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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: 87
Gots: 119 | 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 davidt
3.3/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

1 liter flip-top bottle. Bottle opens with a "pop" and a wisp of carbonated air. Pours dark reddish-amber. Very thick, pillowy beige head leaves lots of lacing on the glass. Immediate aroma is cinnamon. As it warms, nutmeg, caramel notes appear. Taste matches with cinnamon being the strongest, some nutmeg, caramel, vanilla flavors too. This needs to be at room temperature to loosen the flavors. Not a bad beer, but for a Winter beer still very similar to so many Fall pumpkin beers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of barefootbrewer
3.31/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This beer poured a clear brown color with a thick head – tight bubbles. The aroma is malty. The taste is malty and has a pumpkin spice taste. It also is very reminiscent of syrup – this tastes like something one should have for breakfast (waffles?). The mouthfeel is full. This is an interesting beer that I’d recommend tasting, but wouldn’t call highly drinkable.

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Photo of cps98
3.33/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this as an extra from a trade. Never had anything from Highland so I was excited to try it.

A – Dark brown in color with a nice 2 finger off white head.

S – Mild cinnamon and spice notes, some caramel in there too.

T – Heavy cinnamon and spice up front. Caramel and malty sweetness after that.

M – Light to medium bodied a little bite. Carbonation seemed to be a little on the low side.

O – Nothing overly exciting to report about this beer. Drinkable but not really my cup-o-tea.

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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 ChainGangGuy
3.4/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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

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

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

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Moderately carbonated.

Drinkability: Interesting and well-made, but not particularly to my liking.

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Photo of NClifestyle
3.41/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

uh oh, folks. we might have a problem here.

i visited wine warehouse here in greensboro last night for a highland brewery tasking. every beer was present and accounted for, including this years cold mountain. sadly, it's not up to par with the last few years, and below my extremely high expectations for this wonderful brew.
looked great, dark amber to rich red/brown. decent off white head, some lace to speak of, so that was fine.
the aroma was lacking, there was a bit of spice, but nothing special.
the taste was the major issue for me. i actually enjoyed the vanilla and spice of the past. although there is a bit of vanilla in this one, it's just barely there, and mostly hides behind the earthy bread and dirt taste. definitely much more in the bitter/grain department this year. hints of cinnamon, vanilla and maybe a touch of fruit like orange or grapefruit are in the mix, but very minimal.
mouthfeel was fine, maybe even a bit more full, compared with previous years.
i would still drink many of these if on tap, but it seems like this is a different, possibly hoppier, version of cold mountain, and a departure from the typical makeup of the past few offerings.

my buddy dale, a complete hophead, and my girlfriend, who does not like sweeter beers, said they liked this years cold mountain much better than ever before, so take that for what it's worth.


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Photo of hunteraw
3.41/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to ipa2xs for sending this one my way - it's the last of the beers I received in the No Name BIF....

Appearance: Garnet, almost purple in color. Good head, retention and lacing. Very clear. A fine looking beer, if nothing else.

Smell: Cocoa, heavy on the Christmas spices, definitely sweet-smelling.

Taste: Spices, maple syrup. Some cocoa and vanilla. Not much bitterness. Heavy flavors conceal the alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Thicker body than I think I'd prefer, somewhat syrupy.

Drinkability: I split the 16 oz and that was plenty... Not a huge fan on the whole - not beery enough for me, I suppose.

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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 ImusBeer
3.44/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Draft, from Taco Mac, Suwanee, GA

Came with about a finger of off-white head, a tan color. The beer was a dark amber, almost brown not quite see-through but clear of haze. Lacing occured as I drank.
The smell was not very complex, I detected only oak. First taste gave me butterscotch along with Molassas, Malt, and a Whiskey aftertaste.

Mouthfeel was light with a slight bitterness and some sourness. Medium to low carbonation. Very flavourful and hardy, a nice Brown Ale.

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

Since I had my first Cold Mountain four years ago, I've looked forward to the release date. But every year, it seems like the quality slips a little, and this year (2013 - the beer was released just last Thursday) the slippage seems to have been a little more extreme.

Specifically, the intake of the beer was fine but the finish was abrupt and left a metallic after-taste. I thought maybe I was having an off day (happens) but a few other folks I've talked to since felt the same way. Like it could use some more time, or maybe something wasn't quite right with the recipe or batch. It was almost like the vanilla was short, or an inferior grade.

That said, it's still drinkable, but not quite as good as I remember it or hoped this year's would be. Maybe some time will help it out, or maybe not.

Your mileage may vary.

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Photo of cerevisiaephilus
3.48/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

In my experience, this beer is only available in 32oz (1L?) swing top bottles during the winter months. Fairly well spiced, this beer is reminiscent of pumpkin pie both in smell and taste. Definately an enjoyable beer, but I feel it could be made more so by increasing the quantity of malts and holding the spice level the same. However, this wouldn't work in NC because this beer is already close to the 6% alcohol level the state has set as a limit for all BEER. Which is ridiculous.

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Photo of djeucalyptus
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

pours a bright amber-ruby hue with a frothy two-finger head that holds for a while and leaves pretty decent gobs of lacing down the glass.

aroma of brown sugar, caramel malt, hints of vanilla and some spices. a touch of earthy hops.

taste is interestingly deep although somewhat confusing. decent malt backbone accentuated by both a decent green herbal hopping and some funky vanilla and spice. it reminds me of cream soda mixed with a hoppy amber. and I haven't decided if that's a good thing.

the body is fairly light and the carbonation ample, which is good, because there's a definite lingering hop bitterness in the finish that is a step away from cloying. as is the odd sweetness. it's an odd dichotomy.

all in all, I can't say I'm completely impressed by this one. I love a good vanilla and spice winter brew, but this one may have just missed the mark a tad. not my favorite offering from Highland, but I could see warming up to another glass if I was in the right mood.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Paul for sharing this at a recent tasting. Currently the #1 Winter Warmer. Served in a snifter.

Pours a nice caramel color with a really light head. Doesn't really stick around too long and only leaves a spot or two of lacing. The nose is loaded with vanilla, though it smells somewhat like extract. There's also a bit of caramel and malty sweetness. The taste is more vanilla plus some caramel. Not much else, though it's fairly nice. Beer has a medium body and finishes quite dry. Not terribly complex and not all the winter warmery, but pretty good.

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Photo of inlimbo77
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz, 2012
DFH signature

A: Deep amber color. It's filtered nicely, as you can still see through it pretty well. Thin layer off white head. Faded pretty quickly.

S: Holiday spices. Some hop notes. More on the earthy side than fruity. The holiday spices really dominate.

T: You get a little hop bitterness up front, then that holiday spice and malt pick up in the middle of the mouth.

M: Medium bodied.

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Photo of bgarrity
3.52/5  rDev -12%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Interesting ale to drink. Aroma is not much to talk about, because you really have try to even smell it. Taste is chocolate and caramel mostly, with slight hoppiness afterwards with a bitter chocolate finish. Nice dark amber color. Interesting brew but not Highland's best. Word of warning: intense chocolate flavor for chocolate lovers mostly.

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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.

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Photo of rajendra82
3.54/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Started getting the beer this year in Georgia in 22 oz. bombers (without the flip top), so went head and picked some up at Bullock’s on Sandy Plains in Marietta to sample what the North Carolinians have been raving about for so long.

The body came out deep reddish brown with a smallish foamy head that started off at one finger thick, and stayed at that level for a while. The smell was just absent, with even deep inhalation revealing almost nothing, except some timid floral to citric hops. The taste on the other hand was much more expressive, comprising of sweet caramel malt with just a hint of chocolate, winter spices (ginger, cinnamon, and clove), and citric hops all complimenting each other quite nicely. Much lighter in body than most Winter Warmers, with the lively carbonation sparkling across the tongue like a soda, this felt more like a spice enhanced Bitter. Quite easy to drink, and relatively low in ABV, this is very suitable for the milder Southern climate, with its pseudo winter.

May be next year, they can pump up the recipe to the next level, now that the cap has been popped,

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Photo of Walker8810
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours a nice brownish hue with decent head. nice lacing.
aroma of cranberries of all things but it is a spiced winter brew.
mouthfeel is velvety smooth. goes down very easily.
tastes malty sweet w/ vanilla overtones and little hop flavor.
i normally don't like spiced beers but this one isn't overpoweringly spiced. still tastes like a good ale. i probably wouldn't drink it on a regular basis as it is not my favorite style but it is a really good example of a winter ale. definitely goes good w/ the season.

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Photo of n2185
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark, clear copper with two fingers of beige head that recedes into a thin ring with a little lacing.

S: Lots of creamy vanilla aromas with some light spice and caramel notes. Smells like a cream soda.

T: Some caramel malt flavors at first with light cinnamon and other spice notes. Creamy vanilla follows along with some nutty flavors as well. Roasted malt characters also peek through, bringing a slight bitterness.

M: Medium body with lowish carbonation, this beer is a bit on the watery side.

O: A decent beer that reminds me a lot of cream soda. I enjoy it fairly well, but it's not terribly complex and the watery body is a bit off-putting.

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Photo of match1112
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

body is a clear dark amber color with a finger and a half of tan creamy head. the head recedes to a thin ring around the glass and leaves only a little lacing at the top of the glass. The nose is dominated by hints of cinnamon and vanilla with a light fruit scent. spice leads the way on the tongue also. i thought the fruit would of been apples but the label says raspberries and cranberries, i can kind of pick up on the tartness of the cranberries, but the raspberries are lost under the dominating presence of cinnamon. mouthfeel seems a little thin for a winter warmer. carbonation is nice and prickly on the tongue. i don't usually like winter warmers but this one is very drinkable. i wish the raspberrries played a bigger role in the beer and the vanilla would be better in a leading role instead of the cinnamon. none the less it is still worth drinking. but with the thin body and fairly low abv i don't know how warm it will keep you this winter.

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Photo of DaPan
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Beer pours a clear amber color, no head to speak of, thin lacing and no retention.

Brown sugar, candy, and vanilla on the nose. Good start.

Taste is decent, same as above. Medium mouthfeel, low carbonation. Slides down really smooth.

Was anticipating more with this one with all the hype. All in all a solid brew, good quality.

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Photo of beerhandy
3.59/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This brew pours a murky brown with a thick tan head that quickly subsides to a thin layer of foam.The aroma was cranberries with
subtle notes of pumpkin pie.The taste was malty sweetness with faint cinnamon and clove spiciness.The hops are subdued but dry it up in the swallow.The body was a bit thin perhaps a bit cidery.
A good winter warmer .

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