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 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 boudreaux
4.37/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass; dark khaki-colored head, which dissipates quickly; very little lacing.

Nose: Rich, full bodied, distinctly malty; noticeable spices, with strong essence of clove and cocoa.

Taste: Creamy mouth-feel; noticeable but not overwhelming maltiness; mooth, pleasant after-taste; rich, dark malt and smoke flavors linger on the tongue.

Drinkability: Impressed by this seasonal offering from Sweetwater Brewing; solid offering from a company which is a steady performer in the craft brewing segment; rich taste is a departure from other Sweetwater beers that I have tasted; recommend this ale to anyone who enjoys a good dark beer.

Serving type: bottle (698 characters)

Photo of HeyItsChili
3.78/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

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. (389 characters)

Photo of aepb1
3.5/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- Dark brown with red at the edges with a small light tan head

S- Dark roasted malts, chocolate and some coffee

T- Dark fruits, roasted maltiness, coffee and chocolate. Nice complexity

M- Medium body but kind of watery finish. Creamy body with the carbonation

D- Nice complexity but the mouthfeel is off (308 characters)

Photo of mklinger
4.27/5  rDev +11.5%
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. (1,110 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 BeerDocT
3.83/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

-Appearance 4.0: Poured out an (unexpected!) jet black with a half-inch, white head. Head quickly faded, but stayed wispy around the edges. Very nice and unusual color combination.

-Smell 3.5: Nice smell, but nothing extraordinary. I smell hops, barley malt and a slight hint of some type of spice...gingery, citrusy... . The bouquet is better than average, but not exceptional.

-Taste 4.0: Initial sweetness turns into a slighty sour taste; middle is all barley sweetness and the finish is where I picked up the spice and all of the hops. I really like the spice taste: reminiscent of quality gingerbread. Unusual, but not over top.

-Mouthfeel 3.5: Slightly under-carbonated and watery in the mouth.

-Overall 4.0: A very tasty "Holiday" brew. Not too thick to consider as a session lager; its huge 8+% ABV is completely unnoticeable. These are the type of beers that tend to sneak up on you when you are out, so enjoy responsibly, folks! If you can find this beer, buy it. (977 characters)

Photo of titosupertramp
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
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. (719 characters)

Photo of olympuszymurgus
2.86/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured into a discraft great lakes open mug. Dark, nice head, aroma is spicey, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, allspice, hint of vanilla and fruit.

Flavor taste a bit too much like cheap pumpkin pie, too much spice and kinda sweet. It's not doing it for me, maybe some extra roast and I would be happier. There is a lot of good, just seems to be missing a few key components.

I would like to try next years festive fresh, maybe the 6 months did not do this one well. (467 characters)

Photo of hopsaplenty
4.33/5  rDev +13.1%
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. (744 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 Southernbrew
3.97/5  rDev +3.7%
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. (664 characters)

Photo of warmstorage
3.85/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One liter, 2006 bottling, with an exceptionally annoying wax seal over the Grolsch-style swing-top. Approximately $13 at Boo's Party Shop in Columbus, GA.

Poured into a wide-mouthed wine glass at cellar temp. Dense medium brown head, leaves no lacing.

Aroma is tangy sweet brown sugar with cloves. Almost a doppelbock, sweet plum lager smell.

Taste is a deep brown sugar, plums, stonefruit, cloves, and a sharp, super spicy finish. Raw cinnamon? Cloves? A mouth full of raw nutmeg?

Mouth is medium sharp carbonated, so strong a finish of the spice that it's hard to tell.

A very tasty, interesting beer, but one that's hard to categorize, or to tease out the dozens of flavors in. Something I'd buy again, but for $13 for a liter, I'll look for the rumored six pack. (786 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 UnderPressure
4.02/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown, nearly black colored beer with a light brown head.

A really nice malty, sweet aroma. Roasted grains and spice are also present in the aroma.

A nice malty, spicy flavor. A slight bitterness hits the back of the mouth at first. With a grainy, roasted malt finish.

Nice mouthfeel. Medium-heavy bodied. A perfect level of carbonation.

This has become one of my favorite winter seasonals. A great dark, roasty, spicy beer with plenty to offer. (455 characters)

Photo of WetCoaster
4.35/5  rDev +13.6%
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. (1,063 characters)

Photo of bcostner1
3.56/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark brown/amber. Fairly opaque. Nice, thick, rich tan head that sticks around for a while.

S: Not that impressive to me. Faint hint of spice (cinnamon and citrus maybe?) and a little bit of licorice actually.

T: I am pleasantly surprised by the taste of this one. It's sweeter and less hop-forward than I expected. The predominant flavors for me are caramel, malt, and chocolate with some brown sugar in there. Very subtle spice comes forward as the beer warms and to me is mainly cinnamon with a little bit of bitter orange peel perhaps. I'm digging this...and I wasn't sure that I would.

M: For as thick and rich as the head was on the pour, the beer itself is a little on the thin side. A little more body would do it well. Still, it is very easy to drink and I really don't detect the 8.6% ABV whatsoever which is a good thing.

Overall, I enjoyed this beer quite a bit. I would definitely buy it again. As far as winter warmers go, I haven't had many but I personally enjoyed this more than Jubelale, which I also had recently, mainly because I like my hops more subdued and this definitely fits the bill for that. (1,126 characters)

Photo of clemtig76
3.95/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage 1 liter bottle purchased at Beverage Superstore in Suwanee, GA. Pours a dark mahogany brown with a thinish head that quickly dissipates. Aroma is a spicy medley of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg with hint of chocolate malt.
The taste was good and smooth for a high ABV beer. Nice balance between the spices and the sweet malt. Very little hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is a little on the thin side. Very drinkable but I think one is enough. (448 characters)

Photo of rodrot
3.97/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark brown color with a 1 inch light tan head. Aroma was of caramel malts and holiday spices. Cinammon, nutmeg and ginger were all present in the nose. Taste was a good mix of caramelly malts, chocolate and spices. I could pick up a little bit of hop bitterness. As the beer warmed, the chocolatey taste became more evident as well as some alcohol. Mouthfeel was medium bodied. This is a very tasty Christmas brew that warms on a cold night. I plan on picking up another sixer if I can find it. Curious that the 8.6 abv is not listed anywhere on the bottle as NC law requires. (585 characters)

Photo of spacecake9
4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a bottle of this fine ale in a trade.
A - Pours black with a nice head that settles quickly.
S - Aroma of malt, dark fruits.
T - Very tasty brown ale. Minimal spices.
F - Medium mouth feel, low carbonation.
O - I've been sitting on this one for a couple months, much better than I expected. Very drinkable beer. (318 characters)

Photo of Infamous7100
3.58/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: pours deep and rich brown. It's clear, but the depth of the color makes it impossible to see all the way through. A nice head upon my pour with minimal lacing. A tan ring remains around the outside throughout my consumption.
S: aromas of cinnamon and spice are what I pick up at first. Shockingly, I am getting a lot of toasted malt and dark chocolate overtones I would associate with a stout. Interesting combo.
T: Complexity abound. The winter spices blend nicely with the roasted malts, chocolate and coffee flavors. I get a slight hoppiness as well, but malts and spice rule the day.
M: this brew possesses a nice creaminess with a medium body and medium carbonation. It finishes smooth and spicy with a hint of bitterness.
O: a nice winter brew. I enjoy the elements of a stout that were incorporated into its characteristics, wnich is unique. The flavors were maybe a bit too subtle, but were present enough to mask most of the alcohol. (945 characters)

Photo of CWiggins
3.07/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I purchased this big-ass bottle (33.8oz) from Bruisin' Ales in Asheville around Christmas '08. (Sweetwater brews aren't available in the Durham area, but they can be found in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

It pours a very dark brown with a rich, thick, deep tan head that lasted for some time. Aromas of bright cherry, caramel, dark chocolate, and alcohol are noted. The flavor is bright indeed, with sweet, dark fruit dominating the front and middle of the profile. The finish is a bit hoppy, and a slight coffee essence lingers here and during the aftertaste. It's certainly more malty than I expected.

It's a nice beverage, although it's not like any winter warmer I've ever had. Very interesting and worth trying again. (740 characters)

Photo of RedwoodGeorge
3.78/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

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] (913 characters)

Photo of welldigger888
3.93/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

poured from growler into an irish pint glass. Nice thick off white head with excellant lacing down glass,nice deep copper ruby colored elixer.
A festive spicey malt breadiness in aroma for me.
Sweet bready spiced flavors with just enough of a kiss of hops to round out.
I am pleased with the creamy smooth mouth on this brew!
Until the abv catches you this is highly drinkable! (377 characters)

Photo of mikecharley
4.59/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Track1646 for bringing this to our tasting yesterday. This bottle is a 2005 vintage.

Pours a dark brown. Spotty lacing. The head is spotty on top of the surface in my huge brandy snifter.

This is by far the best smelling brew I have ever had... I smelled it for the first time, and had two comments immediatly. First was: "This is a five" Next came "This smells like Thanksgiving dinner". Both are very very true. It was the easiest rate I have ever done on a particular attribute of any beer. Amazing nose. I got cloves, raisin, nutmeg, spicy, potpouri, pumpkin pie spice. Amazing! Let it warm, and it just gets better.

The flavor is in the nose, but is a bit more subtle. Lots of spice, with some very small hints of some faded grassy hops in the background. Some sweet malts. Really good beer. This might be one of the best beers I have EVER had. Great (871 characters)

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