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Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...

Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale - Highland Brewing

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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
89
very good

308 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 308
Hads: 700
rAvg: 4
pDev: 12.25%
Wants: 85
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 Sammy
3.77/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Another very pleasant brew from Highland. Pours mocha-looking body with some off-white head. This was aged somewhat. Malty, with some roasted malt, and sweetish spices. The hops are understated, but present in the finish.Tad above average mouthfeel. Drinkable. Not a high rating of outstanding, but enjoyable nevertheless. (322 characters)

Photo of kylehay2004
3.16/5  rDev -21%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Single finger head with nice lacing on a clear amber body. Aroma is mild, mostly sweet caramel malt and a touch of burnt toast. Flavor is a little syrup like/ molasses on a spIcy caaramel malt background. Medium body and moderate carbonation. Overall not as good as I was hoping for. Almost had a cough syrup like note. (319 characters)

Photo of metter98
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is clear reddish amber in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high dense beige head that died down, leaving a large patch of bubbles in the center of the glass and a collar around the edge.
S: There are light to moderate aromas of cranberry juice, hazelnut and vanilla beans in the nose.
T: The taste shares some similarities with the smell but also has some hints of raspberries. Notes of cinnamon sticks are also apparent towards the finish, although these become muted as the beer warms up and are replaced with flavors of hazelnuts and later with berries. Neither sweetness nor bitterness is perceptible.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a little smooth on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is quite unusual for the style and has an interesting mix of fruity flavors and spices. I liked how the dynamics of the beer changed as it warmed up, which make for it being an interesting winter warmer to sip. (987 characters)

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. (564 characters)

Photo of brentk56
3.9/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2006 vintage

Appearance: Pours a hazy amber color with a modest head that leaves a few splotches of lacing

Smell: Burnt caramel, orange peel, undiscernable winter spices and vanilla

Taste: Starts out rather malty with spice cake, orange peel and vanilla flavors; after the swallow, the lightly hopped bitterness adds balance; vanilla flavors linger after the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, velvety; moderate carbonation

Drinkability: An enjoyable beer with a somewhat unique flavor profile but not one that you can drink in quantity (555 characters)

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

Pours a dark, yet clear, brown with ruby hues and an unwavering foamstand. Promises to be creamy and rich right out of the bottle. The first whiff reveals a solid barley malt base with notes of toffee, pecans, chocolate, and a spicy hop balance. Tastes full and rich with the nutty, chocolate, and toffee flavors with a light roasty and toasty hint in the finish. The finish also releases a light hop spiciness and dryness. The beer remeains creamy and full textured until the finish where it thins nicely for a clean and easy finish, but never became watery. The beer remids me of a lighter Sam Adams Chocolate Bock with added flavors and complexity. This beer improved greaty as it warmed to room temperature.

Thanks Merlin48 (729 characters)

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. (792 characters)

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Warmly glowing crimson-infused dark bronze that is as clear as the Cold Mountain air. The cap is toasted marshmallow in color with a slight hint of orange; a wonderful complement to the beer on which it sits. It's thick and creamy, in no hurry to depart, and deposits a good bit of lace on the upper portion of the glass. A pleasing look for a winter warmer.

The nose is rich, malty and inviting. It reminds me of warm cocoa with a generous sprinkling of spice. In fact, this is the most cocoa-like (not chocolate-like) nose that I've ever run across. Try as I might, I can't even begin to guess what spices have been added. Warming brings out definite brown sugar notes, upping the ante and making me love it all the more.

The flavor is different from any winter warmer in recent memory. It's perhaps closest to a porter in terms of mouthfeel, even though it isn't very porter-like in execution. The flavor is low in terms of roastedness, leaning more heavily towards milk chocolate, toffee and vanilla. It reminds me of chai, which makes me think that cardamom and ginger are at least two of the added spices. Different and delicious.

Hops play a secondary role, yet their bitterness is noticeable throughout. Unlike most winter warmers, this one favors tea-like bitter over sweet (no wonder the chai comparison comes so easily to mind). I normally prefer sweet and sippable, but it's hard to argue with what the brewers at Highland have created. There's no evidence of alcohol. If forced to guess, I'd say the ABV is in the vicinity of 6.0%.

I was initially a little let down with the body/mouthfeel. I expect the good versions of this style (which this most definitely is) to be at least medium-full and to be slightly chewy. Things have improved with time and warming, but it still favors the easily drinkable side of the continuum over the full, sticky and sippable. I've chosen not to mark it down since it's well within the bounds of acceptable and since it absolutely oozes quality.

CMWA is a uniquely flavored beer from what I've decided is the best brewery in the state of North Carolina. Since winters in the Tar Heel State don't come close to resembling winters in the upper Midwest, there's no need to create a heavy, high alcohol ale to warm the natives. An amazingly delicious one like Cold Mountain will suffice quite nicely. (2,357 characters)

Photo of mikesgroove
3.93/5  rDev -1.8%
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. (4,037 characters)

Photo of oberon
4.12/5  rDev +3%
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. (349 characters)

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. (499 characters)

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. (1,218 characters)

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

22 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a clear dark amber with +1 fingers of light tan creamy head. Good retention that leaves a thick smattering of lace behind. The aroma is HOLY SWEETNESS! Rich accents of caramel and toffee with some light citic notes and hop bitterness behind it.

The taste is more of the same. Huge caramel and toffee sweetness with just enough hop bitterness backing it up to reign things in and keep the flavor from getting overly cloying. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with a smooth feel yet keeps a fairly prickly carbonation.

Wow, this is just one tasty Winter Warmer. The sweetness works just right, never gets to be over the top, and keeps the drikibility right on target. Nice stuff! (718 characters)

Photo of Slatetank
3.97/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this at Deuane's 40th Birthday bash - poured chilled from the bottle into my 1/2 pint.

A - A chesnut brown shade with good clarity, and ordinary cream cap

S - A sweet nutty scent w/ mild cherry hints and light vanilla-like floral aroma

M- A mild sweet taste w/ malty presence which seems to become semi-dry with mellow carbonation and the sweet entry mellows toward the end w/ nutty light spiced finish

T - The taste is pleasant with mellow sweet tinges of caramel and gentle stone fruit tinges. The vanilla taste comes forward w/ malt presence that is borderline sweet and nutty w/ creamy mellow toasted flavor.The beer seems well balanced with a hint of spice flavor in the finish

D - A sweet brown winter ale, which has a nice creamy smoothness and yet moderately complex with both spice and malt presenting a balanced drinkable brew. (850 characters)

Photo of russpowell
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
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! (729 characters)

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

Hmmm, it's hot-as-heck in July, 90+ all week long..great time to break open a winter warmer, right? Right!

22-ounce bomber poured into 16-ounce goblet, a deep brown hue, nearly plum in places, with slim cocoa/cola-toned head.

Aroma: dark fruits, and nuts, sweetness, molasse and maple syrup, sugar beets, ripe and spicy...very interesting, and quite unique.

Taste: yum, ...same flavors noted in the nose reappear on the tongue. Full-bodied, and incredibly smooth, while delivering copious amounts of sweet, delicioius flavors. A rich and relaxing brew, sweet candyish flavors, a hint of toffee, a wiggle of caramel. Ends a bit dryly, much appreciated.
Yum, I say again, tas-tee!
What could be better for a mid-summer morning? (736 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 01/22/11 notes. Shared by Lunch at a recent tasting. Thanks Paul.

a - Pours a dark amber color with one inch of white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of butterscotch and vanilla. Also a little spice and bready malts. Pretty good.

t - Tastes of watered down vanilla and butterscotch, spices, bready malts, and toasted malts. Good, but as I said, tasted watered down.

m - Thin to medium body and low carbonation.

d - A nice winter warmer. Taste was a little lacking, but still enjoyable. Would have again. (528 characters)

Photo of chinchill
4.04/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2012 12 oz bottle served in a snifter. Pours a beautiful, clear mahogany color, with a short-lived beige head. Very sweet aroma is followed by a rather sweet upfront taste but eventually turns mildly bitter. The beer is a mildly spicy and a bit fruity, including raspberry and a surprising apricot note in the nose that's present but subdued in tasting. Cinnamon and plenty of vanilla in both; perhaps too much vanilla in the flavor.

Overall an enjoyable, complex and distinctive seasonal brew.

{9 months later (Sept. 2013) a bottle kept in a cooler is every bit as tasty}. (576 characters)

Photo of drabmuh
3.95/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Paul after my incessant whining. Currently the #1 Winter Warmer, although the more winter warmers I drink, I'm slowly realizing that this style has no style and you can call anything a winter warmer, I've had spicy ones, dark ones, light ones, hoppy ones, malty ones, the only commonality is that they were all released in winter and called warmers. Oh well. Poured into a Russian River wine glass.

Beer is light brown / orange with a thin off white head of small bubbles, low but steady carbonation, and the head leaves some lacing on the glass.

Aroma is vanilla and some malt...this was quite a shock to me.

Beer is sweet and undercarbonated on the palate. Huhzubendah said in his review that it tasted like cream soda...and it totally does. The vanilla wins on all front here. It opens with some sugary sweetness that is accented by the vanilla on the late front and midpalate. There is no real bitterness to this beer...just vanilla. It probably sounds like I'm putting it down and I'm not, I really am not. It does what it does well. Beer as cream soda. I like that. (1,091 characters)

Photo of dbrauneis
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Edition

A: Pours a crystal clear light to medium amber in color with very light amounts of visible carbonation. The beer has a finger tall creamy beige head that slowly reduces to a thick film covering the entire surface of the beer. Moderate to significant amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of cocoa along with some vanilla and just a touch of spices (nutmeg stands out). Additionally there are some notes of brown sugar.

T: Moderate to strong flavors of vanilla and oak over some lighter notes of cocoa and spices (nutmeg). Some caramel malts flavors along with a little bit of brown sugar sweetness.

M: Just shy of medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Creamy.

O: This is a very enjoyable beer and I could almost think it had been barrel aged - nice combination of the spices, cocoa, and vanilla... Pretty easy to drink and I had no problem putting down a couple of glasses. Very nice of a fairly cold November evening but would have been improved by sitting in front of the fireplace. (1,029 characters)

Photo of Huhzubendah
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Lunch. Thanks Paul!

A: This brew appears clear and rusty orange / brown in color. The head is thin and wispy, but manages to generate a fair amount of lacing upon the glass.

S: Scents include vanilla, malt, alcohol.

T: This beer is quite different than I would have expected from a winter warmer. The flavor is remarkably similar to how I would imagine an alcoholic cream soda tastes. I happen to enjoy cream soda, so I'm totally cool with this unusual take on the style. Vanilla is the most forward flavor, followed by some sweet malt and light spice.

M: Thin bodied, with a fairly low level of carbonation.

D: A fun and interesting brew, but not something of which I would want too much. (711 characters)

Photo of tdm168
3.92/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber with a soft layer of white head that has little retention. The nose offers some mild spice and some intense vanilla extract notes. The flavor is much the same; the vanilla dominates with some subtle spices and a little fruitiness throughout. The fruitiness is cherry-like, both tart and sweet. The finish is a little medicinal to me. I think it's the combination of vanilla and fruit. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and lightly carbonated, but it's viscous and syrupy at times.

I'm glad that this isn't just another winter warmer with ginger and cinnamon. I like the fruitiness here, but I find the medicinal off notes in the finish a little unpleasant. I probably wouldn't have this again, but I do like what they were going for with this one. (764 characters)

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
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). (764 characters)

Photo of yourefragile
3.22/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

On tap at Tyler's Taproom Carrboro, NC

A: Somewhat clear, dark amber with a basically white head that quickly dissipates to a splotchy film with little lacing.
S: A whole of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread, not much in the way of hops. Moderately strong, not all together appealing however
T: Ok, wow, cinnamon and gingerbread are very very strong. This tastes like a cinnamon bar I get from a bakery at home, in fact that's all I can think of right now. Some hops or bitterness for balance would be nice, but instead it almost tastes like I'm eating that pastry. Not bad, certainly unique, never tasted this in a beer, but I'm slightly overwhelmed by it.
M: Moderate carbonation, very smooth and creamy, medium bodied. Goes does easy and strong gingerbread, cinnamon aftertaste
D: I enjoyed this first time around and tried a second pint, and well, had some issues finishing it. The spices are too sweet and overpowering drinking too much of this. I liked this, but drinkability was severely limited for me, after first pint, it was just too much of too sweet. (1,068 characters)

Photo of Georgiabeer
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with a light head and no real lacing. Looks a little richer than it turns out to be. Smells of soft vanilla and hazlenuts- a little sweet on the nose. Taste has a lot of vanilla up front- probably too much- followed by some soft hops and a final malt creaminess. The mouthfeel is a little thin, but there is a nice creaminess. A very drinkable beer, but I was expecting more. This feels a little simplistic and not the classic I was hoping for. (461 characters)

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Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 308 ratings.