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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: 715
Avg: 4
pDev: 20%
Wants: 89
Gots: 121 | 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: 715
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 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 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 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 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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