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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: 31
Gots: 132 | 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 cpetrone84
3.52/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-pours a deep brown with hues of red, a thin finger of off white head that dissipates quickly and leaves nothing on the glass

S-light aroma of cinnamon spice, smoe floral hops and a touch of sweet ciitrus

T-light taste of sweet cinnamon, touch of pepper, hint of vanilla, some caramel malts come in next with a light roasted character that finishes with a dark fruits and a hint of citrus hops

M-solid body, full on medium, very smooth with a fair amount of carbonation

D-not a huge fan of winter ales and the spices associated. impartial rating as the flavors are decent and well related to the style. they aren't huge and i've had better winter's.

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Photo of Onenote81
3.52/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle poured into my pint glass. Pours a dark tawny amber with a thin creamy tan capper. Little lace sticks as I sip. Scents of toffee, plum, molasses, and spices.

Body is creamy at the onset, but finishes with a nice carbonation pop. Flavors of mild cinnamon, some molasses, licorice, and mild hops. This is a good Winter brew here. Not your typical spicy all-cinnamon Xmas beer. I like it. Recommend.

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Photo of jbone78
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is the 2010. Poured dark brown, let's say mahogany with nice little frothy head. Smells of dates, dust and malt. Taste is a bit overwhelmed with cloves, but has a toasty nice malty backone. This one is growing on me, but I liked the '09 better.


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Photo of gford217
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1L swingtop poured into a pint glass.

Pours a deep mahogany with hints of ruby around the edges. An aggressive pour produces a two-finger tan head that recedes to a very thin cap leaving some spotty lacing.

Aromas are pretty basic with lots of sweet caramel malts and dark, sweet fruits, apples and grapes maybe. I didn't get much in the way of spices in the aroma.

The taste is also extremely sweet, with sugary caramel malts and dark fruits. I thought I got some chocolate hints as well. The finish has a cola-like sweetness.

The mouthfeel is pretty light for the style with good carbonation but lacking the body I was hoping for.

This is a decent but not great beer from Sweetwater. Probably a bit one-dimensional for me, but I may sit on a bottle or two and see how it develops over time.

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Photo of AlexJ
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark chocolate brown pour with a light beige head that is dense and lasting.

Aroma is dark malt, cocoa, subtle coffee, and hints of spice. Nice but rather ordinary.

Flavor steps up a bit with unsweetened chocolate, roasted coffee, dark malts, leather, and very faint spice. Finish is big and hoppy. No trace of the nearly 9 % alcohol content.

Body hovers between medium and large with aggressive carbonation and a somewhat chalky mouthfeel.

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Photo of spense727
3.56/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - dark brown, cloudy, the color of black jesus
Smell - smokey beef jerky smell
Taste - Rauch beers little brother, a slight hint of smokiness, with a fine medium roast
Mouthfeel - not overly carbonated, light mouthfeel,
Overall - it was a nice beer tastey kind

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Photo of RockRuler
3.56/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Good brew. Light malt taste with spice. Loved the aroma. Maybe a bit of warming but not much. Not my favorite holiday beer and not my beer style but glad I gave it a try.

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Photo of bcostner1
3.56/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark brown/amber. Fairly opaque. Nice, thick, rich tan head that sticks around for a while.

S: Not that impressive to me. Faint hint of spice (cinnamon and citrus maybe?) and a little bit of licorice actually.

T: I am pleasantly surprised by the taste of this one. It's sweeter and less hop-forward than I expected. The predominant flavors for me are caramel, malt, and chocolate with some brown sugar in there. Very subtle spice comes forward as the beer warms and to me is mainly cinnamon with a little bit of bitter orange peel perhaps. I'm digging this...and I wasn't sure that I would.

M: For as thick and rich as the head was on the pour, the beer itself is a little on the thin side. A little more body would do it well. Still, it is very easy to drink and I really don't detect the 8.6% ABV whatsoever which is a good thing.

Overall, I enjoyed this beer quite a bit. I would definitely buy it again. As far as winter warmers go, I haven't had many but I personally enjoyed this more than Jubelale, which I also had recently, mainly because I like my hops more subdued and this definitely fits the bill for that.

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Photo of Todd
3.57/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2004 vintage. 12oz bottle. No freshness date. Pours a very deep garnet, near opaque. Foam is a snapping tan with large bubbles that bust down to a quarter inch lace that has some decent retention.

Ripened fruits and baking spices in the aroma, and a hint of sour sherry. Estery. Alcohols in the background.

Crisp, snapping carbonation the palate lends way to a creamy mouthfeel. Sharp, fruity character of sweet and sour berries, dark ripe fruits of plum, fig and raisin, followed by a sweet malty flavor with notes of caramel and granola cereal, along with ash and some smoke. Bag of mixed holiday-type spices. Alcohol is well-hidden. Very mild oxidation character in the form of cardboard, which lingers in the finish with a slight metallic note and overall drying character with chalk backing.

Aged quite well. Not bad, and a nice winter brew enjoyed in the summer. Screw seasonal stereotypes.

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Photo of hoppymeal
3.57/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle is dated 2005. Pours dark brown with some burgundy color as well. Smells of sweet malts, dates, prunes, and caramel. Also some roasty aroma in there. Medium body with sweet malts dominating up front in the taste with some roasty and smoky flavors as well in the background that tingle on the tongue. Good beer, I may enjoy it more during the winter months.

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Photo of tdm168
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown that has a reddish hue when put to light. There is a quarter of an inch of foamy, loose, off white head that quickly dissipates. The nose has notes of caramel and ginger. The flavor is sweet at first with notes of caramel and chocolate then finishes with a bittersweet chocolate note. A few more sips reveal some vanilla, ginger, and faint spice. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied though a little crisp at first. The carbonation settles down as the beer warms.

The flavor becomes a little boring throughout the drink. The chocolate, caramel, and ginger start out as a good flavor. As I continued to drink it though they lost their individual flavor. They meshed together into an incoherent, one-dimensional, boring flavor. This is a decent beer and enjoyable at first, but I don't think it's something I would come back to.

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Photo of Infamous7100
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: pours deep and rich brown. It's clear, but the depth of the color makes it impossible to see all the way through. A nice head upon my pour with minimal lacing. A tan ring remains around the outside throughout my consumption.
S: aromas of cinnamon and spice are what I pick up at first. Shockingly, I am getting a lot of toasted malt and dark chocolate overtones I would associate with a stout. Interesting combo.
T: Complexity abound. The winter spices blend nicely with the roasted malts, chocolate and coffee flavors. I get a slight hoppiness as well, but malts and spice rule the day.
M: this brew possesses a nice creaminess with a medium body and medium carbonation. It finishes smooth and spicy with a hint of bitterness.
O: a nice winter brew. I enjoy the elements of a stout that were incorporated into its characteristics, wnich is unique. The flavors were maybe a bit too subtle, but were present enough to mask most of the alcohol.

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Photo of timtheenchanta
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Light to medium brown. True to style. Rocky fluffy head. Good retention. Little lacing that runs down the glass.

Spices and very faint malt. Not much else in the nose.

Lots of holiday spices. Ginger and everything else you put in cookies that screams out winter holidays. Slight alcohol taste and burn. Thin malt taste that's sweet but not great.

A little thin. Lightly carbonated. Enjoyable beer. Not my favorite of the style but good.

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 Edition

A - Pours a deep brown with a thin brown head that leaves a slight topping of lace.

S - Malty some spicing (can't exactly place which ones) with a touch of chocolate.

T - Toasted malt with a slight taste of biscuit or baked bread, hint of chocolate with a mild earthy spice character.

M - Smooth and creamy with a medium body.

D - Tasty with more subtle flavor/spicing than other holiday beers I have had.

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Photo of Jadjunk
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle to a snifter. Served above 50º Fahrenheit. Roughly 3 months old, date on bottle is 10/8/13.

(Appearance) Beer pours thick chocolate cream head that retains well. There is a thin lacing on the side. Beer is very dark brown with dark ruby highlights. From the little I can see in this, there is some subtle carbonation. There's plenty of substance to behold with the nice presentation this beer gives. It's an attractive appearance overall. 4

(Smell) Medium roasted malts, some caramel with toffee and cream. Festive spice blends are on low, but reminiscent of licorice and cinnamon, both in trace amounts. Potency is medium. The aroma isn't the most impressive aspect of this beer. 3.5

(Taste) Caramel and toffee are in the foreground, but spices linger faintly in the background. The slightly bitter aftertaste is reminiscent of medium toasted malts. Slightly sweet, although a touch more sweetness would be desirable. The alcohol is well concealed, but I can pick up some tastes of it here and there at the tail end of the drink. The taste is enjoyable, but could be far more intense and full bodied, like the initial impressions I gathered when smelling. The beer is toasty and sweet. 3.5

(Mouthfeel) Creamy and clean. Balance works well for the flavors. Malt is close to where it could be, nonetheless the beer is medium bodied for a winter warmer and medium bodied overall. Alcohol presence is light, well masked by the malt body and perhaps even the creamy texture in the mouthfeel. 4

(Overall) A malt-heavy winter warmer, with a subtle spice profile and a mild bitterness. I thought that the malt characteristics were a bit shallow for the beer or the remaining characteristics were underdeveloped and need some time to impart additional flavors. 3.5

Vertical Tasting Notes:

2011 (1 year, 3 months aged) Date on bottle: Best by 10/10/12.

Pours slightly darker head than the fresh vintage, slightly less substantial with a minor froth, overall still decent quality and retains well, perhaps even better than the fresh batch. Body color is identical to fresh with deep ruby highlights. There's a definite change in the malt background as the caramel begins to develop and bring out the subtleties in the spices, a little souring perhaps and some fruit characteristics are developing. This vertical is notably boozier as well. The age has done some wonders for the complexity; there's better balance to the beer and more yeast characteristics, imparting some tart fruit characteristics and enhancing the spices, notably cinnamon and anise, which are no longer masked by the malt bill. A touch dry still, but no worse than the fresh batch. A 1 year vertical of this beer is certainly worth your time as there is much more complexity to be found. Recommended.

Recommended Age: 1+ Years

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Photo of MasterfulIdiot
3.59/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Served into a Riedel tulip glass. Appearance is nearly black, with hints of red when you hold it up to the light. Tan head fades super quickly and doesn't leave much lace.

Smell is bready - kind of like a dubbel. There are hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, but they don't dominate or seem over-the-top. It actually smells pretty pumpkin-y.

Taste follows the nose, with some nice dark fruit added - figs. Spices are really well-integrated - they're noticable, but not at all overbearing. Alcohol is similar - present, but not too much.

What brings this down for me is the mouthfeel. It's surprisingly light-bodied for the taste, and just doesn't really work for me.

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Photo of AlFromBayShore
3.59/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found one of the big bottles of these at Camp Creek Beverage. The year on this bottle was 2008. Two of these were sitting in a box of "Happy Endings". My best guess is that Sweetwater tossed these in amongst the "Happy Endings".

The first time I had a Festive Ale, I didn't like it. It seemed thin in its texture. I had another one that had aged for about two months. I'm not sure if that made a difference but it had much more body and the taste seemed more complex. By that time however, it was next to impossible to find.

The one I am drinking now doesn't seem as complex but does have full bodied texture. The taste reminds me of a double bock - malty with hints of cane syrup and molasses. Not much else. There is a slight booziness in the finish. The smell is seems dominated by the malt. I expected more complexity in both the flavor and smell. Not much carbonation and the drinkability is good.

Overall, this 2008 version is okay but nothing to write home about. I expected a complex tasting Christmas Ale and got what appears to taste a lot like a double bock. I have the second bottle but am not as exicted about this ale as I was before having it.

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Photo of nomad
3.59/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A deep brown color, with no head or anything else despite a strong pour. This beer smelled of sweet dark malt tickling with spices, showing oaky, almost peat-like, and smoky sides. A full bill. Taste is mocha-like chocolate with soft spice surrounding it, deepened by a dark toast flavor with little too-much-roast distaste. Smoky at times, it had bits most noticeably of allspice, and a dry finish from spice chalkiness.

A fair bodied, fair winter beer. Thanks to aracauna for this warmer.

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Photo of BDIMike
3.6/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark brown color when held to the light. There is a small tan head that leaves rings throughout the drink.
Smell is of slight dark plum fruits along with roasted malts and nutty smells.
Taste is of the dark fruit flavors and the roasted malts. There is also a tad bit of alcohol to the taste as well.
Mouthfeel is a bit thin for the style, but very smooth.
Drinkability is nice for a stronger beer. There is not a lot of strong tastes going on, so it makes it more of a session beer than a great, flavorful winter warmer.

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Photo of BB1313
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

Best by 11/5/15. 12oz bottle poured into a pint glass. Pours a deep brown with a khaki head that sticks around leaving great retention and sticky lacing. The aromas are loaded with chocolate and cherries. Dark fruits are there. Tons of malts. The flavors are smooth and don't come off as "huge". It's very balanced. More cocoa malts. Lots of cherries. Maybe some orange peel in the mix. Some raisins and plums. Some toffee. This isn't a spice bomb or anything like that. The spices are subtle, if not non-existent. Mouthfeel is very nice. It's full-bodied with low carbonation. It's very creamy and fluffy. Very smooth. Easy drinking and the alcohol goes unnoticed.

This is a solid holiday brew. It's nothing magical, but it's simply a well crafted brew that will hit the spot during the cold weather. It's along the lines of an amped up brown ale.

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Photo of kkipple
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2006 limited edition, liter bottle, number 4985/9000!

Poured from the beautiful red wax-sealed bottle into two pints. The head is a nice dark tan, compact, but eventually settles to ring the outside of the glass. The beer itself is a deep dark red, nearly black till you hold it to the light.

Smells rich, with lots of roasted sweet grains and more than a hint of tobacco, along with alcohol and a slight grape-tannic quality. Overall it's quite malty, with a bit of cocoa coming through. No hops. Brown sugar to spare. Ok smell, no real spices however. Is this really a Winter Warmer?

Festive is pretty tasty, albiet basic. It's just a sweet mildly roasted malt bomb, with a smooth mouthfeel and a few interesting notes to keep you drinking. Roasted grain, burnt sugars, the ever-used "dark fruit" (figs? raisins?) and a bit oc chocolate round it off. Not very complex. Don't know how much I could buy this (especially at the $12 per bottle...) but is pretty easy to down the pint in front of me. Finishes sweet and warming, with a hint of roasty bitterness.

Reminiscent of Old Chub, really, this is a tasty beer, but not such a good deal for the price. Still, it's worth a try, and the bottle is super slick and will win you cool points at parties when you show up toting it. As usual, Sweetwater does something interesting, but not exactly ground-breaking.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A nice, zingy winter beer. The serving I got did not have much of an odor - but I have never had an exceptional sense of smell. The taste, however, is fairly good. The flavor is not overwhelming or remarkable, but this is definitely a drinkable beer and a good companion to a hearty lunch or dinner. It goes down smoothly without a bad aftertaste.

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Photo of jcalabre
3.62/5  rDev -5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: This brew is reddish brown with a quickly disappearing head.
Aroma: It's almost a potpourri type of smell.
Flavor: slightly sweet and spicey
Overall: this is a medium bodied, slightly spicey beer. quite tasty. THis is a nicely done winter ale that isn't too overpowering

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Photo of Gwitt
3.62/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Nose is of black strap molasses, unsulphered. Slight touch of raisin.
Taste -much like the nose, but heavier in the sweet raisin, or of a medjool date. End is spicy, but more pleasant anise and licorice. Good carbonization. Tingly, with syrup on the tongue.
Mild cinnamon and light plum involved in the aftertaste.
Note: having the 2013 festive on 4/2014.
If a waxed bottle could be cellared for a year, I'd expect more sweetness and spice. Would be a good choice for a holiday drink,
left in a one- to two- year cellar, but only in ideal (50 degree range) temps.
Serve with: potato leek soup, turkey and the trimmings.

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Photo of GPHarris
3.63/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage

a - poured a one finger thick light tan head into a goblet that left thin ring and sheet throughout. the head billows nicely. the body is a dark and deep reddish-brown.
s - dark and sour fruits with a hint of spice.
t - sour cherries with a dry chocolatey finish.
m - medium and bubbly.
d - good beer but the bomber was a beast to finish after my fiancee' didn't like it.

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