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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: 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 sammy44
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My favorite beers are always the winter beers and this is my favorite.

I drank this from a pint glass where it had a nice cream colored head that lasted 'til about halfway through the pint. The smell was something like a spice cake or gingerbread. The taste followed this up. The beer was heavy on the tongue and smooth going down. It would be great served with desert.

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Photo of dolemite77
3.9/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Barley's, Asheville, NC, from notes found of a November 2008 trip. Highland Cold Mountain was released a couple of weeks after we were there, so this took it's place for me as the holiday beer of choice. Strong aromas of cinnamon, sweet and herbal. Notes on the bottle state that it has mace in it, not sure much about mace other than I think it's in pumpkin pie, I'll take their word for it. Great holiday beer with the right amount of sweetness and spices. Not overdone at all. I think the extra roasted malt notes helped in this category.

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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.

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Photo of EHopkinsi
4.04/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Consumed 27 November 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

Look- pours very dark.

Smell- smells like a good ale.

Taste- very nice. You know you're drinking an ale. Delivers good taste without overdoing any one element.

Overall- Not sure why this isn't rated higher. I thought this was a very well done beer.

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Photo of axisjones
4.17/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, black, none more black. Big bubbled off white rocky head, about an inch or so. Head dies down to a thin coat, minimal lacing.

Rich chocolate espresso in the nose with a faint astringency to it. Complex smell, almost chalky neko wafer milk chocolate in the end. Faint Carnation hot chocolate as well.

Big taste going in, the alcohol is noticeable straight off. Malty with espresso/coffee flavors and a slight rum. Metallic in the middle with a milk chocolate finish. The hops provide a tiny bite and mix with the roast bitterness. A somewhat tasty, if uneven, flavor with a dominant malt profile.

A very interesting offering, sweet, complex, luscious and alcoholic. A fine beer, could definitely use some fine tuning.

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Photo of StarSAELS
3.66/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Considering that my "daily" brew of choice for the season is Sam Adams' Winter Lager, this is a major disruption in my routine. Also, when you consider that the other brew I purchased along with this one was the relatively boring Green Valley Wild Hop Lager, this is a major kick in the pants.

I had no idea what the price was when I picked it up at—of all places—one of the local Publix stores (has anyone in GA noticed that Publix all of a sudden has a considerable variety of beer??), but I'll pay $10 for a six pack for this one again.

I also had no idea what the ABV was, and so it's taking me a while to send my thoughts from my brain to my fingers... hahaahaha

As everyone else has already said, it pours dark—I could barely see the halogen undercabinet light through it. Little bit of sediment on the bottom of the bottle, too—the sign of a real handcrafted brew. Malty, mildly spicy aroma. First cold taste is smooth and creamy with no alcohol notes. Nurse this for half an hour or so to get it to stout-drinkin' temperature, and there's a LOT of flavor in there—but still no alcohol (though I certainly feel it!).

This one would go very well with a slow-cooked pot roast or beef stew. Oh, what the heck am I saying? This is dessert!

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Photo of maccroz
3.98/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A fantastic seasonal brew from one of my favorite breweries. Sweetwater festive ale has many nutty/nutmeggy notes to it. It reminds me of Christmas. Very very tasty. On the sweetwater tour they said "It doesn't take much to get you fucked up" as this beer sports a very strong alcohol content. Bonus... :)

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Photo of Schwarzwald
3.13/5  rDev -17.8%
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.

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Photo of planetscott
2.48/5  rDev -34.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

The appearance and smell of this beer was decent, however there is just too much ginger used for my preference. So much so, it is undrinkable. This could be a much better beer if they backed off the ginger. I am hoping the 2007 edition will be better.

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Photo of AlFromBayShore
3.59/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found one of the big bottles of these at Camp Creek Beverage. The year on this bottle was 2008. Two of these were sitting in a box of "Happy Endings". My best guess is that Sweetwater tossed these in amongst the "Happy Endings".

The first time I had a Festive Ale, I didn't like it. It seemed thin in its texture. I had another one that had aged for about two months. I'm not sure if that made a difference but it had much more body and the taste seemed more complex. By that time however, it was next to impossible to find.

The one I am drinking now doesn't seem as complex but does have full bodied texture. The taste reminds me of a double bock - malty with hints of cane syrup and molasses. Not much else. There is a slight booziness in the finish. The smell is seems dominated by the malt. I expected more complexity in both the flavor and smell. Not much carbonation and the drinkability is good.

Overall, this 2008 version is okay but nothing to write home about. I expected a complex tasting Christmas Ale and got what appears to taste a lot like a double bock. I have the second bottle but am not as exicted about this ale as I was before having it.

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Photo of GreenMachine
4.61/5  rDev +21%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I was actually surprised by this beer. Was never really a SW fan, but the second I poured this winter warmer I could smell the figs and coco. The taste is exactly how it smells, rich and creamy. Definitely hides the ABV well. Small hints of spices thrown in, but not over powering. Will add this to my list of chilly weather beers to pick up!

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Photo of resirob
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle,
Appearance: Pours a luxurious dark ruby/black with a thick khaki head that settles to a thin ring and leaves almost no lace.

Aroma: Spicy sweet. Spices are up front and bold. Floral hop character is there, too. Malty sweetness floats in and out as I swirl the glass.

Taste: Mmmm. Nice winter brew. Roasted toffee maltiness with a great blend of spices. Tastes like it smells - spicy sweet.

Mouthfeel: Medium body and smooth.

Drinkability: An easy drinking winter brew.

Really got me in the mood for more winter/holiday seasonals. I received 2 bottles courtesy of rajendra82, and I will be cellaring the remaining one for further review in the future (next winter, if I can wait - no promises!). This is the second Sweetwater brew I have sampled, and I must say that I have liked both. It is a shame that Sweetwater is not readily available where I live. This is certainly a brewery that deserves some more exposure.

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Photo of qcitydarkstar
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance -- Held to the light, this ale is the deepest brown and the sediment in suspension makes it opaque and practically black. Upon pouring this ale in a chalice, I got about an inch of off-white head.

Smell -- Licorice, Nutmeg, Coffee, Various Spices

Taste -- Licorice, Ripe Raisins, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Roasted/Burnt Malts

Sweetwater Festive Ale has an overpowering "kitchen sink" taste that causes the drinker to notice new flavors with every sip. Because of the taste profile, I would consider this an "extreme beer" as it is not what I would grab if I was in the mood for your average stout or porter. This is a fantastic brew that everyone should try, but I do not see myself quaffing this beverage often.

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Photo of TerjUGA
4.82/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A-dark almost amber tint when held to light. good tanned foamy head with medium bubbles.

S-smells of warm spices, reminds me of cold winter nights

T- Muy bien! You can definitely taste the spices hidden in the dark aroma of this fine festive ale. Hints of brown sugar tickle your taste buds as it flows. Gives a very warm feeling.

M-Very smooth, lightly carbonated

D-Good dinner beer, and definitely a beer that will be most enjoyed during the winter months. Also has active yeast so buy a couple of extra and save them for next winter.

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Photo of NWFLyer
4.32/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass; slim, brown-cream colored head which dissipated fairly quickly. Little to no lacing.

Nose: Rich, full bodied, distinctly malty. Spice is evident, with essence of clove and cocoa. It reminds me of a porter.

Taste: Creamy mouth-feel. Hop bitterness is evident, but not overwhelming. Smooth with a pleasant after-taste. Rich, dark malt and smoke flavors linger on the tongue.

Drinkability: Overall, I was pleasantly impressed by this seasonal offering from Sweetwater Brewing. It is a solid offering from a company which is a steady performer in the craft brewing segment. The rich taste is a departure from other Sweetwater beers that I have tasted. I would recommend this ale to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer.

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Photo of seebus
3.43/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Isn't it great that I have family in Atlanta?

A bottle with a typical Sweetwater label noting that this is the 2006 version of this festive brew.

It pours a deep, deep brown with a creamy tan head, and there seems to be quite a bit of suspended particulate. Yeast? Meh. There's a nice sweet, roasty smell, and the taste begins the same along with a bitter roasted note. There is a dark, malty sweetness with a slightly bitter finish. The mouthfeel is good; it has a full body.

I will drink as many of these as my uncle will send.

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Photo of vtisme
4.38/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served from a bottle into a snifter
A - very dark amber, light just barely can get through it
S - chocolate, maybe some syrup
T - bitter chocolate, indistinguishable fruitiness comes through in the end and aftertaste
M - thinner than what I thought I would be getting
O - this is a great beer!

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Photo of spense727
3.56/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - dark brown, cloudy, the color of black jesus
Smell - smokey beef jerky smell
Taste - Rauch beers little brother, a slight hint of smokiness, with a fine medium roast
Mouthfeel - not overly carbonated, light mouthfeel,
Overall - it was a nice beer tastey kind

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Photo of DownSouthGeorgiaBrew
3.96/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Tan 1inch head, with a pitch black colored body; Smell: not very pronounced, but I got hits of Cinnamon, Molasses, nutmeg, maybe a hint of Orange; Taste: Mirrors smell with a malty and mellow bitterness throughout. Mouth Feel: Smooth as silk with very little carbonation. Overall, great Winter Warmer!

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Photo of jas30060
4.07/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I had the 2007 brew, Its good stuff.
Frothy tan head, that leaves some nice lacing.

The scent is Kinda malty with a chocolate Undertone.

This beer is smooth and very drinkable. Its very well balanced. It has a soft feel on your tongue. The main flavor is strong caramelized malts with a light spice at the end. Nothing major in the hop department. A tasty all around good beer.

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Photo of JBIII
2.9/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Overall, this beer just did not do anything to stand out from the numerous other Winter Warmer/Winter Ale. This beer was overly sweet/malty and the hop profile was average.

With a beer as malty and heavy as this one, it should have been better balanced by a more robust, yet subtle and complex hop profile to enhance the spice profiles of the beer.

Try it, but don't buy it. There are better Winter Ales out there, such as Jubilation's Avery.

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Photo of bjwilson
4.25/5  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.

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Photo of slickmick22
3.82/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ours into glass with one finger of foam and some lacing. Head settles quickly.

Smell has lots of malt with some chocolate. Maybe some cinnamon.

Thick malt with some chocolate taste. Slight cinnamon. Slightly bitter. Nice sweetness on the end.

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

This is a nice, smooth drinkable beer that I would never get tired of. Will buy again next year.

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Photo of bigwern
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque brown, almost black, with minimal head that disappears quickly. Very spicy, malty smell.

Burnt flavors dominate the taste. Lots of chocolate, coffee, smokey flavors in there. The body is medium but feels quite light when considering the complexity of the brew and the alcohol. There's a sweet maltiness at first, but it's soon drowned out by bitterness and alcohol spiciness. The finish is very hoppy.

It's a complex taste that's in your face but is a bit too overpowering in burnt flavors. I'd like to taste it again after it's aged and the flavor has smoothed out a bit. Regardless, a very satisfying brew that will fill you with warmth when it's cold outside.

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Photo of charlottebeer
4.33/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had the pleasure of being part of SweetWaters 1st Verticle Tasting ever last night @ Duckworths in Charlotte, NC. We sampled '04,'06,'07,'08,'09. Here is my review of 2004 Festive Ale: Poured wonderfully smooth with light lacing. Deep mahogany rich color. Although it was great to look at, it was better to tast, I didn't waste a second. It was very mild. It aged very well and ended up very well balanced. It reminded me of a well aged barley wine, one that wasn't 12% but rather 8-9%. Very nice!

Continuing my verticle review of Festive Ale...the 2006:
Poured great, light lacing,more cinnamon & Chocholate in the nose than '04. A little more warmth than the 04 as well. Very enjoyable. Very easy to drink. This one was my favorite out of the 5 years we sampled.

2007: Poured more lively, better lacing. There was a noticable difference with the beer being more active on my pallet. Still had that great color, deep mahogany. More people liked it as the best of the night on my end of the table but I'm sticking with the '06, although the 2007 was enjoyable

2008: This was limited in quantities due to there not being any around, but I got a good feel for it. Same pour as '07 but with more chocholate on the nose with noticeably more fruit on the nose. Has held up very well in the bottles, was very fresh tasting. More spices and fruit in the taste.

The 2009:
Great pour, great nose, choclately, spice, cinnamon, very fresh taste. Very enjoyable

Summary: I have done many verticles over the last 15 plus years and had always seemed to be a "dog" in the bunch. Usually one year didn't hold us as well or really went south. The SweeatWater held up VERY WELL and was consistant with it's quality and taste. There were NO DOGS in this pack of great vintage Festive Ales!

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