1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale - Highland Brewing

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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
91
outstanding

649 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 649
Reviews: 306
rAvg: 4.04
pDev: 13.37%
Wants: 78
Gots: 89 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: RBorsato on 11-25-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 649 | Reviews: 306 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of samtallica
4.15/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Bomber into Sam Adam's Perfect Pint.

A: Brilliantly clear, dark amber with a small off white head.

S: Caramel malts and vanilla, some vague hops and spices in the background.

T: Cocoa Pebbles. Seriously, this beer tastes exactly like cocoa pebbles. That is not a bad thing at all, but it is slightly one dimensional. Not sure if previous years were different. Surprisingly this is the first time I've had this beer.

M: Medium-low carbonation with a medium body.

O: I just can't help but think Cocoa Pebbles. I liked Cocoa Pebbles as a kid though, so it takes me back a bit. I'm definitely a fan just because I've never experienced this flavor in a beer before. It's interesting and new to me.

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.15/5  rDev +2.7%
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).

Photo of Lothore
4.15/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Pours a deep orangey brown hue with a thin, coffee head which adorns this beer all the way down.

S- Smell is faint sweet malts, hard to detect much else.

T- Taste is very sweet, malty with christmas spices and a hop backbone.

M- A bit thin and very carbonated.

D- Very easy to drink. Not what I think of when I think winter warmer but delicious none the less.

Photo of nickthegun12
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

the appearance is a light brown, reddish color....with little to no head....

smells bready....like beer...lol....i get the slightest bit of spice in the nose...

taste great...the best part of this beer...some of the bittering hops taste great in this beer....some sort of spice shines through well....

feels great on the mouth...not too dry but on the dry side....

very nice drinkability....not sure of the abv...but doesn't seem too high

Photo of IntriqKen
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The clear mahogany liquid in the glass is topped with a half finger of off white to tan, tightly formed bubbles that lace the glass nicely as you slowly drain the glass.

Aromas are sweet malts and spices...lots of spices...plus sweet caramels and a hint of milk chocolate.

Flavor is probably the most complex of any winter warmer I've ever tried due to the mixture of spices in this brew. I honestly can't identify them except to say I sense cinnamon, clove, orange, maybe even pumpkin, as well as caramel and bitter milk chocolate. Hops at the end really change the impression of a sweet winter warmer into something else.

Nice alcohol warmth as you finish your swallows.
Very interesting and very nice.

Photo of akorsak
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

Photo of daliandragon
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have a healthy respect for this brewer, although most of their beers tend to be good rather than great. I was therefore surprised to see that this is the top ranked winter warmer on the site. It starts impressive, with a maroon color, near perfect clarity, and a wet tan head that shows very nice retention. The nose is sweet and spicy, with vanilla, caramel, and nutmeg wrapped around a base of dark malts.

The taste is more balanced than I expected, with some late hop bitterness that keeps the malts in check. The texture is a bit oily, particularly in the finish. Vanilla and toasted flavors lead the way here but if anything the sweet malt is understated, at least against my expectations. The texture is smooth with a warming finish. Alcohol is almost invisible. I wonder what the abv is. It matters not, you'll be hard pressed to find too many winter warmers that can top this one.

Photo of DefenCorps
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Woohoo! First tick for 2011. I picked this up over Thanksgiving in Asheville after being very impressed with a pint I had on tap (2010 Winter edition).

A beautiful, clear mahogany with a dense, off-white head with excellent retention, there isn't much to show for lacing apart from some patchy foam. Clarity is exceptional, this is a particularly attractive beer. The nose is great too, like I remember it being. A touch of spice is present with cinnamon and mace, I also get some brown sugar and a prominent vanilla note. The combination is dessert-like, but this still smells light. Hops are mild, there's some earthy, mildly leafy and mineral-like hop aroma present. Solid.

The palate opens with a blend of light brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon. A light but simple sweetness, a blend of brown sugar and burnt sugar is present. Notes of vanilla and maple appear in the mid-palate. Drying on the finish with the hops asserting their presence, there's a blend of earthy, leafy bitterness and lingering vanilla. Light in body with medium-high carbonation, this is an enjoyable beer. I preferred this on tap, where it was a lot creamier, but even out of a bottle, it's still the best Winter Warmer out there.

Photo of NCSUdo
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 1 L, flip top bottle

A: Pours a pretty dark clear amber under 2 fingers of slightly off white head. Some lace, OK retention.

S: Slight hint of vanilla and maybe the even smallest bit of anise. Tad bit of sweetness and some toasted maltiness up front as well. Upon first pour, there was a more hoppy character which has subsided. I seem to remember a slightly more in the aroma of last years version.

T: Spices up front, with vanilla being the most noticable. A little hard to discern between the rest, but there is some clove and even a slight pumpkin taste as well. Hints of alcohol in the finish that is ultimately on the sweet side. Some hoppy hints there as well.

M/D: Medium bodied, mostly creamy but also a little slick, carbonation is spot on and alcohol is apparent on a good way. Drinkability is fine on this one as it is smooth and relatively easy drinking. Excellent winter warmer.

Photo of wagenvolks
4.13/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed this on-tap in 2007, decided to re-visit it thanks to atsprings, who included this 12oz as an extra in a recent trade.

Poured into a standard pint glass a crisp, burnt amber color that thins to ruby at the edges. Not much head, but what little bit of manila foam that forms sustains itself well and clings to the glass to provide some attractive lacing webs. Very muted aroma...not sure if I got an off-bottle, because I remember liking the smell of Cold Trail quite a bit. Faint hints of toasted caramel malts and pecans (ah, just read the label: hazelnut extract). Sweet vanilla and cotton-candy notes pull through more so as it warms with a hint of floral hops.

Delicious flavor, with a rich, toasty caramel nuttiness that smacks with sweet buttered toffee and a superb balance of resinous hops that add just the right amount of bitterness. Medium-thin body with a tight carbonation level and a biting, semi-dry finish. All in all, an excellent, sessionable beer that helps keep Highland as one of the top 5 NC breweries in my mind.

{Edit: just noticed I rated the on-tap version exactly the same for the "big three" of appearance, taste, and aroma. Nice.}

Photo of Cfreezy3
4.12/5  rDev +2%

Photo of Crimkj
4.11/5  rDev +1.7%

Photo of joe1510
4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

32oz Swingtop

Huge thanks to, Wilson, for this monstrous drink. Cheers, dude! Glug, glug, glug from the hefty liter bottle. A chestnut brown liquid fills the glass with enough clarity to read the interwebs through the body. Ruby highlights accentuate the sexiness. The ecru head is short but stout, with the boldness of immovability. Lacing sticks in sheets.

The nose is complex but seamless. It won't hit you over the head but give you a massage instead. Ginger flashes upfront with candied citrus peel up next. Dusty cocoa, a touch of spicy hops, and rich caramel all seamlessly interact. Soda bread maltiness make for a subtly sweet base. Raisins and toffee rise from the depths with warmth.

While the nose was subtle and complex the flavor is straight up robust and comforting. Caramel, soda bread, and toffee all play large, complex roles. Raisin sweetness is soft and well rounded while the ginger adds a quick zip of vibrancy. The candied citrus peel is hidden but peeking its head free. A dusting of cocoa powder is the cherry on top. You've heard of comfort food; here's comfort beer.

The body weighs in at moderate. I thought this was a little low on the first few sips but as I drink more I don't believe I'd change a thing. A bigger body would be too large for such a well rounded, subtly but deeply complex libation. Carbonation is soft enough to allow each flavor to be processed while active enough to keep any stick away. Semi-dry finish.

Cold Mountain is a handsome beer. Every aspect is a hit in my book and spiced beer isn't usually my thing, in this case it's done with a deft hand and great knowledge. Smells delicious. Tastes immeasurably complex, well rounded and comforting. Tastes like a fruit cake that's actually good. Like how you think a fruitcake would taste if you've never had one and were told its ingredients. Delicious! Thanks, Wil!

Photo of oberon
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this one at Old Town Draught House here in Greensboro.Nice darker auburn color with nice creamy head.Real nice smell of nutmeg and other spices with fruity tones,smelled very appetizing.Something to warm up to for sure good and hearty,medium bodied not to heavy so pretty easy to drink.Good winter style ale from a good craft brewer down here.

Photo of tastybeer
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Clear, warm, redish brown color under a creamy khaki colored head. Head is nicely sized and leaves an 1/8" layer once it fades. Lace is spotty and shifty. Smell is loaded with sweet aromas fitting of the holiday season. Sugary plum, maple, ginger, sugar cookies, and vanilla frosting mixed into grain and caramel malts. There's even some brighter aromas like cranberry and orange coming through. Generally well blended and pleasantly sweet. Taste has good depth and thick maltiness. Spiced and sweet flavors softly bittered with hops. Nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon... A nice festive wintery beer that is not excessively spiced like some winter warmers tend to be. Mouthfeel is smooth and coating. Very drinkable.

This would be great for or with dessert.

Photo of PhantomVodoo
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
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!

Photo of BeerBuzzGuy
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of Daktah
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

Photo of flexabull
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle courtesy of Loki. Thank you very much!

Cool looking big 1 liter bottle. Pours with a nice clear copper color, and a good head.

Aromas are faint, but what I do notice are some sweet and creamy notes.

Flavors are creamy with a lot of spice flavors, with vanilla being the most prominent. There is also a slightly smokey and apple like quality to this as well. Very interesting and flavorful beer.

Mouthfeel is good, maybe a touch light for my tastes though.

Very drinkable beer. Well made, and very interesting. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Certainly worth a try.

Photo of johnnnniee
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

Photo of rustymoore
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark amber from the 22 oz. bottle. Nice head, minimal lacing.

Smells wonderful...vanilla and alcohol dominate with spices such as cinnamon. Tastes almost as good as the smell. The vanilla really sets this one apart. Flowery aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is somewhat watery but sweet.

Could easily drink several in a sitting. Highly recommended.

Photo of Onenote81
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was the third installment of City Bev's Freakin' Firkin Friday. Had a pint at the store yesterday. Pours a hazy brown-tinted copper. A small off-white head caps it off. Faint lace sticks around. The nose is potent with strong notes of vanilla, nutmeg, toffee, toasted pecans. Fantastic nose.

Extremely smooth, creamy mouthfeel, as was expected with the cask. Carbonation level is minimal. Perfect sipper. Flavor profile mirrors the nose somewhat with vanilla, cinnamon, sweet malts. The spices are more muted in this version of the beer, but this is still a splendid winter dessert brew. Perfect to sip on a crisp, cold evening.

*Note: This is the first beer that I have tried from bottle, tap, and cask.

Photo of Gyle41386
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into a pint glass.

Pours a dark brown and amber color with crimson highlights. A finger of tan head retains pretty well and leaves behind some nice lacing.

Malty nose with lots of spices and vanilla. Maybe some cocoa and orange peel, as well.

Pretty sweet flavor. Milk chocolate, toffee, caramel, vanilla. The spices aren't as pronounced as they are in the aroma, although they come out a bit with some warmth. Maybe a little bit of hop bitterness in the finish.

Lighter body than I expected, but it's still easily medium. Dry finish. Incredibly smooth and easy drinker. Plush feel. Absolutely no alcohol detected. I'm definitely going back to buy the 1 liter swingtop version.

Photo of AlexJ
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber red pour with a fluffy beige head that retains pretty well and streaks my tulip with lace.

Aroma is a comforting mix of chewy malts, molasses, vanilla, light spice, pine, and citrus hops.

Flavor starts off with chewy caramel and brown sugar, dark fruits, dark moist bread, and leads to strong notions of vanilla bean and subtle spice. As it warms the sweet vanilla flavor really stands out, yum. Pine and citrus hops provide a pleasantly bitter trailing finish. Well balanced and very tastey.

Body is medium, or just shy of. Smooth and very creamy texture. A very solid Winter Warmer and one i will be going back to.

Photo of SLeffler27
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours clear, dark copper with carbonation. A one-inch creamy manila head lasts a while leaving a fine coating of lace.

There is lots of caramel malt with sweet tea and brown sugar. Warming brings out cocoa. More warming intensifies cocoa.

This one is very similar to sweet tea on entry, powdered hot chocolate mix immediately follows. The finish is short and modest.

A medium body with soft, prickly carbonation and no alcohol. This one has light astringency and a smooth texture.

This is a good beer for a cool afternoon. Have a couple while relaxing.

This one is far better if allowed to warm!

Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing
91 out of 100 based on 649 ratings.