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: 712
rAvg: 3.83
pDev: 7.05%
Wants: 26
Gots: 119 | 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: 712
Photo of jmpounders
3.64/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The 2006 release. I have also had the 2004 and 2005, but I think this year is somewhat different. Pours a deep burgandy, borderline black with an average sized off-white head which falls to a thin layer of "cream" within a minute or two. Very little aroma to this one (I think previous years exhibited more hop aroma... virtually none here)... smells of roasted grains, plums, a hint of chocoloate. Nice full body. Sweet taste of berries... cranberry and plum most notably with roasted malt flavor. Little to no bitterness. It seems to lack some of the spicy "bite" that I recall from previous years, and seems much more like some sort of "berry ale." This beer will go great with Thanksgiving dinner! (701 characters)

Photo of barczar
3.64/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque deep brown with garnet highlights and a frothy tan head that slowly dissipates, leaving modest lacing.

Nutmeg and cinnamon dominate the initial aroma, with an underlying malty tar character surfacing beneath. Notes of chocolate, cola, and clove add complexity. As it warms, molasses and subtle dark fruit emerge.

Flavor reveals more clove dominance, with dark chocolate and roasty malt dominating the slightly bitter finish. Hints of cola and ginger are subtle initially, but become more pronounced. Cinnamon rounds out the finish.

Body is moderate, with carbonation on the low side, and modest alcohol warmth.

Good variety of spice character, with enough malt presence to prevent it from becoming completely overwhelming. Hides the abv fairly well. Still a little too much spice for my tastes. Perfumey notes and a touch of acetaldehyde surface as it warms. (878 characters)

Photo of StarSAELS
3.66/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Considering that my "daily" brew of choice for the season is Sam Adams' Winter Lager, this is a major disruption in my routine. Also, when you consider that the other brew I purchased along with this one was the relatively boring Green Valley Wild Hop Lager, this is a major kick in the pants.

I had no idea what the price was when I picked it up at—of all places—one of the local Publix stores (has anyone in GA noticed that Publix all of a sudden has a considerable variety of beer??), but I'll pay $10 for a six pack for this one again.

I also had no idea what the ABV was, and so it's taking me a while to send my thoughts from my brain to my fingers... hahaahaha

As everyone else has already said, it pours dark—I could barely see the halogen undercabinet light through it. Little bit of sediment on the bottom of the bottle, too—the sign of a real handcrafted brew. Malty, mildly spicy aroma. First cold taste is smooth and creamy with no alcohol notes. Nurse this for half an hour or so to get it to stout-drinkin' temperature, and there's a LOT of flavor in there—but still no alcohol (though I certainly feel it!).

This one would go very well with a slow-cooked pot roast or beef stew. Oh, what the heck am I saying? This is dessert! (1,260 characters)

Photo of Meerkey
3.66/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Rich mahogany, with a touch of red; lasting off-white head.

S: Sweet and spicy -cinnamon, fruity, chocolate.

T: Sweet and fruity, spicy, chocolate, nuts, cake-like.

M: Carbonated and pretty smooth.

D: Pretty good, but doesn't excite me all that much. (257 characters)

Photo of pwoods
3.67/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I believe this was an extra from Exiled. Thanks!

12oz. brown bottle poured into an imperial pint.

A: Pours a very dark brown that barely lets any ruby through. Not much of a head on the pour with no retention and just a wisp of lacing.

S: Nice malty aroma mixed with just a touch of mellowed alcohol. Strong raisin aroma and a light hint of diacetyl, which I'm not sure if it's appropriate in this style but it's not off putting. Plenty of residual sweetness.

T/M: Nice caramel and toffee flavors. Light nuttiness. More of the diacetyl that's fortified with the residual sweetness. Some spiced cookie flavors. Alcohol is lightly present but tasty and complex. Body is medium full to full with mellow carbonation.

D: Tasty brew but drinkability is limited with the residual sweetness and there might be a bit of a flaw in there with the diacetyl. (850 characters)

Photo of jraycee
3.67/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2008 12oz. Bottle
Pours a very dark brown almost black. Small khaki colored head that fades into a thick ring.
Smells of dark fruits, spices and roasted nuts.
Taste follows very similar as slight alcohol sits on top of big malt base complimented by spices and sweet dark fruits. Hops are hard to find, seems just a tinge of pine in the finish.
mouthfeel is very light and well carbonated for the style.
This could go great with a hearty meal. I probably won't get it again though, just not my style. (500 characters)

Photo of Bitterbill
3.67/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Time for a new Winter Warmer! Compliments of bhalter08. Thanks Ben!

I big 1LT red waxed, swing top bottle, #2461 of 7200.

Degree of difficulty in removing the wax and prying the swingtop open...the same as Grand Teton's Cellar Reserve brews. ;^)

The pour reveals a...err..pitch black brew? Nah, it's a very very dark brown that's close to being black when I look at the glass from the side but looking down from the top, I can definitely see some light and the deep brown colour at its best.

Not much of a head of foam, just a ring around the glass with some scattered islands in the middle. Tilting the glass from side to side reveals some spotty lacing.

Smell wise, I'm getting plenty of sweet factors with caramel being foremost but there's some chocolate and figs here as well. I'm trying to pick out any spiciness that may be here but I can't. No problem, though, as the super malty character I'm getting is very nice indeed.

The taste is not quite up to snuff compared to the smell. It has the caramel and chocolate sweet stuff going on that I like. Also a slight note of some dark chocolate bitterness, which is nice. I *do* get a light spice here..maybe nutmeg? That's what I was looking for in the smell. I guess my letdown is that the flavours aren't as bold as I'd hoped for when I took my first whiffs. The smell just promised so much more. Oh well, it's still a tasty brew...maybe more warming, from cellar temp to room temp, will help things out a bit.

Ok, that helped some and the flavours are...err...more flavourful but now, the alcohol is starting to show more too. That makes me think cellar temps are the best for serving this Winter Warmer so if one doesn't intend to finish the bottle at one sitting, putting it back in the fridge and pulling it out later and letting it warm up to around 50 to 55F would be the way to go.

Just crossing over into medium territory for mouthfeel, the carbonation is lightly done.

Drinkability? This is one to sip and sit back and relax with. A good brew for the season. (2,033 characters)

Photo of msubulldog25
3.68/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle sent by my buddy, bluepred, a few weeks back; poured to a pint glass. As we're a couple days into spring now on the calendar, it seemed perhaps 'too late' to drink - then I dealt with snow showers on the commute home and it seemed appropriate on a 'winter'-feeling evening.

This is the 2011 edition, dipped in [extra-thick] red wax. Label shows 8.5%, a 'Catch & Release Seasonal' (from the 'Winter Coat Season')

A: Very dark, a ruby-tinted chocolate brown that pours with a compact tan/ivory head. Head recedes and rings the glass forming a base for drippy lace to fall toward. Most of it sticks. So dark that carbonation can only be seen in the strongest light; it's sleepy, but adequate.

S: Not much initially, even after warming 10 minutes or so. Gradually a nice spicing arises, a rooty gingerbread and molasses. It's similar in ways to Anchor's OSA... although theirs is stronger and more inviting. Kind of surprised that a 'big beer' like this doesn't have more aroma. Shrug.

T: I'm a fan of a sweeter/maltier winter ale - and this fits that bill. A dusty cocoa powder and careful use of cinnamon are highlights. The longer it sits, the more the spice turns to 'ginger', a spark that tingles on the tongue. A little drier in the finish, just enough to balance.

M: For an 8.5% beer, surprisingly devoid of alcohol 'heat'. Very easy to drink, truth be told. I assume that, by mid-March, this beer is 4-6 months since brewing; it's held up well, although carbonation is a little subdued. The end result is that it's thinner-feeling than expected. Smoothness is spot on.

O: I'm happy to have tried this (again), thanks to Mark. I've never reviewed it, but have been the recipient of a couple Festive Ales over the years. It's a better than average Winter Warmer, that does a good job with flavors that match my palate... and with subtle 'warming'. Yum. (1,875 characters)

Photo of ArrogantB
3.68/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle thanks to Bulbman, appreciate it! Dark brown color, short wispy head. Smells a little spicy like a winter warmer but also very malty. The taste is mostly malts to me but maybe there is a hint of cinnamon hiding. This was not bad at all and I'd probably buy a sixer if I could. The alcohol was not noticed at all. (324 characters)

Photo of merlin48
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

One liter bottle, number 7083 of 7200, $12.50 at the Weinhaus in Asheville, NC. Swingtop bottle sealed in red wax. Pours a dark brown body with a two finger tan head. The body appears a clear chestnut with garnet highlights when held to light. Head retention is excellent and lots of sticky lace is left behind on the glass.

Aroma opens with citrusy orange esters, spicy cinnamon and nutmeg/mace, and some brown sugar. Undertone of caramel and an odd note of vegetal squash.

Mouthfeel is creamy and full bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Toasted grains and sweet malty caramel dominate the taste. Brown sugar is overly prominent and adds a cloying aspect. Hops contribute an earthy bitterness, and the spicing of mace and cinnamon are present, but understated. Alcohol is very well concealed. Very much the winter warmer, but the sweetness is overdone.

Not a bad effort from Sweetwater, but I thought the sweetness was a bit cloying. (947 characters)

Photo of jsanford
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a dark black with slight reddish edges and a creamy khaki-colored head that fades to a thick cap, leaving spotty lacing as it recedes.
S - Sweet, malty aromas of milk chocolate, brown sugar, baked brown bread, and Winter spices (cinnamon and nutmeg).
T - More big flavors of sweet caramel and chocolate malt, baked bread, spices, and a good amount of warming alcohol "heat".
M - Smooth and creamy, with a medium-full mouthfeel and lowish carbonation.
O - A nice Winter brew, excellent on a cold evening! (553 characters)

Photo of mntlover
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2005 version bottle # 3166 of 7200

Pours a deep brown almost black with a dense light tan head that falls slowly and leaves some lace around.

Aroma is loads of malt some sugary molasses mingled thru out. Some nice dark fruit figs plums and some light spice.

Taste is lots of malt, molasses mingled with fruit finishing with spice clove and nutmeg mainly. Nice flavor lots of sweetness boarding on cloying but not quite. Hints of chocolate and metalic flavors appear also.

Mouthfeel is big medium almost full lots of free sugars floating around nice feel lots of spice

Drinkability is good but due to cost wouldn't purchase on a regular basis as others are better and cheaper. (690 characters)

Photo of nmann08
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From a 22oz bottle, pours a dark brown with amber hue color. Has a big fluffly white tan head that disappears very slowly, leaving tons of lacing on the glass.

The smell is heavy dark malt, spice, cinnamon, dark fruit, some molasses and chocolate. This smells pretty heavy and thick. A little booze present too.

Flavor is dark malt, a little roast, cinnamon, nutmeg, bitter dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is a little watery, would like a little bit more to this. The alcohol isn't overly present, which isn't bad, but this beer is missing a backbone and dominant characteristic.

Overall, not bad. (603 characters)

Photo of Mojo
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12 ounce bottle -> World Market tulip glass

This beer pours up a deep brown, almost black. There is a one finger light brown head, no retention to speak of and quite a bit of lacing at first, but it fades away quickly. The nose is spicy with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste is rather sweet at first sip with some notes of cola and molasses. The finish has a mild bitterness with some spiciness, but the sweetness upfront overshadows it. The alcohol is well hidden. Mouthfeel is pleasing with a syrupy texture. Not mad overall. (534 characters)

Photo of avalon07
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a brown color and a slightly cloudy consistency. There was a somewhat small amount of foamy, brown-colored head and good lacing.

S: Smelled of malt, a little hops and some spices.

T: Had a nice malty backbone with a hoppy bite to it, along with a spicy kick. Not exactly the most dynamic of flavors, but solidly constructed.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a dry finish. Medium-bodied.

D: A drinkable winter warmer, though not my favorite of the style. Still, a solid entry. (528 characters)

Photo of dpodratsky3
3.7/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into pint glass

A: Pours deep, deep brown, nearly but not quite black except where some light comes through on the bottom, has a large tan head that slowly settles, very sticky looking

S: Some roasted malts make up the base, a melange of spice aroma over the top but not super powerful or anything, definitely dark fruits present, fig stands out to me

T: Gradually building roasted malt with a definite sweetness also, almost like dark chocolate, doesn't have that super dark roasted/burnt character though, hops start to show up at the end too but only in bitterness not much taste wise, kind of weird short taste length though, the taste just kind of stops at one point, but it leaves a pleasant warmness

M: Light carbonation brings the body to just over medium, but nothing really heavy, very similar to the "average" winter warmer feel

D: Good for the style of a dark, semi-strong winter beer, but more of a slow drinker

Notes: Appearance and smell are the strong suits with this one. The taste is good, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was how the flavor seemed to fade rather quickly. I would hope that the flavors themselves would be the most endearing quality. A nice solid winter beer, but nothing extraordinary. (1,258 characters)

Photo of tayner
3.71/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle 2007

poured dark mahogany into my warsteiner glass. a 1 inch head dissipated to a full ring but not much lacing.

Smells less spicy than i was expecting from a winter warmer, which is good since i am sitting here with my front door open and it is sunny and 68 outside! has hints of roasted malts, fresh cigar tobacco smell as well.

Taste is like a rich brown ale more than what i would consider a "winter warmer". It has all the roasted malts you could want for a brown ale along with enough spicy hops to dry the palate and make you want more.

The mouthfeel is right on for a brown ale, if not just a tad heavy which would suit the winter warmer profile. a little sticky feeling as well. warms on the way down but 8.6 is not what i thought this was, more like 6% in my head.

I could drink this one alot if it was around here and colder outside for more than a month a year. i am happy to have tried it, and hope to try it again next year too. (964 characters)

Photo of iadler
3.72/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a dark brown with a one finger off white head that dissipates quickly, leaving a thin cap. No lacing is left behind.

S- Raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, star anise, nutmeg, roasted malt and a hint of unsweetened chocolate.

T- Unsweetened chocolate, faint coffee beans, grassy hops, molasses, roasted malt and brown sugar. Spices are more subtle in the taste

M- Medium carbonation and a fairly light body that finishes with a hint of roasted malt.

O- A good seasonal from SweetWater. The mouthfeel was a little watered down, but other than that, a winter warmer to visit if you have a chance. (613 characters)

Photo of MSchae1017
3.72/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2006 vintage 1 year old: head isn't quite as present as a fresh version. Chocolate and caramel in the nose. Strong caramel taste with subdued spices. Thick mouthfeel, smooth. Decent beer

This beer was tasted in a pint glass from a bottle.

This is quite darker than I expected. It is a brown-red. There is a sizable frothy head that holds nicely. It smells sweet and malty. There seems to be a lot going on with the taste but it is not very strong. First of all I notice that it is balanced nicely between hops and malts. I can detect some pine, cinnamon, and possibly something roasted and nutty. It feels thick and is carbonated well. This is one of the better winter warmers. (679 characters)

Photo of Proteus93
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was the 2007 bottling, shared with dkachur and CrellMoset a couple months ago.

A: Chocolatey brown, a bit of sediment (end of the bottle pour), and an off-white, seni-creamy head

S: Sunflower seed???, candi sugar, artificial banana?

T: Sweet and sugary, some nice caramel, sunflower again?! Wtf?? Some soft breadiness, and even a little buttery.

M + D: Very light caebonation... Lacking, really. Sweet and inoffensive drinking... Not too bad. (455 characters)

Photo of crossovert
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage. 12 oz bottle. On the bottle it says best refrigerated, but iIprefer this style at cellar temp.

Pours a dark brown with hints of ruby, with a frothy off white head. As the head recedes thick lacing rims the glass.

The nose is full of holiday cheer. The malt is very nutty and roasty, witch hints of cocoa and cinnamon. Theres almost an eggnog scent in there as well.

The taste could be more intense (as with most Sweetwater brews) but is full of dark malt with some cocoa and dark bread. It is also sweet with some spices in there as well, just like the scent. There is also hints of dark fruits. The mouthfeel seems a bit water, I would have preferred it to be a little heartier for this style.

Overall a decent beer, warms you up but not to the greatest extent. The drinkability is pretty good on this one. (825 characters)

Photo of Georgiabeer
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Finally got around to reviwing this one. Never got a chance last year. This is the 2007. Pours very dark brown with some garnet highlights. Decent head. The smell is of juicyfruit gum, christmas spices, and dry malt. Taste is similar, but slightly watery and not as flavorful as the nose suggests. In addition to the aromas being echoed in the flavors, there is a nutty finish. Mouthfeeel is very smooth but lighter than one would like for the style. Easy drinking, but a little boring. There are better winter warmers out there. Also, I thought last years tasted a little fuller. (580 characters)

Photo of biegaman
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 edition, sampled amidst a bristly snow storm on the first day of March 2007. Hopefully this bout of "peace, love, and suds" will be the end of this weather and onto spring!
Pours dark in colour, deep auburn with lots of both dark and light highlights. Pearly white bubbles as head. A refreshing aroma of spice. A little spicy actually, notes of cardomom, fresh green tree bark (spruce) and a whole slew of spices typical of a pumpkin ale; if not outwright pumpkin. Spices carry the mouthfeel too. Nowhere near as much malt or hops as there is spice, which works ok. Medium bodied, fairly light drinking - especially considering the alcohol percentage. Good and enjoyed, thanks Harry! (689 characters)

Photo of rangerred
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

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. (968 characters)

Photo of slatetupelo
3.76/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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. (477 characters)

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