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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 tavernjef
4.1/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep chestnut with a ruby undertone roofed by a smallish capping of off-white frothed over foam. Minimal lacing in a few inky strings.

Aroma is low key, dark, and deep with a brown sugar malt laden sweetness. Soft and bready with a big base of malts most evident in a darkly set fashion that is neither roasty, flat, or fruity. Just sweet, bready, and dark.

Taste has a good play of solid maltyness bringing a soft, succulant display of molasses, brown sugar over soft bread, hints of vanilla, and a twist of fig. No real length to it however, a bit short lived I'm afraid, yet tasty enough.

Body is creamy and sufficient with a malt goodness wrapped within a solid mediumishness. Soft, supple, sweet, with a light fluffy dry finish arriving late. Low carbonation if any at all really doing much.

A solid, subtle treat that'll be gone in no time. The overall smoothness lends itself to be a quick drinker.

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Photo of rsyberg01
3.98/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

S - 12 oz bottle courtesy of the generous cashew70.

A - pours a deep garnet with a creamy head. very nice, has some legs that are good as well.

S - roasty, caramel, little alcohol, slight fruit twang, a bit one dimensional but still nice.

T - big roast, touches of dark chocolate, good hop hit, sweet fruitiness, much more depth than the nose. from the nose I thought it would be much sweeter than it is.

M - lighter bodied which is nice for what the beer is.

D - According to the style, very drinkable.

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Photo of jjayjaye
4.3/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours very dark brown, but light gets through. A half finger light tan colored head fades slowly, but is kept alive by visible effervescence. Some suspended 'bits' are present.

The aroma is sweet and slightly warm from the alcohol with a mellow roasted malt.

It has a medium body and is very smooth with a nice balance from hops.

I appreciate the lightly roasted malt taste (I've recently experienced a number of ales that have gone overboard with the level of roasted flavor); it's sweet and creamy. The 8+% is hidden well. Quite drinkable. Thanks to blitz134 for the opportunity to enjoy this one!

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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 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.

 709 characters

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 Pegasus
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
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 Cyberkedi
3.61/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A nice, zingy winter beer. The serving I got did not have much of an odor - but I have never had an exceptional sense of smell. The taste, however, is fairly good. The flavor is not overwhelming or remarkable, but this is definitely a drinkable beer and a good companion to a hearty lunch or dinner. It goes down smoothly without a bad aftertaste.

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Photo of barleywinebrewer
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
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!

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Photo of rodrot
3.97/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark brown color with a 1 inch light tan head. Aroma was of caramel malts and holiday spices. Cinammon, nutmeg and ginger were all present in the nose. Taste was a good mix of caramelly malts, chocolate and spices. I could pick up a little bit of hop bitterness. As the beer warmed, the chocolatey taste became more evident as well as some alcohol. Mouthfeel was medium bodied. This is a very tasty Christmas brew that warms on a cold night. I plan on picking up another sixer if I can find it. Curious that the 8.6 abv is not listed anywhere on the bottle as NC law requires.

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Photo of BeerPilot
4.1/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 bottling:

Appearance: Off-white head; lots of tiny bubbles; not too persistent, but quickly returns when swirled. No lace, but may be due to glass. Deep mahogany in color. No haze.
Smell: Balance of maltiness and spice. No esters detected.
Taste: Slight roastiness. Caramel flavor. Spices and hopping work together to balance residual sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Big beer! Highly carbonated.
Drinkability: Spices tend to overwhelm palate with time. Spices hid 8.6% ABV. Can drink a few, but it will hurt!

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Photo of warmstorage
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

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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 barleyman
4.32/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the brown glass 12 oz bottle into my straight sided tumbler. The dark white head quickly dissapates,and leaves very little lace as it moves down the glass. Overwhelming smell of clove, the taste is of clove and malt, and very well balanced, with a finish of hop. The mouthfeel is right, given the ABV and the drinkability is correct for a winter warmer. I have looked forward to the annual release of this beer, especially back when GA had a strength cap, this brewer would always find a way to sneak it by the alcohol board.

Just a thought,

barleyman

 569 characters

Photo of brentk56
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 bottling re-visit

Appearance: Pours a dark brown color with a decent head that leaves shards of lace on the pint glass

Smell: Malty aroma that includes a touch of dark fruit, chocolate, nougat and holiday spice

Taste: Starts with a brown bread flavor that is promptly matched by the dark fruit, chocolate and nougat elements; after the swallow, the cinnamon spicing adds a holiday flourish; the finish brings on a surprising lift from the hops

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Nice flavor profile with subtle aromatics; not sure whether the recipe has changed but this has a lot more character than what I tasted a few years ago

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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 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 BEERchitect
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A festive ale indeed. I have learned to expect lighter and more tame brews from Sweetwater. This beer surprises with a heavier malt base, complexity, and spiciness. Looks brown through and through with a tan head and simple lacing. Smells deeply roasted and chocolatey, much like an English Brown. This brew seems to have added chocolates and christmas type spices that are shown equally in the nose and flavors. Flavors continue with a bready / toasty character, caramels, and increasing spiciness. Feels full, but not rich. Never thickens or waters. Finishes with a mild alcohol warmth, and a mild bite comming from the spices and grains. Nice winter brew. Thanks again Ding.

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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 Gueuzedude
3.82/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2006 Release, Sampled November 2006
As I pour this the stream of beer shows a brilliantly clear, chocolate brown color. It sits in my glass an opaque, dark brown, almost black color and is topped by a frothy, fairly large bubbled, initially a finger and a half thick, creamed amber colored head. The aroma is quite fruity with a sweetness that rides throughout. The fruit notes remind me of cherries, raisins, berries, and something like burnt figs. In fact the more I dig into the aroma the more I get notes reminiscent of burnt, concentrated fruit; not only burnt figs, but burnt raisins and burnt prune notes as well. There is a definite dark malt note here as well, something I associate with concentrated malty Imperial Stouts, something that is not quite chocolate.

The taste is not quite as sweet as the aroma would suggest, but it is definitely quite fruity tasting. Notes of prunes and figs are quite prominent here, and this definitely has the savory quality that these two dried fruits exhibit. The finish shows a touch of burnt grain with both a touch of acidity and a light coffee like roast character. There is an interesting spiciness here in the finish as well, it reminds me of a very soft, quite smooth nutmeg note; I also get spicy notes of ginger, a hint of cardamom, and maybe even some cinnamon. There are quite a few prominent flavors here that I can't quite put into words; there is almost a smoky quality here, definitely something savory, perhaps something like chocolate, and of course some other things I can't quite put into words.

This beer has a lightness to it that belies the fullness of the body. It has a medium heft to it, and just starts to stick to the palate, yet it is quite quaffable still; it might even be too quaffable as a touch more meatiness might be just what this needs. This is an interesting beer, it definitely fits the bill as a Winter seasonal.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.37/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 12 oz. brown bottle states it’s a Holiday beer, and has the year (2006), nothing else.

Aroma: Yep, that’s a holiday beer! Great clove, nutmeg aroma in a dark malt base.

Appearance: Dark black with thick ruby brown edges. Sports a solid collar but fails to lace.

Flavor: That’s nice! Lightly plumed malt base supports the spices, again, nutmeg and clove are my guesses (website lists cinnamon and mace), and results in a very balanced, complex taste. Some mild coffee/chocolate flavor is noted. It seems to be a good English Brown Ale spiced for the holidays. Notably absent from the flavor: hops and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, medium low carbonation, dry.

Overall Impression: Easy drinking, dangerous in it’s close to 9% abv. Felt the alcohol long before I tasted it. This beer is expertly assembled to let every aspect shine. Spices are firm, but not overdone. Malt and subdued hop blend into a well matched pair. My first Sweetwater, I plan on not letting it be my last!
Thanks to Mark for the trade!

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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 Phyl21ca
2.95/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottle courtesy of Mr_Kimchee: Poured a dark black color beer with a medium off-white foamy head with average retention. Aroma of dry roasted malt with some faint spices. Taste is dominated by roasted malt with a very dry finish. I could not detect very much spice presence overall though and was surprised by the fact that this is classified as spiced beer since I honestly though it was a porter.

 398 characters

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 hoppymeal
3.57/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle is dated 2005. Pours dark brown with some burgundy color as well. Smells of sweet malts, dates, prunes, and caramel. Also some roasty aroma in there. Medium body with sweet malts dominating up front in the taste with some roasty and smoky flavors as well in the background that tingle on the tongue. Good beer, I may enjoy it more during the winter months.

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