1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

600 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 600
Reviews: 268
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 13.02%
Wants: 15
Gots: 59 | 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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Sweetwater Festive Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 600 | Reviews: 268 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of GRG1313
3.5/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dated 2009 and tasted and reviewed March 2011.

Pours black with light tan head that quickly fades.

Nose is sweet stone fruit and light coffee. Hint of some spice.

Mouthfeel is thin but bright.

Flavors are all sweet coffee/carmel/toffee with a bright almost citric character and a candy sweet undertone. A sweet porter character or an aged Belgian character dominate. Finish is rich coffee bitter and light espresso. There is a light oxidized character that is apparent but not offensive.

Beer should be consumed now and likely not aged further in my opinion.

GRG1313, Mar 05, 2011
Photo of AgentMunky
3.33/5  rDev -13.3%
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 Metalmonk
4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
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 wisrarebeer
4.2/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 Version in a 750ml bottle.

A: deep mahogany color, very pretty
S: incredibly different nose, when I read the label and noticed the beer was spiced I was disappointed but the nose is chewy, treacle and hints of barrel aging although the beer isn't, some cinnamon noticeable also
T: somewhat thing for ABV but very nice roasted malt and spice hints, not overpowering with hops, nice roasted malt
M: thinner for color and ABV but good
D: very drinkable despite ABV

wisrarebeer, Feb 26, 2011
Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: this is a beautifully colored beer, with ruby, cranberry hues in the light, transforms to a menacing black as soon as taken away. just about a full fingers worth of tan head, quickly dissipates.
S: not very potent, definitely mild accents of milk chocolate, maybe a little bit of nutmeg or cinnamon.. cant discern a whole lot else individually. even though its not in your face, it is certainly pleasant.
T: here we go, this is tasty. again none of the flavors that im getting are huge like some overly spiced winter beers, theyre just right. nice maltiness, some of those well balanced spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a fruitiness that pulls ahead of the little bit of chocolate. this is probably one of the better winter beers ive had this year.
M: the decent hop presence plus the carbonatio level bring this one alive on the palate. its not overly heavy, and i enjoy how the spices stick to the top of my tongue well after ive had my share.
D: enjoying this one all the way through. goes down so easily on this cold snowy winter night.

Kkottonmouthkngz, Feb 01, 2011
Photo of aepb1
3.53/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- Dark brown with red at the edges with a small light tan head

S- Dark roasted malts, chocolate and some coffee

T- Dark fruits, roasted maltiness, coffee and chocolate. Nice complexity

M- Medium body but kind of watery finish. Creamy body with the carbonation

D- Nice complexity but the mouthfeel is off

aepb1, Jan 19, 2011
Photo of Meerkey
3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Rich mahogany, with a touch of red; lasting off-white head.

S: Sweet and spicy -cinnamon, fruity, chocolate.

T: Sweet and fruity, spicy, chocolate, nuts, cake-like.

M: Carbonated and pretty smooth.

D: Pretty good, but doesn't excite me all that much.

Meerkey, Jan 19, 2011
Photo of unclejimbay
3.1/5  rDev -19.3%
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.

unclejimbay, Jan 13, 2011
Photo of pwoods
3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

pwoods, Jan 11, 2011
Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +4.2%
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 welldigger888
3.95/5  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!

welldigger888, Dec 26, 2010
Photo of Thur123
3.9/5  rDev +1.6%
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. 

Thur123, Dec 26, 2010
Photo of JayS2629
4.18/5  rDev +8.9%
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.

JayS2629, Dec 25, 2010
Photo of Pencible
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

Pencible, Dec 21, 2010
Photo of phideltashaggy
4.18/5  rDev +8.9%
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.

phideltashaggy, Dec 20, 2010
Photo of pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +8.9%
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.

pixieskid, Dec 19, 2010
Photo of jnn4v
4.08/5  rDev +6.3%
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.

jnn4v, Dec 19, 2010
Photo of taylocd
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
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

taylocd, Dec 14, 2010
Photo of bucklemyshoe
4.15/5  rDev +8.1%
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.

bucklemyshoe, Dec 12, 2010
Photo of harpus
4/5  rDev +4.2%
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.

harpus, Dec 09, 2010
Photo of jbone78
3.53/5  rDev -8.1%
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

jbone78, Dec 08, 2010
Photo of JBIII
2.9/5  rDev -24.5%
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.

JBIII, Dec 04, 2010
Photo of PDXHops
2.65/5  rDev -31%
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.

PDXHops, Nov 26, 2010
Photo of ArrogantB
3.68/5  rDev -4.2%
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.

ArrogantB, Nov 25, 2010
Photo of KrisPaulk77
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
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.

KrisPaulk77, Nov 25, 2010
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 600 ratings.