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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
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: 713
Photo of barleyman
4.32/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the brown glass 12 oz bottle into my straight sided tumbler. The dark white head quickly dissapates,and leaves very little lace as it moves down the glass. Overwhelming smell of clove, the taste is of clove and malt, and very well balanced, with a finish of hop. The mouthfeel is right, given the ABV and the drinkability is correct for a winter warmer. I have looked forward to the annual release of this beer, especially back when GA had a strength cap, this brewer would always find a way to sneak it by the alcohol board.

Just a thought,

barleyman (569 characters)

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

Comes in nice swing top bottle.
Poors dark brown with head that soon dissipates to a film. Smell is good with noticable spices. Interesting taste with several different flavors. Slight carmel taste, some coffee, and several spices that are hard to pick out. Leaves the drinker with a warming feeling after a glass or two. Very good beer for a cold winter night. (362 characters)

Photo of Soozy
4.3/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 ale

Pours a very dark amber. Almost can't see through it, but holding it up to the light shows the red coloring. A very faint smell of cinnamon and vanilla mixed with caramel and chocolate malt. You can pick up a good amount of scents without putting your finger on any of them.

Taste is creamy, rich malt. It is well balanced between caramel and chocolate malts. There's a faint orange and tangerine taste to it in the finish. Alcohol is faintly present as it warms up, but balances well with the beer. A rather thin beer, but also creamy mixed with the carbonation. A highly drinkable, complex, rich, and full beer.

Overall, this is probably the best winter warmer I've had in my life. A completely balanced, highly drinkable ale. I'd love to try an oaked version of this if they had one. I'd definitely buy this one again. (835 characters)

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. (505 characters)

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% (440 characters)

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

Pours very dark brown, but light gets through. A half finger light tan colored head fades slowly, but is kept alive by visible effervescence. Some suspended 'bits' are present.

The aroma is sweet and slightly warm from the alcohol with a mellow roasted malt.

It has a medium body and is very smooth with a nice balance from hops.

I appreciate the lightly roasted malt taste (I've recently experienced a number of ales that have gone overboard with the level of roasted flavor); it's sweet and creamy. The 8+% is hidden well. Quite drinkable. Thanks to blitz134 for the opportunity to enjoy this one! (608 characters)

Photo of godlessape
4.28/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured this into monster size thistle glass.
The body has an intensely dark malevolent ruby brown shade to it, just one degree from midnight. It's topped off with a creamy tan head that diminished rapidly.
Aroma is like burnt brown sugar, with maybe a hint of cinnamon toast.
Taste is both malty and fruity and densely so at that, along with a earthy, almost leathery savoriness There's also a minimal hop sizzle on the tail end that works rather well.
The mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth. The alcohol is well hidden.
Overall a fine brew from a great brewery. Caution: This beer will sneak up on you something fierce. (624 characters)

Photo of deejaydan
4.28/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Raj! Got this one, um, one of the BIF's.
Comes in an impressive waxed dipped flip top one liter bottle.

Pours a deep chestnut brown color with ruby highlights. Decent head retention here. Smells and tastes like a Belgian Dubbel. Rum, spices, ripe fruits greet you as you taste this beer. I find this has a fuller body than most belgian dubbels that I've had, and a much more rounded character. Still, it does seem a bit sharp in the mouth to me. The alcohol is blended in nicely too, not noticable at all. (517 characters)

Photo of mklinger
4.27/5  rDev +11.5%
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. (1,110 characters)

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

First review.
Wow. This beer really is a mouthful. Pours a big head but dissipates quickly. The smell and taste of coffee mixed with winter spices is upfront. The alcohol is warming, but really packs a punch at the end. Overall, a wonderful warming winter beer. I will be seeking this one out over the holidays. (311 characters)

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! (1,440 characters)

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

Christmas tasting with biegaman and grub. grub contributed this one, 1liter swingtop, 2004 vintage.

Pours a clear red/orange/brown, neat colour, a bit of haze, thick tan head, tons of lace, settles to a thick ring. Smell is very rich, toffee, maples, chocolate, raisins, spices, alcohol is well hidden, smells qreat. Taste is toffee, iron, fruits, dates, spices, touch of chocolate, very rich, cinnamon finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low carbonation, very smooth, very enjoyable. Thanks a lot for sharing Russ! (520 characters)

Photo of NCSUdo
4.24/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle

A: Dark brown under a very small off white head. No retention and no lace.

S: Nice roasted, toasted, nutty, malty aroma. Maybe a hint of some kind spice and pine. Good aroma.

T: Again, very malty. Roasted, toasted, nutty, hint of caramel, hint of pine and spice, alcohol is slightly apparent and a surprising level of bitterness in the finish (nothing huge, just more than I thought was going to be there).

M/D: Full bodied, smooth, carbonation is low. Drinkability is very good. A tasty beer indeed. (517 characters)

Photo of Backer2004
4.23/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this one on tap at the Sweetwater brewing grill at the Atlanta airport. If it was not for a small poster, I wouldn't have even known this was available. Great style to end the holidays with. Poured into a nice goblet, this winter warmer has no faults. Nice spices, easy to consume, and just the right baance of malts makes this probably the best airport beers I can remember (380 characters)

Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
4.23/5  rDev +10.4%
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. (1,045 characters)

Photo of ATLhophead
4.22/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A- Extremely dark, has great allure to promote berries, dark chocolate indulgence, hint of brown sugar.

S- Has an excessive amount of vanilla paired exquisitely with a caramel nutiness. Coffee grounds could add to the nose of this beast.

T- Very close to the aroma. Excessive traits: Vanilla, Chocolate, Molasses, Caramel.

M- My favorite part of this brew. A medium carbonation that represents the state of most stouts and porters. Puts a smile on your face.

D- Lighter than most would expect. The taste is quite appetizing. I could be a homer since I am from Atlanta, but this is one to enjoy all throughout the Holidays!

Cheers! :D (639 characters)

Photo of wisrarebeer
4.22/5  rDev +10.2%
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 (467 characters)

Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.21/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Sweetwater Festive Ale has a thin, creamy, cream-colored head, a very dark brown appearance with ruby highlights and visible, tight bubble streams, and a good amount of splotchy lacing left around the glass. The aroma is of spiced bread, bread crust, and sweetness. Taste is of those elements, with subdued bitterness and syrup of some sort. Mouthfeel is somewhat watery, and Sweetwater Festive Ale finishes refreshing, sweet, easily drinkable, mostly dry, and not the least bit alcohilic. Overall, this is one of the better spice ales I’ve tried.

RJT (555 characters)

Photo of IntriqKen
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2006 Vintage
This was a total surprise. Definitely not your average winter warmer. I was sort of expecting the typical amber/brown/or red with some spice thrown in and a wintery label but this is an entirely drifferent brew.
Dark amber in the glass with a half finger loose head that melts quickly to a thin ring.
Aroma initially is alcohol with some toasted malt back.
Flavors are toasted amber malt with almost a smokey taste. Dark candied fruits like raisin and plum. Most prominent spice is nutmeg...yeah, definitely nutmeg. Alcohol and light citrus hops on the end that dry and clean the palette.
Alcohol in this one makes for a nice sipper...especially on this cold winter evening.
Thanks to barleywinebrewer for this wonderful winter warmer. (754 characters)

Photo of titosupertramp
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown, chestnut in color. Thick, dense tan head that fades quicker than expected. Light lacing on the drink side of the glass. Decent cap.

S: Subtle for such a large beer, but pleasant. Chocolate, mollasses or brown sugar, toffee and lots of spices. Overall, a very sweet smelling beer.

T: Really nice mixture of flavors here. Tart fruit, chocolate, brown sugar, toffee..cinnamon maybe...I always have trouble identifying individual spices. Pretty complex beer.

M: This is on the full side of medium. Sure enough, this does give you a warming effect.

O: Festival Ale is solid. All aspects are enjoyable and it's incredibly drinkable given the ABV...the alcohol is hardly noticeable. I'll pick this up again. (719 characters)

Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured into the glass clear deep amber brown with a tan head which rose tall and fell slowly to lace the glass.

The aroma was malty with a nice dark caramel presence and a nice fruit presence. Most notably were spices, namely cinnamon and perhaps a light bit of clove or maybe allspice. Chocolate was also nicely achieved in the aroma.

The flavor was similar to that of a brown ale with chocolate and a nice caramel maltiness. The flavor was fruity with more spice character that was well achieved and added complexity. The chocolate, caramel and spice all had melded into a very well done flavor that was quite alluring.

The finish was dry with a lasting chocolate and light spice impression into the aftertaste. The body was medium and nicely done. Rated as a brown ale with spices, it is a very good beer albeit a slight bit pricey.

2003 Vintage bottle 2675, could not have been above 6% abv in 2003 due to GA laws. 33.8 ounce large swingtop bottle covered with way that made the bottle near impossible to open. I'm very glad I purchased it even though it was about $16 at Sherlocks cold case in Marietta, GA. The price is the only sticking point. (1,171 characters)

Photo of purplehops
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 batch Bottle # 2600 of 4800.

Festive ale pours a deep ruby brown with an off-white head that is full of carbonation and leaves little to no lacing on the glass. The aroma is malt sweetness with a good dose of nutmeg and mace and just a hint of anise. Taste starts with a bit of a spicy hop bite and then a rush of malt and fruit notes. Flavors of pears and apples blend with malty sweetness and flavors of caramel and allspice. The finish is a luscious balance of spicy hops, caramel and chocolate malts, nutmeg, cinnamon, and the first notes of alcohol making themselves known. Aftertaste is a very long lingering sweetness (but not cloyingly so) with just a hint of alcohol warmth and hop acidity. Mouthfeel is medium body with a very nice smoothness to it and just a touch of acidity.
Overall this has to be one of the best beers that I have had from Sweetwater. A pleasant blend of spices and malts that make for holiday merrymaking anytime you open one. The only down side to this beer is trying to open it. Fifteen minutes with a swiss army knife and you can finally open the plastic and metal swing top coated in hard red wax. There has to be a better way to seal a bottle without buying a corking and caging machine. (1,233 characters)

Photo of resirob
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle,
Appearance: Pours a luxurious dark ruby/black with a thick khaki head that settles to a thin ring and leaves almost no lace.

Aroma: Spicy sweet. Spices are up front and bold. Floral hop character is there, too. Malty sweetness floats in and out as I swirl the glass.

Taste: Mmmm. Nice winter brew. Roasted toffee maltiness with a great blend of spices. Tastes like it smells - spicy sweet.

Mouthfeel: Medium body and smooth.

Drinkability: An easy drinking winter brew.

Really got me in the mood for more winter/holiday seasonals. I received 2 bottles courtesy of rajendra82, and I will be cellaring the remaining one for further review in the future (next winter, if I can wait - no promises!). This is the second Sweetwater brew I have sampled, and I must say that I have liked both. It is a shame that Sweetwater is not readily available where I live. This is certainly a brewery that deserves some more exposure. (948 characters)

Photo of rajendra82
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted in a 12oz bottle in 11/03 as a month old brew. Thanks aracauna for pointing me in the direction of the store where I found this rare gem. Now I have a couple of six packs sitting in the fridge and a few more in the pantry. I'll be saving these and updating the review as it ages (if I can resist the temptation to finish them off). The beer pours out as a gorgeous looking dark red concoction with a tall off white head that dissipates to a thin invisible line of bubbles. Carbonation is pretty low and so is the amount of belgian lace. It is a perfect winter brew with lots of roasted caramel malt backbone and a high ABV (for Georgia) that is balanced out by the explosive level of spices and distinctively floral hoppy aroma. Warms you up nicely as it goes down easy. As I taste it, the temperature outside is near 60 degrees. This will be perfect when I get stuck at the house with about a 1/4 inch of snow on the roads outside (after all this is Atlanta). Another quality product from Sweetwater that should not be missed by anyone that can get their hands on it. (1,075 characters)

Photo of dgallina
4.18/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Gigantic wax-stoppered 33.8 ounce brown bottle. Dated 2006 and numbered 2381 of 9000.

Pours slightly transparent dark brown with big chunky tan head that recedes to decent lace. Smells malty and heavily spiced with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and pepper. Flavor is dominated by heavily-toasted and somewhat smoky malts (chocolate, caramel, and toasted dark bread). The malts are balanced by dark fruitiness (raisins and plums) edged with christmas spices. Alcohol is not overly apparent, though the beer becomes heady with time. No hop presence to speak of. Gently carbonated and quite creamy medium-heavy body. Fans of malty ales (scotch ales particularly) may like this quite a bit. An unusually nice offering from Sweetwater IMHO. (736 characters)

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