1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

698 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 698
Reviews: 282
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 12.79%
Wants: 25
Gots: 112 | 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: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Sweetwater Festive Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 698 | Reviews: 282 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of PhillyStyle
3.08/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served on-tap in a pint glass at Pub 71 (Atlanta, GA):

The beer appeared a deep brown with red hints around the edges when held up to light. It had a tan-ish color head, no retention, no lacing to speak of.

Not much of an aroma, slight malt, that was about it.

The taste is decent, a nice roasted malt taste, with some hints of something sweet and some other spices, none really to strong to mention.

Beer has medium to light body, carbonation level was decent. It was smooth and drinkability is average, I could have another or not. Leaves malty bitter aftertaste. I think the next time that I visited the establishment, I went with something else.

Photo of BDIMike
3.6/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark brown color when held to the light. There is a small tan head that leaves rings throughout the drink.
Smell is of slight dark plum fruits along with roasted malts and nutty smells.
Taste is of the dark fruit flavors and the roasted malts. There is also a tad bit of alcohol to the taste as well.
Mouthfeel is a bit thin for the style, but very smooth.
Drinkability is nice for a stronger beer. There is not a lot of strong tastes going on, so it makes it more of a session beer than a great, flavorful winter warmer.

Photo of gford217
3.53/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1L swingtop poured into a pint glass.

Pours a deep mahogany with hints of ruby around the edges. An aggressive pour produces a two-finger tan head that recedes to a very thin cap leaving some spotty lacing.

Aromas are pretty basic with lots of sweet caramel malts and dark, sweet fruits, apples and grapes maybe. I didn't get much in the way of spices in the aroma.

The taste is also extremely sweet, with sugary caramel malts and dark fruits. I thought I got some chocolate hints as well. The finish has a cola-like sweetness.

The mouthfeel is pretty light for the style with good carbonation but lacking the body I was hoping for.

This is a decent but not great beer from Sweetwater. Probably a bit one-dimensional for me, but I may sit on a bottle or two and see how it develops over time.

Photo of jas30060
4.07/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I had the 2007 brew, Its good stuff.
Frothy tan head, that leaves some nice lacing.

The scent is Kinda malty with a chocolate Undertone.

This beer is smooth and very drinkable. Its very well balanced. It has a soft feel on your tongue. The main flavor is strong caramelized malts with a light spice at the end. Nothing major in the hop department. A tasty all around good beer.

Photo of HeyItsChili
3.78/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - Poured from a 2008 Edition bottle into a pint glass. Pours dark brown with a medium/thin khaki head that slowly fades.

S - Toffee, dark fruits, spices

T - Spices at the onset, then roasted malts, brown sugar, slight alcohol tinge. Nutmeg finish.

M - Medium to thin bodied, not terribly impressive here.

D - Tasty, a little high on the nutmeg, but a nice ABV for a beer of its type.

Photo of Brad007
4.03/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown color with a two-finger head that fades, leaving some lacing.

Aroma is light with a hint of cinnamon and/or nutmeg in the nose. Seems enticing.

Taste is spicy upfront with just a bit of nutmeg followed by chewy malt and a bit of raisin.

Mouthfeel is very smooth and fluffy. Goes down with ease. A bit of nutmeg lingers at the back of the throat, followed by some alcohol warmth.

Strong and deceptively drinkable example of the style. The mouthfeel is nice and shows that this beer is not too carbonated. I could drink more than one of this.

Photo of bassmantin
3.25/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Please note, I am drinking this beer out of a bottle because I am at the ATL airport. But I still want to put my two cents in.

No comments on the appearance or smell. The taste is very full and thick. Lots of sticky sweet malts. Decently biting hops to give it some punch, but nothing extreme. Leaves a sticky taste in the back of you throat, which I do not particularly enjoy.

Overall, I would not have this one again. It's a little too much malt and hop and not enough delicate balance.

Photo of weeare138
4.25/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage bottle received in a trade from warriorsoul many moons ago.
Appears a dark brown, nearing black with deep crimson, & purple edges when held to the light. A fluffy, 2 finger light tan head slowly drops into a mild cap that seems to stick around for the entire duration. Scattered lacing sticks to the glass.
Smell is of molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, toasted nuts, caramel, and a touch of cocoa.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a lovely mix that seems to come together nicely in a lowly spicy yet somewhat sweet, molasses & caramel drizzled cashew flavor.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, spritzy, sweet, lip smacking, and nutty. The spicing is enticing enough to make an impression on the palate with just a touch of black grape in the finish.
This is a really good beer. If it was aged on oak, this would strike me as being similar to a nicely aged blend of Zinfandel & Shiraz grapes with a hint of peppery, cinnamon, & sandalwood in the finish.
I'm not sure if this was intended to be aged, or not but it found it's way to the miscellaneous section of the cellar shelves and sat there for a few years. Before I opened this, I just enjoyed a 2003 Anderson Valley Winter Solstice and I was loving it b/c it took on some sherry characteristics. This too was a nice follow up, as it had complex wine notes that I would actually rate higher than many wines.
Damn...I'm glad that I stumbled on this one tonight!

Photo of GPHarris
3.63/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage

a - poured a one finger thick light tan head into a goblet that left thin ring and sheet throughout. the head billows nicely. the body is a dark and deep reddish-brown.
s - dark and sour fruits with a hint of spice.
t - sour cherries with a dry chocolatey finish.
m - medium and bubbly.
d - good beer but the bomber was a beast to finish after my fiancee' didn't like it.

Photo of whiplash3825
3.92/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a VERY dark brown/black, opaque unless held up to the light, with a small tan head that dissipates quickly to a small lasting cap.

Dark fruits in the nose, sweet, with a hint of alcohol.

Tastes very malty... dark fruits, brown sugar, with a slight metallic in the background. Alcohol is there, but pretty well-hidden. I'm not tasting much in the way of spices?

Seems just a tad thin in the mouthfeel for the robust flavors.

Drinks pretty easy considering the higher ABV!

Photo of jraycee
3.67/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2008 12oz. Bottle
Pours a very dark brown almost black. Small khaki colored head that fades into a thick ring.
Smells of dark fruits, spices and roasted nuts.
Taste follows very similar as slight alcohol sits on top of big malt base complimented by spices and sweet dark fruits. Hops are hard to find, seems just a tinge of pine in the finish.
mouthfeel is very light and well carbonated for the style.
This could go great with a hearty meal. I probably won't get it again though, just not my style.

Photo of n00tz
3.98/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - A one centimeter deep, tight tan head floats atop a dark body with active carbonation. Laces a good halfway down the glass.

S - Nutty, spicy fruits, and sweetness.

T - Sweet cream and fig. Kind of a dried spicy flavor, somewhat roasted. Followed by a nutty and mild hop taste.

M - Thick body with a smooth landing. Hides the alcohol content flawlessly.

D - If the intent is to drink this in happy company around a warm fire complementing some mildly sweet desserts like a pumpkin pie, then this hits the spot perfectly. By far the best brew from Sweetwater I've ever had.

Photo of CrellMoset
3.97/5  rDev +3.7%
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.

Photo of bhalter8
4.3/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours extremely dark, close to a stout it appears. The mix of cloves, hops and malts make for nice mixed aroma. The taste this year is far better than last year (2007). Having had this many times over the years I am pleasantly surprised and impressed by this year's version. While distinct in flavor form the previously mentioned mix, it is very drinkable, especially considering the ABV%. Considering I have cellared many of the previous years' version, I especially look forward to seeing how this ages.

Photo of ectomorph
4.3/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - Pours jet black with a light hint of mahogany when held up to the light. Full finger tan head fades to rings at each sip.

S - Malty molasses and figs. No spice readily available. Surprised.

T - Chocolate, molasses, and nutmeg? Not nutmeg, what is that?? I love this beer. Very faint hop citrus in the back.

M - Medium to big body and rich feel. Nice.

D - Very high, you would never in life guess 8.6%

Photo of TerjUGA
4.82/5  rDev +25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A-dark almost amber tint when held to light. good tanned foamy head with medium bubbles.

S-smells of warm spices, reminds me of cold winter nights

T- Muy bien! You can definitely taste the spices hidden in the dark aroma of this fine festive ale. Hints of brown sugar tickle your taste buds as it flows. Gives a very warm feeling.

M-Very smooth, lightly carbonated

D-Good dinner beer, and definitely a beer that will be most enjoyed during the winter months. Also has active yeast so buy a couple of extra and save them for next winter.

Photo of cvstrickland
4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Red wax-dipped swing-top bottle is pretty much a pain in the ass to whittle open, but it looks pretty.

The drink pours a dark, dark ruby hue with a fat khaki head that retains well and leaves little gobs of lacing spattered about the glass.

Smell is a bit fruity with a toasty note and a bit of spice.

Taste is warm and friendly with a nice malt backbone. Caramel-covered plums and dark berries are dusted with a little allspice and a dash of fresh-ground nutmeg. Nice spicy finish.

The drink has a fullish-medium body and a nice creamy feel. Superb drinkability.

Photo of CWiggins
3.07/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I purchased this big-ass bottle (33.8oz) from Bruisin' Ales in Asheville around Christmas '08. (Sweetwater brews aren't available in the Durham area, but they can be found in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

It pours a very dark brown with a rich, thick, deep tan head that lasted for some time. Aromas of bright cherry, caramel, dark chocolate, and alcohol are noted. The flavor is bright indeed, with sweet, dark fruit dominating the front and middle of the profile. The finish is a bit hoppy, and a slight coffee essence lingers here and during the aftertaste. It's certainly more malty than I expected.

It's a nice beverage, although it's not like any winter warmer I've ever had. Very interesting and worth trying again.

Photo of dhd1491
4.08/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown and red, clear but almost opaque without backlighting. Tan head dies down rather quickly. Aroma is light and nutty with an alcohol punch. Taste is smoky and nutty, but rather more mild and less viscous than I thought it was going to be from the appearance. Low carbonation. Sweet caramelized maltiness and some buttery mouthfeel and quite easy to drink. All in all a pleasant unoffensive brew that dark beer lovers should enjoy if they're not looking for a thick-stout kind of darkness. Could definitely be enjoyed year-round...it's 85 outside and I'm lovin' it.

Photo of tpd975
3.92/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This one came via OskarsBamaBlues.

A: Pours a nice nutty brown hue with a thick foamy creamy head. The head dies down but some spider webbed lacing is left behind.

S: Nice malty aromas with hints of toffee, brown sugar and nutmeg.

T: Wow one of the better if not best Winter Warmers out there. I am uaually not a huge fan of the style but I am down to try anything. The taste is very much liked a kicked up brown ale. Tons of toffee and choclate with hints of brown sugar sweetness. There is a touch of tobacco and hazelnuts. The finish reveals a touch of spice. I can't put my finger on it, but it is a perfect additon to the beer.

M: Medium in body rich and creamy.

D: Very, this is probably the first winter warmer I could enjoy two bottles of.

Overall: As I stated I usually bash the style as they are often all over the place with spices clashing with one another. This brew is balanced. It is more about malty goodness. There is just a touch of spice (god I wish I knew what it was) that is a perfect addition to this brew. I am drinking this one on a 87 degree Tampa afternoon. It would have been even more enjoyable during a not so cold winter evening.

Overall: I like it. Would love to have a sixer to drink along with my xmas dinner.

Photo of HopDerek
3.97/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a brown color with 1+ inch of foamy tan head, ok retention and some lacing. Smells of toffee, maple sugar, chocolate, raisins, and alcohol. Taste consists of toffee, molasses, chocolate, bread, dark fruits, holiday spices, and citrus. Medium in body, low in carbonation, smooth. Sweet with a nice tart/citrus finish. Easy to drink, lots of good holiday spirit, really good winter warmer worth getting a bottle every year.

Photo of younger35
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received this brew from gpcollen1 after winning his Fantasy Football League. I enjoyed my first offering from Sweetwater so I look forward to this one. Drank from my Laughing Dog Brewing pint glass. 2007 release.

Appearance- Pours a dark brown with reddish highlights and a soft light tan head that slowly recedes leaving no cap and a thin collar that leaves a thin layer of lacing.
Smell- Lightly sweet and fruity with hints of dark cherries and peaches. There is a solid red licorice smell among the fresh and clean nose. Bready and sweet with some brown sugar hiding in the background and MAYBE even a bit of chocolate.
Taste- A bit of peppery spiciness from the start and that same fresh and fruity candy like sweetness that I found in the nose. Once the fruit fades (overwhelmingly I get peaches) a gently chocolate/coco body is present along with a nice soft nuttiness. If fruit and nuts sound weird as a description to how the beer tastes, it shouldn't, this is tasty. Lightly nutty aftertaste that is fairly dry.
Mouthfeel- Kind of a thin body with crisp aggressive carbonation, a big of warming from the alcohol and a dry finish.
Drinkability- Although I'm not the biggest fan of Winter Warmers (with exception of Jubelale) this one was pretty damn tasty. It's a bit different but in a fantastic way. Very unique and honestly the more it warms and the more I drink it, the more I like it. Sweetwater is a really solid brewery and I can't wait to try more! Big thanks to Heath!

Photo of Sammy
3.92/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle #648 brought out at the brewpub in Atlanta.This ws brewed for x-mas, a little spicy, got some cinammon,orange peel, was it bolder before? Dark colour with a head and lacing. Medium mouthfeel, low carbonation.Complex and very respectable winter warmer.

Photo of tayner
3.71/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle 2007

poured dark mahogany into my warsteiner glass. a 1 inch head dissipated to a full ring but not much lacing.

Smells less spicy than i was expecting from a winter warmer, which is good since i am sitting here with my front door open and it is sunny and 68 outside! has hints of roasted malts, fresh cigar tobacco smell as well.

Taste is like a rich brown ale more than what i would consider a "winter warmer". It has all the roasted malts you could want for a brown ale along with enough spicy hops to dry the palate and make you want more.

The mouthfeel is right on for a brown ale, if not just a tad heavy which would suit the winter warmer profile. a little sticky feeling as well. warms on the way down but 8.6 is not what i thought this was, more like 6% in my head.

I could drink this one alot if it was around here and colder outside for more than a month a year. i am happy to have tried it, and hope to try it again next year too.

Photo of joe1510
4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
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.

Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 698 ratings.