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Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale - Highland Brewing

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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

310 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 310
Hads: 714
Avg: 4
pDev: 13%
Wants: 89
Gots: 120 | FT: 6
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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 310 | Hads: 714
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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of AlexFields
4.52/5  rDev +13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

EDIT: the recipe for this beer changes every year and this review is based on the winter 2010-11 vintage.

I've had this beer many times, mostly from bottles but also on tap. This review is a summation of my love affair with this awesome beer rather than notes from any particular tasting.

A: Just looks like a brown ale. Which makes sense, considering they use a brown ale as the base. Nice brown color and a really nice head for a brown ale, but nothing remarkable.

S: At this point it's hard for me to separate the nose from the taste on this, as when I smell it I can't help but imagine what I'm about to taste. That said, the nose is weaker than the taste. Smells sweet and creamy, recognize as a brown ale but obviously some spices going on, maybe some vanilla.

T: Amazing! The brown ale base is apparent, but much sweeter and richer than a standard brown ale and with little hint of the slight roasty tartness common to brown ales. Instead, you get huge creamy flavors. Winter spices here for sure, the kind of stuff you would put into a pumpkin pie, but they work their magic here in a subtle way and don't dominate the flavor. Some vanilla flavor too. It all works together perfectly.

M: Extraordinarily smooth and creamy. Like drinking silk, if silk were a tasty beverage. The mouthfeel is the most unique and memorable thing about this beer, I always look forward to it and it always matches or exceeds my expectations. Never had anything else quite like it. Just fantastic. Almost like a cask beer coming out of a bottle.

Overall: One of my all time favorite beers. Before I had this beer, I had very little regard for anything described as a "winter warmer," and in fact I still haven't had anything else from that category that really impressed me, but I like this beer so much that I'm willing to afford respect to the category just based on what Cold Mountain proves its potential to be. I just wish this stuff were easier to find outside of Asheville! A few bottles a year is not enough.


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Photo of joepais
4.53/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to brentk56 for sending this want along in his black booty package 22oz bomber poured in to my DFH snifter produced a two finger tan head that trailed of to a thick lace the body of the brew was a nice burgandy color when held to the light

The aromas coming of it are quite pleasing Coco not roasted in any ways, some sweet caramel malt, vanilla and other spices I associate with winter.

The flavor is quite a surprise, I really like it. The ale was like a malted milk chocolate, but the wrong color if you know what I mean. Just a creamy and full in the mouth as I would expect. The sweetness was there along with the vanilla.

I was really blow away by this one and will defiantly look for it again next year. A great winter warmer one of the best I have tried

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Photo of shivtim
4.54/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Highland is an under-appreciated brewery. This is easily one of my favorite Christmas/seasonal ales. Poured out of the big flip-top bottle into a pint glass. It's translucent dark amber/copper, with a slight head. Nose is delicious biscuity malts and caramel with gingerbread and vanilla icing. Very good combination of aromas! Taste is nutty, with cinnamon, like those windmill cookies. Malts linger for a while. Mouthfeel is quite good, and drinkability is high, especially when compared to many winter warmers that have cloying alcohol or overwhelming cloves and nutmeg. Another great brew from Highland!

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Photo of DeaconBluez
4.55/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5


poured a fading brown. little over a finger head. lacing is better than the head.

i can smell very little in this. little bit of malts and spice.

taste. wow! now this what i think most winter warmers should strive for. hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. vanilla pops its head in there as well. perfect blend. some hops. but the spices is what really stands out on this. it really makes one think of the holidays.

mouthfeel is nice. there is not a lot of carbonation on this, which is nice, i am not burping on this.

drinkability is very good. i wish this was offered all year long. the taste is what make this beer a good one in my book. wish i was in a state that sold this because i would go out by several more right now. go buy now!!

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Photo of mikeys01
4.55/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer came to me courtesy of GCBrewingCo as part of the infamous OneBox BIF, and I’m pleased to report this beer previously unbeknownst to me is damn downright delicious. Not knowing what to expect, this winter ale appeared in my pint a dirty sunset of reddish brown, quite good clarity with just a hint of chill haze. A modest light tan head caps this beer at pour, soon fading to a thin layer of foam and lacing.

Aroma is very toffee sweet and malty, giving a mere hint of its true nature. At the first taste, the Cold Mountain is lightly nutty (almond and hazelnut to me) and pleasantly sweet with a dash of spice and a pleasant vanilla character. Just a trace of hop presence lingers in the foreground as well, with a bit of apple nudging its way in there. Body is on the full side of medium and this brew is exceedingly drinkable. Finish is clean and malty sweet. I think I could drink many pints of this one. This is a beer that is just plain good without being extreme in any way.

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Photo of BlackBelt5112203
4.55/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle poured into a mug at cellar temperature.

L – Amber-brown color with a big 4-finger bubbly, foamy, cream-colored head. Really nice retention and some awesome patchy lacing. Clear with a very nice amount of bubbles.

S – A great malt profile with caramel, bready, nutty, and toasted aromas with some brown sugar and hazelnut notes in particular. As for spices, I’m getting some cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg aromas. Not as spice-heavy as some winter warmers, but that’s just fine with me. The malt aromas are too good to mask. As for the added fruit extracts, there may be just a hint of them. I probably wouldn’t have picked them out without reading the label.

T – The taste starts off sweet with caramel and bready malt, brown sugar, and hazelnut flavors. Again, the added fruit extracts are maybe ever so slightly present. Dry toasted malt and spice flavors come in next. The spices are much stronger in the taste (but still not as strong and overpowering as some winter warmers) with cinnamon and ginger being the frontrunners. Earthy and herbal smoothly bitter hops appear toward the finish along with a dry cranberry taste. There are those fruits!

F – Medium-to-full-bodied with nice carbonation, a smooth and creamy mouthfeel, and a bittersweet, slightly spicy, and dry finish. A wonderful mix of flavors including sweet malts, zesty spices, and bitter hops and fruits linger. Alcohol is nowhere to be found, and, as a result, this beer is amazingly drinkable.

O – This is a terrific winter warmer. It has a rich and hearty malt profile with just the right amount of seasonal spices mixed in. In addition, it is insanely drinkable. I finished the bomber before I knew it. Even better, it’s only 5.8% ABV! Who ever heard of a sessionable winter warmer? I personally love the idea. Awesome beer from Highland.

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Photo of atsprings
4.55/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wow, I was certain this beer was gone for this year when my friends and I visited Tyler's taproom in Carboro and found they still had this on draft! The waitress said they had pulled it aside several times so they would have it later than anyone else. The beer possessed a deep rich ruby color with a thin off white head that was moderately diminishing and left very spotty lacing on the glass. The aroma was of layers of malts with some mild spices present as well. The taste presented a very complex spice variety on top of a great malt backbone. There was a presence of both vanilla and dried fruit.The mouthfeel was low in carbonation and the alcohol was very well hidden by the spice blend. This is a very great beer for a cold winter night, I just wish it was available in stores for more than 2 to 3 weeks each year.

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Photo of gabe23
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Dark reddish brown with a thick head that holds up quite well. The lacing is wonderful.

S - Sweet, malty and grainy. Perhaps some vanilla and cinnamon, but it's hard to distinguish all the individual scents. Very, very nice.

T - This beer is a malt lover's dream. Toasty and sweet, with a tiny hop bite to keep things in balance. The spice adds a great winter/holiday feel, without being overpowering.

M - Creamy and smooth with just enough carbonation.

D - I split a 22oz bomber with my Dad on Christmas Eve, and I immediately wished we each had our own bottle. This is a fantastic winter ale that goes down smooth and warms you on a cold night. While it's not light by any means, it seems to have a low ABV, and I could drink it all night.

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Photo of BrewMaster
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Clear, bright red color with a lacy head.

Smell: Very interesting and unique aroma on this beer. Strong scents of berries (strawberries maybe?) and a bit of a citrus not as well. It has a very enticing and good smell.

Taste: Wow. Cherry with a light maltiness topped with a spices, strawberry, brown sugar, and cinnamon. There is a nice balance of pine/spruce type flavor in there as well. The beer finishes with some sweetness and tanginess. It is a treat in the mouth.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth and clean in the palate. The flavors blend so well and balance on the palate that one cannot help but enjoy this fantastic brew.

Drinkability: I was a bit sad that I had only one bottle of this to drink. Since finishing this bottle I keep wishing I had more. This is a great beer to drink with dinner. I paired it with some BBQ chicken, rice pilaf, and green salad and this beer complimented it all very well. I could drink this beer all day if I could get my hands on more of it.

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Photo of LuckySevens82
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22oz bottle courtesy of Jason at Knightly Spirits.
Pours a deep reddish brown with about a finger of deep tan head. Retention is lacking, but lacing and collar are quite nice.
Smell is deep cocoa, some caramel, toffee, and slight hops. Dark fruits abound and are all covered in a chocolate scent. Cherries, plums, etc, are present, all cordial and all very nice.
Flavor is profound chocolate, almost like hot cocoa. Chocolate covered cherries, slight to moderate hop bitterness and just a hint of bakers chocolate round this one out.
Mouthfeel is full and wonderful.
Overall, an exceptional winter beer worthy of a cold night or any other night for that matter. This is a beer worth seeking out no matter the cost. I have yet to have an even mediocre beer from Highland, and this exceeds all expectaion. Just darn great.

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Photo of Atricapilla
4.58/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

My wife and I really liked this beer. Pours a light-medium copper color, although when held up to the light, had some golden to it....Smells strongly of malt and slight (very) herbalness. Taste was malty and had a sweet aftertaste, almost like candy sugar. Taste had a bit of ethanol to it as well. This beer went great with dinner.

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1 Liter wax-sealed bottle courtesy of the great NC BA Loki.

Appearance: Popping the top resulted in a satisfying "Pfft" of gas out of the bottle and this lovely poured a beautiful DEEP and clear ruby red with a massive, billowing tan-colored head that just refuses to yield, die down, or otherwise behave itself. Big splotches of lace line my oversized glass.

Smell: Dominating the aromas are the great combination of wintry spice and caramel sweetness. There's a "toasted cinnamon" kick to this that was awesome. Some other dark fruit aromas as well. "Busy"? Hell yeah.

Taste: Nothing disappoints here. Very well-balanced with an initial sweetness tossed with spice that quickly becomes tempered by a hoppy bitterness. At the end, a toasty malt shows up to please the palate. Only a very slight alcohol flavor noted right at the very end. Superbly balanced.

Mouthfeel and Drinkability: Definitely a big, creamy, coat-your-palate beer we have here! Thick, chewy in character. Drinkability is definitely a 5.0. So very well-balanced, flavorful, and easy to drink. I'm very, VERY glad to have finally been able to try this gem from North Carolina. If, in a few years, the ABV limit is raised, this would be a candidate for pumping up the ABV and see what happens. Seek this one out, gang. You'll be glad you did.

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Photo of SaCkErZ9
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A beautiful, deep mahogony color is poured from a 22oz bottle. A luscious, tan head is formed atop the brew and leaves a small amount of lacing down the glass.

Smells like the holidays to me. Gingerbread and nutmeg and cloves are big in the nose. I long for some more holiday flavors and spices from this beer. If I could bottle this and put it in a holiday candle, I would. Maybe I will just pour it into an potpourri steamer.

"Um, I'll have the gingerbread with a side of cinammon. And go big on the malts please" is my order to the barkeep as I desire a second helping of this delicious beer. Also a great balance with some fruity hops as well. Perfectly balanced and great taste.

Hop bitterness and sweet, smooth character of the malts. Sweetness and tartness of the spices. "Thank you sir! May I have another!" This offering from Highland has me longing to be in my homeland of Scotland, tooting tunes on the ol' bagpipe, and a gallon of this sweet nectar in my kilt. Cheerio!

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Photo of phishgator
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a22oz bottle. Nice copper caramel color with a white thick head. Hints of toffee and cream. A little bit of spice and a big shot of creaminess are through out the taste. The body is medium/heavy and the brew just coats the entire mouth. A little filling after one so I would say that a bomber is all I want in a sitting, but I will drink at least once a year if I get my hands on it!

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Photo of BeerGod27
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I couldn't decide what to drink yesterday. Our waiter suggested this beauty and I'm very glad he did.
This is a perfect beer for the winter months. It's sugary and malty with so much flavor.
Pours a dark brown with minimal head. Lacing is medium and streaky.
Smell is slightly spicy and cold.
Taste is smooth, malty and sweet. Flavors are caramel, spicy (without tasting like a Christmas tree) and bready. Good carbonation.
This beer is best enjoyed in a dark pub or at home with a book in front of the fireplace. I could easily drink this all day.

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Photo of drlumps62
4.65/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I bought a 20 ounce bottle at Luekens liquor in Oldsmar Florida. Which in itself was a surprise. I did not think that Highland had that sort of distribution. I poured the beer into a 20 ounce glass.

A: Deep reddish brown in color. A tad bit cloudy.
Very rich looking. 1/2" white frothy head that kept a loose meringue type retention.

S: Dark malty nose. Again there is a richness there. It doesn't really jump out at you, but it is very pleasant.

T: The payoff. At first I tasted a bold chocolate malted flavor that gives way to a spiciness that blended together to remind me of Easter Chocolate covered marshmellows, with a slight nutty graham cracker type flavor.

M: Mildly heavy. Light stickiness.

D: Dessert beer. Something you spring on a beer drinker who hasn't had one and is tired of the same old thing.

This is good stuff. From a brewery that became one of my two favorite beers inthat area.

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Photo of Neehan
4.67/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this as a Christmas gift from my favorite local store as a thank-you for patronage. The establishment will remain nameless so that they don't get hammered for freebies ;) but I must say I love these guys and I am very appreciative...And I must say this was a hell of a gift.

This poured a dark, rich and shiny amber with a small head an not much retention but the head remained as a nice ring.

The smell is of rich malts that fill the nose with mouth-watering, spicy complexities.

The taste mimics the smell but with a hint of dark roasts with a slightly burning finish. Incredible, and perhaps the smoothest winter ale I've had.

The mouthfeel is also solid, with a perfect balance of complexity yet quite smooth.

Easily the most drinkable winter ale I have had due to its smoothness and outstanding taste. If you are lucky enough to get this, then buy it, it's fantastic!!

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Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 310 ratings.