Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

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BA SCORE
86
very good
294 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:
294
Ratings:
783
Avg:
3.82
pDev:
20.42%
 
 
Wants:
32
Gots:
162
For Trade:
2
User Reviews
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Reviews: 294 | Ratings: 783
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 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 UnderPressure
4.02/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown, nearly black colored beer with a light brown head.

A really nice malty, sweet aroma. Roasted grains and spice are also present in the aroma.

A nice malty, spicy flavor. A slight bitterness hits the back of the mouth at first. With a grainy, roasted malt finish.

Nice mouthfeel. Medium-heavy bodied. A perfect level of carbonation.

This has become one of my favorite winter seasonals. A great dark, roasty, spicy beer with plenty to offer.

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Photo of WetCoaster
4.35/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Well, this was supposed to be my 200th review, but I guess my math was a wee bit off. That's what you get for drinking, I suppose. At any rate, a gift from my good friend Tim F. in Hotlanta, GA. Much love for this super-rare (in San Fran, anyway) right coast gift. #176 of 7200, no less.

Appearance: Pour from a 33 oz. waxed and Ball jar-corked bottle (seriously guys, WTF?!) a deep, warm caramel with a tan, almost brown, head. Light, fizzy head head with moderate retention.

Smell: Very dense and sweet. Lots of vanilla and cola; the beer version of cream soda, if you will.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Fantastic -- probably the best winter warmer I've sampled. Dark chocolate malts, caramel, vanilla, roasted, smokey espresso. Nicely hopped and balanced. Finishes deep, charred and tight with burnt coffee long into the finish. The mouthfeel is fine, if a bit run-of-the-mill, medium bodied with fine, crisp carbonation.

Drinkability: Great -- loved the flavor, a real standout in a pretty mediocre style. Too bad I can't get no more. Still, enjoyed this one.

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Photo of clemtig76
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage 1 liter bottle purchased at Beverage Superstore in Suwanee, GA. Pours a dark mahogany brown with a thinish head that quickly dissipates. Aroma is a spicy medley of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg with hint of chocolate malt.
The taste was good and smooth for a high ABV beer. Nice balance between the spices and the sweet malt. Very little hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is a little on the thin side. Very drinkable but I think one is enough.

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Photo of bcostner1
3.56/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark brown/amber. Fairly opaque. Nice, thick, rich tan head that sticks around for a while.

S: Not that impressive to me. Faint hint of spice (cinnamon and citrus maybe?) and a little bit of licorice actually.

T: I am pleasantly surprised by the taste of this one. It's sweeter and less hop-forward than I expected. The predominant flavors for me are caramel, malt, and chocolate with some brown sugar in there. Very subtle spice comes forward as the beer warms and to me is mainly cinnamon with a little bit of bitter orange peel perhaps. I'm digging this...and I wasn't sure that I would.

M: For as thick and rich as the head was on the pour, the beer itself is a little on the thin side. A little more body would do it well. Still, it is very easy to drink and I really don't detect the 8.6% ABV whatsoever which is a good thing.

Overall, I enjoyed this beer quite a bit. I would definitely buy it again. As far as winter warmers go, I haven't had many but I personally enjoyed this more than Jubelale, which I also had recently, mainly because I like my hops more subdued and this definitely fits the bill for that.

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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 TH28
3.94/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle. 11/5/15 code date. Appearance: Jet black and opaque, with a quickly dissipating tan head. Aroma: First thought is chocolate milk. More of a creamed coffee. A hint of cinnamon. Taste: Rich, sweet chocolate malt up front, turning to some light roasted coffee, and ending with a splash of cinnamon. Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with some viscosity. Carbonation is light. Alcohol warmth barely noticeable. Finish: Lingering light roasted malt. Overall: Great winter ale. Spice impact is minimal and doesn’t overpower. Drinks like a light oatmeal stout with a bit of high ABV heat.

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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 CWiggins
3.07/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I purchased this big-ass bottle (33.8oz) from Bruisin' Ales in Asheville around Christmas '08. (Sweetwater brews aren't available in the Durham area, but they can be found in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

It pours a very dark brown with a rich, thick, deep tan head that lasted for some time. Aromas of bright cherry, caramel, dark chocolate, and alcohol are noted. The flavor is bright indeed, with sweet, dark fruit dominating the front and middle of the profile. The finish is a bit hoppy, and a slight coffee essence lingers here and during the aftertaste. It's certainly more malty than I expected.

It's a nice beverage, although it's not like any winter warmer I've ever had. Very interesting and worth trying again.

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Photo of welldigger888
3.93/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

poured from growler into an irish pint glass. Nice thick off white head with excellant lacing down glass,nice deep copper ruby colored elixer.
A festive spicey malt breadiness in aroma for me.
Sweet bready spiced flavors with just enough of a kiss of hops to round out.
I am pleased with the creamy smooth mouth on this brew!
Until the abv catches you this is highly drinkable!

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Photo of RedwoodGeorge
3.78/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber brown bordering on opaque but plenty of red highlights when held up to the light... Large tan head with moderate rention and good lacing.

The nose is all malt - plenty of sweet notes of caramel and molasses with hints of nutmeg and ginger. The flavor is surprisingly chocolaty with a pronounced cocoa note as well as a lighter prune flavor. Moderate spicing of cinnamon and nutmeg make up most of the highlights. Very light hop bitterness in the background tends to give it a hint of balance. Sweet but not over the top.

A bit lighter bodied than you'd expect, oily residue left on the tongue and not enough carbonation to give this much body. Slightly cloying aftertaste but a bit of alcohol burn actually helps clean up the palate.

Not perfect but quite tasty and just the kind of thing I'm looking for in a winter warmer.

[Thanks to rajendra82 for sending out this Georgia treat]

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Photo of mikecharley
4.59/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Track1646 for bringing this to our tasting yesterday. This bottle is a 2005 vintage.

Pours a dark brown. Spotty lacing. The head is spotty on top of the surface in my huge brandy snifter.

This is by far the best smelling brew I have ever had... I smelled it for the first time, and had two comments immediatly. First was: "This is a five" Next came "This smells like Thanksgiving dinner". Both are very very true. It was the easiest rate I have ever done on a particular attribute of any beer. Amazing nose. I got cloves, raisin, nutmeg, spicy, potpouri, pumpkin pie spice. Amazing! Let it warm, and it just gets better.

The flavor is in the nose, but is a bit more subtle. Lots of spice, with some very small hints of some faded grassy hops in the background. Some sweet malts. Really good beer. This might be one of the best beers I have EVER had. Great

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Photo of doubleipa
4.35/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just picked up the 2005 rendition of this wonderful seasonal.
This beer had a slight toasted aroma mixed with nutmeg and clove with a hint of coriander. There was virtually zero head. I could just get the head to cover the surface, but it disappeared instantly. The body was a clear black.brown. Initial flavor was midly sweet that finished long. Body was medium to full with a syrupy texture. Virtually no carbonation. The finish was only slightly alcoholic. Surpisingly little for a 8.9% beer. Seems to taste a little less spicy than last year's model.

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Photo of deejaydan
4.28/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Raj! Got this one, um, one of the BIF's.
Comes in an impressive waxed dipped flip top one liter bottle.

Pours a deep chestnut brown color with ruby highlights. Decent head retention here. Smells and tastes like a Belgian Dubbel. Rum, spices, ripe fruits greet you as you taste this beer. I find this has a fuller body than most belgian dubbels that I've had, and a much more rounded character. Still, it does seem a bit sharp in the mouth to me. The alcohol is blended in nicely too, not noticable at all.

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Photo of Thur123
3.86/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

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

Glug glug glug. 

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

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Photo of jnn4v
4.08/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Very dark brow color. Relatively translucent - not quite opaque. No head, sediment or haze.

S: Floral scents, oak, vanilla, tea, raisins, molasses, and figs.

T: Molasses, toffee, fig leaves, copper, sour yeast,

M: Reasonable mouthfeel. Decent texture with moderate carbonation.

D: Not bad for the drinkability. ABV and body and texture all were not bad for the genre. No complaints here from me or my fellow tasting companions.

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

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - Pours jet black with a light hint of mahogany when held up to the light. Full finger tan head fades to rings at each sip.

S - Malty molasses and figs. No spice readily available. Surprised.

T - Chocolate, molasses, and nutmeg? Not nutmeg, what is that?? I love this beer. Very faint hop citrus in the back.

M - Medium to big body and rich feel. Nice.

D - Very high, you would never in life guess 8.6%

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Photo of mattsdenney
4.47/5  rDev +17%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a NB globe glass. Good looking bottle too.

A: Pours a dark reddish brown. Clear with a one finger brown head. Head dissipates relatively quickly with no lacing. Looking like a good cold weather beer so far.

S: Warm alcohol, spices, and malts. Hints of chocolate and sweet toffee.

T: Malty and boozy with a great spice, particularly cinnamon and nutmeg. Follows with chocolate and hints of coffee. Aftertaste reveals a light amount of hops that balances nicely.

M: Thick and frothy with light carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel that really compliments the taste and overall feel.

O: IMO it's hard to find a true winter warmer. Many that receive that label don't include the characteristics that I typically want. This beer has them all. Perfect cold weather Christmas beer.

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Photo of slatetupelo
3.76/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My buddy picked me up a sixer or 2007 for me. It pours a real dark brown with amber at the edges of the glass and a nice tan head. There's really nothing distinct about the smell for me but it's not bad. The taste was surprisingly good and tastes of dark chocolate and malts, very well balanced. The alcohol is well hidden and I could drink a few of these before realizing that I'm in over my head. This was my first beer of this style, I'll have to look for something similar.

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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 Kkottonmouthkngz
4.23/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: this is a beautifully colored beer, with ruby, cranberry hues in the light, transforms to a menacing black as soon as taken away. just about a full fingers worth of tan head, quickly dissipates.
S: not very potent, definitely mild accents of milk chocolate, maybe a little bit of nutmeg or cinnamon.. cant discern a whole lot else individually. even though its not in your face, it is certainly pleasant.
T: here we go, this is tasty. again none of the flavors that im getting are huge like some overly spiced winter beers, theyre just right. nice maltiness, some of those well balanced spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a fruitiness that pulls ahead of the little bit of chocolate. this is probably one of the better winter beers ive had this year.
M: the decent hop presence plus the carbonatio level bring this one alive on the palate. its not overly heavy, and i enjoy how the spices stick to the top of my tongue well after ive had my share.
D: enjoying this one all the way through. goes down so easily on this cold snowy winter night.

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Photo of bassmantin
3.25/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Please note, I am drinking this beer out of a bottle because I am at the ATL airport. But I still want to put my two cents in.

No comments on the appearance or smell. The taste is very full and thick. Lots of sticky sweet malts. Decently biting hops to give it some punch, but nothing extreme. Leaves a sticky taste in the back of you throat, which I do not particularly enjoy.

Overall, I would not have this one again. It's a little too much malt and hop and not enough delicate balance.

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Photo of MemphisSooner
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Excellent Winter Warmer!

Smells like a christmas cookie! Molasses, figs, roasty malts abound.

Those same flavors come through in the taste. The alcohol hides nicely, giving balance and depth.

As others have said, I don't know why this beer isn't rated higher. Lots to appreciate here. Well done Sweetwater!

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 294 ratings.
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