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Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale | Highland Brewing

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Highland Cold Mountain Winter AleHighland Cold Mountain Winter Ale

Brewed by:
Highland Brewing
North Carolina, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.80%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by RBorsato on 11-25-2002

For Trade:
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Reviews: 317 | Ratings: 756
Photo of TrappistJohnMD
4.39/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours amber color with thin off-white head that dissipates quickly. No lacing along sides of Firestone Walker snifter.

Smell is chocolate, marshmellow, cranberries, and caramel. Very nice!

Taste is sweet chocolate, malt, and marshmellow. Very mild bitterness.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied. Very smooth and drinkable.

Overall this is awesome! I could drink this all day long!

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Photo of doppelmeup
4.5/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

have to say that this is my favorite Winter Warmer, and I can hardly wait for its release each year. There is some great beer being brewed in North Carolina, and Highland Brewing is one of my favorite breweries.

Appearance: This beer is gorgeous to look at. A topaz colored brew with a thick, rich head that lasted all the way down the glass.

Aroma: This beer smells like a holiday party. Milk Chocolate, vanilla bean, brown sugar, sweet butter cream and just a hint of spice. Interestingly, the vanilla aroma remains throughout the glass. A key point about the vanilla. I've had some beer where the vanilla had a very artificial feel. In the case of Cold Mountain Ale, the vanilla aroma smells natural and real. I find myself looking for the vanilla been specs.

Taste: Sweet and malty. Brown sugar, vanilla beans, milk chocolate, slightly spicy, maybe a cinnamon or allspice note? But the spiciness is very subtle. The vanilla is well done. Not a lot in the way of hop flavor, but I wasn't really looking for a lot in this brew. A nice balance where the malty sweetness is pronounced, but not syrupy or cloying.

Mouthfeel: Creamy with a slightly dry finish. Velvety comes to mind.

Overall: This is a superb offering from Highland. IMO, it is the best Winter Warmer out there. I hope Highland Brewing keeps this year's recipe as the new standard. Track down a bottle of this beer any way you can. You will not be disappointed!

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Photo of lnashsig
3.66/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to JackTheBear for the chance to try this. Poured into my Dfh snifter, pours an amber brown, with little head and little lacing. Smell- nothing much here. Some applejuice flavors. Taste- this one is very unique- not like any winter warmer I have ever had. I get some butter flavors, with something reminiscent of a fig or date flavor, with some apple and spices on the end. This is extremely drinkable, yet I have no idea what the abv is ( it isn't on the bottle). The alcohol seems to be well hidden regardless. I could easily mistake this for a session beer if I didn't know any better, it is something I could really pound.

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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 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 LiquidBread219
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

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Photo of John1985
4.17/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Deep brown color with a small quarter-inch head;
S- Light spicy, molasses aroma;
T- Sweet malt burst reminiscent of spice cake with a mild hop tingle that provides just enough balance to offset the malt sweetness.
M & D-This was a very smooth and enjoyable ale. I'm not much for spices but this was very good.

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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 chaz410
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Got this seasonal fav at Brawley's!
Pours a deep red amber body with a thin white head that deminishes quickly.
Smell is sweet with caramel backbone and loaded with mild spice notes, ranging from corriander to vanilla. Unlike previous years I've had, this year had a fairly tart hop essence.
Taste is sweet and tart with a nice blend of earthy hops and caramel malts. Finishes nicely with spice blended into the grassy and earthy hop character. When it warms a little, the sweet malts come out A WHOLE LOT! Let this thing get to around 55 degrees and enjoy. Definitely my favorite seasonal this year...again!

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Photo of UncleFlip
4.38/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2005 release. Bomber picked up at Green's in ATL.

Nice deep copper with a two-finger tan head as it hits my Grumpy Troll pint glass. The head retention is good, but the head looks scraggly with very uneven bubbles.

I have to mark off for aroma, as I had a hard time picking one up. What I got was a deep maltinees with a hint of peppery spice woven throughout.

Wow....very complex in the first second or two! All kinds of things going on here....from earl grey tea to dark chocolate to coffee to dates to nutmeg to something awfully familiar that I just can't place. :) The flavors hit you hard and fast, then mostly face, leaving a deep, dark sweet aftertaste with a bit of that peppery spice. Sometimes even reminds me of the flavours I get going on in a really good cigar.

Mouthfeel is EXACTLY what I would expect....not too assertive on the carbonation, and the liquid fits perfectly with hte flavour of this one.

I give this tops for drinkability, as I could not put it down. I had to keep taking sips to keep finding more flavours in it. It's very complex and intriguing. You'll need more than one to get everything out of it. :)

Be well

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Photo of RedwoodGeorge
4.37/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I just love using the word "mahogany" when describing a beer so I'm happy to say this beer pours a clear deep mahogany color with a dense one finger tan head. The crown dies off after a while and doesn't leave much in the way of lacing on the inside of the glass.

The aroma is out of this world with exotic spices and warm, comforting notes. There's a clear vanilla note along with coriander and a fruit or two all riding on a deep caramel-thick sweet note.

The flavor is complex, balanced and (thankfully) far from overly sweet. There's a clean caramel note at the base with hints of apple, raspberry and peach adding quite a bit of depth. On top of that is an interesting blend of spices including nutmeg, coriander and allspice. There's also a bit of spruce in the flavorings with an almost bubblegum like note. There are enough flavors in each sip that you keep going back because you know there's one more that you missed in the last sip.

Mouthfeel is spot-on. Despite the tendency towards sweetness this is a medium bodied brew with no cloying mouthfeel and enough carbonation to liven up each sip. While there's not really any hop present in the aroma or flavor, there's a reasonable amount of bittering at the end of each sip leaving a nice dry finish. I know Highland is increasing the ABV now that the cap has been lifted in NC but there's no hint of alcohol burn or sweetness anywhere in this brew.

All in all this is a very flavorful brew and one more reason why I like winter seasonals so much. It's not something I'd want to drink as an 'everyday' brew but as something special that comes around once a year, this is certainly something special.

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Photo of nickss
4.01/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a beautiful deep amber hue with a monstrous cap of rocky cream colored foam.

Smells faintly of hops and malt... however I can't pick up on much else.

Unlike the smell, the taste is an explosion of different flavours... The first I picked up on was gingerbread, followed by subdued brown sugar... cinnamon follows closely behind. None of these are overwhelming, but rather are beautifully balanced against each other.

Medium bodied, and fairly active on the tongue.

Extremely drinkable... I wish this brew was a bit cheaper so I could grab a few more, although at $11 for a Litre, I suppose its not a bad deal.

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Photo of Thur123
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This brew pours a dark ruby red out of the bomber with very little khaki head and a somewhat hazy look. The smell is wood spices, like cinnamon and mahogany maybe. There is a lighter sweeter smell that I can't exactly pick out, and the malt seems complex but restrained.

Glug glug glug

Well, this is pretty good. The flavor this with big roasted malt characters with a nutty taste in addition to a slightly chocolate aftertaste. At one point this reminds me of Kaluha, in a good way; after the cocoa taste is a kind of creaminess that's blended with winter spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg. By the way, also towards the beginning of the flavor profile is a slightly bitter hop bite that soon takes a back seat to the crazy malt goodness. The moth feel works well on this one. Over all this is the best winter warmer I've had, and it's the fullness of flavor and the complexity that does it for me, if this is average, I can't wait for greatness.

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Photo of AgingWarrior
3.71/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark copper color with some reddish brown highlights into my Great Lakes pint glass. The pour produced a thick finger of tan colored foamy head with good retention and lots of lacing.

Smell is sweet malts, fruit and spices. The scent is a bit understated for a winter warmer.

Tastes a lot like it smells, a little sweet, malty but also somewhat different than most winter warmers. The spices are there, but subtle. Nicely balanced brew with a smooth and clean finish.

Medium body drink, smooth and creamy. Feels great as it washes over the tongue.

Smooth and easy drinking, very enjoyable.

Not exactly what I expected from a Winter Warmer, but a very enjoyable beer.

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Photo of CooperEllis
3.88/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From brentk56 in the SS'11 BIF box. This was probably my favorite of the offerings from Highland that included the E.S.B. and Christmas Ale.

This review borrows heavily from the style guide for Winter Warmer because this is one of the better I've had of the style and drinks less like an "American" and more like an "English".

"These malty sweet offerings tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body." This is absolutely the case here with the deep amber topped with a generous fluffy cap that leaves pleasant lacing.

This has little aroma, which is clearly going to knock the overall score, but the lack of a prominent aroma results in faint sweet malts, brown sugar and cinnamon.

The taste doesn't contain any overt spices more similar to "many English versions" which "contain no spices".

"American varieties...have a larger presences of hops both in bitterness and flavor." That isn't the case here. While there is a smooth, integrated hops presence it is not a larger presence than the malty sweetness.

Mouthfeel is even, medium bodied with a surprisingly crisp finish that owes a good deal to the trace hop bitterness that cuts any cloying sweetness or potential for lingeingr bitter/burnt spice flavors.


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

A: nice copper color .... healthy white head.... nice lacing

S: smell is vanilla, cinnamon, honey... pleasant

T: taste follows the smell, ultimately a little sweet for my taste...some caramel flavors develop and linger

M: very smooth and easy to drink for the amount of and size of the flavors....nice sense of body

O: this is a nice example of the style, and if I was in the mood for a winter warmer i'd try to get this one...that being said, like GL Xmas Ale, I don't think this beer justifies the hype it has around here

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Photo of beerinator
4.35/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Nice reddish brown color. Off white tan head with awesome head retention. Nice solid bubbles.

Aroma: Roasted nut and cherry present in the aroma. Ammaretto/almond noted in the nose. Solid sweetness, very little in the way of hop noted.

Taste: Initial taste is solid sweetness. Sweet cherry melds with a bit of nuttiness. Ammaretto present in the taste as well as aroma. Solid mouthfeel. Very little sourness or bitterness present here.

Notes: This beer is begging for North Carolina's abv laws to change. I think it's a good beer now, but the depth in both the aroma and taste is impressive for a beer under 6%. One of Highlands strongest offerings.

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Photo of BeerGod27
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I couldn't decide what to drink yesterday. Our waiter suggested this beauty and I'm very glad he did.
This is a perfect beer for the winter months. It's sugary and malty with so much flavor.
Pours a dark brown with minimal head. Lacing is medium and streaky.
Smell is slightly spicy and cold.
Taste is smooth, malty and sweet. Flavors are caramel, spicy (without tasting like a Christmas tree) and bready. Good carbonation.
This beer is best enjoyed in a dark pub or at home with a book in front of the fireplace. I could easily drink this all day.

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Photo of bigbeerdrinka
4.4/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

First and foremost this is one killer looking bottle if I do say so myself. Pours a deep mahogany color with slight ruby hues and a nice head that leaves a slight lace. Mixes of toffees, caramels, hints of roasted malts, and bits of earthy spices make up the aromas to this brew. There are also some toasted notes and what reminds me of walnuts of chestnuts. Flavors are a heavy dosage of malts throughout with a really powering kick of toffees and toasted malts that just blend together ever so nicely. There are hints of caramels in the mix (in almost a scotch ale sort of flavor), along with some nutty flavors are just a slight hint of spices. The finish is very malty but not overly sweet with hints of vanilla and bits of toffee. Overall this brew was highly drinkable and had a great creamy mouthfeel to it. Unfortunately for me this was my only bottle of this fantastic brew, but at least I get to quaff it all by myself. Get this beer if you can.

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Photo of Neehan
4.67/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this as a Christmas gift from my favorite local store as a thank-you for patronage. The establishment will remain nameless so that they don't get hammered for freebies ;) but I must say I love these guys and I am very appreciative...And I must say this was a hell of a gift.

This poured a dark, rich and shiny amber with a small head an not much retention but the head remained as a nice ring.

The smell is of rich malts that fill the nose with mouth-watering, spicy complexities.

The taste mimics the smell but with a hint of dark roasts with a slightly burning finish. Incredible, and perhaps the smoothest winter ale I've had.

The mouthfeel is also solid, with a perfect balance of complexity yet quite smooth.

Easily the most drinkable winter ale I have had due to its smoothness and outstanding taste. If you are lucky enough to get this, then buy it, it's fantastic!!

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Photo of waldoiverson
2.06/5  rDev -48.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

bomber into US Ping

A: minmal head with almost no lacing, nice dark copper color

S: smells like those heart candies you get around valentines day...no alcohol smell or hops, maybe a bit of caramel malt

t: sweetbitterness that is kind of chalky and chamomile floraly...not sure what's going on here but my mouth isn't happy

m: thin and tangy from carbonation

d: not sure about abv but on taste i'd not drink another...sorry highland

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Photo of TheEclecticGent
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This winter warmer is from one of my favorite breweries – Highland Brewing Company, Ashville, NC!! Salute! This beer pours a dark amber color with light carbonation. The smell is a deep spicy aroma. The taste is a deep and murky red “Scottish” ale flavor with spices and a nice molasses finish. The mouth feel is slightly heavy and full. This is a great beer, I need to go get more before the season passes.

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

Appearance: Dark brown beer with a finger of head. Head disappears leaving only a thin layer which sticks around for a food bit of the glass.

Smell: Sweet caramel, malt, and a spiciness that is led by cinammon.

Taste: Just like the nose. You get the big sweet malt and caramel flavors up front. The spiciness slowly moves in and provides a very nice balance of sweet and spicy. Very good beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium thickness with a nice amount of carbonation. The spices linger very strongly in the mouth. Very nice.

Drinkability: Big sweetness and nice spiciness. This is what I want a winter warmer to taste like. Though the style is very diverse and this is a very good example of the spiced variety. Highly recommended.

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Photo of dancinwillie
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to turtlemoye for this one. I got it from a LIF he did, in which I didn't even win! I've been waiting to drink drink it, and I decided I'd better get around to doing just that. So here it goes.

Looks pretty thick coming out of that bottle. Head is fluffy, and cratered. Slow carbonation swells and releases sluggishly. As it drops and the bubbles become less dense, they spread out and look like under carbonated home brew heads. Color is dark red, and almost the shade of plum.

Aroma is nutty sweetness, almost peanut brittle. Unknown earthy spicing.

Sweet with a little bitterness, though not hoppy. Earthy and wholesome, like some really good multi-grain bread. Spicy, with a little oxidation that reminds me of an old, Old Ale. In the background: maple syrup and a little pumpkin pie flavor. As it warms, it gathers more of an Ale fruitiness, and again, I reminisce of pie fillings. This time more of a tart cherry, and maybe a little blackberry too. Toasted wheat berries.

Medium bodied, leaning more towards the fuller end of the spectrum. Sweet finish.

Overall, I'm really pretty impressed with this beer. I tend to rush a bit in my reviewing, and tried to slow it down here. I'm glad I did. Thanks again turtlemoye, I was thrilled to receive this and enjoyed drinking it. Now I just have to get going, and come up with an LIF of my own. Cheers!

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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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Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing
4 out of 5 based on 756 ratings.
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