Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

BA SCORE
86
very good
806 Ratings
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
Ratings:
806
Reviews:
300
Avg:
3.81
pDev:
12.6%
 
 
Wants:
33
Gots:
177
For Trade:
2
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 806 |  Reviews: 300
Photo of birchstick
3.89/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - pours black color with a nice white head

N - rich, caramel malts are all over the nose. There are also some
anise mixed in with some more sticky candy notes.

T - starts off with sweet malty candy flavors that get sweeter as it rolls down the palate. There is also a little bit of charred malt and anise. Nice winter warmer.

M - mouthfeel is full and smooth and coats the tongue - goes down nicely

D - I really enjoyed this winter warmer. Really sticky, candyish, and malty - all the flavors that should be in a warmer. I'll have to get some more for the holiday season this year.

 587 characters

Photo of nickthegun12
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

this beer is jet black with a little head

it smells of spices, maybe cinnamon and some other spices and dark malts

the taste is different from the smell...malty and not much of a warming character from the alcohol

not dry, not creamy but a full mouthfeel...and pretty decent lacing

the drinkability would be better if it weren't so high percentage of alcohol

 362 characters

Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a Pint Glass

A – Poured a very nice and somewhat hazy hazelnut brown. A nice light reddish hue was apparent around the edges. A good two finger or higher head of white sticky and foamy lace then appeared over the top of it and ever so gradually settled down to simply a thin layer of film across the top. There was some carbonation apparent in it as well.

S – Aroma was very interesting, lots of spice and caramel mixed in with a very nutty, malty aroma. Some fresh cut grass could be detected floating around on the inside and making it appear much lighter. There was almost something sweet though lingering, perhaps honey in the back.

T- The flavor was very smooth and pronounced. To be honest it was quite mellow and drinkable with a good bit of caramel and maple added to it, it kind of tasted like fall if that makes any sense. A really full flavor this gave off some essence of nuttiness as it warmed a really nice and festive beer, there was no hint of the alcohol whatsoever and the overall flavor was very pronounced and robust.

M – Nice medium body and adequate carbonation gave this a very nice, full feel and really a nice push overall. Not overly slick or syrupy it was right down the middle here.

D – Pretty good, albeit a little on the sweet side to really be able to put down a whole lot, it still came off very well and made for a fine late fall taste. I could see myself enjoying one of these every once and a while a really nice ale.

Overall I thought this was very nice. It was in the same category as a Highland Cold Mountain, with that sweet maple like taste and a good amount of wood flavor mixed in. A good chunk of Vanilla also mixed in as you let the taste work its way out. I would have to say this was more then decent and I look forward to being able to have another one soon. A nice seasonal from Sweetwater.

 1,872 characters

Photo of iRun2Beer
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of daliandragon
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is another regional brewery that has developed into a pretty reliable performer so I figured this sixer was a good gamble. Surprisingly dark brown, almost black hue with impressive head and lace, although capping does set in within a few minutes. Spice and brown sugar anoint the nose with touches of cinnamon and alcohol.

Most of the time, when American brewers try to modernize (read: load up on the American hops) a classic malt leaning English style, it's a hot mess. This is a worthy exception. West coast flavored hops add healthy balance but because the malt profile is likewise juiced, it is able to handle the hops without collapsing on itself. The overall effect is still a little clunky but drinks much easier and finishes cleaner than should be physically possible. Hints of warming alcohol are everywhere but considering the 8.6 that's hardly a surprise. I defy you to find a more drinkable winter warmer with a similar punch Good effort, Sweetwater.

 969 characters

Photo of Wasatch
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks goes out to Jhill for this brew.

Pours a nice dark brown color, nice carbonation, nice little creamy tan head, nice sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, with some toffee/caramel, slightly spicy. The taste is sweet, malty, with a nice touch of toffee/caramel, with some spicyness. Medium body. Drinkable, this is a nice brew.

 341 characters

Photo of sommersb
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted On: 11-18-2011
Freshness: 2011 Vintage
Packaging: 12 oz. brown bottle
Glassware: Nonic Pint
Purchased: 6-pack from Midtown, Nashville

A: Pours dark brown to black, with garnet highlights. Head is tan with 1+ finger worth of foam. Lacing is good.

S: Malty sweet, with spices I can't identify. Roasted malts are present as well, but overall not much in the way of aroma.

T: Rich and sweet, this is a malt forward beer, with nutty and spicy flavors. Nice alcohol warming.

M: Chewy body with moderate carbonation. Finishes both sweet and nutty.

O: Very nice warmer, reminds me of a stronger version of a nut brown ale.

 626 characters

Photo of Mistofminn
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to DeaconBluez for sending this bottle my way. Thanks Chip!

My bottle was just a normal capped bottle, not a swing-top like the picture above.

Poured into a tulip glass, this is a dark murky brown color, nearly black, very similar to a stout in appearance. Nice creamy light tan head that not only shrinks, but it changes color to white. Small ring of head is all that remains after only a few minutes, but it does leave some nice lacing.

The nose is very strong on the caramel malt and chocolate malt notes. Also, there is spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, with a nice floral hop presence.

The taste is pretty much what the nose would lead you to believe, but more pronounced. Chocolate malts and hops are much more forward and stand out more, with the nutiness and spices sort of taking a back seat to the malt and hop show.

Mouthfeel is medium and creamy smooth. Easy drinking, this is a good brew.

Overall, a solid offering from Sweetwater. Not my favorite beer I've had from them (the IPA takes the cake) but it's definitely one of the better ones. Thanks again, Chip, for the chance to try this!

 1,116 characters

Photo of Mikestaf
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Chadbrew
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Don't Float The Mainstream... No worries there.
Coffee colored beer with very mild carbonation and slight head. There is an even ring of tight bubbles around the edges that leaves a fine, if small, sheet of lacing.
Smells like caramel and roast.
There is a definite bitterness right away and an anise flavor that stays around while the bitterness fades. I perceive a touch of spice that accents the big malty body, makes the beer kind of "chewy"... nice.
Most impressive is the smoothness and drinkability, the alcohol is very well hidden until you feel it rather than taste it.
I'll be looking for it next year no doubt!

 626 characters

Photo of tbryan5
3.87/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of spinrsx
3.87/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle from total wine Tampa FL for $3

Appearance - Reddish brown colour with an average size fizzy beige head. There is an average amount of carbonation showing and there is some great lacing. The head lasted for 3-4 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, dark fruits, caramel/butterscotch

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and an earthiness. There are also some dark fruits, butterscotch/caramel, and a bit of anise. It ends with a malty sweet aftertaste with some lingering chocolate flavour.

Overall - Not terribly exciting, but a nice well balanced very drinkable flavour. You would never know it had a higher ABV. I've only had a few beers from this brewer, but they have all been winners so far.

 784 characters

Photo of Thur123
3.86/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark ruby brown with a finger and half of lout khaki head that settles slowly. The smell is faint, likely due to beig on tap but it smells malty with a winter Spice edge, cinnamon and nutmeg taking charge here.

Glug glug glug. 

The flavor is spicy with a nice malty sweetness balancing the spice at the end. The spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander I believe too. The malt is complex and reminds me of a heavy brown ale. Drinkability is where this excels compared to it's bottled brethren. The mouthfeel too is smooth and creamy. 

 542 characters

Photo of zp6167a
3.86/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of chris826
3.86/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of Murrhey
3.86/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bomber into a pint glass in high elevation Libby, Mont. Expectations are quite high. I received this beer as part of a secret santa gift exchange from a beer-friendly stranger in Atlanta, Ga.

A- One finger khaki head with tiny little bubbles. Retention lasted about 45 seconds, which is alright for the ABV. Ruby red color with low clarity. Very dark. Sliding khaki lacing. Attractive looking brew.

S- Dark chocolate, toffee, coffee and gingerbread. Molasses and deep roasted malts. Rich and dark, with bakery notes. Very interesting and complex beer. Hop profile is negligible at best.

T- Molasses, toffee and deep, dark roasted malts. Alcohol makes its presence felt in the aftertaste, along with the burnt malts.

M- Dry and roasty feel, some chewiness to the thickness. Some slight syrupy feel.

O- Tasty, alcoholic and roasty. I'm glad I got to try this beer.

 883 characters

Photo of harsley
3.86/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Kegatron
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a dark brown with reddish hues around the edges. Head is a tan colored and on the smallish side. Eventually it fizzles out into a few small wisps that left little lacing. Aroma is very sweet. Mostly chocolate and cherries. Some very light alcohol.

The taste has a lot going on with it. Roasted chocolate. Nuttiness. Spices. Almost a sour cherry fruit twinge towards the end. Everything is kind of muddled together but still works. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and silky. I amazingly barely sensed the almost 9% ABV.

This wasn't a bad effort from Sweetwater. The flavors were festive enough and it was ridiculously quaffable for such a high ABV. Worth seeking out if it's in your area.

 725 characters

Photo of Dillinger
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of Pegasus
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear deep amber color, with a small white head, and scattered, patchy lacing.

Aroma: Sweet coriander, and cinnamon aroma, vanilla, slight wood, and alcohol notes.

Taste: Spicy at the open, with cinnamon, ginger, and dark caramel malts. The caramel malt anchors the taste throughout lending a dark sugar quality, which dominates the taste. Finishes with a lingering herbal hop bitterness.

Mouth feel: Smooth, soft, quite full, and pleasant.

Drinkability/notes: A very quite pleasant and drinkable example, well suited to the festive holiday season.

Thanks to BA HardTarget for sharing this rare example.

 630 characters

Photo of barleywinebrewer
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ah, tis the season for winter brews.recieved this as a bonus beer from a recent trade.

A - Rich dark brown, nice tan head.

S - Rich malts, light ripe fruit and cinnamon, solid nutmeg

T - Similar to the smell. Rich ripe fruit type malts, nutmeg and spice. Didnt' notice the orange but I find this to be the fastest fading spice in most winter beers.

M - Medium bodied, well balanced with a dry finish.

D - Easy drinking, hard to believe it's almost 9% ABV until after you've had a couple.

I would love to have this fresher but either way I'd drink this again!

 579 characters

Photo of jlervine
3.85/5  rDev +1%
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!

 2,070 characters

Photo of BarrelAgedG
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of warmstorage
3.85/5  rDev +1%
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 scvance
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2013 version, poured from a bomber into a pint glass.

Pours dark reddish brown, almost black with a thin tan head. Smell is slightly spicy, caramel sweet, and earthy. Taste is slightly alcoholic upfront, not much bitterness, but plenty of rich malty character through the finish. Mouthfeel is quite thick and viscous. Feels slightly syrup like in the finish. Low carbonation, this beer is wonderful as a winter warmer. I would definitely recommend for anyone who enjoys a rich spicy winter seasonal beer.

 505 characters

Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.81 out of 5 based on 806 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.