Asheville, N.C. is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range where there is a deep Scottish heritage. This is also where Oscar Wong, an engineer who was born in Jamaica, decided to start Highland Brewing Co. Production started way back in December 1994 in a brewhouse outfitted from equipment designed for the dairy industry. Today they are brewing on modern 50 barrel system and can pump out 400 cases an hour.

Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Winter Ale bottle

Today’s beer, Cold Mountain Winter Ale, is a seasonal release that varies from year to year, in a similar vein to Anchor’s Our Special Ale. It sports 28 IBUs and an alcohol content of 5.2 percent ABV.

The label states:

A hearty winter brew. This is a lightly hopped beer with hints of spices which provide a complex flavor profile perfectly suited to the winter months and holiday feasts.

Poured into a Teku, Cold Mountain Winter Ale, is a crystal clear deep crimson color with blood red and brown highlights. The head is a prominent two fingers in height with a light beige tinge. Appearance wise, this beer is downright gorgeous. Aromas are light but complex with caramel at the helm and accompanied by golden raisins, vanilla wafers, hazelnut and nutmeg.

Bottoms up. Flavors of toffee, cardamom, vanilla, and unsalted crackers come forth. There is also a plastic-like medicinal character reminiscent of cough syrup sans the cloying sweetness and thick body. Speaking of body, this beer has exactly none. I mean zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Acqua Panna has more body than this beer.

Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Winter Ale

Carbonation is high and exacerbates the thin mouthfeel. After sitting out for a while and warming up Cold Mountain becomes a bit more enjoyable. The cinnamon shows up and a good portion of the carbon dioxide has escaped making the beer seems less watery. It’s rare that I think a beer is better at room temp but Cold Mountain is just that. Oh well.

Highland Brewing Cold Mountain Winter Ale
BREWERY: Highland Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Asheville, N.C.
STYLE: Spiced Winter Ale
ABV: 5.2 percent
IBU: 28
PRICE: $6.39
RELEASE DATE: 1996
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
I really wanted to like Cold Mountain Winter Ale as it has a pretty big following and garners a good amount of hype. However, I think the use of fruit extracts led to an odd medicinal flavor and the overly thin body make the beer just shy of mediocre. The label promised a hearty winter brew. I’m still looking for it.
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