Cold Mountain Winter Ale

Review Date 12/22/2004  Lat Updated  11/14/2021  By John Staradumsky


Christmas is always a special time of year. When I was a kid, of course, it meant that Santa would be bringing lots of toys. Now that I'm an adult, it means that Santa will be bringing beer: all of those wonderful specialty Christmas and winter season brews that make the colder months of the year so much easier to bear.

This year, I found a new one: Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Winter Ale. The company has the following to say about it:

Our ever-changing spiced winter seasonal. A tasty brew that complements all your holiday festivities. It is typically malty in body, lightly hopped, and rounded out with spices that we vary from year to year.

It seems that Anchor Brewing has set the standard for winter ales with their own Special Ale . They were the first American craft brewer to produce one, and to make it a little bit different each year. Since then, many brewers have adopted the practice, including Highland Brewing.

Last Minute Gift Idea!
If you have a beer lover on your Christmas list, an assortment of winter ales and lagers can make the perfect gift. Chez Bruguru, we like to make our own Christmas gift baskets packed with a variety of microbrews and assorted craft beers, a beer glass, and some snacks.

If you really want to wow them, toss in a gift certificate to your local brewpub. These baskets, when all wrapped up and topped with a bow, look really great and are sure to please even the fussiest individual on your list. They're inexpensive, too. And when you make mine up, be sure to toss in a few bottles of Cold Mountain Ale.

Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Winter Ale pours to a dark amber orange color with a thick creamy head formation and a fruity, very spicy nose. To be honest, I have only found this on draft so far in Atlanta, as is the case for the entire Highland line.

When you sip, there is some firm, chewy malt in the palate, but this isn't an extremely heavy or dark beer like Anchor's holiday ale or Sweetwater Festive Ale . There are a lot of flavors here, though, of spice cake, candied fruit, orange, and a hint of chocolate. A perfumy spice aroma plays out nicely against the background of sweet cookie-like maltiness.

The finish is perfectly balanced, not bitter, not sweet. This is a most enjoyable holiday ale with lots of interesting flavors going on, and one you're sure to enjoy if you can find it.

Update: 2005
Cold Mountain 2005 is a bit different from last year. It seems a bit darker, light brown in color with a soft creamy head and a sweet, candyish nose that hints at rum and raisin. The palate is spicy and perfumey with more of the rum raisin notes, molasses, a hint of chocolate, notes of spice cake and plum pudding, candied fruit, and licorice. A very well spiced and complex ale that works well against a brown ale base. Reminds me of a light old ale or Yorkshire ale to a degree.

Update: July 11, 2012: This year, I decided to save a bottle of Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale for my annual Christmas in July celebration. Obviously, this is the 2011 edition I am drinking, and Highland changes this beer a little each year. Reading the side label, I see this year's batch is brewed with "natural hazelnut extract, natural raspberry extract, natural cranberry extract, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks."

Pouring the beer into my Highland beer glass, I get a light brown colored brew with a moderate creamy head formation and an inviting toasty nutty malt nose. Taking a sip I get a beer of medium moutfeel with delightful toasted nut maltiness, a hint of chocolate, and definitely the fruity raspberry. A blanket of vanilla covers it all, and the cinnamon dries in the finish. The cranberry is not so apparent, though perhaps lending the hint of sour tartness my taste buds perceive. Grassy herbal hops provide aroma and bitterness.

Just a wonderful beer, as tasty in July as December, and perhaps the best edition of this beer yet. As a result I'm bumping it up half a star. A bargain at $5.49 for the bomber.

Update July 2 2014: Christmas in July is here again, and I'm celebrating with a Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale. $5.99 for a bomber is a great price, and my bottle was filled on 11/7/2013. Just perfect for a hot summer day, the spices and raspberry really come through perfectly. Happy holidays!

Update 11/26/2021: I may not have posted any updates on Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale in a while, but that does not mean I have not been drinking the beer. Quite the contrary, it is an annual holiday favorite that I always enjoy. . In 2019, it was back to bottles and I remarked that Cold Mountain 2019 was smooth and wonderfully malty with subtle dark fruit, deep nutty hazelnut, light chocolate, subtle vanilla and subtler cinnamon. Tasty and oh so drinkable! Mild and subtle yet full of flavor, if that makes sense.

In 2020, I noted a dark mahogany color with a thick rocky tan head and a rich nose of dark cookie malt and burnt brown sugar. Taking a sip, the beer is wonderfully full of rich dark malts, candi sugar, burnt treacle and toffee. Finishes gently bitter and perfect beer for a winterís eve. I also enjoyed a crowler of fresh draft Cold Mountain from Stout's that was smooth, clean malty, and ever so lightly spiced. Quite the bargain at $9.75. The beer was bursting with chocolate chip cookies, rich dark malts, candi sugar, burnt treacle and toffee.

And now for the 2021, which makes 17 years of drinking this wonderful beer. Last year and this year, the beer has certainly become more pricey than it once was. I usually buy mine on Black Friday, and this year was no exception. Total Wine has been selling it for $15.99 a six-pack, though Sherlock's has had it for two bucks less. The swing-top one liter bottles sell for $14.99, which makes the six-packs a much better deal. My bottled Cold Mountain 2021 pours to a brilliant mahogany color with a thick fluffy white head and a nose of vanilla and toasted nuts. Taking a sip, the beer is Just a wonderful winter warmer, nose of toasty nutty malt and burnt treacle, rich body with more toasty nutty goodness, brown sugar, vanilla, hazelnut, and dry spice in the finish.

Highland Cold Mountain has an alcohol content of 5.9% by volume with 28 IBUs. My bottles are marked FILLED 10/29/21. Highland lists the following ingredients:



It's the wonderful variety of malts that make this beer so special. It's a holiday tradition that continues with me. If you haven't made it one for you, what are you waiting for?

Glad I tried it?  T

Would I rebuy it??


*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.

(B)=Bottled, Canned