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

2003 bottling in a 1 liter swingtop bottle.
Tan head sits atop this mahogany brew.
Pleasing aroma of lightly roasty, caramel malt; floral, citrusy hops; and spice.

Taste shows a lot going on in this beer. Lightly roasty, caramel malt. Toffee, brown sugar and spice which likely includes cinnamon. Solid floral, fruity hop balance although the malt wins out in this one.
Good mouthfeel, although you get the feeling the body could be much more if not for NC's 6%ABV limit.
Good drinkability.
A tastey winter treat. Worth seeking out.
A huge thank you to AKSmokedPorter for tracking this one down!

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Photo of humuloner22
3.44/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This one has gotten a lot of attention, especially around the holidays, I have tried it for several years and I do feel that it has lost something this year (2013). It has a nice dark color, the smell is very festive for which it represents. It has an almost egg nogg smell and to a certain degree taste as well. I like eggnogg and I like beer and I do believe that this one balances that pretty well. Most holiday/winter beers have too much of one spice or another but this one balances it pretty well. But, this year did fall a little flat to me. I enjoyed it, its a great beer and much better than most, but there was a bit less of the things I used to like about it and more of the just average ale taste coming through. I like a good ale and this would be a good one by itself, but for a quarter of the price. Overall, I will continue to have a pour of this around the holidays, when I run across it. One thing I would like to try is it on draft, but that is nearly impossible to do, it goes extremely quickly and you have to be at the right place at the right time. I am like Dr. John unfortunately.

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

Pours a deep brown mahogany color with a small tan head and a really heavy amount of lacing. Smells yeasty with a little hint of the malts coming through. Tastes of some bitterness from the hops, plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg, possibly some all spice. A little marshmallow in the background. Like sitting around a campfire. Mouthfeel is nice and thick with a little hiding carbonation. Drinkability is really good.

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

Thanks to greenvilleguitar for the hookup on this beer!

A - Pours a medium copper color with great clarity and a well-retaining, thin off-white head. Some lacing when swirled.

S - Caramel sweetness combines with hints of orange peel, earthiness and a light presence of alcohol. Indiscernible spiciness.

T - Darkly toasted bread, herbal-spiciness, moderate level of bittering. Faint hints of the orange peel-type fruitiness are hidden beneath the maltier character. Even fainter smoky character. Pleasing medium-dry finish with a lingering toasty sensation.

M - Medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. Smooth, easy to drink.

D - Unlike some other winter warmers I've had, this beer has a nice balance between the spiciness and lovely dark toasted malt. I'm glad I cracked this open in the wintertime and it feels appropriate to the season. Were I to order at a pub, I could probably have 2, possibly 3 pints before moving on.

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Photo of cdizinno
4.68/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: Reddish-copper color. Clear with a decent white head and moderate lacing all the way down.

S: NOt too much there. Mild spices, malts and undertones of hoppiness.

T&M: Great taste. Fruity, spicy and smooth. Full-bodied with a nicely balanced hop/malt taste.

Great beer. Highly drinkable just for the holidays.

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Photo of HeyItsChili
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured from a bomber into a pint glass. Pours a dark, murky garnet/amber with a foamy tan head that clings to the surface of the beer.

S - Vanilla, brown sugar,

T - Exceptionally complex. Sweet, almost cream soda like with the vanilla accent, spicy, warm sweet and roasted malt. Teeny bit of hops at the end.

M - Not too thick, a little crispness from carbonation.

D - Delicious. If I ever find my way into one of those ski chalets I hear so much about I'll down some of these around a roaring fire.

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Photo of rudylaw
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My main man TimmyP sent me this gift out of the blue! You are the man!!

Dark brown/copper pour with a nice off white head.

Getting cinnamon, brown sugar, caramel and toffee in the nose.

Tastes very sweet! Milk chocolate, brown sugar, nougat and holiday spices dominate. Taste like a Milky Way candy bar.

Nice mouthfeel and medium-bodied. A very nice take on a winter warmer and I'm feelin' fine!

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Photo of rtratzlaff
4.8/5  rDev +20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served on tap in a 16 oz pint glass.

A deep brownish copper with a light head leaving little lacing.

Aromas are sweet with some spice character. Quite malty and interesting in the nose.

The taste is sweet up front with a cookie like malt character. Then some spice and just enough bittering to create a great flavor of... well a really good beer. Warming alcohol hits the belly and the flavors punch as the beer warms. This beer is a Christmas cookie in a glass. This is too good; I don't want to overanalyze it. Mouthfeel is medium with light carbonation. I could drink this throughout a cold December night. Here's to winter and a great beer to go with it!

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Photo of BamaBeerBuff
4.38/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a gorgeous copper-ruby color with a thick, creamy light brown head. Sheets of sticky lace are everywhere. Great appearance for a WW

S: Nose showcases some light cocoa, a touch of caramel, hints of vanilla and other delicate spices. A very subtle and enjoyable aroma.

T&M: Fantastic flavor. An initial rush of vanilla creme is met with a light nutmeg spice and a lovely toffee flavor. Light earthy hop flavor comes in on the finish to balance things out very nicely. This is just a wonderfully balanced winter beer. Body is creamy, yet thin enough to remain drinkable.

D: A great brew. Fantastic flavor, balance, and a moderate body for the style. I went through the bomber quickly and will most definitely seek out one of the swingtop bottles soon.

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Photo of lightindarkness
3.91/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to ahatcher78 for thinking to throw this bottle in the Black Booty BIF.

22 oz capped bottle, consumed at around 58 degrees from a very large, fat-bowled Tripel Karmeliet tulip glass on a heavily snowed wintry day.

A - Pours a very attractive deep dark mahogany color with gleaming sharp ruby highlights. A nice fluffy bubbly khaki head ascends to the surface and melts like snow, leaving a spotting of finely bubbled lace.

N - Smells primarily of malt, with a faint aged tobacco roastiness and sweet caramel. Light candy sugar hangs over brown fruity bread aromas. Maybe a hint of alcohol and some thinly notable stale hay. Fairly nice balance, not too sweet, rather appealing, but slightly underwhelming and modest.

T - A very nicely crafted winter ale, hitting some of the highlights for the style. Heavily malted on the caramelly dark roasted side, with an excellent balance of sweetness to drier roasted nut and more bitter dark bread. Some deep fruit notes of date and fig are present but not nearly as dominant as some similarly styled beers. Flavor thins out momentarily before the finish, becoming somewhat more watery, then rounding mildly back in with a bitter tail end and fading grainy warmth mixed with mild fruity sweetness. Spice is mild and blends into the grainy bread flavors without distinguishable identity, adding a layer of complexity subtly hidden in the overall taste. Deceiving, it has a rather simple overall flavor profile, but with some nicely understated dimension.

F/D - Just enough on the fuller medium bodied side to satisfy amidst the snowy winter chill, yet light enough to remain drinkable around the fire, with dinner, or just a long winter day trapped indoors. Light, soft carbonation adds some dimension to the feel, filling it out some, but lost early in each sip to the fading drier bitter finish. Drinks easily, sip after sip, with a nice malty mouth coating that isn't too heavy but leaves a lingering want for more. After a while though, the flavor becomes somewhat nondescript, the aftertaste resonating with pickled beets and other less desirable flavors, leaving it wanting for more impressive stand out character. A seemingly sessionable winter brew, though the unknown abv leaves me wondering how long of a 'session' I would endure.

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Photo of krisandajt
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

For me, this beer tells an interesting tale. After a bit of an unexpected wait, I finally get to try it. Sure, a Winter Warmer might not be the best beer to drink on this warm Spring afternoon (the first NEPA has seen in a while), but what the Hell...

Appearance: Poured from a bottle into my DFH Off-Centered pint glass, the beer is a slightly rusty amber color. There's about a half inch worth of dirty white, creamy head. The retention isn't too bad, and there's some nice thick, sticky lacing clinging to the sides of the glass.

Smell: Not as spicy as I expected, but the typical winter spice is definitely there. Very sweet, with an almost caramel kind of smell. So far, so good.

Taste: Sweet like the nose hinted at (caramel), but there's more spice coming through than I would think. The spice isn't overly complicated, I'm getting a lot of nutmeg and ginger. As far as Winter Warmer's go, this is quite good. I'm not a fan of overly spiced beer, but this one keeps it simple enough that I can really enjoy the flavor.

Mouthfeel: A wee bit undercarbonated for my tastes, the mouthfeel is a bit lacking. The body is good, medium- to full-, but kicking up the carbonation would really go a long way.

Drinkability: Not bad at all for a Winter Warmer, and to be honest it's much better than I expected. Easy drinking with some good flavor. Definitely better suited for a cold winter night in front of a fire, but it's holding its own on this warm Spring afternoon.

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Photo of Paincane
4.31/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Copper amber body with a pretty and creamy tan head. Excellent head retention and lacing.
S: Complex nose including spices and malt aromas. Cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice notes.
T: Molasses, cinnamon, sweet malt & nutmeg flavors.
M: Smooth, creamy and warming.
O: Great winter warmer.

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

Pours a medium ruddy brown with a nicley proportioned, inch high, cream coloreed head. Smells weakly citrus and raisin like.Starts off slightly caustic when cold but changes over to a more well rounded fruity malt profile. Brown sugar, cinnamon, raisin, and cough syrup come to mind. Finishes sweetly with an underlying astringency that gives it some backbone. Moderate mouthfeel. A very nice winter brew. Hope I can get an 05 version to sample.

Thanks to GCBrewingCo for the sample.

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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 Loki
4.92/5  rDev +23%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sampled from the 1L wax-sealed fliptop bottle.

Appearance: Dark, ruby brown with a huge beige head that fades to a thin, bubbly covering. Fantastic lacing that leaves behind outlines of winter mountain range.

Smell: Big, roasted candied malts, cinnamon, caramel, and candied sugars. Hints of red fruit and cotton candy. Inticing and surprise. So magical combination of belgian candy, caramelized malt, wild rasberries, and fresh cotton candy with a solid cinnamon and spice backbone.

Taste: Roasted malt, caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, belgian candied sugar, soft red fruit, and cotton candy. This is like being in a fair in the Belgian mountain forest in the middle of winter. Wonderful combination of flavor that is not to sweet, but keeps the tongue dancing and brings all of your senses alive.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, crisp, clean, perfectly balanced sweetness with a slight spicy hop finish to cleanse the palate.

Drinkability: Superb. The best seasonal I've had all year, perhaps ever! There is a reason it comes in 1L bottles, because once you taste it you want much more and you don't want to share! Fantastic.


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

Poured a deep copper with a small white head that left good lacing. Smell was almost all vanilla, and a ton of it. Maybe a little honey or caramel in there - something sweet. The taste was more vanilla, with a small bite of spice at the end. Medium bodied and lightly carbonated, it really is a good sipping beer, especially as it warms up. Almost no alcohol taste and overall extremely smooth.

A great and very different winter seasonal and a perfect beer for limited release - delicious and season-appropriate, and sweet and spicy enough that I wouldn't want to drink it regularly.

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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!

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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 lnashsig
3.66/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to JackTheBear for the chance to try this. Poured into my Dfh snifter, pours an amber brown, with little head and little lacing. Smell- nothing much here. Some applejuice flavors. Taste- this one is very unique- not like any winter warmer I have ever had. I get some butter flavors, with something reminiscent of a fig or date flavor, with some apple and spices on the end. This is extremely drinkable, yet I have no idea what the abv is ( it isn't on the bottle). The alcohol seems to be well hidden regardless. I could easily mistake this for a session beer if I didn't know any better, it is something I could really pound.

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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 clemtig76
3.45/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

20oz brown bottle picked up at CBX in Charleston, SC. Pours out a beautiful dark amber color with ruby highlights and a nice fluffy beige head. A really beautiful looking brew.
Faint sweet aroma of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Taste is where this beer fails me, my sample had a lingering metallic aftertaste that just would not go away. Last years version was what I expect from a winter warmer. This year Highland missed the mark with me.

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Photo of rodrot
3.38/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a very pretty dark red color with a solid half inch head that faded after a couple of minutes. Aroma: smell of nutmeg, vanilla, clove and other spices. The aroma was very faint however, barely detectable. Taste was of the same spices mentioned above along with some flavors of caramel, cherries and of all things- root beer. For some reason I kept tasting root beer in the finish. Mouthfeel was very light and easy drinking. I was quite disappointed with this beer. For a spiced winter brew, I expect something with more body and flavor. The spices were very muted and just didn't jump out at me. This beer is very sessionable however, just a little thin in body for my taste.

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Photo of LiquidBread219
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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Photo of CWiggins
3.42/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Highland's version of the Winter Warmer seems to have peaked two years ago. Since then, the last two batches have fallen a little short. Granted, the recipe and style seems to vary, so it can't be expected to be the same, but the comparisons are ever-present to the serious taster. Having said that, it seems that everyone in North Carolina eagerly anticipates the arrival of Cold Mountain, and I'm no exception. I picked up the first bottle I laid eyes on this season, and tonight it has been opened and consumed.

It certainly looks like a winter warmer, with its dark amber hue and yellow, shining highlights. A one-finger head formed on the surface, but soon gave way to a thin lacing of eggshell-white lacing. Aromas of winter spices dominate the nose; I don't really get a large malt or hop presence here. The flavor has a sweet, floral front, quickly followed by a malty, spiced middle, and ends with a mildly hoppy finish, accented by a nutty, brown ale-like character. There's something quite appealing about this version. The carbonation is a little much for my taste, but that's very personal.

I have a growler of last year's Cold Mountain waiting to be sampled. Look for a review of that precious volume to note how well that vintage aged!

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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!

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