Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

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very good
295 Reviews
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company
Georgia, United States

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

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Reviews: 295 | Ratings: 784
Photo of bigfnjoe
3.49/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage. Poured from a waxed bottle into a Dogfish snifter

A- pours jet black with a half finger very light brown head that doesn't stick around for awhile. Disappointing

S- tons of holiday-type spices...cinnamon comes through a lot, as well as some ginger. Not too shabby

T- getting a decent bit of ginger in the mouth....some cinnamon, maybe a little bit of clove. Everything is rather muted overall, but I'd rather have it be muted than to choke on the spices. Not bad

M- body is actually really thin. Stunning, disappointing

O- such a strange beer. Very easy to drink, better than many Winter Warmers I've had....yet not blowaway at all

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3.48/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours to an almost black thin darkness of a body. Yeilds a one inch deep tan head that fades in just a couple of minutes. Nose is a sofr malt feel with rones of candy like coco, and roasty wood. Very smooth as you take first sip with long sweet maltieness and a balance of slightly sour wheat on the back of the tongue. A nice mineral and spice mingling happens twords the end of the palate. The soft sour and minerals team together to equal a nice mouthfeel and tingle on the tongue. Nice and drinkable even as it warms thanks to the 8.6% alchol. A solid holiday style.

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Photo of match1112
3.48/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

big thanks to chefmikeanderson for sending this as an extra! pours out a dark cola color. a tan head rises to a fingers height than quickly falls to a thin almost non-existant ring. smells very malty with hints of chocolate and cinammon. the taste is pretty much the same with a slight smokey finish. mouthfeels thin for the style, but has decent carbonation. a little spicy and warm on the finish from the cinammon. overall this is easy drinkin, goes down smooth.

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Photo of tone77
3.47/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a black color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, some spices. Taste is dark malts, molasses, some alcohol. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a decent beer.

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Photo of MaximalC
3.46/5  rDev -9.4%
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.

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Photo of number1bum
3.43/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had this on tap at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta. The server had no idea what it was, although given the name I suspected it was a Christmas ale. It came to me a dark brown, not quite black and with some ruby hues. Thin head left some lace and stick.

Smell was sweet malt, some chocolate, and lots of spice.

Taste was very sweet and got to be cloyingly so toward the end. Sweet and malty with some spices, like ginger, and a raisin-like fruity flavor. Also some chocolate malt. Mouthfeel was medium-bodied and pretty creamy, but cloyingly sweet. Overall, I think I'd pass on this if I saw it again. Too sweet, didn't love the raisiny flavor, and there are better holiday beers to be had.

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Photo of seebus
3.43/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Isn't it great that I have family in Atlanta?

A bottle with a typical Sweetwater label noting that this is the 2006 version of this festive brew.

It pours a deep, deep brown with a creamy tan head, and there seems to be quite a bit of suspended particulate. Yeast? Meh. There's a nice sweet, roasty smell, and the taste begins the same along with a bitter roasted note. There is a dark, malty sweetness with a slightly bitter finish. The mouthfeel is good; it has a full body.

I will drink as many of these as my uncle will send.

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Photo of coreyfmcdonald
3.43/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Sweetwater Draft House and Grill at ATL

A: Pretty standard brown looking winter warmer, but with only a ring of head on tap. That might have been because of how it was served, this place isn't exactly a craft beer bar.

S: A bit of cocoa, some toffee, light spices. A bit muted for the style.

T: Similar to smell, but with a bit more toffee and a bit of dark fruits. No hint of ABV at all.

M: Fairly thick with good carb. Pretty good.

O: A bit boring, but not a bad winter warmer. Like I said above, there is no hint of the ABV at all.

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Photo of babaracas
3.43/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear dark brown with one finger of light brown colored head, settles to a thin layer with a few splotches of lace on the glass. Smell: brown sugar, lots of baking spices, a little plum and toasted bread. Taste: dark brown sugar, gingerbread, end of the sip is soft pear, grape skin, and more cinnamon. Sweet, creamy feel, enough spices and mild spicy and earthy hopping to keep it from being cloying. Easy drinking for 8.5%.

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Photo of Enola
3.42/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer is a little better on-tap. There is a spiced taste to this brew and a slight bitterness. The beer is a deep mahogany color with a small head. There is a hint of liqorice in there too. Overall, fair for the style. I could drink this beer again.

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Photo of mikereaser
3.41/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

labeled 2007

A - pours a deep mahogany brown with 1/4 inch of tan foam

S - sweet malt, molasses, candied sugar

T - roasted malts, molasses, toffee, coffee & chocolate

M/D - nice carbonation & flavor, held up well for 2 years old
thick full bodied feel

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.4/5  rDev -11%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep red color-almost a pale burgundy. Mellow aroma-mildly spiced malt. Has an astringent note to it that I liken to alcohol. Slighly spiced, malty flavor. Mild bitterness. Good full body. Quite dry in the finish. Nice winter warmer though I dont find a lot to rave about. A notch or 2 above average.

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Photo of axeman9182
3.39/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle, poured into my Brooklyn Brewery tulip.

Sweetwater Festive ale pours a solid black, with between two and three fingers of khaki colored foa crowning the beer. Head retention is well above average, and there's definitely more of the glass left covered in lacing than not. The nose is disappointingly weak. There are some light chocolaty notes, and a decent amount of cinnamon aroma, but all in all it's a bit muted. The flavor profile is a bit more complex, if still dull. The malt opening features layers of biscuit and caramel, along with a delicate chocolate presence. The back end is cinnamon, which brings an almost pepper like spiciness to bear The mace is more noticeable here, adding a bit of balance to things. The body is a bit thin, and the carbonation is on the flat side, all in all the mouthfeel is a little lackluster. I've found most of Sweetwater's beers to be hit-or-miss, and this one is unfortunately trending towards the latter. I like the concept for the beer, but the execution largely leaves a little to be desired.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
3.35/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A 22 oz bottle vintage 2006. Surprised to find one 5 years old in the store.

A - A dark, but thin appearance. Not much head or lace. But it is vintage 2006, so maybe that has something to do with it

S - Sweet molasses, and dried fruits.

T - Sweet fruits, dried plums. Smooth. But high abv is very prevalent.

M - Fairly thin, not too well carbonated.

O - Not as good as expected. The fruity flavors are nice, but thin, and boozy.

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Photo of Buebie
3.34/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtasy of gford217

Poured from a 2008, wax dipped swing top bottle. It sure was hard getting this to open.

Poured into a pub glass, darker in color with little light penetration. Some mild glowing reds when held to light. I almost want to say its a brownish black in color. The head is an off white, about 1 1/2 inches. Leaving plenty of thick sticky webbed lace. A nice cap of retention hangs around.

Aroma is like baking spices, figs, dark fruit and it really smells like a
1996 bottle of Anchor christmas ale that I recently had. Theres a faint wiff of westeshier (sp) in there.

The taste is laced with spices, and more of the worstechier flavors, as well as dark fruits and figs. Some chalky overtone,s with a woody dust like taste. Just a hint of pine into the finish. Crisp, light and thin mouthfeel with plenty of carbonation.
A lingering warmth after the swallow. Its abv is very well hidden in aroma and taste, only just that slight warmth kick after the swallow and into the linger.

Its a solid brew, but nothing extravegant, like the fancy wax dipped swingtop might have suggested.

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.34/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pilsner glass. Reviewed December 2010.

A: Generous head atop an ostensibly molasses-black body. In decent lighting, the beer is translucent and a drop-dead gorgeous wine-dark red.

S: Coffee and beets(?). Spices and maybe some alcohol.

T: Sweetish and spiced (mace?), moderately vegetal malts. An odd, roasted flavour reminds me of burnt cake. The aftertaste is bland, but reminiscent of a porter (excepting the spice).

M: Moderately thick/substantial, but nothing to write home about.

D: Very drinkable, and the ABV is hidden convincingly. Still, something about it is not quite to my taste -- though all my friends love it. I can't recommend it, but I wouldn't steer you away.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.33/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

33.8oz. waxed fliptop bottle shared by Thirstybird and served in my Allagash 25cl chalice. 2006 vintage. Poured the color of cola with some highlights around the base - half inch off-white head quickly dissipates into nothing. Nose is a little sour, malty and some booze. Taste is malty, roasty, watery and sour dark fruit (plums, prunes, raisins). Mouthfeel is medium-light with an even background effervescence. Something was a little off on this one - definitely some oxidation here. I'd have to say that this beer was a little beyond its prime.

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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 FtownThrowDown
3.3/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into my Dogfish Head pint glass.
This pours MUCH darker than I had expected. This beer is a very dark brown with some ruby highlights around the edges. There was a slight 1/4 inch head that quickly disappeared.
There's some spice coming through in the nose but I can't put my finger on just what it is. I'm getting a nutmeg and licorice smell from it.
Taste is similar to the nose. It is good tasting and quite different from your ordinary winter warmer.
The mouthfeel is of medium feel with a decent amount of carbonation. It is somewhat coating in the mouth which takes away from the drinkability slightly.
This is a good beer for this 15 degree night. A solid offering that I would drink again.

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Photo of ViveLaChouffe
3.3/5  rDev -13.6%
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.

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Photo of kimcgolf
3.26/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with hints of ruby, medium off-white head that lasts well into the glass, and good lacing. Aroma is somewhat weak, but what it there is a pleasant mix of malty sweet, dark fruit, some choclate and spices. Flavor is good and somewhat spicy, but fades too quickly because body is too thin and watery. The main drawback to this beer is the stale, bitter finish that leaves a licorice aftertaste. Not a terrible Holiday Brew, but there are better

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Photo of Chaney
3.26/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I bought this one from a liquor store in Winston-Salem during Sexual Chocolate weekend. I'm now drinking it.

A: Dark brown with no light passing. The huge 1.5 finger head died down within an hour or so (yep, that's right). HUGE!

S: Spice bomb for sure. Brown sugar, winter ale spice.

T: Like a brown ale around Christmas season. Dark fruit and lots of spice.

M: Not too thick, carbonation.... enough! The lacing was ridiculous.

O: Not my thing. If you're really into Winter Warmers, look elsewhere...

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Photo of KajII
3.26/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

[Best served in a Lager glass]

The pour was a murky dark brown with an average sized (1-2 finger) head that was not around for long and only having fair lacing.

The aroma was very mild of a toasted chocolate malt a very mild resin hop and a sweet doughy yeast with notes of allspice, cinnamon, toffee and dark fruit.

The taste was moderately sweet and malty with a hint of toffee and some fruit at first then had the strong effect of spices take hold with a nice note of dark fruit and an alcohol warming sensation at the end. The flavor lasted only a short time while the taste of the dark fruit faded into the background of the spices.

Mouthfeel was just a smidgen below medium in body and a tad watery in texture with a weak carbonation.

Overall a Winter Ale with a nice dose of spices and a superb maltiness. A very drinkable brew even with the noticeably strong alcohol presence.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.25/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2008 12 oz from the great trader from Utah... Wasatch! I've been looking forward to trying this one for a looong time... poured into my Chimay goblet.

1/4" head dies back very quickly.. the brew looks like an American porter... very very dark.. highlites only when held to the brightest light.

Aroma is dark fruits.. dark dried fruits.... some burnt sugars.. dark cherries and prunes with some caramel and rummy raisins.

Flavor has all the above elements with some subtle (maybe imaginary) spiciness.. orange peel?, cardamom?, cinnamon?! again it's more fruity than anything else and has a fair amount of dark caramel maltiness to it.. This is a "Winter Warmer" that I actually can stomach.... I never care for the overspiced versions (think Anchor).. but even then, this is IMO, only okay.. too much of nothing.. just a descent beer that never goes anywhere... The body may be the best element... smooth and fairly thick with a lite yet ever present small bubble carbonation... Edit: Tooo sweet as it warms.. and the waves of spice really come out killing the drinkability.... I'm trying... but... too much of everything equals too much of nothing and is surprisingly just average.

Thanks John for the try.... Honestly Thanks!! I've thought about trying to trade for the big bottles of these before and am very happy that I've been dissuaded.. I'll try to do you right soon. :-)

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Photo of bassmantin
3.25/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Please note, I am drinking this beer out of a bottle because I am at the ATL airport. But I still want to put my two cents in.

No comments on the appearance or smell. The taste is very full and thick. Lots of sticky sweet malts. Decently biting hops to give it some punch, but nothing extreme. Leaves a sticky taste in the back of you throat, which I do not particularly enjoy.

Overall, I would not have this one again. It's a little too much malt and hop and not enough delicate balance.

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.82 out of 5 based on 784 ratings.
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