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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

280 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 280
Hads: 715
Avg: 3.82
pDev: 20.42%
Wants: 27
Gots: 125 | 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: 715
Photo of dgallina
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
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 Gueuzedude
3.82/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.37/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 12 oz. brown bottle states it’s a Holiday beer, and has the year (2006), nothing else.

Aroma: Yep, that’s a holiday beer! Great clove, nutmeg aroma in a dark malt base.

Appearance: Dark black with thick ruby brown edges. Sports a solid collar but fails to lace.

Flavor: That’s nice! Lightly plumed malt base supports the spices, again, nutmeg and clove are my guesses (website lists cinnamon and mace), and results in a very balanced, complex taste. Some mild coffee/chocolate flavor is noted. It seems to be a good English Brown Ale spiced for the holidays. Notably absent from the flavor: hops and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium low carbonation, dry.

Overall Impression: Easy drinking, dangerous in it’s close to 9% abv. Felt the alcohol long before I tasted it. This beer is expertly assembled to let every aspect shine. Spices are firm, but not overdone. Malt and subdued hop blend into a well matched pair. My first Sweetwater, I plan on not letting it be my last!
Thanks to Mark for the trade!

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Photo of jmpounders
3.64/5  rDev -4.7%
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!

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Photo of Phyl21ca
2.95/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottle courtesy of Mr_Kimchee: Poured a dark black color beer with a medium off-white foamy head with average retention. Aroma of dry roasted malt with some faint spices. Taste is dominated by roasted malt with a very dry finish. I could not detect very much spice presence overall though and was surprised by the fact that this is classified as spiced beer since I honestly though it was a porter.

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Photo of Westsidethreat
3.33/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours a vigours oatmeal colored semi tight head. Beer appears to be the color of coffee. The way the foam sits on top when first poured it almost appears to be a cappucino.

S: Combination of dried strawberries and wet hay. Allspice hints on the nose with an essence of walnuts with an earthen sensibility.

T: Cinnamon flavors at the back of the mouth, citrus on the sides and grapejuice on the tip. After a few sips while it warms notes of strawberries dipped in chocolate emerge. Lots of nutmeg and nutty flavors.

M: Full and round.

D: Ultimately a bit too overspiced. By the end of the huge bottle, it had become a bit too much.

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Photo of hoppymeal
3.57/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle is dated 2005. Pours dark brown with some burgundy color as well. Smells of sweet malts, dates, prunes, and caramel. Also some roasty aroma in there. Medium body with sweet malts dominating up front in the taste with some roasty and smoky flavors as well in the background that tingle on the tongue. Good beer, I may enjoy it more during the winter months.

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Photo of Zorro
3.06/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Massive 33 Oz bottle received from LuckySevens82 and BIF33 - Team Spring.

Vintage 2005 Bottle # 804 of 7200. Hard wax dipped flip top bottle.

Exceptionally dark brown beer that is very close to black. Only thing that makes it not black is the small amount of light that can be passed through the edges. Near no head just a tan ring around the edges of the glass.

Smell is a bit sour with lemon and ginger and something like the smell of Coke a cola. Bit of alcohol and pepper in the scent.

Taste is mildly sweet and sour with a good chocolate and coffee taste with some spices added. Decent bitterness kicks in after a while. Something tastes off here. Mouthfeel is OK.

Not my favorite beer here. Just seems off. Not recommended.

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Photo of WetCoaster
4.35/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Well, this was supposed to be my 200th review, but I guess my math was a wee bit off. That's what you get for drinking, I suppose. At any rate, a gift from my good friend Tim F. in Hotlanta, GA. Much love for this super-rare (in San Fran, anyway) right coast gift. #176 of 7200, no less.

Appearance: Pour from a 33 oz. waxed and Ball jar-corked bottle (seriously guys, WTF?!) a deep, warm caramel with a tan, almost brown, head. Light, fizzy head head with moderate retention.

Smell: Very dense and sweet. Lots of vanilla and cola; the beer version of cream soda, if you will.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Fantastic -- probably the best winter warmer I've sampled. Dark chocolate malts, caramel, vanilla, roasted, smokey espresso. Nicely hopped and balanced. Finishes deep, charred and tight with burnt coffee long into the finish. The mouthfeel is fine, if a bit run-of-the-mill, medium bodied with fine, crisp carbonation.

Drinkability: Great -- loved the flavor, a real standout in a pretty mediocre style. Too bad I can't get no more. Still, enjoyed this one.

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Photo of oberon
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2005 bottle #6305 of 7200.Quite an impressive 33.8fl oz waxed swing top bottle,poured a deep brown with ruby tint thru out with a nice slow forming off-white head that is gone pretty fast after it forms.Deep roasted malt,molasses and a touch of nutmeg a malt bomb here.A thinner but not watery mouthfeel but I thought it would be a little fuller,flavors start on the sweeter side molasses and brown sugar dominate a touch of cherry as well but not to much spice,a nice dryinf earthy finish shows there is some hops in there.It comes in a fancy package and is a pretty good beer but for $10.00 bucks a bottle I wouldnt buy again.

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Photo of MuddyFeet
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2004. Thanks ChainGangGuy. Overall this beer improves greatly as it warms up a bit.

Extremely carbonated out of control head that eventually settled down to a thin layer of condensed head. Sheets of lace on the edges. Dark brown in color with no light coming through. Nose is Christmas cookie dough with a cup full of eggnog spices.

Flavor is a bit over the top and out of balance with a bucket full of spices and a healthy does of alcohol heat. Sweet malts are quickly followed by the spices. Full body that really clings to the sinuses after the swallow. Warming on the way down and quite soothing. Kind of like a brandy actually.

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Photo of hopsaplenty
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of timtheenchanta
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Light to medium brown. True to style. Rocky fluffy head. Good retention. Little lacing that runs down the glass.

Spices and very faint malt. Not much else in the nose.

Lots of holiday spices. Ginger and everything else you put in cookies that screams out winter holidays. Slight alcohol taste and burn. Thin malt taste that's sweet but not great.

A little thin. Lightly carbonated. Enjoyable beer. Not my favorite of the style but good.

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Photo of Brewfan
3.83/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Konabrewer for this beer. You rock Matty!

Poured into my 3 Philosopher's chalace from a BIG 33.8 oz swingtop bottle that took me 10 minutes to break through the Fort Knox layer of red wax.

Poured a dark chocolate color with a big head of thick bubbles. Faded rather quickly, leaving a trace of lace on the outer reaches of the beer.
Sweet nose of caramel, slight coffee and alcohol. I get a bit of nutmeg and some slight hoppyness.
Not overly sweet on the tongue. Roasted caramel and a lot of butterscotch, but not cloying. A bit hoppy and earthy.
Mouthfeel was a med-light. Thought it could have used a bit more body but I for a winter warmer, you don't want it too heavy.
This was my first Sweetwater offering. Nice winter warmer. One I'd like to try again in the future.

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Photo of gosurfobx
4.32/5  rDev +13.1%
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.

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Photo of MSchae1017
3.72/5  rDev -2.6%
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.

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Photo of mntlover
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

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Photo of rabidawg
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of qcitydarkstar
4.02/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance -- Held to the light, this ale is the deepest brown and the sediment in suspension makes it opaque and practically black. Upon pouring this ale in a chalice, I got about an inch of off-white head.

Smell -- Licorice, Nutmeg, Coffee, Various Spices

Taste -- Licorice, Ripe Raisins, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Roasted/Burnt Malts

Sweetwater Festive Ale has an overpowering "kitchen sink" taste that causes the drinker to notice new flavors with every sip. Because of the taste profile, I would consider this an "extreme beer" as it is not what I would grab if I was in the mood for your average stout or porter. This is a fantastic brew that everyone should try, but I do not see myself quaffing this beverage often.

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Photo of sammy44
4.12/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My favorite beers are always the winter beers and this is my favorite.

I drank this from a pint glass where it had a nice cream colored head that lasted 'til about halfway through the pint. The smell was something like a spice cake or gingerbread. The taste followed this up. The beer was heavy on the tongue and smooth going down. It would be great served with desert.

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Photo of warriorsoul
3.81/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to 1hopmonster for this one of many....
Pours a dark brown, almost black with very little light passing thru...a full finger of light brown head that disappears to all but a fine layer. Impressive lacing forms on the side of the snifter glass.
Aroma is very subdued...mostly fig and a hint of smoke.
The taste is where this one shines...a heavy dose of malt, but not overly sweet...the fig is more of a raisin flavor with some spice (cinammon, mild allspice) mixed in to fit the style.
The mouthfeel is thick yet not cloying and the carbonation is delightful...a very nice offering in the style and quite solid across the board, like many of Sweetwater's offerings.
I would enjoy this one all season long if only it was available...the alcohol is totally hidden, but it is so warming you know it is one to respect.
Definitely one to try if you like your winter warmers without the spices being overdone.

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Photo of sideshowrob
4.48/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Large Bomber-sized bottle. Grolsch-style swingtop covered in thick, red wax. Wax was rather difficult to remove gracefully, but well worth the effort. Brew was much darker than I was expecting, a nice almost-black color. Very little head. Nice aroma on this one. Hint of cardamom spice, reminiscent of an Anchor X-mas brew. Taste was unexpected, there was a stong smoke flavor to the brew, not unlike a good rausch style. The smokey flavor was distinct, not unlike maple bacon. The hops offset the strong malt note, resulting in an enjoyable experience. The bottle was numbered to indicate that only 7200 bottles of this sucker are avaible, so grab one while you can. I had number 3499.

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Photo of AlexJ
3.53/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark chocolate brown pour with a light beige head that is dense and lasting.

Aroma is dark malt, cocoa, subtle coffee, and hints of spice. Nice but rather ordinary.

Flavor steps up a bit with unsweetened chocolate, roasted coffee, dark malts, leather, and very faint spice. Finish is big and hoppy. No trace of the nearly 9 % alcohol content.

Body hovers between medium and large with aggressive carbonation and a somewhat chalky mouthfeel.

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Photo of SilentSabre
3.09/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Aside from this being a bit darker than I would have expected, everything else I was dead-on about. It poured a very dense dark chocolate brown through which light could hardly pass. No head. The smell was hoppier than I care for, which I predicted it would be. A bit of malt present, which is what I enjoy, but plenty of hops. No thanks. The taste was the same as the smell. A greater presence of hops than malt. Mouthfeel is very nice, however. There's little carbonation and it's very smooth and easy to drink. This has a very very slight heaviness to it. Or rather, what I think I'm trying to say is that there is a consistency here that seems a bit thicker than one might expect. Not like syrup, but certainly more dense than water. Overall, I probably will never buy this again. It certainly isn't terrible, but it certainly isn't for me either. I really didn't care for it that much, but it sure does have a smooth finish, and at 8.6%, it'll do the trick in a hurry!!

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Photo of Chadbrew
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Don't Float The Mainstream... No worries there.
Coffee colored beer with very mild carbonation and slight head. There is an even ring of tight bubbles around the edges that leaves a fine, if small, sheet of lacing.
Smells like caramel and roast.
There is a definite bitterness right away and an anise flavor that stays around while the bitterness fades. I perceive a touch of spice that accents the big malty body, makes the beer kind of "chewy"... nice.
Most impressive is the smoothness and drinkability, the alcohol is very well hidden until you feel it rather than taste it.
I'll be looking for it next year no doubt!

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