Sweet Water Brewing in Atlanta releases its Winter Seasonal in the near future but we here at ACB got our hands on a bottle before they hit the shelves. With a promotional bottle at my house it felt like as good of a time as any to break open the 2011 bottle that I had been cellaring for the past year. Since it was a weeknight and both beers were over 8% (2011 – Bomber, 2012 – 12 oz) I decided to call a couple of friends over for the impromptu tasting.
I think it is always an interesting experiment if you can manage to take a beer that you really like and store it for a year or more to see how the contents of the bottle change and develop over time. Many times it is not possible to compare the aged version to the original other than in memory, so I was excited about this opportunity.
SweetWater describes Festive Ale as: “strong ale brewed with generous amounts of rich malt, coupled with a taint of cinnamon and mace to keep you warm and toasted all winter long.” At 8.5% it is not the strongest “strong ale” that I have ever seen but it does pack a nice amount of warming alcohol. Unfortunately it was still above 80 degrees in Baton Rouge when I opened up the bottles but what can you do. From the moment you pour the beer into a glass the nice holiday aroma hits your nose. One of my buddies commented that a candle with this scent would be amazing. Slightly spicy but just reminded you of the holidays. The flavor continues that slight spice character but the beer is strong on the malt with a nice bitterness to balance it out just enough to not make it cloying.
After sitting around for a year in the cellar, I am not sure much has changed in the beer. Flavor wise the beers are almost exactly the same to my friends and me. The carbonation had died down some giving the perception of a slightly smoother beer, but that was only a better thing for 2 of the 4 of us tasting. Both were excellent beers that I really would recommend, however I am not sure if it is worth keeping the beer around for a year. There are plenty of other beers that change a good bit; this just wasn’t one of those beers.
That being said, go out and buy this beer once it hits the shelves. It is a great holiday ale that is lite on the spice but you are still aware that the spice is present. Excellent example of everything a festive ale should be.