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Sweetwater Festive Ale | SweetWater Brewing Company

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very good
295 Reviews
Sweetwater Festive AleSweetwater Festive Ale

Brewed by:
SweetWater Brewing Company
Georgia, United States

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

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 295 | Ratings: 784
Photo of Buck89
3.96/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. Dark, cola brown color with a small-to-medium sized tan head that retreated fairly quickly. Inviting malty aromas with some cinnamon and also sugar, like a cinnamon roll. A nice malty flavor with a good cinnamon presence that increased as it warmed, but not overstated. Not sweet at all, but full-bodied. A nice beer for the season.

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

After a 10 minute battle to get through the wax, I finally get the bottle open.

Pours dark brown with a good sized bubbly head.

The aroma is full of winter spices, fruits and a touch of alcohol.

Full bodied, fairly smooth. Many flavors combine in a delicious way: orange peel, light rum, dark fruit, a hint of alcohol and a light sweetness. The flavors stay about the same the whole way through, then finishes with a slight dry, bittersweetness with a light alcohol taste.

A very good seasonal. This review was done on a 2003 version that is nearly a year old. I don't think cellaring this would be a good idea, but it certainly has some staying power.

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

Pours a brown color with 1+ inch of foamy tan head, ok retention and some lacing. Smells of toffee, maple sugar, chocolate, raisins, and alcohol. Taste consists of toffee, molasses, chocolate, bread, dark fruits, holiday spices, and citrus. Medium in body, low in carbonation, smooth. Sweet with a nice tart/citrus finish. Easy to drink, lots of good holiday spirit, really good winter warmer worth getting a bottle every year.

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Photo of CrellMoset
3.97/5  rDev +3.9%
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 ncbrewerbun
3.98/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A fellow homebrewer brought this to the last homebrew club meeting for us to try. Sampled from a 12 ounce bottle from a six pack.

This beer poured a dark brown with hints of red. The head was a finger or so and just the tan side of white.

An interesting spicy aroma along with some sweet maltiness.

The flavor was a mild spiciness (cinnamon and...nutmeg?) balanced with malt.

A very good beer...interesting with the spices and malty balance. This beer really grew on me. I was happy that we had a few bottles to share.

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

S - 12 oz bottle courtesy of the generous cashew70.

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

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

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

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

D - According to the style, very drinkable.

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

Big thanks to Yesac for this in our most recent trade. 12oz bottle, 2009 vintage.

A: Deep dark brown in color with a light tan head that recedes into an island of bubbles in the middle of the glass. A few spots of lacing. Nice looking beer.

S: Roasted malt, some booze, a little caramel, a little caramel, and some spices, really strong booze presence though. Not bad.

T: Roasted flavors are nice, and cinnamon comes to mind, slightly boozey, nice malty sweetness, slight little hop profile mixed with the alcohol makes a nice bitter ending. Pretty tasty beer here.

M: Medium bodied with light carbonation, coats the mouth nicely, nice alcohol warmth.

D: This is dangerously drinkable, wow, I'd probably get into a ton of trouble if I had this around on the regular. Great winter warmer. Nice malty thickness and a good alcohol heat with a bit of spiciness. Very nice. Highly recommended for a cold winter night.

Thanks Casey!

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Photo of n00tz
3.98/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - A one centimeter deep, tight tan head floats atop a dark body with active carbonation. Laces a good halfway down the glass.

S - Nutty, spicy fruits, and sweetness.

T - Sweet cream and fig. Kind of a dried spicy flavor, somewhat roasted. Followed by a nutty and mild hop taste.

M - Thick body with a smooth landing. Hides the alcohol content flawlessly.

D - If the intent is to drink this in happy company around a warm fire complementing some mildly sweet desserts like a pumpkin pie, then this hits the spot perfectly. By far the best brew from Sweetwater I've ever had.

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Photo of maccroz
3.98/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A fantastic seasonal brew from one of my favorite breweries. Sweetwater festive ale has many nutty/nutmeggy notes to it. It reminds me of Christmas. Very very tasty. On the sweetwater tour they said "It doesn't take much to get you fucked up" as this beer sports a very strong alcohol content. Bonus... :)

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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 tigg924
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: 1/3 inch head, clear, dark brown in color

Smell: caramel malt, figs, brown sugar, alcohol, touch of plum

Taste: caramel malt, figs, brown sugar, black cherry, and spice--maybe cinnamon, small alcohol at the end

Mouthfeel: light bodied, moderate carbonation, semi-sweet

Drinkability: A nice dark holiday seasonal that leans more on dark fruit than spice. This is a sipper and kind of reminds me of a cross between a Belgian dark ale and a dark red wine. I will want another.

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Photo of jbphoto88
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 2010 large bottle sealed in crimson wax. The festive pours a deep wet leather color that's brown and clear during the pour but opaque in the glass. The head is egg cream in color, thick and beautiful. A fine looking brew.

The nose is confusing at first with so many scents wafting up from the glass. A few swirls and repeat sniffs reveal an earthy malt scent with hints of chocolate and cinnamon, there is also a slight tartness in the air. This nose suggests malt bomb.

Taste delivers on the scents promise of grains. BAM!!! Like a punch to the sweet pinchy spot by my molars. A ton of roasted grain that has everything from caramel, coffee and chocolate assault my tounge. The spices are present but not aggressive to really distract from the earthy malts. Slight cinnamon mixed in with a dry finish.

Mouthfeel is silky smooth with a heavier body and light carbonation. It really let's the malts shine and take the warm, snuggly spotlight. Wow, what a great sesonal and cheap!! This one was $4.99, how can the brewery use all that grain and only charge that for a bottle. A great find, I can't wait for next years.

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Photo of spacecake9
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a bottle of this fine ale in a trade.
A - Pours black with a nice head that settles quickly.
S - Aroma of malt, dark fruits.
T - Very tasty brown ale. Minimal spices.
F - Medium mouth feel, low carbonation.
O - I've been sitting on this one for a couple months, much better than I expected. Very drinkable beer.

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

****Vintage '06****

A- Very dark brown. Chocolate colored with off white, thick head. Not too tall of head, just thick.

S- Very stout spice smells. Ginger for sure and still chocolatey.

T- Very smooth but also bitter and stout in the middle. Rich and full with well blended spices.

M- Thick and rich. Not much carbonation.

D- Great 'warm you right up" beer! Enjoy this one tailgating before the big game with a rack of ribs on the grill. Very drinkable, but be careful, the 8.6% will get hold of you before you know it.

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

-Best by 11.01.16. Consumed 10.01.16.

A: Nice cola pour, sits a flat black in the vessel accompanied by a frothy, dark tan head of one inch that showed a very resilient retention.

S: Spicy cola, sweet rum sugars, dark fruit of figs, and some soda syrup. Nice strength, finish of birch, rootbeer and earthy roasted hop flowers.

T: Flavor was spicy dried cola, earthy bitterness, lightly roasted hop flowers and light mention of fresh, wet tobacco. Dark fruit, some dried rum sweetness, x-mas spicing of cinnamon and caramel nuttiness, along with some oily roastiness. Great level of dark fruit, most particularly plums, a bit of sweet mentions along with alcohol gently lingers on long after the swallow.

M: Oily, medium-full, some edgy carbonation texture with some thick breadiness.

O: Earthy, oily roastiness with a nice soothing bitterness offset with some cinnamon spicing gives this a big festive feel perfect for the fall or winter nature. Big flavor from a small bottle, abv% of 8.1% is the cinderella slipper of the beer, fitting perfectly within. Wide spectrum of flavor, complexity, and very good drink-ability. very good 89 overall.

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

A - Poured dark brown to almost black with just a little light coming through in red highlights. Nice thick tan head that fell slowly and leaves a nice lacing

S - The smell is of roasted malts with a hint of chocolate and maybe just a little mocha

T - Very much like the smell..it has a roasted malty taste..with just a bit of bitter chocolate and mocha...with a warm alcohol finish

M - Nice and thick, coating the mouth

D - Overall a very nice winter warmer and a good beer to have on a cold evening

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

Red wax-dipped swing-top bottle is pretty much a pain in the ass to whittle open, but it looks pretty.

The drink pours a dark, dark ruby hue with a fat khaki head that retains well and leaves little gobs of lacing spattered about the glass.

Smell is a bit fruity with a toasty note and a bit of spice.

Taste is warm and friendly with a nice malt backbone. Caramel-covered plums and dark berries are dusted with a little allspice and a dash of fresh-ground nutmeg. Nice spicy finish.

The drink has a fullish-medium body and a nice creamy feel. Superb drinkability.

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

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

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

2010 bottling re-visit

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

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

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

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

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

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Sweetwater Festive Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company
3.82 out of 5 based on 784 ratings.
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