Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

280 Reviews
THE BROS
85
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 280
Hads: 712
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 7.05%
Wants: 26
Gots: 119 | 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: 712
Photo of doubleipa
4.35/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just picked up the 2005 rendition of this wonderful seasonal.
This beer had a slight toasted aroma mixed with nutmeg and clove with a hint of coriander. There was virtually zero head. I could just get the head to cover the surface, but it disappeared instantly. The body was a clear black.brown. Initial flavor was midly sweet that finished long. Body was medium to full with a syrupy texture. Virtually no carbonation. The finish was only slightly alcoholic. Surpisingly little for a 8.9% beer. Seems to taste a little less spicy than last year's model. (555 characters)

Photo of deejaydan
4.28/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Raj! Got this one, um, one of the BIF's.
Comes in an impressive waxed dipped flip top one liter bottle.

Pours a deep chestnut brown color with ruby highlights. Decent head retention here. Smells and tastes like a Belgian Dubbel. Rum, spices, ripe fruits greet you as you taste this beer. I find this has a fuller body than most belgian dubbels that I've had, and a much more rounded character. Still, it does seem a bit sharp in the mouth to me. The alcohol is blended in nicely too, not noticable at all. (517 characters)

Photo of Thur123
3.86/5  rDev +0.8%
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 jnn4v
4.08/5  rDev +6.5%
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 ectomorph
4.3/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - Pours jet black with a light hint of mahogany when held up to the light. Full finger tan head fades to rings at each sip.

S - Malty molasses and figs. No spice readily available. Surprised.

T - Chocolate, molasses, and nutmeg? Not nutmeg, what is that?? I love this beer. Very faint hop citrus in the back.

M - Medium to big body and rich feel. Nice.

D - Very high, you would never in life guess 8.6% (440 characters)

Photo of DeltaGolfSierra
3.92/5  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. (389 characters)

Photo of slatetupelo
3.76/5  rDev -1.8%
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. (477 characters)

Photo of purplehops
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 batch Bottle # 2600 of 4800.

Festive ale pours a deep ruby brown with an off-white head that is full of carbonation and leaves little to no lacing on the glass. The aroma is malt sweetness with a good dose of nutmeg and mace and just a hint of anise. Taste starts with a bit of a spicy hop bite and then a rush of malt and fruit notes. Flavors of pears and apples blend with malty sweetness and flavors of caramel and allspice. The finish is a luscious balance of spicy hops, caramel and chocolate malts, nutmeg, cinnamon, and the first notes of alcohol making themselves known. Aftertaste is a very long lingering sweetness (but not cloyingly so) with just a hint of alcohol warmth and hop acidity. Mouthfeel is medium body with a very nice smoothness to it and just a touch of acidity.
Overall this has to be one of the best beers that I have had from Sweetwater. A pleasant blend of spices and malts that make for holiday merrymaking anytime you open one. The only down side to this beer is trying to open it. Fifteen minutes with a swiss army knife and you can finally open the plastic and metal swing top coated in hard red wax. There has to be a better way to seal a bottle without buying a corking and caging machine. (1,233 characters)

Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
4.23/5  rDev +10.4%
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 mattsdenney
4.47/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a NB globe glass. Good looking bottle too.

A: Pours a dark reddish brown. Clear with a one finger brown head. Head dissipates relatively quickly with no lacing. Looking like a good cold weather beer so far.

S: Warm alcohol, spices, and malts. Hints of chocolate and sweet toffee.

T: Malty and boozy with a great spice, particularly cinnamon and nutmeg. Follows with chocolate and hints of coffee. Aftertaste reveals a light amount of hops that balances nicely.

M: Thick and frothy with light carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel that really compliments the taste and overall feel.

O: IMO it's hard to find a true winter warmer. Many that receive that label don't include the characteristics that I typically want. This beer has them all. Perfect cold weather Christmas beer. (806 characters)

Photo of bassmantin
3.25/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Please note, I am drinking this beer out of a bottle because I am at the ATL airport. But I still want to put my two cents in.

No comments on the appearance or smell. The taste is very full and thick. Lots of sticky sweet malts. Decently biting hops to give it some punch, but nothing extreme. Leaves a sticky taste in the back of you throat, which I do not particularly enjoy.

Overall, I would not have this one again. It's a little too much malt and hop and not enough delicate balance. (490 characters)

Photo of timtheenchanta
3.58/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

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

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

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

A little thin. Lightly carbonated. Enjoyable beer. Not my favorite of the style but good. (445 characters)

Photo of nickthegun12
3.88/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

this beer is jet black with a little head

it smells of spices, maybe cinnamon and some other spices and dark malts

the taste is different from the smell...malty and not much of a warming character from the alcohol

not dry, not creamy but a full mouthfeel...and pretty decent lacing

the drinkability would be better if it weren't so high percentage of alcohol (362 characters)

Photo of meechum
4/5  rDev +4.4%
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 (505 characters)

Photo of gabeerfan
3.83/5  rDev 0%
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. (951 characters)

Photo of rabidawg
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep brown with red-tinged edges. Substantial off-white head that settled to a clinging skim, leaving spots and streaks of lacing. Moderate carbonation.

Smell: Cocoa powder and nutmeg. Slightly roasty, and reminiscent of a porter. Hops are minimal, and a moderate sweetness is apparent.

Taste: Wonderful in the mouth, with a creamy and velvety mouthfeel. Minimally hopped, but never cloying. Sweet malt character is accented by holiday spices, and the spiciness is further accentuated by a slight alcohol presence. Finishes clean, and is remarkably drinkable for a beer of this size and nature. (612 characters)

Photo of Chadbrew
3.88/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Don't Float The Mainstream... No worries there.
Coffee colored beer with very mild carbonation and slight head. There is an even ring of tight bubbles around the edges that leaves a fine, if small, sheet of lacing.
Smells like caramel and roast.
There is a definite bitterness right away and an anise flavor that stays around while the bitterness fades. I perceive a touch of spice that accents the big malty body, makes the beer kind of "chewy"... nice.
Most impressive is the smoothness and drinkability, the alcohol is very well hidden until you feel it rather than taste it.
I'll be looking for it next year no doubt! (626 characters)

Photo of Meerkey
3.66/5  rDev -4.4%
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 watermelon
3.83/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

$3 pint draft had at the Tapp Room in Boone NC

A: Really murky brown body, khaki head with medium retention and lacing.

S: Smells medicinal, dark malts, and winter spices.

T: Molasses taste, with some dark fruit and malts.

M: Awesome mouthfeel, alcohol is hidden well and the body is thick and syrupy with very little carbonation.

O: Its decent, better then some I've had , but not as good as others. At $3 bucks for a pint of 8.6 ABV this was a no brainer, and a great value. (482 characters)

Photo of rsyberg01
3.98/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

S - 12 oz bottle courtesy of the generous cashew70.

A - pours a deep garnet with a creamy head. very nice, has some legs that are good as well.

S - roasty, caramel, little alcohol, slight fruit twang, a bit one dimensional but still nice.

T - big roast, touches of dark chocolate, good hop hit, sweet fruitiness, much more depth than the nose. from the nose I thought it would be much sweeter than it is.

M - lighter bodied which is nice for what the beer is.

D - According to the style, very drinkable. (518 characters)

Photo of godlessape
4.28/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured this into monster size thistle glass.
The body has an intensely dark malevolent ruby brown shade to it, just one degree from midnight. It's topped off with a creamy tan head that diminished rapidly.
Aroma is like burnt brown sugar, with maybe a hint of cinnamon toast.
Taste is both malty and fruity and densely so at that, along with a earthy, almost leathery savoriness There's also a minimal hop sizzle on the tail end that works rather well.
The mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth. The alcohol is well hidden.
Overall a fine brew from a great brewery. Caution: This beer will sneak up on you something fierce. (624 characters)

Photo of cgarcer
4.8/5  rDev +25.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Drinking this beer from a bottle poured into a pint glass.
Small head with little lacing.
Dark, coffee appearance.
Taste of spice, nuts, coffee.
This is a very drinkable beer that warms you from the inside. Drinkability is easy, and the alcohol content makes you feel festive.
Definitely give this one a shot. (311 characters)

Photo of MasterfulIdiot
3.59/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

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

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

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

What brings this down for me is the mouthfeel. It's surprisingly light-bodied for the taste, and just doesn't really work for me. (663 characters)

Photo of jlervine
3.85/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is a vertical of the 2003 and 2004 Festive Ales, with the rating of the review reflecting the 2004 bottle..

2003, bottle number 917: Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights. Nearly black. Head is off-white. My glass poured with little fanfare, with the etching in the bottom of the goblet sustaining a pool of foam in the middle of the beer. Donna's glass, however, had no trouble. I can never get the first glass from a bottle to pour right...

The aroma is has a wisp of alcohol and a hop aroma reminiscent of Sweetwater's standard brews. Just a slight hint of rum soaked fruits and raisins.

Dry and quick taste, too dry for a dubbel. Currants, plums, and raisins dash through the mouth too quickly. The spices have REALLY died down since last year when I had the first of this batch, almost to the point of non-existence.

Mouthfeel is just so-so and doesn't really impress me much. It just feels thin.

Still, a pleasant brew.

3.5 Appearance
3.5 Smell
3.5 Taste
3.0 Mouthfeel
4.0 Drinkability

2004, bottle number 5679: Pours a deep brown-black with deep red-brown highlights and an off-white head. The head forms quickly, but dissipates much faster than the 2003.

The aroma is very spicy - I'm assuming the majority of this is mace, an herb that the bottle specifically names. There is a roasted earthiness to the beer, as well as a hint of raisin and alcohol.

The taste is raw with spiciness - now I remember why I aged a few bottles of the 2003! It is not unpleasant, but it is overpowering. Darker caramel malts form a backbone for the spices to mosh on. Almost a roasted or chocolate malt tone to the beer.

The mouthfeel is considerably more alive than the 2003. Very tingly carbonation and the caramel malts just lightly pelt the tongue and make my mouth happy.

The drinkability I would consider about the same as the 2003. The spices are just a bit much, but this is a fantastic brew.

Comparing the two, I'm wondering if there is a happy medium to aging this beer, and if I have enough of this year's stock to find it! (2,070 characters)

Photo of ncbrewerbun
3.98/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A fellow homebrewer brought this to the last homebrew club meeting for us to try. Sampled from a 12 ounce bottle from a six pack.

This beer poured a dark brown with hints of red. The head was a finger or so and just the tan side of white.

An interesting spicy aroma along with some sweet maltiness.

The flavor was a mild spiciness (cinnamon and...nutmeg?) balanced with malt.

A very good beer...interesting with the spices and malty balance. This beer really grew on me. I was happy that we had a few bottles to share. (530 characters)

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