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Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

282 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 282
Hads: 724
Avg: 3.81
pDev: 20.21%
Wants: 30
Gots: 133 | FT: 1
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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Sweetwater Festive Ale Alström Bros
Reviews: 282 | Hads: 724
Photo of pokesbeerdude
3.98/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Yesac for this in our most recent trade. 12oz bottle, 2009 vintage.

A: Deep dark brown in color with a light tan head that recedes into an island of bubbles in the middle of the glass. A few spots of lacing. Nice looking beer.

S: Roasted malt, some booze, a little caramel, a little caramel, and some spices, really strong booze presence though. Not bad.

T: Roasted flavors are nice, and cinnamon comes to mind, slightly boozey, nice malty sweetness, slight little hop profile mixed with the alcohol makes a nice bitter ending. Pretty tasty beer here.

M: Medium bodied with light carbonation, coats the mouth nicely, nice alcohol warmth.

D: This is dangerously drinkable, wow, I'd probably get into a ton of trouble if I had this around on the regular. Great winter warmer. Nice malty thickness and a good alcohol heat with a bit of spiciness. Very nice. Highly recommended for a cold winter night.

Thanks Casey!

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Photo of n00tz
3.98/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - A one centimeter deep, tight tan head floats atop a dark body with active carbonation. Laces a good halfway down the glass.

S - Nutty, spicy fruits, and sweetness.

T - Sweet cream and fig. Kind of a dried spicy flavor, somewhat roasted. Followed by a nutty and mild hop taste.

M - Thick body with a smooth landing. Hides the alcohol content flawlessly.

D - If the intent is to drink this in happy company around a warm fire complementing some mildly sweet desserts like a pumpkin pie, then this hits the spot perfectly. By far the best brew from Sweetwater I've ever had.

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Photo of maccroz
3.98/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A fantastic seasonal brew from one of my favorite breweries. Sweetwater festive ale has many nutty/nutmeggy notes to it. It reminds me of Christmas. Very very tasty. On the sweetwater tour they said "It doesn't take much to get you fucked up" as this beer sports a very strong alcohol content. Bonus... :)

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #35 (Dec 2009):

Happy to see more beefed-up versions of the Winter Warmer style? Do you want a mouthful of pie spices, or do you want to drink a beer?

The beer wants to be black, but in the light, it shows its true color. Good lacing on top. Aromas of chocolate, dried plum and molasses with a hint of cinnamon. Thick and slick full body, carbonation is on the lighter side, which brings a smoothness to the table. Fruity with a heavy rounding of chocolate, nougat, nuttiness, mild spicing and bread crust. Hops are mild, yet push the sweetness down a notch. Alcohol is warming. Hint of burnt sugar and more nutty undertones in the semi-dry finish.

Damn tasty, this Winter Warmer is serious, with a festive back end.

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Photo of tigg924
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: 1/3 inch head, clear, dark brown in color

Smell: caramel malt, figs, brown sugar, alcohol, touch of plum

Taste: caramel malt, figs, brown sugar, black cherry, and spice--maybe cinnamon, small alcohol at the end

Mouthfeel: light bodied, moderate carbonation, semi-sweet

Drinkability: A nice dark holiday seasonal that leans more on dark fruit than spice. This is a sipper and kind of reminds me of a cross between a Belgian dark ale and a dark red wine. I will want another.

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Photo of jbphoto88
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 2010 large bottle sealed in crimson wax. The festive pours a deep wet leather color that's brown and clear during the pour but opaque in the glass. The head is egg cream in color, thick and beautiful. A fine looking brew.

The nose is confusing at first with so many scents wafting up from the glass. A few swirls and repeat sniffs reveal an earthy malt scent with hints of chocolate and cinnamon, there is also a slight tartness in the air. This nose suggests malt bomb.

Taste delivers on the scents promise of grains. BAM!!! Like a punch to the sweet pinchy spot by my molars. A ton of roasted grain that has everything from caramel, coffee and chocolate assault my tounge. The spices are present but not aggressive to really distract from the earthy malts. Slight cinnamon mixed in with a dry finish.

Mouthfeel is silky smooth with a heavier body and light carbonation. It really let's the malts shine and take the warm, snuggly spotlight. Wow, what a great sesonal and cheap!! This one was $4.99, how can the brewery use all that grain and only charge that for a bottle. A great find, I can't wait for next years.

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Photo of spacecake9
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a bottle of this fine ale in a trade.
A - Pours black with a nice head that settles quickly.
S - Aroma of malt, dark fruits.
T - Very tasty brown ale. Minimal spices.
F - Medium mouth feel, low carbonation.
O - I've been sitting on this one for a couple months, much better than I expected. Very drinkable beer.

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Photo of MMAJYK
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

****Vintage '06****

A- Very dark brown. Chocolate colored with off white, thick head. Not too tall of head, just thick.

S- Very stout spice smells. Ginger for sure and still chocolatey.

T- Very smooth but also bitter and stout in the middle. Rich and full with well blended spices.

M- Thick and rich. Not much carbonation.

D- Great 'warm you right up" beer! Enjoy this one tailgating before the big game with a rack of ribs on the grill. Very drinkable, but be careful, the 8.6% will get hold of you before you know it.

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Photo of mscudder
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Bomber. Served in a globe.

A - Pours an oily black hue with a two-finger soft-ivory head. Average retention with some lacing.

S - Cinnamon, nutmeg, big malts and assorted winter spices.

T - Massive malt backbone in this one. Bold creamy backdrop with some warmth from the booze. I find flavors of caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, subtle chocolate and a touch of maple.

M - Creamy medium body with average carbonation. Wish it were a touch more robust.

O -Pretty good showing this year and a certain upgrade from past editions. Holiday spices are abundant atop a might blend of malts. Not nearly as boozy as I tend to feel about warmers. I would get this again.

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Photo of BeerSox
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into nonic.

With a gentle pour about a one finger head builds then slowly settles to a razor thin cap.

The aroma has some light burnt caramel aromas with some soft spices. Some light fruit aromas are there as well.

The flavor starts out with the same burnt caramel, then quickly transitions to some mild spice flavors. Most of the flavor is from the malt (caramel) with a little bit of hop flavor coming in at the end. Full bodied with assertive carbonation giving it a spritzy feel. The finish is the spices mixed with a bit of caramel.

This one is pretty good. It's not your standard Winter Warmer, maybe a little spicier than average, but it's still a great beer. Recommended.

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Photo of Brent
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tops my list for "hardest bottle to open." My sample was a big bottle of '01, with a ceramic swing top stopper. The entire top, wire and all, had been dipped in red wax, like Maker's Mark bourbon, and was the hardest stuff I've run across. It took a pocket knife and chiseling to get it off. Fortunately, the beer was worth the effort, and you can be sure there was no oxidation.

Poured a walnut brown. Overall, it struck me as Anchor Our Special Ale's little brother. Nutty, mildly spiced - nutmeg and allspice, with a lively mouthfeel. A touch of carmel and maple syrup, but not too sweet.

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Photo of meechum
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured dark brown to almost black with just a little light coming through in red highlights. Nice thick tan head that fell slowly and leaves a nice lacing

S - The smell is of roasted malts with a hint of chocolate and maybe just a little mocha

T - Very much like the smell..it has a roasted malty taste..with just a bit of bitter chocolate and mocha...with a warm alcohol finish

M - Nice and thick, coating the mouth

D - Overall a very nice winter warmer and a good beer to have on a cold evening

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Photo of cvstrickland
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Red wax-dipped swing-top bottle is pretty much a pain in the ass to whittle open, but it looks pretty.

The drink pours a dark, dark ruby hue with a fat khaki head that retains well and leaves little gobs of lacing spattered about the glass.

Smell is a bit fruity with a toasty note and a bit of spice.

Taste is warm and friendly with a nice malt backbone. Caramel-covered plums and dark berries are dusted with a little allspice and a dash of fresh-ground nutmeg. Nice spicy finish.

The drink has a fullish-medium body and a nice creamy feel. Superb drinkability.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from waxed bomber into tulip glass. Pours a very deep brown along with a nice medium to thin tan head. Aromas of cinnamon, caramel, nutmeg, toasted malts, and maybe a touch of chocolate. The flavor allows for a decent amount of chocolate to sneak in there to go with the cinnamon holiday spice, vegetation notes, and sweet malt. Medium bodied with decent carbonation throughout. Overall, a nice holiday beer and one I wouldn't mind seeking out again!

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Photo of BEERchitect
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A festive ale indeed. I have learned to expect lighter and more tame brews from Sweetwater. This beer surprises with a heavier malt base, complexity, and spiciness. Looks brown through and through with a tan head and simple lacing. Smells deeply roasted and chocolatey, much like an English Brown. This brew seems to have added chocolates and christmas type spices that are shown equally in the nose and flavors. Flavors continue with a bready / toasty character, caramels, and increasing spiciness. Feels full, but not rich. Never thickens or waters. Finishes with a mild alcohol warmth, and a mild bite comming from the spices and grains. Nice winter brew. Thanks again Ding.

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Photo of Jayli
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Acquired this from tigg924 so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours a deep dark brown with mahogany hue edges. A one finger of khaki colored head that dissipates quickly. Wispy lacing is left on the side.

S: Nose is of caramel malts, brown sugar, molasses, and spices.

T: Taste is caramel malts, brown sugar, hint of bitter chocolate up front. Middle is a bit nutty, some molasses, spicing. Finish is bitter chocolate with just a hint of hop bite, and bit of alcohol.

M: Lighter side of medium body, medium carbonation, crisp, clean body with a touch sticky finish.

D: Nicely balanced, goes down easily, in my winter warmer days, I could drink these all day. One would probably do me now.

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Photo of brentk56
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 bottling re-visit

Appearance: Pours a dark brown color with a decent head that leaves shards of lace on the pint glass

Smell: Malty aroma that includes a touch of dark fruit, chocolate, nougat and holiday spice

Taste: Starts with a brown bread flavor that is promptly matched by the dark fruit, chocolate and nougat elements; after the swallow, the cinnamon spicing adds a holiday flourish; the finish brings on a surprising lift from the hops

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Nice flavor profile with subtle aromatics; not sure whether the recipe has changed but this has a lot more character than what I tasted a few years ago

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Photo of harpus
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a nice deep brown (coffee-like) and starts with a short 1/2 finger tan head that fades quickly to a thin and uneven skim; body is mostly opaque and shows some deep mahogany highlights when held to the light; no real lacing to speak of, just a thin oily residue.

Smell: Deep dark malts, a slightly smokey peat scent and perhaps a bit of tall grassy graininess (wheat or straw). Not especially potent.

Taste: Quite nice -- nice deep roasty malts taht are not quite burnt; a slightly smokey peaty flavor is there as it is in the smell; I'd swear that there's a touch of cinammon; a slightly cola-like sweetness lingers near the end of each sip before it goes back to the warm roastiness and that tall grassy graininess of wheat or straw; as it warms, there are also mild notes of chocolate and sweet dark fruits as well.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is quite strong and stops just shy of being sharp; body is of moderate thickness and a little heavier in weight; moderate stickiness and the belly is left a little warm.

Drinkability: I like the flavors and feel I picked a great night that is absolutely frigid outside to enjoy this as the warming sensation in the belly is quite pleasant as well. The ABV is a tad high, but I feel that if it's just sipped over the course of the night, I could get through a couple.

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Photo of beer2day
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours very dark brown with a thin 1 and 1/2 finger head. No retention. Laces well enough.

Nose is very dark, dank, and musky. Very deep fruit tones. Earthy, peaty malt notes with overlays of cherries and plums.

Very thick hit. Very little taste in that initial hit, but quickly turns sweet with overripe cherries and plums. Nice when the taste matches the aroma. More tart than bitter in the finish, as to be expected. If you like fruit in your warmer, then this is a good one.

Feel is very thick and heavy, maybe even too much so. And I like thick beers.

As good as this one is, one 12oz bottle is plenty. For the style, though, that's fine. I've bought the flip top liters before and that is just way too much of a beer this heavy for us.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

** Note on 12/18/10** I received another bottle from RBald42 over a year ago and just popped it. I think this aged nicely despite the style not conforming to cellaring. I really enjoyed this today. Malt flavors really smooth out and it's a chewy caramel flavor.

Big Thanks to BHalter8 for providing this in a trade. He's an excellent trader!!

Pours a deep brown color. A wonderful tan head that is about a perfect thickness. (2 fingers) the head begins to dissipate almost immediately. Almost looks like a real Root Beer. Maybe a little thicker.

Aroma is sweet caramel and lots of deep malt.

Deep caramel flavor follows the aroma almost perfectly. The slightest hint of spices as well. Not sure if I can pick anything specific out, but it's there. A bit nutty as well. Almost roasted nuts....

Thick full bodied beer. Very light carbonation.

Very drinkable as a Winter Warmer. Definitely warms the heart.

Glad I had the opportunity to try this beer.

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Photo of ksimons
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-pours a deep chestnut brown with ruby highlights. The head is a creamy tan that sticks to the glass.

S-the smell is how I think a winter warmer should smell. Rich malts, caramel, light molasses, and spices

T-Tastes of lightly roasted malt, chocolate and caramel, and a slightly sour dark fruit ending. Easy to drink with just a light alcohol warming.

M-medium body, moderate carbonation, very mellow

Overall its an easy to drink beer and a nice representation of a winter warmer. I would definitely drink again.

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Photo of adamette
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes. Enjoyed by me on Christmas Day 2009. Poured from the 12 oz. bottle that my brother in law Steven brought back from Atlanta into my father in law's Ray's standard pint glass. Thanks Steven.

A Medium brown creamy head that dissipates to a thin layer within 2 minutes. Dark porter body with no light coming through. 4.0

S Dark fruits, medium roast malt, possibly some dark caramel or molasses. I really like the smell of this beer and it is apparent that it is a Winter Warmer with some balls. 4.0

T Dark fruit, molasses carries right over from the smell. The taste is probably less "sweet" than the smell suggested but this is a delicious porter like beer. 4.0

M Syrupy thickness is not extreme but it is certainly there. 4.0

D Good. I found the bottom of my pint rather quickly. 4.0

Notes: What a treat to try this limited, bottled beer from Sweetwater. Thanks again Steven!

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Soupy milk chocolate brown color is the liquid, and the head is a dirtied white thing, biggish at first then sinking very quickly to a skim in under a minute.

Aroma is predominantly spicy/herbal, but balanced. I get spruce tips, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, grape must and alcohol in the nose (uh, not literally in my nose), very fragrant and up-front, bordering on intense but never going too far.

Truly a winter warmer, in that its got a cozy, welcoming, dessert-like, let's-stay-inside-and-light-a-fire vibe. Spices and herbs are still the outstanding feature in the taste, but as with the aroma, never overkill. Smooth and balanced mixture of spruce/pine, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, brown sugar and grape juice. Hops and malt are here although costumed for the Christmas party (especially the malt, which is the life of this party). Alcohol is impressive well-hidden, or maybe better, well-incorporated.

Love the feel here, very smooth, silky, soft, round, almost creamy even. Enough carbonation to keep it lively.

Very nice. A real pleasure to drink and one I'll definitely try and track down next year again.

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Photo of UnderPressure
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown, nearly black colored beer with a light brown head.

A really nice malty, sweet aroma. Roasted grains and spice are also present in the aroma.

A nice malty, spicy flavor. A slight bitterness hits the back of the mouth at first. With a grainy, roasted malt finish.

Nice mouthfeel. Medium-heavy bodied. A perfect level of carbonation.

This has become one of my favorite winter seasonals. A great dark, roasty, spicy beer with plenty to offer.

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Finally getting around to trying this one. The first of two from a trade with Rajendra82. Hoping for some tasty southern brew here.

I pour the chilled brew into my pint glass and it is incredibly dark brown, almost black. Barely any light gets through. Not what I expected at all. This is exciting! Very little tan head foams up and fades rather quickly, back to a thin layer on the surface.

The aroma is spicy sweet similar to other winter brews. Some nutmeg, and actually brown sugar or molasses scents as well.

First sip, very mild carbonation, very smooth with above average thickness. The flavor is similar to the scent. Slightly sweet, with hints of coffee, but more of a mocha. Similar to those swiss mocha hard candies they give out at banks sometimes. That is exactly what I taste. very easy to drink. No ABV listed but I guess it is above 6%. But not due to alcohol flavor or burn just thickness of the brew. This is a very nice brew. not what I expected from a winter ale, but I am very impressed with my first sweetwater beverage. Now I know what to look for next time I am in Georgia. Thanks again for a quality brew Rajendra!

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 282 ratings.