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Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
87
very good

627 Ratings
THE BROS
87
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 627
Reviews: 269
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 13.02%
Wants: 18
Gots: 72 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company visit their website
Georgia, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  8.60% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: purplehops on 11-14-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 627 | Reviews: 269 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of vtisme
4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served from a bottle into a snifter
A - very dark amber, light just barely can get through it
S - chocolate, maybe some syrup
T - bitter chocolate, indistinguishable fruitiness comes through in the end and aftertaste
M - thinner than what I thought I would be getting
O - this is a great beer!

vtisme, Jan 02, 2013
Photo of shand
4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sweetwater Festive Ale pours a brown color with a tiny mocha head. The aroma is very nice, it's chocolatey and full of holiday spices and a decent amount of hops. Ginger comes through strong on the taste, pairing well with the aroma and solid hop kick. The mouthfeel is on the heavy side of medium and with a bit of prickly carbonation leading to a smooth finish. The drinkability is very good. Overall, this is one of the best winter warmers I've had. Very tasty.

shand, Dec 27, 2012
Photo of WetCoaster
4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Well, this was supposed to be my 200th review, but I guess my math was a wee bit off. That's what you get for drinking, I suppose. At any rate, a gift from my good friend Tim F. in Hotlanta, GA. Much love for this super-rare (in San Fran, anyway) right coast gift. #176 of 7200, no less.

Appearance: Pour from a 33 oz. waxed and Ball jar-corked bottle (seriously guys, WTF?!) a deep, warm caramel with a tan, almost brown, head. Light, fizzy head head with moderate retention.

Smell: Very dense and sweet. Lots of vanilla and cola; the beer version of cream soda, if you will.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Fantastic -- probably the best winter warmer I've sampled. Dark chocolate malts, caramel, vanilla, roasted, smokey espresso. Nicely hopped and balanced. Finishes deep, charred and tight with burnt coffee long into the finish. The mouthfeel is fine, if a bit run-of-the-mill, medium bodied with fine, crisp carbonation.

Drinkability: Great -- loved the flavor, a real standout in a pretty mediocre style. Too bad I can't get no more. Still, enjoyed this one.

WetCoaster, Apr 02, 2006
Photo of boudreaux
4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass; dark khaki-colored head, which dissipates quickly; very little lacing.

Nose: Rich, full bodied, distinctly malty; noticeable spices, with strong essence of clove and cocoa.

Taste: Creamy mouth-feel; noticeable but not overwhelming maltiness; mooth, pleasant after-taste; rich, dark malt and smoke flavors linger on the tongue.

Drinkability: Impressed by this seasonal offering from Sweetwater Brewing; solid offering from a company which is a steady performer in the craft brewing segment; rich taste is a departure from other Sweetwater beers that I have tasted; recommend this ale to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer.

Serving type: bottle

boudreaux, Dec 23, 2009
Photo of HardTarget
4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 12 oz. brown bottle states it’s a Holiday beer, and has the year (2006), nothing else.

Aroma: Yep, that’s a holiday beer! Great clove, nutmeg aroma in a dark malt base.

Appearance: Dark black with thick ruby brown edges. Sports a solid collar but fails to lace.

Flavor: That’s nice! Lightly plumed malt base supports the spices, again, nutmeg and clove are my guesses (website lists cinnamon and mace), and results in a very balanced, complex taste. Some mild coffee/chocolate flavor is noted. It seems to be a good English Brown Ale spiced for the holidays. Notably absent from the flavor: hops and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium low carbonation, dry.

Overall Impression: Easy drinking, dangerous in it’s close to 9% abv. Felt the alcohol long before I tasted it. This beer is expertly assembled to let every aspect shine. Spices are firm, but not overdone. Malt and subdued hop blend into a well matched pair. My first Sweetwater, I plan on not letting it be my last!
Thanks to Mark for the trade!

HardTarget, Oct 31, 2006
Photo of Soozy
4.38/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 ale

Pours a very dark amber. Almost can't see through it, but holding it up to the light shows the red coloring. A very faint smell of cinnamon and vanilla mixed with caramel and chocolate malt. You can pick up a good amount of scents without putting your finger on any of them.

Taste is creamy, rich malt. It is well balanced between caramel and chocolate malts. There's a faint orange and tangerine taste to it in the finish. Alcohol is faintly present as it warms up, but balances well with the beer. A rather thin beer, but also creamy mixed with the carbonation. A highly drinkable, complex, rich, and full beer.

Overall, this is probably the best winter warmer I've had in my life. A completely balanced, highly drinkable ale. I'd love to try an oaked version of this if they had one. I'd definitely buy this one again.

Soozy, Dec 20, 2011
Photo of doubleipa
4.38/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just picked up the 2005 rendition of this wonderful seasonal.
This beer had a slight toasted aroma mixed with nutmeg and clove with a hint of coriander. There was virtually zero head. I could just get the head to cover the surface, but it disappeared instantly. The body was a clear black.brown. Initial flavor was midly sweet that finished long. Body was medium to full with a syrupy texture. Virtually no carbonation. The finish was only slightly alcoholic. Surpisingly little for a 8.9% beer. Seems to taste a little less spicy than last year's model.

doubleipa, Oct 25, 2005
Photo of AdamBear
4.38/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got a pint at the Sweetwater Brewery restaurant in the Atlanta airport.

A-dark murky brown with a thick but sticky light tan head

S-cinnamon. a touch of apples. dark and spicy malts. smells tasty. good strength as well

T-comes in with a great taste of spicy and peppery dark malts. this is really good and full flavored! there's a good and slightly roasted matching after-taste. the tastes are bold and seem to be of high quality.

M-thick and creamy medium carbonation with a creamy finish

O-i was really surprised by this. when at an airport, i usually don't expect much but I am here with a great beer of a style I usually don't prefer. this has to be one of the best winter warmers I've ever had. Its definitely and after dinner beer though.

AdamBear, Dec 07, 2011
Photo of hopsaplenty
4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 Release, Bottle no. 4158/7200.

Have to fight through the wax before the 1L. swingtop bottle pours out a deep and dark, almost black, liquid, and ruby highlights announce themselves in the light. A huge head of cappuccino colored bubbles, small and densely packed, slowly settles to a thin surface coat leaving almost no lacing. The smell is sweet, and there are hints of roasted malt, coffee, and some alcohol. The taste matches the smell, sweet and spicy, slightly bitter. Coffee notes arise and there is a moderate alcohol warmth in the finish. Medium bodied, with a rich, full mouthfeel, the carbonation is on the subdued side. Highly drinkable and if this were the only beer being offered on a given night out, I’d be pretty happy.

hopsaplenty, Jan 31, 2006
Photo of rabidawg
4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep brown with red-tinged edges. Substantial off-white head that settled to a clinging skim, leaving spots and streaks of lacing. Moderate carbonation.

Smell: Cocoa powder and nutmeg. Slightly roasty, and reminiscent of a porter. Hops are minimal, and a moderate sweetness is apparent.

Taste: Wonderful in the mouth, with a creamy and velvety mouthfeel. Minimally hopped, but never cloying. Sweet malt character is accented by holiday spices, and the spiciness is further accentuated by a slight alcohol presence. Finishes clean, and is remarkably drinkable for a beer of this size and nature.

rabidawg, Dec 19, 2005
Photo of kmpitz2
4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

the beer pours a black color with a finger of head that falls to coat the beer. The nose has a bit of ginger in there with a background of chocolate that smells nice. The flavor is also first highlighted with a ginger flavor that fades to a chocolate on the finish. I like it a lot. The feel is a touch thin, but the other characteristics of the beer make up for that overall. The beer is smooth and just damn good. Thanks to clvand0 for sharing this awesome beer with me.

kmpitz2, Dec 07, 2004
Photo of NWFLyer
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass; slim, brown-cream colored head which dissipated fairly quickly. Little to no lacing.

Nose: Rich, full bodied, distinctly malty. Spice is evident, with essence of clove and cocoa. It reminds me of a porter.

Taste: Creamy mouth-feel. Hop bitterness is evident, but not overwhelming. Smooth with a pleasant after-taste. Rich, dark malt and smoke flavors linger on the tongue.

Drinkability: Overall, I was pleasantly impressed by this seasonal offering from Sweetwater Brewing. It is a solid offering from a company which is a steady performer in the craft brewing segment. The rich taste is a departure from other Sweetwater beers that I have tasted. I would recommend this ale to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer.

NWFLyer, Dec 20, 2009
Photo of barleyman
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the brown glass 12 oz bottle into my straight sided tumbler. The dark white head quickly dissapates,and leaves very little lace as it moves down the glass. Overwhelming smell of clove, the taste is of clove and malt, and very well balanced, with a finish of hop. The mouthfeel is right, given the ABV and the drinkability is correct for a winter warmer. I have looked forward to the annual release of this beer, especially back when GA had a strength cap, this brewer would always find a way to sneak it by the alcohol board.

Just a thought,

barleyman

barleyman, Dec 11, 2006
Photo of gosurfobx
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Comes in nice swing top bottle.
Poors dark brown with head that soon dissipates to a film. Smell is good with noticable spices. Interesting taste with several different flavors. Slight carmel taste, some coffee, and several spices that are hard to pick out. Leaves the drinker with a warming feeling after a glass or two. Very good beer for a cold winter night.

gosurfobx, Jan 19, 2006
Photo of charlottebeer
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had the pleasure of being part of SweetWaters 1st Verticle Tasting ever last night @ Duckworths in Charlotte, NC. We sampled '04,'06,'07,'08,'09. Here is my review of 2004 Festive Ale: Poured wonderfully smooth with light lacing. Deep mahogany rich color. Although it was great to look at, it was better to tast, I didn't waste a second. It was very mild. It aged very well and ended up very well balanced. It reminded me of a well aged barley wine, one that wasn't 12% but rather 8-9%. Very nice!

Continuing my verticle review of Festive Ale...the 2006:
Poured great, light lacing,more cinnamon & Chocholate in the nose than '04. A little more warmth than the 04 as well. Very enjoyable. Very easy to drink. This one was my favorite out of the 5 years we sampled.

2007: Poured more lively, better lacing. There was a noticable difference with the beer being more active on my pallet. Still had that great color, deep mahogany. More people liked it as the best of the night on my end of the table but I'm sticking with the '06, although the 2007 was enjoyable

2008: This was limited in quantities due to there not being any around, but I got a good feel for it. Same pour as '07 but with more chocholate on the nose with noticeably more fruit on the nose. Has held up very well in the bottles, was very fresh tasting. More spices and fruit in the taste.

The 2009:
Great pour, great nose, choclately, spice, cinnamon, very fresh taste. Very enjoyable

Summary: I have done many verticles over the last 15 plus years and had always seemed to be a "dog" in the bunch. Usually one year didn't hold us as well or really went south. The SweeatWater held up VERY WELL and was consistant with it's quality and taste. There were NO DOGS in this pack of great vintage Festive Ales!

charlottebeer, Oct 21, 2010
Photo of bhalter8
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours extremely dark, close to a stout it appears. The mix of cloves, hops and malts make for nice mixed aroma. The taste this year is far better than last year (2007). Having had this many times over the years I am pleasantly surprised and impressed by this year's version. While distinct in flavor form the previously mentioned mix, it is very drinkable, especially considering the ABV%. Considering I have cellared many of the previous years' version, I especially look forward to seeing how this ages.

bhalter8, Nov 10, 2008
Photo of ectomorph
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - Pours jet black with a light hint of mahogany when held up to the light. Full finger tan head fades to rings at each sip.

S - Malty molasses and figs. No spice readily available. Surprised.

T - Chocolate, molasses, and nutmeg? Not nutmeg, what is that?? I love this beer. Very faint hop citrus in the back.

M - Medium to big body and rich feel. Nice.

D - Very high, you would never in life guess 8.6%

ectomorph, Nov 10, 2008
Photo of jjayjaye
4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours very dark brown, but light gets through. A half finger light tan colored head fades slowly, but is kept alive by visible effervescence. Some suspended 'bits' are present.

The aroma is sweet and slightly warm from the alcohol with a mellow roasted malt.

It has a medium body and is very smooth with a nice balance from hops.

I appreciate the lightly roasted malt taste (I've recently experienced a number of ales that have gone overboard with the level of roasted flavor); it's sweet and creamy. The 8+% is hidden well. Quite drinkable. Thanks to blitz134 for the opportunity to enjoy this one!

jjayjaye, Feb 16, 2007
Photo of godlessape
4.3/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured this into monster size thistle glass.
The body has an intensely dark malevolent ruby brown shade to it, just one degree from midnight. It's topped off with a creamy tan head that diminished rapidly.
Aroma is like burnt brown sugar, with maybe a hint of cinnamon toast.
Taste is both malty and fruity and densely so at that, along with a earthy, almost leathery savoriness There's also a minimal hop sizzle on the tail end that works rather well.
The mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth. The alcohol is well hidden.
Overall a fine brew from a great brewery. Caution: This beer will sneak up on you something fierce.

godlessape, Nov 11, 2013
Photo of deejaydan
4.3/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Raj! Got this one, um, one of the BIF's.
Comes in an impressive waxed dipped flip top one liter bottle.

Pours a deep chestnut brown color with ruby highlights. Decent head retention here. Smells and tastes like a Belgian Dubbel. Rum, spices, ripe fruits greet you as you taste this beer. I find this has a fuller body than most belgian dubbels that I've had, and a much more rounded character. Still, it does seem a bit sharp in the mouth to me. The alcohol is blended in nicely too, not noticable at all.

deejaydan, Sep 01, 2005
Photo of bjwilson
4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

First review.
Wow. This beer really is a mouthful. Pours a big head but dissipates quickly. The smell and taste of coffee mixed with winter spices is upfront. The alcohol is warming, but really packs a punch at the end. Overall, a wonderful warming winter beer. I will be seeking this one out over the holidays.

bjwilson, Dec 14, 2012
Photo of weeare138
4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage bottle received in a trade from warriorsoul many moons ago.
Appears a dark brown, nearing black with deep crimson, & purple edges when held to the light. A fluffy, 2 finger light tan head slowly drops into a mild cap that seems to stick around for the entire duration. Scattered lacing sticks to the glass.
Smell is of molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, toasted nuts, caramel, and a touch of cocoa.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a lovely mix that seems to come together nicely in a lowly spicy yet somewhat sweet, molasses & caramel drizzled cashew flavor.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, spritzy, sweet, lip smacking, and nutty. The spicing is enticing enough to make an impression on the palate with just a touch of black grape in the finish.
This is a really good beer. If it was aged on oak, this would strike me as being similar to a nicely aged blend of Zinfandel & Shiraz grapes with a hint of peppery, cinnamon, & sandalwood in the finish.
I'm not sure if this was intended to be aged, or not but it found it's way to the miscellaneous section of the cellar shelves and sat there for a few years. Before I opened this, I just enjoyed a 2003 Anderson Valley Winter Solstice and I was loving it b/c it took on some sherry characteristics. This too was a nice follow up, as it had complex wine notes that I would actually rate higher than many wines.
Damn...I'm glad that I stumbled on this one tonight!

weeare138, Dec 10, 2008
Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: this is a beautifully colored beer, with ruby, cranberry hues in the light, transforms to a menacing black as soon as taken away. just about a full fingers worth of tan head, quickly dissipates.
S: not very potent, definitely mild accents of milk chocolate, maybe a little bit of nutmeg or cinnamon.. cant discern a whole lot else individually. even though its not in your face, it is certainly pleasant.
T: here we go, this is tasty. again none of the flavors that im getting are huge like some overly spiced winter beers, theyre just right. nice maltiness, some of those well balanced spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a fruitiness that pulls ahead of the little bit of chocolate. this is probably one of the better winter beers ive had this year.
M: the decent hop presence plus the carbonatio level bring this one alive on the palate. its not overly heavy, and i enjoy how the spices stick to the top of my tongue well after ive had my share.
D: enjoying this one all the way through. goes down so easily on this cold snowy winter night.

Kkottonmouthkngz, Feb 01, 2011
Photo of NCSUdo
4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle

A: Dark brown under a very small off white head. No retention and no lace.

S: Nice roasted, toasted, nutty, malty aroma. Maybe a hint of some kind spice and pine. Good aroma.

T: Again, very malty. Roasted, toasted, nutty, hint of caramel, hint of pine and spice, alcohol is slightly apparent and a surprising level of bitterness in the finish (nothing huge, just more than I thought was going to be there).

M/D: Full bodied, smooth, carbonation is low. Drinkability is very good. A tasty beer indeed.

NCSUdo, Dec 13, 2009
Photo of SanFranJake
4.25/5  rDev +10.7%

SanFranJake, Nov 06, 2014
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 627 ratings.