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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.

402 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 402
Reviews: 222
rAvg: 4.04
pDev: 13.37%
Wants: 28
Gots: 75 | 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: rhoadsrage on 06-23-2005

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 402 | Reviews: 222 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of CooperEllis
3.98/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

9.3 oz bottle, brewed in 2008
from....Montrose79 - hand delivered in a BIF. Thanks!

Great pour (into 6oz tasting glass) with a bright amber color. much like brite maple syrup I would imagine looks. A thick offwhite head stays for a minute and leaves ample lacing.

maple, malt, very faint booze notes. there is a slight citrus in there as well, more lemon rind than anythin else. a bit of muddle spiciness

The mouthfeel is a touch sticky for me, and that I think detracts from the taste here as well as the end is a little syrupy and not as crisp as you'd think from the look of it. It's a brite barleywine.

I don't know that this is a 'dead' period as this was full in the flavor but the booze is gone. That this is 11.5% would catch you wholly offguard if doing a blind tasting.

Overall I've enjoyed it. I don't know that I would care to drink it again if only because of how sweet it is getting at the end of the glass.

There's not a reason for this, but I was expecting there to be a wood note in this. Not overpowering, but at least present. This is not founded on anything, I guess I'll abstractly attribute it to the label.


Photo of aasher
3.77/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2006 vintage. This beer pours a syrupy dark maple brown in color with no head at all and seemingly little carbonation. A good amount of sediment slipped into my snifter and resembles clumps of cinnamon floating throughout my glass. It is very aromatic and gives of aromas of apples, caramel, oak, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and and maple syrup. The nose is phenomenal and heavy on the caramelized apples. The flavors given are of sweet apples, cinnamon sticks, oak, tree bark, vanilla, and caramel. It is very, very sweet and also quite syrupy. It drinks syrupy and medium in body and has almost lost all of its carbonation. Overall this beer is a sipper or to be shared and could be defined as a dessert beer at this stage in its life. It's a fine drinker and I prefer this to the Sherry Cask version. I'm glad I have another bottle to open again in another couple years. It's a good English Barleywine.

Photo of Spider889
3.64/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Purchased this bottle at Lizardville.

"Brewed in 2009"
Poured into a Cigar City snifter.

A ruddy orange color that produced a quick head. This did not stick around for very long though.

Ahh, the unmistakable smell of apple brandy barrels. Sweet, fruity, and rich. Pear, apricot, and stewed cinnamon apple are all part of this aroma. A light dusting of oak and alcohol seems to linger long after each whiff.

The taste is a bit more off-putting than I could have ever guessed. I suppose the main issue is that this beer is way too sweet. I can't be certain if it is the calvados barreling, or the base beer, or something else. It's like honeyed apple pie, which sounds good until you apply it to a barleywine. The calvados flavor itself is spot on, but the beer is distractingly sweet, and finishes with an odd bitterness and tons of mucky rotten oak.

For the mouthfeel there's a lot of dry oaky texture. The beer itself is not overly dry, however. Dusty must and weathered wood funk make the mouthfeel unpleasant for me.

Overall this was not nearly as wonderful as I had imagined. After my brief love affair with De Regenborg at Monk's Cafe I assumed calvados could only improve the right beer. In this case, I am wishing I had opted for the whiskey, scotch, or port barrel version of this beer.

Photo of jamie2dope
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Lately anything Calvados related intrigues me. This version of JW Lees pours a really pretty rose color, with a quick to fade white head. The nose is very sweet, with lots of apples, alcohol, honeydew and peach nectar. The flavor follows the same example as far as sweetness, almost to the point of being cloying. While this is a boozy beer, the alcohol doesn't necessarily hinder the experience overall. Mouthfeel is a highlight here in that it is very smooth, and not too heavy. This is certainly a sipper, but a light one. While the ten dollar price tag is on the steep side for a bottle of its size, I recommend this beer. I paired some bitter Chimay cheese with it, which helped to cut down on the sweetness. I imagine the salty nature of Stilton would pair nicely as well.

Photo of CuriousMonk
3.72/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Follow up to the J.W. Lees Harvest 2000 vintage bottle. Poured from 2008 vintage bottle into a snifter glass. Pours a mostly clear medium amber color with a small off-white head. Aroma is sweet caramel malt, calvados, sherry, and spice. Flavor is very sweet with caramel and toffee malt notes, oak, spice, calvados, and sherry-like oxidative notes. Slick on the mouthfeel with medium body and soft carbonation. Overall, I preferred this over the Harvest 2000 vintage I had previously. A definite sipper.

Photo of stakem
3.92/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to optimator13 for the bottle. 2007 offering poured into a pair of 6oz snifters.

This brew appears a hazes brownish copper color. Some white bubbles appear and quickly dissolve to nothing. A swirl hardly releases more than a pair of bubbles making the appearance of this brew seem still. When held to the light, there is orange and yellow tints of coloration around the edges.

The smell is sweet like caramel candy apples. There is a light citrus element present quite similar to orange rinds but faint. There is a touch of oxidation present but not distracting. It smells faintly like cardboard with some boozy abv that tingles the nose.

The taste is candy caramel sweetness with a touch of the previously mentioned cardboard oxidation. There is a grainy flavor present that melds into a bit if musty character. Big booze flavor is present which lines up with the listed percentage but it is enjoyable and well integrated in the brew. Some faint herbal hops are noted. There is a residual fruity flavor to this brew that lasts into the aftertaste which tastes faintly of apple.

This is a full bodied brew with an acceptably very low level of carbonation. Clingy sweetness sticks to your tongue with this and mixes with lots of oxidative quality. It's a well made old ale/English barleywine with good balance and enjoyable for 11%. I've been on an apple brandy barrel aged beer kick lately and really enjoy the normal harvest offering but this fell a little short for me. I think my expectations were a bit too high considering how much I like the base beer.

Photo of twiggamortis420
4.32/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage pours a semi-clear gold color with a thin white head. Not much retention or lacing.

Nose is earthy and fungi-esque with lots of woody undertones. Green apples with a sherry-like alcohol presence. Caramel and toffee malts, this one is uber-complex.

Big icewine sweetness with a major apple component. Alcohol plays a main role, but smooth enough to make it a delectable sipper. Burnt edges like a flaming campfire marshmallow, and the whole sherry/fungus/wood complexities are ridiculous. The alcohol flavors even seem to have various levels of flavor...crazy beer. Definitely malt driven with caramel, simple syrup and toast omnipresent. Nice beer, very fun to drink.

Photo of FosterJM
4.19/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

446th review on BA
bottle to snifter
9.3 oz
2009 Vintage

App- This poured similar to liquid caramel just a bit lighter. Looked very creamy with no real head, just some bubbles inside the beer and maybe around the edges. No cling just smooth.

Smell- This smells very good. Moderate booze with a lot of apple and malts. Its a bit sweet on the nose and after a sip as flavors meld and move around.

Taste- This was like having a sweeter liquid caramel apple dipped in brandy. A good taste and a bit sweet and bends what I thought a barleywine could taste like. It's a big abv thats well hidden until this small bottle takes hold when you get up. Good beer.

Mouth- This left me with a medium bodied and a slightly higher carbonation and a lot of creamy apple flavors.

Drink- This was a very good barleywine. It was balanced, and creamy and boozy yet at the same time, tame and delicate. I cant wait to have again and try the other variations.

Photo of nuggetsofnectar
4.64/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage

finally reviewing these splendid barleywines from j WUBBBB

App: Deep dark caramel brown hue with a small 1/4" head that quickly dissipates to a rim and pondlike fizzle

Smell: Lovely....the brandy is up front with deep caramel laced figs....sweet tones reminiscent to honey suckley....earthy hops....

Taste: oh lord...thick chewy caramel....figs all over it...molasses...and the brandy notes are so smooth and quite dominant (in a good way)...raisins....the heat is their but its so well used that it isn't a deterent...so good

Mouthfeel: near perfect...so thick but smooth....

Overall: I have always enjoyed these barrel agings in this one is tied with the Sherry IMO....cheers

Photo of Brent
2.85/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Finally decided to pull a 2005 vintage from the cellar, and apparently I had waited too long. Good cap seal, but almost no carbonation. A substantial bit of brown sediment decanted even with a careful pour. Very sweet, with caramel and red delicious apple notes. Once the initial sweetness passed, there really seemed nothing of note backing it up, other than a touch of alcohol harshness. Perhaps a more fresh sample would be a better representation, but I can only judge the merit of the beer by what is in my glass at the moment.

Photo of davod23
4.3/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I do love J.W. Lees. Poured from a bottle (2008 vintage) into my Bruery tulip.

Pour is a deep orange color, a faintly off-white head of about 1-2 fingers emerges for a time before settling to a few wisps of clouds. No lacing or anything, but a swirl does show the beer to stick to the sides of the glass.

Smell is really pretty nice. Sugary, cake-like. I had my nose in the glass for about 10 minutes trying to figure out what it was before I decided on pineapple upside-down cake, minus the pineapple. Some apples and apricots make their way through, as does a seemingly unneeded vegetal aroma. Soybean? That's weird.

Taste is great. Sweet, but not overly so considering the style and the size of the bottle. Sugary cake, fruitiness, and a bit of warming alcohol make their presence known.

Mouthfeel is outstanding. Full-bodied, near syrupy. Long finish.

Drinkability is quite good for the style. I think that regular JW Lees is better on this scale, simply because it's not quite as sweet. But this is a great beer.

Highly recommended.

Photo of tempest
4.04/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On gravity cask at the Ginger Man. As expected it came out a hazy red without a head or carbonation. There was a big caramel apple pie aroma with slight hints of oxidation (not detrimental). The calvados imparts an earthy fruit charcter that blends nicely with the rich caramel malt and hint of peppery hops. My only complaint was that the mouthfeel was a liitle grainy at the end, like there were bits if trub or something from the bottom of the cask.

Photo of mjn5036
4.35/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage

9.3 oz bottle poured into a large snifter. I have been debating whether to age this or drink it now. I obviously decided on the latter. This one pours hazy amber with a small, half inch white head. Tons of floaties in this one. A lot carbonation bubbles appear after the pour. No visible lacing. The head quickly recedes and what is left looks like a bacteria culture on the surface. Looks like what I would expect from an English Barleywine.

The cask aging dominates the nose on this beer. At first smell I thought I was picking up on apples and thought something was either wrong with my nose or the beer. Apparently I should do my homework first as the casks this was aged in is an apple brandy. Yum. An immense aroma of brandy rushes to my nostrils in the most intriguing manner. This one is very sweet smelling, lots of caramel and sweet malts. Not a hop to be found. Not a whole lot in the nose but God do I love English barley wines.

The taste is a knockout. It is sweet and buttery. So smooth, extremely rich. It is like drinking a stick of butter coated in sugar and toffee. Damn good. It is very fruity and sugary, with a nice dash of the apple brandy which brings flavors of apples, pears, butterscotch and a roasted nuttiness reminiscent of peanut brittle.

This simply glides over the tongue and coats your taste buds in a creamy fashion. The mouthfeel is exceptional. An unexpectedly dry finish. Certainly take your time with this brew and enjoy each sip. Very drinkable and the 11.5abv is certainly unnoticeable in any harsh or derogatory manner. The warmer sensation as you drink is welcoming on such a cold, snowy night. I am not a brandy drinker but I may need to start after this wonder experience!

Photo of Urbancaver
3.8/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours orange with some reddish tint. Minimal head. Very sweet on the nose. Lots of malts with some slight hoppiness. Sweet malt backbone with definite barrel characteristics.
The barrel adds some weird tequila flavours... sweet almost wine like characteristics as well. Unusual, to say the least

Photo of alpinebryant
3.6/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a flat with non existent head hazy caramel brown. There was just a tiny hiss when opened, so small you would think it was never there in the first place. Chunky pour with bits strewn all throughout the bottle, not just the bottom.

Smell of sweet sherry like aromas with oak, peat and pale malts in high abundance.

Taste of ash, sherry, oak, raisins, plums , figs and caramel. Sweet sugars fight with the ash and charcoal characters. Apple cider not only in look but also in flavor , only with an added charcoaled cask aging. Oxidized IMO

Different and worth a try

Photo of mdfb79
3.9/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From 01/16/11 notes. Tried this after trying the normal JW Lees Harvest, vintages of 1998, 2001, and 2004. This Calvados vintage was 2003.

a - Pours a reddish mahogany brown color with less than an inch of head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of caramel malts, apples, brandy, oak, dark fruits, molasses, and alcohol.

t - Tastes of apple brandy, caramel malts, oak, and fruity malts.

m - Medium body and low carbonation.

d - I found the 3 normal vintages very sweet and hard to drink a lot of, but the apple brandy barrels definitely smoothed this one out and made it easier to drink. Would have again but might have to split a bottle with someone.

Photo of tbeckett
4.17/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage

A - Pours a dark copper colour with a one finger white head. TONS of yeast chunks floating around with lot's of carbonation.

S - Nice and complex. Lot's of dark fruit, boozy fruitcake aromas. Cherry, dates. Booziness, sort of like port but kind of sweeter. I've never had calvadose but if this is what it smells like I'm up for givin' it a go. Lovely aroma. Very malty and sort of an apple character.

T - Woah. Definately tastes like brandy. Sweet but not cloying. Alot of apples. Booze is there but in no way offensive. Very different and very tasty but not amazing. I like the fact that it's very different from anything else but don't think the flavour is anything spectacular...that said it's still a top notch beer.

M - Full bodied. Not alot of carbonation on the tongue. Really smooth. Coats the tongue so well. Very smooth.

D - Given the abv I couldn't have alot of these. It's a delicious, warming beer though and worth a drink. I'd never turn one down.

Photo of oglmcdgl
4.37/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A bottle in a massive gobblet on christmas morning around the tree with family. Good times.

A- a finger or so of light tan head that settles very quickly leaving a faint ring and a few wisps on top. Slightly hazy sunset orange yellow in color that lightens at the edges.

S- opens up with a sweet candy apple and pie crust breadiness. Bits of caramel and apple brandy. Touches of dates and figs. Smells awesome.

T- apple cake soaked in apple brandy. Sweet and slightly spiced. Dates and figs but to a lesser extent then the nose.

M- on the fuller side of body with a light yet creamy carb. Its coats the mouth so beautifully and sits awhile. Small hint of heat.

D- this 08 bottle is very mellow and the time it spent it the cask has done this brew very good. Not nearly as hot as I had expected and quite the treat on this xmas morn.

Photo of laituegonflable
3.36/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a cloudy burnt-orange colour with odd sedimenty chunks. Head is a thin film which disperses, not much lace at all. No real carbonation either. Really quite blah, nothing exciting here.

Smells very, very rich and sweet, with a vinous edge. Lots of complex sugar, jammy, plummy and rich with fruity residuals - apricot and paw-paw, really. But yeah, very sweet. Pretty nice but has a teeth-rotting intensity to its sweetness.

Taste is also very sweet, but somehow more mellow than the nose. Very jammy and fruity with melon and paw-paw on there, yes peach and apricot as well. A slight spicy note, pepper and nutmeg on there and some cloves providing mild touches as well. A touch of fig towards the back, and then finish is just as sweet as the front. It's all just sweet and liqueury with fortified wine notes and complex brown sugar. Tasty, but a bit over-rich and sweet for me.

Syrupy, thick, lots of texture. Quite nice. Good for style.

Yeah, a very heavy beer, thick and rich like Cottee's topping. A bit too much to have one whole bottle, methinks.

Photo of LanceW
4.35/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was fortunate enough to have a bottle of this at a friends house the other day... Here in michigan it fetched nearly 10 dollars a bottle.
My first impression was with the sent.... sweet orange notes.
The brew was quite sweet and had a heavy mouth feel.

I would highly recommend this to a friend. I thought it was delicious brew.

Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.22/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 vintage, tried alongside the 2009 vintage regular Harvest. I expect this to have some more extreme characters on it, and certainly some age.

Pours a thick and rather heavy deep hazed orange colour, very similar to the regular example. Head is non-existent, although a vigorous pour gives a bit of bubbling. I should note that there was very little carbonation when it was opened, but for a beer that is five years old, that's not unexpected.

Nose is like refined port, the calvados cask obviously lends something to it. Very sweet and rich and incredibly boozy. Indeed, this is closer to fortified wine than it is to beer, even as I know how wide the beer spectrum runs. Lots of oak, lots of vinous sweetness and lots of booze. Even compared to the younger equivalent, this seems stronger and more intense. I think the calvados cask is what pushes it over the edge.

Taste is actually more subtle, and it's the better for it. The port character is still incredibly strong, and the sweetness is robust almost to extremes, but it has a very subtle and very pleasant acidity to it that is really worthwhile and almost necessary. Finish is long and languid, and the lack of carbonation gives it an excessively smooth feel - with the light heat, it becomes an absolute monster of a beer.

Phew, what a beer. A monster counterpart to the already robust behemoth that was the 2009 Harvest Ale. 5 Years? It might be just a tad too long for it, but the fact that it still has such character in such huge quantities is testament to its quality.

An incredibly flavoursome beverage that I feel privileged to have tried.

Photo of Thorpe429
3.32/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes.

Poured into a snifter. The body is a fairly-bright, yet still murky, orangish color with a thin light head that persists for a bit of time before fading. The nose brings a good dose of booze and the brandy comes through quite well. There is a bit of caramel and toffee plus some light fruits. The taste is just a bit boozy and also has a tiny bit of astringency. Feel is a bit boozy with a nice body. Overall, not nearly as good as the original.

Photo of megahurts4
4.12/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

J.W. Lees Harvest Calvados

Appearance: Cloudy yellow-orange, small head, floaties, and little lacing.

Smell: Caramel, wood, and yeast.

Taste: Strong cask, slight smoke, caramel, slight earth, and mild toffee.

Mouthfeel: Medium-heavy and slightly syrupy.

Definitely not a weak brew. You can really get the flavors of the calvados cask. There is also an earthy flavor that reminds me slightly of dirt.

Photo of msubulldog25
4.12/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A 275ml/9.3 fl.oz. bottle, kept for months in the fridge's 'special shelf' at the base of the door. Brewed in 2007, poured to a snifter in 2010.

A: A most cautious pour, but the floating yeast chunks couldn't be contained; I could see them drifting aimlessly throughout the bottle and there was just no hope (save a strainer) to keep them out of the glass. Oh well... but for a million mostly bottom-settling flecks of aged gunk, it's actually a lovely beer: a vibrant auburn/copper with the finest (microscopic) carbonation dodging the floaties. Slim head that fades quickly, holding as a pencil-thin ring.

S: Appropriately fruit-filled, sweet and malt-enriched. Apples and pears and sweet cherries and raisins, plus -yes- a woody brandy. It's an intriguing, albeit sugar-filled, noseful.

T: An orchard in a glass, caramel/toffee notes wrapped around spiced apple. Honey pears, drunken sweet cherries. Oaky smoke and more spice, a brief touch of green mint. A little earthy/powdered medicine bitterness in the end to avoid over-sweetness. Wasn't as impressed initially, but repeated sipping really allowed this to develop and show its subtleties. Yum.

M: Suitably mellow for a 3+ year old ale, fine carbonation and a velvety coating. A slimmer body, but a weight that builds a tongue-numbing warmth (but not the least bit 'hot'). Really nice, my favorite feature.

D: Quite a treat, but an evening-ending sipper for certain. A fine one to try, not really an 'occasion' beer unless that occasion is the end of a weekend spent camping and tasting fresh-hopped beers, leading into another work week. Woo hoo!

Photo of bobhits
4.3/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Apple cider is the way to describe this stuff. That color, with a nice head (for the style) that vanishes shortly after pouring.

The nose is just an amazing mix of fruits, apples, pears, grapes, and well just a fruit basket with some hop/alcohol esters, maybe a touch of rum that seems to control it all the better.

There isn't a huge difference in this and the regulars beer. I'm not honestly sure what Calvados is, but there is certainly a woody flavor in this. Clearly the same raises, purines and dark fruits int he flavor. It also has apples which I don't recall from before. (looked up Calvados and it turns out it's an apple brandy...seems my palette is working).

Still a wonderful sipper and just right for that. i will say this has a touch less alcohol that the normal version but I'm not sure that in this case it really matters.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
90 out of 100 based on 402 ratings.