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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 daliandragon
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
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 BeerDocT
3.83/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

-Appearance 4.0: Poured out an (unexpected!) jet black with a half-inch, white head. Head quickly faded, but stayed wispy around the edges. Very nice and unusual color combination.

-Smell 3.5: Nice smell, but nothing extraordinary. I smell hops, barley malt and a slight hint of some type of spice...gingery, citrusy... . The bouquet is better than average, but not exceptional.

-Taste 4.0: Initial sweetness turns into a slighty sour taste; middle is all barley sweetness and the finish is where I picked up the spice and all of the hops. I really like the spice taste: reminiscent of quality gingerbread. Unusual, but not over top.

-Mouthfeel 3.5: Slightly under-carbonated and watery in the mouth.

-Overall 4.0: A very tasty "Holiday" brew. Not too thick to consider as a session lager; its huge 8+% ABV is completely unnoticeable. These are the type of beers that tend to sneak up on you when you are out, so enjoy responsibly, folks! If you can find this beer, buy it.

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Photo of Schwarzwald
3.13/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Aromas are sweet smelling with lots of richness of fall fruits and winter fruits. I was very excited to try this and it has left me a little bit "wanting more". For such a beautiful bottle and display it had to be great. A perfect winter holiday ale with so much to offer... well... not really. Some spiciness and good mouth feel, but needs more depth. Has a funky bitter (not in a good way) aftertaste.

Not my favorite, but a good bet if nothing else is there for holiday beer.

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Photo of jsanford
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a dark black with slight reddish edges and a creamy khaki-colored head that fades to a thick cap, leaving spotty lacing as it recedes.
S - Sweet, malty aromas of milk chocolate, brown sugar, baked brown bread, and Winter spices (cinnamon and nutmeg).
T - More big flavors of sweet caramel and chocolate malt, baked bread, spices, and a good amount of warming alcohol "heat".
M - Smooth and creamy, with a medium-full mouthfeel and lowish carbonation.
O - A nice Winter brew, excellent on a cold evening!

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Photo of KajII
3.26/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

[Best served in a Lager glass]

The pour was a murky dark brown with an average sized (1-2 finger) head that was not around for long and only having fair lacing.

The aroma was very mild of a toasted chocolate malt a very mild resin hop and a sweet doughy yeast with notes of allspice, cinnamon, toffee and dark fruit.

The taste was moderately sweet and malty with a hint of toffee and some fruit at first then had the strong effect of spices take hold with a nice note of dark fruit and an alcohol warming sensation at the end. The flavor lasted only a short time while the taste of the dark fruit faded into the background of the spices.

Mouthfeel was just a smidgen below medium in body and a tad watery in texture with a weak carbonation.

Overall a Winter Ale with a nice dose of spices and a superb maltiness. A very drinkable brew even with the noticeably strong alcohol presence.

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

Got a pint at the Sweetwater Brewery restaurant in the Atlanta airport.

A-dark murky brown with a thick but sticky light tan head

S-cinnamon. a touch of apples. dark and spicy malts. smells tasty. good strength as well

T-comes in with a great taste of spicy and peppery dark malts. this is really good and full flavored! there's a good and slightly roasted matching after-taste. the tastes are bold and seem to be of high quality.

M-thick and creamy medium carbonation with a creamy finish

O-i was really surprised by this. when at an airport, i usually don't expect much but I am here with a great beer of a style I usually don't prefer. this has to be one of the best winter warmers I've ever had. Its definitely and after dinner beer though.

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Photo of coreyfmcdonald
3.43/5  rDev -10.2%
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 kylehay2004
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: murky dark brown with some light getting through. Single finger head. Nice lace and little retention.

S: lots of chocolate with some caramel malt and nut.

T: semisweet chocolate and caramel malts with hints of apple. Fig and raisin.

M: medium to full body with moderate to high carbonation.

Overall: this is a very drinkable beer. The finish is a lIttle dry for my liking. The aroma and taste are very similar. I haven't had previous years but I liked this one.

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Photo of titosupertramp
4.2/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown, chestnut in color. Thick, dense tan head that fades quicker than expected. Light lacing on the drink side of the glass. Decent cap.

S: Subtle for such a large beer, but pleasant. Chocolate, mollasses or brown sugar, toffee and lots of spices. Overall, a very sweet smelling beer.

T: Really nice mixture of flavors here. Tart fruit, chocolate, brown sugar, toffee..cinnamon maybe...I always have trouble identifying individual spices. Pretty complex beer.

M: This is on the full side of medium. Sure enough, this does give you a warming effect.

O: Festival Ale is solid. All aspects are enjoyable and it's incredibly drinkable given the ABV...the alcohol is hardly noticeable. I'll pick this up again.

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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 sommersb
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted On: 11-18-2011
Freshness: 2011 Vintage
Packaging: 12 oz. brown bottle
Glassware: Nonic Pint
Purchased: 6-pack from Midtown, Nashville

A: Pours dark brown to black, with garnet highlights. Head is tan with 1+ finger worth of foam. Lacing is good.

S: Malty sweet, with spices I can't identify. Roasted malts are present as well, but overall not much in the way of aroma.

T: Rich and sweet, this is a malt forward beer, with nutty and spicy flavors. Nice alcohol warming.

M: Chewy body with moderate carbonation. Finishes both sweet and nutty.

O: Very nice warmer, reminds me of a stronger version of a nut brown ale.

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Photo of Kromes
3.9/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown, almost black with a fingers width tan colored head.

S: Chocolate, coffee and caramel aroma.

T: Toasted caramel malt, chocolate and a little bit of hop in the finish.

M: Heavy bodied and light carbonation. Thicker feel to it. A little alcohol burn in the finish.

O: It's that time of year again and it's not a bad way to start the winter beer season with this beer. Easy drinking for the alcohol content.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
3.35/5  rDev -12.3%
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 Chaney
3.26/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I bought this one from a liquor store in Winston-Salem during Sexual Chocolate weekend. I'm now drinking it.

A: Dark brown with no light passing. The huge 1.5 finger head died down within an hour or so (yep, that's right). HUGE!

S: Spice bomb for sure. Brown sugar, winter ale spice.

T: Like a brown ale around Christmas season. Dark fruit and lots of spice.

M: Not too thick, carbonation.... enough! The lacing was ridiculous.

O: Not my thing. If you're really into Winter Warmers, look elsewhere...

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Photo of drabmuh
2.91/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

This beer is too thick, too sweet, cloying and doesn't really go anywhere. Oh well, never again.

Beer is dark brown and clear with a thin off white head, no lacing low carbonation, looks like beer.

Aroma is malty sweet, like syrup. Aroma does not excite me too much.

Beer is THICK, sweet like syrup and hard to swallow. Almost no other flavors other than syrup. I didn't really like this beer.

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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 Ryan011235
3.92/5  rDev +2.6%
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 mdfb79
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my Sierra Nevada tulip. Received in the Birthday BIF from jyounger30; thanks Jay. 2006 vintage.

a - Pours a dark mahogany brown color with one inch of off white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of caramel malts, bready malts, dark fruits, molasses, and a tiny bit musty. Overall it smells pretty good, and seems like it has held up well. It came off smelling a lot more like a barleywine to me and had a lot of bready and caramel malts. Seems like it has lost it's spice, but I still like it a lot.

t - Tastes of raisins, bready malts, caramel malts, alcohol, and a bit metallic. Also some light spices in the taste. A big drop from the nose.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Pretty smooth and easy to drink.

d - Overall this is a decent winter warmer, but I don't think the taste has held up too great over the last five years. The smell and mouthfeel really reminded me of a barleywine, which I really enjoyed. The taste seemed a tiny bit metallic, and a bit faded. Would like to try a fresher bottle of it and would give another shot.

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Photo of corby112
3.8/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage received as an extra in a recent trade with funkydelic. Thanks again man!

Pours a dark amber/chestnut brown color with golden mahogany edges and a thin, half finger off-white head that quickly settles into a thin lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

Spicy toasted malt aroma with subtle hints of alcohol and medicinal cough syrup. There's a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar as well as some pepper, caramel, toffee and rye in the nose. Slightly smokey with hits of dark fruit and robitussin. I'm picking up cherry, plum and raisin notes as well as some slightly roasted chocolate malt.

Medium bodied with a crisp, earthy and spicy character up front that lingers over the sweet and slightly roasted malt notes into a lingerng dry finish. Hints of zesty pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar and peppermint countered by a sweet malt backbone with hints of toffee, rye, caramel and dark fruit. Lots of dark cherry as well as some fig and plum. There's a slight smokey presence toward the end of the palate with notes of bittersweet dark chocolate and hazelnut. The unpleasant sweet cough syrup presence from the aroma is thankfully very subtle. I really dislike that characteristic in this style and thankfully it's kept to a minimum here.

Overall, this is a pretty good example of the style. Well balanced, complex and pretty quaffable. The ABV is excellently masked and I can see this one getting better with age.

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Photo of GRG1313
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dated 2009 and tasted and reviewed March 2011.

Pours black with light tan head that quickly fades.

Nose is sweet stone fruit and light coffee. Hint of some spice.

Mouthfeel is thin but bright.

Flavors are all sweet coffee/carmel/toffee with a bright almost citric character and a candy sweet undertone. A sweet porter character or an aged Belgian character dominate. Finish is rich coffee bitter and light espresso. There is a light oxidized character that is apparent but not offensive.

Beer should be consumed now and likely not aged further in my opinion.

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.34/5  rDev -12.6%
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 Metalmonk
4.02/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Soupy milk chocolate brown color is the liquid, and the head is a dirtied white thing, biggish at first then sinking very quickly to a skim in under a minute.

Aroma is predominantly spicy/herbal, but balanced. I get spruce tips, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, grape must and alcohol in the nose (uh, not literally in my nose), very fragrant and up-front, bordering on intense but never going too far.

Truly a winter warmer, in that its got a cozy, welcoming, dessert-like, let's-stay-inside-and-light-a-fire vibe. Spices and herbs are still the outstanding feature in the taste, but as with the aroma, never overkill. Smooth and balanced mixture of spruce/pine, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, brown sugar and grape juice. Hops and malt are here although costumed for the Christmas party (especially the malt, which is the life of this party). Alcohol is impressive well-hidden, or maybe better, well-incorporated.

Love the feel here, very smooth, silky, soft, round, almost creamy even. Enough carbonation to keep it lively.

Very nice. A real pleasure to drink and one I'll definitely try and track down next year again.

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Photo of wisrarebeer
4.22/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 Version in a 750ml bottle.

A: deep mahogany color, very pretty
S: incredibly different nose, when I read the label and noticed the beer was spiced I was disappointed but the nose is chewy, treacle and hints of barrel aging although the beer isn't, some cinnamon noticeable also
T: somewhat thing for ABV but very nice roasted malt and spice hints, not overpowering with hops, nice roasted malt
M: thinner for color and ABV but good
D: very drinkable despite ABV

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