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Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
86
very good
293 Reviews
BEER STATS
Reviews:
293
Ratings:
781
Avg:
3.82
pDev:
20.42%
 
 
Wants:
32
Gots:
162
For Trade:
1
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company
Georgia, United States | website

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.70%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
A strong ale brewed with generous amounts of rich malt, coupled with a taint of cinnamon and mace

Added by purplehops on 11-14-2002

User Reviews
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Reviews: 293 | Ratings: 781
Photo of unclejimbay
3.04/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Scott for this 2010 Holiday gift to the JamMin Shack!

Dark coffee in color with respectable head and cap.
Strange aroma. Spicy, Jagermeister?, liquor? Licorice? Mace? Medicinal? Strange indeed, unpleasant but unique.
Tastes like a dark winter warmer, porter like with a dash of spice and cinnamon/pepper heat.
Medium body and body, spicy finish.

Tastes better as you warm up to it, just not my type of beer.
Share-able? Yes
Will I ever buy it? Nope.

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Photo of pwoods
3.67/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I believe this was an extra from Exiled. Thanks!

12oz. brown bottle poured into an imperial pint.

A: Pours a very dark brown that barely lets any ruby through. Not much of a head on the pour with no retention and just a wisp of lacing.

S: Nice malty aroma mixed with just a touch of mellowed alcohol. Strong raisin aroma and a light hint of diacetyl, which I'm not sure if it's appropriate in this style but it's not off putting. Plenty of residual sweetness.

T/M: Nice caramel and toffee flavors. Light nuttiness. More of the diacetyl that's fortified with the residual sweetness. Some spiced cookie flavors. Alcohol is lightly present but tasty and complex. Body is medium full to full with mellow carbonation.

D: Tasty brew but drinkability is limited with the residual sweetness and there might be a bit of a flaw in there with the diacetyl.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 welldigger888
3.93/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

poured from growler into an irish pint glass. Nice thick off white head with excellant lacing down glass,nice deep copper ruby colored elixer.
A festive spicey malt breadiness in aroma for me.
Sweet bready spiced flavors with just enough of a kiss of hops to round out.
I am pleased with the creamy smooth mouth on this brew!
Until the abv catches you this is highly drinkable!

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Photo of Thur123
3.86/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark ruby brown with a finger and half of lout khaki head that settles slowly. The smell is faint, likely due to beig on tap but it smells malty with a winter Spice edge, cinnamon and nutmeg taking charge here.

Glug glug glug. 

The flavor is spicy with a nice malty sweetness balancing the spice at the end. The spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander I believe too. The malt is complex and reminds me of a heavy brown ale. Drinkability is where this excels compared to it's bottled brethren. The mouthfeel too is smooth and creamy. 

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Photo of JayS2629
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- This reminds me of a coca-cola from its color, carbonation and head. Almost black, but reddish tinges when held to the light. Very opaque. The tan head is medium but quickly recedes to a thin ring in the edge of the glass. Sea foam lace.

S- Spices up front. Cinnomon, mace, and allspice. Hints of dark fruits, and dark chocolate. Faint whiffs of dark cherry

T- Follows the nose. Dark fruits like plum and cherry in the front, notes of chocolate and coffee with nice tinges of cinnomon and mace.

M- This is where it got weird. It was like drinking a porter or stout before, but now we are thin and carbonated. Watery with a small amount of cream.

D- Very flavorful and complex. I would give it a higher rating if it were not for how thin it is. Easy to drink.

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Photo of Pencible
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
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 phideltashaggy
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
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 pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Glad to see that Sweetwater is offering more of their beers in sixpacks!
med full body, frothy mouthfeel, good carbonation.
Nice roasted malt presence upfront with a hint of spices.
Fair milk chocolate presence throughout with a hint of caramel. Finishes with a lingering spiced note and hint of raisins.
Great example of the style; one of the few winter warmers I have ever liked.
Drinkability was quite good with this one; I had two.

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Photo of jnn4v
4.08/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Very dark brow color. Relatively translucent - not quite opaque. No head, sediment or haze.

S: Floral scents, oak, vanilla, tea, raisins, molasses, and figs.

T: Molasses, toffee, fig leaves, copper, sour yeast,

M: Reasonable mouthfeel. Decent texture with moderate carbonation.

D: Not bad for the drinkability. ABV and body and texture all were not bad for the genre. No complaints here from me or my fellow tasting companions.

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Photo of taylocd
3.79/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Poured from tap at Stats Sports Bar in Atlanta, GA on 12/4/2010. Notes emailed to self via mobile phone.

A - medium brown with mocha colored head and thin lacing that lasted throughout the beer.

S - sweet aroma with hints of alcohol

T - roasted nut flavor

M - semi-sticky texture with low carbonation

D - texture and flavor make for an easy drinker

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Photo of bucklemyshoe
4.12/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Notes from 11/30/2010:

12 oz. bottle at 42* into a damn frozen pint glass (I hate when bars do this).

A: This pours a nearly black color that is not quite opaque and sports a half-finger of head with decent retention and lacing.

S: The nose shows aromas of dark fruits, brandy, nutty toffee, medium roast coffee, and a hint of smoke.

T: It features bold flavors of coffee, brandy-soaked plums and figs, roasted nuts, and some charred toffee.

M: The body is much thinner than expected and actual provides for a distraction from the great flavors.

D: This is not the typical Winter Warmer as it tastes and drinks more like a strong porter/dubble mix.

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Photo of harpus
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 jbone78
3.53/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is the 2010. Poured dark brown, let's say mahogany with nice little frothy head. Smells of dates, dust and malt. Taste is a bit overwhelmed with cloves, but has a toasty nice malty backone. This one is growing on me, but I liked the '09 better.

-Bye

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Photo of JBIII
2.9/5  rDev -24.1%
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 PDXHops
2.67/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12 oz bottle poured into a La Chouffe tulip. Cola brown body with a wisp of a head that quickly shrinks to a ring of bubbles and a patchy skim of foam. Spots of lacing here and there.

Aromas at first seem to be limited to nutty malts with a hint of cocoa. As it warms, a tangy dark fruit presence comes into play. Plenty of fruity flavor as well; not quite puckering, but on the verge of sour. Tart orange and grape in particular are notable. These and a fairly potent citric bitterness team up to drown out any of the rich 'winter warmer' qualities that appear to be lingering underneath. Burnt brown sugar sweetness doesn't seem to mesh with anything. Light notes of cocoa and toffee fight through the tanginess, but are swatted down.

Overall impression: Sweetwater is perhaps my favorite regional brewery, but this is an awkward-tasting brew that misses the mark. Can't recommend this one.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.68/5  rDev -3.7%
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 KrisPaulk77
3.8/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this at the Sweetwater pub in the Atlanta airport.
The beer poured what looked like a dark black stout, but upon closer examination, was actually a deep, dark brown with a decent head of creamy tan foam. Decent lacing noted.
The aroma was nice and roasty, with hints of spice, some nutty tones, and toffee. A touch of cinnamon, a wisp of smoke, and rich coffee flavors.
The flavor followed suit with the taste. Rich and flavorful, with a dominant roasted coffee flavor, sweet dark malts, underlying spice, nutty toffee, with a smooth coffee finish. Just enough bitterness to cut through the sweetness.
Nice body to the beer with decent carbonation. A sipper for sure, and would be enjoyed on a cold night, sitting next to a fire.
Quite an enjoyable beer from Sweetwater. If I come across this in my travels again, I won't hesitate to have it again.

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Photo of cgarcer
4.8/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Drinking this beer from a bottle poured into a pint glass.
Small head with little lacing.
Dark, coffee appearance.
Taste of spice, nuts, coffee.
This is a very drinkable beer that warms you from the inside. Drinkability is easy, and the alcohol content makes you feel festive.
Definitely give this one a shot.

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Photo of thedoubler55
4.05/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- JET BLACK, very dark beer beauty at first sight!

S- Some caramel with vanilla, very good smelling beer.

T- Taste of nuts and chocolates, with some french vanilla coffee aftertaste.

M- A great beer to drink, definitely recommend for beer lovers.

D- Amazing flavor, a beer I will always love to have especially in the colder months of the year!

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Photo of Tifore
3.77/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Grant (gford217) for this bottle. Poured from the bottle into a tumbler.

A - Pours a dark brown almost black liquid that is clear as it pours. Develops a very small light tan head but dissapates very quickly and leaves nothing except little bubbles rising to the sides of the glass.

S - Smells very strong of cinnamon and syrup. Really sweet and spicy. I feel like I should be bundled up next to a fire. Definitely smells like a winter warmer.

T - First taste brings lots of cinnamon to the tounge, maybe some clove and allspice? Lots of fall spices. Sweet notes and slight booze come after and finish out the taste.

M - Mouthfeel is syrupy and heavy. Medium on the carbonation and definitely warming.

D - I like this beer. A six pack would be in my fridge for sure if I could buy Sweetwater in Ohio. A few of these and I'd be set for a cold night and sleep great all night long.

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Photo of WoodenNickelPub
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into an 18oz pint this beer was dark brown to almost black with a decent head that didn't hang around for too long. Smelled of roasted malts and barley and ?cinnamon? or ?cloves? Tasted like winter to me..those smells translated nicely into tastes and for being 8.6% you can't really taste the alcohol, but it does catch up to you quick. Mouthfeel was kind of silky with light carbonation, very appealing. Drinkability was, like I said, probably not to many in a sitting, especially if I have to drive. 1 1/2 made my knees weak.

All in all very good beer. I'd never had this before but will definitely buy one when I see it after mine is gone.

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Photo of nickthegun12
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

this beer is jet black with a little head

it smells of spices, maybe cinnamon and some other spices and dark malts

the taste is different from the smell...malty and not much of a warming character from the alcohol

not dry, not creamy but a full mouthfeel...and pretty decent lacing

the drinkability would be better if it weren't so high percentage of alcohol

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Photo of chinchill
3.51/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

served in a pint glass at the brewery in 2010. I last had this beer 2-3 years ago and remember a less bold and unusual but more drinkable product; reformulated?

A - opaque; black with brown highlights and tan head

S - roasted malt and spices. Nutmeg(?), cinnamon & ??? (later discovered they use mace). I might guess this was a Belgian beer in a blind test.

T - roasted and slighty burnt malts; the burnt flavoring is undesirable. Spices: nutmeg and mace. High alcohol (8.6%) is somewhat hidden but detectable.

D - one and done

(Slight revision with aged bottle served Feb. 2014)

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Photo of charlottebeer
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
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 293 ratings.