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Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

566 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 566
Reviews: 268
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 12.5%


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
Ratings: 566 | Reviews: 268 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of axeman9182
axeman9182

New Jersey

3.4/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle, poured into my Brooklyn Brewery tulip.

Sweetwater Festive ale pours a solid black, with between two and three fingers of khaki colored foa crowning the beer. Head retention is well above average, and there's definitely more of the glass left covered in lacing than not. The nose is disappointingly weak. There are some light chocolaty notes, and a decent amount of cinnamon aroma, but all in all it's a bit muted. The flavor profile is a bit more complex, if still dull. The malt opening features layers of biscuit and caramel, along with a delicate chocolate presence. The back end is cinnamon, which brings an almost pepper like spiciness to bear The mace is more noticeable here, adding a bit of balance to things. The body is a bit thin, and the carbonation is on the flat side, all in all the mouthfeel is a little lackluster. I've found most of Sweetwater's beers to be hit-or-miss, and this one is unfortunately trending towards the latter. I like the concept for the beer, but the execution largely leaves a little to be desired.

Serving type: bottle

12-14-2012 03:06:19 | More by axeman9182
Photo of bjwilson
bjwilson

Alabama

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.

Serving type: bottle

12-14-2012 02:52:26 | More by bjwilson
Photo of bigfnjoe
bigfnjoe

Pennsylvania

3.48/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage. Poured from a waxed bottle into a Dogfish snifter

A- pours jet black with a half finger very light brown head that doesn't stick around for awhile. Disappointing

S- tons of holiday-type spices...cinnamon comes through a lot, as well as some ginger. Not too shabby

T- getting a decent bit of ginger in the mouth....some cinnamon, maybe a little bit of clove. Everything is rather muted overall, but I'd rather have it be muted than to choke on the spices. Not bad

M- body is actually really thin. Stunning, disappointing

O- such a strange beer. Very easy to drink, better than many Winter Warmers I've had....yet not blowaway at all

Serving type: bottle

12-12-2012 00:37:48 | More by bigfnjoe
Photo of jucifer1818
jucifer1818

Florida

3.75/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a: Dark and black, with little head. perfect for a winter ale like this one
4.5/5

S: Very varible and smelling of spice. With each smell someone can smell a differnt spice or detect something new in it. It is very nice, but could be stronger. A bit of yeasty fruityness in the smell as well
4/5

t: smooth for a beer of its ABV, with light spicing and malty backbone. the maltyness comes through in the after taste with some hoppy bitterness.
3.5/5

M: Very light for its dark color and ABV, but still quite nice
but could be stronger
3.5/5

Overall
Its a very decent winter warmer and one of the best deals on a 6 pack you can get. Its good spiceing and high ABV make this one a personal favorite, even with its flaws. If it had a heavyer body and a more pronounced spice taste in the body, I might had given it even higher marks
its s 4/5, but it is still very recommended.

Serving type: bottle

11-30-2012 04:10:44 | More by jucifer1818
Photo of raoulduke25
raoulduke25

Georgia

4.43/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked up a six-pack of this at the grocery store. By the time I got to drinking it, it had warmed to a pleasant 45-50°F.

The beer is very dark, but if you shine a light through it, you can see the amber hue around the edges. After pouring, a nice bubbly (non-foamy) head appeared, but didn't last long.

The smell is enough to let you know that this is something special. Hints of spices and smooth fragrances all around.

Once the head had dissipated, I gave a small taste. It was full-bodied, but not overwhelming. In fact, the taste was highlighted by its subtlety: nothing lacking, yet each sip feels like you're getting just enough.

The mouthfeel was surprisingly non-viscous. I would say "watery" but that's clearly not the word. If you are expecting something like a cream stout or a frothy syrup, that's not what this is at all. It is a dark ale that hangs in your mouth like water.

Overall, the marks on this beer are high. The taste and smell are nothing short of heavenly. I would have preferred a heavier feel, but nothing to complain about with this one.

Serving type: bottle

11-27-2012 02:52:30 | More by raoulduke25
Photo of birchstick
birchstick

Colorado

3.9/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - pours black color with a nice white head

N - rich, caramel malts are all over the nose. There are also some
anise mixed in with some more sticky candy notes.

T - starts off with sweet malty candy flavors that get sweeter as it rolls down the palate. There is also a little bit of charred malt and anise. Nice winter warmer.

M - mouthfeel is full and smooth and coats the tongue - goes down nicely

D - I really enjoyed this winter warmer. Really sticky, candyish, and malty - all the flavors that should be in a warmer. I'll have to get some more for the holiday season this year.

Serving type: bottle

07-12-2012 05:21:14 | More by birchstick
Photo of siege06nd
siege06nd

Virginia

4.18/5  rDev +8.9%
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!

Serving type: bottle

07-04-2012 20:59:22 | More by siege06nd
Photo of sweemzander
sweemzander

Illinois

3.13/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz. bottle poured into a tulip.

(A)- Pours a very dark burnt sienna color. Some good tan froth and lace.

(S)- A rich raisin and almond spice to it. Simple, but nice.

(T)- A spicy raisin and nut combo (walnut?)

(M)- A good carbonation level. A solid rich balance too without being too strong.

(D)- Overall, a solid little winter warmer. Not the best, but worth trying.

Serving type: bottle

05-24-2012 14:28:10 | More by sweemzander
Photo of msubulldog25
msubulldog25

Oregon

3.73/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle sent by my buddy, bluepred, a few weeks back; poured to a pint glass. As we're a couple days into spring now on the calendar, it seemed perhaps 'too late' to drink - then I dealt with snow showers on the commute home and it seemed appropriate on a 'winter'-feeling evening.

This is the 2011 edition, dipped in [extra-thick] red wax. Label shows 8.5%, a 'Catch & Release Seasonal' (from the 'Winter Coat Season')

A: Very dark, a ruby-tinted chocolate brown that pours with a compact tan/ivory head. Head recedes and rings the glass forming a base for drippy lace to fall toward. Most of it sticks. So dark that carbonation can only be seen in the strongest light; it's sleepy, but adequate.

S: Not much initially, even after warming 10 minutes or so. Gradually a nice spicing arises, a rooty gingerbread and molasses. It's similar in ways to Anchor's OSA... although theirs is stronger and more inviting. Kind of surprised that a 'big beer' like this doesn't have more aroma. Shrug.

T: I'm a fan of a sweeter/maltier winter ale - and this fits that bill. A dusty cocoa powder and careful use of cinnamon are highlights. The longer it sits, the more the spice turns to 'ginger', a spark that tingles on the tongue. A little drier in the finish, just enough to balance.

M: For an 8.5% beer, surprisingly devoid of alcohol 'heat'. Very easy to drink, truth be told. I assume that, by mid-March, this beer is 4-6 months since brewing; it's held up well, although carbonation is a little subdued. The end result is that it's thinner-feeling than expected. Smoothness is spot on.

O: I'm happy to have tried this (again), thanks to Mark. I've never reviewed it, but have been the recipient of a couple Festive Ales over the years. It's a better than average Winter Warmer, that does a good job with flavors that match my palate... and with subtle 'warming'. Yum.

Serving type: bottle

03-22-2012 02:50:00 | More by msubulldog25
Photo of FanofHefe
FanofHefe

Illinois

3.8/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2011 version that pours a clear, deep, ruby red color with a nearly two-finger light tan head. Decent retention but only a little lacing.

The aroma is light and malty. As it warms, I get a little more of the spicy, cinnamon notes and a bit of cocoa.

The chocolate/cocoa flavor shows up more in the flavor than in the aroma. The overall flavor is very malt forward, as expected, and the spicy mix does not overwhelm, but accents.

Light to medium mouthfeel that works well overall. This works very well as a Winter Warmer and does not offend in any way. Just a solid offering altogether.

Serving type: bottle

02-21-2012 23:49:15 | More by FanofHefe
Photo of tdm168
tdm168

North Carolina

3.58/5  rDev -6.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-25-2012 00:25:59 | More by tdm168
Photo of match1112
match1112

Illinois

3.48/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

big thanks to chefmikeanderson for sending this as an extra! pours out a dark cola color. a tan head rises to a fingers height than quickly falls to a thin almost non-existant ring. smells very malty with hints of chocolate and cinammon. the taste is pretty much the same with a slight smokey finish. mouthfeels thin for the style, but has decent carbonation. a little spicy and warm on the finish from the cinammon. overall this is easy drinkin, goes down smooth.

Serving type: bottle

01-22-2012 00:22:09 | More by match1112
Photo of iadler
iadler

Illinois

3.7/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a dark brown with a one finger off white head that dissipates quickly, leaving a thin cap. No lacing is left behind.

S- Raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, star anise, nutmeg, roasted malt and a hint of unsweetened chocolate.

T- Unsweetened chocolate, faint coffee beans, grassy hops, molasses, roasted malt and brown sugar. Spices are more subtle in the taste

M- Medium carbonation and a fairly light body that finishes with a hint of roasted malt.

O- A good seasonal from SweetWater. The mouthfeel was a little watered down, but other than that, a winter warmer to visit if you have a chance.

Serving type: bottle

01-21-2012 00:33:13 | More by iadler
Photo of beergod1
beergod1

Ohio

3.8/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appears dark brown with very little head, some lacing on the glass. Smells Malty with a touch of Cinnamon. Tastes of dark roasty malts, cinnamon and a light alcohol finish. Not a very robust mouthfeel, somewhat light, But made it easy to drink. Worth a try, but not the best in its field.

Serving type: bottle

01-09-2012 01:11:49 | More by beergod1
Photo of kdawg105
kdawg105

Georgia

4.8/5  rDev +25%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing beer! I love Christmas time when all the great seasonal brews come around. Anyway this beer is very inviting when poured into a glass it looks almost exactly like a coke, the smell was a bit fainter than I expected but this beer has awesome taste it all the Malts are so balanced. It has nice light fluffy mouthfeel very warming for real this is a excellent winter ale if you can get on please do! THE REAL CATCH is the beer is so smooth you don't realize how easy it is to drink and be surprised by the warmth!!!

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2011 23:53:53 | More by kdawg105
Photo of ksimons
ksimons

New York

4/5  rDev +4.2%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-29-2011 22:43:01 | More by ksimons
Photo of DeltaGolfSierra
DeltaGolfSierra

Tennessee

3.93/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Color is a very deep brown to nearly black, with a modest tan head. No lacing left on the glass. The scent and taste are both very much like a porter. Sweet malts dominate - chocolatey, nutty, molasses-y. Hardly a trace of bitterness to be found. Very drinkable, and was gone before I knew it. Hardly noticed the 8.6% abv at all. Sweetwater could pass this off as a nice year-round porter.

Serving type: bottle

12-28-2011 20:17:14 | More by DeltaGolfSierra
Photo of Hojaminbag
Hojaminbag

Colorado

3.88/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is another bottle that my 2011 Secret Santa gdodd12 sent me. Thanks, Greg. 2011 Vintage.

Sweetwater Festive Ale has a dark brown body and a creamy tan head. The retention and lacing are both OK.

The aroma has some spice to it, namely cinnamon, but it also has a lot of rich malt to back it up.

Some spice flavors come through up front, with mostly cinnamon. Next comes a complex mix of rich malt. Toasted and nutty malts mix with caramel and molasses, with toffee as well. Dark, powdery cocoa flavors come through as a good dose of sweet maple and burnt brown sugar. The finish is sweet and slick with some warmth.

Nice full body with a moderate amount of carbonation make this one feel alternately chewy and slick.

Festive Ale is a pretty good warmer, and I could see it getting better with some age on it (I guess the wax should have tipped me off).

Serving type: bottle

12-28-2011 18:27:57 | More by Hojaminbag
Photo of bcostner1
bcostner1

Tennessee

3.6/5  rDev -6.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-21-2011 23:57:42 | More by bcostner1
Photo of Soozy
Soozy

Tennessee

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.

Serving type: bottle

12-20-2011 02:30:04 | More by Soozy
Photo of daliandragon
daliandragon

North Carolina

3.9/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is another regional brewery that has developed into a pretty reliable performer so I figured this sixer was a good gamble. Surprisingly dark brown, almost black hue with impressive head and lace, although capping does set in within a few minutes. Spice and brown sugar anoint the nose with touches of cinnamon and alcohol.

Most of the time, when American brewers try to modernize (read: load up on the American hops) a classic malt leaning English style, it's a hot mess. This is a worthy exception. West coast flavored hops add healthy balance but because the malt profile is likewise juiced, it is able to handle the hops without collapsing on itself. The overall effect is still a little clunky but drinks much easier and finishes cleaner than should be physically possible. Hints of warming alcohol are everywhere but considering the 8.6 that's hardly a surprise. I defy you to find a more drinkable winter warmer with a similar punch Good effort, Sweetwater.

Serving type: bottle

12-18-2011 02:53:33 | More by daliandragon
Photo of BeerDocT
BeerDocT

Georgia

3.85/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

-Appearance 4.0: Poured out an (unexpected!) jet black with a half-inch, white head. Head quickly faded, but stayed wispy around the edges. Very nice and unusual color combination.

-Smell 3.5: Nice smell, but nothing extraordinary. I smell hops, barley malt and a slight hint of some type of spice...gingery, citrusy... . The bouquet is better than average, but not exceptional.

-Taste 4.0: Initial sweetness turns into a slighty sour taste; middle is all barley sweetness and the finish is where I picked up the spice and all of the hops. I really like the spice taste: reminiscent of quality gingerbread. Unusual, but not over top.

-Mouthfeel 3.5: Slightly under-carbonated and watery in the mouth.

-Overall 4.0: A very tasty "Holiday" brew. Not too thick to consider as a session lager; its huge 8+% ABV is completely unnoticeable. These are the type of beers that tend to sneak up on you when you are out, so enjoy responsibly, folks! If you can find this beer, buy it.

Serving type: bottle

12-17-2011 03:59:29 | More by BeerDocT
Photo of Schwarzwald
Schwarzwald

Tennessee

3.1/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Aromas are sweet smelling with lots of richness of fall fruits and winter fruits. I was very excited to try this and it has left me a little bit "wanting more". For such a beautiful bottle and display it had to be great. A perfect winter holiday ale with so much to offer... well... not really. Some spiciness and good mouth feel, but needs more depth. Has a funky bitter (not in a good way) aftertaste.

Not my favorite, but a good bet if nothing else is there for holiday beer.

Serving type: bottle

12-16-2011 21:02:28 | More by Schwarzwald
Photo of jsanford
jsanford

Georgia

3.68/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a dark black with slight reddish edges and a creamy khaki-colored head that fades to a thick cap, leaving spotty lacing as it recedes.
S - Sweet, malty aromas of milk chocolate, brown sugar, baked brown bread, and Winter spices (cinnamon and nutmeg).
T - More big flavors of sweet caramel and chocolate malt, baked bread, spices, and a good amount of warming alcohol "heat".
M - Smooth and creamy, with a medium-full mouthfeel and lowish carbonation.
O - A nice Winter brew, excellent on a cold evening!

Serving type: bottle

12-12-2011 19:43:52 | More by jsanford
Photo of KajII
KajII

North Carolina

3.28/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

[Best served in a Lager glass]

The pour was a murky dark brown with an average sized (1-2 finger) head that was not around for long and only having fair lacing.

The aroma was very mild of a toasted chocolate malt a very mild resin hop and a sweet doughy yeast with notes of allspice, cinnamon, toffee and dark fruit.

The taste was moderately sweet and malty with a hint of toffee and some fruit at first then had the strong effect of spices take hold with a nice note of dark fruit and an alcohol warming sensation at the end. The flavor lasted only a short time while the taste of the dark fruit faded into the background of the spices.

Mouthfeel was just a smidgen below medium in body and a tad watery in texture with a weak carbonation.

Overall a Winter Ale with a nice dose of spices and a superb maltiness. A very drinkable brew even with the noticeably strong alcohol presence.

Serving type: bottle

12-11-2011 17:10:22 | More by KajII
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 566 ratings.