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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

282 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 282
Hads: 726
Avg: 3.81
pDev: 20.47%
Wants: 29
Gots: 135 | 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: 726
Photo of biegaman
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 edition, sampled amidst a bristly snow storm on the first day of March 2007. Hopefully this bout of "peace, love, and suds" will be the end of this weather and onto spring!
Pours dark in colour, deep auburn with lots of both dark and light highlights. Pearly white bubbles as head. A refreshing aroma of spice. A little spicy actually, notes of cardomom, fresh green tree bark (spruce) and a whole slew of spices typical of a pumpkin ale; if not outwright pumpkin. Spices carry the mouthfeel too. Nowhere near as much malt or hops as there is spice, which works ok. Medium bodied, fairly light drinking - especially considering the alcohol percentage. Good and enjoyed, thanks Harry!

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Photo of weeare138
4.25/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage bottle received in a trade from warriorsoul many moons ago.
Appears a dark brown, nearing black with deep crimson, & purple edges when held to the light. A fluffy, 2 finger light tan head slowly drops into a mild cap that seems to stick around for the entire duration. Scattered lacing sticks to the glass.
Smell is of molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, toasted nuts, caramel, and a touch of cocoa.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a lovely mix that seems to come together nicely in a lowly spicy yet somewhat sweet, molasses & caramel drizzled cashew flavor.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, spritzy, sweet, lip smacking, and nutty. The spicing is enticing enough to make an impression on the palate with just a touch of black grape in the finish.
This is a really good beer. If it was aged on oak, this would strike me as being similar to a nicely aged blend of Zinfandel & Shiraz grapes with a hint of peppery, cinnamon, & sandalwood in the finish.
I'm not sure if this was intended to be aged, or not but it found it's way to the miscellaneous section of the cellar shelves and sat there for a few years. Before I opened this, I just enjoyed a 2003 Anderson Valley Winter Solstice and I was loving it b/c it took on some sherry characteristics. This too was a nice follow up, as it had complex wine notes that I would actually rate higher than many wines.
Damn...I'm glad that I stumbled on this one tonight!

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

Thanks goes out to Jhill for this brew.

Pours a nice dark brown color, nice carbonation, nice little creamy tan head, nice sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, with some toffee/caramel, slightly spicy. The taste is sweet, malty, with a nice touch of toffee/caramel, with some spicyness. Medium body. Drinkable, this is a nice brew.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.25/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2008 12 oz from the great trader from Utah... Wasatch! I've been looking forward to trying this one for a looong time... poured into my Chimay goblet.

1/4" head dies back very quickly.. the brew looks like an American porter... very very dark.. highlites only when held to the brightest light.

Aroma is dark fruits.. dark dried fruits.... some burnt sugars.. dark cherries and prunes with some caramel and rummy raisins.

Flavor has all the above elements with some subtle (maybe imaginary) spiciness.. orange peel?, cardamom?, cinnamon?! again it's more fruity than anything else and has a fair amount of dark caramel maltiness to it.. This is a "Winter Warmer" that I actually can stomach.... I never care for the overspiced versions (think Anchor).. but even then, this is IMO, only okay.. too much of nothing.. just a descent beer that never goes anywhere... The body may be the best element... smooth and fairly thick with a lite yet ever present small bubble carbonation... Edit: Tooo sweet as it warms.. and the waves of spice really come out killing the drinkability.... I'm trying... but... too much of everything equals too much of nothing and is surprisingly just average.

Thanks John for the try.... Honestly Thanks!! I've thought about trying to trade for the big bottles of these before and am very happy that I've been dissuaded.. I'll try to do you right soon. :-)

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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.

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Photo of tone77
3.47/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a black color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, some spices. Taste is dark malts, molasses, some alcohol. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a decent beer.

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Photo of harpus
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a nice deep brown (coffee-like) and starts with a short 1/2 finger tan head that fades quickly to a thin and uneven skim; body is mostly opaque and shows some deep mahogany highlights when held to the light; no real lacing to speak of, just a thin oily residue.

Smell: Deep dark malts, a slightly smokey peat scent and perhaps a bit of tall grassy graininess (wheat or straw). Not especially potent.

Taste: Quite nice -- nice deep roasty malts taht are not quite burnt; a slightly smokey peaty flavor is there as it is in the smell; I'd swear that there's a touch of cinammon; a slightly cola-like sweetness lingers near the end of each sip before it goes back to the warm roastiness and that tall grassy graininess of wheat or straw; as it warms, there are also mild notes of chocolate and sweet dark fruits as well.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is quite strong and stops just shy of being sharp; body is of moderate thickness and a little heavier in weight; moderate stickiness and the belly is left a little warm.

Drinkability: I like the flavors and feel I picked a great night that is absolutely frigid outside to enjoy this as the warming sensation in the belly is quite pleasant as well. The ABV is a tad high, but I feel that if it's just sipped over the course of the night, I could get through a couple.

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

Time for a new Winter Warmer! Compliments of bhalter08. Thanks Ben!

I big 1LT red waxed, swing top bottle, #2461 of 7200.

Degree of difficulty in removing the wax and prying the swingtop open...the same as Grand Teton's Cellar Reserve brews. ;^)

The pour reveals a...err..pitch black brew? Nah, it's a very very dark brown that's close to being black when I look at the glass from the side but looking down from the top, I can definitely see some light and the deep brown colour at its best.

Not much of a head of foam, just a ring around the glass with some scattered islands in the middle. Tilting the glass from side to side reveals some spotty lacing.

Smell wise, I'm getting plenty of sweet factors with caramel being foremost but there's some chocolate and figs here as well. I'm trying to pick out any spiciness that may be here but I can't. No problem, though, as the super malty character I'm getting is very nice indeed.

The taste is not quite up to snuff compared to the smell. It has the caramel and chocolate sweet stuff going on that I like. Also a slight note of some dark chocolate bitterness, which is nice. I *do* get a light spice here..maybe nutmeg? That's what I was looking for in the smell. I guess my letdown is that the flavours aren't as bold as I'd hoped for when I took my first whiffs. The smell just promised so much more. Oh well, it's still a tasty brew...maybe more warming, from cellar temp to room temp, will help things out a bit.

Ok, that helped some and the flavours are...err...more flavourful but now, the alcohol is starting to show more too. That makes me think cellar temps are the best for serving this Winter Warmer so if one doesn't intend to finish the bottle at one sitting, putting it back in the fridge and pulling it out later and letting it warm up to around 50 to 55F would be the way to go.

Just crossing over into medium territory for mouthfeel, the carbonation is lightly done.

Drinkability? This is one to sip and sit back and relax with. A good brew for the season.

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Photo of rudzud
3.81/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Received as an extra in a trade. Poured into my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep, dark brown. Much darker than the typical winter warmer. Also, no real head on this one just thin wisps. Hard swirling does produce a light blanket that fades quickly.

S - Roasted malts, toffee, booze, and...gingerbread?! Definitely interested winter warmer spices here.

T - Bit too boozey for me. Light chocolate from the roasted malts, toffee is subded. More of the vibrant spice notes. Super unique, different from the typical winter warmer. Tasty.

M - Mouthfeel isnt bad, slightly on the thinner side with lighter carbonation.

O - If not for the average appearance this would actually be a pretty good beer. All things considered its a refreshing take on a classic style.

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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 spinrsx
3.87/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle from total wine Tampa FL for $3

Appearance - Reddish brown colour with an average size fizzy beige head. There is an average amount of carbonation showing and there is some great lacing. The head lasted for 3-4 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, dark fruits, caramel/butterscotch

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and an earthiness. There are also some dark fruits, butterscotch/caramel, and a bit of anise. It ends with a malty sweet aftertaste with some lingering chocolate flavour.

Overall - Not terribly exciting, but a nice well balanced very drinkable flavour. You would never know it had a higher ABV. I've only had a few beers from this brewer, but they have all been winners so far.

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Photo of Brad007
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown color with a two-finger head that fades, leaving some lacing.

Aroma is light with a hint of cinnamon and/or nutmeg in the nose. Seems enticing.

Taste is spicy upfront with just a bit of nutmeg followed by chewy malt and a bit of raisin.

Mouthfeel is very smooth and fluffy. Goes down with ease. A bit of nutmeg lingers at the back of the throat, followed by some alcohol warmth.

Strong and deceptively drinkable example of the style. The mouthfeel is nice and shows that this beer is not too carbonated. I could drink more than one of this.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.15/5  rDev -17.3%
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.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
3.82/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2008 version, 12oz bottle extra from GatorBeerNerd (thanks Donnie). This beer is dark, very dark brown with a thin tan head. The aroma is malty and strong, kind of similar to an American barleywine. Some dark fruits like plums or dates, no real spices that I can smell. The taste is sweet and alcoholic, strong malt and ethanol with maybe a little cocoa. A big heavy ass-kicker of a beer, this is definitely a beer to drink on cold winter nights. Much appreciated, and I also have a 2007 to drink later.

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Photo of glid02
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dry-hopped cask served at the Brick Store.

Pours an opaque light brown color with a half-finger light tan head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of caramel malts with hints of chocolate malts along with a bit of spiciness, leafy hops, and a hint of vanilla.

Tastes similar to how it smells, though in the flavor the components are a bit more fleshed out. Caramel and chocolate malt flavors kick things off with a hint of vanilla riding the coat-tails. Midway through the sip a good deal of earthy hops offer up some flavor and segue through to a mildy spicy and bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is OK. It's a bit on the thin side with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is good. I didn't have any problem finishing the glass and could have another.

Overall the hops were a bit more prevalent in this version than the non-dry-hopped version (a big surprise right?), however the other flavors didn't seem as intense. Still, a solid late fall beer that's worth a shot.

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Photo of avalon07
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a brown color and a slightly cloudy consistency. There was a somewhat small amount of foamy, brown-colored head and good lacing.

S: Smelled of malt, a little hops and some spices.

T: Had a nice malty backbone with a hoppy bite to it, along with a spicy kick. Not exactly the most dynamic of flavors, but solidly constructed.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a dry finish. Medium-bodied.

D: A drinkable winter warmer, though not my favorite of the style. Still, a solid entry.

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Photo of Gusler
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a light hazy brown color, the head preposterous in size with a frothy consistency and the lace thick sheets that hold mightily to the glass. Sweet and spicy over ripe apples or plums can’t make up what little mind I have left, caramel, chocolate and lot of malt in this pleasing to the schnozzle beer. The outset is ambrosial, the top is middling in mouth feel, and the hops take a front seat in this beer, with a perky acidity and a droughty long lasting aftertaste. As I have said before Sweetwater and Dogwood, make some quite quaffable brews and well worth the hunt.

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Photo of barczar
3.64/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque deep brown with garnet highlights and a frothy tan head that slowly dissipates, leaving modest lacing.

Nutmeg and cinnamon dominate the initial aroma, with an underlying malty tar character surfacing beneath. Notes of chocolate, cola, and clove add complexity. As it warms, molasses and subtle dark fruit emerge.

Flavor reveals more clove dominance, with dark chocolate and roasty malt dominating the slightly bitter finish. Hints of cola and ginger are subtle initially, but become more pronounced. Cinnamon rounds out the finish.

Body is moderate, with carbonation on the low side, and modest alcohol warmth.

Good variety of spice character, with enough malt presence to prevent it from becoming completely overwhelming. Hides the abv fairly well. Still a little too much spice for my tastes. Perfumey notes and a touch of acetaldehyde surface as it warms.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.33/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

33.8oz. waxed fliptop bottle shared by Thirstybird and served in my Allagash 25cl chalice. 2006 vintage. Poured the color of cola with some highlights around the base - half inch off-white head quickly dissipates into nothing. Nose is a little sour, malty and some booze. Taste is malty, roasty, watery and sour dark fruit (plums, prunes, raisins). Mouthfeel is medium-light with an even background effervescence. Something was a little off on this one - definitely some oxidation here. I'd have to say that this beer was a little beyond its prime.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A nice, zingy winter beer. The serving I got did not have much of an odor - but I have never had an exceptional sense of smell. The taste, however, is fairly good. The flavor is not overwhelming or remarkable, but this is definitely a drinkable beer and a good companion to a hearty lunch or dinner. It goes down smoothly without a bad aftertaste.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.52/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-pours a deep brown with hues of red, a thin finger of off white head that dissipates quickly and leaves nothing on the glass

S-light aroma of cinnamon spice, smoe floral hops and a touch of sweet ciitrus

T-light taste of sweet cinnamon, touch of pepper, hint of vanilla, some caramel malts come in next with a light roasted character that finishes with a dark fruits and a hint of citrus hops

M-solid body, full on medium, very smooth with a fair amount of carbonation

D-not a huge fan of winter ales and the spices associated. impartial rating as the flavors are decent and well related to the style. they aren't huge and i've had better winter's.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage courtesy of BeerTruth, thanks Adam...awesome extra! 12 oz bottle pours a dark brown color with crimson highlights and a fluffy, tan foam. Not overly great retention and not much lacing.

Nose is pretty interesting with cocoa maltiness leading the way. There is at least some hints of many different smells...currants, chocolate, cinnamon, habanero peppers and even a touch of soy sauce. Odd mix of scents, but pretty pleasant overall.

Sweetwater did a pretty good job with this one. Has elements of both a winter warmer and a stout. Rich, somewhat sweet and roasty malts lead the way with some dark fruits and bready yeast along for the ride. I would be surprised if some spices were not used in this beer, I get a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in here. Maybe even a clove-ish flavor that is not quite like a hefeweizen clove flavor. While the ABV is hidden well, there still is a detectable amount of alcohol in the taste, which helps add to the complexity of the beer. I am enjoying this beer quite a bit, would love to be able to get my paws on this every year during the holiday season.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.1/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a New Belgium goblet. Label says Best if Enjoyed by 10/24/14.

A- Pours a mostly opaque black color with a 1/2 inch tan head that retains a bit before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a small center patch of surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing slides down the glass leaving a thick ring behind.

S- Sweet sugary aroma that has notes of anise, molasses and caramel.

T- Hearty flavor of mild roasted malt, some nutmeg and more anise. Still sweet but the hops put forth a moderate bitterness to balance. Bit of clove. Alcohol is wonderfully hidden.

M- Slightly thick and slick with medium carbonation and a fullish body.

O- A no-frills, easygoing winter warmer that's dangerously drinkable.

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Photo of Bung
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. Sturdy brown pour with just a little bit of off white head. Retains well and sticks to the glass a little. Aroma has some more roast than other warmers, and some floral hop with the Christmas spice. Taste is like a brown ale spiced with ginger and nutmeg. Light roast, earthy nuttiness and some chocolates. Well carbonated with a mid/light body and mouthfeel. Drinks very well with no alcohol noticed. A nice warmer from Sweetwater.

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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.

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