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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.

308 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 308
Hads: 700
Avg: 4.01
pDev: 19.95%
Wants: 86
Gots: 112 | 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:
Beer added by: RBorsato on 11-25-2002

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 308 | Hads: 700
Photo of mikesgroove
3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Wow, was I shocked when I walked into the Oasis liquor store and saw a couple corked and wrapped liter bottles of this sitting on the shelf yesterday. This is the one local winter brew I was just never able to track down a bottle of and never go around to going down to get it on tap. I immediatly grabbed a couple and drove home and put one in the fridge for when I got home later that night. Pulled the bottle from the fridge and unwrapped the top. Pop the gasket and it was indeed still frsh, the sound of the pop let you know that immediatly. I don't know why I had wanted to try this, from the reviews it seemed just a standard winter warmer, but for some reason I was always wanted it, perhaps it was the novelty of the liter corked bottle that I always wanted, but alas I have it and on to the drinking....

A - This poured a deep hazelnut brown, very dark color with a bit of a rustic red tone mixed in. I nice one inch or so off white head formed on the top and quickly nestled into a thin film, that glazed over the top of the glass. Very thick lace was left behind as the glass was emptied. A nice clear appearence wa evident even though it was soo dark, and streams of bubbles could be seen breaking towards the surface from the bottom of the glass. Overall it looked as I had expected, a nice color and consitency for your typical winter beer.

S - First aromas to hit the nose were undeniably Vanilla, and lots of it for sure. once you got past that there was a nice earthy like tone, with hints of an oakish quality with a mix of cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg. Not much of a hop presence here at all, rather the lack of it made this very intresting. Had your classic yule time smell and brought me back a little, If not for the 95 degree heat I would turned on the fireplace to set the mood.

T - Very big flavor here was evident from the very first sip. Big vanilla oak chips almost completely over rule all others until the flavor settles down. I almost could swear this was an oak agen beer, as I picked up that kinda taste almost immediatly. Lots of caramel and cinnamon tones start to come through as it gets a little warmer. A nice full flavor profile. THere is definatly no watering down of the flavors here. The vanilla and oak came on a little strong for me and never really backed off enough for me to fully enjoy this. No ABV listed for this, and I could not find anything online, but there was no hint of it detected. If I had to guess I would put it in the 6-8% range, probably in the lower part as it did not feel that strong. Overall a very full winter flavored brew, perhaps a bit too much vanilla.

M - very very full. A very rich creamy like feel, this really filled me up quick, and I did not realize it would be that way, as I was the only one drinking and had this whole liter to drink now. Was not oily, nor very crisp. The flavors were allowed to really show themselves through ample carbonation.

D- At first this was really very drinkable, however the large amount of vanilla and oak put into it really started to build up after a while and make it hard to finish. This bottle would have been great to split between about 3 people, but by yourself, one of these is enough. Not too say its bad at all, it is a very good brew, but the flavor will wear you down after a while.

Overall this was a little bit bigger then I had expected. I would not say it dissapointed me, not at all. On a cold night I would love to throw one of these back. In fact, I really look forward to the first autumn chill, and will have to invite over the family to crack the other bottle I purchased. But as an all winter long session beer, a bit too strong for that. All and all, a good brew, with some nice inginuity from the boys over at highland. The quality of the brewing going on in Western Noth Carolina continues to impress me. I always appreciate thinking outside the box, and also, in cases like this where you just put you own twist on a classic warmer, well done, and definatly worth a try.

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Photo of plaid75
2.45/5  rDev -38.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured a deep amber hue with a wisp of white foam atop. There was little retention and lacing.

The smell featured a strong sweet cereal aroma with a healthy dose of vanilla. Some nutmeg detected as well.

The taste consists of and astringent cinammon and nutmeg flavor with an overdose of vanilla. Very medicinal in the bitterness.

The mouthfeel was thin with an uncomfortable astringency.

Overall I was disappointed in this beer. Perhaps it is past its prime. Either way, I couldn't finish it.

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Photo of brewcrew76
4.05/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle

A - Slightly hazy auburn with a thin tan head that disappeared immediately.

S - Malty with butterscotch, roasted nuts, cocoa, dark fruits, raisins and maple syrup. Hints of spice in the background but I can't pick out what exactly.

T - Cocoa, dark fruits, raisins, cinnamon, maple syrup, bready all with an herbal tea likeness. Reminds me of christmas cake or gingerbread. Very fitting for a holiday beer.

M - Medium body and smooth which creates a soft creamyness.

D - A very good winter warmer that truly tastes like a holiday beer. A little much for me to drink more than a bottle but would make a nice sipper by a warm fire.

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 22 oz. bottle sent by brentk56 some months ago, January 2007? Poured to a standard pint and enjoyed on June 16, 2007 - not exactly the middle of winter.

A: Pours auburn-orange and quite clear with bits of sediment suspended throughout the glass like a fine powder. offwhite 1/2-finger dwindles down quickly to a soap-bubble ring of foam. Smoke-thin film on top and minimal lacing.

S: Very sweet - vanilla, butterscotch, holiday spices, caramel. Has a baked goods-type enticing aroma and a very sweet one at that. Yummy.

T: Many of the smells come out in the flavor: cinnamon bread, nutmeg, vanilla, allspice and bitter cloves. A bit of maple syrup and some fresh, minty hops. Besides those flavors, I get caramel, toasted nuts and a slightly cocoa finish. Sounds sweet? Well, it is, but somehow enough hops entered the mix and balanced out those sweet malty flavors to succinctly delicious whole. Good job, Highland!

M: Crisp at first, then mellowing to an enveloping warmth. Carbonation is subdued and (unknown) alcohol level is nicely concealed. Some sticky cocoa malt in the medium body, but bitter in the end.

D: Quite an enjoyable winter brew. Even just days before summer, this one was still satisfying and delicious. I've read that the brew recipe changes each year, but I'll attest to the the fact that the 2006 batch was good and was still drinkable as of June 2007. Thanks for sending this one, Brent.

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Photo of barefootbrewer
3.31/5  rDev -17.5%
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 Bitterbill
3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Obtained in a trade with Brentk56. Thanks a bunch!!

To start off, I have the 1L taped swing top bottle ...it's very cool looking.

It pours into my New Belgium chalice a very nice amber with a smallish head of foam. It doesn't stick around very long and I'm left with just a ring around the edge of the glass and there's just a tiny bit of lacing.

The smell...I'm getting a huge whiff of vanilla, malt, and some other spices.

The taste is also very big on the vanilla with a nice burnt caramel malt backing it up. Swishing the Ale in mouth, I get a bit of citrus tartness and some chocolate notes and that has me smacking my mouth. This is a very unusual tasting sample of the style and I'm liking it.

The finish is on the bitterish side with flavours of hot cocoa and it leaves a pleasing long lasting aftertaste. I'm not getting too much warming so either the abv is fairly low or it's really well hidden. A *very* nice drop indeed. I'm glad I got this one in the trade. :^)

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Photo of willjansen
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottled purchased in North Carolina in January 2007 and consumed in June 2007. Travelled all the way to Australia and sat on my shelf for the last six months, and at last it's winter time here. Let's hope it is as good as it was back in NC...

Appearance: Deep, transparent crimson in color. Nice, creamy head with better than average retention. Head reduces a nice surface lace.

Smell: Sweetened vanilla straight away. Sweet, malty backbone supporting holiday spices such as allspice and a hint of nutmeg. Molasses, raisins and toffee hiding in the background. Overall, very complex and inviting for a winter brew.

Taste: Much like the smell, vanilla is the first thing that hits you followed by a plethora of spices that leave you breathing pumpkin pie vapors through the nose. Starts off with a maltiness dominated by vanilla, followed by the spices. Aftertaste of vanilla and allspice.

Mouthfeel: Soft, velvety mouthfeel. A bit weak on the carbonation, but somewhat appropriate for a winter brew. Silky, and somewhat watery.

Drinkability: The high levels of spice require slow sipping and I can only get through one or two bottles before I've had enough. While it's an amazing beer and quite drinkable for a spiced winter ale, this style in particular requires moderate consumption. All in all, an amazing and unique beer and one that I'll be looking for every winter.

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Photo of Wasatch
3.88/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to slcbrewer for this brew.

22oz. Bomber

Pours a slightly cloudy amber color, nice carbonation, nice little fizzy tannish head, some sticky lacing follows. The nose is sweet, malty, and lots of caramel. The taste follows the nose pretty much. Slightly dry finish. Medium body. Drinkable, a nice little WW, but not that high in alcohol content.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
4.26/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured, it has a lovely dark brown color with a nice thick head. Aroma is spicy with a strong hint of cinnamon. The pleasant, zingy taste is malty with spice hints and very little bitterness. It goes down smoothly and is very satisfying. This holiday beer is a delight any time of the year, good by itself or as an accompaniment to a light meal.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.23/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lush blurry cranberry red color with a slim, compact capping of lightly tanned creamy foam. Light lacing sticks low across the glass in a thin sheeting.

Aroma is fairly malty with a candied corn sweetness with some soft nuttyness and lower developed dark fruityness that seeps in a bit of cherry and raisin paste. Maple, vanilla, and toffee really begin to emerge as it sits a while.

Taste is a solid malty treat with a soft supple thickness displaying the whole way through, yet uncloying to the palate in any major fashion and making for a nice sipper. Flavors are well rounded and muted with deep, saturated dark fruityness. Mingling raisin, prune, plum, and dark cherry across the front and middle where the peak then hits with a very nice subtle turn into a bakery fresh softness of cocoa, cinnamon, maple, vanilla, and toffee. Which in itself has one uniquely fine drying effect thats all encompassingly great to behold. Excellent balance in flavors and tone. A very tasty subtle treat.

Body is about medium with a soft creamyness that coats the palate well and really sits nice once the peak hits. Then the finish ensues onward into a bakery goodness thats fresh and wonderfully drying without a whole lot of anything but ghostly remains of one well crafted beer leaving an impression on the taste buds.

A soothing drinker of a Winter Warmer. Subtle, malty, with an infused quality of bakery fresh doughnut toppings and fillings. Nice stuff.

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Photo of malthead
4.47/5  rDev +11.5%
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 russpowell
4.3/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Big props to Ddarden for this one, I really wanted to try this when I went back to NC last summer, but alas much like the winter snow, it was long gone.

Pours caramel/auburn with 4+ fingers of pillowy sand-colored head. Above average lacing & head retention

S: Slight toffee & caramel notes& a little vanilla as this warms

T: Toffee & hints of grain & vanilla upfront. Caramel, toasted malt & huge breadyness show up as this warms along with a little herbal hop bite. Brown sugar, choclate & more vanilla show up in the warming/bready finish

MF: Medium bodied & very smooth & low/low carbonation

Drinks so easy, a really pleasant winter warmer. One I think I could session on. I'll buy this if I ever see it again!

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Photo of hunteraw
3.41/5  rDev -15%
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 flexabull
4.11/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

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Photo of atsprings
4.55/5  rDev +13.5%
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 mwearl
4.8/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Amber color, nice body and extremely drinkable. This is a beer whose flavor absolutely changes and gets better with age. Save this years' beer in a cool place and drink it next winter and you will see what I mean. The smooth flavor has a distinctive chocolate finish.

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Photo of Westsidethreat
4.35/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to KilgoreTrout27 for this beer. Been wanting to try it for a while now.

A: Amber mahagony, clean and refined with a few dozen lazy streams up bubbles rising to the surface. Head has a good consistency to it, sort of a sandy color.

S: Cherries, molasses, butterscotch and marshmallow.

T: A lot of vanilla and butterscotch up front. Not at the level that its cloying or overbearing, a nice level. Delicate cherries, strawberries and perhaps apricot add an underlying fruity flavor. As it warms the spices start to come out; sasparilla and cinnamon primarily. Very doughy as well, this is almost like drinking a liquid christmas cookie. A very faint hop bite can be found in the finish, just enough to add more depth. Aftertaste is long lingering cookie dough and of course...vanilla/butterscotch.

M: Medium body, full and silky mouthfeel.

D: This beer could have gone either way. With that much vanilla/butterscotch flavor it could easilly be cloying, artificial or overbearing. The fact that I killed an entire 22oz without the sugar weighing on me speaks volumes. One of the more under rated winter warmers on the market, a beer that doesn't get much publicity. Its very similar to the Winter Solstice from Anderson Valley but blows it out of the water. This was probably the second best domestic winter warmer I had this year.

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Photo of rodrot
3.38/5  rDev -15.7%
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 -15.2%
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 kkipple
2.48/5  rDev -38.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

I was excited to see this locally in Columbia, as I'd wanted to try it for some time and had not been able to get my mitts on it. On draft, too! I eagerly ordered a pint...

...and was bitterly disappointed! I post this review bewildered as to what I actually drank, because apparently most everyone else loves this beer.

It arrived a rich, clear mahogany, no visible bubbles and a small white head which booked it within minutes.

I smelled this beer and immediately thought "Vanilla and cereal" ?? Several sniffs later I'd picked up marshmallows, cocoa, and again a weird cinnamon grain flavor. I said as much to my tablemates and one replied "Yeah, it smells like Life cereal!" Which is absolutely correct. I can't say I enjoyed the smell, but it's certainly different.

The taste was overwhelmingly cinnamon Life cereal! Loads of vanilla and sweet malt, no hop presence whatsoever. Very timid mouthfeel, and altogether too much vanilla and sweetness to be drinkable. I had trouble finishing my glass. No roasted grain flavors or subtlety.

The mouthfeel was moderately carbonated and bizarrely thin for a winter warmer, I like mine much fuller.

My bar summary notes end: "Vanilla and spice overpower -- too sweet to drink much of. Odd." And that about sums it up. Being the number one rated winter warmer on the site, I'm baffled as to why this was so bad. Perhaps a bad batch or one that was damaged during transit? I didn't note any unwelcome flavors or smells, but the sum of the mix was practically undrinkable. I'll try Cold Mountain again, hopefully from a bottle, and re-review it.
For now, it's a sad letdown from a brewery I really respect.

EDIT: I've had this several times from bottle since, and really, I still dislike it. Ah well.

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Photo of tastybeer
4.1/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of wedge
4.32/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep brownish red with a fluffy, soapy head. Smells exactly like frosting covered gingerbread cookies...wow. Sweet malty flavor nicely layered with ginger and other spices - mapley figs. Rich and complex. Solid mouthfeel with a fullish body and light carbonation. Pretty darn tasty winter ale...excellent on tap as well if you can find it.

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

This was a little darker, and much sweeter than I expected. Poured a crystal clear dark orange bronze colour. Big soapy frothy khaki coloured head hung around for a while. It looked pretty nice. Smell was fairly hoppy, and a little sweet. Sweet grain, actually. Taste was completely different than I had expected based on smell. Bitter citrus hops up front, quickly quelled by sweet, toasted malty flavours. Delicious, actually. I was quite surprised. I liked this more than I thought I would. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, and very smooth and easy drinking. I must say, I'm quite surprised.

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Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.3/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I got this via trade! Seems this was the 05 version which differs from the 06. Many people seem to be on either side as to which year is better. My take - this is one of the more intriguing winter warmers I've had in recent memory. I am very happy to have gotten 2 so I can enjoy the other on another evening.

A - Rich red color, frothy white head takes a while to dissipate.
S- A combination of toffee, vanilla and tea. Malty but with a dry character.
T - Similar to the aroma but so much more complex. This one toys with your taste buds!
M - Medium bodied, nicely carbonated and dry in the finish.
D - Easy drinking, tasty drinking, Yes I'll have another. A winter brew that even at 22oz has you considering a second bottle.

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Photo of dgallina
4.47/5  rDev +11.5%
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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Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing
90 out of 100 based on 308 ratings.