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Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

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

280 Reviews
THE BROS
85
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 280
Hads: 713
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 11.23%
Wants: 26
Gots: 122 | 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
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Reviews: 280 | Hads: 713
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. (540 characters)

Photo of cgarcer
4.8/5  rDev +25.3%
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. (311 characters)

Photo of kdawg105
4.76/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing beer! I love Christmas time when all the great seasonal brews come around. Anyway this beer is very inviting when poured into a glass it looks almost exactly like a coke, the smell was a bit fainter than I expected but this beer has awesome taste it all the Malts are so balanced. It has nice light fluffy mouthfeel very warming for real this is a excellent winter ale if you can get on please do! THE REAL CATCH is the beer is so smooth you don't realize how easy it is to drink and be surprised by the warmth!!! (521 characters)

Photo of GreenMachine
4.61/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I was actually surprised by this beer. Was never really a SW fan, but the second I poured this winter warmer I could smell the figs and coco. The taste is exactly how it smells, rich and creamy. Definitely hides the ABV well. Small hints of spices thrown in, but not over powering. Will add this to my list of chilly weather beers to pick up! (342 characters)

Photo of mikecharley
4.59/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Track1646 for bringing this to our tasting yesterday. This bottle is a 2005 vintage.

Pours a dark brown. Spotty lacing. The head is spotty on top of the surface in my huge brandy snifter.

This is by far the best smelling brew I have ever had... I smelled it for the first time, and had two comments immediatly. First was: "This is a five" Next came "This smells like Thanksgiving dinner". Both are very very true. It was the easiest rate I have ever done on a particular attribute of any beer. Amazing nose. I got cloves, raisin, nutmeg, spicy, potpouri, pumpkin pie spice. Amazing! Let it warm, and it just gets better.

The flavor is in the nose, but is a bit more subtle. Lots of spice, with some very small hints of some faded grassy hops in the background. Some sweet malts. Really good beer. This might be one of the best beers I have EVER had. Great (871 characters)

Photo of uscgsc22
4.58/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

It's in my top 10 beers and is a must try beer. It's alot like Sweet water 'Happy ending"

Try this it is worth the price.

Pro about the beer it ranges $11 to $12 for a 6 pack.

Con it's only out once a year.

Sweet Water Brewing Company!!! (241 characters)

Photo of sideshowrob
4.48/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Large Bomber-sized bottle. Grolsch-style swingtop covered in thick, red wax. Wax was rather difficult to remove gracefully, but well worth the effort. Brew was much darker than I was expecting, a nice almost-black color. Very little head. Nice aroma on this one. Hint of cardamom spice, reminiscent of an Anchor X-mas brew. Taste was unexpected, there was a stong smoke flavor to the brew, not unlike a good rausch style. The smokey flavor was distinct, not unlike maple bacon. The hops offset the strong malt note, resulting in an enjoyable experience. The bottle was numbered to indicate that only 7200 bottles of this sucker are avaible, so grab one while you can. I had number 3499. (686 characters)

Photo of grub
4.47/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

christmas tasting hosted by biegaman on dec 15/07. i contributed this one, which i got from purplehops as part of BC2. huge thanks stan!

giant 1L swingtop topped with red wax. 2004 vintage, bottle 3042 of 5800.

pours dark brown with a fluffy fine tan head. the head drops fairly quick but leaves lots of lace.

aroma is great. bittersweet and dark chocolate. caramel and toffee. light alcohol. almond and cashew. bit of hazelnut.

taste is great. dark and milk chocolate. big caramel and toffee. great nuttyness - almond, hazelnut, cashew. light alcohol. bit of coffee. dominated by chocolate and nut, but in a good way. big bready malt.

mouthfeel is great. medium carbonation level. medium large body. smooth as silk.

drinkability is excellent. well balanced. great big caramel+chocolate+nut combo that i'm really enjoying. this is one fine beer! (851 characters)

Photo of mattsdenney
4.47/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a NB globe glass. Good looking bottle too.

A: Pours a dark reddish brown. Clear with a one finger brown head. Head dissipates relatively quickly with no lacing. Looking like a good cold weather beer so far.

S: Warm alcohol, spices, and malts. Hints of chocolate and sweet toffee.

T: Malty and boozy with a great spice, particularly cinnamon and nutmeg. Follows with chocolate and hints of coffee. Aftertaste reveals a light amount of hops that balances nicely.

M: Thick and frothy with light carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel that really compliments the taste and overall feel.

O: IMO it's hard to find a true winter warmer. Many that receive that label don't include the characteristics that I typically want. This beer has them all. Perfect cold weather Christmas beer. (806 characters)

Photo of MbpBugeye
4.47/5  rDev +16.7%
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.
___

7/19/10
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! (1,693 characters)

Photo of StevieW
4.45/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle. Silver label with a big catfish jumping. "Festive Ale" block letters in green under the fish.

Deep and shiny black color, ruby hints. Foamy beige head, bubbles, then leaves a small lace down the glass. Color fades to a darker brown with ruby undertones as the beer sits.

Smell is a wonderful seasonal combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate. Taste blends into a nice combination of the mentioned flavors. The nutmeg and cinnamon are very subtle, way in the background, but a positive presence. Medium sweet creamy chocolate malt then rides to the finish. A quick hop snap, leaves your palate dry and ready for another sip. The chocolate malt, medium carbonated, and full body make for a slightly sweet, yet, very balanced seasonal. Slight bitterness, but in no way stout like roasted flavors, instead very smooth, but noticable. Chocolate and cinnamon linger.

This seasonal is in the same class as the Anchor OSA. A rich hearty full flavored ale. Very flavorful, and noticable warming alcohol prescence. I am really impressed with this one, wish I had more. Cheers to Aracauna for the trade and bringing this one to our attention. (1,163 characters)

Photo of raoulduke25
4.42/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked up a six-pack of this at the grocery store. By the time I got to drinking it, it had warmed to a pleasant 45-50°F.

The beer is very dark, but if you shine a light through it, you can see the amber hue around the edges. After pouring, a nice bubbly (non-foamy) head appeared, but didn't last long.

The smell is enough to let you know that this is something special. Hints of spices and smooth fragrances all around.

Once the head had dissipated, I gave a small taste. It was full-bodied, but not overwhelming. In fact, the taste was highlighted by its subtlety: nothing lacking, yet each sip feels like you're getting just enough.

The mouthfeel was surprisingly non-viscous. I would say "watery" but that's clearly not the word. If you are expecting something like a cream stout or a frothy syrup, that's not what this is at all. It is a dark ale that hangs in your mouth like water.

Overall, the marks on this beer are high. The taste and smell are nothing short of heavenly. I would have preferred a heavier feel, but nothing to complain about with this one. (1,074 characters)

Photo of shand
4.39/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sweetwater Festive Ale pours a brown color with a tiny mocha head. The aroma is very nice, it's chocolatey and full of holiday spices and a decent amount of hops. Ginger comes through strong on the taste, pairing well with the aroma and solid hop kick. The mouthfeel is on the heavy side of medium and with a bit of prickly carbonation leading to a smooth finish. The drinkability is very good. Overall, this is one of the best winter warmers I've had. Very tasty. (464 characters)

Photo of vtisme
4.38/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served from a bottle into a snifter
A - very dark amber, light just barely can get through it
S - chocolate, maybe some syrup
T - bitter chocolate, indistinguishable fruitiness comes through in the end and aftertaste
M - thinner than what I thought I would be getting
O - this is a great beer! (293 characters)

Photo of boudreaux
4.37/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass; dark khaki-colored head, which dissipates quickly; very little lacing.

Nose: Rich, full bodied, distinctly malty; noticeable spices, with strong essence of clove and cocoa.

Taste: Creamy mouth-feel; noticeable but not overwhelming maltiness; mooth, pleasant after-taste; rich, dark malt and smoke flavors linger on the tongue.

Drinkability: Impressed by this seasonal offering from Sweetwater Brewing; solid offering from a company which is a steady performer in the craft brewing segment; rich taste is a departure from other Sweetwater beers that I have tasted; recommend this ale to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer.

Serving type: bottle (698 characters)

Photo of HardTarget
4.37/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 12 oz. brown bottle states it’s a Holiday beer, and has the year (2006), nothing else.

Aroma: Yep, that’s a holiday beer! Great clove, nutmeg aroma in a dark malt base.

Appearance: Dark black with thick ruby brown edges. Sports a solid collar but fails to lace.

Flavor: That’s nice! Lightly plumed malt base supports the spices, again, nutmeg and clove are my guesses (website lists cinnamon and mace), and results in a very balanced, complex taste. Some mild coffee/chocolate flavor is noted. It seems to be a good English Brown Ale spiced for the holidays. Notably absent from the flavor: hops and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium low carbonation, dry.

Overall Impression: Easy drinking, dangerous in it’s close to 9% abv. Felt the alcohol long before I tasted it. This beer is expertly assembled to let every aspect shine. Spices are firm, but not overdone. Malt and subdued hop blend into a well matched pair. My first Sweetwater, I plan on not letting it be my last!
Thanks to Mark for the trade! (1,043 characters)

Photo of doubleipa
4.35/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just picked up the 2005 rendition of this wonderful seasonal.
This beer had a slight toasted aroma mixed with nutmeg and clove with a hint of coriander. There was virtually zero head. I could just get the head to cover the surface, but it disappeared instantly. The body was a clear black.brown. Initial flavor was midly sweet that finished long. Body was medium to full with a syrupy texture. Virtually no carbonation. The finish was only slightly alcoholic. Surpisingly little for a 8.9% beer. Seems to taste a little less spicy than last year's model. (555 characters)

Photo of WetCoaster
4.35/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Well, this was supposed to be my 200th review, but I guess my math was a wee bit off. That's what you get for drinking, I suppose. At any rate, a gift from my good friend Tim F. in Hotlanta, GA. Much love for this super-rare (in San Fran, anyway) right coast gift. #176 of 7200, no less.

Appearance: Pour from a 33 oz. waxed and Ball jar-corked bottle (seriously guys, WTF?!) a deep, warm caramel with a tan, almost brown, head. Light, fizzy head head with moderate retention.

Smell: Very dense and sweet. Lots of vanilla and cola; the beer version of cream soda, if you will.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Fantastic -- probably the best winter warmer I've sampled. Dark chocolate malts, caramel, vanilla, roasted, smokey espresso. Nicely hopped and balanced. Finishes deep, charred and tight with burnt coffee long into the finish. The mouthfeel is fine, if a bit run-of-the-mill, medium bodied with fine, crisp carbonation.

Drinkability: Great -- loved the flavor, a real standout in a pretty mediocre style. Too bad I can't get no more. Still, enjoyed this one. (1,063 characters)

Photo of AdamBear
4.35/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got a pint at the Sweetwater Brewery restaurant in the Atlanta airport.

A-dark murky brown with a thick but sticky light tan head

S-cinnamon. a touch of apples. dark and spicy malts. smells tasty. good strength as well

T-comes in with a great taste of spicy and peppery dark malts. this is really good and full flavored! there's a good and slightly roasted matching after-taste. the tastes are bold and seem to be of high quality.

M-thick and creamy medium carbonation with a creamy finish

O-i was really surprised by this. when at an airport, i usually don't expect much but I am here with a great beer of a style I usually don't prefer. this has to be one of the best winter warmers I've ever had. Its definitely and after dinner beer though. (750 characters)

Photo of hopsaplenty
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 Release, Bottle no. 4158/7200.

Have to fight through the wax before the 1L. swingtop bottle pours out a deep and dark, almost black, liquid, and ruby highlights announce themselves in the light. A huge head of cappuccino colored bubbles, small and densely packed, slowly settles to a thin surface coat leaving almost no lacing. The smell is sweet, and there are hints of roasted malt, coffee, and some alcohol. The taste matches the smell, sweet and spicy, slightly bitter. Coffee notes arise and there is a moderate alcohol warmth in the finish. Medium bodied, with a rich, full mouthfeel, the carbonation is on the subdued side. Highly drinkable and if this were the only beer being offered on a given night out, I’d be pretty happy. (744 characters)

Photo of rabidawg
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep brown with red-tinged edges. Substantial off-white head that settled to a clinging skim, leaving spots and streaks of lacing. Moderate carbonation.

Smell: Cocoa powder and nutmeg. Slightly roasty, and reminiscent of a porter. Hops are minimal, and a moderate sweetness is apparent.

Taste: Wonderful in the mouth, with a creamy and velvety mouthfeel. Minimally hopped, but never cloying. Sweet malt character is accented by holiday spices, and the spiciness is further accentuated by a slight alcohol presence. Finishes clean, and is remarkably drinkable for a beer of this size and nature. (612 characters)

Photo of charlottebeer
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
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! (1,777 characters)

Photo of MemphisSooner
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Excellent Winter Warmer!

Smells like a christmas cookie! Molasses, figs, roasty malts abound.

Those same flavors come through in the taste. The alcohol hides nicely, giving balance and depth.

As others have said, I don't know why this beer isn't rated higher. Lots to appreciate here. Well done Sweetwater! (309 characters)

Photo of kmpitz2
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
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. (472 characters)

Photo of NWFLyer
4.32/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass; slim, brown-cream colored head which dissipated fairly quickly. Little to no lacing.

Nose: Rich, full bodied, distinctly malty. Spice is evident, with essence of clove and cocoa. It reminds me of a porter.

Taste: Creamy mouth-feel. Hop bitterness is evident, but not overwhelming. Smooth with a pleasant after-taste. Rich, dark malt and smoke flavors linger on the tongue.

Drinkability: Overall, I was pleasantly impressed by this seasonal offering from Sweetwater Brewing. It is a solid offering from a company which is a steady performer in the craft brewing segment. The rich taste is a departure from other Sweetwater beers that I have tasted. I would recommend this ale to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer. (779 characters)

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