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Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

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BA SCORE
86
very good
297 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:
297
Ratings:
792
Avg:
3.82
pDev:
20.42%
 
 
Wants:
32
Gots:
165
For Trade:
2
User Reviews
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Reviews: 297 | Ratings: 792
Photo of mscudder
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Bomber. Served in a globe.

A - Pours an oily black hue with a two-finger soft-ivory head. Average retention with some lacing.

S - Cinnamon, nutmeg, big malts and assorted winter spices.

T - Massive malt backbone in this one. Bold creamy backdrop with some warmth from the booze. I find flavors of caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, subtle chocolate and a touch of maple.

M - Creamy medium body with average carbonation. Wish it were a touch more robust.

O -Pretty good showing this year and a certain upgrade from past editions. Holiday spices are abundant atop a might blend of malts. Not nearly as boozy as I tend to feel about warmers. I would get this again.

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Photo of Infamous7100
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: pours deep and rich brown. It's clear, but the depth of the color makes it impossible to see all the way through. A nice head upon my pour with minimal lacing. A tan ring remains around the outside throughout my consumption.
S: aromas of cinnamon and spice are what I pick up at first. Shockingly, I am getting a lot of toasted malt and dark chocolate overtones I would associate with a stout. Interesting combo.
T: Complexity abound. The winter spices blend nicely with the roasted malts, chocolate and coffee flavors. I get a slight hoppiness as well, but malts and spice rule the day.
M: this brew possesses a nice creaminess with a medium body and medium carbonation. It finishes smooth and spicy with a hint of bitterness.
O: a nice winter brew. I enjoy the elements of a stout that were incorporated into its characteristics, wnich is unique. The flavors were maybe a bit too subtle, but were present enough to mask most of the alcohol.

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Photo of Jadjunk
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle to a snifter. Served above 50º Fahrenheit. Roughly 3 months old, date on bottle is 10/8/13.

(Appearance) Beer pours thick chocolate cream head that retains well. There is a thin lacing on the side. Beer is very dark brown with dark ruby highlights. From the little I can see in this, there is some subtle carbonation. There's plenty of substance to behold with the nice presentation this beer gives. It's an attractive appearance overall. 4

(Smell) Medium roasted malts, some caramel with toffee and cream. Festive spice blends are on low, but reminiscent of licorice and cinnamon, both in trace amounts. Potency is medium. The aroma isn't the most impressive aspect of this beer. 3.5

(Taste) Caramel and toffee are in the foreground, but spices linger faintly in the background. The slightly bitter aftertaste is reminiscent of medium toasted malts. Slightly sweet, although a touch more sweetness would be desirable. The alcohol is well concealed, but I can pick up some tastes of it here and there at the tail end of the drink. The taste is enjoyable, but could be far more intense and full bodied, like the initial impressions I gathered when smelling. The beer is toasty and sweet. 3.5

(Mouthfeel) Creamy and clean. Balance works well for the flavors. Malt is close to where it could be, nonetheless the beer is medium bodied for a winter warmer and medium bodied overall. Alcohol presence is light, well masked by the malt body and perhaps even the creamy texture in the mouthfeel. 4

(Overall) A malt-heavy winter warmer, with a subtle spice profile and a mild bitterness. I thought that the malt characteristics were a bit shallow for the beer or the remaining characteristics were underdeveloped and need some time to impart additional flavors. 3.5

Vertical Tasting Notes:

2011 (1 year, 3 months aged) Date on bottle: Best by 10/10/12.

Pours slightly darker head than the fresh vintage, slightly less substantial with a minor froth, overall still decent quality and retains well, perhaps even better than the fresh batch. Body color is identical to fresh with deep ruby highlights. There's a definite change in the malt background as the caramel begins to develop and bring out the subtleties in the spices, a little souring perhaps and some fruit characteristics are developing. This vertical is notably boozier as well. The age has done some wonders for the complexity; there's better balance to the beer and more yeast characteristics, imparting some tart fruit characteristics and enhancing the spices, notably cinnamon and anise, which are no longer masked by the malt bill. A touch dry still, but no worse than the fresh batch. A 1 year vertical of this beer is certainly worth your time as there is much more complexity to be found. Recommended.

Recommended Age: 1+ Years

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Photo of vtisme
4.38/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served from a bottle into a snifter
A - very dark amber, light just barely can get through it
S - chocolate, maybe some syrup
T - bitter chocolate, indistinguishable fruitiness comes through in the end and aftertaste
M - thinner than what I thought I would be getting
O - this is a great beer!

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Photo of BeerImmediately
2.35/5  rDev -38.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

6 pack from grocery store in NC. Sucked in by interesting label.

Pours with virtually no head over dark brown body with ruby edges. No lacing.

Aromas are heavy. Molasses, caramel, ginger, peppermint, and some allspice. Not bad.

Mouthfeel and flavor drop the ball on the aromas. Thick and syrupy, with harsh film left on the tongue. Flavors include black strap molasses, burnt raisin, char, caramel malt, and muted piney hop bitterness in the finish... Unfortunately, not a clean hop bite.

Seems like they're trying too hard to add holiday cheer to this one - overdone for the style, even tho there is debate on what this style should be. IMO, it should be something you could enjoy several of at a gathering, but this one is a bit of a choker.

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Photo of shand
4.39/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sweetwater Festive Ale pours a brown color with a tiny mocha head. The aroma is very nice, it's chocolatey and full of holiday spices and a decent amount of hops. Ginger comes through strong on the taste, pairing well with the aroma and solid hop kick. The mouthfeel is on the heavy side of medium and with a bit of prickly carbonation leading to a smooth finish. The drinkability is very good. Overall, this is one of the best winter warmers I've had. Very tasty.

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

Poured from waxed bomber into tulip glass. Pours a very deep brown along with a nice medium to thin tan head. Aromas of cinnamon, caramel, nutmeg, toasted malts, and maybe a touch of chocolate. The flavor allows for a decent amount of chocolate to sneak in there to go with the cinnamon holiday spice, vegetation notes, and sweet malt. Medium bodied with decent carbonation throughout. Overall, a nice holiday beer and one I wouldn't mind seeking out again!

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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 bjwilson
4.25/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

First review.
Wow. This beer really is a mouthful. Pours a big head but dissipates quickly. The smell and taste of coffee mixed with winter spices is upfront. The alcohol is warming, but really packs a punch at the end. Overall, a wonderful warming winter beer. I will be seeking this one out over the holidays.

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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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Photo of jucifer1818
3.78/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a: Dark and black, with little head. perfect for a winter ale like this one
4.5/5

S: Very varible and smelling of spice. With each smell someone can smell a differnt spice or detect something new in it. It is very nice, but could be stronger. A bit of yeasty fruityness in the smell as well
4/5

t: smooth for a beer of its ABV, with light spicing and malty backbone. the maltyness comes through in the after taste with some hoppy bitterness.
3.5/5

M: Very light for its dark color and ABV, but still quite nice
but could be stronger
3.5/5

Overall
Its a very decent winter warmer and one of the best deals on a 6 pack you can get. Its good spiceing and high ABV make this one a personal favorite, even with its flaws. If it had a heavyer body and a more pronounced spice taste in the body, I might had given it even higher marks
its s 4/5, but it is still very recommended.

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Photo of raoulduke25
4.42/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked up a six-pack of this at the grocery store. By the time I got to drinking it, it had warmed to a pleasant 45-50°F.

The beer is very dark, but if you shine a light through it, you can see the amber hue around the edges. After pouring, a nice bubbly (non-foamy) head appeared, but didn't last long.

The smell is enough to let you know that this is something special. Hints of spices and smooth fragrances all around.

Once the head had dissipated, I gave a small taste. It was full-bodied, but not overwhelming. In fact, the taste was highlighted by its subtlety: nothing lacking, yet each sip feels like you're getting just enough.

The mouthfeel was surprisingly non-viscous. I would say "watery" but that's clearly not the word. If you are expecting something like a cream stout or a frothy syrup, that's not what this is at all. It is a dark ale that hangs in your mouth like water.

Overall, the marks on this beer are high. The taste and smell are nothing short of heavenly. I would have preferred a heavier feel, but nothing to complain about with this one.

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Photo of birchstick
3.89/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

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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 sweemzander
3.15/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz. bottle poured into a tulip.

(A)- Pours a very dark burnt sienna color. Some good tan froth and lace.

(S)- A rich raisin and almond spice to it. Simple, but nice.

(T)- A spicy raisin and nut combo (walnut?)

(M)- A good carbonation level. A solid rich balance too without being too strong.

(D)- Overall, a solid little winter warmer. Not the best, but worth trying.

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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 FanofHefe
3.78/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2011 version that pours a clear, deep, ruby red color with a nearly two-finger light tan head. Decent retention but only a little lacing.

The aroma is light and malty. As it warms, I get a little more of the spicy, cinnamon notes and a bit of cocoa.

The chocolate/cocoa flavor shows up more in the flavor than in the aroma. The overall flavor is very malt forward, as expected, and the spicy mix does not overwhelm, but accents.

Light to medium mouthfeel that works well overall. This works very well as a Winter Warmer and does not offend in any way. Just a solid offering altogether.

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Photo of tdm168
3.58/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown that has a reddish hue when put to light. There is a quarter of an inch of foamy, loose, off white head that quickly dissipates. The nose has notes of caramel and ginger. The flavor is sweet at first with notes of caramel and chocolate then finishes with a bittersweet chocolate note. A few more sips reveal some vanilla, ginger, and faint spice. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied though a little crisp at first. The carbonation settles down as the beer warms.

The flavor becomes a little boring throughout the drink. The chocolate, caramel, and ginger start out as a good flavor. As I continued to drink it though they lost their individual flavor. They meshed together into an incoherent, one-dimensional, boring flavor. This is a decent beer and enjoyable at first, but I don't think it's something I would come back to.

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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 iadler
3.72/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a dark brown with a one finger off white head that dissipates quickly, leaving a thin cap. No lacing is left behind.

S- Raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, star anise, nutmeg, roasted malt and a hint of unsweetened chocolate.

T- Unsweetened chocolate, faint coffee beans, grassy hops, molasses, roasted malt and brown sugar. Spices are more subtle in the taste

M- Medium carbonation and a fairly light body that finishes with a hint of roasted malt.

O- A good seasonal from SweetWater. The mouthfeel was a little watered down, but other than that, a winter warmer to visit if you have a chance.

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Photo of beergod1
3.78/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appears dark brown with very little head, some lacing on the glass. Smells Malty with a touch of Cinnamon. Tastes of dark roasty malts, cinnamon and a light alcohol finish. Not a very robust mouthfeel, somewhat light, But made it easy to drink. Worth a try, but not the best in its field.

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Photo of kdawg105
4.76/5  rDev +24.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing beer! I love Christmas time when all the great seasonal brews come around. Anyway this beer is very inviting when poured into a glass it looks almost exactly like a coke, the smell was a bit fainter than I expected but this beer has awesome taste it all the Malts are so balanced. It has nice light fluffy mouthfeel very warming for real this is a excellent winter ale if you can get on please do! THE REAL CATCH is the beer is so smooth you don't realize how easy it is to drink and be surprised by the warmth!!!

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

A-pours a deep chestnut brown with ruby highlights. The head is a creamy tan that sticks to the glass.

S-the smell is how I think a winter warmer should smell. Rich malts, caramel, light molasses, and spices

T-Tastes of lightly roasted malt, chocolate and caramel, and a slightly sour dark fruit ending. Easy to drink with just a light alcohol warming.

M-medium body, moderate carbonation, very mellow

Overall its an easy to drink beer and a nice representation of a winter warmer. I would definitely drink again.

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Photo of DeltaGolfSierra
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Color is a very deep brown to nearly black, with a modest tan head. No lacing left on the glass. The scent and taste are both very much like a porter. Sweet malts dominate - chocolatey, nutty, molasses-y. Hardly a trace of bitterness to be found. Very drinkable, and was gone before I knew it. Hardly noticed the 8.6% abv at all. Sweetwater could pass this off as a nice year-round porter.

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Photo of Hojaminbag
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is another bottle that my 2011 Secret Santa gdodd12 sent me. Thanks, Greg. 2011 Vintage.

Sweetwater Festive Ale has a dark brown body and a creamy tan head. The retention and lacing are both OK.

The aroma has some spice to it, namely cinnamon, but it also has a lot of rich malt to back it up.

Some spice flavors come through up front, with mostly cinnamon. Next comes a complex mix of rich malt. Toasted and nutty malts mix with caramel and molasses, with toffee as well. Dark, powdery cocoa flavors come through as a good dose of sweet maple and burnt brown sugar. The finish is sweet and slick with some warmth.

Nice full body with a moderate amount of carbonation make this one feel alternately chewy and slick.

Festive Ale is a pretty good warmer, and I could see it getting better with some age on it (I guess the wax should have tipped me off).

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.82 out of 5 based on 792 ratings.
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