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

This is another bottle that my 2011 Secret Santa gdodd12 sent me. Thanks, Greg. 2011 Vintage.

Sweetwater Festive Ale has a dark brown body and a creamy tan head. The retention and lacing are both OK.

The aroma has some spice to it, namely cinnamon, but it also has a lot of rich malt to back it up.

Some spice flavors come through up front, with mostly cinnamon. Next comes a complex mix of rich malt. Toasted and nutty malts mix with caramel and molasses, with toffee as well. Dark, powdery cocoa flavors come through as a good dose of sweet maple and burnt brown sugar. The finish is sweet and slick with some warmth.

Nice full body with a moderate amount of carbonation make this one feel alternately chewy and slick.

Festive Ale is a pretty good warmer, and I could see it getting better with some age on it (I guess the wax should have tipped me off).

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Photo of grub
4.47/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

christmas tasting hosted by biegaman on dec 15/07. i contributed this one, which i got from purplehops as part of BC2. huge thanks stan!

giant 1L swingtop topped with red wax. 2004 vintage, bottle 3042 of 5800.

pours dark brown with a fluffy fine tan head. the head drops fairly quick but leaves lots of lace.

aroma is great. bittersweet and dark chocolate. caramel and toffee. light alcohol. almond and cashew. bit of hazelnut.

taste is great. dark and milk chocolate. big caramel and toffee. great nuttyness - almond, hazelnut, cashew. light alcohol. bit of coffee. dominated by chocolate and nut, but in a good way. big bready malt.

mouthfeel is great. medium carbonation level. medium large body. smooth as silk.

drinkability is excellent. well balanced. great big caramel+chocolate+nut combo that i'm really enjoying. this is one fine beer!

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

Poured from waxed bomber into tulip glass. Pours a very deep brown along with a nice medium to thin tan head. Aromas of cinnamon, caramel, nutmeg, toasted malts, and maybe a touch of chocolate. The flavor allows for a decent amount of chocolate to sneak in there to go with the cinnamon holiday spice, vegetation notes, and sweet malt. Medium bodied with decent carbonation throughout. Overall, a nice holiday beer and one I wouldn't mind seeking out again!

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Photo of atsprings
2.94/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On-tap at Flying Saucer Raleigh on Dec. 3 served in a standard pint glass and reviewed from notes. The beer was served a dark brown that showed ruby highlights when held to light and sported a barely there disappearing head. The aroma was sweet malts and a hint of spice. The taste is slight sweet malts and alcohol, not much there. The beer is somewhat heavy a bit overly sweet. This one is tolerable, but a huge disappointment.

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Photo of Damian74Shensky
3.64/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into a tulip glass.

A- Dark brown with a small light tan head

S- Dark roasted malts, chocolate and coffee

T- Fruits, roasted maltiness, coffee and chocolate.

M- Medium body with good carbonation

O- Nice complexity, not bad for a winter warmer would get again.

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.4/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep red color-almost a pale burgundy. Mellow aroma-mildly spiced malt. Has an astringent note to it that I liken to alcohol. Slighly spiced, malty flavor. Mild bitterness. Good full body. Quite dry in the finish. Nice winter warmer though I dont find a lot to rave about. A notch or 2 above average.

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Photo of bigfnjoe
3.49/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage. Poured from a waxed bottle into a Dogfish snifter

A- pours jet black with a half finger very light brown head that doesn't stick around for awhile. Disappointing

S- tons of holiday-type spices...cinnamon comes through a lot, as well as some ginger. Not too shabby

T- getting a decent bit of ginger in the mouth....some cinnamon, maybe a little bit of clove. Everything is rather muted overall, but I'd rather have it be muted than to choke on the spices. Not bad

M- body is actually really thin. Stunning, disappointing

O- such a strange beer. Very easy to drink, better than many Winter Warmers I've had....yet not blowaway at all

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Photo of HardTarget
4.37/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 12 oz. brown bottle states it’s a Holiday beer, and has the year (2006), nothing else.

Aroma: Yep, that’s a holiday beer! Great clove, nutmeg aroma in a dark malt base.

Appearance: Dark black with thick ruby brown edges. Sports a solid collar but fails to lace.

Flavor: That’s nice! Lightly plumed malt base supports the spices, again, nutmeg and clove are my guesses (website lists cinnamon and mace), and results in a very balanced, complex taste. Some mild coffee/chocolate flavor is noted. It seems to be a good English Brown Ale spiced for the holidays. Notably absent from the flavor: hops and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium low carbonation, dry.

Overall Impression: Easy drinking, dangerous in it’s close to 9% abv. Felt the alcohol long before I tasted it. This beer is expertly assembled to let every aspect shine. Spices are firm, but not overdone. Malt and subdued hop blend into a well matched pair. My first Sweetwater, I plan on not letting it be my last!
Thanks to Mark for the trade!

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Photo of Onenote81
3.52/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle poured into my pint glass. Pours a dark tawny amber with a thin creamy tan capper. Little lace sticks as I sip. Scents of toffee, plum, molasses, and spices.

Body is creamy at the onset, but finishes with a nice carbonation pop. Flavors of mild cinnamon, some molasses, licorice, and mild hops. This is a good Winter brew here. Not your typical spicy all-cinnamon Xmas beer. I like it. Recommend.

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Photo of clvand0
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a very dark color with a small head that falls fast and doesn't leave much lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty and has a chocolate character and a little spice. The flavor is very nice. Chocolate flavors along with a spice from the ginger make it very interesting and enjoyable. I'd definately have this one again.

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

appearance: dark brown, not ebony, slight retention, no lacing

smell: Had a great spicy fruit aroma. Like apple pie. Nice cinnamon apple notes

taste: roasted malt flavors, like a molassess flavor with some good spicy flavor

mouthfeel: medium bodied to full

drinkability: world class beer from sweetwater. Best I have had from yet so far.

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

Acquired this from tigg924 so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours a deep dark brown with mahogany hue edges. A one finger of khaki colored head that dissipates quickly. Wispy lacing is left on the side.

S: Nose is of caramel malts, brown sugar, molasses, and spices.

T: Taste is caramel malts, brown sugar, hint of bitter chocolate up front. Middle is a bit nutty, some molasses, spicing. Finish is bitter chocolate with just a hint of hop bite, and bit of alcohol.

M: Lighter side of medium body, medium carbonation, crisp, clean body with a touch sticky finish.

D: Nicely balanced, goes down easily, in my winter warmer days, I could drink these all day. One would probably do me now.

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Photo of CrellMoset
3.97/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from Five Points Bottle Shoppe in Athens, GA. Poured into an Allagash flute, several times, because this bottle this bottle is friggen' huge. Bottle #153 of 11,000, 2007 vintage.

Appearance: Pours a thick, murky brown with ruby hues as a two-finger foamy cream-colored head rises from the dusk. It has a decent amount of staying power, but the lacing isn't so hot. Nonexistent really.

Aroma: Sunflower seeds, and a few other nutty notes, a few dark fruit notes, largely nondescript, but a few nicer light fruity notes that emerge upon agitation. In fact, agitation reveals a huge cornucopia of fruitiness, grape and apple juice, other notes, very nice.

Taste: Very nutty - again, sunflower seeds are dominant - but there are also a few good malty notes here, darker coffee, raisins, toffee, slight rum raisin without a real detectable hint of alcohol. Fruit cakey notes w/out it being spicy. Some simple sweet sugar notes and a few Perhaps a single-digit IBU bitterness. Sunflower seeds mellow out as it warms, fortunately.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, fairly even, smooth, low carbonation.

Drinkability: This is one fruity bitch of a beer. It's thick, malty, not too spicy, but intensely fruity, particularly as it warms. The alcohol is well hidden, and really not too terribly high. This one's drinking really well right about now, so give it a shot before it goes south.

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Photo of crossovert
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage. 12 oz bottle. On the bottle it says best refrigerated, but iIprefer this style at cellar temp.

Pours a dark brown with hints of ruby, with a frothy off white head. As the head recedes thick lacing rims the glass.

The nose is full of holiday cheer. The malt is very nutty and roasty, witch hints of cocoa and cinnamon. Theres almost an eggnog scent in there as well.

The taste could be more intense (as with most Sweetwater brews) but is full of dark malt with some cocoa and dark bread. It is also sweet with some spices in there as well, just like the scent. There is also hints of dark fruits. The mouthfeel seems a bit water, I would have preferred it to be a little heartier for this style.

Overall a decent beer, warms you up but not to the greatest extent. The drinkability is pretty good on this one.

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

Pours a clear dark brown with one finger of light brown colored head, settles to a thin layer with a few splotches of lace on the glass. Smell: brown sugar, lots of baking spices, a little plum and toasted bread. Taste: dark brown sugar, gingerbread, end of the sip is soft pear, grape skin, and more cinnamon. Sweet, creamy feel, enough spices and mild spicy and earthy hopping to keep it from being cloying. Easy drinking for 8.5%.

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Photo of Ryan011235
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an E&J Cask & Cream glass on 3/1/11

2010 vintage

Courtesy of PDXHops

Dark brown with crimson highlights. One finger of tan colored foam drops to a thin layer of retention and a patch of bubbles off to one side.

Lots of cinnamon in the aroma; spiced bread, earthy hops, nutmeg and maybe a dash of ginger. Smells pretty nice. The taste turns things on edge. Cinnamon is second string to nutmeg; though very much spiced said spices aren't harsh. Modest hoppiness in the middle. Toasted bread throughout. Just over medium body. Moderate carbonation seems appropriate. Some grittiness and a slightly coating finish.

Festive Ale is an easy-drinking 8.5% abv. Definitely worth a shot.

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

12oz bottle into nonic.

With a gentle pour about a one finger head builds then slowly settles to a razor thin cap.

The aroma has some light burnt caramel aromas with some soft spices. Some light fruit aromas are there as well.

The flavor starts out with the same burnt caramel, then quickly transitions to some mild spice flavors. Most of the flavor is from the malt (caramel) with a little bit of hop flavor coming in at the end. Full bodied with assertive carbonation giving it a spritzy feel. The finish is the spices mixed with a bit of caramel.

This one is pretty good. It's not your standard Winter Warmer, maybe a little spicier than average, but it's still a great beer. Recommended.

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Photo of joe1510
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz Bottle
2005 Vintage

I was damn lucky to get this bottle thrown in as an extra in a recent trade with RustyDiamond, Thanks a lot Rusty. Sweetwater's Festive Ale pours mahogany with deep ruby and chestnut highlights. A one finger khaki head grew on the pour and fell rather quickly to a skimming and ring around the glass. The head leaves some spotted lacing on its way down.

This beer smells different than I expected which, in this case, is a good thing. I was expecting a spiced winter warmer but instead got more of a heavy brown ale. Nose is dark chocolate, lightly roasted grains, a slight nuttiness and a hint of tobacco leaf in that order from most prominent to least. There seems to bit the smallest bit of oxidation that actually compliments the aroma.

The flavor follows in stride with the aroma. Big chocolate notes seem a little more milk chocolaty than the nose suggested. The nuttiness, tobacco, and light roastiness all mesh together flawlessly. Again, there seems to be a little oxidation on the backend but it compliments the flavors nicely. Festive Ale turned out to be a great sipper loaded with flavor.

The body seems a touch on the thin side for the style. Maybe some carbonation has been lost over the years but maybe not. Either way it's not a serious offense and doesn't hurt the mouthfeel too bad.

I really enjoy sipping on this brew. It's warming and more importantly packed with flavors perfect for a cold evening.

I was expecting a spiced winter warmer but luckily came across something much more to my liking. This is the kind of Winter seasonal I like seeing released. Keep the heavy spicing out of my beer and in the fruitcake.

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Photo of ilikebeer03
3.49/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. best by 11/05/15

A: pours a deep brown, almost black with a khaki head; about a half finger. good retention and lacing.

S: christmas-y spices are faintly present. cinnamon, nutmeg,

T: Christmas spices upfront, similar to the nose. cinnamon, nutmeg, a bit of roasted malt on the finish with a slight trace of alcohol burn.

M: medium carbonation, decent mouthfeel. nothing special.

O: a decent Christmas beer. The spices are not over the top at all.

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

Review from notes. Enjoyed by me on Christmas Day 2009. Poured from the 12 oz. bottle that my brother in law Steven brought back from Atlanta into my father in law's Ray's standard pint glass. Thanks Steven.

A Medium brown creamy head that dissipates to a thin layer within 2 minutes. Dark porter body with no light coming through. 4.0

S Dark fruits, medium roast malt, possibly some dark caramel or molasses. I really like the smell of this beer and it is apparent that it is a Winter Warmer with some balls. 4.0

T Dark fruit, molasses carries right over from the smell. The taste is probably less "sweet" than the smell suggested but this is a delicious porter like beer. 4.0

M Syrupy thickness is not extreme but it is certainly there. 4.0

D Good. I found the bottom of my pint rather quickly. 4.0

Notes: What a treat to try this limited, bottled beer from Sweetwater. Thanks again Steven!

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 Edition

A - Pours a deep brown with a thin brown head that leaves a slight topping of lace.

S - Malty some spicing (can't exactly place which ones) with a touch of chocolate.

T - Toasted malt with a slight taste of biscuit or baked bread, hint of chocolate with a mild earthy spice character.

M - Smooth and creamy with a medium body.

D - Tasty with more subtle flavor/spicing than other holiday beers I have had.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2006 Vintage
This was a total surprise. Definitely not your average winter warmer. I was sort of expecting the typical amber/brown/or red with some spice thrown in and a wintery label but this is an entirely drifferent brew.
Dark amber in the glass with a half finger loose head that melts quickly to a thin ring.
Aroma initially is alcohol with some toasted malt back.
Flavors are toasted amber malt with almost a smokey taste. Dark candied fruits like raisin and plum. Most prominent spice is nutmeg...yeah, definitely nutmeg. Alcohol and light citrus hops on the end that dry and clean the palette.
Alcohol in this one makes for a nice sipper...especially on this cold winter evening.
Thanks to barleywinebrewer for this wonderful winter warmer.

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Photo of rangerred
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours pitch black with a one finger light tan head that is quick to dissipate. Lacing is present but very light and short-lasting.

The aroma has a definite smoky note to it along with roasted malt, caramel, and molasses. There is just a slight tinge of metal but it is not really that distracting.

The flavor throws a lot more complexity into the mix. The smoked meat character is quite nice and is complimented nicely by molasses dark, almost burnt, caramel. Some spices start to become apparent as the beer warms with some nutmeg and cinnamon. Some dark bread undertones also make themselves known. Bitterness is just moderate but is enough to counteract the sweetness. The alcohol is completely hidden.

Overall, a nice winter warmer but for some reason, it just misses the mark for me. The aroma is really lacking and I wish the flavor had a bit more depth. Still it is a very good beer that I would get again during the holidays.

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

2005 version bottle # 3166 of 7200

Pours a deep brown almost black with a dense light tan head that falls slowly and leaves some lace around.

Aroma is loads of malt some sugary molasses mingled thru out. Some nice dark fruit figs plums and some light spice.

Taste is lots of malt, molasses mingled with fruit finishing with spice clove and nutmeg mainly. Nice flavor lots of sweetness boarding on cloying but not quite. Hints of chocolate and metalic flavors appear also.

Mouthfeel is big medium almost full lots of free sugars floating around nice feel lots of spice

Drinkability is good but due to cost wouldn't purchase on a regular basis as others are better and cheaper.

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Photo of shand
4.39/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sweetwater Festive Ale pours a brown color with a tiny mocha head. The aroma is very nice, it's chocolatey and full of holiday spices and a decent amount of hops. Ginger comes through strong on the taste, pairing well with the aroma and solid hop kick. The mouthfeel is on the heavy side of medium and with a bit of prickly carbonation leading to a smooth finish. The drinkability is very good. Overall, this is one of the best winter warmers I've had. Very tasty.

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