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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.

411 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 411
Reviews: 223
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 13.33%
Wants: 28
Gots: 76 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

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.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 411 | Reviews: 223
Reviews by fdig23:
Photo of fdig23
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tiny bottle.

Appearance: Cloudy copper with a small white head.

Nose: Very apple-y. A combination of mushy rotten apple, apple juice, and candied caramel apple aromas. There's a bready note underneath all the fruit.

Taste: Apple juice, toasted bread, caramel and a bit of caramelized sugar sweetness. The apple flavors make for a funky pairing with the traditional bready malts and caramel of the barleywine. Finishes with a lingering apple flavor and lots of caramel.

Mouthfeel: medium-bodied and decent carbonation.

Overall: A really interesting beer. The Calvados flavor almost makes it feel like some Brett is present thanks to the rotten apple notes it imparts. Glad I tried it but definitely won't pay that much for a tiny bottle again.

More User Reviews:
Photo of RoyalT
4.68/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This one was orange and both glowed in the dark and was heavily murky at the same time. There was actually even a light head to this one.

Smell – The big, raunchy wine aroma is soaked in huge prunes. The booze is big as well. The grapes though are not to be outdone. They are white and grape-juicy.

Taste – Oh, God, is this thing got some big flavors. Man, you can barely sip it. The prune juice is just monstrous and the booze, although super smooth, is large as well. The white grapes are really big, too.

Whenever I partake of an EBW, I always pay particular attention to the sweetish flavors that are present. Here they aren’t sugary per se but thick, syrupy, and pruney. Lastly, the French Calvados casks imposed a light presence of wood, just enough to add a new dimension to the experience. It all worked together more like a fine tawny port than anything else.

Mouthfeel – This is close to full-bodied and super full in its flavor. It is one of the most flavorful ales that I’ve ever had. I can’t begin to explain how the sweetish grape and prune flavors just explode on the palate.

Drinkability – This was a real treat to drink. It is exciting, explosive, and sure to spur an hour-long discussion among beer advocates.

Photo of MadScientist
4.29/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: A medium amber with a deep orange hue and good clarity. The are only a few bubbles that quickly fade leaving a swirl of tiny, hardly there bubbles floating around the beer.

S: There is that rich malt of a barley wine with a sharp oak and brandy aroma. There is a light bit of an aroma that reminds me of a hard cider. The alcohol is soft and some what floral. There is a light bit of the rasin aroma in a Barleywine but not as much as most usually have.

T: Malty and sweet with a moderate oak flavor that bring a fair amount of vanilla and a touch of cinnamon flavors. The calvados becomes a bit more evident in the finish as the malt goes away leaving the alcohol warmth to mingle with the apple-brandy notes. There isn't much in the the way of hops flavors and just a light hops bitterness. The balance is strong towards the malt sweetness and the finish is sweet as well.

M: Medium-full bodied with moderately-light carbonation. moderate creaminess and moderately-strong alcohol warmth.

O: A strong Barleywine with a lot of sweetness that is checked by the alcohol more than the hops.
Brewed in 2007

Photo of bishopdc0
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of merlin48
3.81/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2003 vintage, small 750 ml bottle, served slightly chilled into a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter. Pours a clear, glistening, topaz amber body that exhibits lively carbonation. Small, offwhite head is tightknit and persistent, eventually falling into a collar with an extensive draping of sheet lace. The appearance is divine.

Aroma begins with a sharp note of Calvados apple brandy. Calvados is a fine French brandy that is both expensive and difficult to find. It is excellent to cook with, but I don't really care to drink it. The aroma also features freshly sliced McIntosh apples, some raisins, and some toffee and butterscotch maltiness. The alcoholic brandy notes are dominant all the way through, and some peppery spice notes are also in play.

Mouthfeel is slick and full bodied. Smooth, but there is an alcohol bite that is peppery.

The taste is dominated by the Calvados, much more so than expected. Significant alcohol warming is present throughout. Malt notes include raisins, toffee, and butterscotch, with caramel coming on toward the finish. A pleasant earthy/woodsy character emerges at room temperature. Pepper accents are definitely noted, but I'm not certain if they derive from the hops or the alcohol. Very vinous and brandy-like, much more so than any other J.W. Lees product I've tried.

Surprisingly close to Calvados in taste and character. This one is definitely a slow sipper that would be ideal in front of the fireplace on a cold winter night. Very warming. Interesting how a beer acquires the higher alcohol and flavors of the spirit that previously was aged in the same wooden cask. At a price of over $8.00 for this small bottle, I think I will pass on this one next time, though I'm likely to try the other cask aged Harvest Ales that Lees offers. For value, stick with their more pedestrian ales which have a higher drinkability and the same superb quality. The Calvados is so pervasive in this one that it renders it somewhat one dimensional.

Photo of sm0key
4.65/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a bottle with a friend.

A: looks like a Barleywine, just like you would expect!

S: Apples! some kind of fruity, sweet smell.

T: Like nothing I ever had before! I was amazed at how you can blend the apple brandy and barleywine flavor into one. It was very obvious where this beer was aged, but it's not a fruit beer. This is a barleywine at it's core.

M: Low carbonation, thick, but dry (if that makes sense!)

O: If this wasn't so hard to find, and so expensive, I'd drink it all the time!

Photo of magictrokini
3.68/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 vintage. Pours oily copper with no head, only a ring of sparse bubbles. No lacing. Perfume and alcoholic aroma, very floral with a heap of honey. Lots of oak and berries, not as vinuous as expected. Super-sweet taste. Sugary and fruity; white grapes, raisins, plums, and boysenberries. A fair amount of dark rum flavor to go with the oak. Didn't really get the spice others were finding. Long finish. Denser mouthfeel with the minimal carbonation, kind of sticky towards the end. Drank more like a dessert wine/appertif than a beer.

Photo of jaminjohnson
4.75/5  rDev +17.3%

Photo of bpfrush
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of Seattle_Suds
3.62/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of glid02
4.05/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased from Green's on Ponce in Atlanta.

Pours a slightly hazy dark copper color with a half-finger cream-colored head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving light lacing but decent legs.

Smells of sweet (almost too sweet) caramel malts with hints of vanilla and medium fruit undertones.

Tastes good. Sweet and sticky caramel malt flavors up front run the show and are joined periodically by medium fruit flavors. Also underlying it all is a mild earthiness that keeps the malt sweetness from being over the top. The ending is decidedly sweet.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a smooth thickness with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is good. I split the bottle but could polish one off myself.

Overall I have to be honest and say I didn't know what Calvados was and couldn't tell 100% from the beer however now it makes perfect sense. The third one I've had (besides Laguvalin and Port) and my least favorite, but even so it's still a good beer and worth a shot.

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a snifter)

A-This beer pours a clear light mahogany body with a gentle carbonation and a thin ring of tan head.

S- The smells of toasted malt, brown sugar and a bit of dried fruit with a nice hint of apples.

T- This beer has a sweet light taste with the hint of calvados. The maltyness is very light caramel and very sweet and light.

M- This has a full mouthfeel with a slight alcohol warmth that you only notice when you exhale. No fizz or alcohol heat.

D- This is a very interesting barley wine. I think it was made to be light and sweet to compliment the aging in calvados casks. Very nice beer with a very interesting twist.

Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
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.

Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.37/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 vintage

Pours blood thick with no head. A slightly hazy brown with a slight orange tint. No head at all. Smell is of meat and major malts. Taste pretty much follows. To me this is the least overpowering of the cask series. Taste is of a ton of malts and dark sugars. Very meaty with super dark fruits. Sugary as hell, and sweet, sweet, sweet. Mouthfeel is very thick and viscous. As far as drinkability, the sugar and mouthfeel defenitely make this one a sipper. Another good one from JW lees. But I still say nothing beats the good old harvest ale.

Photo of cokes
3.53/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

My starting points here are divergent, and thus my expectations are as well.
In comparison to the Lagavulin cask, this is a triumph of epic proportions. But the original Harvest Ale still fares worse due to cask aging.
Pitches forth a bright and shimmering, deep nectarous golden. Topped with an actual head! One of foamy whitened mauve.
Apples are foremost on the nose, but distilled and full of flame. Honey shoots out around the edges.
Begins sweet, but not titanically so. It's approachably cloying. Full of raw, thick honey, dates, raisins, and brown sugar. Jellied pineapple appears later on. Butter is added in browned form. A big apple tidal wave essentially destroys the maltiness in favor of its own desire for domination. Hot now. Boozy, ferocious, and searing. But reprieve is given at the end. Baked greasy cheese, buttered apple stems, and traces of actual leafy hops.
Full bodied. Fat, portly, and rotund. Levity is hinted at, but never fully achieved. But in comparison to that "other" Barreled Harvest Ale, this is quite potable.
This one is worth aging, as promise oozes slowly outward. It's way too raw and firesome now. But there is hope.

Photo of Sammy
3.97/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An interesting malty, slightly sour barleywine. Pours cloudy orangey with little head. Above average mouthfeel. A fine glass with or after a meal as you would a fortified wine. A bit drying.Alcohol and citrus and port aroma. ABove average for the style.

Photo of fairdinkum2
3.67/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Tried this from a cask at the Brick Store in Decatur. Poured in to a small tulip glass (6 oz?)

This is certainly a unique style in my experience.

When it arrived at our table, the ale had no discernible head or carbonation. Kind of a brick red color with some haze.

Sweet candy and dried apples on the noise. However, this doesn't really prepare you for how this ale tastes.

Quite sweet with an almost syrupy mouth feel. Carbonation, if any, is almost undetectable. Almost a mead like quality. Very rich. This richness disguises the ABV which is way up there.

Not something you could drink lots of, but a great experience

Photo of tdm168
3.99/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of tylermains
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.7/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Calvados is one of the best kept secrets in the world of fine spirits, and therefore an introduction may be needed. It's an apple brandy, distilled at least twice from a dry cider that's made from special varieties of apples. It's always aged in French Oak barrels, and then blended and bottled for sale. This special version of the Lee's Harvest Ale has been aged in those casks!

It pours a clear (it's been filtered), medium-amber body with a full head of frothy white that drops slowly but leaves little lace. The nose is malty with some wood and a mild vinous character (but that might just be the alcohol). It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a restrained, fine-bubbled carbonation and full body. The flavor is intense, and it's almost too much to take in all at once. This is surely a sipper! Some apple from the Calvados does carry through (cold, it appears almost grape-like), but mainly it's the sweeter brandy (sugar/alcohol) that comes through. It finiishes surprisingly drying given the huge amount of sugar there, but its underlying bitterness and alcohol help with that. Very nicely done!

Photo of zaphodchak
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4


Chewy and quite similar to the standard. Barrel aging seems to impart little to this beer from what I've seen, which is already chewy and very sweet with caramel and faint. Not sure what Calvados is like anyway, but this remains as tasty as the original.

Photo of scott
4.45/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Wonderful looking amber body that had a very nice 1/4 inch whooly head with nice retention. Soon enough, it revealed it's true intentions. This has wisdom, and is ready to become a pedagogue.
Thick and viscous, syrupy and menacing.
You don't even need to put your nose to the glass to understand this palate of this one.
When you state that brewing is an art, this is where it could have originated, and should become the benchmark. How can syrup be juicy? How can the cask profile end almost dry? This is hot candy.
Honestly, this sipper makes you understand what a brewer's "intentions" are. If you don't like it, then you don't get it.

Photo of dirtylou
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

9.3oz single, obtained from beerbeing in that no bs part deux nonsense (has that ended yet????)

2003 Vintage

appearance: pours a cloudy, but clearing, copper amber into a snifter...light bubbling beige head with decent lacing around the rim

smell: sweet and hearty like the other versions of this beer i have sampled...boozy apple brandy noticeable immediately...dark plum, raisins, dates, brown sugar, syrup vanilla, walnut

taste: after trying 3 different versions of this beer i have finally just realized that they are all sweet boozy bombs...this one clearly has some age under it but has maintained itself wonderfully...boozy brown sugar covered plum, apple-walnut pastry filling, syrupy vanilla...very sweet and quite tasty

mouthfeel: very smooth, filling, boozy sweetness

drinkability: tough but i'll manage

Photo of 13esd
2/5  rDev -50.6%

Photo of cjgator3
3.75/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Brewed in 2005. Pours an orangish brown color with a thin white lacing on top. Aroma is sweet malt, caramel and alcohol. I can faintly pick up some apple in the nose as well. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Taste is sweet and brandy like with a warming boozy finish. The alcohol definately makes it's presence felt in this one. Overall, another good beer from J.W. Lees. Perhaps this was a bit too young, I will try to age one of these 2005's a bit and try again.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
90 out of 100 based on 411 ratings.