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

590 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 590
Reviews: 268
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 13.02%
Wants: 14
Gots: 53 | 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:  Latest | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Sweetwater Festive Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 590 | Reviews: 268 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Soozy
Soozy

Tennessee

4.38/5  rDev +14.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-20-2011 02:30:04 | More by Soozy
Photo of doubleipa
doubleipa

Georgia

4.38/5  rDev +14.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

10-25-2005 13:17:21 | More by doubleipa
Photo of AdamBear
AdamBear

Pennsylvania

4.38/5  rDev +14.1%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

12-07-2011 03:04:07 | More by AdamBear
Photo of hopsaplenty
hopsaplenty

Virginia

4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-31-2006 12:48:31 | More by hopsaplenty
Photo of rabidawg
rabidawg

Georgia

4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-19-2005 00:47:50 | More by rabidawg
Photo of kmpitz2
kmpitz2

Tennessee

4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-07-2004 02:47:36 | More by kmpitz2
Photo of NWFLyer
NWFLyer

Florida

4.33/5  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.

Serving type: bottle

12-20-2009 08:36:51 | More by NWFLyer
Photo of barleyman
barleyman

Georgia

4.33/5  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

Serving type: bottle

12-11-2006 01:05:44 | More by barleyman
Photo of gosurfobx
gosurfobx

North Carolina

4.33/5  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.

Serving type: bottle

01-19-2006 01:45:22 | More by gosurfobx
Photo of charlottebeer
charlottebeer

North Carolina

4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
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!

Serving type: bottle

10-21-2010 16:02:13 | More by charlottebeer
Photo of bhalter8
bhalter8

Georgia

4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-10-2008 22:45:00 | More by bhalter8
Photo of ectomorph
ectomorph

Tennessee

4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
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%

Serving type: bottle

11-10-2008 22:04:10 | More by ectomorph
Photo of jjayjaye
jjayjaye

New York

4.33/5  rDev +12.8%
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!

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2007 00:21:24 | More by jjayjaye
Photo of godlessape
godlessape

Georgia

4.3/5  rDev +12%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-11-2013 04:48:29 | More by godlessape
Photo of deejaydan
deejaydan

Michigan

4.3/5  rDev +12%
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.

Serving type: bottle

08-31-2005 23:12:12 | More by deejaydan
Photo of bjwilson
bjwilson

Alabama

4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-14-2012 02:52:26 | More by bjwilson
Photo of weeare138
weeare138

Pennsylvania

4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
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!

Serving type: bottle

12-10-2008 02:02:17 | More by weeare138
Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
Kkottonmouthkngz

Massachusetts

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2011 23:08:25 | More by Kkottonmouthkngz
Photo of NCSUdo
NCSUdo

Massachusetts

4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-13-2009 02:46:30 | More by NCSUdo
Photo of henryclay_
henryclay_

South Carolina

4.25/5  rDev +10.7%

05-10-2014 16:25:12 | More by henryclay_
Photo of IntriqKen
IntriqKen

California

4.25/5  rDev +10.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-18-2007 02:05:42 | More by IntriqKen
Photo of bcseda
bcseda


4.25/5  rDev +10.7%

08-08-2012 13:17:27 | More by bcseda
Photo of Backer2004
Backer2004

North Carolina

4.25/5  rDev +10.7%
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

Serving type: on-tap

12-31-2009 00:41:31 | More by Backer2004
Photo of brudz2134
brudz2134

Michigan

4.25/5  rDev +10.7%

05-04-2013 04:47:43 | More by brudz2134
Photo of wrw5031
wrw5031

Georgia

4.25/5  rDev +10.7%

08-08-2013 16:20:03 | More by wrw5031
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 590 ratings.