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Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
86
very good
293 Reviews
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company
Georgia, United States | website

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:
293
Ratings:
782
Avg:
3.82
pDev:
12.57%
 
 
Wants:
32
Gots:
161
For Trade:
1
User Reviews
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Reviews: 293 | Ratings: 782
Photo of Gusler
4.12/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a light hazy brown color, the head preposterous in size with a frothy consistency and the lace thick sheets that hold mightily to the glass. Sweet and spicy over ripe apples or plums can’t make up what little mind I have left, caramel, chocolate and lot of malt in this pleasing to the schnozzle beer. The outset is ambrosial, the top is middling in mouth feel, and the hops take a front seat in this beer, with a perky acidity and a droughty long lasting aftertaste. As I have said before Sweetwater and Dogwood, make some quite quaffable brews and well worth the hunt.

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Photo of KickbacksSteve
4.12/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage from one liter bottle poured into tulip. Light brown head atop a raisin colored body. I say raisin colored because that is the first smell I note, probably due to the 3 year age. Other aromas seem to include dates, brown sugar and plum. Picking up some coffee notes in the taste, no hops, no alcohol (I'm sure due to mellowing)(impressive considering the abv). Low carbonation at this point and very easy to drink. Extremely easy. Makes me proud of myself for having resisted this one for so long.

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Photo of joe1510
4.12/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz Bottle
2005 Vintage

I was damn lucky to get this bottle thrown in as an extra in a recent trade with RustyDiamond, Thanks a lot Rusty. Sweetwater's Festive Ale pours mahogany with deep ruby and chestnut highlights. A one finger khaki head grew on the pour and fell rather quickly to a skimming and ring around the glass. The head leaves some spotted lacing on its way down.

This beer smells different than I expected which, in this case, is a good thing. I was expecting a spiced winter warmer but instead got more of a heavy brown ale. Nose is dark chocolate, lightly roasted grains, a slight nuttiness and a hint of tobacco leaf in that order from most prominent to least. There seems to bit the smallest bit of oxidation that actually compliments the aroma.

The flavor follows in stride with the aroma. Big chocolate notes seem a little more milk chocolaty than the nose suggested. The nuttiness, tobacco, and light roastiness all mesh together flawlessly. Again, there seems to be a little oxidation on the backend but it compliments the flavors nicely. Festive Ale turned out to be a great sipper loaded with flavor.

The body seems a touch on the thin side for the style. Maybe some carbonation has been lost over the years but maybe not. Either way it's not a serious offense and doesn't hurt the mouthfeel too bad.

I really enjoy sipping on this brew. It's warming and more importantly packed with flavors perfect for a cold evening.

I was expecting a spiced winter warmer but luckily came across something much more to my liking. This is the kind of Winter seasonal I like seeing released. Keep the heavy spicing out of my beer and in the fruitcake.

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Photo of younger35
4.12/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received this brew from gpcollen1 after winning his Fantasy Football League. I enjoyed my first offering from Sweetwater so I look forward to this one. Drank from my Laughing Dog Brewing pint glass. 2007 release.

Appearance- Pours a dark brown with reddish highlights and a soft light tan head that slowly recedes leaving no cap and a thin collar that leaves a thin layer of lacing.
Smell- Lightly sweet and fruity with hints of dark cherries and peaches. There is a solid red licorice smell among the fresh and clean nose. Bready and sweet with some brown sugar hiding in the background and MAYBE even a bit of chocolate.
Taste- A bit of peppery spiciness from the start and that same fresh and fruity candy like sweetness that I found in the nose. Once the fruit fades (overwhelmingly I get peaches) a gently chocolate/coco body is present along with a nice soft nuttiness. If fruit and nuts sound weird as a description to how the beer tastes, it shouldn't, this is tasty. Lightly nutty aftertaste that is fairly dry.
Mouthfeel- Kind of a thin body with crisp aggressive carbonation, a big of warming from the alcohol and a dry finish.
Drinkability- Although I'm not the biggest fan of Winter Warmers (with exception of Jubelale) this one was pretty damn tasty. It's a bit different but in a fantastic way. Very unique and honestly the more it warms and the more I drink it, the more I like it. Sweetwater is a really solid brewery and I can't wait to try more! Big thanks to Heath!

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Photo of Brutaltruth
4.13/5  rDev +8.1%
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.

Cheers

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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage courtesy of BeerTruth, thanks Adam...awesome extra! 12 oz bottle pours a dark brown color with crimson highlights and a fluffy, tan foam. Not overly great retention and not much lacing.

Nose is pretty interesting with cocoa maltiness leading the way. There is at least some hints of many different smells...currants, chocolate, cinnamon, habanero peppers and even a touch of soy sauce. Odd mix of scents, but pretty pleasant overall.

Sweetwater did a pretty good job with this one. Has elements of both a winter warmer and a stout. Rich, somewhat sweet and roasty malts lead the way with some dark fruits and bready yeast along for the ride. I would be surprised if some spices were not used in this beer, I get a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in here. Maybe even a clove-ish flavor that is not quite like a hefeweizen clove flavor. While the ABV is hidden well, there still is a detectable amount of alcohol in the taste, which helps add to the complexity of the beer. I am enjoying this beer quite a bit, would love to be able to get my paws on this every year during the holiday season.

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Photo of JayS2629
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- This reminds me of a coca-cola from its color, carbonation and head. Almost black, but reddish tinges when held to the light. Very opaque. The tan head is medium but quickly recedes to a thin ring in the edge of the glass. Sea foam lace.

S- Spices up front. Cinnomon, mace, and allspice. Hints of dark fruits, and dark chocolate. Faint whiffs of dark cherry

T- Follows the nose. Dark fruits like plum and cherry in the front, notes of chocolate and coffee with nice tinges of cinnomon and mace.

M- This is where it got weird. It was like drinking a porter or stout before, but now we are thin and carbonated. Watery with a small amount of cream.

D- Very flavorful and complex. I would give it a higher rating if it were not for how thin it is. Easy to drink.

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Photo of Weissenheimer
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the second Sweetwater beer from Rajendra82's package. The IPA upped my expectations, but I know that winter ales are a very mixed bag so I try not to get my hopes too high as I pour out the bottle. The pint is a very dark cherry color and has a pretty, medium-sized, foamy brown head. The spicy fragrance brings Harpoon Winter Warmer to mind, but this is heavier; apart from the spices I smell molasses and perhaps a bit of licorice.

I take my first sip and a completely unanticipated coffee taste nearly bowls me over. At this point I'm not sure that I'll be able to finish it, because I despise coffee. But thankfully I'm getting better at appreciating beers like this, because I soon realize that there's an awful lot here to appreciate. The initial flavor is full and malty with a roasted coffee undertone. This shifts over into the taste of bitter, hoppy coffee. The finish intrigues me because at first I want to say it's nothing but coffee, but then I also detect something of a too-strong cup of tea. The interesting thing is that up until this moment I thought of coffee (which I hate) and tea (which I love) to be two completely separate animals. I realize now that the tastes aren't as distinct as I thought.

In the end, the fact that I not only get used to the coffee flavor but happily finish the pint and look forward to another, says a great deal about the quality of this beer. I love it when I say "I don't like this type of beer" and the beer says "Oh yeah? Are you sure about that?" My only complaint is that the wonderful progression of tastes flies by too fast. This is probably because the strength and persistence of the coffee flavor dulls my taste buds so that the more subtle flavors go under my radar. I imagine that, for people who like coffee to begin with, this beer must be truly spectacular. Thanks Rajendra82 for a great trade!

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Photo of phideltashaggy
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I ordered it at a local bar, I'm not sure if it was from the bottle or on-tap. It was served in a Chimay goblet.

A-Black, unless you look through it at an angle, directly at a light source, then it was a slight red. The head was somewhat fluffy and tan, but didn't last (I blame the quality of the glassware at the bar)

S-I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this, but the nose was very roasty, somewhat burnt. And I noticed something that I couldn't quite place, even though "Jager" came to mind.

T-The Jagermeister taste was affirmed here. There's a definite licorice taste, but it is not at all off putting. Again, roasted malts and a bitter hop finish complete the brew.

MF-Medium thickness, but I think I would have got more out of this if the glass was cleaned a little better.

D-I enjoyed this immensely. If I had the money (and the DD) I could see myself drink a number of these in a row.

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Photo of WoodenNickelPub
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into an 18oz pint this beer was dark brown to almost black with a decent head that didn't hang around for too long. Smelled of roasted malts and barley and ?cinnamon? or ?cloves? Tasted like winter to me..those smells translated nicely into tastes and for being 8.6% you can't really taste the alcohol, but it does catch up to you quick. Mouthfeel was kind of silky with light carbonation, very appealing. Drinkability was, like I said, probably not to many in a sitting, especially if I have to drive. 1 1/2 made my knees weak.

All in all very good beer. I'd never had this before but will definitely buy one when I see it after mine is gone.

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Photo of clvand0
4.15/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a very dark color with a small head that falls fast and doesn't leave much lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty and has a chocolate character and a little spice. The flavor is very nice. Chocolate flavors along with a spice from the ginger make it very interesting and enjoyable. I'd definately have this one again.

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Photo of ugaterrapin
4.16/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass. About a finger of light tan head. A dark brown color that is almost completely opaque. Aroma is not too strong, but hints of spice and caramel malts. Initial taste is of hops and spice finishing with notes of vanilla. This beer is relatively drinkable for being on the darker side. It is a great seasonal offering from Sweetwater.

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Photo of Brackh
4.17/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Did a holiday beer tasting with the wife. This was the first winter warmer holiday beer I was ever exposed to. It has a special place in my heart. Pours a nice black with a small head. Smells spicy with some molasses. Bitterness up front and finishes well with the spice (almost tastes toasted). Carbonated well. Done well all around.

Just had a 2013 on 12/31/14: Had some funk to it. Tasted good. Lost some carbonation. Whole new flavor though. Molasses caramel and toffee come out way more. Still easy drinking.

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Photo of axisjones
4.17/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, black, none more black. Big bubbled off white rocky head, about an inch or so. Head dies down to a thin coat, minimal lacing.

Rich chocolate espresso in the nose with a faint astringency to it. Complex smell, almost chalky neko wafer milk chocolate in the end. Faint Carnation hot chocolate as well.

Big taste going in, the alcohol is noticeable straight off. Malty with espresso/coffee flavors and a slight rum. Metallic in the middle with a milk chocolate finish. The hops provide a tiny bite and mix with the roast bitterness. A somewhat tasty, if uneven, flavor with a dominant malt profile.

A very interesting offering, sweet, complex, luscious and alcoholic. A fine beer, could definitely use some fine tuning.

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Photo of dgallina
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Gigantic wax-stoppered 33.8 ounce brown bottle. Dated 2006 and numbered 2381 of 9000.

Pours slightly transparent dark brown with big chunky tan head that recedes to decent lace. Smells malty and heavily spiced with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and pepper. Flavor is dominated by heavily-toasted and somewhat smoky malts (chocolate, caramel, and toasted dark bread). The malts are balanced by dark fruitiness (raisins and plums) edged with christmas spices. Alcohol is not overly apparent, though the beer becomes heady with time. No hop presence to speak of. Gently carbonated and quite creamy medium-heavy body. Fans of malty ales (scotch ales particularly) may like this quite a bit. An unusually nice offering from Sweetwater IMHO.

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Photo of Bung
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. Sturdy brown pour with just a little bit of off white head. Retains well and sticks to the glass a little. Aroma has some more roast than other warmers, and some floral hop with the Christmas spice. Taste is like a brown ale spiced with ginger and nutmeg. Light roast, earthy nuttiness and some chocolates. Well carbonated with a mid/light body and mouthfeel. Drinks very well with no alcohol noticed. A nice warmer from Sweetwater.

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Photo of siege06nd
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Alrighty, found this bottle at random in my closet and it is from way back in 2010!!! Wow!!! Don't worry, I'll be nice...

A. Excellent. Color is a super dark, rich mahogany. Very nearly black. About a half finger of cream colored head that is tight, uniform, and has good retention. Lacing is very good. The look of this beer screams fireplace, snowflakes, and fresh pies. Which is why I'm drinking it in July.

S. Bouquet has held up rather well over the last year and a half. Raisin, caramel, cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, roasted biscuit, and just a little bit of sherry-like oxidation due to the age. Smells like a freshly baked shortbread cookie.

T. Spices are up front with brown sugar, cinnamon, and clove. Then roasted malts kick in on the mid and the finish is bread crust, caramel, some vanilla, spice, and maybe just a touch of chocolate. Nice.

M. Thick and chewy, with solid carbonation and a nice balance of flavors. Spices and roasty flavors linger on the palate long after it's gone.

O. A really nice Christmas beer, with a much fuller body than its better known competition (i.e., Schlafly Christmas, Great Lakes Christmas, etc.). Festive Ale is unique in that it has a much more solid malt presence, with some excellent toasted biscuit and subtle chocolate notes that in some ways call to mind a porter. I will definitely be seeking a six-pack of this over the holidays. Excellent work, Sweetwater!

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Photo of pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Glad to see that Sweetwater is offering more of their beers in sixpacks!
med full body, frothy mouthfeel, good carbonation.
Nice roasted malt presence upfront with a hint of spices.
Fair milk chocolate presence throughout with a hint of caramel. Finishes with a lingering spiced note and hint of raisins.
Great example of the style; one of the few winter warmers I have ever liked.
Drinkability was quite good with this one; I had two.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2006 Vintage
This was a total surprise. Definitely not your average winter warmer. I was sort of expecting the typical amber/brown/or red with some spice thrown in and a wintery label but this is an entirely drifferent brew.
Dark amber in the glass with a half finger loose head that melts quickly to a thin ring.
Aroma initially is alcohol with some toasted malt back.
Flavors are toasted amber malt with almost a smokey taste. Dark candied fruits like raisin and plum. Most prominent spice is nutmeg...yeah, definitely nutmeg. Alcohol and light citrus hops on the end that dry and clean the palette.
Alcohol in this one makes for a nice sipper...especially on this cold winter evening.
Thanks to barleywinebrewer for this wonderful winter warmer.

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Photo of titosupertramp
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
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.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured into the glass clear deep amber brown with a tan head which rose tall and fell slowly to lace the glass.

The aroma was malty with a nice dark caramel presence and a nice fruit presence. Most notably were spices, namely cinnamon and perhaps a light bit of clove or maybe allspice. Chocolate was also nicely achieved in the aroma.

The flavor was similar to that of a brown ale with chocolate and a nice caramel maltiness. The flavor was fruity with more spice character that was well achieved and added complexity. The chocolate, caramel and spice all had melded into a very well done flavor that was quite alluring.

The finish was dry with a lasting chocolate and light spice impression into the aftertaste. The body was medium and nicely done. Rated as a brown ale with spices, it is a very good beer albeit a slight bit pricey.

2003 Vintage bottle 2675, could not have been above 6% abv in 2003 due to GA laws. 33.8 ounce large swingtop bottle covered with way that made the bottle near impossible to open. I'm very glad I purchased it even though it was about $16 at Sherlocks cold case in Marietta, GA. The price is the only sticking point.

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Photo of purplehops
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 batch Bottle # 2600 of 4800.

Festive ale pours a deep ruby brown with an off-white head that is full of carbonation and leaves little to no lacing on the glass. The aroma is malt sweetness with a good dose of nutmeg and mace and just a hint of anise. Taste starts with a bit of a spicy hop bite and then a rush of malt and fruit notes. Flavors of pears and apples blend with malty sweetness and flavors of caramel and allspice. The finish is a luscious balance of spicy hops, caramel and chocolate malts, nutmeg, cinnamon, and the first notes of alcohol making themselves known. Aftertaste is a very long lingering sweetness (but not cloyingly so) with just a hint of alcohol warmth and hop acidity. Mouthfeel is medium body with a very nice smoothness to it and just a touch of acidity.
Overall this has to be one of the best beers that I have had from Sweetwater. A pleasant blend of spices and malts that make for holiday merrymaking anytime you open one. The only down side to this beer is trying to open it. Fifteen minutes with a swiss army knife and you can finally open the plastic and metal swing top coated in hard red wax. There has to be a better way to seal a bottle without buying a corking and caging machine.

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Photo of resirob
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle,
Appearance: Pours a luxurious dark ruby/black with a thick khaki head that settles to a thin ring and leaves almost no lace.

Aroma: Spicy sweet. Spices are up front and bold. Floral hop character is there, too. Malty sweetness floats in and out as I swirl the glass.

Taste: Mmmm. Nice winter brew. Roasted toffee maltiness with a great blend of spices. Tastes like it smells - spicy sweet.

Mouthfeel: Medium body and smooth.

Drinkability: An easy drinking winter brew.

Really got me in the mood for more winter/holiday seasonals. I received 2 bottles courtesy of rajendra82, and I will be cellaring the remaining one for further review in the future (next winter, if I can wait - no promises!). This is the second Sweetwater brew I have sampled, and I must say that I have liked both. It is a shame that Sweetwater is not readily available where I live. This is certainly a brewery that deserves some more exposure.

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Photo of rajendra82
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tasted in a 12oz bottle in 11/03 as a month old brew. Thanks aracauna for pointing me in the direction of the store where I found this rare gem. Now I have a couple of six packs sitting in the fridge and a few more in the pantry. I'll be saving these and updating the review as it ages (if I can resist the temptation to finish them off). The beer pours out as a gorgeous looking dark red concoction with a tall off white head that dissipates to a thin invisible line of bubbles. Carbonation is pretty low and so is the amount of belgian lace. It is a perfect winter brew with lots of roasted caramel malt backbone and a high ABV (for Georgia) that is balanced out by the explosive level of spices and distinctively floral hoppy aroma. Warms you up nicely as it goes down easy. As I taste it, the temperature outside is near 60 degrees. This will be perfect when I get stuck at the house with about a 1/4 inch of snow on the roads outside (after all this is Atlanta). Another quality product from Sweetwater that should not be missed by anyone that can get their hands on it.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.21/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Sweetwater Festive Ale has a thin, creamy, cream-colored head, a very dark brown appearance with ruby highlights and visible, tight bubble streams, and a good amount of splotchy lacing left around the glass. The aroma is of spiced bread, bread crust, and sweetness. Taste is of those elements, with subdued bitterness and syrup of some sort. Mouthfeel is somewhat watery, and Sweetwater Festive Ale finishes refreshing, sweet, easily drinkable, mostly dry, and not the least bit alcohilic. Overall, this is one of the better spice ales I’ve tried.

RJT

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 293 ratings.
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