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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

604 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 604
Reviews: 269
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 13.02%
Wants: 16
Gots: 61 | 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
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Ratings: 604 | Reviews: 269 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of merlin48
3.68/5  rDev -4.2%
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.

merlin48, Nov 19, 2005
Photo of doubleipa
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.

doubleipa, Oct 25, 2005
Photo of Todd
3.6/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2004 vintage. 12oz bottle. No freshness date. Pours a very deep garnet, near opaque. Foam is a snapping tan with large bubbles that bust down to a quarter inch lace that has some decent retention.

Ripened fruits and baking spices in the aroma, and a hint of sour sherry. Estery. Alcohols in the background.

Crisp, snapping carbonation the palate lends way to a creamy mouthfeel. Sharp, fruity character of sweet and sour berries, dark ripe fruits of plum, fig and raisin, followed by a sweet malty flavor with notes of caramel and granola cereal, along with ash and some smoke. Bag of mixed holiday-type spices. Alcohol is well-hidden. Very mild oxidation character in the form of cardboard, which lingers in the finish with a slight metallic note and overall drying character with chalk backing.

Aged quite well. Not bad, and a nice winter brew enjoyed in the summer. Screw seasonal stereotypes.

Todd, Sep 07, 2005
Photo of deejaydan
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.

deejaydan, Sep 01, 2005
Photo of axisjones
4.15/5  rDev +8.1%
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.

axisjones, Jun 20, 2005
Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.22/5  rDev +9.9%
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.

GCBrewingCo, May 20, 2005
Photo of ViveLaChouffe
3.28/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2004 batch

Pours an opaque black with a thin brown head, no lace. Smells fruity and roasted malt. Lots of spice, nutmeg, clove and allspice. Roasted coffee finish and aftertaste.

Not great. Kind of like Anchor Christmas gone wrong. Too much spice. Lackluster.

ViveLaChouffe, Mar 11, 2005
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.1/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

wax-finished, swing-topped bottle...how charmingly inconvenient! And in the amusing, family-sized 33.8 fluid ounce serving, as well..love it!
Appearance: dark, full blackness, with a cocoa-tinged ring of foam atop.
Aroma: nuts and cocoa, rich and full.
Taste: again, chocolate and nuts, some dark fruits, but not too complex. Very full with flavor, with strains of spices asserting themselves later on...Rustic-feeling, brimming with cocoa and dark fruits, just short of actually delicious, but every bit very, very good. I echo previous commentator's notes about a resemblance to Anchor's holiday offering, but it lacks the particular piney, sprucey, tree influence, and manages to stand on it's own, without that component.
Very tasty ale, very admirable, rich and full in body, but a nice, mellow, dark-fruity finish...and no particular flavors poisoning it's appeal to the average Joe...unless A.J. needs only fizzy yellow crap, but I'm off-message now, and I'll just enjoy this for the duration....this is a very nice diversion from all the *^% one endures in the wintertime, especially those of us us here in the states where we feel the weather on multitudinal levels...I congratulate Sweetwater for not only creating this beer, but for packaging it in such a unique fashion. As a holiday-style beer, though, it's just all-righty.

feloniousmonk, Mar 09, 2005
Photo of CRJMellor
3.93/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a drak, turbid brown/black and maroon mixture. Thin light ecru head leaves no lace on the glass.
Aroma has hints of cinnamon, ginger, cassis and maybe nutmeg with a little bit of chocolate, toffee and a hint of charcoal.
Flavors of cinnamon and ginger, caramel and a semi-sweet dark fruit note were detected. Seems almost like a light, spicy porter. Interesting, not amazing but very solid profile.
Mouthfeel is semi-sweet with a spicy middle and a lightly bittered finish. Leaves a hint of lactose as an aftertaste.
Drinkability is solid. If you can find it, try it. Interesting combination of lighter spices with a darker malt profile.

CRJMellor, Dec 28, 2004
Photo of clvand0
4.15/5  rDev +8.1%
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.

clvand0, Dec 07, 2004
Photo of kmpitz2
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.

kmpitz2, Dec 07, 2004
Photo of ncbrewerbun
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A fellow homebrewer brought this to the last homebrew club meeting for us to try. Sampled from a 12 ounce bottle from a six pack.

This beer poured a dark brown with hints of red. The head was a finger or so and just the tan side of white.

An interesting spicy aroma along with some sweet maltiness.

The flavor was a mild spiciness (cinnamon and...nutmeg?) balanced with malt.

A very good beer...interesting with the spices and malty balance. This beer really grew on me. I was happy that we had a few bottles to share.

ncbrewerbun, Nov 26, 2004
Photo of jlervine
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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 blitz134
3.8/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

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 Southernbrew
3.98/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After a 10 minute battle to get through the wax, I finally get the bottle open.

Pours dark brown with a good sized bubbly head.

The aroma is full of winter spices, fruits and a touch of alcohol.

Full bodied, fairly smooth. Many flavors combine in a delicious way: orange peel, light rum, dark fruit, a hint of alcohol and a light sweetness. The flavors stay about the same the whole way through, then finishes with a slight dry, bittersweetness with a light alcohol taste.

A very good seasonal. This review was done on a 2003 version that is nearly a year old. I don't think cellaring this would be a good idea, but it certainly has some staying power.

Southernbrew, Sep 16, 2004
Photo of bigwern
3.9/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque brown, almost black, with minimal head that disappears quickly. Very spicy, malty smell.

Burnt flavors dominate the taste. Lots of chocolate, coffee, smokey flavors in there. The body is medium but feels quite light when considering the complexity of the brew and the alcohol. There's a sweet maltiness at first, but it's soon drowned out by bitterness and alcohol spiciness. The finish is very hoppy.

It's a complex taste that's in your face but is a bit too overpowering in burnt flavors. I'd like to taste it again after it's aged and the flavor has smoothed out a bit. Regardless, a very satisfying brew that will fill you with warmth when it's cold outside.

bigwern, Jan 31, 2004
Photo of nomad
3.58/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A deep brown color, with no head or anything else despite a strong pour. This beer smelled of sweet dark malt tickling with spices, showing oaky, almost peat-like, and smoky sides. A full bill. Taste is mocha-like chocolate with soft spice surrounding it, deepened by a dark toast flavor with little too-much-roast distaste. Smoky at times, it had bits most noticeably of allspice, and a dry finish from spice chalkiness.

A fair bodied, fair winter beer. Thanks to aracauna for this warmer.

nomad, Jan 22, 2004
Photo of sulldaddy
4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Finally getting around to trying this one. The first of two from a trade with Rajendra82. Hoping for some tasty southern brew here.

I pour the chilled brew into my pint glass and it is incredibly dark brown, almost black. Barely any light gets through. Not what I expected at all. This is exciting! Very little tan head foams up and fades rather quickly, back to a thin layer on the surface.

The aroma is spicy sweet similar to other winter brews. Some nutmeg, and actually brown sugar or molasses scents as well.

First sip, very mild carbonation, very smooth with above average thickness. The flavor is similar to the scent. Slightly sweet, with hints of coffee, but more of a mocha. Similar to those swiss mocha hard candies they give out at banks sometimes. That is exactly what I taste. very easy to drink. No ABV listed but I guess it is above 6%. But not due to alcohol flavor or burn just thickness of the brew. This is a very nice brew. not what I expected from a winter ale, but I am very impressed with my first sweetwater beverage. Now I know what to look for next time I am in Georgia. Thanks again for a quality brew Rajendra!

sulldaddy, Jan 03, 2004
Photo of Weissenheimer
4.15/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the second Sweetwater beer from Rajendra82's package. The IPA upped my expectations, but I know that winter ales are a very mixed bag so I try not to get my hopes too high as I pour out the bottle. The pint is a very dark cherry color and has a pretty, medium-sized, foamy brown head. The spicy fragrance brings Harpoon Winter Warmer to mind, but this is heavier; apart from the spices I smell molasses and perhaps a bit of licorice.

I take my first sip and a completely unanticipated coffee taste nearly bowls me over. At this point I'm not sure that I'll be able to finish it, because I despise coffee. But thankfully I'm getting better at appreciating beers like this, because I soon realize that there's an awful lot here to appreciate. The initial flavor is full and malty with a roasted coffee undertone. This shifts over into the taste of bitter, hoppy coffee. The finish intrigues me because at first I want to say it's nothing but coffee, but then I also detect something of a too-strong cup of tea. The interesting thing is that up until this moment I thought of coffee (which I hate) and tea (which I love) to be two completely separate animals. I realize now that the tastes aren't as distinct as I thought.

In the end, the fact that I not only get used to the coffee flavor but happily finish the pint and look forward to another, says a great deal about the quality of this beer. I love it when I say "I don't like this type of beer" and the beer says "Oh yeah? Are you sure about that?" My only complaint is that the wonderful progression of tastes flies by too fast. This is probably because the strength and persistence of the coffee flavor dulls my taste buds so that the more subtle flavors go under my radar. I imagine that, for people who like coffee to begin with, this beer must be truly spectacular. Thanks Rajendra82 for a great trade!

Weissenheimer, Dec 16, 2003
Photo of resirob
4.22/5  rDev +9.9%
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.

resirob, Dec 16, 2003
Photo of rajendra82
4.18/5  rDev +8.9%
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.

rajendra82, Nov 21, 2003
Photo of BierReise
3.78/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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 aracauna
3.73/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

11/6/03 (review of aged sample): I stuck a couple of bottles of this down in the basement for a year to age. They aged surprisingly well. The spice flavor that was far too strong when fresh has subdued nicely, making this a much more drinkable beer and also allowed more fruitiness come out. Much more interesting now.

11/12/02: Dark, dark ruby, almost black. Light khaki head lasts a while. The aroma is brown sugar, pumpernickel bread and toffee. The flavor is really earthy and woody. Kind of like the smell of a forest after a rain with the rottings logs and new growth. What I'm assuming is the mace comes on a little strong while the cinammon is faint enough that I don't notice it. The alcohol tickles around the edges of the palate but is covered fairly well.

aracauna, Nov 07, 2003
Photo of purplehops
4.22/5  rDev +9.9%
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.

purplehops, Aug 24, 2003
Photo of jcalabre
3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: This brew is reddish brown with a quickly disappearing head.
Aroma: It's almost a potpourri type of smell.
Flavor: slightly sweet and spicey
Overall: this is a medium bodied, slightly spicey beer. quite tasty. THis is a nicely done winter ale that isn't too overpowering

jcalabre, Jul 20, 2003
Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 604 ratings.