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Harveys Christmas Ale - Harvey & Son Ltd.

Not Rated.
Harveys Christmas AleHarveys Christmas Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

171 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 171
Reviews: 155
rAvg: 3.79
pDev: 15.57%
Wants: 10
Gots: 2 | 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:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-18-2001

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 171 | Reviews: 155 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of coldmeat23
3.2/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 45 degrees

I have no idea how old this is, as there is no indication on the packaging. I'm guessing it's at least a year old, if not longer.

Pours a dark, murky, amber color. A minimal head of foam, slightly more than a topfilm forms, then quickly reduces to a nice topfilm. Lacing is odd. It's not so much 'lace' like. It's a bunch of 'bumps', or 'spots', but they are pretty sticky. Slightly impressive, even if it's different.

I am attacked by a big booziness. Very sherry-like. Very strong woody/oaky presence. Thick malty notes.
From the nose, there's no denying that this would be a great winter warmer.

Very similar to a cask-aged sherry. High presence of booziness (which is, indeed, very warming). Very woody presence, oaky and butterey. Strong presence of over-ripened dark fruits. This is all backed by a strong maltiness.

Here's where this one falls flat. Just barely qualifies as medium-bodied. Way too thin, for the style. The minimal carbonation level is fine, and well-suited. I just think that this one would be worlds better with a nice bit of thickness behind it.

Because of the (lack of) body, this one scores low on drinkability. It has decent flavor, but the thin nature of it makes it so much less enjoyable than it could be.

Photo of mynie
3.59/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Christmas ale. God knows which year, but it's from Christmas and here we are in February so it should still be good, I think.

Pours limp and dark, opaque and multi-shaded, lighter near the bottom which is where a bunch of little champagne bubbles sit all showy and needy like "hey look at me!"

Smells sour, woody, very strong and syrupy malt. Complex wood, the kind that's been polished and taken care of.

Tastes strong upfront, weak in the back. Hurt pretty badly by a weak body. Big wood, strong malt, and for the advanced alcohol level it does a pretty good job of not getting too sweet or burny, but like I said the lack of balance between the front and back really hurts it.

Photo of mikesgroove
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
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.

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.08/5  rDev +7.7%
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.

Photo of jwc215
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
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!

Photo of wl0307
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
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!

Photo of bainard
4.23/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on cask at map room, chicago. nice little new year's surprise.

a- deep deep amber with some nice, white, cask-generated bubbles.

s- christmas spice and perhaps a bit of honey or potpourri? maybe it's my brain imparting this.

t- as with the style, very little hops, nice sweetness, a little bit of pine, cinnamon, malt. it's a really drinkable, marvelous thing as it warms.

m&d- the cask-ness of this means there's very little carbonation, but the spiciness and malty sweetness means it dances over the tongue. this is a very drinkable, excellent brew that exemplifies its style, but is also drinkable year-round. wonderful brit brew.

Photo of claytri
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured an opaque brown with a tan head. The aroma was of sweet malt and spice. The taste started out very sweet with just a bit of spice to it. But, as it warmed the sweetness dropped and the spices gained. The feel was heavy and wet. Even though it was on cask so it came out fairly warm, it still improved greatly as the temperature improved, in the end it was a very decent beer.

Photo of ccrida
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275ml bottle (fantastic, old school label) from this year, I picked it up probably 3 months ago. Poured into my Meantime snifter, Harvey's Christmas Ale is a murky brown with a small, large bubbled off-white head that leaves scattered lace.

Smell is very sweet and malty, brown sugar and rice pudding, with surprisingly strong hop resins. Not to strong though over all, served around 60F.

Taste is pretty good, reminds me more of an English BW, sweet and a little sour, like the nose, loads of sweet malts and some esters, but with an impressive amount of hops for an English ale, which add some bitterness to the dry, spicy finish. I'll definitely have to track down a few more of these to cellar!

Mouthfeel is on the still, sugary side, think any classic English BW, although I can easily rouse foam by swirling the glass or swishing the beer in my mouth. Medium bodied.

Drinkability is pretty good, a really unique Winter Warmer, especially for the UK. It is decidedly British, much more akin to an barleywine then I was expecting, which is great! Still, it's a pretty slow sipper and not something you'll session with.

Photo of antilogic
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Cask at Ginger Man in Norwalk. Only 24 casks in the US this winter, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Very smooth and low on carbonation, as expected from a cask. Nice sized white head that lingered.

Taste was good, but a little on the sweet side. Heavy on sugars, fruits and maybe some caramel and cherry. A nice change from a typical spiced winter warmer. Higher ABV than I expected, as it goes down smooth; however, almost too sweet.


Photo of scootny
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A thin but tightly beaded head forms as I pour form the bottle. Decent retention and a respectable amount of lace. A cola brown brew with sediment particles floating throughout. No carbonation evident.

Smell is sweet with caramel, bready malts, and darker fruits mixed with cherries. Some roasted aromas coming through as well as yeasty fruit esters

Taste is roasty toasted malt and toffee. Coffee and burnt caramel. Figs and currant juice. Finish is long and sweet with a touch of alcohol. Mild hops cut the sweetness and balance it nicely. Dark fruitcake lingers in the mouth along with a sweet alcohol taste and sensation

Mouthfeel is light syrup and superfine carbonation. Just enough bubbles to keep it from sticking.

Drinkability is better than the abv would lead you to believe. Very easy to drink a couple of these. Good stuff here.

Photo of gford217
4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask at the Brick Store in Decatur.

Pours a deep amber brown with a very bubbly head that lingered with sizable bubbles for a while. Lacing was minimal.

The aroma is very sweet with caramel malts and some dark fruits but there is a lot of vinous characteristics coming out as well - lots of wood and a bit of booze.

The taste is heavy of the sugary malts with plenty of dark fruits - plums, figs and raisins. There is a hint of hops in the finish but only in the background. As in the aroma, the wood comes through in the form of some vanilla sweetness and a slightly dry finish.

The mouthfeel is, not surprisingly, super smooth with little carbonation.

I haven't had this in a bottle so I don't have a direct comparison, but I definitely enjoyed this on cask.

Photo of Deuane
4.24/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-Clear deep brownish amber with a thin barley present ring of light tan foam...nothing very impressive.

S-Fruity tartness of fresh cherries with a deep brown sugar, caramel blast. Hint of apple crisp in the background.

T-Smooth dark brown sugar caramel sweetness with a blast of cherry tartness. A bit of hop bitterness. Deep dark fruit in the finsih of mainly prunes.

M-Medium-heavy body with lots of residual brown sugary sweetness. This is a fruity sweet delight!

D-Port like in it's brilliance! A well fortified brew of body, malt goodness and flavour complexity. This one is so much like a liquid fruit compote it's crazy! So luscious and delicious....a winner EVERY year!

Photo of TheBear11D
3.41/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours an amber, dark stained wood-like color that is clear enough to see through with a soft thin light tan head.

Has an up front fruitiness with woods and sweet aromas.

A variety of fruits as well as a hint of raisens, honey and syrup.

Full bodied beer with low carbonation.

A sippable beer. The ABV seems greater than it actually is, but still enjoyable.

Photo of bigbelcher
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a brillant clear reddish brown color. No head, minimal CO2 and poor lacing. Aroma was a pleasently sweet malt aroma, no hops but I didn't expect any being it is a British beer. The flavor was better than I expected. Starts out malty and toasty like aroma and leaves you with nothing. Better than most British beers but that isn't saying much.

Photo of OWSLEY069
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber to a brown-ish color, with a small light tan head. In the roma, mainly licorice, and small hints of dark fruit, plums and figs. In the taste, licorice, dark fruits, figs primarily, and just a touch watery. A smooth and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small dry licorice aftertaste. Nice flavor, although a bit watery. It was great, but thinner than expected.

Photo of cswhitehorse
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Christmas ale from Harvey's poured a dark brown color with very little foam head and some minimal lacing. The aroma was of a raisin and fruit.

The taste was definitely a malt lovers dream. With sweetness filling the palate with that dark raisin taste. You got a slight hop presence on the finish but not much in the smell. It was pretty viscous on the tongue and left the slick at the back of the throat. Definitely old school winter warmer style. Enjoyable warmer but I seem to enjoy the ones with a stronger hop profile but this was worth the money. The ABV was pretty aggressive but not too much over the top.

Photo of corby112
3.53/5  rDev -6.9%
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.

Photo of charlzm
3.82/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Consumed 11/20/08, bottle purchased recently, not believed to be aged.

Pours a very clear, reddish caramel hue. A one-finger yellow-white head forms and collpases fast, leaving a ring of sticky lacing. This also disappears before the bottom of the glass. Some carbonation lasts to the end, though.

Aroma is strong, marked by pitted fruits, booze (think brandy) and mild "winter" spice (nutmeg, cinnamon).

Mouthfeel is slightly thick.

Flavor is a little hot on the booze side. Sweet fruits like plum and date mix with a mild caramel malt character. Some spiciness. Finish is more malt than hops. In fact, I don't think I'm noting any hop presence at all.

Not a gulper, but a sipper. Smooth like a red ale, but with the "winter flavors" as an added bonus.

Photo of morimech
3.37/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2007 Vintage

Pours a reddish brown color with minimal head. Very little lacing is left on the glass.

Rich aroma of dark fruit. Some medicinal(band-aid) aromas are also present.

Caramel. That is the big flavor in this beer. Figs and prune flavors give more richness to the flavor. Fig aftertaste that lasts quite some time.

Medium body with low carbonation.

Nothing really special with this beer. If you are a fig fanatic you probably would love this beer. High ABV lowers the drinkability.

Photo of russpowell
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
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

Photo of tastybeer
4.09/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark red burgundy, cloudy and dense topped by a modest bubbly head. Aroma is tart and sweet, with green grapes, orange peel, lemon peel, purple grapes, plumbs, chocolate, pipe smoke, molasses, toffee, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff. The smell goes on forever until the next beer. Taste is similar in length. Nice balance between the sweetness and dry fruitiness. Body is full feeling but still like an ale. Nice mellow carbonation. Easy to drink at an enjoyable pace.

Photo of BeardedBoffin
3.62/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A dark clear brown with a small amount of off white foam. The smell is sweet burnt sugar, ripe dark fruit, raisins perhaps, with some autumn spiciness and alcohol esters. The beer is sweet and sugary. The sweetness is slightly offset by some mild earthy hops, but the sweet dark fruit flavors and sugary malt character is dominant. The finish is smooth and the alcohol is hidden well. The feel in the mouth is medium bodied and has an almost oily smoothness about it. This is an elixir to be sure.

Photo of beerthulhu
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured a dark cranberry red with virtually no head. Visible carbonation was soft almost non-detect.

S: The nose was beautiful with a burbon-brown sugar toasted sweetness with spicy alcohol (cinnamon, nutmeg) hints. There was a dark roasted caramel, some lightly burnt woodiness and boozy alcohol as well detected.

T: The initial flavor was malty and sweet with a spicy burbon barrel woodiness, cinnamon and sweet dark fruit. There was a nice roasted caramel and a dominant spicy black licorice flavor that really stood out. An earthy bitterness and warming caramel malting with festive spicing added complexity making this one of the finer xmas ales ive tasted. Perhaps it was the black licorice flavor that added a nice zesty and spicy zing to this beer.

M: The mouthful was medium-full with a nice viscosity and nice soft carbonation factor.

D: Overall a nice dark festive drink with a spicy black licorice flavor makes this a standout amongst other xmas beers and very enjoyable.

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
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

Harveys Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
85 out of 100 based on 171 ratings.