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Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

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BA SCORE
86
very good
298 Reviews
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company
Georgia, United States
sweetwaterbrew.com

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.70%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
A strong ale brewed with generous amounts of rich malt, coupled with a taint of cinnamon and mace

Added by purplehops on 11-14-2002

BEER STATS
Reviews:
298
Ratings:
793
Avg:
3.82
pDev:
20.16%
 
 
Wants:
32
Gots:
166
For Trade:
2
User Reviews
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Reviews: 298 | Ratings: 793
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 tayner
3.71/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

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Photo of merlin48
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

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Photo of jsanford
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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!

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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 nmann08
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

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Photo of Mojo
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

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Photo of avalon07
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

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Photo of dpodratsky3
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

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Photo of BigGold
3.69/5  rDev -3.4%
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."

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.68/5  rDev -3.7%
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.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.68/5  rDev -3.7%
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.

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Photo of pwoods
3.67/5  rDev -3.9%
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.

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Photo of jraycee
3.67/5  rDev -3.9%
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.

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Photo of Bitterbill
3.67/5  rDev -3.9%
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.

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Photo of StarSAELS
3.66/5  rDev -4.2%
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!

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Photo of Meerkey
3.66/5  rDev -4.2%
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.

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Photo of Damian74Shensky
3.64/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into a tulip glass.

A- Dark brown with a small light tan head

S- Dark roasted malts, chocolate and coffee

T- Fruits, roasted maltiness, coffee and chocolate.

M- Medium body with good carbonation

O- Nice complexity, not bad for a winter warmer would get again.

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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 barczar
3.64/5  rDev -4.7%
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.

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Photo of GPHarris
3.63/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 vintage

a - poured a one finger thick light tan head into a goblet that left thin ring and sheet throughout. the head billows nicely. the body is a dark and deep reddish-brown.
s - dark and sour fruits with a hint of spice.
t - sour cherries with a dry chocolatey finish.
m - medium and bubbly.
d - good beer but the bomber was a beast to finish after my fiancee' didn't like it.

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Photo of jcalabre
3.62/5  rDev -5.2%
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

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Photo of Gwitt
3.62/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Nose is of black strap molasses, unsulphered. Slight touch of raisin.
Taste -much like the nose, but heavier in the sweet raisin, or of a medjool date. End is spicy, but more pleasant anise and licorice. Good carbonization. Tingly, with syrup on the tongue.
Mild cinnamon and light plum involved in the aftertaste.
Note: having the 2013 festive on 4/2014.
If a waxed bottle could be cellared for a year, I'd expect more sweetness and spice. Would be a good choice for a holiday drink,
left in a one- to two- year cellar, but only in ideal (50 degree range) temps.
Serve with: potato leek soup, turkey and the trimmings.

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Photo of BB1313
3.61/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

Best by 11/5/15. 12oz bottle poured into a pint glass. Pours a deep brown with a khaki head that sticks around leaving great retention and sticky lacing. The aromas are loaded with chocolate and cherries. Dark fruits are there. Tons of malts. The flavors are smooth and don't come off as "huge". It's very balanced. More cocoa malts. Lots of cherries. Maybe some orange peel in the mix. Some raisins and plums. Some toffee. This isn't a spice bomb or anything like that. The spices are subtle, if not non-existent. Mouthfeel is very nice. It's full-bodied with low carbonation. It's very creamy and fluffy. Very smooth. Easy drinking and the alcohol goes unnoticed.

This is a solid holiday brew. It's nothing magical, but it's simply a well crafted brew that will hit the spot during the cold weather. It's along the lines of an amped up brown ale.

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Photo of kkipple
3.61/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2006 limited edition, liter bottle, number 4985/9000!

Poured from the beautiful red wax-sealed bottle into two pints. The head is a nice dark tan, compact, but eventually settles to ring the outside of the glass. The beer itself is a deep dark red, nearly black till you hold it to the light.

Smells rich, with lots of roasted sweet grains and more than a hint of tobacco, along with alcohol and a slight grape-tannic quality. Overall it's quite malty, with a bit of cocoa coming through. No hops. Brown sugar to spare. Ok smell, no real spices however. Is this really a Winter Warmer?

Festive is pretty tasty, albiet basic. It's just a sweet mildly roasted malt bomb, with a smooth mouthfeel and a few interesting notes to keep you drinking. Roasted grain, burnt sugars, the ever-used "dark fruit" (figs? raisins?) and a bit oc chocolate round it off. Not very complex. Don't know how much I could buy this (especially at the $12 per bottle...) but is pretty easy to down the pint in front of me. Finishes sweet and warming, with a hint of roasty bitterness.

Reminiscent of Old Chub, really, this is a tasty beer, but not such a good deal for the price. Still, it's worth a try, and the bottle is super slick and will win you cool points at parties when you show up toting it. As usual, Sweetwater does something interesting, but not exactly ground-breaking.

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.82 out of 5 based on 793 ratings.
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