Pining for the Winter Months
A Review of Festive Ale by SweetWater Brewing Co.
Posted on 8/14/2012 by Chops
Seasons change quick in the world of craft beer, so you have to get your seasonal nectar while the getting is good. My co-founder scored some SweetWater Festive Ales last winter and was kind enough to provide me with a few. But, I was already so distracted with my own seasonal brew quests that they fell by the wayside for several months. On a recent beer cabinet reorganization day, I stumbled across a few of these lovely ladies. Exactly what I needed to break up the onslaught of lighter summery brews, so let's wind the clock back a little and enjoy a hefty winter warmer.

In the glass, this beer has a deep dark brown coloration, not quite black. It comes with a creamy tan head that dissipates fairly quickly. On the nose, I detected a sweet malty bourbon like aroma with a noticeable alcohol burn. I have to say that busting this beauty open in the summer gave me an even greater respect for the winter brew season. These beastly brews are not to be trifled with. With the heat raging outside, I actually had to second guess the wisdom behind opening this brew... but only for a second.

The mouthfeel of this beer is surprisingly thin and smooth, but the taste eludes to a more thick and syrupy vibe. The alcohol burn is mercifully minimal and doesn't skew the taste at all. My first impression was that of a light barleywine. Lots of strong sweet malt, but with a soft non-aggressive feel. There is a smorgasbord of flavor characters, none of which assert any dominance. In no particular order, I found warming spices, dark chocolates, ginger, tart dark fruits, licorice, some muted hops, etc. There's a lot going on in this beer, so take your time with it. The finish is quite clean and exits with a malty alcohol burn.

Overall, the SweetWater Festive Ale is a complex delight that I can recommend to most beer fans. Needless to say, it's probably too bold for novices. I am still second guessing my decision to enjoy this beer at the peak of summer, because all it did was make me pine for coldness of winter. But hey, good beer is good beer and we can enjoy it whenever the hell we please. I am happy that I gave the SweetWater Festive Ale a spin, but it just makes the winter wait that much harder.

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Festive Ale by SweetWater Brewing Co.
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