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Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
87
very good

629 Ratings
THE BROS
87
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 629
Reviews: 269
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 13.05%
Wants: 18
Gots: 72 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company visit their website
Georgia, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  8.60% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: purplehops on 11-14-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 629 | Reviews: 269 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Brent
4/5  rDev +4.4%
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.

Brent, Dec 08, 2002
Photo of warnerry
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%

warnerry, Dec 31, 2013
Photo of muskiesman
4/5  rDev +4.4%

muskiesman, Dec 10, 2012
Photo of AgentMunky
3.33/5  rDev -13.1%
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.

AgentMunky, Mar 02, 2011
Photo of merlin48
3.68/5  rDev -3.9%
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.

merlin48, Nov 19, 2005
Photo of Bung
4.22/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

Bung, Dec 24, 2009
Photo of msubulldog25
3.73/5  rDev -2.6%
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.

msubulldog25, Mar 22, 2012
Photo of birchstick
3.9/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

birchstick, Jul 12, 2012
Photo of lupercmda
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%

lupercmda, Dec 03, 2012
Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.22/5  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.

GCBrewingCo, May 20, 2005
Photo of Dope
3.84/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

Dope, Feb 21, 2013
Photo of Metalmonk
4.03/5  rDev +5.2%
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.

Metalmonk, Feb 28, 2011
Photo of Lovely85
4/5  rDev +4.4%

Lovely85, Jan 06, 2013
Photo of ADTaber
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%

ADTaber, Jun 23, 2013
Photo of Immortale25
4.11/5  rDev +7.3%
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.

Immortale25, Nov 07, 2013
Photo of ncstateplaya
3.5/5  rDev -8.6%

ncstateplaya, May 15, 2012
Photo of barczar
3.63/5  rDev -5.2%
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.

barczar, Dec 12, 2013
Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +4.4%
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.

BeerAdvocate, Jan 03, 2011
Photo of Chaney
3.28/5  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...

Chaney, Jun 22, 2011
Photo of Todd
3.6/5  rDev -6%
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.

Todd, Sep 07, 2005
Photo of Daniellobo
4/5  rDev +4.4%

Daniellobo, Nov 18, 2014
Photo of jsanford
3.68/5  rDev -3.9%
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!

jsanford, Dec 12, 2011
Photo of kmpitz2
4.35/5  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.

kmpitz2, Dec 07, 2004
Photo of Falcone
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%

Falcone, Dec 31, 2012
Photo of buckyp
5/5  rDev +30.5%

buckyp, Dec 10, 2011
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 629 ratings.