Festive Ale
SweetWater Brewing Company

Festive AleFestive Ale
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Winter Warmer
Ranked #40
Ranked #24,296
3.84 | pDev: 12.24%
SweetWater Brewing Company
Georgia, United States
Very Good
Festive AleFestive Ale
Notes: A strong ale brewed with generous amounts of rich malt, coupled with a taint of cinnamon and mace
Reviews: 312 | Ratings: 839 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of jeffdr123
jeffdr123 from Florida

4.09/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Sweetwater brewery in Atlanta. Pours a dark Coca Cola brown. The spices aren't too dominant. Raisins and light flavors. Doesn't taste boozy, so it can sneak up on you. Very smooth.

Sep 24, 2021
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RedbirdRona from Illinois

3.94/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tastes like caramel, roasted nuts, and cinnamon. Dangerously smooth for 8.1% abv. Look is black similar to a Guinness. This is one of my favorite styles to explore. Overall this is a solid brew but their are better examples of this style. I plan to enjoy this again come winter 2020.

Mar 22, 2020
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Jugs_McGhee from Texas

3/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 fl oz pull-tab CAN from a variety box:

Currently ranked #36 in the Winter Warmer category.

"Ale brewed with spices." "unique seasonal blend brewed exclusively for the holidays." Best before: 03/11/20. 8.1% ABV per my can. From their website: "has a sleighload of Centennial and Golding hops and is capped with a dose of cinnamon and nutmeg." (Some online sources claim mace - not nutmeg per se - was utilized).

27 IBUs.

Malt Bill: 2-Row, Munich, 40L, 70/80, Carapils, Chocolate, Black.

Hops: Centennial, US & UK Golding

Dry Hop: N/A

Served cold into a nonic pint glass.

I get some cassia and faint herb (I guess mace...it doesn't remind me of nutmeg) atop a bready malt base with some herbal leaning English hops. Hints of bread crust, licorice/anise fennel family herbs, and toast. Caramel and toffee weave their way in and out.

It's certainly on the sweeter side, downplaying its hops, but aside from finishing a bit too sweet I think it's fairly well balanced. Malty to style. The Jagermeister-redolent herb profile isn't unpleasant, but I don't pick up on any true cinnamon or evocative nutmeg...it's less distinct and tends more towards licorice to my palate.

I can't say it's up there with the best winter warmers I've had, but it's nice to see an American brewery trying their hand at the style - I'd love to see more on the market. I wouldn't buy this in sixers every year or anything, but I'm glad I got to try it once despite ample room for improvement.

High C (3.00) / AVERAGE

Jan 10, 2020
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GuyFawkes from Illinois

4.1/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

"Best by 10/716"; drank 1/1/16 @ the Yarchives.

Opaque dark brown appearance.

A rough pour yielded a huge tan head; strong lace.

Sweet raspberry, brown sugar & red wine notes in the nose.

Medium mouthfeel.

Sweet raspberry & brown sugar flavors up front; red wine & faint bakers chocolate notes on the finish.

I wasn't expecting a sweet dessert treat that was rich & drinkable; a pleasant surprise!

Mar 23, 2019
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WickedBeer from Alabama

3.34/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Cracked open a 2013 bottle today, might be a mess.

Murky caramel brown color, still carbed up and with a small, thin head of beige foam. No lace sticks around.

Sweet nose, with a lot of dark fruit, caramel, and molasses aromas. Similar profile to a Belgian dubbel. Nothing outwardly off, but no more trace of those Christmas spices present. UPDATE: definitely getting some licorice notes as it opens up in the glass.

More of the same as found on the nose, but more apparently off.. very malt-forward, again with a molasses presence poking through.. the off flavors come in the form of cardboard, but this is aided by the still-present carbonation.

Fairly thin, with a low but surprisingly present carb (as mentioned). Sticky finish, but smooth and warm going down.

Feb 10, 2019
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mothmanscott from Georgia

3.94/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes 1/1/15: Pours a brown so deep it appears black producing 2+ fingers of frothy, tan, somewhat lasting head that leaves soapy streaks and washes of lace. Aroma is dark malt with hints of roast, chocolate, faint brown sugar and dark fruits. Taste is roasted malt, dark bread, brown sugar, morasses, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, vanilla and floral hops with earthy hop flavors and dark fruits in a wet finish. The aftertaste is roast, burnt bread and Bakers Cocoa that fades to more bitter. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with light-medium carbonation, slick, wet, smooth and a little chewy.

Dec 11, 2018
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zeff80 from Missouri

3.73/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

On tap. Poured out a dark amber color with a small, khaki-colored head of foam. It smelled of pine needles, spices and toasted caramel. It tasted a little smoky with a lot of pine and spices.

Dec 01, 2018
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JacobusFavier23 from Texas

3.96/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

L- Dark dark clear brown ale with a nice frothy tan one fingered head.
S- Dark chocolate, cola, clove, roasted malts, roasted coffee, caramel and clove.
T- Sweet/bitter dark chocolate, roasted malts, bitter hops, caramel, oak, toasted woods, earth. Nice Flavor
F- Medium bodied, soft mouth feel. Very soda like.
O- I'm not gonna lie, I was pleasantly surprised by this beer. Extremely grounded yet powerful flavors leave this brew to be original and delicious. Very, very good Winter Warmer. Probably one of the last of the style I'll be able to get my hands on until the next cold season comes. Excited to try this again next winter!

Feb 15, 2018
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hopsputin from New Jersey

4.01/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

A: dark brown/black color that is slightly shiny. Thin tan head

S: caramel, clove, cinnamon, black licorice, cola, roasted malt

T: black licorice, leather, caramel, fig, roasted malt, and some milk chocolate and cinnamon

M: medium silky syrupy mouth with little carbonation

O: this is a nice winter warmer here. Not as roasted as many of the other i have tried, but it has a nice blend of flavor and spice. This will warm you no doubt

Nov 25, 2017
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Vetbidder from Pennsylvania

3.74/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Very dark look to this brew with a light colcolate receeding head. Looks pretty nice actually. Scent is of a some bitter chocolate malt and some alcohol on there too. Very much like the flavor of a stout with just slight spice and slight bitterness. I was glad not to be overwhelmed by spices. Thicker feel with less carbonation. Alcohol pretty well hidden.

Nov 18, 2017
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nick_perry from North Carolina

2.65/5  rDev -31%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.25

Strong flavor of holiday spice, but I wouldn’t necessarily know I’m drinking a beer. Not much of a hop profile or malt backbone, or really even any discernible carbonation. I could be drinking a tea or coffee that has the same flavors, and there wouldn’t be much of a difference.

Mar 11, 2017
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

It had been my intent to get festive over the Christmas/NYE/NY holiday period, but as usual, I have more beer here at Chez Woody than I can drink on a timely basis. I really enjoyed Saranac's Holiday Ale, so I am going to continue with a few more holiday beers before the next horizontal.

From the bottle: "Bottle Conditioned for fresher taste"; "A sleigh load of malt, spiced with a touch of cinnamon & nutmeg."; "Festive Ale is a unique seasonal blend brewed exclusively for the holidays."; "Everyone at Sweetwater Brewing Company wishes you and your family a safe and toasty holiday season.!"; "We double-dog dare you!"

Bottle conditioned, eh? That means that a gentle pour is in order, following my Pop! of the cap, so as not to rouse any existing lees. It took an in-glass swirl to raise a brief finger of fizzy, foamy, deep-tan/light-brown head with modest retention. Color was Very Dark Brown to Black/Opaque (SRM = > 34, < 44), allowing just enough light to penetrate to be able to see its mahogany highlights. Nose was spicy, filled with cinnamon & ginger, but I was not getting much beyond that. Mouthfeel was medium to full, not quite creamy, but big enough to merit my attention. The taste was interesting, more bready than spicy, although there was an anise flavor initially, replaced by the ginger-cinnamon flavor as it warmed. Finish was dry and spicy, but it just did not reach me the way that the earlier Saranac did.

Today is H, 11 June 2020 & I am revisiting this beer, but this time, in support of The CANQuest (tm)! I am CANtinuing to clear out the backlog here at Chez Woody & as I do so, I am given the opportunity to CANduct numerous brewery horizontals. The latest, in support of The CANQuest (tm) is Sweetwater, sweetheart.

From the CAN: "Don't Float the Mainstream!"; "Festive Ale Brewed with Spices"; "Festive spiced ale is a unique seasonal blend brewed exclusively for the holidays."; "Everyone at SweetWater Brewery Company wishes you and your family a safe and toasty holiday season.!"; "We double-dog dare you!"

I Crack!ed open the vent & given their dare, I CANmenced a solid, free-flowing C-Line aggro Glug into the awaiting glass. This resulted in the formation of just under two fingers of dense, foamy, rocky, deep-tan/light-brown head with very good retention. Color was Very Dark Brown to Black/Opaque (SRM = > 34, < 44) with cola highlights. Nose smelled like a liquefied Christmas cookie with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice & ginger. Mmm. Mouthfeel was medium. The taste was equal to the spicy task of the nose & reminded me of a liquefied pfefferneusse (a German holiday cookie that is quite common here in Lancaster County, PA during the holidays). The beer beCAN by having the spices wake me up & then the alcohol beCAN to lull me off to bed. 8=O It was a very spicy beer with all of the usual spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & anise. Finish was dry as the result of the spices. This was really delivering a knock-out punch. YMMV.

Jan 12, 2017
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Griffin2 from Virginia

3.77/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.
L - Pours black with a tan head.
S- Smells like a roasty Porter.
T - Tastes very much like the smell, very roasty with some spiciness on the finish.
F - Medium body with carbonation to match.
O - Easy drinking holiday ale.

Dec 03, 2016
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allengarvin from Texas

3.61/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Opaque brown-black color with a low initial head that fades fairly quickly to just a thin film.
S: Cocoa aroma, with a modest roast malt scent, moderately sweet.
T: Very low bitterness, relying on roast malt to offset the sweetness to a degree; chocolate cocoa flavor. If there are spices in here, I can't detect them.
M: smooth, creamy mouthfeel, nice body.
O: Mostly, a rather generic sweet stout or porter.

Nov 18, 2016
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delta490 from Virginia

3.77/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Incredibly dark, with just a thin tan ring of head. No lacing. The aroma is malty sweet and mildly spicy. The taste is much the same. The body isn't particularly heavy or thick.

Nov 06, 2016
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beerthulhu from New Jersey

4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

-Best by 11.01.16. Consumed 10.01.16.

A: Nice cola pour, sits a flat black in the vessel accompanied by a frothy, dark tan head of one inch that showed a very resilient retention.

S: Spicy cola, sweet rum sugars, dark fruit of figs, and some soda syrup. Nice strength, finish of birch, rootbeer and earthy roasted hop flowers.

T: Flavor was spicy dried cola, earthy bitterness, lightly roasted hop flowers and light mention of fresh, wet tobacco. Dark fruit, some dried rum sweetness, x-mas spicing of cinnamon and caramel nuttiness, along with some oily roastiness. Great level of dark fruit, most particularly plums, a bit of sweet mentions along with alcohol gently lingers on long after the swallow.

M: Oily, medium-full, some edgy carbonation texture with some thick breadiness.

O: Earthy, oily roastiness with a nice soothing bitterness offset with some cinnamon spicing gives this a big festive feel perfect for the fall or winter nature. Big flavor from a small bottle, abv% of 8.1% is the cinderella slipper of the beer, fitting perfectly within. Wide spectrum of flavor, complexity, and very good drink-ability. very good 89 overall.

Oct 07, 2016
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Cuervo_PCB from Florida

4.5/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I love this stuff. I was fortunate enough to be able to have this special brew every Christmas season though out the 90s. It always bring fond memories. Cheers!
Update 9/13/19 Opened a 2015 bottle cellared by Sweetwater for breakfast on a trip to the ATL. Every bit as magical as those brew from the 90’s.

Aug 27, 2016
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Brian_L-2056 from West Virginia

3.94/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown color with a creamy off white frothy head. Has amber tint when held up to light. The carbonation is good but the head dissipates rather quickly. The don't really get much at all in the smell department, maybe its just me. Initial taste is very pleasant, with hints of coffee. Has a very smotth feel to the palate. Overall a very nice brew.

Jun 17, 2016
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Billolick from New York

4.04/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle with "best if enjoyed by" dating

Pours quite dark amber, dark mocha head,mleaving some low sheeting and a thick collar

Molasses and dark malts on the nose

Richly flavorful winter warmer with some light spicing, but mostly dark chocolate, dark malts, more molasses....tasty, enjoyable and well worth a try

Feb 23, 2016
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Sabtos from Ohio

3.18/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light brown, semi transparent.

Can't believe no one has said this. I get Dr. Pepper on the nose and the tongue. Once I pinpointed that note, I really kept coming back to it. Sassafras or tobacco.

Interesting how many different interpretations there are of the holiday flavors, even between different states.

Jan 03, 2016
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MaximalC from Illinois

3.46/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark chestnut color with a substantial cap of khaki froth the soon sputters into oblivion. Aroma smells of toffee, molasses, nutmeg, and a hint of vinegar.

The taste is composed primarily of nuts and spices, including nutmeg and cinnamon. There are also suggestions of toffee and caramel. Earthy hops add an extra layer of texture. Unfortunately, the spices tend to overstay their welcome and soon become cloying. Medium body and carbonation afford a mouthfeel that’s smooth and robust up front but thins out on the back end.

I realizing the spicing is part of the style, but it’s a bit much for my tastes. Were it toned down a bit, I may actually fancy it.

Jan 03, 2016
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Buck89 from Tennessee

3.96/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. Dark, cola brown color with a small-to-medium sized tan head that retreated fairly quickly. Inviting malty aromas with some cinnamon and also sugar, like a cinnamon roll. A nice malty flavor with a good cinnamon presence that increased as it warmed, but not overstated. Not sweet at all, but full-bodied. A nice beer for the season.

Dec 23, 2015
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WoodBrew from Ohio

4.04/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The Festive Ale from Sweetwater is being graded on its purpose....not so much as my taste....it poured an nearly opaque black with thin white head that did not lace. The scent and taste was spicy in character....mostly cinnamon. The mouthfeel was medium in body with smooth carbonation. Overall it was pretty good for festive beers.

Dec 19, 2015
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Brutaltruth from Ohio

4.13/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Thoroughly enjoyed form the 12 oz bottle in a snifter. This EXCELLENT winter ale pours a deep dark brown with a decent head of light tan foam that subsides to a thin layer, slight ring, and light lacing. Nose of chocolate, prunes, dark berries, and subtle spicy hops mingling with cinnamon. Flavors exceed the nose with dark chocolate raisin bread touched by subtle notes of cinnamon, figs, and a touch of spicy hops that mix excellently with cinnamon on the back and aftertaste. Light carbonation with nice warming alcohol on the back. Holiday notes without all the holiday bustle of spruce and over spicing. Very solid and one of the best from this brewer I have had.


Dec 13, 2015
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BigGold from Mississippi

3.69/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

First had poured from 12-oz. bottle, listing best by 11/01/16, and an 8.10 ABV to back that up, into faceted mug. This holiday ale is not overly spiced, nor is it too sweet--the ABV has a say in that. So: "Peace, love and suds."

Dec 09, 2015
Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 839 ratings