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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 tigg924
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: 1/3 inch head, clear, dark brown in color

Smell: caramel malt, figs, brown sugar, alcohol, touch of plum

Taste: caramel malt, figs, brown sugar, black cherry, and spice--maybe cinnamon, small alcohol at the end

Mouthfeel: light bodied, moderate carbonation, semi-sweet

Drinkability: A nice dark holiday seasonal that leans more on dark fruit than spice. This is a sipper and kind of reminds me of a cross between a Belgian dark ale and a dark red wine. I will want another.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.68/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle thanks to Bulbman, appreciate it! Dark brown color, short wispy head. Smells a little spicy like a winter warmer but also very malty. The taste is mostly malts to me but maybe there is a hint of cinnamon hiding. This was not bad at all and I'd probably buy a sixer if I could. The alcohol was not noticed at all.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.1/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep chestnut with a ruby undertone roofed by a smallish capping of off-white frothed over foam. Minimal lacing in a few inky strings.

Aroma is low key, dark, and deep with a brown sugar malt laden sweetness. Soft and bready with a big base of malts most evident in a darkly set fashion that is neither roasty, flat, or fruity. Just sweet, bready, and dark.

Taste has a good play of solid maltyness bringing a soft, succulant display of molasses, brown sugar over soft bread, hints of vanilla, and a twist of fig. No real length to it however, a bit short lived I'm afraid, yet tasty enough.

Body is creamy and sufficient with a malt goodness wrapped within a solid mediumishness. Soft, supple, sweet, with a light fluffy dry finish arriving late. Low carbonation if any at all really doing much.

A solid, subtle treat that'll be gone in no time. The overall smoothness lends itself to be a quick drinker.

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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.

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Photo of gford217
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1L swingtop poured into a pint glass.

Pours a deep mahogany with hints of ruby around the edges. An aggressive pour produces a two-finger tan head that recedes to a very thin cap leaving some spotty lacing.

Aromas are pretty basic with lots of sweet caramel malts and dark, sweet fruits, apples and grapes maybe. I didn't get much in the way of spices in the aroma.

The taste is also extremely sweet, with sugary caramel malts and dark fruits. I thought I got some chocolate hints as well. The finish has a cola-like sweetness.

The mouthfeel is pretty light for the style with good carbonation but lacking the body I was hoping for.

This is a decent but not great beer from Sweetwater. Probably a bit one-dimensional for me, but I may sit on a bottle or two and see how it develops over time.

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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.

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

a: Gives a low off white head that rapidly recedes to a thin ring around the glass. The beer is a dark mahogany brown in color.

s: Nice blend of chocolate, toffee, and dark aromas. Earthy hop aroma.

m: The carbonation is a low medium, and the body on the full side of medium.

t: Reminiscent of a heavily malted, low hopped brown ale. Nice touch of chocolate on the the palate, with pale and caramel flavors accompanying. The chocolate comprises the bulk of the complexity. Gentle-moderate bitterness in the finish with some roast lingering.

d: not a problem...abv remains hidden

12 ounce bottle from Bruisin' Ales

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Photo of Reagan1984
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

** Note on 12/18/10** I received another bottle from RBald42 over a year ago and just popped it. I think this aged nicely despite the style not conforming to cellaring. I really enjoyed this today. Malt flavors really smooth out and it's a chewy caramel flavor.

Big Thanks to BHalter8 for providing this in a trade. He's an excellent trader!!

Pours a deep brown color. A wonderful tan head that is about a perfect thickness. (2 fingers) the head begins to dissipate almost immediately. Almost looks like a real Root Beer. Maybe a little thicker.

Aroma is sweet caramel and lots of deep malt.

Deep caramel flavor follows the aroma almost perfectly. The slightest hint of spices as well. Not sure if I can pick anything specific out, but it's there. A bit nutty as well. Almost roasted nuts....

Thick full bodied beer. Very light carbonation.

Very drinkable as a Winter Warmer. Definitely warms the heart.

Glad I had the opportunity to try this beer.

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Photo of birchstick
3.89/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - pours black color with a nice white head

N - rich, caramel malts are all over the nose. There are also some
anise mixed in with some more sticky candy notes.

T - starts off with sweet malty candy flavors that get sweeter as it rolls down the palate. There is also a little bit of charred malt and anise. Nice winter warmer.

M - mouthfeel is full and smooth and coats the tongue - goes down nicely

D - I really enjoyed this winter warmer. Really sticky, candyish, and malty - all the flavors that should be in a warmer. I'll have to get some more for the holiday season this year.

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Photo of tpd975
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This one came via OskarsBamaBlues.

A: Pours a nice nutty brown hue with a thick foamy creamy head. The head dies down but some spider webbed lacing is left behind.

S: Nice malty aromas with hints of toffee, brown sugar and nutmeg.

T: Wow one of the better if not best Winter Warmers out there. I am uaually not a huge fan of the style but I am down to try anything. The taste is very much liked a kicked up brown ale. Tons of toffee and choclate with hints of brown sugar sweetness. There is a touch of tobacco and hazelnuts. The finish reveals a touch of spice. I can't put my finger on it, but it is a perfect additon to the beer.

M: Medium in body rich and creamy.

D: Very, this is probably the first winter warmer I could enjoy two bottles of.

Overall: As I stated I usually bash the style as they are often all over the place with spices clashing with one another. This brew is balanced. It is more about malty goodness. There is just a touch of spice (god I wish I knew what it was) that is a perfect addition to this brew. I am drinking this one on a 87 degree Tampa afternoon. It would have been even more enjoyable during a not so cold winter evening.

Overall: I like it. Would love to have a sixer to drink along with my xmas dinner.

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Photo of Dope
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2012 batch.

A: Pours a nice dark mahogany. Big fluffy light brown head. Lacing doesn't seem to stick as the head fades away. Just a splotch here and there. Decent retention though.

S: Lots of holiday spaces. Nutmeg and cinnamon primarily it seems. Some others that I can't quite place. Get a bit of dark bread in there too but it's mainly the spices.

T: Again, lots of spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg up front. Kind of a thick, molasses breadiness to the malt, for lack of a better description. More spices in the finish, almost like black pepper here. Cinnamon lingers between sips.

M: Nice medium bodied, pretty standard.

O: A fairly simple and spicy winter warmer. Fairly mellow with decent balance. Easy drinking but somewhat plain.

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

Tops my list for "hardest bottle to open." My sample was a big bottle of '01, with a ceramic swing top stopper. The entire top, wire and all, had been dipped in red wax, like Maker's Mark bourbon, and was the hardest stuff I've run across. It took a pocket knife and chiseling to get it off. Fortunately, the beer was worth the effort, and you can be sure there was no oxidation.

Poured a walnut brown. Overall, it struck me as Anchor Our Special Ale's little brother. Nutty, mildly spiced - nutmeg and allspice, with a lively mouthfeel. A touch of carmel and maple syrup, but not too sweet.

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Photo of merlin48
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

One liter bottle, number 7083 of 7200, $12.50 at the Weinhaus in Asheville, NC. Swingtop bottle sealed in red wax. Pours a dark brown body with a two finger tan head. The body appears a clear chestnut with garnet highlights when held to light. Head retention is excellent and lots of sticky lace is left behind on the glass.

Aroma opens with citrusy orange esters, spicy cinnamon and nutmeg/mace, and some brown sugar. Undertone of caramel and an odd note of vegetal squash.

Mouthfeel is creamy and full bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Toasted grains and sweet malty caramel dominate the taste. Brown sugar is overly prominent and adds a cloying aspect. Hops contribute an earthy bitterness, and the spicing of mace and cinnamon are present, but understated. Alcohol is very well concealed. Very much the winter warmer, but the sweetness is overdone.

Not a bad effort from Sweetwater, but I thought the sweetness was a bit cloying.

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.68/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle sent by my buddy, bluepred, a few weeks back; poured to a pint glass. As we're a couple days into spring now on the calendar, it seemed perhaps 'too late' to drink - then I dealt with snow showers on the commute home and it seemed appropriate on a 'winter'-feeling evening.

This is the 2011 edition, dipped in [extra-thick] red wax. Label shows 8.5%, a 'Catch & Release Seasonal' (from the 'Winter Coat Season')

A: Very dark, a ruby-tinted chocolate brown that pours with a compact tan/ivory head. Head recedes and rings the glass forming a base for drippy lace to fall toward. Most of it sticks. So dark that carbonation can only be seen in the strongest light; it's sleepy, but adequate.

S: Not much initially, even after warming 10 minutes or so. Gradually a nice spicing arises, a rooty gingerbread and molasses. It's similar in ways to Anchor's OSA... although theirs is stronger and more inviting. Kind of surprised that a 'big beer' like this doesn't have more aroma. Shrug.

T: I'm a fan of a sweeter/maltier winter ale - and this fits that bill. A dusty cocoa powder and careful use of cinnamon are highlights. The longer it sits, the more the spice turns to 'ginger', a spark that tingles on the tongue. A little drier in the finish, just enough to balance.

M: For an 8.5% beer, surprisingly devoid of alcohol 'heat'. Very easy to drink, truth be told. I assume that, by mid-March, this beer is 4-6 months since brewing; it's held up well, although carbonation is a little subdued. The end result is that it's thinner-feeling than expected. Smoothness is spot on.

O: I'm happy to have tried this (again), thanks to Mark. I've never reviewed it, but have been the recipient of a couple Festive Ales over the years. It's a better than average Winter Warmer, that does a good job with flavors that match my palate... and with subtle 'warming'. Yum.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.21/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Sweetwater Festive Ale has a thin, creamy, cream-colored head, a very dark brown appearance with ruby highlights and visible, tight bubble streams, and a good amount of splotchy lacing left around the glass. The aroma is of spiced bread, bread crust, and sweetness. Taste is of those elements, with subdued bitterness and syrup of some sort. Mouthfeel is somewhat watery, and Sweetwater Festive Ale finishes refreshing, sweet, easily drinkable, mostly dry, and not the least bit alcohilic. Overall, this is one of the better spice ales I’ve tried.


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

The beer poured into the glass clear deep amber brown with a tan head which rose tall and fell slowly to lace the glass.

The aroma was malty with a nice dark caramel presence and a nice fruit presence. Most notably were spices, namely cinnamon and perhaps a light bit of clove or maybe allspice. Chocolate was also nicely achieved in the aroma.

The flavor was similar to that of a brown ale with chocolate and a nice caramel maltiness. The flavor was fruity with more spice character that was well achieved and added complexity. The chocolate, caramel and spice all had melded into a very well done flavor that was quite alluring.

The finish was dry with a lasting chocolate and light spice impression into the aftertaste. The body was medium and nicely done. Rated as a brown ale with spices, it is a very good beer albeit a slight bit pricey.

2003 Vintage bottle 2675, could not have been above 6% abv in 2003 due to GA laws. 33.8 ounce large swingtop bottle covered with way that made the bottle near impossible to open. I'm very glad I purchased it even though it was about $16 at Sherlocks cold case in Marietta, GA. The price is the only sticking point.

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

Finally getting around to trying this one. The first of two from a trade with Rajendra82. Hoping for some tasty southern brew here.

I pour the chilled brew into my pint glass and it is incredibly dark brown, almost black. Barely any light gets through. Not what I expected at all. This is exciting! Very little tan head foams up and fades rather quickly, back to a thin layer on the surface.

The aroma is spicy sweet similar to other winter brews. Some nutmeg, and actually brown sugar or molasses scents as well.

First sip, very mild carbonation, very smooth with above average thickness. The flavor is similar to the scent. Slightly sweet, with hints of coffee, but more of a mocha. Similar to those swiss mocha hard candies they give out at banks sometimes. That is exactly what I taste. very easy to drink. No ABV listed but I guess it is above 6%. But not due to alcohol flavor or burn just thickness of the brew. This is a very nice brew. not what I expected from a winter ale, but I am very impressed with my first sweetwater beverage. Now I know what to look for next time I am in Georgia. Thanks again for a quality brew Rajendra!

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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.

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Photo of Todd
3.57/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2004 vintage. 12oz bottle. No freshness date. Pours a very deep garnet, near opaque. Foam is a snapping tan with large bubbles that bust down to a quarter inch lace that has some decent retention.

Ripened fruits and baking spices in the aroma, and a hint of sour sherry. Estery. Alcohols in the background.

Crisp, snapping carbonation the palate lends way to a creamy mouthfeel. Sharp, fruity character of sweet and sour berries, dark ripe fruits of plum, fig and raisin, followed by a sweet malty flavor with notes of caramel and granola cereal, along with ash and some smoke. Bag of mixed holiday-type spices. Alcohol is well-hidden. Very mild oxidation character in the form of cardboard, which lingers in the finish with a slight metallic note and overall drying character with chalk backing.

Aged quite well. Not bad, and a nice winter brew enjoyed in the summer. Screw seasonal stereotypes.

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

Pours a drak, turbid brown/black and maroon mixture. Thin light ecru head leaves no lace on the glass.
Aroma has hints of cinnamon, ginger, cassis and maybe nutmeg with a little bit of chocolate, toffee and a hint of charcoal.
Flavors of cinnamon and ginger, caramel and a semi-sweet dark fruit note were detected. Seems almost like a light, spicy porter. Interesting, not amazing but very solid profile.
Mouthfeel is semi-sweet with a spicy middle and a lightly bittered finish. Leaves a hint of lactose as an aftertaste.
Drinkability is solid. If you can find it, try it. Interesting combination of lighter spices with a darker malt profile.

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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...

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Photo of Pegasus
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear deep amber color, with a small white head, and scattered, patchy lacing.

Aroma: Sweet coriander, and cinnamon aroma, vanilla, slight wood, and alcohol notes.

Taste: Spicy at the open, with cinnamon, ginger, and dark caramel malts. The caramel malt anchors the taste throughout lending a dark sugar quality, which dominates the taste. Finishes with a lingering herbal hop bitterness.

Mouth feel: Smooth, soft, quite full, and pleasant.

Drinkability/notes: A very quite pleasant and drinkable example, well suited to the festive holiday season.

Thanks to BA HardTarget for sharing this rare example.

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

12oz bottle poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a dark black with slight reddish edges and a creamy khaki-colored head that fades to a thick cap, leaving spotty lacing as it recedes.
S - Sweet, malty aromas of milk chocolate, brown sugar, baked brown bread, and Winter spices (cinnamon and nutmeg).
T - More big flavors of sweet caramel and chocolate malt, baked bread, spices, and a good amount of warming alcohol "heat".
M - Smooth and creamy, with a medium-full mouthfeel and lowish carbonation.
O - A nice Winter brew, excellent on a cold evening!

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Photo of kmpitz2
4.33/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

the beer pours a black color with a finger of head that falls to coat the beer. The nose has a bit of ginger in there with a background of chocolate that smells nice. The flavor is also first highlighted with a ginger flavor that fades to a chocolate on the finish. I like it a lot. The feel is a touch thin, but the other characteristics of the beer make up for that overall. The beer is smooth and just damn good. Thanks to clvand0 for sharing this awesome beer with me.

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Photo of siege06nd
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Alrighty, found this bottle at random in my closet and it is from way back in 2010!!! Wow!!! Don't worry, I'll be nice...

A. Excellent. Color is a super dark, rich mahogany. Very nearly black. About a half finger of cream colored head that is tight, uniform, and has good retention. Lacing is very good. The look of this beer screams fireplace, snowflakes, and fresh pies. Which is why I'm drinking it in July.

S. Bouquet has held up rather well over the last year and a half. Raisin, caramel, cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, roasted biscuit, and just a little bit of sherry-like oxidation due to the age. Smells like a freshly baked shortbread cookie.

T. Spices are up front with brown sugar, cinnamon, and clove. Then roasted malts kick in on the mid and the finish is bread crust, caramel, some vanilla, spice, and maybe just a touch of chocolate. Nice.

M. Thick and chewy, with solid carbonation and a nice balance of flavors. Spices and roasty flavors linger on the palate long after it's gone.

O. A really nice Christmas beer, with a much fuller body than its better known competition (i.e., Schlafly Christmas, Great Lakes Christmas, etc.). Festive Ale is unique in that it has a much more solid malt presence, with some excellent toasted biscuit and subtle chocolate notes that in some ways call to mind a porter. I will definitely be seeking a six-pack of this over the holidays. Excellent work, Sweetwater!

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