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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

280 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 280
Hads: 715
Avg: 3.82
pDev: 20.42%
Wants: 26
Gots: 124 | FT: 2
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
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Reviews: 280 | Hads: 715
Photo of Sammy
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%
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 GRG1313
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
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.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: murky dark brown with some light getting through. Single finger head. Nice lace and little retention.

S: lots of chocolate with some caramel malt and nut.

T: semisweet chocolate and caramel malts with hints of apple. Fig and raisin.

M: medium to full body with moderate to high carbonation.

Overall: this is a very drinkable beer. The finish is a lIttle dry for my liking. The aroma and taste are very similar. I haven't had previous years but I liked this one.

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Photo of nmann08
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From a 22oz bottle, pours a dark brown with amber hue color. Has a big fluffly white tan head that disappears very slowly, leaving tons of lacing on the glass.

The smell is heavy dark malt, spice, cinnamon, dark fruit, some molasses and chocolate. This smells pretty heavy and thick. A little booze present too.

Flavor is dark malt, a little roast, cinnamon, nutmeg, bitter dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is a little watery, would like a little bit more to this. The alcohol isn't overly present, which isn't bad, but this beer is missing a backbone and dominant characteristic.

Overall, not bad.

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Photo of brentk56
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 BEERchitect
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 Phyl21ca
2.95/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottle courtesy of Mr_Kimchee: Poured a dark black color beer with a medium off-white foamy head with average retention. Aroma of dry roasted malt with some faint spices. Taste is dominated by roasted malt with a very dry finish. I could not detect very much spice presence overall though and was surprised by the fact that this is classified as spiced beer since I honestly though it was a porter.

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Photo of oberon
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2005 bottle #6305 of 7200.Quite an impressive 33.8fl oz waxed swing top bottle,poured a deep brown with ruby tint thru out with a nice slow forming off-white head that is gone pretty fast after it forms.Deep roasted malt,molasses and a touch of nutmeg a malt bomb here.A thinner but not watery mouthfeel but I thought it would be a little fuller,flavors start on the sweeter side molasses and brown sugar dominate a touch of cherry as well but not to much spice,a nice dryinf earthy finish shows there is some hops in there.It comes in a fancy package and is a pretty good beer but for $10.00 bucks a bottle I wouldnt buy again.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
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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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.15/5  rDev -17.5%
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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Photo of nickfl
3.77/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours with tow fingers of brown foam on top of a dark brown body with amber highlights and some suspended particulate matter. The head settles at a moderate pace and leaves little lace.

S - Sweet malt with some caramel and chocolate. Spicy notes of cinnamon and ginger.

T - Thick, caramel malt up front with a hint of chocolate. Clove and cinnamon notes in the middle. Some light malt bitterness in the finish with a lingering milk chocolate flavor.

M - Moderately thick body, medium carbonation, and a slightly sweet finish.

D - Nice, light spice flavor with a great malt character. Quite smooth and drinkable but it would probably get old pretty quickly if the bottle wasn't being split between several people.

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Photo of Kegatron
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
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 jlindros
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this, my first beer from SweetWater, thanks again to vicanncam. This beer should work well on a nice cold autumn night. 2009 vintage.

A very light fizzy head covering sort of forms, but not much, and fades almost instantly. The beer is a very dark molasses coffee brown color with almost no light getting through.

The nose brings some dark malts, a little creamy malt and plenty of dark crystal, as well as some roasted malt, a little coffee and toffee, and hint of chocolate. Then there is also some sugar additions, a little syrupy molasses, and a little caramel, and just plain candy. A light boozy quality too. Ever so slight hints of a mild herbal earthy hop. Something else too I can't really single out yet, something like a hazelnut or spice.

The taste is very rich and somewhat creamy. It brings a lot more dark malts, plenty of dark crystal, little roast, very light chocolate, etc. Then some syrupy sugars, a little molasses again, toffee, brown sugar, little candi sugar, and just pure candy flavor. Some light darker fruits, a little fig. A very light coffee flavor. Some warming and tingly booze too. Pretty rich and creamy, perhaps a little oatmeal in this too. A slight hint of that hazelnut spice like flavor, that is very hard to ascertain, but it's there somewhere. It finishes with a lingering sweet syrupy flavor, more syrups almost like that coffee syrupy I used to put in my milk when I was a kid. More molasses and a little candy flavor. It does dry though, just sticks to the mouth. A slight earthy mild grassy hop flavor with little bitterness comes through more as the sweetness and rich malts die down.

The mouth is very rich and creamy, even a little fatty, and decent carbonation.

The drinkability is so-so, with lots of thick syrupy flavors, sticking all over the mouth, and some tingly and warming booze, but not too much.

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Photo of russpowell
3.83/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2006 bottle courtesy of Ddarden!

Pours a ruddy red/chestnut with 2 fingers of pillowy tan colored head. Good head retention & decent lacing

S: Slight chocolate & some smokeyness

T: Rich malt with hints of cinamon & brown sugar up front. Slight smokeyness & gingerbread flavors. Finishes with hints of licorice, dryness, slight grainyness, warming booze, juniper & chocolate. A little too all over the map taste-wise to rate a better score

Rich and chewy with low carbonation

Drinks very easy for the abv, but needs to find a consistent flavor to do more than 1. Maybe one to lay down for a year?

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.1/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

wax-finished, swing-topped bottle...how charmingly inconvenient! And in the amusing, family-sized 33.8 fluid ounce serving, as well..love it!
Appearance: dark, full blackness, with a cocoa-tinged ring of foam atop.
Aroma: nuts and cocoa, rich and full.
Taste: again, chocolate and nuts, some dark fruits, but not too complex. Very full with flavor, with strains of spices asserting themselves later on...Rustic-feeling, brimming with cocoa and dark fruits, just short of actually delicious, but every bit very, very good. I echo previous commentator's notes about a resemblance to Anchor's holiday offering, but it lacks the particular piney, sprucey, tree influence, and manages to stand on it's own, without that component.
Very tasty ale, very admirable, rich and full in body, but a nice, mellow, dark-fruity finish...and no particular flavors poisoning it's appeal to the average Joe...unless A.J. needs only fizzy yellow crap, but I'm off-message now, and I'll just enjoy this for the duration....this is a very nice diversion from all the *^% one endures in the wintertime, especially those of us us here in the states where we feel the weather on multitudinal levels...I congratulate Sweetwater for not only creating this beer, but for packaging it in such a unique fashion. As a holiday-style beer, though, it's just all-righty.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
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.

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Photo of chinchill
3.51/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

served in a pint glass at the brewery in 2010. I last had this beer 2-3 years ago and remember a less bold and unusual but more drinkable product; reformulated?

A - opaque; black with brown highlights and tan head

S - roasted malt and spices. Nutmeg(?), cinnamon & ??? (later discovered they use mace). I might guess this was a Belgian beer in a blind test.

T - roasted and slighty burnt malts; the burnt flavoring is undesirable. Spices: nutmeg and mace. High alcohol (8.6%) is somewhat hidden but detectable.

D - one and done

(Slight revision with aged bottle served Feb. 2014)

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Photo of drabmuh
2.91/5  rDev -23.8%
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.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.81/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a clear but opaque very dark brown to black in color with moderate amounts of gentle visible carbonation along the edges of the glass and ruby red + cola brown highlights. The beer has a half finger tall foamy light tan head that reduces to a medium to large patch of thin film with a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass with some sudsy spots. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of brown sugar, molasses, and caramel with lighter notes of anise + nutmeg.

T: Upfront there are moderate flavors of caramel malts with moderate amounts of brown sugar and molasses sweetness. There is a light to moderate flavor of spices I associate with the holidays - nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise/licorice.

M: Just heavier than medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly slick.

O: Enjoyable with well hidden alcohol making this beer fairly easy to drink. A nice combination of the sweetness of the malts and spices.

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Photo of tdm168
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
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 billab914
3.79/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into my Dogfish shaped pint glass. Poured dark brown in color with some scattered carbonation bubbles trying to make up a thin head. Almost looks like a cola when first poured. The bubbles disappeared after a few minutes and no traces of carbonation remained. Not a hint of lacing either.

The aroma is sweet and malty with some dark fruit and cocoa flavors to it. It has a little spice coming through but it's more focused around the chocolaty, cocoa and sweet malt flavors.

The taste shows a lot of the chocolaty and cocoa flavors that the nose suggested. It has a bit of spice and pepper coming through in the finish, but it's pretty light.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and carbonation is below average. Drinkability is pretty good, I liked more then I expected I would. I usually see winter beers and think they will be all spice but this one was a nice change. It had some nice chocolaty flavors to it that I enjoyed.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.82/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2006 Release, Sampled November 2006
As I pour this the stream of beer shows a brilliantly clear, chocolate brown color. It sits in my glass an opaque, dark brown, almost black color and is topped by a frothy, fairly large bubbled, initially a finger and a half thick, creamed amber colored head. The aroma is quite fruity with a sweetness that rides throughout. The fruit notes remind me of cherries, raisins, berries, and something like burnt figs. In fact the more I dig into the aroma the more I get notes reminiscent of burnt, concentrated fruit; not only burnt figs, but burnt raisins and burnt prune notes as well. There is a definite dark malt note here as well, something I associate with concentrated malty Imperial Stouts, something that is not quite chocolate.

The taste is not quite as sweet as the aroma would suggest, but it is definitely quite fruity tasting. Notes of prunes and figs are quite prominent here, and this definitely has the savory quality that these two dried fruits exhibit. The finish shows a touch of burnt grain with both a touch of acidity and a light coffee like roast character. There is an interesting spiciness here in the finish as well, it reminds me of a very soft, quite smooth nutmeg note; I also get spicy notes of ginger, a hint of cardamom, and maybe even some cinnamon. There are quite a few prominent flavors here that I can't quite put into words; there is almost a smoky quality here, definitely something savory, perhaps something like chocolate, and of course some other things I can't quite put into words.

This beer has a lightness to it that belies the fullness of the body. It has a medium heft to it, and just starts to stick to the palate, yet it is quite quaffable still; it might even be too quaffable as a touch more meatiness might be just what this needs. This is an interesting beer, it definitely fits the bill as a Winter seasonal.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
3.75/5  rDev -1.8%
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 GarthDanielson
3.79/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a red waxed top bomber into a shaker pint, the beer is a dark, vibrant, ruby highlighted brown coloring with a tall, creamy, frothy, light tan head that settles into a low profile covering. Aromas of rich caramel, toffee, peat, smoke, cinnamon, hints of chocolate, and a touch of booze. Flavors are nutty, toffee, and caramel rich and sweet forward, with fruity notes of apple, cherry, and fig, and a subtle spice blend of cinnamon and nutmeg. Very solid and balanced, with a spiced kick at the end. Light and creamy bodied, with a tangy old world fruit sweet and spice blend aftertaste. The finish is light and smooth, with a sweet and spiced linger. ABV is hidden very well. This is a smooth, easy drinker.

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Photo of corby112
3.8/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 280 ratings.