Rock this around the Christmas tree
A Review of Festive Ale by SweetWater Brewing Co.
Posted on 12/17/2011 by Brew's Your Daddy
'Tis the season to drink good beer, fa la la la la la laaaa...
Pour it in a glass and drink it, fa la la la la la laaaa...
That is when you get to taste it, its so good, its so great, yay for beer!
When its gone you drink another, faaaa laaaa laaaa laaaa laaaaa....laaa laaa laaa laaaaaa.....

Oh yes ladies and gentlemen, that just happened. And while most of you are probably thinking ''Wow, what a tool'', I predict that some of you will find yourself singing my well crafted ''beer carol'' at some point during this holiday season. You're welcome. Just remember, you can only sing it when you have a high quality brew in your hand. It's a rule. My song, my rules, deal with it. Now if you can't think of a great brew to start off with, allow me to suggest one of my personal favorites for this time of year: Festive Ale by SweetWater Brewing Company.

For reviewing purposes, I would like to note that I am basing this review on a 2009 bottle

This seasonal release is one that I look forward to every year. I make an effort to get a few six packs when I can so that I can enjoy some right off the bat, while storing a few others for later consumption. Cracking one open that isn't a ''current year vintage'' is always a real treat. It gives you a chance to see how certain beers age and even take on new characteristics over time.

Once the top is popped, the pour produces an almost black coloration that when held up to a light source reveals itself in more of a deep mahogany form. The edges give some slight hints of ruby red, and also make some tiny bits of sediment apparent. A fingers worth of latte colored head sits atop it, and stays around for a few minutes before retreating down to nothing more than a thin film floating lightly on the surface. Some slight lacing appears in places, and leaves the glass looking well used and enjoyed. The aromas seem to be more delicate or muted with age, or at least from what I can remember. Chocolate, cocoa powder, very roasted malts, and some dark fruits still have no problem making themselves known. The chocolate and cocoa powder are upfront and at times have a bit of a burnt brown sugar quality to them, but relinquish their aroma hold to the plum and fig quite nicely. One might think they are picking up on nutmeg and pepper notes from time to time, and with good reason. Festive Ale uses a spice known as mace. Mace is actually made from the skin that covers nutmeg seeds, and has nutmeg and pepper qualities, but in a more subtle form. So good for you if you find it. You now have a fun factoid to toss out at your holiday gatherings.

Going in for the first taste brings no surprises. The flavor train follows the aromas almost perfectly. Right out of the gate it is packed with bittersweet chocolate boldness. The cocoa powder does a great job of keeping things in a good balance though. There are moments where things could get very skewed with the all the flavors that are dancing around in it, but luckily for us all, it never happens. Some very nice pops of pepper and nutmeg again come in at the right times, and add for some very nice tongue catching moments. The warmer it gets, the more the fruit layer starts to stand out. It can be a very interesting study in flavor/temperature change. Take your time with it, and enjoy the ride. The mouthfeel is very accommodating for a nice, slow session. It isn't very thick, and has just the right amount of carbonation to keep things clean while leaving just enough taste behind to remind you that you definitely want more.

Festive Ale is brewed only one day a year, so it makes for a very limited release. SweetWater Brewing Company has earned its place among Americas best craft breweries with offerings such as their SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, Sch'Wheat! American Ale, and their Georgia Brown Brown Ale just to name a few. I consider the Festive Ale a crowing achievement among their royal beer jewels. Even though it carries a relatively high ABV(8.6%), I recommend that all levels, beginners and veterans alike, give it a shot. It's the holidays, and we are all entitled to a little indulgence this time of year. So do yourself a favor and grab one if you see it. And when you crack it open, if my first tune wasn't enough to put you in the holiday drinking spirit, maybe this one will help you get in the mood:

Oh Christmas beer, oh Christmas beer! How awesome is your beerness!
Oh Christmas beer, oh Christmas beer! Get in my glass, I'll drink you!
You taste so good, you are so nice, and in my glass I need no ice!
Oh Christmas beer, oh Christmas beer! You make me feel so festive!
Oh Christmas beer, oh Christmas beer! I think I'll drink the rest!

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Festive Ale by SweetWater Brewing Co.
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