Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

BA SCORE
86
very good
300 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:
300
Ratings:
805
Avg:
3.81
pDev:
12.6%
 
 
Wants:
33
Gots:
176
For Trade:
2
User Reviews
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Reviews: 300 | Ratings: 805
Photo of joe1510
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
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 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.

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Photo of CampusCrew
3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

appearance: dark brown, not ebony, slight retention, no lacing

smell: Had a great spicy fruit aroma. Like apple pie. Nice cinnamon apple notes

taste: roasted malt flavors, like a molassess flavor with some good spicy flavor

mouthfeel: medium bodied to full

drinkability: world class beer from sweetwater. Best I have had from yet so far.

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

Acquired this from tigg924 so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours a deep dark brown with mahogany hue edges. A one finger of khaki colored head that dissipates quickly. Wispy lacing is left on the side.

S: Nose is of caramel malts, brown sugar, molasses, and spices.

T: Taste is caramel malts, brown sugar, hint of bitter chocolate up front. Middle is a bit nutty, some molasses, spicing. Finish is bitter chocolate with just a hint of hop bite, and bit of alcohol.

M: Lighter side of medium body, medium carbonation, crisp, clean body with a touch sticky finish.

D: Nicely balanced, goes down easily, in my winter warmer days, I could drink these all day. One would probably do me now.

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Photo of CrellMoset
3.97/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from Five Points Bottle Shoppe in Athens, GA. Poured into an Allagash flute, several times, because this bottle this bottle is friggen' huge. Bottle #153 of 11,000, 2007 vintage.

Appearance: Pours a thick, murky brown with ruby hues as a two-finger foamy cream-colored head rises from the dusk. It has a decent amount of staying power, but the lacing isn't so hot. Nonexistent really.

Aroma: Sunflower seeds, and a few other nutty notes, a few dark fruit notes, largely nondescript, but a few nicer light fruity notes that emerge upon agitation. In fact, agitation reveals a huge cornucopia of fruitiness, grape and apple juice, other notes, very nice.

Taste: Very nutty - again, sunflower seeds are dominant - but there are also a few good malty notes here, darker coffee, raisins, toffee, slight rum raisin without a real detectable hint of alcohol. Fruit cakey notes w/out it being spicy. Some simple sweet sugar notes and a few Perhaps a single-digit IBU bitterness. Sunflower seeds mellow out as it warms, fortunately.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, fairly even, smooth, low carbonation.

Drinkability: This is one fruity bitch of a beer. It's thick, malty, not too spicy, but intensely fruity, particularly as it warms. The alcohol is well hidden, and really not too terribly high. This one's drinking really well right about now, so give it a shot before it goes south.

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Photo of crossovert
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage. 12 oz bottle. On the bottle it says best refrigerated, but iIprefer this style at cellar temp.

Pours a dark brown with hints of ruby, with a frothy off white head. As the head recedes thick lacing rims the glass.

The nose is full of holiday cheer. The malt is very nutty and roasty, witch hints of cocoa and cinnamon. Theres almost an eggnog scent in there as well.

The taste could be more intense (as with most Sweetwater brews) but is full of dark malt with some cocoa and dark bread. It is also sweet with some spices in there as well, just like the scent. There is also hints of dark fruits. The mouthfeel seems a bit water, I would have preferred it to be a little heartier for this style.

Overall a decent beer, warms you up but not to the greatest extent. The drinkability is pretty good on this one.

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Photo of mntlover
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2005 version bottle # 3166 of 7200

Pours a deep brown almost black with a dense light tan head that falls slowly and leaves some lace around.

Aroma is loads of malt some sugary molasses mingled thru out. Some nice dark fruit figs plums and some light spice.

Taste is lots of malt, molasses mingled with fruit finishing with spice clove and nutmeg mainly. Nice flavor lots of sweetness boarding on cloying but not quite. Hints of chocolate and metalic flavors appear also.

Mouthfeel is big medium almost full lots of free sugars floating around nice feel lots of spice

Drinkability is good but due to cost wouldn't purchase on a regular basis as others are better and cheaper.

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Photo of Ryan011235
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an E&J Cask & Cream glass on 3/1/11

2010 vintage

Courtesy of PDXHops

Dark brown with crimson highlights. One finger of tan colored foam drops to a thin layer of retention and a patch of bubbles off to one side.

Lots of cinnamon in the aroma; spiced bread, earthy hops, nutmeg and maybe a dash of ginger. Smells pretty nice. The taste turns things on edge. Cinnamon is second string to nutmeg; though very much spiced said spices aren't harsh. Modest hoppiness in the middle. Toasted bread throughout. Just over medium body. Moderate carbonation seems appropriate. Some grittiness and a slightly coating finish.

Festive Ale is an easy-drinking 8.5% abv. Definitely worth a shot.

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Photo of Jadjunk
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle to a snifter. Served above 50ยบ 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 BeerSox
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into nonic.

With a gentle pour about a one finger head builds then slowly settles to a razor thin cap.

The aroma has some light burnt caramel aromas with some soft spices. Some light fruit aromas are there as well.

The flavor starts out with the same burnt caramel, then quickly transitions to some mild spice flavors. Most of the flavor is from the malt (caramel) with a little bit of hop flavor coming in at the end. Full bodied with assertive carbonation giving it a spritzy feel. The finish is the spices mixed with a bit of caramel.

This one is pretty good. It's not your standard Winter Warmer, maybe a little spicier than average, but it's still a great beer. Recommended.

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Photo of delta490
3.77/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Incredibly dark, with just a thin tan ring of head. No lacing. The aroma is malty sweet and mildly spicy. The taste is much the same. The body isn't particularly heavy or thick.

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

Review from notes. Enjoyed by me on Christmas Day 2009. Poured from the 12 oz. bottle that my brother in law Steven brought back from Atlanta into my father in law's Ray's standard pint glass. Thanks Steven.

A Medium brown creamy head that dissipates to a thin layer within 2 minutes. Dark porter body with no light coming through. 4.0

S Dark fruits, medium roast malt, possibly some dark caramel or molasses. I really like the smell of this beer and it is apparent that it is a Winter Warmer with some balls. 4.0

T Dark fruit, molasses carries right over from the smell. The taste is probably less "sweet" than the smell suggested but this is a delicious porter like beer. 4.0

M Syrupy thickness is not extreme but it is certainly there. 4.0

D Good. I found the bottom of my pint rather quickly. 4.0

Notes: What a treat to try this limited, bottled beer from Sweetwater. Thanks again Steven!

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 Edition

A - Pours a deep brown with a thin brown head that leaves a slight topping of lace.

S - Malty some spicing (can't exactly place which ones) with a touch of chocolate.

T - Toasted malt with a slight taste of biscuit or baked bread, hint of chocolate with a mild earthy spice character.

M - Smooth and creamy with a medium body.

D - Tasty with more subtle flavor/spicing than other holiday beers I have had.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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 rajendra82
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
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 shand
4.39/5  rDev +15.2%
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 BeerAndGasMasks
3.82/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From the bottle, it pours dark amber (okay, reddish brown) with a small head, quickly dissipating. Pleasant smell. Pleasant taste - chocolate in the beginning, spice at the end.

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Photo of ksimons
4/5  rDev +5%
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 brewskifan55
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a tulip glass.

A: An opaque dark brown. A tan half finger head that dissipates quickly to a bubble ring. Light lacing.

S: Coffee and cocoa nibs.

T: Rich, robust. Latte and chocolate make this one taste like robust porter.

M: Low to medium with medium carbonation.

O: Just OK. Not really a winter warmer. A decent robust porter, though.

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Photo of aracauna
3.78/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

11/6/03 (review of aged sample): I stuck a couple of bottles of this down in the basement for a year to age. They aged surprisingly well. The spice flavor that was far too strong when fresh has subdued nicely, making this a much more drinkable beer and also allowed more fruitiness come out. Much more interesting now.

11/12/02: Dark, dark ruby, almost black. Light khaki head lasts a while. The aroma is brown sugar, pumpernickel bread and toffee. The flavor is really earthy and woody. Kind of like the smell of a forest after a rain with the rottings logs and new growth. What I'm assuming is the mace comes on a little strong while the cinammon is faint enough that I don't notice it. The alcohol tickles around the edges of the palate but is covered fairly well.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
4.47/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Really dark. A lot darker than I expected. Smallish off white head disappears very quickly., thus no lacing.

S- Very sweet smelling. Lots of dark fruits. Cherries, plums etc. Chocolate, spices and yeast.

T- Cherries, oak, vanilla, caramel. This is very good.

M- Full, velvety, smooth and low carbonation.

D- Very smooth and drinkable. This is my favorite winter warmer Ive had.
___

7/19/10
This is beer #6 from the blind beers BIF. Sent to me by MMAJYK Reviewed totally blind.

This one here is really throwing me. Im initially thinking its some sort of brown ale. It pours a weird murky brown with greenish highlights. The head fades before I can even make much note of it. The beer sits in my glass really murky and chill hazed looking. Weird.

Smell is loaded up with raisins like crazy. Also some cinnamon maybe? Its like a cinnamon raisin bagel sometimes. Lots and lots of sweet toffee/caramel. Im getting lots of root beer also, like a root beer float. Yeast brings out lots of dark fruits, its very Belgian. From here Im wondering if this is Raison D'etre. Ive never had it and Im not sure if my notes are matching up with other reviews of D'etre.

Lots more raisins and Belgian fruity yeast. What ever this is Im pretty sure its some type of Belgian dark ale with raisins added. It starts out full of raisins, toffee and dark fruits, cherries but then the taste kinda just abruptly stops. This is another spot where my notes dont match up to Raison D'etre so Im thinking this is something else.

Feel is not quite full, semi dry with a carbonation that loses strength quickly.

Such a surprise to see that its an '07 Festive Ale. I was thinking it was a Belgian the whole time!

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Photo of Proteus93
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was the 2007 bottling, shared with dkachur and CrellMoset a couple months ago.

A: Chocolatey brown, a bit of sediment (end of the bottle pour), and an off-white, seni-creamy head

S: Sunflower seed???, candi sugar, artificial banana?

T: Sweet and sugary, some nice caramel, sunflower again?! Wtf?? Some soft breadiness, and even a little buttery.

M + D: Very light caebonation... Lacking, really. Sweet and inoffensive drinking... Not too bad.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
3.35/5  rDev -12.1%
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 coreyfmcdonald
3.43/5  rDev -10%
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 pixieskid
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
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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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.81 out of 5 based on 805 ratings.
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