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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

280 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 280
Hads: 715
Avg: 3.82
pDev: 20.42%
Wants: 26
Gots: 124 | FT: 2
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: 280 | Hads: 715
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.


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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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Photo of jlindros
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this, my first beer from SweetWater, thanks again to vicanncam. This beer should work well on a nice cold autumn night. 2009 vintage.

A very light fizzy head covering sort of forms, but not much, and fades almost instantly. The beer is a very dark molasses coffee brown color with almost no light getting through.

The nose brings some dark malts, a little creamy malt and plenty of dark crystal, as well as some roasted malt, a little coffee and toffee, and hint of chocolate. Then there is also some sugar additions, a little syrupy molasses, and a little caramel, and just plain candy. A light boozy quality too. Ever so slight hints of a mild herbal earthy hop. Something else too I can't really single out yet, something like a hazelnut or spice.

The taste is very rich and somewhat creamy. It brings a lot more dark malts, plenty of dark crystal, little roast, very light chocolate, etc. Then some syrupy sugars, a little molasses again, toffee, brown sugar, little candi sugar, and just pure candy flavor. Some light darker fruits, a little fig. A very light coffee flavor. Some warming and tingly booze too. Pretty rich and creamy, perhaps a little oatmeal in this too. A slight hint of that hazelnut spice like flavor, that is very hard to ascertain, but it's there somewhere. It finishes with a lingering sweet syrupy flavor, more syrups almost like that coffee syrupy I used to put in my milk when I was a kid. More molasses and a little candy flavor. It does dry though, just sticks to the mouth. A slight earthy mild grassy hop flavor with little bitterness comes through more as the sweetness and rich malts die down.

The mouth is very rich and creamy, even a little fatty, and decent carbonation.

The drinkability is so-so, with lots of thick syrupy flavors, sticking all over the mouth, and some tingly and warming booze, but not too much.

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Photo of olympuszymurgus
2.86/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured into a discraft great lakes open mug. Dark, nice head, aroma is spicey, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, allspice, hint of vanilla and fruit.

Flavor taste a bit too much like cheap pumpkin pie, too much spice and kinda sweet. It's not doing it for me, maybe some extra roast and I would be happier. There is a lot of good, just seems to be missing a few key components.

I would like to try next years festive fresh, maybe the 6 months did not do this one well.

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Photo of billab914
3.79/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into my Dogfish shaped pint glass. Poured dark brown in color with some scattered carbonation bubbles trying to make up a thin head. Almost looks like a cola when first poured. The bubbles disappeared after a few minutes and no traces of carbonation remained. Not a hint of lacing either.

The aroma is sweet and malty with some dark fruit and cocoa flavors to it. It has a little spice coming through but it's more focused around the chocolaty, cocoa and sweet malt flavors.

The taste shows a lot of the chocolaty and cocoa flavors that the nose suggested. It has a bit of spice and pepper coming through in the finish, but it's pretty light.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and carbonation is below average. Drinkability is pretty good, I liked more then I expected I would. I usually see winter beers and think they will be all spice but this one was a nice change. It had some nice chocolaty flavors to it that I enjoyed.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage courtesy of BeerTruth, thanks Adam...awesome extra! 12 oz bottle pours a dark brown color with crimson highlights and a fluffy, tan foam. Not overly great retention and not much lacing.

Nose is pretty interesting with cocoa maltiness leading the way. There is at least some hints of many different smells...currants, chocolate, cinnamon, habanero peppers and even a touch of soy sauce. Odd mix of scents, but pretty pleasant overall.

Sweetwater did a pretty good job with this one. Has elements of both a winter warmer and a stout. Rich, somewhat sweet and roasty malts lead the way with some dark fruits and bready yeast along for the ride. I would be surprised if some spices were not used in this beer, I get a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in here. Maybe even a clove-ish flavor that is not quite like a hefeweizen clove flavor. While the ABV is hidden well, there still is a detectable amount of alcohol in the taste, which helps add to the complexity of the beer. I am enjoying this beer quite a bit, would love to be able to get my paws on this every year during the holiday season.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
4.47/5  rDev +17%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Really dark. A lot darker than I expected. Smallish off white head disappears very quickly., thus no lacing.

S- Very sweet smelling. Lots of dark fruits. Cherries, plums etc. Chocolate, spices and yeast.

T- Cherries, oak, vanilla, caramel. This is very good.

M- Full, velvety, smooth and low carbonation.

D- Very smooth and drinkable. This is my favorite winter warmer Ive had.

This is beer #6 from the blind beers BIF. Sent to me by MMAJYK Reviewed totally blind.

This one here is really throwing me. Im initially thinking its some sort of brown ale. It pours a weird murky brown with greenish highlights. The head fades before I can even make much note of it. The beer sits in my glass really murky and chill hazed looking. Weird.

Smell is loaded up with raisins like crazy. Also some cinnamon maybe? Its like a cinnamon raisin bagel sometimes. Lots and lots of sweet toffee/caramel. Im getting lots of root beer also, like a root beer float. Yeast brings out lots of dark fruits, its very Belgian. From here Im wondering if this is Raison D'etre. Ive never had it and Im not sure if my notes are matching up with other reviews of D'etre.

Lots more raisins and Belgian fruity yeast. What ever this is Im pretty sure its some type of Belgian dark ale with raisins added. It starts out full of raisins, toffee and dark fruits, cherries but then the taste kinda just abruptly stops. This is another spot where my notes dont match up to Raison D'etre so Im thinking this is something else.

Feel is not quite full, semi dry with a carbonation that loses strength quickly.

Such a surprise to see that its an '07 Festive Ale. I was thinking it was a Belgian the whole time!

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Photo of AlFromBayShore
3.59/5  rDev -6%
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 Jayli
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 bamadog
3.83/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review is from notes taken on 2/10/10. Bottles is from 2009 and was poured into a pint glass.

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 mklinger
4.27/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Dogfish Head snifter. It pours an extra deep brown that was almost black. A thin 1/2 finger mocha colored head formed. A nice looking rich brown ale.

Aroma is all full of alcohol and Christmas fruitcake smells. Lots and lots of dark, dried fruits -- raisins, plums, figs, etc with a hint of chocolate. Really rich complex aromas. Like a big old figgy rumball. I really like the aroma. Minimally hops but quite nice.

To me, this tastes like a good Belgian quadruple would taste like if it were fermented with a clean American yeast instead of Belgian Trappist yeast. So it doesn't have the spicy complexity of a Abbey ale, but it has a similar complex malty flavor. There's a bit more chocolate in the flavor than the aroma, and without the complex yeast character, it comes across as a bit more one-dimensional than a Trappist ale, but it's still a very solid, strong Christmas ale.

Very full rich mouthfeel. Nice carbonation in the mouth. Very enjoyable. Out of the 6 or 7 Xmas ales I've had each of the last couple years, this has been probably my favorite. Really nice, easy to drink beer.

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Photo of beer2day
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours very dark brown with a thin 1 and 1/2 finger head. No retention. Laces well enough.

Nose is very dark, dank, and musky. Very deep fruit tones. Earthy, peaty malt notes with overlays of cherries and plums.

Very thick hit. Very little taste in that initial hit, but quickly turns sweet with overripe cherries and plums. Nice when the taste matches the aroma. More tart than bitter in the finish, as to be expected. If you like fruit in your warmer, then this is a good one.

Feel is very thick and heavy, maybe even too much so. And I like thick beers.

As good as this one is, one 12oz bottle is plenty. For the style, though, that's fine. I've bought the flip top liters before and that is just way too much of a beer this heavy for us.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.33/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

33.8oz. waxed fliptop bottle shared by Thirstybird and served in my Allagash 25cl chalice. 2006 vintage. Poured the color of cola with some highlights around the base - half inch off-white head quickly dissipates into nothing. Nose is a little sour, malty and some booze. Taste is malty, roasty, watery and sour dark fruit (plums, prunes, raisins). Mouthfeel is medium-light with an even background effervescence. Something was a little off on this one - definitely some oxidation here. I'd have to say that this beer was a little beyond its prime.

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Photo of tigg924
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 cpetrone84
3.52/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-pours a deep brown with hues of red, a thin finger of off white head that dissipates quickly and leaves nothing on the glass

S-light aroma of cinnamon spice, smoe floral hops and a touch of sweet ciitrus

T-light taste of sweet cinnamon, touch of pepper, hint of vanilla, some caramel malts come in next with a light roasted character that finishes with a dark fruits and a hint of citrus hops

M-solid body, full on medium, very smooth with a fair amount of carbonation

D-not a huge fan of winter ales and the spices associated. impartial rating as the flavors are decent and well related to the style. they aren't huge and i've had better winter's.

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 280 ratings.