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 TurdFurgison
3.82/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2008 version, 12oz bottle extra from GatorBeerNerd (thanks Donnie). This beer is dark, very dark brown with a thin tan head. The aroma is malty and strong, kind of similar to an American barleywine. Some dark fruits like plums or dates, no real spices that I can smell. The taste is sweet and alcoholic, strong malt and ethanol with maybe a little cocoa. A big heavy ass-kicker of a beer, this is definitely a beer to drink on cold winter nights. Much appreciated, and I also have a 2007 to drink later.

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Photo of glid02
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dry-hopped cask served at the Brick Store.

Pours an opaque light brown color with a half-finger light tan head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of caramel malts with hints of chocolate malts along with a bit of spiciness, leafy hops, and a hint of vanilla.

Tastes similar to how it smells, though in the flavor the components are a bit more fleshed out. Caramel and chocolate malt flavors kick things off with a hint of vanilla riding the coat-tails. Midway through the sip a good deal of earthy hops offer up some flavor and segue through to a mildy spicy and bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is OK. It's a bit on the thin side with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is good. I didn't have any problem finishing the glass and could have another.

Overall the hops were a bit more prevalent in this version than the non-dry-hopped version (a big surprise right?), however the other flavors didn't seem as intense. Still, a solid late fall beer that's worth a shot.

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.34/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pilsner glass. Reviewed December 2010.

A: Generous head atop an ostensibly molasses-black body. In decent lighting, the beer is translucent and a drop-dead gorgeous wine-dark red.

S: Coffee and beets(?). Spices and maybe some alcohol.

T: Sweetish and spiced (mace?), moderately vegetal malts. An odd, roasted flavour reminds me of burnt cake. The aftertaste is bland, but reminiscent of a porter (excepting the spice).

M: Moderately thick/substantial, but nothing to write home about.

D: Very drinkable, and the ABV is hidden convincingly. Still, something about it is not quite to my taste -- though all my friends love it. I can't recommend it, but I wouldn't steer you away.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.68/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle thanks to Bulbman, appreciate it! Dark brown color, short wispy head. Smells a little spicy like a winter warmer but also very malty. The taste is mostly malts to me but maybe there is a hint of cinnamon hiding. This was not bad at all and I'd probably buy a sixer if I could. The alcohol was not noticed at all.

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Photo of Gusler
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
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 Pencible
3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: This poured a cloudy dark copper with a little light tan head.
S: It smelled like brown sugar and mocha, with a bit of copper and sour yeast.
T: It tasted like coffee and dark chocolate, with some copper and sour yeast. It had a bittersweet aftertaste.
M: It was watery with a little carbonation. A bit thin and weak.
D: This was a nice porter-ish winter warmer, but there was nothing exceptional about the brew. Good scent and taste, with a mediocre body. Alcohol was well hidden, so it was pretty easy to drink. Enjoyable but not super memorable.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.52/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A-pours a deep brown with hues of red, a thin finger of off white head that dissipates quickly and leaves nothing on the glass

S-light aroma of cinnamon spice, smoe floral hops and a touch of sweet ciitrus

T-light taste of sweet cinnamon, touch of pepper, hint of vanilla, some caramel malts come in next with a light roasted character that finishes with a dark fruits and a hint of citrus hops

M-solid body, full on medium, very smooth with a fair amount of carbonation

D-not a huge fan of winter ales and the spices associated. impartial rating as the flavors are decent and well related to the style. they aren't huge and i've had better winter's.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
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 twiggamortis420
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
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 Dope
3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2012 batch.

A: Pours a nice dark mahogany. Big fluffy light brown head. Lacing doesn't seem to stick as the head fades away. Just a splotch here and there. Decent retention though.

S: Lots of holiday spaces. Nutmeg and cinnamon primarily it seems. Some others that I can't quite place. Get a bit of dark bread in there too but it's mainly the spices.

T: Again, lots of spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg up front. Kind of a thick, molasses breadiness to the malt, for lack of a better description. More spices in the finish, almost like black pepper here. Cinnamon lingers between sips.

M: Nice medium bodied, pretty standard.

O: A fairly simple and spicy winter warmer. Fairly mellow with decent balance. Easy drinking but somewhat plain.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.1/5  rDev +7.6%
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 Sabtos
3.18/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light brown, semi transparent.

Can't believe no one has said this. I get Dr. Pepper on the nose and the tongue. Once I pinpointed that note, I really kept coming back to it. Sassafras or tobacco.

Interesting how many different interpretations there are of the holiday flavors, even between different states.

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Photo of gford217
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1L swingtop poured into a pint glass.

Pours a deep mahogany with hints of ruby around the edges. An aggressive pour produces a two-finger tan head that recedes to a very thin cap leaving some spotty lacing.

Aromas are pretty basic with lots of sweet caramel malts and dark, sweet fruits, apples and grapes maybe. I didn't get much in the way of spices in the aroma.

The taste is also extremely sweet, with sugary caramel malts and dark fruits. I thought I got some chocolate hints as well. The finish has a cola-like sweetness.

The mouthfeel is pretty light for the style with good carbonation but lacking the body I was hoping for.

This is a decent but not great beer from Sweetwater. Probably a bit one-dimensional for me, but I may sit on a bottle or two and see how it develops over time.

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Photo of birchstick
3.89/5  rDev +2.1%
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 RonaldTheriot
4.21/5  rDev +10.5%
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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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #35 (Dec 2009):

Happy to see more beefed-up versions of the Winter Warmer style? Do you want a mouthful of pie spices, or do you want to drink a beer?

The beer wants to be black, but in the light, it shows its true color. Good lacing on top. Aromas of chocolate, dried plum and molasses with a hint of cinnamon. Thick and slick full body, carbonation is on the lighter side, which brings a smoothness to the table. Fruity with a heavy rounding of chocolate, nougat, nuttiness, mild spicing and bread crust. Hops are mild, yet push the sweetness down a notch. Alcohol is warming. Hint of burnt sugar and more nutty undertones in the semi-dry finish.

Damn tasty, this Winter Warmer is serious, with a festive back end.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

** Note on 12/18/10** I received another bottle from RBald42 over a year ago and just popped it. I think this aged nicely despite the style not conforming to cellaring. I really enjoyed this today. Malt flavors really smooth out and it's a chewy caramel flavor.

Big Thanks to BHalter8 for providing this in a trade. He's an excellent trader!!

Pours a deep brown color. A wonderful tan head that is about a perfect thickness. (2 fingers) the head begins to dissipate almost immediately. Almost looks like a real Root Beer. Maybe a little thicker.

Aroma is sweet caramel and lots of deep malt.

Deep caramel flavor follows the aroma almost perfectly. The slightest hint of spices as well. Not sure if I can pick anything specific out, but it's there. A bit nutty as well. Almost roasted nuts....

Thick full bodied beer. Very light carbonation.

Very drinkable as a Winter Warmer. Definitely warms the heart.

Glad I had the opportunity to try this beer.

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

a: Gives a low off white head that rapidly recedes to a thin ring around the glass. The beer is a dark mahogany brown in color.

s: Nice blend of chocolate, toffee, and dark aromas. Earthy hop aroma.

m: The carbonation is a low medium, and the body on the full side of medium.

t: Reminiscent of a heavily malted, low hopped brown ale. Nice touch of chocolate on the the palate, with pale and caramel flavors accompanying. The chocolate comprises the bulk of the complexity. Gentle-moderate bitterness in the finish with some roast lingering.

d: not a problem...abv remains hidden

12 ounce bottle from Bruisin' Ales

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Photo of tpd975
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This one came via OskarsBamaBlues.

A: Pours a nice nutty brown hue with a thick foamy creamy head. The head dies down but some spider webbed lacing is left behind.

S: Nice malty aromas with hints of toffee, brown sugar and nutmeg.

T: Wow one of the better if not best Winter Warmers out there. I am uaually not a huge fan of the style but I am down to try anything. The taste is very much liked a kicked up brown ale. Tons of toffee and choclate with hints of brown sugar sweetness. There is a touch of tobacco and hazelnuts. The finish reveals a touch of spice. I can't put my finger on it, but it is a perfect additon to the beer.

M: Medium in body rich and creamy.

D: Very, this is probably the first winter warmer I could enjoy two bottles of.

Overall: As I stated I usually bash the style as they are often all over the place with spices clashing with one another. This brew is balanced. It is more about malty goodness. There is just a touch of spice (god I wish I knew what it was) that is a perfect addition to this brew. I am drinking this one on a 87 degree Tampa afternoon. It would have been even more enjoyable during a not so cold winter evening.

Overall: I like it. Would love to have a sixer to drink along with my xmas dinner.

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

Tops my list for "hardest bottle to open." My sample was a big bottle of '01, with a ceramic swing top stopper. The entire top, wire and all, had been dipped in red wax, like Maker's Mark bourbon, and was the hardest stuff I've run across. It took a pocket knife and chiseling to get it off. Fortunately, the beer was worth the effort, and you can be sure there was no oxidation.

Poured a walnut brown. Overall, it struck me as Anchor Our Special Ale's little brother. Nutty, mildly spiced - nutmeg and allspice, with a lively mouthfeel. A touch of carmel and maple syrup, but not too sweet.

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Photo of siege06nd
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
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 sulldaddy
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Finally getting around to trying this one. The first of two from a trade with Rajendra82. Hoping for some tasty southern brew here.

I pour the chilled brew into my pint glass and it is incredibly dark brown, almost black. Barely any light gets through. Not what I expected at all. This is exciting! Very little tan head foams up and fades rather quickly, back to a thin layer on the surface.

The aroma is spicy sweet similar to other winter brews. Some nutmeg, and actually brown sugar or molasses scents as well.

First sip, very mild carbonation, very smooth with above average thickness. The flavor is similar to the scent. Slightly sweet, with hints of coffee, but more of a mocha. Similar to those swiss mocha hard candies they give out at banks sometimes. That is exactly what I taste. very easy to drink. No ABV listed but I guess it is above 6%. But not due to alcohol flavor or burn just thickness of the brew. This is a very nice brew. not what I expected from a winter ale, but I am very impressed with my first sweetwater beverage. Now I know what to look for next time I am in Georgia. Thanks again for a quality brew Rajendra!

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Photo of Todd
3.57/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2004 vintage. 12oz bottle. No freshness date. Pours a very deep garnet, near opaque. Foam is a snapping tan with large bubbles that bust down to a quarter inch lace that has some decent retention.

Ripened fruits and baking spices in the aroma, and a hint of sour sherry. Estery. Alcohols in the background.

Crisp, snapping carbonation the palate lends way to a creamy mouthfeel. Sharp, fruity character of sweet and sour berries, dark ripe fruits of plum, fig and raisin, followed by a sweet malty flavor with notes of caramel and granola cereal, along with ash and some smoke. Bag of mixed holiday-type spices. Alcohol is well-hidden. Very mild oxidation character in the form of cardboard, which lingers in the finish with a slight metallic note and overall drying character with chalk backing.

Aged quite well. Not bad, and a nice winter brew enjoyed in the summer. Screw seasonal stereotypes.

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Photo of merlin48
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

One liter bottle, number 7083 of 7200, $12.50 at the Weinhaus in Asheville, NC. Swingtop bottle sealed in red wax. Pours a dark brown body with a two finger tan head. The body appears a clear chestnut with garnet highlights when held to light. Head retention is excellent and lots of sticky lace is left behind on the glass.

Aroma opens with citrusy orange esters, spicy cinnamon and nutmeg/mace, and some brown sugar. Undertone of caramel and an odd note of vegetal squash.

Mouthfeel is creamy and full bodied, with moderate carbonation.

Toasted grains and sweet malty caramel dominate the taste. Brown sugar is overly prominent and adds a cloying aspect. Hops contribute an earthy bitterness, and the spicing of mace and cinnamon are present, but understated. Alcohol is very well concealed. Very much the winter warmer, but the sweetness is overdone.

Not a bad effort from Sweetwater, but I thought the sweetness was a bit cloying.

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Photo of Damian74
3.64/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into a tulip glass.

A- Dark brown with a small light tan head

S- Dark roasted malts, chocolate and coffee

T- Fruits, roasted maltiness, coffee and chocolate.

M- Medium body with good carbonation

O- Nice complexity, not bad for a winter warmer would get again.

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.81 out of 5 based on 805 ratings.
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