Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

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 Onenote81
4.12/5  rDev +3%
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.

 713 characters

Photo of prototypic
4.39/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Many thanks to my dood, kkipple, for this one. You rock, Dan!

Cold Mountain Winter Ale pours a crimson stained copper color. It's very clear, and has a strong garnet ting when held to light. Really nice color. The head is very modest. It's cream colored and doesn't even rise to a finger in depth. It dissipates very quickly, and leaves light lacing behind. Not bad. The color carries it.

The nose is extremely impressive. It's chock full of caramel and cocoa-esque chocolate malts. It's a little on the sweet side, but not by much. There are definitely some spices in the mix. I'm getting a little cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. But, the spices are complementary and never take center stage. The thunderous malt base captures the spotlight. Hops are noticeable. They smell mostly floral. Alcohol is never much of a factor. Excellent.

I didn't expect the flavor to live up to the nose, but it does. The strong malty flavors strike first and never relent. Cocoa-esque chocolate blends perfectly with the mild caramel/toffee notes. Spice flavors of ginger, light nutmeg, and cinnamon are subtle, but flavorful. Vanilla is stronger in flavor and works like a charm. Hops are vibrant and add just enough bitterness to really take it up a notch. The hop flavor is mostly floral. Alcohol is light and not all that noticeable. Finishes malty, a little bitter, and dry.

Cold Mountain Winter Ale has a medium body that's nice and smooth. Carbonation is light and doesn't hurt the feel at all. Drinkability is very high. This is a surprisingly unique and tasty holiday seasonal. It doesn't seem too strong. Each sip invites another. Too bad I've only got the single bomber.

I'm really impressed with Highland Brewing. This is the second beer I've tried from them, and each has been really good. I can't say that this is necessarily better than their Black Mocha Stout, but they're very comparable in terms of quality. I can't offer much constructive criticism here. This is good stuff that perhaps shouldn't be tinkered with much. Maybe the look would benefit from a nicer head. Yeah, that's about it. Excellent stuff. Thanks a ton, Dan!

 2,132 characters

Photo of DefenCorps
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%
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.

 1,207 characters

Photo of Wolfpack2005
2.64/5  rDev -34%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A-Pours a deep clear amber color. A Brisk pour reveals a fairly impressive off white head that leaves a good amount of lacing

S-Aroma is unimpressive, dont detect too much except for a mild vanilla scent.

T-Very mild bittering hops up front. Picking up small notes of vanilla, raisin, and caramel, but the backbone of this beer seems to be some sort of a nut extract (maybe hazelnut). Not picking up any of the traditional spice that are typically in a winter warmer which is not necessarily a bad thing. Im guessing this beer is about 6-6.5% by the lack of alcohol taste that I like out of my winter WARMERS.

M-Very light with minimal carbonation.

O-IMO a sub-par beer. I cannot get past the hazelnut extract flavor that dominates the beer. I do like the fact that Highland stepped outside the bound of your traditional winter warmer. With some tweaking however i think this could be a good beer. Needs more burn.

 919 characters

Photo of Mosstrooper
4.32/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 1L bottle into 16oz Samuel Adams Perfect Pint glass.

Appearance: Pours dark amber in color with a medium-sized tan-ish head that dissipates slowly and leaves behind spotty lace.

Smell: Sweet caramel malt and some dark fruits alongside mild spices.

Taste: Begins slightly spicy, rounding to fruity flavors and finishing with a lot of caramel malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with lively carbonation and a sticky, warming finish.

Drinkability: A tasty, sweet and malty brew that is good for a winter day or could go well with a holiday feast. A beer I am glad to have tried, and would have again if it were available in my area.

Thanks to msnow34 for trading with me for this, and sorry about the delay with getting my end of the trade off to you!!

 770 characters

Photo of planetscott
4.02/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I love the appearance of this beer. Clear ruby and garnet color. Not much aroma. Taste is different for a winter warmer and a nice change of pace. Fruity, but not in a Belgian sense. I taste pears and very faint vanilla. Mouth feel is not thick like most winter warmers....Again a nice change. Good drink ability. Not great as it is somewhat sweet.

A decent, yet different winter warmer.

 388 characters

Photo of bosox941827
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had to try this at recommendation of a buddy...
A - Mostly brown but with prominent a garnet/violet tinge to it; almost no head and with no haze whatsoever; very clear.
S - A hint of winter spices off the nose (cinnamon/nutmeg) along with some malty sweetness
T - A very unique beer that's for sure; so the nose is confirmed by the taste - a glycerin-type of cinnamon/nutmeg/cocoa flavor at the front that is not really sweet, but is subtle and not over-powering; flavor also has hints of a children's chewable aspirin(!). That is all VERY quickly wiped away - literally - by the hop finish. The hops are similarly not over-powering, but they clean up the palate and lend a dry finish, something which you wouldn't expect given the flavors at the front. An interesting beer....
M - Average carbonation and fairly smooth. Hops lend a dry finish.
D - Could probably do two of these and that's about it, but that may just be me.
Glad I tried this one; very unique beer that I would definitely try again and would recommend.

 1,020 characters

Photo of TheHoppiest
3.53/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into a pint glass. Pours a clear copper, with an ivory head that quickly reduces.

Has a grassy, grainy smell, with mild hops.

Has a mildly malty taste, with spicy mild hops. Mild caramel notes, overlaid with the spicy hop finish warming the belly.

Medium mouthfeel, leaving a dry feeling tongue.

Fairly drinkable, decent enough for a winter ale, but a little timid for what it seems to want to be.

 429 characters

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.

 315 characters

Photo of MTNboy
3.65/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It pours brown/amber wit a slightly reddish hue. There is both a nice head and lace formations to this beer. The smell is almost that of a bourbon ale with some spiciness. The taste is definitely interesting but I'll be honest about saying I have mixed feelings on the taste. It is very sweet with tones of Christmas cookie spices. There are tones of nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander. It also seems like anise and vanilla are present. I think I like it but find it a little overpowering at the same point. It has a hardy mouthfeel and goes down pretty smooth.

 557 characters

Photo of javincik
2.79/5  rDev -30.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle poured into a nonic pint

A-Pours a deep crimson amber with a nice 1 inch off white foam head. Nice lacing and head retention. Good clarity.

S-Baked bread and caramel with underlying spices. Very little contribution from any hops. A hint of brown and candied sugar also. Nose is surprisingly muted. I expected more from this.

T-Basically follows the nose. Quite sweet initially with the spices coming through before a kiss of hops at the end to balance everything out. It is very sweet, but not cloying. No hint of any alcohol. Average is all I can say.

M-Thin. It is just detracting. When I sip a winter warmer, I want something substantial. This is not it. Not sure what the ABV is on this, but it really isn't warming. No hint of any alcohol whatsoever. Normally, I would say this is a good thing, but when I want a winter warmer, I want something big.

D-It goes down easily: too easily actually. This one is just disappointing. The taste is about average, the mouthfeel is quite weak, and it doesn't really warm you. I shall not be seeking this one out again.

 1,080 characters

Photo of Ryan011235
3.22/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter on 12/14/10

11/23/10 etched on the bottle

Much appreciation to CruisaC for hooking me up with this Highland beer that has eluded me for years

Pours an amber brown color that has a rusty hue in the glass. One finger head holds briefly before receding to a patch of bubbles covering 75% of the surface. A little bit of lace sticks to the glass.

Malty with spices aplenty, the nose is reminiscent of sweet cinnamon bread. Notes of earthy hops waft about amid hints of nutmeg. Enough spice & bitterness to grab the nostrils without going overboard. Slight spot of honey & gingerbread as it warms. Smells good.

Ah, the taste doesn't back up the strength of the aroma. With each sip comes a clustered cavalcade of cinnamon & other spices leading into a dry bitterness that is much like tea leaves. Toasty bread notes toward the back half (a faint notion of yeast is had on the first few sips). The flavors seem disconnected; uninterested in mingling.

The feel is surprisingly thin & watery. It doesn't help that the carbonation is prickly for but a moment up front, losing momentum mid-swallow. A minimal grittiness toward the end. Finishes dry with toasted bread & an artificial spiciness. Not much alcohol heat.

Drinkability is ok; I'll have no problem finishing it. That the flavors don't gel & the feel is loose makes for a scattered sort of beer. Possibly a tad better as it warms, it isn't enough to save this one for me. It the taste were blended as well as the nose & the feel were more robust, this would be a winner for sure.

 1,558 characters

Photo of cindyjeffsmith
3.63/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

appearance: Brown mocha. Robust tan head.
smell: Malt, subdued hops. Pleasant.
taste: Very mellow and subdued Winter Warmer.
drinkability. This growler did disappear quickly. Not sure of the ABV....maybe 6%, 7%? Not a beer I'll be hunting in the future to be honest. Avery's Old Jubilation much preferred, but a nice brew on a fairly cold Ga. winter night.

 357 characters

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

A: Pours a barely transparent mahogany color with a small off-white head

S: Awesome caramel malts, nuts, toffee, light spices (no clove), a little bread, lactose, and powdered milk chocolate

T: Finally a winter warmer with a great flavor profile that's not overdone. The spices blend very well with the malts. Also lactose, toffee, and a really delicious chocolate/cocoa note that compliments the nuttiness

MF/D: Smooth velvety feel, lower carbonation, lighter in body than the others, and a finish of lactose, cocoa, and hazelnut

Notes: not the biggest or boldest, but perfectly balanced and not too spiced up

 614 characters

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.

 414 characters

Photo of PDXHops
2.36/5  rDev -41%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

2010 vintage on tap in a shaker pint. One day after a disappointing cellared '09, let's see how the fresh batch measures up.

See-thru amber with a very modest creamy head, but a fair dose of sticky lacing. Nose is rather uninteresting (perhaps partially at the fault of the crappy glassware)- gentle maltiness with a vanillaish spicy presence. Tastes similarly frustrating; it's like they left the 'warming' out of the 'winter warmer'. Aching for a dose of robustness. Plenty of leafy bitterness, a bit of toasted malt, mild vanilla and cinammon and not much else. Vaguely nutty. A bit of lingering coating chocolate milk in the finish (lactose?).

Overall impression: Disappointing offering from a generally solid brewery.

 726 characters

Photo of nickthegun12
4.08/5  rDev +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

 442 characters

Photo of thagr81us
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage. Served from a 1-liter swing-top bottle into a Stone nonic. Poured a deep copper with a one finger off-white head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained nice lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, cloves, coriander, and caramel. The flavor was of sweet malt, cloves, chocolate, and caramel. It had a light feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this one had some pretty nice spice mixtures going on here. It was very well balanced up-front and then came through with the typical warmer spices on the tailend. This one is a must try if you are a fan of winter warmers.

 634 characters

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.

 760 characters

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.

 1,056 characters

Photo of mbrown26
3.62/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Copper to brown colors with a one finger browning head. Left a nice lacing.

S: A wonderful vanilla smell with some other spices mixed in.

T: Has a spice taste and definitely malts. A little bit of alcohol taste in the back of the throat, but definitely well balance. A good winter warmer.

M: Moderate carbonation and some bitterness.

D: Fairly easy to drink. The smell of this one is the highlight.

Try it if you can find it.

 435 characters

Photo of wcudwight
2.85/5  rDev -28.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3

I have become a big fan of Highlands Cold Mountain and rush out to purchase it with each years release in Nov. I must say that this years is the most disappointing of the bunch. Not as spicy or complex as in years past. The mouthfeel is much lighter. And the beer just taste overall watered down. I'm glad I tried this on-tap before buying the big bottle. I'll will push this one to the side as Cold Mountain at least for this year has become a meer average winter warmer and will look forward to next years version.

 516 characters

Photo of HeadE
2.73/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured from 22oz bottle to pint glass with coppery color and minimal head with no lacing.
Aroma is of overwhelming vanilla tones with none of the usual spice or roasted malt characteristics of a winter warmer.
Flavor reminiscent of cream soda with strong vanilla notes and no hop finish. Overly sweet with caramel tones in the background.
As fans of the previous offerings of Cold Mountain, my wife and I both agree this was a poor showing. Another bottle in the fridge, we will give it one more chance but are not as excited about future showings as we have been in the past. Perhaps it will cellar and age well and we will buy another to try again in six months.

 664 characters

Photo of beertunes
3.2/5  rDev -20%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into 10oz glass. Poured a clean, clear ruby-brown color with just the thinnest cap of slightly off-white head that no retention or lacing.

The aroma is very much a sweet malt bomb. There are some hints of raisins or other sweet fruits. Not much, a bit, of show through. The flavors very similar, with the addition a sticky-sweet finish.

Mouthfeel and drinkability were both average for the style. Overall, a decent, if not spectacular, example of the style. Worth a shot if you see it.

 494 characters

Photo of mrkrispy
3.99/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured in to a glass with a bit of trepidation since I tend not to be fan of Winter Warmers...they are usually egregiously overspiced and out of balance.

Tons of toffee, caramel, and chocolates in the nose. In the taste. In the body. Not a sweet chocolate syrup style beer, more like an American brown with more complexity. Malty, no spices trying to ruin the show. A bit thin compared to the taste, but that gives it some mystique. Slight alcohol notes after a few sips. Full bodies, with an odd finish...you expect it to be creamy but it really isn't.

Pretty interesting, pretty good. Worth a try!

 602 characters

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