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Sweetwater Festive Ale - SweetWater Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

282 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 282
Hads: 724
Avg: 3.81
pDev: 20.21%
Wants: 30
Gots: 134 | FT: 1
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: 282 | Hads: 724
Photo of clvand0
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a very dark color with a small head that falls fast and doesn't leave much lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty and has a chocolate character and a little spice. The flavor is very nice. Chocolate flavors along with a spice from the ginger make it very interesting and enjoyable. I'd definately have this one again.

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Photo of ugaterrapin
4.16/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass. About a finger of light tan head. A dark brown color that is almost completely opaque. Aroma is not too strong, but hints of spice and caramel malts. Initial taste is of hops and spice finishing with notes of vanilla. This beer is relatively drinkable for being on the darker side. It is a great seasonal offering from Sweetwater.

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Photo of Brackh
4.17/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Did a holiday beer tasting with the wife. This was the first winter warmer holiday beer I was ever exposed to. It has a special place in my heart. Pours a nice black with a small head. Smells spicy with some molasses. Bitterness up front and finishes well with the spice (almost tastes toasted). Carbonated well. Done well all around.

Just had a 2013 on 12/31/14: Had some funk to it. Tasted good. Lost some carbonation. Whole new flavor though. Molasses caramel and toffee come out way more. Still easy drinking.

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Photo of axisjones
4.17/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, black, none more black. Big bubbled off white rocky head, about an inch or so. Head dies down to a thin coat, minimal lacing.

Rich chocolate espresso in the nose with a faint astringency to it. Complex smell, almost chalky neko wafer milk chocolate in the end. Faint Carnation hot chocolate as well.

Big taste going in, the alcohol is noticeable straight off. Malty with espresso/coffee flavors and a slight rum. Metallic in the middle with a milk chocolate finish. The hops provide a tiny bite and mix with the roast bitterness. A somewhat tasty, if uneven, flavor with a dominant malt profile.

A very interesting offering, sweet, complex, luscious and alcoholic. A fine beer, could definitely use some fine tuning.

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Photo of dgallina
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

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Photo of Bung
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. Sturdy brown pour with just a little bit of off white head. Retains well and sticks to the glass a little. Aroma has some more roast than other warmers, and some floral hop with the Christmas spice. Taste is like a brown ale spiced with ginger and nutmeg. Light roast, earthy nuttiness and some chocolates. Well carbonated with a mid/light body and mouthfeel. Drinks very well with no alcohol noticed. A nice warmer from Sweetwater.

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Photo of siege06nd
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Alrighty, found this bottle at random in my closet and it is from way back in 2010!!! Wow!!! Don't worry, I'll be nice...

A. Excellent. Color is a super dark, rich mahogany. Very nearly black. About a half finger of cream colored head that is tight, uniform, and has good retention. Lacing is very good. The look of this beer screams fireplace, snowflakes, and fresh pies. Which is why I'm drinking it in July.

S. Bouquet has held up rather well over the last year and a half. Raisin, caramel, cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, roasted biscuit, and just a little bit of sherry-like oxidation due to the age. Smells like a freshly baked shortbread cookie.

T. Spices are up front with brown sugar, cinnamon, and clove. Then roasted malts kick in on the mid and the finish is bread crust, caramel, some vanilla, spice, and maybe just a touch of chocolate. Nice.

M. Thick and chewy, with solid carbonation and a nice balance of flavors. Spices and roasty flavors linger on the palate long after it's gone.

O. A really nice Christmas beer, with a much fuller body than its better known competition (i.e., Schlafly Christmas, Great Lakes Christmas, etc.). Festive Ale is unique in that it has a much more solid malt presence, with some excellent toasted biscuit and subtle chocolate notes that in some ways call to mind a porter. I will definitely be seeking a six-pack of this over the holidays. Excellent work, Sweetwater!

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Photo of pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of titosupertramp
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of purplehops
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of resirob
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of rajendra82
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.21/5  rDev +10.5%
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.


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Photo of ATLhophead
4.22/5  rDev +10.8%
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

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Photo of wisrarebeer
4.22/5  rDev +10.8%
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

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Photo of Backer2004
4.23/5  rDev +11%
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

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Photo of Kkottonmouthkngz
4.23/5  rDev +11%
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.

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Photo of NCSUdo
4.24/5  rDev +11.3%
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.

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Photo of bjwilson
4.25/5  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.

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Photo of weeare138
4.25/5  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!

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Photo of Viggo
4.25/5  rDev +11.5%
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!

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Photo of mklinger
4.27/5  rDev +12.1%
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.

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Photo of godlessape
4.28/5  rDev +12.3%
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.

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 282 ratings.