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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

281 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 281
Hads: 723
Avg: 3.81
pDev: 20.47%
Wants: 31
Gots: 130 | 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: 281 | Hads: 723
Photo of CWiggins
3.07/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I purchased this big-ass bottle (33.8oz) from Bruisin' Ales in Asheville around Christmas '08. (Sweetwater brews aren't available in the Durham area, but they can be found in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

It pours a very dark brown with a rich, thick, deep tan head that lasted for some time. Aromas of bright cherry, caramel, dark chocolate, and alcohol are noted. The flavor is bright indeed, with sweet, dark fruit dominating the front and middle of the profile. The finish is a bit hoppy, and a slight coffee essence lingers here and during the aftertaste. It's certainly more malty than I expected.

It's a nice beverage, although it's not like any winter warmer I've ever had. Very interesting and worth trying again.

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Photo of dhd1491
4.08/5  rDev +7.1%
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.

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Photo of tpd975
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This one came via OskarsBamaBlues.

A: Pours a nice nutty brown hue with a thick foamy creamy head. The head dies down but some spider webbed lacing is left behind.

S: Nice malty aromas with hints of toffee, brown sugar and nutmeg.

T: Wow one of the better if not best Winter Warmers out there. I am uaually not a huge fan of the style but I am down to try anything. The taste is very much liked a kicked up brown ale. Tons of toffee and choclate with hints of brown sugar sweetness. There is a touch of tobacco and hazelnuts. The finish reveals a touch of spice. I can't put my finger on it, but it is a perfect additon to the beer.

M: Medium in body rich and creamy.

D: Very, this is probably the first winter warmer I could enjoy two bottles of.

Overall: As I stated I usually bash the style as they are often all over the place with spices clashing with one another. This brew is balanced. It is more about malty goodness. There is just a touch of spice (god I wish I knew what it was) that is a perfect addition to this brew. I am drinking this one on a 87 degree Tampa afternoon. It would have been even more enjoyable during a not so cold winter evening.

Overall: I like it. Would love to have a sixer to drink along with my xmas dinner.

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Photo of HopDerek
3.97/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a brown color with 1+ inch of foamy tan head, ok retention and some lacing. Smells of toffee, maple sugar, chocolate, raisins, and alcohol. Taste consists of toffee, molasses, chocolate, bread, dark fruits, holiday spices, and citrus. Medium in body, low in carbonation, smooth. Sweet with a nice tart/citrus finish. Easy to drink, lots of good holiday spirit, really good winter warmer worth getting a bottle every year.

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Photo of younger35
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
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!

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Photo of Sammy
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle #648 brought out at the brewpub in Atlanta.This ws brewed for x-mas, a little spicy, got some cinammon,orange peel, was it bolder before? Dark colour with a head and lacing. Medium mouthfeel, low carbonation.Complex and very respectable winter warmer.

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Photo of tayner
3.71/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle 2007

poured dark mahogany into my warsteiner glass. a 1 inch head dissipated to a full ring but not much lacing.

Smells less spicy than i was expecting from a winter warmer, which is good since i am sitting here with my front door open and it is sunny and 68 outside! has hints of roasted malts, fresh cigar tobacco smell as well.

Taste is like a rich brown ale more than what i would consider a "winter warmer". It has all the roasted malts you could want for a brown ale along with enough spicy hops to dry the palate and make you want more.

The mouthfeel is right on for a brown ale, if not just a tad heavy which would suit the winter warmer profile. a little sticky feeling as well. warms on the way down but 8.6 is not what i thought this was, more like 6% in my head.

I could drink this one alot if it was around here and colder outside for more than a month a year. i am happy to have tried it, and hope to try it again next year too.

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Photo of joe1510
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
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.

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Photo of clemtig76
3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage 1 liter bottle purchased at Beverage Superstore in Suwanee, GA. Pours a dark mahogany brown with a thinish head that quickly dissipates. Aroma is a spicy medley of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg with hint of chocolate malt.
The taste was good and smooth for a high ABV beer. Nice balance between the spices and the sweet malt. Very little hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is a little on the thin side. Very drinkable but I think one is enough.

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Photo of blackie
3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a: Gives a low off white head that rapidly recedes to a thin ring around the glass. The beer is a dark mahogany brown in color.

s: Nice blend of chocolate, toffee, and dark aromas. Earthy hop aroma.

m: The carbonation is a low medium, and the body on the full side of medium.

t: Reminiscent of a heavily malted, low hopped brown ale. Nice touch of chocolate on the the palate, with pale and caramel flavors accompanying. The chocolate comprises the bulk of the complexity. Gentle-moderate bitterness in the finish with some roast lingering.

d: not a problem...abv remains hidden

12 ounce bottle from Bruisin' Ales

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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 slatetupelo
3.76/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My buddy picked me up a sixer or 2007 for me. It pours a real dark brown with amber at the edges of the glass and a nice tan head. There's really nothing distinct about the smell for me but it's not bad. The taste was surprisingly good and tastes of dark chocolate and malts, very well balanced. The alcohol is well hidden and I could drink a few of these before realizing that I'm in over my head. This was my first beer of this style, I'll have to look for something similar.

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Photo of Viggo
4.25/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Christmas tasting with biegaman and grub. grub contributed this one, 1liter swingtop, 2004 vintage.

Pours a clear red/orange/brown, neat colour, a bit of haze, thick tan head, tons of lace, settles to a thick ring. Smell is very rich, toffee, maples, chocolate, raisins, spices, alcohol is well hidden, smells qreat. Taste is toffee, iron, fruits, dates, spices, touch of chocolate, very rich, cinnamon finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low carbonation, very smooth, very enjoyable. Thanks a lot for sharing Russ!

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Photo of Georgiabeer
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Finally got around to reviwing this one. Never got a chance last year. This is the 2007. Pours very dark brown with some garnet highlights. Decent head. The smell is of juicyfruit gum, christmas spices, and dry malt. Taste is similar, but slightly watery and not as flavorful as the nose suggests. In addition to the aromas being echoed in the flavors, there is a nutty finish. Mouthfeeel is very smooth but lighter than one would like for the style. Easy drinking, but a little boring. There are better winter warmers out there. Also, I thought last years tasted a little fuller.

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Photo of Kegatron
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a dark brown with reddish hues around the edges. Head is a tan colored and on the smallish side. Eventually it fizzles out into a few small wisps that left little lacing. Aroma is very sweet. Mostly chocolate and cherries. Some very light alcohol.

The taste has a lot going on with it. Roasted chocolate. Nuttiness. Spices. Almost a sour cherry fruit twinge towards the end. Everything is kind of muddled together but still works. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and silky. I amazingly barely sensed the almost 9% ABV.

This wasn't a bad effort from Sweetwater. The flavors were festive enough and it was ridiculously quaffable for such a high ABV. Worth seeking out if it's in your area.

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Photo of grub
4.47/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

christmas tasting hosted by biegaman on dec 15/07. i contributed this one, which i got from purplehops as part of BC2. huge thanks stan!

giant 1L swingtop topped with red wax. 2004 vintage, bottle 3042 of 5800.

pours dark brown with a fluffy fine tan head. the head drops fairly quick but leaves lots of lace.

aroma is great. bittersweet and dark chocolate. caramel and toffee. light alcohol. almond and cashew. bit of hazelnut.

taste is great. dark and milk chocolate. big caramel and toffee. great nuttyness - almond, hazelnut, cashew. light alcohol. bit of coffee. dominated by chocolate and nut, but in a good way. big bready malt.

mouthfeel is great. medium carbonation level. medium large body. smooth as silk.

drinkability is excellent. well balanced. great big caramel+chocolate+nut combo that i'm really enjoying. this is one fine beer!

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Photo of gabeerfan
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Dark brown with some reddish highlights on the edges. Almost no head or lacing by the time I got it.

S-Dark chocolate and dried cherries. Some lighter roasty malts. Overall, fairly light smelling for such a dark beer.

T-Sweet, but not cloying. Dark chocolate covered cherries. Some chocolate bitter taste on the outer edges of the tongue. Light hop character on the back of the tongue.

M-Coats the mouth pretty well. Lots of lingering flavor after a sip. A little oily feel, but not at all objectionable. Quite nice actually. Almost no alcohol burning.

D-Well, I had 2 of them, so it's pretty drinkable. With the higher ABV, 2 are about my limit. Even with the higher alcohol, it's not a sipper.

Man is this a good beer. I think this year's is even better than last. It's kind of refreshing to not have a hop bomb of a dark winter beer from an American brewery. Pick up a bottle or try it on tap if you get the chance. You will not be sorry.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a Pint Glass

A – Poured a very nice and somewhat hazy hazelnut brown. A nice light reddish hue was apparent around the edges. A good two finger or higher head of white sticky and foamy lace then appeared over the top of it and ever so gradually settled down to simply a thin layer of film across the top. There was some carbonation apparent in it as well.

S – Aroma was very interesting, lots of spice and caramel mixed in with a very nutty, malty aroma. Some fresh cut grass could be detected floating around on the inside and making it appear much lighter. There was almost something sweet though lingering, perhaps honey in the back.

T- The flavor was very smooth and pronounced. To be honest it was quite mellow and drinkable with a good bit of caramel and maple added to it, it kind of tasted like fall if that makes any sense. A really full flavor this gave off some essence of nuttiness as it warmed a really nice and festive beer, there was no hint of the alcohol whatsoever and the overall flavor was very pronounced and robust.

M – Nice medium body and adequate carbonation gave this a very nice, full feel and really a nice push overall. Not overly slick or syrupy it was right down the middle here.

D – Pretty good, albeit a little on the sweet side to really be able to put down a whole lot, it still came off very well and made for a fine late fall taste. I could see myself enjoying one of these every once and a while a really nice ale.

Overall I thought this was very nice. It was in the same category as a Highland Cold Mountain, with that sweet maple like taste and a good amount of wood flavor mixed in. A good chunk of Vanilla also mixed in as you let the taste work its way out. I would have to say this was more then decent and I look forward to being able to have another one soon. A nice seasonal from Sweetwater.

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3.48/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours to an almost black thin darkness of a body. Yeilds a one inch deep tan head that fades in just a couple of minutes. Nose is a sofr malt feel with rones of candy like coco, and roasty wood. Very smooth as you take first sip with long sweet maltieness and a balance of slightly sour wheat on the back of the tongue. A nice mineral and spice mingling happens twords the end of the palate. The soft sour and minerals team together to equal a nice mouthfeel and tingle on the tongue. Nice and drinkable even as it warms thanks to the 8.6% alchol. A solid holiday style.

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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 jneiswender
1.78/5  rDev -53.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

Had this beer served in a pint glass during a tour of the brewery.

Dark walnut color with a large bubble head. Head lasts quite a bit.

Smells sour and then sweet. Like a raisin like finish.

/The flavor is very, very complex. I think to a fault. The flavors aren't necessarily bad, just not layered. Everything seems to be happening at once. It even had some musty or mushroom like overtones.

One sip was all I needed. Didn't like the beer at all. Very honestly it tastes like a bad homebrew made of leftover ingredients.

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Photo of shivtim
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on-tap at the brewery. Looks dark brown; some light gets through revealing red tints. Not much of a head. Nose is christmas tree potpourri and malt. Taste is weak malty bread, with some more holiday spiciness. Alcohol is hidden fairly well. Decent mouthfeel and drinkability. Not a bad offering from Sweetwater.

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Photo of ruleof72
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage

Pours a root beer brown with a thinish head that quickly becomes a thin ring. Good lacing and carbonation

Smell is allspice and cinnamon with some raisin and a slight hint of chocolate.

The taste was good. there is nice balance between the spices and a slight sweetness. A little dry aftertaste that has some highly toasted malt components to it.

Mouthfeel was OK although a little thin . This is a good, drinkable beer that has enough of the "seasonal" flavor to it. Well worth a taste or two.

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Photo of number1bum
3.43/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had this on tap at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta. The server had no idea what it was, although given the name I suspected it was a Christmas ale. It came to me a dark brown, not quite black and with some ruby hues. Thin head left some lace and stick.

Smell was sweet malt, some chocolate, and lots of spice.

Taste was very sweet and got to be cloyingly so toward the end. Sweet and malty with some spices, like ginger, and a raisin-like fruity flavor. Also some chocolate malt. Mouthfeel was medium-bodied and pretty creamy, but cloyingly sweet. Overall, I think I'd pass on this if I saw it again. Too sweet, didn't love the raisiny flavor, and there are better holiday beers to be had.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.15/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

($1.99 12oz. 2007 Bottle @ Total Wine in Kennesaw, GA).

Appearance: Pours a clear dark brown body with ruby-hued edges and a wispy, white head.

Smell: Aroma charged with spices, mostly allspice, but there's some mace and cinnamon in there as well.

Taste: Mild roasted maltiness and burnt toast flavor with a faint hint of chocolate. A spicy-sweet fruitiness kicks in, as does the allspice zing. Finishes dry with a light lingering spiciness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: It's alright, but I dare say one's enough for me per year!

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 281 ratings.