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

600 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 600
Reviews: 268
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 13.02%
Wants: 15
Gots: 59 | 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:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Sweetwater Festive Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 600 | Reviews: 268 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jucifer1818
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

a: Dark and black, with little head. perfect for a winter ale like this one
4.5/5

S: Very varible and smelling of spice. With each smell someone can smell a differnt spice or detect something new in it. It is very nice, but could be stronger. A bit of yeasty fruityness in the smell as well
4/5

t: smooth for a beer of its ABV, with light spicing and malty backbone. the maltyness comes through in the after taste with some hoppy bitterness.
3.5/5

M: Very light for its dark color and ABV, but still quite nice
but could be stronger
3.5/5

Overall
Its a very decent winter warmer and one of the best deals on a 6 pack you can get. Its good spiceing and high ABV make this one a personal favorite, even with its flaws. If it had a heavyer body and a more pronounced spice taste in the body, I might had given it even higher marks
its s 4/5, but it is still very recommended.

jucifer1818, Nov 30, 2012
Photo of gritz147
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

gritz147, Dec 29, 2013
Photo of BigTrubble
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

BigTrubble, Dec 03, 2012
Photo of nickfl
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

A - Pours with tow fingers of brown foam on top of a dark brown body with amber highlights and some suspended particulate matter. The head settles at a moderate pace and leaves little lace.

S - Sweet malt with some caramel and chocolate. Spicy notes of cinnamon and ginger.

T - Thick, caramel malt up front with a hint of chocolate. Clove and cinnamon notes in the middle. Some light malt bitterness in the finish with a lingering milk chocolate flavor.

M - Moderately thick body, medium carbonation, and a slightly sweet finish.

D - Nice, light spice flavor with a great malt character. Quite smooth and drinkable but it would probably get old pretty quickly if the bottle wasn't being split between several people.

nickfl, Sep 28, 2009
Photo of Johnny_Duck
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

Johnny_Duck, Aug 06, 2014
Photo of SoCaliC8
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

SoCaliC8, Jan 17, 2014
Photo of Tone2467
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

Tone2467, Jan 09, 2014
Photo of rangerred
3.78/5  rDev -1.6%

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours pitch black with a one finger light tan head that is quick to dissipate. Lacing is present but very light and short-lasting.

The aroma has a definite smoky note to it along with roasted malt, caramel, and molasses. There is just a slight tinge of metal but it is not really that distracting.

The flavor throws a lot more complexity into the mix. The smoked meat character is quite nice and is complimented nicely by molasses dark, almost burnt, caramel. Some spices start to become apparent as the beer warms with some nutmeg and cinnamon. Some dark bread undertones also make themselves known. Bitterness is just moderate but is enough to counteract the sweetness. The alcohol is completely hidden.

Overall, a nice winter warmer but for some reason, it just misses the mark for me. The aroma is really lacking and I wish the flavor had a bit more depth. Still it is a very good beer that I would get again during the holidays.

rangerred, Jan 29, 2014
Photo of BierReise
3.78/5  rDev -1.6%

Dark brown like Coca-Cola and a dense off white head. Interesting aroma, has some smoky roasted malt and a good dose of hops along with a hint of ginger. Pretty smooth body with a nice crispness to it. Flavor is spicy, sweet with a good malt flavor. Probably the best I've had from Sweetwater.

BierReise, Nov 21, 2003
Photo of blitz134
3.8/5  rDev -1%

Poured a nice coca-cola brown with a off-white to tan one finger head on it which disappeared rather quickly to a slight coating on the surface. Aroma was a bit dull to me, not as pronounced as I was expecting. Woodsy smells waft to the edge of the glass with slight overtones of a concoction of spices. No single spice stands out to me though. The taste is rather good and coats the mouth well. The flavor is mostly dominated by toasted malts with a slight alcoholic sweetness. I don't pick up on too many spices in the taste. I could see having several of these in an evening but the sweetness could knock the drinkability down a bit.

blitz134, Nov 10, 2004
Photo of dbrauneis
3.8/5  rDev -1%

A: Pours a clear but opaque very dark brown to black in color with moderate amounts of gentle visible carbonation along the edges of the glass and ruby red + cola brown highlights. The beer has a half finger tall foamy light tan head that reduces to a medium to large patch of thin film with a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass with some sudsy spots. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of brown sugar, molasses, and caramel with lighter notes of anise + nutmeg.

T: Upfront there are moderate flavors of caramel malts with moderate amounts of brown sugar and molasses sweetness. There is a light to moderate flavor of spices I associate with the holidays - nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise/licorice.

M: Just heavier than medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly slick.

O: Enjoyable with well hidden alcohol making this beer fairly easy to drink. A nice combination of the sweetness of the malts and spices.

dbrauneis, Nov 27, 2013
Photo of HeyItsChili
3.8/5  rDev -1%

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.

HeyItsChili, Dec 27, 2008
Photo of beergod1
3.8/5  rDev -1%

Appears dark brown with very little head, some lacing on the glass. Smells Malty with a touch of Cinnamon. Tastes of dark roasty malts, cinnamon and a light alcohol finish. Not a very robust mouthfeel, somewhat light, But made it easy to drink. Worth a try, but not the best in its field.

beergod1, Jan 09, 2012
Photo of RedwoodGeorge
3.8/5  rDev -1%

Pours a deep amber brown bordering on opaque but plenty of red highlights when held up to the light... Large tan head with moderate rention and good lacing.

The nose is all malt - plenty of sweet notes of caramel and molasses with hints of nutmeg and ginger. The flavor is surprisingly chocolaty with a pronounced cocoa note as well as a lighter prune flavor. Moderate spicing of cinnamon and nutmeg make up most of the highlights. Very light hop bitterness in the background tends to give it a hint of balance. Sweet but not over the top.

A bit lighter bodied than you'd expect, oily residue left on the tongue and not enough carbonation to give this much body. Slightly cloying aftertaste but a bit of alcohol burn actually helps clean up the palate.

Not perfect but quite tasty and just the kind of thing I'm looking for in a winter warmer.

[Thanks to rajendra82 for sending out this Georgia treat]

RedwoodGeorge, Dec 02, 2005
Photo of slatetupelo
3.8/5  rDev -1%

My buddy picked me up a sixer or 2007 for me. It pours a real dark brown with amber at the edges of the glass and a nice tan head. There's really nothing distinct about the smell for me but it's not bad. The taste was surprisingly good and tastes of dark chocolate and malts, very well balanced. The alcohol is well hidden and I could drink a few of these before realizing that I'm in over my head. This was my first beer of this style, I'll have to look for something similar.

slatetupelo, Dec 24, 2007
Photo of FanofHefe
3.8/5  rDev -1%

2011 version that pours a clear, deep, ruby red color with a nearly two-finger light tan head. Decent retention but only a little lacing.

The aroma is light and malty. As it warms, I get a little more of the spicy, cinnamon notes and a bit of cocoa.

The chocolate/cocoa flavor shows up more in the flavor than in the aroma. The overall flavor is very malt forward, as expected, and the spicy mix does not overwhelm, but accents.

Light to medium mouthfeel that works well overall. This works very well as a Winter Warmer and does not offend in any way. Just a solid offering altogether.

FanofHefe, Feb 21, 2012
Photo of jlervine
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

This is a vertical of the 2003 and 2004 Festive Ales, with the rating of the review reflecting the 2004 bottle..

2003, bottle number 917: Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights. Nearly black. Head is off-white. My glass poured with little fanfare, with the etching in the bottom of the goblet sustaining a pool of foam in the middle of the beer. Donna's glass, however, had no trouble. I can never get the first glass from a bottle to pour right...

The aroma is has a wisp of alcohol and a hop aroma reminiscent of Sweetwater's standard brews. Just a slight hint of rum soaked fruits and raisins.

Dry and quick taste, too dry for a dubbel. Currants, plums, and raisins dash through the mouth too quickly. The spices have REALLY died down since last year when I had the first of this batch, almost to the point of non-existence.

Mouthfeel is just so-so and doesn't really impress me much. It just feels thin.

Still, a pleasant brew.

3.5 Appearance
3.5 Smell
3.5 Taste
3.0 Mouthfeel
4.0 Drinkability

2004, bottle number 5679: Pours a deep brown-black with deep red-brown highlights and an off-white head. The head forms quickly, but dissipates much faster than the 2003.

The aroma is very spicy - I'm assuming the majority of this is mace, an herb that the bottle specifically names. There is a roasted earthiness to the beer, as well as a hint of raisin and alcohol.

The taste is raw with spiciness - now I remember why I aged a few bottles of the 2003! It is not unpleasant, but it is overpowering. Darker caramel malts form a backbone for the spices to mosh on. Almost a roasted or chocolate malt tone to the beer.

The mouthfeel is considerably more alive than the 2003. Very tingly carbonation and the caramel malts just lightly pelt the tongue and make my mouth happy.

The drinkability I would consider about the same as the 2003. The spices are just a bit much, but this is a fantastic brew.

Comparing the two, I'm wondering if there is a happy medium to aging this beer, and if I have enough of this year's stock to find it!

jlervine, Nov 13, 2004
Photo of taylocd
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

Poured from tap at Stats Sports Bar in Atlanta, GA on 12/4/2010. Notes emailed to self via mobile phone.

A - medium brown with mocha colored head and thin lacing that lasted throughout the beer.

S - sweet aroma with hints of alcohol

T - roasted nut flavor

M - semi-sticky texture with low carbonation

D - texture and flavor make for an easy drinker

taylocd, Dec 14, 2010
Photo of watermelon
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

$3 pint draft had at the Tapp Room in Boone NC

A: Really murky brown body, khaki head with medium retention and lacing.

S: Smells medicinal, dark malts, and winter spices.

T: Molasses taste, with some dark fruit and malts.

M: Awesome mouthfeel, alcohol is hidden well and the body is thick and syrupy with very little carbonation.

O: Its decent, better then some I've had , but not as good as others. At $3 bucks for a pint of 8.6 ABV this was a no brainer, and a great value.

watermelon, Dec 19, 2013
Photo of rudzud
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

Received as an extra in a trade. Poured into my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep, dark brown. Much darker than the typical winter warmer. Also, no real head on this one just thin wisps. Hard swirling does produce a light blanket that fades quickly.

S - Roasted malts, toffee, booze, and...gingerbread?! Definitely interested winter warmer spices here.

T - Bit too boozey for me. Light chocolate from the roasted malts, toffee is subded. More of the vibrant spice notes. Super unique, different from the typical winter warmer. Tasty.

M - Mouthfeel isnt bad, slightly on the thinner side with lighter carbonation.

O - If not for the average appearance this would actually be a pretty good beer. All things considered its a refreshing take on a classic style.

rudzud, Jan 24, 2013
Photo of corby112
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

2010 vintage received as an extra in a recent trade with funkydelic. Thanks again man!

Pours a dark amber/chestnut brown color with golden mahogany edges and a thin, half finger off-white head that quickly settles into a thin lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

Spicy toasted malt aroma with subtle hints of alcohol and medicinal cough syrup. There's a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar as well as some pepper, caramel, toffee and rye in the nose. Slightly smokey with hits of dark fruit and robitussin. I'm picking up cherry, plum and raisin notes as well as some slightly roasted chocolate malt.

Medium bodied with a crisp, earthy and spicy character up front that lingers over the sweet and slightly roasted malt notes into a lingerng dry finish. Hints of zesty pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar and peppermint countered by a sweet malt backbone with hints of toffee, rye, caramel and dark fruit. Lots of dark cherry as well as some fig and plum. There's a slight smokey presence toward the end of the palate with notes of bittersweet dark chocolate and hazelnut. The unpleasant sweet cough syrup presence from the aroma is thankfully very subtle. I really dislike that characteristic in this style and thankfully it's kept to a minimum here.

Overall, this is a pretty good example of the style. Well balanced, complex and pretty quaffable. The ABV is excellently masked and I can see this one getting better with age.

corby112, Mar 08, 2011
Photo of KrisPaulk77
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

Had this at the Sweetwater pub in the Atlanta airport.
The beer poured what looked like a dark black stout, but upon closer examination, was actually a deep, dark brown with a decent head of creamy tan foam. Decent lacing noted.
The aroma was nice and roasty, with hints of spice, some nutty tones, and toffee. A touch of cinnamon, a wisp of smoke, and rich coffee flavors.
The flavor followed suit with the taste. Rich and flavorful, with a dominant roasted coffee flavor, sweet dark malts, underlying spice, nutty toffee, with a smooth coffee finish. Just enough bitterness to cut through the sweetness.
Nice body to the beer with decent carbonation. A sipper for sure, and would be enjoyed on a cold night, sitting next to a fire.
Quite an enjoyable beer from Sweetwater. If I come across this in my travels again, I won't hesitate to have it again.

KrisPaulk77, Nov 25, 2010
Photo of Gueuzedude
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

2006 Release, Sampled November 2006
As I pour this the stream of beer shows a brilliantly clear, chocolate brown color. It sits in my glass an opaque, dark brown, almost black color and is topped by a frothy, fairly large bubbled, initially a finger and a half thick, creamed amber colored head. The aroma is quite fruity with a sweetness that rides throughout. The fruit notes remind me of cherries, raisins, berries, and something like burnt figs. In fact the more I dig into the aroma the more I get notes reminiscent of burnt, concentrated fruit; not only burnt figs, but burnt raisins and burnt prune notes as well. There is a definite dark malt note here as well, something I associate with concentrated malty Imperial Stouts, something that is not quite chocolate.

The taste is not quite as sweet as the aroma would suggest, but it is definitely quite fruity tasting. Notes of prunes and figs are quite prominent here, and this definitely has the savory quality that these two dried fruits exhibit. The finish shows a touch of burnt grain with both a touch of acidity and a light coffee like roast character. There is an interesting spiciness here in the finish as well, it reminds me of a very soft, quite smooth nutmeg note; I also get spicy notes of ginger, a hint of cardamom, and maybe even some cinnamon. There are quite a few prominent flavors here that I can't quite put into words; there is almost a smoky quality here, definitely something savory, perhaps something like chocolate, and of course some other things I can't quite put into words.

This beer has a lightness to it that belies the fullness of the body. It has a medium heft to it, and just starts to stick to the palate, yet it is quite quaffable still; it might even be too quaffable as a touch more meatiness might be just what this needs. This is an interesting beer, it definitely fits the bill as a Winter seasonal.

Gueuzedude, Nov 24, 2006
Photo of TurdFurgison
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

2008 version, 12oz bottle extra from GatorBeerNerd (thanks Donnie). This beer is dark, very dark brown with a thin tan head. The aroma is malty and strong, kind of similar to an American barleywine. Some dark fruits like plums or dates, no real spices that I can smell. The taste is sweet and alcoholic, strong malt and ethanol with maybe a little cocoa. A big heavy ass-kicker of a beer, this is definitely a beer to drink on cold winter nights. Much appreciated, and I also have a 2007 to drink later.

TurdFurgison, Nov 14, 2009
Photo of billab914
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%

Poured from a 12oz bottle into my Dogfish shaped pint glass. Poured dark brown in color with some scattered carbonation bubbles trying to make up a thin head. Almost looks like a cola when first poured. The bubbles disappeared after a few minutes and no traces of carbonation remained. Not a hint of lacing either.

The aroma is sweet and malty with some dark fruit and cocoa flavors to it. It has a little spice coming through but it's more focused around the chocolaty, cocoa and sweet malt flavors.

The taste shows a lot of the chocolaty and cocoa flavors that the nose suggested. It has a bit of spice and pepper coming through in the finish, but it's pretty light.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and carbonation is below average. Drinkability is pretty good, I liked more then I expected I would. I usually see winter beers and think they will be all spice but this one was a nice change. It had some nice chocolaty flavors to it that I enjoyed.

billab914, May 16, 2010
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 600 ratings.