Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

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 BeerDawgs
3.35/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A 22 oz bottle vintage 2006. Surprised to find one 5 years old in the store.

A - A dark, but thin appearance. Not much head or lace. But it is vintage 2006, so maybe that has something to do with it

S - Sweet molasses, and dried fruits.

T - Sweet fruits, dried plums. Smooth. But high abv is very prevalent.

M - Fairly thin, not too well carbonated.

O - Not as good as expected. The fruity flavors are nice, but thin, and boozy.

 433 characters

Photo of Chaney
3.26/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I bought this one from a liquor store in Winston-Salem during Sexual Chocolate weekend. I'm now drinking it.

A: Dark brown with no light passing. The huge 1.5 finger head died down within an hour or so (yep, that's right). HUGE!

S: Spice bomb for sure. Brown sugar, winter ale spice.

T: Like a brown ale around Christmas season. Dark fruit and lots of spice.

M: Not too thick, carbonation.... enough! The lacing was ridiculous.

O: Not my thing. If you're really into Winter Warmers, look elsewhere...

 505 characters

Photo of drabmuh
2.91/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

This beer is too thick, too sweet, cloying and doesn't really go anywhere. Oh well, never again.

Beer is dark brown and clear with a thin off white head, no lacing low carbonation, looks like beer.

Aroma is malty sweet, like syrup. Aroma does not excite me too much.

Beer is THICK, sweet like syrup and hard to swallow. Almost no other flavors other than syrup. I didn't really like this beer.

 396 characters

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.

 1,121 characters

Photo of Ryan011235
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an E&J Cask & Cream glass on 3/1/11

2010 vintage

Courtesy of PDXHops

Dark brown with crimson highlights. One finger of tan colored foam drops to a thin layer of retention and a patch of bubbles off to one side.

Lots of cinnamon in the aroma; spiced bread, earthy hops, nutmeg and maybe a dash of ginger. Smells pretty nice. The taste turns things on edge. Cinnamon is second string to nutmeg; though very much spiced said spices aren't harsh. Modest hoppiness in the middle. Toasted bread throughout. Just over medium body. Moderate carbonation seems appropriate. Some grittiness and a slightly coating finish.

Festive Ale is an easy-drinking 8.5% abv. Definitely worth a shot.

 694 characters

Photo of mdfb79
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my Sierra Nevada tulip. Received in the Birthday BIF from jyounger30; thanks Jay. 2006 vintage.

a - Pours a dark mahogany brown color with one inch of off white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of caramel malts, bready malts, dark fruits, molasses, and a tiny bit musty. Overall it smells pretty good, and seems like it has held up well. It came off smelling a lot more like a barleywine to me and had a lot of bready and caramel malts. Seems like it has lost it's spice, but I still like it a lot.

t - Tastes of raisins, bready malts, caramel malts, alcohol, and a bit metallic. Also some light spices in the taste. A big drop from the nose.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Pretty smooth and easy to drink.

d - Overall this is a decent winter warmer, but I don't think the taste has held up too great over the last five years. The smell and mouthfeel really reminded me of a barleywine, which I really enjoyed. The taste seemed a tiny bit metallic, and a bit faded. Would like to try a fresher bottle of it and would give another shot.

 1,093 characters

Photo of corby112
3.8/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage received as an extra in a recent trade with funkydelic. Thanks again man!

Pours a dark amber/chestnut brown color with golden mahogany edges and a thin, half finger off-white head that quickly settles into a thin lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

Spicy toasted malt aroma with subtle hints of alcohol and medicinal cough syrup. There's a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar as well as some pepper, caramel, toffee and rye in the nose. Slightly smokey with hits of dark fruit and robitussin. I'm picking up cherry, plum and raisin notes as well as some slightly roasted chocolate malt.

Medium bodied with a crisp, earthy and spicy character up front that lingers over the sweet and slightly roasted malt notes into a lingerng dry finish. Hints of zesty pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar and peppermint countered by a sweet malt backbone with hints of toffee, rye, caramel and dark fruit. Lots of dark cherry as well as some fig and plum. There's a slight smokey presence toward the end of the palate with notes of bittersweet dark chocolate and hazelnut. The unpleasant sweet cough syrup presence from the aroma is thankfully very subtle. I really dislike that characteristic in this style and thankfully it's kept to a minimum here.

Overall, this is a pretty good example of the style. Well balanced, complex and pretty quaffable. The ABV is excellently masked and I can see this one getting better with age.

 1,435 characters

Photo of GRG1313
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dated 2009 and tasted and reviewed March 2011.

Pours black with light tan head that quickly fades.

Nose is sweet stone fruit and light coffee. Hint of some spice.

Mouthfeel is thin but bright.

Flavors are all sweet coffee/carmel/toffee with a bright almost citric character and a candy sweet undertone. A sweet porter character or an aged Belgian character dominate. Finish is rich coffee bitter and light espresso. There is a light oxidized character that is apparent but not offensive.

Beer should be consumed now and likely not aged further in my opinion.

 568 characters

Photo of AgentMunky
3.34/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pilsner glass. Reviewed December 2010.

A: Generous head atop an ostensibly molasses-black body. In decent lighting, the beer is translucent and a drop-dead gorgeous wine-dark red.

S: Coffee and beets(?). Spices and maybe some alcohol.

T: Sweetish and spiced (mace?), moderately vegetal malts. An odd, roasted flavour reminds me of burnt cake. The aftertaste is bland, but reminiscent of a porter (excepting the spice).

M: Moderately thick/substantial, but nothing to write home about.

D: Very drinkable, and the ABV is hidden convincingly. Still, something about it is not quite to my taste -- though all my friends love it. I can't recommend it, but I wouldn't steer you away.

 719 characters

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.

 1,122 characters

Photo of wisrarebeer
4.22/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 Version in a 750ml bottle.

A: deep mahogany color, very pretty
S: incredibly different nose, when I read the label and noticed the beer was spiced I was disappointed but the nose is chewy, treacle and hints of barrel aging although the beer isn't, some cinnamon noticeable also
T: somewhat thing for ABV but very nice roasted malt and spice hints, not overpowering with hops, nice roasted malt
M: thinner for color and ABV but good
D: very drinkable despite ABV

 467 characters

Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
4.23/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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

 1,045 characters

Photo of aepb1
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- Dark brown with red at the edges with a small light tan head

S- Dark roasted malts, chocolate and some coffee

T- Dark fruits, roasted maltiness, coffee and chocolate. Nice complexity

M- Medium body but kind of watery finish. Creamy body with the carbonation

D- Nice complexity but the mouthfeel is off

 308 characters

Photo of Meerkey
3.66/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Rich mahogany, with a touch of red; lasting off-white head.

S: Sweet and spicy -cinnamon, fruity, chocolate.

T: Sweet and fruity, spicy, chocolate, nuts, cake-like.

M: Carbonated and pretty smooth.

D: Pretty good, but doesn't excite me all that much.

 257 characters

Photo of unclejimbay
3.04/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Scott for this 2010 Holiday gift to the JamMin Shack!

Dark coffee in color with respectable head and cap.
Strange aroma. Spicy, Jagermeister?, liquor? Licorice? Mace? Medicinal? Strange indeed, unpleasant but unique.
Tastes like a dark winter warmer, porter like with a dash of spice and cinnamon/pepper heat.
Medium body and body, spicy finish.

Tastes better as you warm up to it, just not my type of beer.
Share-able? Yes
Will I ever buy it? Nope.

 461 characters

Photo of pwoods
3.67/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I believe this was an extra from Exiled. Thanks!

12oz. brown bottle poured into an imperial pint.

A: Pours a very dark brown that barely lets any ruby through. Not much of a head on the pour with no retention and just a wisp of lacing.

S: Nice malty aroma mixed with just a touch of mellowed alcohol. Strong raisin aroma and a light hint of diacetyl, which I'm not sure if it's appropriate in this style but it's not off putting. Plenty of residual sweetness.

T/M: Nice caramel and toffee flavors. Light nuttiness. More of the diacetyl that's fortified with the residual sweetness. Some spiced cookie flavors. Alcohol is lightly present but tasty and complex. Body is medium full to full with mellow carbonation.

D: Tasty brew but drinkability is limited with the residual sweetness and there might be a bit of a flaw in there with the diacetyl.

 850 characters

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.

 759 characters

Photo of welldigger888
3.93/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

poured from growler into an irish pint glass. Nice thick off white head with excellant lacing down glass,nice deep copper ruby colored elixer.
A festive spicey malt breadiness in aroma for me.
Sweet bready spiced flavors with just enough of a kiss of hops to round out.
I am pleased with the creamy smooth mouth on this brew!
Until the abv catches you this is highly drinkable!

 377 characters

Photo of Thur123
3.86/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark ruby brown with a finger and half of lout khaki head that settles slowly. The smell is faint, likely due to beig on tap but it smells malty with a winter Spice edge, cinnamon and nutmeg taking charge here.

Glug glug glug. 

The flavor is spicy with a nice malty sweetness balancing the spice at the end. The spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander I believe too. The malt is complex and reminds me of a heavy brown ale. Drinkability is where this excels compared to it's bottled brethren. The mouthfeel too is smooth and creamy. 

 542 characters

Photo of JayS2629
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- This reminds me of a coca-cola from its color, carbonation and head. Almost black, but reddish tinges when held to the light. Very opaque. The tan head is medium but quickly recedes to a thin ring in the edge of the glass. Sea foam lace.

S- Spices up front. Cinnomon, mace, and allspice. Hints of dark fruits, and dark chocolate. Faint whiffs of dark cherry

T- Follows the nose. Dark fruits like plum and cherry in the front, notes of chocolate and coffee with nice tinges of cinnomon and mace.

M- This is where it got weird. It was like drinking a porter or stout before, but now we are thin and carbonated. Watery with a small amount of cream.

D- Very flavorful and complex. I would give it a higher rating if it were not for how thin it is. Easy to drink.

 766 characters

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

A: This poured a cloudy dark copper with a little light tan head.
S: It smelled like brown sugar and mocha, with a bit of copper and sour yeast.
T: It tasted like coffee and dark chocolate, with some copper and sour yeast. It had a bittersweet aftertaste.
M: It was watery with a little carbonation. A bit thin and weak.
D: This was a nice porter-ish winter warmer, but there was nothing exceptional about the brew. Good scent and taste, with a mediocre body. Alcohol was well hidden, so it was pretty easy to drink. Enjoyable but not super memorable.

 551 characters

Photo of phideltashaggy
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I ordered it at a local bar, I'm not sure if it was from the bottle or on-tap. It was served in a Chimay goblet.

A-Black, unless you look through it at an angle, directly at a light source, then it was a slight red. The head was somewhat fluffy and tan, but didn't last (I blame the quality of the glassware at the bar)

S-I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this, but the nose was very roasty, somewhat burnt. And I noticed something that I couldn't quite place, even though "Jager" came to mind.

T-The Jagermeister taste was affirmed here. There's a definite licorice taste, but it is not at all off putting. Again, roasted malts and a bitter hop finish complete the brew.

MF-Medium thickness, but I think I would have got more out of this if the glass was cleaned a little better.

D-I enjoyed this immensely. If I had the money (and the DD) I could see myself drink a number of these in a row.

 909 characters

Photo of pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Glad to see that Sweetwater is offering more of their beers in sixpacks!
med full body, frothy mouthfeel, good carbonation.
Nice roasted malt presence upfront with a hint of spices.
Fair milk chocolate presence throughout with a hint of caramel. Finishes with a lingering spiced note and hint of raisins.
Great example of the style; one of the few winter warmers I have ever liked.
Drinkability was quite good with this one; I had two.

 438 characters

Photo of jnn4v
4.08/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Very dark brow color. Relatively translucent - not quite opaque. No head, sediment or haze.

S: Floral scents, oak, vanilla, tea, raisins, molasses, and figs.

T: Molasses, toffee, fig leaves, copper, sour yeast,

M: Reasonable mouthfeel. Decent texture with moderate carbonation.

D: Not bad for the drinkability. ABV and body and texture all were not bad for the genre. No complaints here from me or my fellow tasting companions.

 438 characters

Photo of taylocd
3.79/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Poured from tap at Stats Sports Bar in Atlanta, GA on 12/4/2010. Notes emailed to self via mobile phone.

A - medium brown with mocha colored head and thin lacing that lasted throughout the beer.

S - sweet aroma with hints of alcohol

T - roasted nut flavor

M - semi-sticky texture with low carbonation

D - texture and flavor make for an easy drinker

 353 characters

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