Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

280 Reviews
THE BROS
85
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 280
Hads: 712
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 7.05%
Wants: 26
Gots: 119 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company visit their website
Georgia, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  7.70% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: purplehops on 11-14-2002

A strong ale brewed with generous amounts of rich malt, coupled with a taint of cinnamon and mace
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 280 | Hads: 712
Photo of Bung
4.18/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. Sturdy brown pour with just a little bit of off white head. Retains well and sticks to the glass a little. Aroma has some more roast than other warmers, and some floral hop with the Christmas spice. Taste is like a brown ale spiced with ginger and nutmeg. Light roast, earthy nuttiness and some chocolates. Well carbonated with a mid/light body and mouthfeel. Drinks very well with no alcohol noticed. A nice warmer from Sweetwater. (439 characters)

Photo of siege06nd
4.18/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Alrighty, found this bottle at random in my closet and it is from way back in 2010!!! Wow!!! Don't worry, I'll be nice...

A. Excellent. Color is a super dark, rich mahogany. Very nearly black. About a half finger of cream colored head that is tight, uniform, and has good retention. Lacing is very good. The look of this beer screams fireplace, snowflakes, and fresh pies. Which is why I'm drinking it in July.

S. Bouquet has held up rather well over the last year and a half. Raisin, caramel, cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, roasted biscuit, and just a little bit of sherry-like oxidation due to the age. Smells like a freshly baked shortbread cookie.

T. Spices are up front with brown sugar, cinnamon, and clove. Then roasted malts kick in on the mid and the finish is bread crust, caramel, some vanilla, spice, and maybe just a touch of chocolate. Nice.

M. Thick and chewy, with solid carbonation and a nice balance of flavors. Spices and roasty flavors linger on the palate long after it's gone.

O. A really nice Christmas beer, with a much fuller body than its better known competition (i.e., Schlafly Christmas, Great Lakes Christmas, etc.). Festive Ale is unique in that it has a much more solid malt presence, with some excellent toasted biscuit and subtle chocolate notes that in some ways call to mind a porter. I will definitely be seeking a six-pack of this over the holidays. Excellent work, Sweetwater! (1,420 characters)

Photo of pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Glad to see that Sweetwater is offering more of their beers in sixpacks!
med full body, frothy mouthfeel, good carbonation.
Nice roasted malt presence upfront with a hint of spices.
Fair milk chocolate presence throughout with a hint of caramel. Finishes with a lingering spiced note and hint of raisins.
Great example of the style; one of the few winter warmers I have ever liked.
Drinkability was quite good with this one; I had two. (438 characters)

Photo of Brackh
4.17/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Did a holiday beer tasting with the wife. This was the first winter warmer holiday beer I was ever exposed to. It has a special place in my heart. Pours a nice black with a small head. Smells spicy with some molasses. Bitterness up front and finishes well with the spice (almost tastes toasted). Carbonated well. Done well all around.

Just had a 2013 on 12/31/14: Had some funk to it. Tasted good. Lost some carbonation. Whole new flavor though. Molasses caramel and toffee come out way more. Still easy drinking. (514 characters)

Photo of axisjones
4.17/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, black, none more black. Big bubbled off white rocky head, about an inch or so. Head dies down to a thin coat, minimal lacing.

Rich chocolate espresso in the nose with a faint astringency to it. Complex smell, almost chalky neko wafer milk chocolate in the end. Faint Carnation hot chocolate as well.

Big taste going in, the alcohol is noticeable straight off. Malty with espresso/coffee flavors and a slight rum. Metallic in the middle with a milk chocolate finish. The hops provide a tiny bite and mix with the roast bitterness. A somewhat tasty, if uneven, flavor with a dominant malt profile.

A very interesting offering, sweet, complex, luscious and alcoholic. A fine beer, could definitely use some fine tuning. (748 characters)

Photo of ugaterrapin
4.16/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass. About a finger of light tan head. A dark brown color that is almost completely opaque. Aroma is not too strong, but hints of spice and caramel malts. Initial taste is of hops and spice finishing with notes of vanilla. This beer is relatively drinkable for being on the darker side. It is a great seasonal offering from Sweetwater. (356 characters)

Photo of twiggamortis420
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage courtesy of BeerTruth, thanks Adam...awesome extra! 12 oz bottle pours a dark brown color with crimson highlights and a fluffy, tan foam. Not overly great retention and not much lacing.

Nose is pretty interesting with cocoa maltiness leading the way. There is at least some hints of many different smells...currants, chocolate, cinnamon, habanero peppers and even a touch of soy sauce. Odd mix of scents, but pretty pleasant overall.

Sweetwater did a pretty good job with this one. Has elements of both a winter warmer and a stout. Rich, somewhat sweet and roasty malts lead the way with some dark fruits and bready yeast along for the ride. I would be surprised if some spices were not used in this beer, I get a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in here. Maybe even a clove-ish flavor that is not quite like a hefeweizen clove flavor. While the ABV is hidden well, there still is a detectable amount of alcohol in the taste, which helps add to the complexity of the beer. I am enjoying this beer quite a bit, would love to be able to get my paws on this every year during the holiday season. (1,101 characters)

Photo of JayS2629
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- This reminds me of a coca-cola from its color, carbonation and head. Almost black, but reddish tinges when held to the light. Very opaque. The tan head is medium but quickly recedes to a thin ring in the edge of the glass. Sea foam lace.

S- Spices up front. Cinnomon, mace, and allspice. Hints of dark fruits, and dark chocolate. Faint whiffs of dark cherry

T- Follows the nose. Dark fruits like plum and cherry in the front, notes of chocolate and coffee with nice tinges of cinnomon and mace.

M- This is where it got weird. It was like drinking a porter or stout before, but now we are thin and carbonated. Watery with a small amount of cream.

D- Very flavorful and complex. I would give it a higher rating if it were not for how thin it is. Easy to drink. (766 characters)

Photo of Weissenheimer
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the second Sweetwater beer from Rajendra82's package. The IPA upped my expectations, but I know that winter ales are a very mixed bag so I try not to get my hopes too high as I pour out the bottle. The pint is a very dark cherry color and has a pretty, medium-sized, foamy brown head. The spicy fragrance brings Harpoon Winter Warmer to mind, but this is heavier; apart from the spices I smell molasses and perhaps a bit of licorice.

I take my first sip and a completely unanticipated coffee taste nearly bowls me over. At this point I'm not sure that I'll be able to finish it, because I despise coffee. But thankfully I'm getting better at appreciating beers like this, because I soon realize that there's an awful lot here to appreciate. The initial flavor is full and malty with a roasted coffee undertone. This shifts over into the taste of bitter, hoppy coffee. The finish intrigues me because at first I want to say it's nothing but coffee, but then I also detect something of a too-strong cup of tea. The interesting thing is that up until this moment I thought of coffee (which I hate) and tea (which I love) to be two completely separate animals. I realize now that the tastes aren't as distinct as I thought.

In the end, the fact that I not only get used to the coffee flavor but happily finish the pint and look forward to another, says a great deal about the quality of this beer. I love it when I say "I don't like this type of beer" and the beer says "Oh yeah? Are you sure about that?" My only complaint is that the wonderful progression of tastes flies by too fast. This is probably because the strength and persistence of the coffee flavor dulls my taste buds so that the more subtle flavors go under my radar. I imagine that, for people who like coffee to begin with, this beer must be truly spectacular. Thanks Rajendra82 for a great trade! (1,874 characters)

Photo of phideltashaggy
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I ordered it at a local bar, I'm not sure if it was from the bottle or on-tap. It was served in a Chimay goblet.

A-Black, unless you look through it at an angle, directly at a light source, then it was a slight red. The head was somewhat fluffy and tan, but didn't last (I blame the quality of the glassware at the bar)

S-I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this, but the nose was very roasty, somewhat burnt. And I noticed something that I couldn't quite place, even though "Jager" came to mind.

T-The Jagermeister taste was affirmed here. There's a definite licorice taste, but it is not at all off putting. Again, roasted malts and a bitter hop finish complete the brew.

MF-Medium thickness, but I think I would have got more out of this if the glass was cleaned a little better.

D-I enjoyed this immensely. If I had the money (and the DD) I could see myself drink a number of these in a row. (909 characters)

Photo of WoodenNickelPub
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into an 18oz pint this beer was dark brown to almost black with a decent head that didn't hang around for too long. Smelled of roasted malts and barley and ?cinnamon? or ?cloves? Tasted like winter to me..those smells translated nicely into tastes and for being 8.6% you can't really taste the alcohol, but it does catch up to you quick. Mouthfeel was kind of silky with light carbonation, very appealing. Drinkability was, like I said, probably not to many in a sitting, especially if I have to drive. 1 1/2 made my knees weak.

All in all very good beer. I'd never had this before but will definitely buy one when I see it after mine is gone. (652 characters)

Photo of clvand0
4.15/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a very dark color with a small head that falls fast and doesn't leave much lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty and has a chocolate character and a little spice. The flavor is very nice. Chocolate flavors along with a spice from the ginger make it very interesting and enjoyable. I'd definately have this one again. (334 characters)

Photo of sammy44
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My favorite beers are always the winter beers and this is my favorite.

I drank this from a pint glass where it had a nice cream colored head that lasted 'til about halfway through the pint. The smell was something like a spice cake or gingerbread. The taste followed this up. The beer was heavy on the tongue and smooth going down. It would be great served with desert. (373 characters)

Photo of bucklemyshoe
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Notes from 11/30/2010:

12 oz. bottle at 42* into a damn frozen pint glass (I hate when bars do this).

A: This pours a nearly black color that is not quite opaque and sports a half-finger of head with decent retention and lacing.

S: The nose shows aromas of dark fruits, brandy, nutty toffee, medium roast coffee, and a hint of smoke.

T: It features bold flavors of coffee, brandy-soaked plums and figs, roasted nuts, and some charred toffee.

M: The body is much thinner than expected and actual provides for a distraction from the great flavors.

D: This is not the typical Winter Warmer as it tastes and drinks more like a strong porter/dubble mix. (654 characters)

Photo of Gusler
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a light hazy brown color, the head preposterous in size with a frothy consistency and the lace thick sheets that hold mightily to the glass. Sweet and spicy over ripe apples or plums can’t make up what little mind I have left, caramel, chocolate and lot of malt in this pleasing to the schnozzle beer. The outset is ambrosial, the top is middling in mouth feel, and the hops take a front seat in this beer, with a perky acidity and a droughty long lasting aftertaste. As I have said before Sweetwater and Dogwood, make some quite quaffable brews and well worth the hunt. (586 characters)

Photo of KickbacksSteve
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage from one liter bottle poured into tulip. Light brown head atop a raisin colored body. I say raisin colored because that is the first smell I note, probably due to the 3 year age. Other aromas seem to include dates, brown sugar and plum. Picking up some coffee notes in the taste, no hops, no alcohol (I'm sure due to mellowing)(impressive considering the abv). Low carbonation at this point and very easy to drink. Extremely easy. Makes me proud of myself for having resisted this one for so long. (510 characters)

Photo of joe1510
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz Bottle
2005 Vintage

I was damn lucky to get this bottle thrown in as an extra in a recent trade with RustyDiamond, Thanks a lot Rusty. Sweetwater's Festive Ale pours mahogany with deep ruby and chestnut highlights. A one finger khaki head grew on the pour and fell rather quickly to a skimming and ring around the glass. The head leaves some spotted lacing on its way down.

This beer smells different than I expected which, in this case, is a good thing. I was expecting a spiced winter warmer but instead got more of a heavy brown ale. Nose is dark chocolate, lightly roasted grains, a slight nuttiness and a hint of tobacco leaf in that order from most prominent to least. There seems to bit the smallest bit of oxidation that actually compliments the aroma.

The flavor follows in stride with the aroma. Big chocolate notes seem a little more milk chocolaty than the nose suggested. The nuttiness, tobacco, and light roastiness all mesh together flawlessly. Again, there seems to be a little oxidation on the backend but it compliments the flavors nicely. Festive Ale turned out to be a great sipper loaded with flavor.

The body seems a touch on the thin side for the style. Maybe some carbonation has been lost over the years but maybe not. Either way it's not a serious offense and doesn't hurt the mouthfeel too bad.

I really enjoy sipping on this brew. It's warming and more importantly packed with flavors perfect for a cold evening.

I was expecting a spiced winter warmer but luckily came across something much more to my liking. This is the kind of Winter seasonal I like seeing released. Keep the heavy spicing out of my beer and in the fruitcake. (1,672 characters)

Photo of younger35
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received this brew from gpcollen1 after winning his Fantasy Football League. I enjoyed my first offering from Sweetwater so I look forward to this one. Drank from my Laughing Dog Brewing pint glass. 2007 release.

Appearance- Pours a dark brown with reddish highlights and a soft light tan head that slowly recedes leaving no cap and a thin collar that leaves a thin layer of lacing.
Smell- Lightly sweet and fruity with hints of dark cherries and peaches. There is a solid red licorice smell among the fresh and clean nose. Bready and sweet with some brown sugar hiding in the background and MAYBE even a bit of chocolate.
Taste- A bit of peppery spiciness from the start and that same fresh and fruity candy like sweetness that I found in the nose. Once the fruit fades (overwhelmingly I get peaches) a gently chocolate/coco body is present along with a nice soft nuttiness. If fruit and nuts sound weird as a description to how the beer tastes, it shouldn't, this is tasty. Lightly nutty aftertaste that is fairly dry.
Mouthfeel- Kind of a thin body with crisp aggressive carbonation, a big of warming from the alcohol and a dry finish.
Drinkability- Although I'm not the biggest fan of Winter Warmers (with exception of Jubelale) this one was pretty damn tasty. It's a bit different but in a fantastic way. Very unique and honestly the more it warms and the more I drink it, the more I like it. Sweetwater is a really solid brewery and I can't wait to try more! Big thanks to Heath! (1,486 characters)

Photo of Immortale25
4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a New Belgium goblet. Label says Best if Enjoyed by 10/24/14.

A- Pours a mostly opaque black color with a 1/2 inch tan head that retains a bit before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a small center patch of surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing slides down the glass leaving a thick ring behind.

S- Sweet sugary aroma that has notes of anise, molasses and caramel.

T- Hearty flavor of mild roasted malt, some nutmeg and more anise. Still sweet but the hops put forth a moderate bitterness to balance. Bit of clove. Alcohol is wonderfully hidden.

M- Slightly thick and slick with medium carbonation and a fullish body.

O- A no-frills, easygoing winter warmer that's dangerously drinkable. (724 characters)

Photo of superdedooperboy
4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. brown bottle into a Dogfish Head Signature Glass.

Pours a deep brown that verges on black at first sight, but which upon closer inspection shows highlights of ruby and mahogany. A thick finger-and-a-half of dense tan foam rises and falls gracefully, leaving a sticky web of lace on the walls of the vessel.

Aroma is malt-forward, sweet with notes of brown sugar and molasses and faint dark fruit. A hint of spice shows up as the beer warms, but is difficult to pin down, and some spicy-herbal hop notes show through as well.

Body is somewhere in the range of medium to medium-full, but adequate carbonation makes the exactitude of the measurement a bit off. Sweet malt up front, with maple, molasses, and a nuttiness following, bringing in a nutty-spicy-herbaceous weedlike middle that flows into a mildly astringent finish with a lingering pecan-maple-molasses character on the back of the tongue that holds tight and refuses to fade away. Alcohol is faintly present but mostly very well hidden.

An excellent, malt-accentuated winter brew that fails a bit in drinkability due to the somewhat cloying finish, but that shouldn't keep anyone from heading out and picking up a few -- this is certainly a decent pick in the pack of winter ales, and for a Georgia boy, it's always nice to see such a beauty born so near to home. (1,348 characters)

Photo of aubuc1
4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured in to a pint glass.

Pours a deep black with a steady light tan head.

Smell is sweet winey, citrusy and strong roast. Very nice.

Taste is a big roasty delight. Not coffeeish like a ris, but very good.

The high alcohol is not even present. This is a great winter beer. I wish it was in FL. (311 characters)

Photo of tavernjef
4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep chestnut with a ruby undertone roofed by a smallish capping of off-white frothed over foam. Minimal lacing in a few inky strings.

Aroma is low key, dark, and deep with a brown sugar malt laden sweetness. Soft and bready with a big base of malts most evident in a darkly set fashion that is neither roasty, flat, or fruity. Just sweet, bready, and dark.

Taste has a good play of solid maltyness bringing a soft, succulant display of molasses, brown sugar over soft bread, hints of vanilla, and a twist of fig. No real length to it however, a bit short lived I'm afraid, yet tasty enough.

Body is creamy and sufficient with a malt goodness wrapped within a solid mediumishness. Soft, supple, sweet, with a light fluffy dry finish arriving late. Low carbonation if any at all really doing much.

A solid, subtle treat that'll be gone in no time. The overall smoothness lends itself to be a quick drinker. (918 characters)

Photo of BeerPilot
4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 bottling:

Appearance: Off-white head; lots of tiny bubbles; not too persistent, but quickly returns when swirled. No lace, but may be due to glass. Deep mahogany in color. No haze.
Smell: Balance of maltiness and spice. No esters detected.
Taste: Slight roastiness. Caramel flavor. Spices and hopping work together to balance residual sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Big beer! Highly carbonated.
Drinkability: Spices tend to overwhelm palate with time. Spices hid 8.6% ABV. Can drink a few, but it will hurt! (513 characters)

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

wax-finished, swing-topped bottle...how charmingly inconvenient! And in the amusing, family-sized 33.8 fluid ounce serving, as well..love it!
Appearance: dark, full blackness, with a cocoa-tinged ring of foam atop.
Aroma: nuts and cocoa, rich and full.
Taste: again, chocolate and nuts, some dark fruits, but not too complex. Very full with flavor, with strains of spices asserting themselves later on...Rustic-feeling, brimming with cocoa and dark fruits, just short of actually delicious, but every bit very, very good. I echo previous commentator's notes about a resemblance to Anchor's holiday offering, but it lacks the particular piney, sprucey, tree influence, and manages to stand on it's own, without that component.
Very tasty ale, very admirable, rich and full in body, but a nice, mellow, dark-fruity finish...and no particular flavors poisoning it's appeal to the average Joe...unless A.J. needs only fizzy yellow crap, but I'm off-message now, and I'll just enjoy this for the duration....this is a very nice diversion from all the *^% one endures in the wintertime, especially those of us us here in the states where we feel the weather on multitudinal levels...I congratulate Sweetwater for not only creating this beer, but for packaging it in such a unique fashion. As a holiday-style beer, though, it's just all-righty. (1,342 characters)

Photo of dhd1491
4.08/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown and red, clear but almost opaque without backlighting. Tan head dies down rather quickly. Aroma is light and nutty with an alcohol punch. Taste is smoky and nutty, but rather more mild and less viscous than I thought it was going to be from the appearance. Low carbonation. Sweet caramelized maltiness and some buttery mouthfeel and quite easy to drink. All in all a pleasant unoffensive brew that dark beer lovers should enjoy if they're not looking for a thick-stout kind of darkness. Could definitely be enjoyed year-round...it's 85 outside and I'm lovin' it. (581 characters)

Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 280 ratings.