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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

237 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 237
Hads: 449
Avg: 4.07
pDev: 17.94%
Wants: 31
Gots: 80 | FT: 4
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style | ABV
English Barleywine | 11.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Dantes on 05-07-2004

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (22) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 237 | Hads: 449
Photo of rolltide8425
3.75/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

2010 vintage. Pours a buby reddish-brown with floaties. The barrel is very prevalent in the aroma, with some cherry and other dark fruit underneath. Very complex taste with notes of brandy, bark, leather, and various fruits. Definitely a sipper, and surprisingly strong after 5 years.

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Photo of Czequershuus
4.77/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage. This beer pours maple colored with a very small head. The aroma is full of dates, prunes, vanilla, baked apples, cardamom, maple syrup, and candied ginger. The The flavor leads with maple syrup and baked apple, with notes of vanilla, oak, and spices present as well. The mouthfeel is rich and lasting. Overall this is an outstanding contemplative beer.

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Photo of Treyliff
3.57/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

2010 Vintage

9.3oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours a clear deep ruby-amber with a small foamy off-white head that disappears quickly, leaving nothing behind

S- strong aromas of sandalwood and leather open it up, quickly followed by notes of dried prune & fig, red apple skin, earthy wood, caramel/brown sugar, oak tannins, red cherry & peat moss. Very complex

T- initially sweet with notes of brown sugar & caramel, followed by cherry, raisin, fig & red apple. Earthy/herbal notes kick in mid-palate, with some port-like notes. The finish brings a strange bitterness that resembles strong oak, wet cardboard & walnut

M- medium body with low carbonation leads to a flat but viscous mouthfeel and finish

O- aroma was great, as was the initial taste. But the weird finish kept this from being great. Five years in the bottle, it seems quite oxidized already

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Photo of strohme2
3.94/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Minimal head with zero lacing. Deep golden color with red streaks of red. Smell of apple, caramel, golden raisin. Taste is much of the same, apple, brown sugar, caramel, raisin, pear, sweet. Mouthfeel is rich, coating.

I never knew what the Calvados Cask was. I'm pretty proud of myself for picking out it's prominent flavor. Could this be the perfect cold weather, Autumn beer?

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Photo of rjp217
4.3/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle....

A - Murky brown, quarter finger head that disappears. Not much in the way of lace.

S - Lots of caramel and brown sugar. Some oak and booze as well.

T - Complex as hell. Apples, pear, vanilla, raisins, toffee. Pretty sweet but not quite cloying.

M - Low carb, medium body, hidden booze

O - A lot going on here. On one hand you have a great showing of calvados with fruit and slight oak but it's also pretty sweet where it's definitely a sipper to be enjoyed over a bit of time. If there was more oak to balance this baby out it would hit another level. Still worth seeking out otherwise.

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Photo of Hop_God
3.14/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: medium to light murky brown. Amber hues. Almost no head
S: booze. Apples. Slight tartness. Sourdough.
T: just like the sherry. There is an artificial taste that is very unpleasant. It doesn't taste finished. Also some apples and funk.
F: carbonated a good amount. Apple lingers. Otherwise it is gone instantly from the mouth
O: second jw harvest. Had the sherry also. Both huge disappointments

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.19/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2013 Pours a deep copper/gold with some foam. Lacing I can't get even when I swirl the beer in my glass.

Rich caramel malt, wood, and some hints of fruit in the smell.

Taste is like it smells with the addition of vanilla and some toffee. This is sweet but not overly so.

Almost chewy body with light carbonation.

I like.

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Photo of SquidLizard
4.24/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a 2010 bottle, so it's got 5 years on it. This is my first review, and I likely don't really have a masterful grasp of the language and nuanced palate/nose etc. But here goes.

The look of it is a nice, mildly reddish...deepish brown.

The aroma is just...lovely. I believe I am picking up sort of a wet, kind of dank wood. Raisiny. Something about JW Lees always makes me think of something leathery. This one is no different. The same thing could be said of some sort of nut shell...like pecan shells maybe. Especially pronounced in the regular Harvest Ale, but it is very detectable here.

Ahhh yes...the flavor is much, much closer to the regular Harvest Ale than the Lagavulin aged one. I love the Lagavulin, but this is so much more savory tasting. Much less sweet seeming. The flavors I am getting are very much in tune with the nose. Raisiny, leathery, pecan shells....some sort of other dark fruit in addition to the raisiny-ness.

Mouth feel is quite nice. Slightly thick, and wonderfully coating. It has just a bit of carbonation.

Overall, I am extremely happy with this one. It's rich and sweet, but has more of a dark, savory flavor than the Lagavulin. It's absolutely lovely. I am so pleased I was able to get hold of a bottle of this. JW Lees Harvest Ale remains my favorite (in my somewhat limited experience) in production beer to date.

*extra- this one had a modest amount of sediment. I drank it, like a shot. Wonderfully dank and...smile making

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Photo of spacecake9
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2010, consumed May 2015.
Poured into a snifter.
A - Very small head that disappears almost immediately. Murky brown, looks like prune juice.
S - Aroma is oak and raisins, wonderfully full and dense.
T - Flavor is dark fruit, woody and sweet.
M - Medium thick, no carbonation.
O - This is a rich, complex sipper.

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Photo of cpetrone84
2.85/5  rDev -30%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

2006 bottle drank Jan of '14. Pour is an extremely murky dark rusted brown with virtually no head. Nose has light hints of oxidation with just a touch if the cask. Very rich malt complexity, brown sugar and a hint of soy with some chocolate malt notes. Taste is more oxidized, a fair bit of cardboard and wet paper. Malt is rich and a bit sweet, some residual sugars. Chocolate and brown sugar mix with notes of the sweet cask. Full bodied and chewy with moderate carbonation and a hint granule.

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Photo of SomethingClever
4.34/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

9.3 oz bottle poured into nonic pint

A: very light amber almost soft a slight haze to it very little head

S: my god the barrel is amazing oak, vanilla, toffee, dates, raisins, this nose goes on for days

T: date, fig taste, taste is nowhere near the smell and I caught a little off vegetable taste in it. However it's sweet boozy vanilla and smooth

M: Very syrupy and it lingers a lot on the tongue

O: What a fantastic smell and the taste is nearly there but it's slightly off too I'm wondering if it's light struck or something because it's almost a great beer but the taste is tweaked

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Photo of MacQ32
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

A - pours a mahogany cherry amber with a finger of dense cream colored head. Amazing retention and lacing

S - Tons of cherry, apple, very strong oak, some petey notes

T - wow. Surprisingly sweet. Tons of vanilla, molasses, oak, and pears with a sligjtly bitter finish. dryish cherry sweetness at the finish and through the aftertaste

M - incredibly chewy/thick and smooth. Definitely a big time sipper, a pleasure to drink

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.15/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served in a Lexington Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter.

2013 edition. The final stop on our tour of the Lees Harvest horizontal. This one pours a clear tawny amber topped by a finger or so of khaki foam. The nose comprises sweet caramel, rich toffee, light fig, and a vague bit of stonefruit. The taste brings in more of the same, the stonefruits now resembling caramelized apples (like those found in pie and strudel). Nice. The body is a hefty medium, with a rather light moderate carbonation and a full feel. Overall, one of the better editions, a nice twist on what could have been a trainwreck (look to the tequila barreled, well, anything...).

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Photo of atone315
4.21/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 bottle, poured extremely carefully into a 10oz tulip

Brilliant deep orange, this beer pours flat as F&@k. No head, no hint of carbonation....I wouldn't want it any other way. Be careful though, pour too quickly and your glass looks like a neglected aquarium. Smells of old leather, for some reason it reminds me of smelling my father's cologne when I was a little kid. The taste is a cross of old oxidized port wine and a barrel aged barley wine....that has sat in my fridge, uncovered, for a week. This sounds bad, but works in a fantastic way. The mouthfeel is somewhat oily, definitely letting you remember that you just took a sip, for the next 20 minutes. Sticky, icky....once again, in a good way. Overall, love this beer and all it's variations but I only partake once or twice a year. Definitely worth the ride!!!

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Photo of Corkpuller
4.68/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Dusty Musty Earth Shroomy Goodness. Like a forest floor with Calvados warmth. Sweet, bready and luxurious. The most interesting of the JW Lees variants.

Just great Tastiness.

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Photo of champ103
4.62/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Original review is almost embarrassing. Though, at one point in time that was my thoughts. So, I think I should keep it as is. Here are my current thoughts as of 2015. This is a 2011 bottle...

A: Pours a beautiful, vibrant copper color. Minimal beige head and no lace. Though the color is stunning if you don't let the floaties invade.
S: Wonderfully warming toasted malts, oak tannins and dark fruits. Caramel covered apples, sweet, and really inviting. I can plant my nose in the glass all day.
T: Like the nose, that beautiful toasted and caramel malt flavor. Certainly sweet, with caramel covered apples. Light white chocolate even. Oak tannins, with a light nutty flavor. Even more so than the nose, just so incredibly inviting. I wish this would never end.
M/O: A full body, that is viscous with low to moderate carbonation. Really not flat at all. Velvety smooth. Incredible to drink, again something that is a great warmer, and one I can sip on all night. Wishing I could have more.

Over the years, I have grown to love this. Even more so than the Sherry and Port versions. Really unique, and it was time to update my old review.

Original review 12/30/2009

A 2007 bottle

A: Pours a very cloudy copper/orange color. A bubbly white head rises to a little over one finger, and recedes in minute. Light lace is left behind,
S: Malty and sweet. Caramel, and light chocolate. Lots of fruity aromas. Melons, pears, and apples. Dry wood lingers.
T: Moldy dry wood is up front and center, and detracts a lot. Some sweet caramel malt flavors. Some fruity flavors that follow the nose.
M/D: A full body that is sticky and syrupy. Low on the carbonation. A little to dry. The alcohol is really strong. Much harder to drink than I would like.

This might be a little young, and did not do it for me. The bottle seems a little off to me for some reason? Worth a try, but not nearly as good as the Harvest Ale.

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Photo of floridadrift
4.83/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2006 POOF!

Almost tart, perfectly mellow with a back-end of alcohol. When I'm not skiing the Alps, I always try to let it warm. This reminded me of a candied apple; this beer was incredibly good, especially with time. One day, this will come in a bomber for $50 and we will all be pissed.

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Photo of Slack
3.71/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From a 6 month old bottle...

Pours a dark amber color with a trace amount of head.

Smells like fruit and candy - apples and peaches, brown sugar, with minor amounts of alcohol.

Taste is initially sweetness and fruit. Some malt and oak presented themselves along with the alcohol as the beer warmed.

Body was light with medium carbonation. No discernable after taste.

A very nice after dinner beer that is very drinkable.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
3.12/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Pizza Plant in Buffalo, NY.

Pours flat-looking and still, kind of bright orange-ish, with no head or lacing.

Smells like caramel, brandy, and a good amount of booze and sugar.

Not sure what happened here, but this fell flat literally and figuratively. Not sure the age, but it seems over the hill. The Calvados brandy flavor is overwhelming, with a bit of oxidation, and the slightest bit of caramel flavor. It's very sweet, but flat-tasting.

Absolutely no carbonation, very flat, with a syrupy mouthfeel. Just doesn't feel right going down.

I was excited to try this, but 'twas a fail.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.12/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 9.3 ounce bottle into a teku glass. Brewed in 2006

The pour produces absolutely no head, and the liquid flows from the bottle like thick maple syrup, at least in color and appearance. The body is repleted with floating yeast that muddies it's dark copper and brown color. Carbonation bubbles stick to the sides of the glass and occasionally work their way upwards. This is by no means a pretty looking beer.

Oak and sherry dominate the aroma. In a blind test, I'd be forgiven for thinking this was a sherry or port. Beneath the sharp spicy pungent smell lies a sweet, caramel-like character.

My first taste of the beer seems to not offer much in the way of variation from the nose---there's still strong oaken and sherry notes---but the back of my palate gets a blast of caramel and chocolate. The chocolate flavor is rich and lingers on the tongue. Some warming does wonders for this beer too as I start to get a smoky, tobacco-like taste that is quite agreeable.

This drinks like a port or sherry, thick, viscous, almost syrupy. There's not a sign of carbonation and the liquid coats the tongue and seems to stick there. Many of the flavors linger towards the finish.

This is mighty tasty as it warms up. I really enjoyed it and appreciated that I could slowly sip it like a harder liquor, savoring it for over an hour.

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Photo of Bowers-Brew
4.34/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Almost no head. Light murky brown

S - Raisins, sour grapes, whiskey, smoke, Carmel.

T - Sweet, smokey, whiskey, sour, vanilla, oak...

O - Great beer. Glad some of my BA friends.got me to start trying more Barleywines and other strong\old ales. Prost!

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Photo of artoolemomo
4.18/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance- Received with a finger's worth of head which looks to have good retention. The head is a pure cotton white while the body is a hazy (almost chunky) pale to medium amber that appears as a pale amber in the light. No lacing is left behind.

Nose- Started off with a good amount of peaches and other fruit notes (light citrus, other stone fruits) and some white grapes. Not exactly what I expect from an English Barleywine but this was aged on Calvados casks and I certainly get that. Some apple to the nose as well. Some toffee, caramel, and vanilla starts to appear in the background as the fruit esters begin to fade. However, the fruit (especially stone fruits) make a comeback later.

Taste- Starts off with a mouthful of the fruit notes of the nose and moves into caramel and toffee which then transition into pine and resin and hints of smoke. Not your typical English Barleywine but this definitely an interesting beer with a good amount of complexity. Lots of apple that seems to coat the entire flavor profile. Nice oak from the cask on the finish. Not as heavy as a lot of English Barleywines; it seems a bit like a barrel aged quad that doesn't have an over insistence on lemon. The Calvados is definitely a good touch to such an iconic barleywine as it takes it in a different direction that is equally enjoyable. Lots of white grape gives this a vinosity that promotes its accessibility and drinkability. Notes of honey, caramel, and toffee blend in perfectly with the fruit esters and the slight kiss of oak gives a smokiness which is the perfect finish for this beer. I think age has done a lot for this beer as its integration is astounding. I prefer more traditional English Barleywines but this is incredibly enjoyable nonetheless. Really good to great beer with an inclination toward being a great beer. This seems to be worthy of the price that I'm sure its vintage commands. Maybe a little sweet- could be a great desert beer. Has tendencies toward a liqueur. This beer almost cleans up in each department and falls just short of being great in my mind.

Mouthfeel- A little more than medium bodied with light carbonation that makes it seem even thicker. Perfect compliment to the flavor profile.

Drinkability- This is a scary beer. I really don't get any of the 11.5%- maybe a little bit on the finish but not really. 5 bucks for a 6 oz pour might seem steep but the prices in the bottle seem higher. I would get this again at this price.

Overall- Almost a great beer. I love the way the Calvados pervades every aspect of this beer but still allows the subtle complexity of the other notes to come through. Definitely worth a try and something I would buy again.

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Photo of abeeronthebeach
4.29/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage on tap at APEX bar, Portland.

A - Glows golden orange. Could almost be sherry occupying my glass. Head vanishes, leaving no trace.

S - Apple infused brandy on the nose. Apricot and peach accompany. Sweet and surprisingly fruity. Heather honey and a little apple juice sourness.

T - Sweet caramelised apples underpinned by a thin layer of malt. Delicious flavours, if fairly straightforward. Not much dark fruit or wood characteristic.

M - Lightly carbonated. Syrupy but it's not in your face. Dangerously drinkable; 11.5% is nowhere to be seen.

O - This beer comes together excellently and I consider it greater than the sum of its parts. Lovely, sweet and smooth.

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Photo of Samp01
3.86/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

9.3oz bottle. Pours a brownish burnt caramel with a small slowly fading white head with some lacing. Aroma of sweet caramel malt, yeast, light citrus notes up front that give way to a sweet dark fruit and figs and a sweet alcohol essence. Taste is sweet caramel malt, yeast, dark fruit, figs, brown sugar with some barrel aged woody and calvados notes and mild bitterness. A medium bodied. smooth and slightly creamy mouth feel on the palate with light carbonation. Finished with a sweet caramel malt, dark fruits, figs, brown sugar, ending has a lingering sweet caramel, figs and aged woody flavor. This is not an overly sweet and cloying drink.Overall a fairly smooth, flavorful, palatable and enjoyable after dinner drink.

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Photo of Sludgeman
4.03/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage. Poured into chalice.

I am a big fan of the Harvest Ales. This is a port disguised as a beer. A big smooth beer with layered flavors. This vintage did not seem to age well as it had some oxidation flavor/cardboard in the finish. Be careful of the bottle sediment. I look forward to having a more recent vintage or trying another 2006 (maybe this was stored improperly). 4.0

A – Poured a clear light amber (I did pour the sediment into the glass). No head. No lacing. No alcohol legs to speak of. 3.75

S – Sweet, dark fruits, molasses, VERY port-like. No hops. Some alcohol but not solventy. Some cardboard. 4.5

T – Rich, sweet and caramel. Port wine like qualities, but not to the extent that one would expect based on the aroma. No apples as might be expected as the nose portends. 3.75

MF – Syrupy, smooth and coating. Full bodied with some brandy bite in the finish. 4.25

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
91 out of 100 based on 237 ratings.