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Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...
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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.
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 ChainGangGuy
3.4/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours a rich garnet-hued body with wispy, seafoam beige head.

Smell: Spicy, fruity aroma of oranges, cranberries, cinnamon and maybe a bit of ginger.

Taste: Beyond the toasty malts, there is a real medley of flavors at work here. For me, I'm picking up orange peel, cranberries, mint, nutmeg, and cinnamon (which really comes through in the finish).

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Moderately carbonated.

Drinkability: Interesting and well-made, but not particularly to my liking. (499 characters)

Photo of nickfl
3.3/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - One finger of light brown foam on top of a slightly hazy, medium brown body with dark amber highlights. The foam settles quickly and leaves moderate lace.

S - Lots of sweet caramel and toffee with nutmeg, cinnamon, and a hint of licorice. There are some pine-scented hops in the background and maybe a bit of chocolate.

T - Some very strong toffee up front with notes of chocolate and nutmeg. A surprisingly assertive pine hop flavor appears in the middle with strong ginger, licorice and more toffee. The finish is a bit medicinal with a strange combination of tannic spices, sweet caramel, and bitter hops.

M - Medium-thick body, moderate carbonation, and a slightly sweet, astringent finish.

D - Spiced beers require a delicate touch and often the spices don't really seem like they improve the beer. Unfortunately this one steps over the line between judicious use of spices and becomes a cloying mess. The aroma is nice, with distinct malt and a good balance of spices and hops. The flavor starts out promising, but falls apart by the finish as the malt becomes cloying and the spices turn astringent. I really tried to like this, but it is a very strange beer and I definitely won't be drinking it again. (1,218 characters)

Photo of Kegatron
4.2/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a clear dark amber with +1 fingers of light tan creamy head. Good retention that leaves a thick smattering of lace behind. The aroma is HOLY SWEETNESS! Rich accents of caramel and toffee with some light citic notes and hop bitterness behind it.

The taste is more of the same. Huge caramel and toffee sweetness with just enough hop bitterness backing it up to reign things in and keep the flavor from getting overly cloying. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a smooth feel yet keeps a fairly prickly carbonation.

Wow, this is just one tasty Winter Warmer. The sweetness works just right, never gets to be over the top, and keeps the drikibility right on target. Nice stuff! (718 characters)

Photo of Slatetank
3.97/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this at Deuane's 40th Birthday bash - poured chilled from the bottle into my 1/2 pint.

A - A chesnut brown shade with good clarity, and ordinary cream cap

S - A sweet nutty scent w/ mild cherry hints and light vanilla-like floral aroma

M- A mild sweet taste w/ malty presence which seems to become semi-dry with mellow carbonation and the sweet entry mellows toward the end w/ nutty light spiced finish

T - The taste is pleasant with mellow sweet tinges of caramel and gentle stone fruit tinges. The vanilla taste comes forward w/ malt presence that is borderline sweet and nutty w/ creamy mellow toasted flavor.The beer seems well balanced with a hint of spice flavor in the finish

D - A sweet brown winter ale, which has a nice creamy smoothness and yet moderately complex with both spice and malt presenting a balanced drinkable brew. (850 characters)

Photo of russpowell
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Big props to Ddarden for this one, I really wanted to try this when I went back to NC last summer, but alas much like the winter snow, it was long gone.

Pours caramel/auburn with 4+ fingers of pillowy sand-colored head. Above average lacing & head retention

S: Slight toffee & caramel notes& a little vanilla as this warms

T: Toffee & hints of grain & vanilla upfront. Caramel, toasted malt & huge breadyness show up as this warms along with a little herbal hop bite. Brown sugar, choclate & more vanilla show up in the warming/bready finish

MF: Medium bodied & very smooth & low/low carbonation

Drinks so easy, a really pleasant winter warmer. One I think I could session on. I'll buy this if I ever see it again! (729 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 01/22/11 notes. Shared by Lunch at a recent tasting. Thanks Paul.

a - Pours a dark amber color with one inch of white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of butterscotch and vanilla. Also a little spice and bready malts. Pretty good.

t - Tastes of watered down vanilla and butterscotch, spices, bready malts, and toasted malts. Good, but as I said, tasted watered down.

m - Thin to medium body and low carbonation.

d - A nice winter warmer. Taste was a little lacking, but still enjoyable. Would have again. (528 characters)

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.2/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hmmm, it's hot-as-heck in July, 90+ all week long..great time to break open a winter warmer, right? Right!

22-ounce bomber poured into 16-ounce goblet, a deep brown hue, nearly plum in places, with slim cocoa/cola-toned head.

Aroma: dark fruits, and nuts, sweetness, molasse and maple syrup, sugar beets, ripe and spicy...very interesting, and quite unique.

Taste: yum, ...same flavors noted in the nose reappear on the tongue. Full-bodied, and incredibly smooth, while delivering copious amounts of sweet, delicioius flavors. A rich and relaxing brew, sweet candyish flavors, a hint of toffee, a wiggle of caramel. Ends a bit dryly, much appreciated.
Yum, I say again, tas-tee!
What could be better for a mid-summer morning? (736 characters)

Photo of chinchill
4.04/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2012 12 oz bottle served in a snifter. Pours a beautiful, clear mahogany color, with a short-lived beige head. Very sweet aroma is followed by a rather sweet upfront taste but eventually turns mildly bitter. The beer is a mildly spicy and a bit fruity, including raspberry and a surprising apricot note in the nose that's present but subdued in tasting. Cinnamon and plenty of vanilla in both; perhaps too much vanilla in the flavor.

Overall an enjoyable, complex and distinctive seasonal brew.

{9 months later (Sept. 2013) a bottle kept in a cooler is every bit as tasty}. (576 characters)

Photo of drabmuh
3.95/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Paul after my incessant whining. Currently the #1 Winter Warmer, although the more winter warmers I drink, I'm slowly realizing that this style has no style and you can call anything a winter warmer, I've had spicy ones, dark ones, light ones, hoppy ones, malty ones, the only commonality is that they were all released in winter and called warmers. Oh well. Poured into a Russian River wine glass.

Beer is light brown / orange with a thin off white head of small bubbles, low but steady carbonation, and the head leaves some lacing on the glass.

Aroma is vanilla and some malt...this was quite a shock to me.

Beer is sweet and undercarbonated on the palate. Huhzubendah said in his review that it tasted like cream soda...and it totally does. The vanilla wins on all front here. It opens with some sugary sweetness that is accented by the vanilla on the late front and midpalate. There is no real bitterness to this beer...just vanilla. It probably sounds like I'm putting it down and I'm not, I really am not. It does what it does well. Beer as cream soda. I like that. (1,091 characters)

Photo of dbrauneis
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Edition

A: Pours a crystal clear light to medium amber in color with very light amounts of visible carbonation. The beer has a finger tall creamy beige head that slowly reduces to a thick film covering the entire surface of the beer. Moderate to significant amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of cocoa along with some vanilla and just a touch of spices (nutmeg stands out). Additionally there are some notes of brown sugar.

T: Moderate to strong flavors of vanilla and oak over some lighter notes of cocoa and spices (nutmeg). Some caramel malts flavors along with a little bit of brown sugar sweetness.

M: Just shy of medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Creamy.

O: This is a very enjoyable beer and I could almost think it had been barrel aged - nice combination of the spices, cocoa, and vanilla... Pretty easy to drink and I had no problem putting down a couple of glasses. Very nice of a fairly cold November evening but would have been improved by sitting in front of the fireplace. (1,029 characters)

Photo of Huhzubendah
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Lunch. Thanks Paul!

A: This brew appears clear and rusty orange / brown in color. The head is thin and wispy, but manages to generate a fair amount of lacing upon the glass.

S: Scents include vanilla, malt, alcohol.

T: This beer is quite different than I would have expected from a winter warmer. The flavor is remarkably similar to how I would imagine an alcoholic cream soda tastes. I happen to enjoy cream soda, so I'm totally cool with this unusual take on the style. Vanilla is the most forward flavor, followed by some sweet malt and light spice.

M: Thin bodied, with a fairly low level of carbonation.

D: A fun and interesting brew, but not something of which I would want too much. (711 characters)

Photo of tdm168
3.92/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber with a soft layer of white head that has little retention. The nose offers some mild spice and some intense vanilla extract notes. The flavor is much the same; the vanilla dominates with some subtle spices and a little fruitiness throughout. The fruitiness is cherry-like, both tart and sweet. The finish is a little medicinal to me. I think it's the combination of vanilla and fruit. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and lightly carbonated, but it's viscous and syrupy at times.

I'm glad that this isn't just another winter warmer with ginger and cinnamon. I like the fruitiness here, but I find the medicinal off notes in the finish a little unpleasant. I probably wouldn't have this again, but I do like what they were going for with this one. (764 characters)

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Winter 2003-2004 Release, Sampled August 2004.
Pours a deep amber-ruby color with an amber-tan head. Thick aromas of syrupy malt waft from my glass, I also get notes of caramelized oranges and cherries (which are strong enough that there might actually be some cherry additions to this beer). The taste is dry up front, but then moves to a weird, fruity note; cough syrup perhaps. This also has some interesting subdued dark malt character to it, a slightly acidic finish, as well as some candied cherry notes. The cherry is not nearly as strong in the taste as in the aroma. Up front this beer could just about pass for a malty Scottish ale. It is fairly light and interesting enough as a quaffing brew (good thing that I have a 1 liter bottle of this to enjoy). (764 characters)

Photo of yourefragile
3.22/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

On tap at Tyler's Taproom Carrboro, NC

A: Somewhat clear, dark amber with a basically white head that quickly dissipates to a splotchy film with little lacing.
S: A whole of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread, not much in the way of hops. Moderately strong, not all together appealing however
T: Ok, wow, cinnamon and gingerbread are very very strong. This tastes like a cinnamon bar I get from a bakery at home, in fact that's all I can think of right now. Some hops or bitterness for balance would be nice, but instead it almost tastes like I'm eating that pastry. Not bad, certainly unique, never tasted this in a beer, but I'm slightly overwhelmed by it.
M: Moderate carbonation, very smooth and creamy, medium bodied. Goes does easy and strong gingerbread, cinnamon aftertaste
D: I enjoyed this first time around and tried a second pint, and well, had some issues finishing it. The spices are too sweet and overpowering drinking too much of this. I liked this, but drinkability was severely limited for me, after first pint, it was just too much of too sweet. (1,068 characters)

Photo of Georgiabeer
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with a light head and no real lacing. Looks a little richer than it turns out to be. Smells of soft vanilla and hazlenuts- a little sweet on the nose. Taste has a lot of vanilla up front- probably too much- followed by some soft hops and a final malt creaminess. The mouthfeel is a little thin, but there is a nice creaminess. A very drinkable beer, but I was expecting more. This feels a little simplistic and not the classic I was hoping for. (461 characters)

Photo of johnnnniee
4.12/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received in trade from KarrHeel03, thanks for the opportunity.
Pours a clear reddish amber color with a stingy white head that recedes quickly but laces the sides quite nicely. Smells of sweet malts and spices. I pick up some cocoa, brown sugar, molasses, plums or prunes, and a touch of alcohol. There's a subtle spice in the nose that is quite non-descript but really pleasant. Taste is sweet brown sugar and alcohol up front. Dark fruits and a tease of hop bitterness on the tongue mid way through. Medium-dry sweet malty sugary finish. Ample carbonation, slick syrupy mouthfeel, medium bodied brew. I really enjoyed this one on this cold snowy day. I think it all comes together really well. (695 characters)

Photo of corby112
3.15/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to kubrick215 for sharing.

Pours a hazy dark amber/copper color with a one finger beige head that slowly fades into a lasting ring.  Sporadic spotty lacing left behind.  

Earthy, leathery malt aroma with an odd syrupy medicinal presence along with some dark fruit and heavy spices.  Hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla bean followed by cherry juice, plum and raspberry.

Medium bodied wih a dry, medicinal flavor along with a heavy vanilla and spice presence.   Lots of dark fruit and sweet caramel malt sweetness with notes of hazelnut, toffee, raspberry, cherry juice and lots of vanilla.  Floral/potpourri like with zesty cinnamon and clove spiciness.  Really weird combination of flavors.  Not bad but a few ounces was more than enough for me. (768 characters)

Photo of weeare138
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to hopdog for unleashing this '05 bottle at the tasting...
Appears a semi-transparent orange toned brown with an ivory white head that fades into a collar. Little streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of caramel, vanilla, juniper, orange peel, cranberries, and biscuits.
Taste is of the aromas with a highlight of caramel and berries.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, mildly spiced, along with a light sourness that fades into a wild spiced and hopped finish. (481 characters)

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.84/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bottle into a shaker pint, the beer is a ruby-tinted caramel coloring with a thin, sparse, surface coating of foam. Aromas of roasted nut sweetness, plum, dates, raisins, berries, toffee and caramel in the backbone, and a subtle cinnamon spicing. Smells are rich, but light enough to refrain from overpowering. Flavors are roasted and rich forward, with a tart and tangy berry and nut sweetness blending on the palate, with some woody and subtle bitter highlights. The body is robust, but light, with a transition into a crisp, clean finish. The aftertaste is more of the caramel and toffee sweetness, although some fruity notes do linger through. Easy drinker and full of flavor. (694 characters)

Photo of Zorro
3.7/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled through the efforts of mikesgroove and Battlecruiser BIF.

This is a clear reddish brown colored beer without much head formation.

The smell is sweet and candy like and reminds me a lot of 'sweet tea" as served in the Southern United States. Strong caramel and brown sugar aromas along with a little spice that I can't identify except for the vanilla and cinnamon.

The taste begins sweet with a VERY strong vanilla flavor and an egg custard taste. WOW this is one beer with a HEAVY vanilla flavor to it, if you don't like that taste then this will be beer hell on Earth for you. After a while the vanilla relents a bit and the taste changes to a New Orleans bread pudding flavor.

The mouthfeel is good.

Eh...drinkability is hard to determine. Too much vanilla. This is the kissing cousin of cream soda. This is a beer where one flavor has really has really taken over. Real simple a beer for vanilla lovers period. (936 characters)

Photo of plaid75
2.45/5  rDev -38.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured a deep amber hue with a wisp of white foam atop. There was little retention and lacing.

The smell featured a strong sweet cereal aroma with a healthy dose of vanilla. Some nutmeg detected as well.

The taste consists of and astringent cinammon and nutmeg flavor with an overdose of vanilla. Very medicinal in the bitterness.

The mouthfeel was thin with an uncomfortable astringency.

Overall I was disappointed in this beer. Perhaps it is past its prime. Either way, I couldn't finish it. (505 characters)

Photo of akorsak
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 1 L swingtop bottle courtesy of Deuane.

A: The ale is a dark amber, a full brown color of turbid cider or iced tea. Decent head on multiple tours.

S: The nose is not your normal mulled winter warmer, it has incredible depth and complexity. Vanilla bean is dominant, sitting atop cinnamon, powdered chocolate and faint tart cherries. Full without the bland spice complex many WWs have.

T: The ale is full of dark caramel and chocolate malts. Full nuttiness with some toffee drives the base of the ale. Vanilla bean flavors remain the center of attention but much more happens throughout the ale. A faint sour cherry flavor provides a warming undertone that mixes freely with some boozy warmth. Brown sugar, cinnamon, powdered cocoa all have their moment in the sun providing a nuanced flavor that is very pleasant to sip on.

M: Lots of spices make this a filling, delicious ale. With so much happening, you really need to take your time with it and allow each element to slowly emerge.

D: Boozy and strong, this is not a quaffing beer. Spend a few hours getting to know a bottle. (1,085 characters)

Photo of Wasatch
3.88/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to slcbrewer for this brew.

22oz. Bomber

Pours a slightly cloudy amber color, nice carbonation, nice little fizzy tannish head, some sticky lacing follows. The nose is sweet, malty, and lots of caramel. The taste follows the nose pretty much. Slightly dry finish. Medium body. Drinkable, a nice little WW, but not that high in alcohol content. (356 characters)

Photo of Axnjxn
3.84/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

rereview 12oz bottle into a FW tulip. 10/30/13 bottling date consumed 3 weeks later.

Pours a dark amber color with a nice inch thick head. Aroma is almost nonexistent...maybe a tad of caramel? not much at all. The taste is quite different though...a bit sweet with a good amount of caramel and toffee flavors that linger on the palate for quite awhile. Biggest thing about this beer is its drinkability...you could drink it all day and in a hurry... almost light bodied with mild carbonation.

Overall this is an old favorite among North Carolinian's and honestly shouldnt get such high marks nowadays. Its still good, just not amazing. (637 characters)

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.

9.4/10 (2,017 characters)

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