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Harveys Christmas Ale - Harvey & Son Ltd.

Not Rated.
Harveys Christmas AleHarveys Christmas Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

167 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 167
Reviews: 152
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 15.87%
Wants: 9
Gots: 0 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Harvey & Son Ltd. visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  8.10% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-18-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 167 | Reviews: 152 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Sammy
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2003 edition. Dark brown sugar brown with light head. Lots of licorice anise carmel taste and aroma. Modest carbonation. Easy drink, worth trying the one time, but won't go for it again. Bit of tongue tingle. Syrupy mouthfeel. Sweet prune juice and tabacco aftertaste.

Sammy, Jan 02, 2006
Photo of metter98
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is very hazy brownish amber in color. It poured with a very thin head that quickly dissipated, leaving lacing on the surface and a thick ring of large bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are aromas of port wine in the nose, which become stronger as the beer warms up.
T: Like the smell, the taste has flavors of port wine along with notes of figs and a bit of sweetness.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a bit thin on the palate with a low to moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is rather easy to drink compared to others in the style because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste. It almost seems to taste more like port wine instead of beer.

metter98, Apr 02, 2012
Photo of brentk56
3.69/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours a hazy ice tea brown color; the head is a mass of large bubbles that quickly fade away, leaving a salting of lace on the tulip glass

Smell: Burnt brown sugar, leather, cream sherry and a hint of soy

Taste: Soy sauce infused toffee, on the front end, with leather and caramel apple flavors in the mid-palate; the finish is somewhat boozy, with cream sherry notes; a touch of lactic sourness in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with low carbonation; a bit of warmth in the gullet

Overall: Though I bought this bottle the other day, I have no idea how old it was; given the price mark-down, I am sure it was not this year's edition and it may not have been last year's either; as I look through the previous reviews there is a distinct downward trend and reduced number of reviews over the last few years so it would not surprise me if this beer hasn't been imported for a while; trying to account for all this, I find that there are some pleasing aspects to the beer but the soy sauce, in particular, really detracts from the overall enjoyment

brentk56, Nov 23, 2013
Photo of BEERchitect
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Typical vintage English Strong Ale, only with heavy spice dosage. But because of the vintage, the flavors have mellowed and chased out much of the sharpness of the nutmeg, cinnemon, ginger, and allspice. Leaving behind a very mellow, highly malty, alcoholic, dried fruit, sherry-like, syrupy brew to be savored. A heavy ruby color lacked carbonation (even for the style) and showed relatively no head retention or lacing, however she has nice legs. Smells quite sherry-like and a little soy sauce, but heavy on the molassas, and dried fruits. Flavors pick up more on the molassas, prunes, dates, and figs. Also shows mild chocolate, cherry, berry, caramel, and vanilla flavors. Lowly hopped with nearly no bitterness, but a mild herbal flavor. Heavy and thick on the toung with a light tartness (not sour). Finishes very sweet with a light alcoholic heat. Though very plesant and mild, this one may have been past it's prime.
Thanks Clvand0.

BEERchitect, Apr 29, 2006
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.3/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Raspberry caramel with orange and gold trim; a fabulous hue. The head barely formed during the pour and is currently a one finger collection of brittle bubbles that is actually lasting longer than I thought it would. It's so unsticky, however, that only a smattering of lace makes its way to the glass.

The nose rights the ship. It smells like 'highly roasted crystal malt', just as the brewery said it would. The remainder of the malt bill is Maris Otter pale ale malt and pinhead oats. Dark toffee, light treacle and earthy tobacco greet my every sniff.

Christmas Ale is delicious ale and is about what I'd expect an English winter warmer to taste like. It's much more subtle than its American counterparts, but just as wonderful in its own way. For some reason, the flavor profile expands dramatically on the nasal profile. I love it when that happens.

Sticky toffee pudding, cocoa, dark rum, orange marmalade, candied cherries... all flavors that one would expect to find in any number of good, old-fashioned, Yuletide English desserts. Everything fits together so seamlessly that I wouldn't be surprised if this was a well-aged bottle.

There isn't much left of the Goldings and Fuggles hops, but I'm sure that they contribute in ways that I'm unable to appreciate directly. The English definition of 'highly hopped' (45 IBUs in this case) is much different from the American definition. It works very well, though, and I wouldn't change a thing about what I'm sure is an old, tried and true recipe.

Given the country of origin and the probable age of the bottle, I'm a little surprised that the mouthfeel is able to deliver this amount of lightly creamy viscousness. It's incredibly soft and rounded, characteristics that are usually only possible after several years of rest and thoughtful reflection.

It's too bad that Harvey's Christmas Ale doesn't come in bigger bottles; 275 ml isn't nearly enough of this delicious, quintessentially English winter warmer. Drinking it makes me think of a Currier & Ives winter landscape. A true classic.

BuckeyeNation, Dec 17, 2006
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle: Poured a clear dark brown color ale with a medium foamy light dark head with average retention. Aroma of sweet malt with some figs and dry raisins. Taste is quite sweet with some slight hints of figs and dry raisins. Body is a bit too thin and watery for my liking. Nice but not as good and complex as the Elizabethan ale from this brewery.

Phyl21ca, Dec 22, 2005
Photo of mikesgroove
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I picked this one up on vacation, nice little nice ounce bottle that hit the spot tonight I have to say. Poured into a pint glass and served chilled, this one was consumed on 02/19/2009.

The pour was nice with a dark brown color and a nice almost opaque color to it. Nice head of light brown came up over the top and settled down into a nice little pillow. The aroma was deep malts, lots of molasses and hints of cinnamon. Lots of roasted notes here as I take a sip, really nice and full bodied. Lots of really full, almost oatmeal like flavor to it, with tons of sweet caramel and bready notes. Really impressive here. Rich and a nice carbonation level. I had no issue throwing this one down and was looking for another one right away.

Solid little beer, and my only real complaint was the bottle was a little small as this one really was solid as hell.

mikesgroove, Feb 20, 2009
Photo of jaydoc
4/5  rDev +5.8%

jaydoc, Nov 27, 2013
Photo of Knapp85
1.95/5  rDev -48.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

I feel bad but I really didn't like this brew at all. It was very flat and some of the flavors were not agreeing with my taste buds. Perhaps it was an old bottle and it lost some of it's kick over time. The beer has a nice appearance but that's about all I could see as a plus for this brew.

Knapp85, Mar 21, 2011
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.15/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a radiant tawny body with a yellowish creamy, sudsy head that spackled the sides of my snifter with gooey lacing.

Smell: Strikingly fragrant nose full of malts both sweet and fruity - burnt toffee and toasted caramel, raisins and plums.

Taste: This one is profoundly sweet, with a complex maltiness, starting off with a strong, tangy honey-toffee-brown sugar flavor. Secondary fruity notes of raisins and juicy cherries layered with overtones of wood. Though light, some flowery hops peak through now and again to provide some bitterness. Semi-dry orgeat-flavored finish with a warming alcohol sensation emerging in the aftertaste. Being all at once sweet, lush, and vinous, this beer really appeals to my port-loving sensibilities.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body that's very velvety. Softly carbonated.

Drinkability: I regret not getting to this one sooner, and will surely pick up a few more. Definitely my fave of the winter warmer league.

ChainGangGuy, Jan 20, 2007
Photo of oberon
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear medium brown with a thinner white head that is gone pretty fast,whoo this is a malt lovers dream here on the nose brown suger,orange rind,and prune dominate just a light touch of earth letting you know there are hops in there.Full almost syrupy mouth feel it coats the mouth before gliding down quite easily,the orange accents prune flavor is quite intense with notes of vanilla and cedar in the finish.Now this is a very complex sipping beer here only one would be enough for me cuzz it could get cloying,but still a very nice winter warmer I really liked the complexities.

oberon, Jan 09, 2006
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A long-standing bottle pours a clear, deep mahogany body with crimson and orange highlights beneath a thin collar of creamy off-white foam. There's very little head (very British), but the soft and smooth mouthfeel more than makes up for that. It has a very fine, low-level, natural carbonation and medium/full body that work together to give it an impressive mouthfeel! The nose is lightly vinous with dark fruit (plum, cherry, a mild note of currant) and alcohol; but reveals some caramel with further investigation. The flavor is less fruity than the nose suggests; but still offers rich, juicy fruit (mainly cherry) wrapped in caramel and light cocoa with an underlying bitterness. It finishes dry with some residual fruit and caramel that slowly dissolves to reveal the wide bitterness and drying alcohol beneath. It's very well balanced; and the alcohol gives a pleasant warmth on the tongue, but never becomes more than secondary. Fairly rich and complex. Quite nice!

NeroFiddled, Aug 07, 2003
Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: Short brown 9.3 oz bottle, no freshness date found though common sense tell me that it has been brewed for Christmas of 2000.

Appearance: Clear brown amber with a thin yet frothy tiny bubbled light tan lace.

Smell: Fruity tartness with a sugary caramel aroma. Touch of pungent sweet hop oil in the nose. Smells of baked apple crisp.

Taste: Creamy smooth with minimal carbonation, almost velvety smooth from the oats. Full bodied with a big chewy malty mouth feel. Sweet with a quick flash of hop twang, hops struggle to keep up with the sweetness though they leave a trail of earthy oil straight into the after taste. Alcohol is slow to start, then warms more and more towards the end of the glass. Highly crystallized sugars in the crystal malt form a brown sugar like flavour with a mild burnt taste towards the finish. Residual sugars are plenty.

Notes: Close to a stock ale or strong ale from centuries past this brew is indeed a well fortified brew of body, strength and complexity. The most impressive winter seasonal I have had from the UK that is available state side.

Jason, Apr 25, 2002
Photo of Slatetank
4/5  rDev +5.8%

Slatetank, May 25, 2013
Photo of russpowell
3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a murky brown with minimal beige head. Above average head retention & lacing

S: Plums, figs & a bit of wet cardboard

T: Rich plums, figs & herbal hops up front. Dryness, metallic hops, apples with cinnamon, & brown sugar as this warms. Finishes fruitty, with a touch of leafy hops, candi sugar & doughy notes

MF: Chewy with minimal carbonation, balances well

Drinks okay, I could do a pint or 2 before moving on. Solid winter warmer that I'm sure would be stellar on cask

russpowell, Jun 27, 2008
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky brown color, very little head. Distinctive heady aroma of plums, raisins, the usual stamp of a decent barleywine. At 8.1%, very warming and substantial. Thick texture, and, as we sip, the heat increases--not just warming, but HOT! I'm reminded a bit of Young's Old Nick, but just a bit.

A year and two days later, I try this beer again, forgetting I've had it, and reviewed, already! D'oh! Well, let me share with you my most recent notes just to see how what's changed...
Appearance: pours a dark brown, with a rich, tan head, dotted with multiple bubbles throughout.
Aroma: dark, deep, even cavernous, I'd have to say...hints of coffee, molasses, tobacco, leather, cola, and bits of anise and dark rum...slivers of the Imperial Stout persona are apparent here...
Taste: dark, but rather smooth (perhaps to this tongue, others may differ!), but still ridden with undercurrents of complexity, well-blended, and terrrifically tasty, roasty, and nutty.
The heat shows through from the alcoholic content, but it's ably and excellently matched by the bigness of the flavors.
Looking back at last year's comments, I got most of it right in my BA infancy, but didn't go far enough, and clearly it shows that I was too much into comparing beers that have been my crutch when I stuck to the same stuff for years on end!
And, the numbers are spot on for this tasting, so I leave them be.

feloniousmonk, Dec 22, 2002
Photo of WesWes
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a deep dark black color with a thin tan head. The aroma is good. It is rich with malts and a smooth edge. The taste is decent. It is smooth and creamy and full of dark and crystal malts. It has an elevated abv. (8.1%), but it tastes great. The mouthfeel is good. This is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. It drinks well; a good seasonal.

WesWes, Jan 16, 2004
Photo of jwc215
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

9.3 oz. bottle - let warm to near room temp.-

Pours a beautiful mahogany with a thin tan head that stays for much of the duration. Some trailing lace, with "legs", slides down the glass.

The smell is toffee-ish with dark bread, plums - towards prunes and some cherries.

The tase is of plums, raisins, prunes, cherries with toffee-ish maltiness - a bit of dark fruit balances out the sweetness. There's a touch of fruity alcohol, but not in a sharp way. It seems that it should be even sweeter than it is, but there is a balance to it. It has a sweet-ish, long finish with a warming touch. Cherries linger well into the aftertaste.

The feel is cask-like, though from a bottle. It has soft carbonation with a full, though not thick, body. Very smooth despite abv.

I expected this to be a sipper. Drinks very easily despite sweetness and 8%+ abv. Warming, but not hot or sharp. Complex, but approachable and very drinkable. Abv there, but mellow. Big, but soft. A tasty winter brew that fits the winter season very well! A malty delight!

jwc215, Jan 28, 2009
Photo of Rochefort10nh
5/5  rDev +32.3%

Rochefort10nh, Dec 01, 2011
Photo of Gueuzedude
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with a frothy, scant-half-finger thick, amber tinged, tan colored head that sits on top a opaque, reddish tinged, dark amber colored brew. When held up to the light the beer shows an almost brilliantly clear, ruby hue. The aroma is a mix of fruit and malt aromatics with perhaps just a hint of herbal character thrown in. The nose reminds me of tart, dried cherries, brown sugar, caramelized bread crust, prunes and lightly noticed burnt grain. As the beer warms up a bit the herbal hop character becomes much more aromatic in scope, though I would still say that the nose is malt / fruit leaning.

Sweet up front, with a substantial herbal hop character and a finish that is a bit astringent from dark malt flavors and hop bitterness. Quite hoppy with a lingering mix of bergamot, light-menthol notes, and a grassy / herbal edge that lingers on in the finish for quite some time. A substantial malt character that is made up of complex sugars is found in this brew though and it contributes flavors of treacle, dark brown sugar and toffee, when combined with the fermentation influence notes of caramelized fruit, raisins, figs, dried berries and perhaps a touch of sweet cherry flavors. A medium fullness to this brew makes this much more drinkable than many an American alcohol bomb, but it still achieves a richness appropriate to the holiday season.

This is quite hoppy, or much hoppier than I was expecting from this English brew. I really like how the hop character is offset b the complex, dark malt flavors. It is surprisingly evenly balanced between sweet, enveloping malt and sharp hop character. This is definitely a pleasant surprise, one that I will have to pick up more of when I get the chance.

Purchased: Plaza Liquors, Tucson AZ

Gueuzedude, Feb 12, 2008
Photo of Halcyondays
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

9.3 oz. nip bottle, nice to see this back in the Southland after a 4 year absence, it's back like Goudenband, great label,

A: Pours a dark amber with a mild white head. Lighter than I expected it to be. Good head retention, no lace.

S: Very malt, has a booze presence. Caramel and molasses, with a hint of soy sauce.

T: Brown sugar and soy (though this goes away as it warms a bit) with a fair amount of hoppiness for this style. Really more an old ale or a barleywine than a winter warmer. Cracked grainy finish.

M: Full-bodied, smooth, solventy at times, very light, soft carbonation character.

D: It's a warming brew, it doesn't lie. The flavour is nice, not great, there are better English beers for the price.

Halcyondays, Dec 28, 2010
Photo of GClarkage
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

02/04/05- Purchased at Beverages and More in San Mateo, CA

Presentation- 9.3oz stubby bottle just like the George Gale winter brew I had a couple hours ago. No dates. Poured into my Maredsous glass.

Appearance- A dark amber coloring, 1/2 white creamy head, but lacking a tad on the lacing.

Smell- This is what a winter brew should smell like. Lots of dark fruits. Heavy on the raisins and prunes.

Taste- Very prunelike tastes and raisins and plums make up the main taste in this brew. Maybe a bit of sweet caramel and a dash of dark brown sugar also.

Mouthfeel- Medium carbonation, thick and chewy. Semi-full mouthfeel.

Drinkability- Quite a decent winter warmer. One of the better ones I have had to date. I'll be picking up some more of these net year. I bit steep in price, but it seems that it's worth it. Yum!

GClarkage, Feb 04, 2005
Photo of corby112
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving type: bottle.

Pours a dark plum color with barely any head. Aroma of black cherries and other dark fruits such as plum and raisin. Also hints of cinnamon spice and alcohol. Very smooth tasting with a nice fruit (fig, raisin, plum), alcohol and hop balance.

corby112, Nov 28, 2008
Photo of Georgiabeer
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on cask at the Brick Store Pub. Poured a dark chestnut with some Oloroso sherry highlights and a thin, grainy head. Smells slightly sour and woody to start followed by some stewed fruit and light malt. Clearly not in tip-top shape after its voyage, but still pretty tasty. Tastes very fruity, with a sherry like component that makes itself known now and again. Spicy and malty as well and altogether rich and fruitcake-like. Very smooth and pleasant to drink. A nice winter treat. Many thanks to the Brick Store for going through the effort to put this on.

Georgiabeer, Jan 30, 2009
Photo of wl0307
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the second occasion when I get to taste this ale in its bottled form (bought at the Harveys Brewery Shop), while having the luck to have tasted the cask-conditioned version for many times in Brighton and London. Coming in a small 275ml brown bottle, BB 05/2010, served lightly chilled in a Hapkin's tulip-shaped bowl sniffer.

A: russet brown to dark ruby in colour, topped with a dark beige frothy head that retreats slowly to a thin cap, on top of a mild, healthily carbonated body.
S: the smell is effortlessly attractive and traditionally English-strong-ale-like, full of apple-ly fruits, dense and sweet aroma of overripe fruits (dates and prunes are both noticeable), jammy caramely malts and honey-ish pale malts, aromatic- as well as tea-ish hops (Fuggles I presume?), and a quietly manifesting flow of alc. befitting a well-aged strong ale or barley wine. All goodies are in place, intertwined beautifully with a mildly sour edge that is absolutely essential for the balance.
T: a quiet taste upfront consists of sour woodiness, plentiful berry- & prune-ish fruits, quietly expanding sherry-like dry bitter-sweetness, and spicy+tea-ish hops; in good time, the good level of hop bitterness, fruity malts, and a welcomed dry-ish, even woody, palate takes over until everything is rounded up in the clean finish. Not as complex as the cask-conditioned version, but the alc. is nowhere to be found (much softer than the 2008 cask-version tasted in early December 2008) and the bitter undertone lasts even longer without disturbance. Elegant.
M&D: interestingly, the bottle (be it filtered or pasteurised or both) keeps the most soft yet simultaneously fresh palate for a strong ale at 8.1%abv., showing not a wee bit of syrupy, but only most soothing lubricating, mouthfeel throughout the drink. The bottle version is so... different from the cask one, as far as this year's version is concerned: it's less sweet, cleaner, more hoppy and more bitter, and in every way just as enjoyable in a totally different way!

wl0307, Jan 13, 2009
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Harveys Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
85 out of 100 based on 167 ratings.