Carolina Beer Guy: Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale returns

POPULAR SPICE: Large crowds are once again expected for the release of Highland Brewing Co.'s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. Photos courtesy of Highland Brewing Co.

Of the hundreds of beers brewed in Asheville every year, none inspires the widespread adoration of Highland Brewing Co.’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. Its annual release sends thousands of fans swarming out to the Highland taproom in East Asheville to be among the first to sample and buy each year’s versions.

The 2019 edition’s release weekend celebration takes place Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 14-16, and features a few new twists. One fresh offering is a VIP party on Friday, Nov. 15, for customers who’d prefer not to stand in line to buy a Cold Mountain Holiday Pack (containing the maximum allotment of Cold Mountain). This year will also see the debut of Coconut Cold Mountain in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.

As usual, there will be plenty of live music and many draft cask versions of the beloved beverage available throughout the three-day party. For the full lineup of beverages, artists and food trucks, click here.

First brewed in 1996, Asheville’s original seasonal beer was a hit from the beginning. Beyond the brewery release, Cold Mountain will quickly disappear from stores and beer specialty markets, so it’s a good idea to buy it when you see it.

The VIP party, which starts at 5 p.m., carries a $45 admission fee, but Highland President Leah Wong Ashburn says the event allows ticket buyers to reserve a Holiday Pack and bypass the usual pickup line.

Brewery sales are limited on release weekend. For regular Cold Mountain, customers can buy a single liter bottle, three 22-ounce bottles and two of the brand new six-packs of 12-ounce bottles. For Imperial Cold Mountain, sales are capped at three 22-ounce bottles and a single 1-liter bottle that’s otherwise only sold with the Holiday Pack. Imperial and Coconut Cold Mountain — which Ashburn says features coconut toasted in local pizza ovens — will be sold exclusively at the brewery.

Parking will understandably be tight in the Highland lot for this popular event. Ashburn recommends that attendees ride-share, though brewery employees “will park as many as [they] can on site.” Once those spaces are filled Nov. 15-16, shuttles will be used to transport guests from an auxiliary lot at the Asheville Recreation Park Pool on Gashes Creek Road.

Nearly a quarter of a century after its debut, Cold Mountain’s release remains a big deal for Highland. “We don’t take it for granted,” Ashburn says.

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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