping the ante and making me love it all the more.

The flavor is different from any winter warmer in recent memory. It's perhaps closest to a porter in terms of mouthfeel, even though it isn't very porter-like in execution. The flavor is low in terms of roastedness, leaning more heavily towards milk chocolate, toffee and vanilla. It reminds me of chai, which makes me think that cardamom and ginger are at least two of the added spices. Different and delicious.

Hops play a secondary role, yet their bitterness is noticeable throughout. Unlike most winter warmers, this one favors tea-like bitter over sweet (no wonder the chai comparison comes so easily to mind). I normally prefer sweet and sippable, but it's hard to argue with what the brewers at Highland have created. There's no evidence of alcohol. If forced to guess, I'd say the ABV is in the vicinity of 6.0%.

I was initially a little let down with the body/mouthfeel. I expect the good versions of this style (which this most definitely is) to be at least medium-full and to be slightly chewy. Things have improved with time and warming, but it still favors the easily drinkable side of the continuum over the full, sticky and sippable. I've chosen not to mark it down since it's well within the bounds of acceptable and since it absolutely oozes quality.

CMWA is a uniquely flavored beer from what I've decided is the best brewery in the state of North Carolina. Since winters in the Tar Heel State don't come close to resembling winters in the upper Midwest, there's no need to create a heavy, high alcohol ale to warm the natives. An amazingly delicious one like Cold Mountain will suffice quite nicely. (2,357 characters)

Photo of Treyliff
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A- pours dark copper color with a two-finger light creamy head, good retention after pour, a bit of lace

S- dried cranberry, vanilla bean, hazelnut, sweet raspberry fruit, sweet caramel malt. Aromas are pronounced and inviting, very nice

T- so many flavors going on; vanilla, berries, hazelnut, dried cranberry with a raspberry tartness, the finish is balanced by sweet caramel malt. By far one of the most complex winter Warner's I've had.

M- medium body, low carbonation, creamy mouthfeel, velvety smooth finish

O- most Winter Warmers seem to taste the same for the most part, but this one sets itself apart from all of the other typical flavors of the style. The flavors are more complex and are reminiscent of the season. I'd gladly purchase this again and again. (772 characters)

Photo of SPLITGRIN
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A fluffy three finger light tan head has nice retention leaving scattered lace as it fades. Body is an incredibly dark brown with ruby notes when held to light. Nose is big and malty with some rich spicey roasty notes. Candied malts awaken the taste buds on first sip. Like well made pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon. Nicely balanced and very smooth throughout the palate. A wonderful winter brew or year round pleaser. For that matter. Maybe a hint of cherry pie filling also. Very pleasant mouthfeel on the sweet side. I would love to have lots of these in my fridge. (570 characters)

Photo of blackie
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 Release

appearance: The pour into my snifter creates a low, off white head that quickly recedes to only a collar around the glass. The color of the beer is a very nice reddish mahogany.

smell: considerable carob aroma, light holiday (pie) spice, hops very hard to find but they're there. Reminds me almost perfectly of my grandma's sweet potato casserole (toasted marshmallows, brown sugar, spice, butter, sweet potato). *Melted marshmallows, candied orange, crystallized ginger, vanilla, toffee.

mouthfeel: The carbonation is maybe slightly less than medium, as is the body.

taste: The same carob I found on the nose is big here. Again I am reminded of sweet potato casserole. The spice is less noticeable on the tongue. Plenty of hops provide a good balance, becoming most evident after the initial flavor rush. *Graham cracker, sassafrass.

drinkability: very easy drinking for such a flavorful beer.

This is my first ever Higland Cold Mountain Winter Ale. A very intricate and complex beer. *I revisited this beer after a couple months to attempt to isolate some more of its nuances.

2006 Release: I was going to make another review for this year's, but it seems pretty simlar to last year. Same rich brown color, and nice retention of the slight head. Buttery cookie dough, spicy bread, and vanilla notes. Light, floral hops. Cinnamon-sugar toast. Seems to be a higher hop profile than last year, but it could just be fresher. At present, the hops block out a little of the aroma and flavor.

2011: Fairly consistent with years past. A Christmas classic for the home state. I will add that, now that it's described on the bottle, there's an evident hazelnut aroma. Picked up a bomber at Bottle Revolution in Raleigh. Gonna let the old scores stand. (1,764 characters)

Photo of TheEclecticGent
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This winter warmer is from one of my favorite breweries – Highland Brewing Company, Ashville, NC!! Salute! This beer pours a dark amber color with light carbonation. The smell is a deep spicy aroma. The taste is a deep and murky red “Scottish” ale flavor with spices and a nice molasses finish. The mouth feel is slightly heavy and full. This is a great beer, I need to go get more before the season passes. (410 characters)

Photo of numenor1
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer is unlike anything else I have ever had, incredibly unique. I feel the sum of its component parts, while recognizable, add up to something greater, creating new flavors. I poured my entire 1 liter bottle into my 1L german stein. It's a clear ruby, auburn brown with a creamy tan head. The foam tastes like candy. Smells sweet of cherries, some brown sugar and a faint bitter twinge. Taste upfront is sour/marashino cherries but minus the incredible sweetness. Then a solid bitterness emerges, preventing anything from becoming cloying. In the meantime flavor really depends on what you focus on. There's brown sugar, more cherry, some vanilla, there's some faint smokiness, and an incredible interplay thereof. The flavors really work well together. Bitterness keeps everything in check. The finish lingers for quite a while, very smooth, almost a buttery finish yet not diacetyl. I won't guess as to the spices used. Mouthfeel is medium, with relatively low carbonation, making it very chewy. Very drinkable. This is unlike any other beer i've ever had. I'm exercising restraint in not popping open my second liter. (1,126 characters)

Photo of dgallina
4.47/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1 pint, 9 fluid ounce brown bottle without freshness dating.

Pours clear copper-tinged brown, with thin creamy tan head and great lace retention. Smells enticingly spicy and doughy. Primarily orange, ginger, cinnamon, and anise on a cookie and caramel malt base. Flavor strongly favors the Christmas spices. Doughy anise, ginger and orange are dominant notes and form something of a less-fruity liquid fruitcake. Finishes with gently drying hop touches, big black pepper, and cinnamon. Nicely balanced body keeps this easy-drinking throughout. Very good and the best of the Highland brews I've sampled so far. (612 characters)

Photo of malthead
4.47/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This bottle is probably a year old, received in a trade from Brentk56.
Nice dark chestnut color, most of the head fades quick, but leaves a nice lacing. Smells of sweet caramel, toasted malts. Maybe a rich, nutty spiked chai? Nice clean aroma. Tastes like it smells, big and malty but not cloyingly sweet. Smokey aftertaste. Almost a red grape skin mouthfeel. Very drinkable. Definitely one of my new favorites. (412 characters)

Photo of largadeer
4.47/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Reddish-brown, clear with a light tan head. The head recedes to a ring within just a minute or two. This beer has a great color to it, especially when held to the light - very pretty stuff.

Smell: Very sweet but with a lot of unique character. Notes of toasted marshmallow, hot chocolate and gingerbread. This beer epitomizes all things Winter, and it's wonderful.

Taste & mouthfeel: Sweet but not cloying, full-bodied but highly drinkable. The taste isn't far from the nose: graham cracker, toasted marshmallow, gingerbread cookie, cocoa and caramel wafer all come to mind. The finish is thankfully dry and mildly bitter, adding a much needed counterpoint to the initial sweetness.

Notes: A big thanks to Loki for this one - I think I just found my new favorite Winter Warmer. (792 characters)

Photo of ncbeermonger
4.47/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer is seasonal, and tastes like christmas!

It pours a little dark, and has good head

Smells of nutmeg, cinnamon, and spice.

The taste is good, not over powering!

the mouthfeel is almost crisp, and not heavy

This is one of the most drinkable beers of its kind, check it out if you get a chance (304 characters)

Photo of shand
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into a Sam Adams perfect pint.

This beer pours a beautiful deep red color with a tiny head that laces very well. Aroma is sweet and spicy, with a solid amount of vanilla, sweet malts, and holiday spices. The taste is absolutely delicious, with a large amount of hazelnut/cream soda flavor on the tongue that I really didn't expect among the sweet malts, vanilla and spices that I did expect. It's perfectly balanced with the spices coming in a bit stronger on the finish to stop the overall impression from being too sweet. The mouthfeel is slick and with a perfect level of carbonation, and the drinkability is very good. Overall, this is an absolutely fantastic winter warmer. I'm glad I know a store that still has some of these left, because I'm going back for more. (792 characters)

Photo of doppelmeup
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

have to say that this is my favorite Winter Warmer, and I can hardly wait for its release each year. There is some great beer being brewed in North Carolina, and Highland Brewing is one of my favorite breweries.

Appearance: This beer is gorgeous to look at. A topaz colored brew with a thick, rich head that lasted all the way down the glass.

Aroma: This beer smells like a holiday party. Milk Chocolate, vanilla bean, brown sugar, sweet butter cream and just a hint of spice. Interestingly, the vanilla aroma remains throughout the glass. A key point about the vanilla. I've had some beer where the vanilla had a very artificial feel. In the case of Cold Mountain Ale, the vanilla aroma smells natural and real. I find myself looking for the vanilla been specs.

Taste: Sweet and malty. Brown sugar, vanilla beans, milk chocolate, slightly spicy, maybe a cinnamon or allspice note? But the spiciness is very subtle. The vanilla is well done. Not a lot in the way of hop flavor, but I wasn't really looking for a lot in this brew. A nice balance where the malty sweetness is pronounced, but not syrupy or cloying.

Mouthfeel: Creamy with a slightly dry finish. Velvety comes to mind.

Overall: This is a superb offering from Highland. IMO, it is the best Winter Warmer out there. I hope Highland Brewing keeps this year's recipe as the new standard. Track down a bottle of this beer any way you can. You will not be disappointed! (1,435 characters)

Photo of KnucklesMcFisty
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%

Wow...this is a pretty beer...the color is very inviting! Smell leans towards vanilla and caramelized sugar. Nothing really takes center stage in the taste...vanilla, dark fruit, raisins, sweetness from the malt and a dry, slightly spicy finish from the hops and cinnamon. This beer is all about balance...flavor, mouthfeel, aroma....they are all perfectly balanced making this an excellent winter warmer! (406 characters)

Photo of rangerred
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber into a pint glass.

Pours a clear dark reddish brown with just a tiny tan head.

Smells of caramel, malt and spice. Some cinnamon and orange. No detectable hop aroma.

The taste is much like the smell although caramel and toffee come through quite strong. There is also an orange flavor that fades to an assertive hop bitterness although it is not too severe.

Overall this is an excellent beer and one of the best examples of the style that I have had. While I do feel it could use a little more alcohol to add warmth, the body does not suffer due to it only being 5.8%. I will definitely seek this beer out again. (627 characters)

Photo of Jhansengranger
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Typically not a fan of winter ales as I generally find them over spiced. This winter ale is definitely an exception.

A- Caramel brown to amber color with only a little bit of head, less than I was expecting, maybe I should have opened it sooner. Still a nice color though.

S- Wonderful smell, caramel and a bit of sweet fruit to it. Still smells slightly like Christmas without being overpowering in the least.

T- The smell of the beer did not disappoint. Lots of sweet fruit notes and just a small hint of those winter spices you expect. Vanilla and berries stand out a bit. A bit more alcohol flavor than I was expecting based on the ABV.

M- Quite creamy and nice to drink, certainly a go-to beverage for winter.

O- Easy to drink with hints of interesting spices that are very complimentary to the ale. Sweet flavors but not too sweet to drink by the gallon. I'd highly recommend this well balanced beer. (911 characters)

Photo of homersimpson
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Version 2003
1 Liter Bottle
Clear, dark amber brew with light tan head.
Scents of sweet malt and spices.
Medium, smooth body with light carbonation.
Initially, spicy up front with just enough of a crisp hopto make it clean. Not much sweet with the spice, and the malt is definately hidden. Has a long spicy finish.
Definately on of my favorite winter brews, but could use a boost in alcohol and malt (they do go hand in hand!)
Needs a bit of a sweet burn in the finish to make it perfect. (495 characters)

Photo of norcar
4.52/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Oh how I look forward to this year after year. Got it on tap on the release day in Asheville.

A: Uniform dark copper with a medium 1 1/2 finger head. Good lacing with some retention.

S: This is what I enjoy about the beer. It stands out with smells of strong vanilla, slight malts and spices.

T: This winter warmer starts off creamy with a solid balance of tastes of vanilla and malts matching the smell, and is followed up with a very slight hop taste at the end. Seems it is lacking in the complexity and spices as usually expected from years past.

M: Light and very easy to drink. Slight alcohol and good carbonation. Doesn't give you what you expect, very thin.

D: I can drink this beer day in and day out. Though it is not one of my prized beers for its rarity, style or just an amazing complex beer and it seems to be less spicey this year as years past, Cold Mountain is my comfort beer. It reminds me of past times, good friends and the holidays in WNC. So without and objective point of view, if you see it out pick it up and give it a try. (1,056 characters)

Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 308 ratings.