Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine?

Learn more about beer and save over 53% with a 3-year subscription.

Subscribe now →

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.

234 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 234
Hads: 437
Avg: 4.07
pDev: 17.94%
Wants: 30
Gots: 79 | FT: 4
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.
View: Beers (21) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 234 | Hads: 437
Photo of stumac
4.03/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottled in 2004. Nine year old bottle here. Drinking this thanks to the owners of Craft Pride Beer Bar. Brownish-yellow lacing, murky brown color. Aroma of caramel, musty. Tastes like an amber extract that's been watered down a bit. Very smooth, easy drinking. Can't detect any booze. This beer has definitely held up in age

 324 characters

Photo of flagmantho
3.97/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from 275mL bottle into a tulip. This is the 2007 vintage.

Appearance: murky brown hue with light effervescence and very little head. Pretty normal for an English barleywine.

Smell: richly malty with a good raisin character and a general dank aspect which I really like.

Taste: raisin, date, tobacco and ash right up front; under this is sort of a bitter green flavor which complements the fruity sweetness and ashy astringence. Nicely complex; Lees does it again.

Mouthfeel: quite thin with little carbonation; there's not much going on here. You really get this beer for the flavor, not the texture.

Overall: tasty, if lacking in some other departments. This beer doesn't hold a candle to the 2008 port cask version, however.

 739 characters

Photo of superspak
4.14/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2007 vintage. Pours very cloudy orange copper color with a small off white head with poor retention, that reduces to a thin lace ring. Minimal lacing on the glass. Aromas of big raisin, apple, fig, prune, caramel, toast, toffee, molasses, light pepper, brown bread, brandy, vanilla, oak, and toasted earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt, cask, and fruity notes; with good strength. Taste of big raisin, apple, fig, caramel, toast, toffee, brown sugar, brandy, brown bread, vanilla, oak, light pepper, and toasted earthiness. Lingering notes of raisin, apple, fig, caramel, toast, toffee, brown sugar, brandy, oak, vanilla, light pepper, brown bread, and toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Fantastic balance and complexity of malt, cask, and fruity flavors; with zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Minimal carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very slick, creamy, and lightly syrupy mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is a really excellent English barelywine style. Great balance and complexity of malt and cask flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

 1,252 characters

Photo of dbrauneis
3.97/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Note: Brewed in 2005

A: Pours a hazy dark orangish amber in color with minimal amounts of visible carbonation and some orange + brown highlights. The beer has a thin (1/8 finger tall) tan head that is comprised of a single layer of medium sized bubbles and reduces to a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Minimal amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of caramel + toffee sweetness from the malts and moderate aromas of apple brandy + alcohol.

T: Upfront there are strong flavors of sweet malts - toffee, caramel, and brown sugar. There is a moderately strong flavor of Calvados (apple brandy). This beer is fairly sweet and just borders on being cloying.

M: Just shy of medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Moderate to strong amounts of alcohol warming in the finish.

O: This is a nice dessert beer and requires slow sipping but is quite enjoyable and the Calvados flavors really come through.

 947 characters

Photo of Resuin
4.56/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 275 mL bottle into a mini snifter. This is a 2009 version, so has 4 years of age on it.

Appearance: Pours a caramel/dark honey color and leaves just a thread of head which dissipates quickly. Carbonation can be seen flowing up the beer.

Smell: Brandy, caramel apples, figs, plums, dates. A hint of cinnamon as well. Very sweet aroma.

Taste: Caramel and apples again - very interesting. Very sweet, and some smokiness to it as well. Pears, plums, and other sweet fruits. Toffee, oak. Very complex, and quite tasty.

Mouth-feel: Medium body with a light carbonation (but there is enough, which is definitely a positive). Extremely smooth finish - the alcohol is expertly masked.

Overall: This is a very interesting beer, and it is really delicious right now. Caramel apple, brandy, some nice spices and plenty of sweet fruit. I have to guess that the time in the bottle has done great things with this because it is drinking really well right now. This is a really good "desert" type drink.

 1,006 characters

Photo of BMMillsy
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle that says "Brewed in 2006." Pours brownish reddish toffee color with no head and lots of sediment floating around. Aroma of biscuits, toffee, caramel, vanilla, licorice, some chocolate. Nice. Flavor is sweet up front like whoah, then fades into an intense praline nuttiness and vanilla cream. The nutty flavor lingers a good while and is very pleasant--probably the best part of this beer. The up front super cloying maple sweet makes it tough to drink at start, but otherwise a nicely layered bunch of flavors. Brown sugar, figs, and chocolate begin to show. Calvados and butterscotch come out as it warms. Thick and viscous. Heavy, decadent dessert beer for sure. Maybe a bit much, but definitely had the depth of flavor. The palate improves as I go, and overall one to try for barleywine lovers. One of the most complex flavor profiles I have come across since BB4D.

 876 characters

Photo of Roman5150
4.75/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

bottle into tulip

appearance: murky brown/amber with some sediment on the bottom, very slight white head

smell: calvados casks, dark fruits, figs, nuts, apple/pear, oak, roasted notes, sweet

taste: very sweet, lots of cask flavor, also getting some subtle roasted notes, hazelnut, apple, oak, and vanilla on the backend. Alcohol is pleasantly disguised by the sweetness and smoothness for this beer. Wow the aging really makes this super mellow for the ABV.

mouthfeel: low to medium carbonation, medium-full bodied

overall: This is a special occasion beer given the price, but wow does this impress. So smooth, it's not often you can find beer aged for several years at my local stores. The calvados casks really come through on this one and create a truly flavorful, balanced, amazingly smooth beer. Will buy again, if you like any sort of oak, bourbon, or other barrel aged beer, you will absolutely love this.

 917 characters

Photo of Greywulfken
4.09/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 bottling

A: murky brown ale, no head, in a large snifter - sediment slips in quickly, so be careful if you want to avoid - doesn't impact flavor, but looks a little unappealing

S: apples, caramel, toffee

T: caramel apples, some suggestion of spice; very sweet

M: smooth, slight stickiness, no bitterness, no carbonation

O: worth the buy, but not as stunning as I'd hoped - very sweet, very slick, apple predominant on the nose an on the palate - invisible alcohol content

 481 characters

Photo of jzeilinger
3.76/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A 2011 Vintage on tap.

A - Pours a murky amber orange color with a light but heavy looking dark cream colored head.

S - Apples, cinnamon, tart, brandy, slight sugary aroma, brown sugar, light toffee/caramel, and the high ABV is pretty well hidden in the aroma. However, this beer smells nothing like a Barleywine and really takes on the character of the barrel it was aged in (with a vengeance).

T - Apples, pears, apricots, light butterscotch, brandy, figs, raisons, toffee, light oak, and some vanilla.

M - Silky smooth with no carbonation and lightly sticky.

O - I would enjoy it more if it were called something else, resembles the cask it was aged in ather than a barley. However, in it's favor, it's insanely complex.

 730 characters

Photo of BrownNut
3.8/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

It's flat despite my most aggressive pour ever. Smells and tastes pretty woody and sort of reminiscent of port. It tastes malty and is fine but is missing something, is missing life or soul or body or complexity. The residual warmth at the end is welcome but doesn't save it.

 275 characters

Photo of MadScientist
4.29/5  rDev +5.4%
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

 1,110 characters

Photo of Hoppsbabo
4.32/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Mine's a 2004 bottle.

A: Dark brown with a bit of copper, exactly the same colour as the bottle. Absolutely no head but some brown bubbles linger around the sides.

S: Sickly cough medicine smell like all the others from this range.

T: A fruity bitterness like that from grapefruit or orange rind. Cointreau is the predominant flavour (you might even say it tastes of cough syrup, albeit, a damned fine one). Lovely solvent alcohol. Overwhelmingly sweet. A bit of dry, non-spicy woodyness too, which I assume is the flavour of the calvados cask. Unfortunately I've not perceived any of the apple that the other reviewers have noted.

M: Unsurprisingly sticky. Almost no carbonation in this one apart from a small sensation at the back.

O: Classy stuff, not something you'd drink in the pub.

 794 characters

Photo of Thehuntmaster
4.5/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle 11,5% Abv.
Served lightly chilled in an over sized wine glass.
2003 Vintage

A big thanks to JAXSON for this bottle.

Appearance: The calvados version of JW Lees appears a deep brown in the glass, with a back light showing the beer to in fact be a deep orangey-red with amber highlights and golden edges. A rough pour yields a thin layer of beige foam that lasts reasonably well and a swirl coats the glass in heavy alcohol legs.

Smell: The initial nose is absolutely fantastic, with big buttery caramel notes, brown sugar and sweet fruits (cooked apples, raisins and figs) dominating. The apple brandy is noted, but at this point one needs to strain to tell that it is calvados and not just standard brandy. As the beer begins to warm, the nose makes a swift change, with a fair amount of oxidzation becoming apparent, alongside molasses, dark treacle and even a hint of marmite. The oxidization is no where near as unpleasant as in many other older beers I have had, but it does detract somewhat from the deliciousness of the initial nose.

Taste: Thankfully the oxidization that was present in the nose is almost completely absent in the flavour, making this just about as delicious as I expected. Sweet buttery caramel, brown sugar and brandy soaked raisins dominate the flavour, with cooked apples, figs, toffee, a little molasses, a touch of vanilla and some oak also present. Superb alcohol cover, there is almost no trace of the 11,5%.

Mouthfeel: Perfect - I really wish every brewer who wants to make a barleywine would go out and a buy a bottle of JW Lees and then try to recreate the mouthfeel!
Full bodied, oily and lightly sticky; with a low level of velvety smooth carbonation.

Overall: I wish I could have had this bottle a year or two ago before the oxidization became noticeable in the nose; that said, it is still a fantastic beer and one I hope to have again!

 1,901 characters

Photo of DrDemento456
4.02/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

I usually don't review beers like this but when I found a bottle of this for 5 bucks at the House of 1,000 beers I had to pick it up. Comes to around 50 cents an ounce so hopefully it's worth it.

A - Flaky sediment from the whole bottle pour into my pint glass. Head was around a 1/4 inch but quickly fizzed to a mild lace ring. Lacing is rather sticky though which is a surprise and the beer itself is a hazy with sediment, deep brown.

S - Wow I never had a beer smell like straight up apple brandy before. I am getting a sweet bit of caramel under the mix but damn does that ABV smell strong.

T - A lot better than the smell their is a ton going on here. Starts with faded apple brandy notes but quickly is that moved to apple sauce sweetness, some bread and a slightly oxidized finish. Has the burn but really smooth and at times the sweetness is like a fresh sugar daddy or toffee popcorn.

M - As heavy as it gets this beer is a true sipper almost choking with a bit of alcoholic sting. I am quite amazed though given the ABV it's almost a liquor.

Overall it's quite an experience and totally worth the price of admission. Even though it's not like most barleywine it's still quite tasty. Worth picking up for 12 bucks though (retail)? Hell no

 1,252 characters

4.43/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

$12.00 for the 274mL bottle, served in a mini snifter
2009 Vintage, Sampled 30SEP12

[A] A swift pour grows a small off-white head that barely covers the surface of the beer. Some sediment snuck in at the end of the pour, so the semi still body - opaque and orange burgundy in appearance - might be a little hazier than normal. Chunks of yeast floaties collects along the curve of the glass. No lacing.

[S] The Calvados cask is at the forefront of the nose. A gentle but clean alcoholic sting permeates the nostrils. Brandy macerated apples and apricots. Buttery caramel, strong toffee, light butterscotch. Overly toasted popcorn.

[T] Home made applesauce, bordering on cider. Dried apricots reconstituted with aged brandy. Just a hint of toasted walnut on the finish, slathered in butter and rendered caramel.

[M] Supple and unbelievably smooth. Thick and viscous but doesn't linger on the tongue. Carbonation is very low and is absolutely perfect for the style and flavor profile.

[O] A fantastic barleywine that goes from 'very good' at cellar temp to 'unbelievable' at room temperature.

 1,094 characters

Photo of fdig23
4/5  rDev -1.7%
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.

 747 characters

Photo of justintcoons
4.32/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2006, Aged 6 years
275ml bottled poured into a snifter.

Murky copper with absolutely no head to speak of. Tons of sediment floating around.

Rum raisin, apple cinnamon, dates, fig, molasses, toffee and caramel. A subtle whiff of vanilla and oak.

Rum raisin, apple cinnamon and tons of dark fruits ranging from dates, figs and the aforementioned raisin. Loads of molasses. Maple syrup, toffee, caramel candy cubes and tobacco. Slight kiss of oak and vanilla on the finish as well as a touch of old book or musty cellar.

Medium-full bodied, syrupy, smooth and warming.

Incredibly sweet and incredibly smooth. Extremely complex and unique. Absolutely no hint of the 11.5% abv. I will certainly be trying some other barrels.

 772 characters

Photo of kawilliams81
3.8/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2006. Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Half Acre snifter.

A- pours a dirty, dark caramel with almost no head. Small bubbles form on the edge of the glass.

S- toffee, dark fruits, tobacco, brown sugar, some alcohol.

T- earthy malts, sweet toffee, dark fruits, Worcestershire sauce, and some weird alcohol flavor (don't know what Calvados tastes like).

M- full body, low carbonation. Very thick and syrupy, but not a lot of noticeable alcohol.

O- like their regular version better, but this is still a very good Barleywine. The Worcestershire sauce taste throws this whole beer off for me.

 601 characters

Photo of KickbacksSteve
4.47/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Trappeze. Poured into a Southern Tier tulip. White head, oily slick lacing. Bright , golden/coppery body. Aroma is over ripe mango, vanilla and alcohol. Taste is suprisingly not hot, nice malt sweetness, mango, Swedish fish, and vanilla in the background. Very smooth to drink for the abv, no doubt the calvados has completely muted the alcohol from the taste completely. Awesome.

 390 characters

Photo of LiquidAmber
4.39/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. 2008 vintage. Pours a dark, murky caramel amber with a half finger off-white head with decent retention and light lacing. A somewhat too aggressive pour left dark yeast chunks at the bottom of the glass. Inviting aroma of sweet caramel malt, toffee and alcohol. Flavor is caramel, intense apple juice, dark dried fruit, hint of vanilla. Quite sweet, but the intensity of flavor makes this very drinkable. Medium to heavy bodied, just short of syrupy. Delicious apple flavors in this classic English barleywine. Too drinkable for its 11% ABV. I will have to age a few of these.

 610 characters

Photo of zeff80
4.17/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, burgundy color with a small, tan head of bubbly foam. It left sudsy trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of whiskey notes with some sweet caramel notes.

T - Good oak and vanilla flavors with a kiss of whiskey. Good sweet maltiness with a touch of caramel.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium bodied ale with a dry clean finish.

O - This was really good. I preferred this one to an '08 bottle that was not aged in any barrels.

 469 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.86/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 mL bottle poured into a Kuhnhenn snifter. 2006 vintage.

Appearance - Pours a dark amber. Clear with no head and just the slightest hint of some bubbles on the surface. I stopped it before the chunks started to flow, at least.

Smell - Sweet apples and raisins. Like regular Harvest with apples. Sweet smelling. Maybe a little less complex.

Taste - I thought the calvados would intensify the sweetness, but it seems to cut it nicely. Huge dark fruit and caramel presence. Raisins and calvados. A touch of vanilla and oxidation to it. Apples and an earthy bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel - Syrupy and nearly flat. It doesn't matter a whole lot, though. It's still pleasant to drink.

Overall - An improvement over the base. Anything that distracts from the sugar is a welcome. Maybe it's the age that makes it seem less sweet. I'm not sure.

 849 characters

Photo of metter98
4.07/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is very hazy amber orange in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a half finger high dense beige head that quickly died down, leaving a thin film of bubbles on the surface and a collar around the edge of the glass.
S: The nose has aromas of caramel and toffee in the nose along with some hints of alcohol from the apple brandy.
T: The taste is similar to the smell but is a bit more complex, having notes of calvados and hints of brown sugar flavors. There is some malty sweetness, although this isn’t cloying.
M: It feels a bit shy of full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation with some warming from the alcohol.
O: This is a nice dessert beer to sip, and it seems a bit easier to drink compared to the sherry version because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste.

Note: 2011 vintage

 859 characters

Photo of Dope
3.79/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 bottle.

A: A super murky rusty reddish-brown. Just the smallest tan head that fades almost instantly. Almost no lacing at all.

S: Very strong, fruity and sweet. Loaded with apple, cherries, figs and raisin. Molasses and caramel break through as well. A little grape in there and finally a bit of toffee. Boozy and sharp.

T: Syrupy thick molasses. Overpoweringly sweet. Like drinking pure molasses syrup. A bit of toffee and brown sugar throughout. Stinging brandy on the back end barely manages to cut through it at all. Huge lingering molasses and toffee in the aftertaste.

M: Pure syrup. Super heavy. Low carbonation.

O: A pretty insane English style barleywine. The brandy helps cut the syrup but at the same time I feel like it lost a lot of complexity of the normal non-barrel aged version.

 805 characters

Photo of Etan
3.2/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Nip bottle into a snifter. 2006 vintage.

A: Pours a cloudy prunish brown with a pathetic, quick-dying head of coarse white bubbles.

S: Smells heavily of brown sugar and hot figs. Syrupy to say the least.

T: Thick raisin and grape notes dominate the taste, followed by a brief note of earthy stale grain.

M: Thick and almost still, with a tiny gasp of carbonation at the beginning.

O: Not very pleasant to drink. Horrible appearance and mouthfeel and tastes mostly like brandy. Might as well buy a bottle of Calvados.

 521 characters

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
91 out of 100 based on 234 ratings.