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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
Photo of champ103
3.19/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

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.

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

A: Pours a dark caramel with a small fizzy head. Large chunks of sediment floating around.

S: Caramel, molasses, and a strong cider aroma.

T: Tons of earthy oak flavor up front followed by some sweetness with a carmael apple taste, and finally some smoke. This one is certainly a roller coaster.

M: Full-bodied, chew, and sticky with quite a bit of carbonation for a barleywine of this ABV.

D: Undeniably good and unique, but for me, the barrel aging is a bit too much in front of the flavor of a barleywine that is really good by itself.

Photo of drtth
4.35/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Duvel glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically. This is the 2006 Vintage.

Appearance: The beer as poured is a slightly hazy brownish dark orange color with a ¼" off-white head with large bubbles that recedes fairly soon leaving behind a ring of foam and patch of foam on the surface. Sipping initially leaves minimal patches and speckled lacing along with lines of tiny bubbles.

Smell: The aroma is subtle and filled with fruity and sweet malt traces along with some traces of earthy hops mingled with toffee, honey and a bit of alcohol. The fruit seems to be both apples and pears.

Taste: As with the other versions of this beer, the flavor is almost liqueur-like from the rich malt. And it is is subtle and complex, with several things going on at once. There is a slight tang of apple and pear from the barrel. This is mingled with the sweetness of the malt that seems to have almost equal parts of honey and light toffee touched with a hint of alcohol,

Mouthfeel: The mouth feel is full-bodied, smooth and silky, almost oily, and has a soft tickle of light but persistent carbonation. The finish is long and begins with the sweet malt and honey flavors, tapering off to a slight but persistent tartness.

Drinkability: As with the other versions of this ale I've tried (the regular Harvest Ale, the Sherry aged and the Port aged, the sweetness borders on being too much and there are times when sipping this beer is almost like sipping syrup. What saves this one is its complexity and its slightly tart fruity flavor which would seem to come from the apple brandy. This is definitely a one a night beer, both because of its ABV and its sweetness.

18 Nov, 2014

Just had a bottle of the 2007 vintage and its definitely holding up well. Although there's little to no carbonation it needs to be poured carefully as there is a lot of sediment so don't expect anything resembling a head on this beer.

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 RedBrewer83
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into goblet...05' vintage.

A: Pours a golden orange amber hue with minimal head that falls quickly to a thin soap-like foam on top.

S: Smells like calvados! Huge apple caramelized apple aroma with hints of brandy and vanilla. A little spiciness also detected along with faint hints of oak.

T: This is a heavy beer and incredibly unique! Wow...huge caramel apple, molasses, maple syrup and lots of sweetness upfront. After that comes a very nice apple flavor backed up by just a hint of oak. Slight booziness comes through as well that only adds to the complexity. What a beer...reminds me a lot of DFH 120 without the hops...crazy!

M: Heavy and incredibly smooth with just a hint of carbonation. Pretty solid for this style and a sipper for sure.

D: For a bw at 11.5% this thing is dangerously smooth but the heaviness and booze make this a sipper. Delicious!

Photo of ClevoPiwo
3.92/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

'06 bottle poured into a snifter. The color is a nice deep, rich amber with a visible amount of sediment (I might need a spoon). The head only manifests itself as a touch of white foam that quickly settles in a thin ring around the edge - not much carbonation here.

The smell is big, fruity and sweet, with huge notes of raisin, apple and caramel. Not being versed in wine, I cannot comment on whether or not the Calvados is pronounced in either the smell or the taste) Overall, a very sweet and warm aroma.

The taste is similar to the smell, very sweet and vinous with a huge chewy mouth feel. Some of the oak comes through in the aftertaste and mildly in the background, but is largely overshadowed by the initial vinous sweetness.

While I'm not the biggest fan of hyper-hopped Barley wines, I thought this one could have used a little more dimension to its flavor as it was overmuch sweet.

Photo of JordanChabot
4.64/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2007 bottle. Poured into large wine glass @ around 50 Deg.

A - Rich golden honey color with little head. Speckled lacing with some dense remnants of foam amongst a soapy looking layer.

S - the smell is of rich concentrated fruit, slight maple and an oaky vanilla background. Definitely a lot of carmalized and some tart apple ripping through the overall soft presence.

t- Sweet but lightly coated with hints of green pepper, caramel, earth, toasted marshmallow and dark resinous wood.

M - Soft and viscous. very little carbonation. The most welcoming barleywine mouthfeel I've had to date. Warming, mellow, and a surprisingly clean finish.

D - Dangerously drinkable for a brew of its potency. Drink with care and appreciation.

Photo of tai4ji2x
4.52/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2006 vintage, but with an unusual non-glossy, pink-tinted label. weird...

tasted in mid/late may 2009.

1-finger creamy. sudsy head, fades to wisps and sudsy ring. almost no lace.

less fruity aroma than the 05. maple syrup notes? malty, woody. metallic hint?

taste is also less fruity than 05, but still malty sweet, w those apple brandy notes. woody and almost... earthy?

not as good as 2005, but still ok. man, i miss the '03.


2005 vintage. tasted in early/mid may 2009. poured into small tulip.

deep orangey amber. almost clear except for a few particles. (this thing is hard to decant, even if you're careful.) sudsy white head fades to sudsy wisps and ring. minimal dots of "lace" here and there.

aroma: fruity apple, dark rum and brandy tones with caramel, though not as rich as the 2003. wood hint, with grassy english hops. trace of diacetyl.

taste: apple brandy and dark rum tones again, with caramel (though again not as rich as 2003) and mild to moderate english hops with mild bitterness. sweet, both throughout and into the finish.

very gentle carbonation is there to compliment and give lift to the flavors. smooth, medium body, almost syrupy. very, very smooth.

not as stellar as the 2003 vintage, but great nonetheless.

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

Chilled bottle of 2006 vintage into a glass. Purchased at Monument in Concord.

A: Pours a murky mahogany color with a magnificent amber glow when held to the light. The head is fairly limpid, even with a vigorous pour, but it makes up for it by being substantially open to frothing when swirled. Leaves some trickles of lacing down the glass.

S: Oh, so good. Toffee, butterscotch, molasses, peanut brittle, grapes, oak, and apple. Lots and lots of apple. I had the pleasure of trying the regular 2006 some time ago, and found it too sweet in both smell and taste, and I was happy to see that the smell was substantially balanced with the Calvados aging.

T: Follows the nose very well. You get most of the nutty, caramel, and toffee sweetness out of the way first. The mid-taste is mostly molasses with a touch of peanut brittle pulling through, but it morphs into a fruit-based flavor where the grapes and apple really begin to shine as the oak backs them up. This is still on the sweet side, and I'd love to see some oxidation temper the sugars, but on the whole it is better than the 2006 base beer.

M: Full-bodied, but low carbonation that makes it very creamy and demands sipping. Still boozy though.

D: This tasted fantastic even relatively young (as compared to the regular 2006, which I found cloying and sweet). The Calvados cask aging does wonders for this one. I'd love to see how it ages with an older vintage.

Photo of NCSUdo
4.34/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3 oz bottle, brewed in 2006

A: Deep, rusty brown under a small off white. No lace, no retention.

S: Very sweet, caramel, toffee, a bit vinous, calvados is apparent, some toasted malt. Complex but very balanced.

T: Calvados apparent again as well as wood character, sweet, caramel again, maybe some molasses, toasted malt, mild bitterness, apple. Nice taste, very unique for me.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation is low, alcohol character is minimal but there. Drinkability is fine, a big beer that I can enjoy a few of. Very good beer from top to bottom.

Photo of Wasatch
4.35/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

9.3oz. Bottle
2006 Vintage

Poured into a chalice a very nice cloudy light brown color, nice carbonation, nice little fizzy off-white head, with some sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, sweet, with some nice oaky notes. The taste is sweet, malty, with some oak notes. Medium body. Very drinkable, this is one fine brew, highly recommended.

Photo of Rayek
4.29/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From a 2007 vintage bottle. Poured into a snifter.

A: Hazy deep amber with a lot of particulates. A steady stream of fine bubbles eminates from the bottom of the glass. The thin cream head sticks around as a thin film. Leaves bits of lace.

S: Vinous and powerful. Grapes and oak are joined by a bit of pepper and a strong dose of nose tingling alcohol.

T: Definitely a sipping beer. Grapes, raisins and pears provide a fruit sweetness that lingers through the experience. Balance is provided by an alcohol warmth that permeates the system. Yeast adds a slight sourness. Finishes sweet and warm.

M: The heavy body is syrupy and thick. Carbonation is subdued.

D: As I said before, this is a sipping beer. Finishing a full bottle is a slow experience to be savored. All in all, a great barleywine.

Photo of sinstaineddemon
4.59/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

done as a side by side tasting with the Lagavulin Whisky and Sherry, 2006 vintage

A - this ale is a dark brown, gobs of suspended sediment, a thin ring of white lacy forth around the rim of the glass

S - typical barleywine aromas, the dark fruit, raisisn, figs, molasses, rich roasted malts, a very sweet aroma with strong oaky notes

T - the initial dark fruit flavors are only for an instant and are taken over by rich sweet caramel, super sweet, through the whole sip, at the end, as the sweetness fades away, i can discern a appley sweetness, the kind of heavier sweetness like a overripe softer apple would taste like

M&D - amazingly smooth, like liquid velvet, no harshness, the high ABV is hidden well, its not overly/sickly sweet, just in all ways absolutely amazing

Photo of mikesgroove
4.62/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I grabbed this bottle when I was in florida. A 2007 vintage it was still a bit fresh but this one was drinking wonderfully. Served at cellar temp and poured into a snifter this one was consumed on 04/23/09.

The pour was very nice and pretty spot on for the style I have to admit. Rich caramel in color with great clarity and a smooth soft and creamy head of white. Rich toffee and caramel just dominated the aroma. Huge sweetness here with a touch of light fruit notes that came up as it warmed. Rich flavor as well. Very sweet with loads of caramel, toffee, and sweet candied sugar notes. Alcohol was very mellow even at this young age.

Overall a very solid beer and one of the best representations od the style I have had. I will be picking this up whenever I run into it for sure.

Photo of GClarkage
4.85/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

03/22/09- Purchased at Sun Devil Liquors in Mesa, AZ.

Presentation- 9.3oz bottle, vinatge 2004 poured into my JW Lees glass.

Appearance- Lighter colored caramel colored pour. 1/4 inch head with a light rim of foam. Light lace patches left behind.

Smell- The norm of dark fruits, raisins and figs. Sugary spice, a touch of alcohol and some caramel of course.

Taste- Really similar to the sherry cask one I had last night. Only a bit if barrel flavoring was the difference..and that was minimal. Strong sweet caramel flavor with dark fruits mingling around. Light alcohol taste.

Mouthfeel- Nice and thick, very smooth and dessert-like. Creamy as well. Lowest carbonation of the bunch.

Drinkability- The best of the bunch I have had so far. Overall the smoothest and best flavors.

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage. Polished apricot that is as clear as the proverbial bell. A vigorous pour has produced a good-sized crown of firm creaminess that is midway between ecru and ivory. Very little lace isn't surprising and doesn't detract too much.

It's probably nothing more than an overactive imagination, but the apple quality of the Calvados is appreciated in the aroma (Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France). The beer also smells sweet and a trifle woody. For some reason, the noses on these cask-aged versions never really knock me out.

The flavor is another matter entirely. I don't care what sort of barrels or casks you age it in, this is a fantastic English barleywine... that I need to review again because I probably didn't give it (the standard Harvest Ale) a fair shake.

While newer vintages are all over the place, don't worry a bit about the '03 if that's all you see. It's still fantastic and should last several more years at least. Time has smoothed and shaped and melded and done all sorts of good things that are evident with each eagerly anticipated sip.

Be prepared for some sugary sweetness. It's easily tolerated, though, especially since the bottle only holds 275 ml. That isn't much beer for $6.99, but it's worth it for an occasional treat, especially when the beer is this incredibly delicious. Which one you buy depends on whether you prefer sherry, port, brandy or Scotch whiskey. What the hell... try them all!

This is one of the fruitiest barleywines you'll ever drink. Specifics: apricots, peaches and apples swimming in candi sugar syrup. There's some amount of countering bitterness and the alcohol cuts through the sugars nicely as well. Butter caramel and wood make me think of an aged bourbon, although the beer tastes nothing like that particular spirit.

As always, the mouthfeel is all kinds of glorious, especially if you like them full and chewy. It could hardly be otherwise with so much malt and so many sugars. The bubbles, even though few and far between, keep the beer inflated and expansive in the mouth rather than flat and sticky.

J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) is the third member of this barrel-aged series that I've reviewed, and is the third gobsmacker of an English barleywine. Despite the expense, multiple bottles are purchased whenever I see them. They're incredibly good and they hold up ridiculously well. Highly recommended.

Photo of BierFan
3.52/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 9.3 ounce bottle into a flute. Brewed in 2007.

Appearance: Small off-white head, about the same color as the tan label. Dull and cloudy apple cider colored body.

Smell: I'll agree with other reviewers on this and say that "caramel apple" is a pretty good way of describing the aroma.

Taste: Very sweet. Brown sugar and apples are present. Little bit of alcohol bite on the finish. Too much apple and not enough barleywine in my opinion.

Photo of yemenmocha
3.87/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours orange-gold with virtually no head. Nose is richly sweet with apricots, apple, and honeydew. Palate is syrupy in texture, somewhat cider-like but thicker, with a very warm alcoholic cough medicine like finish. Interesting experimental ale, not sure if it is worth seeking to try, however.

Photo of woemad
4.52/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

9.3oz bottle of the 2005 vintage purchased at Huckleberry's in Spokane some months ago for $8.99.

Poured an apricot-like color into a St.Bernardus goblet, with virtually no head (not suprising, given this beer's potency). Despite some deliberate attempts at agitation, none formed afterwards. Some sediment can be seen floating about the glass when held up to the light.

Apples and booze was the first impression made upon me when I first smelled this beer. There's also caramel in addition to the fruity esters - as others have said, this smells like a big, alcoholic caramel apple. Doesn't seem like an English barleywine so much as a Belgian boozebomb.

The taste starts off with a massive sugary fruit blast to the tastebuds. A big, spicy, brandyish booze flavor quickly matches it. The aging in Calvados casks definitely leaves it's mark. The balance between sweetness and booziness is better in the taste than in the nose. Hops are conspicuous by their absence beyond providing balance.

Little carbonation, with a sticky, coating mouthfeel. Like with the lack of head, it's not surprising, given it's strength.

A fantastic dessert beer, which is what I'm using it as after a delicious meal. While one can gripe about it's small size versus it's price, I think a larger bottle of this beer might be too much of a good thing. I only wish I had an older bottle to compare it to, as I'm curious how more time would treat it.

Photo of waltonc
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Another treat thanks to JoeySchlitz's Christmas gift.

A: As with the whiskey-aged version, this is chock full o' chunks, so points are docked. Otherwise, it's cider colored with minimal head.

S/T: Sweet brown sugar, toffee, caramel, apples. Maybe a liquid caramel apple? An afternoon delight.

M: Thick, sticky, sweet, with light carbonation.

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 grub
3.77/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

got this one in a trade with vwcraig. thanks craig!

330ml bottle, 2004 vintage. sampled dec 28/08.

pours slightly hazy red-brown with a thin dense tan head. drops almost immediately and leaves a few spots of lace.

aroma is good. vanilla and raw oak. lots of fruit - raisin, date, fig, dried cherry and cranberry. alcohol. touch of dark chocolate. whole wheat bread. bit of cracker. apple. bit of apricot. lots of fruit going on in this one. burnt toffee. bit of caramel. loads of honey, reminding me of a braggot.

taste is sweet, much more so than i expected from the aroma. honey, caramel, toffee, lightly sweet fruit. bit of alcohol. vanilla. bit of cracker and wheat bread, but for the most part the sweetness seems to dominate. apple.

mouthfeel is ok. fairly low carbonation level. big sweet body.

drinkability is ok. i feel like i'm drinking pure honey or something barely diluted with beer. there's just so much sweetness here that it doesn't even feel like it's had 4-ish years to mellow out. the aroma is really nice but the taste is just like being hit over the head with sticky sweet caramel and fruit - too much for my taste.

Photo of Viggo
3.78/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle, big thanks to grub for sharing.

Slightly clouded reddish amber, nice red hue, medium, thick light tan head form, drops a ton of lace spots on the glass, and settles to a thick ring and light layer, looks nice. Smell is sweet, lots of toffee and molasses, oak, dark fruits, raisins, rum, alcohol, figs, very rich, apples, Calvados comes through a bit soft. Taste is similar, sweet toffee and brown sugar, very malty, lots of sweetness, light bit of oak, some Calvados, but mostly a fruity sweetness, some oak, rum and raisins, not bad, alcohol is very well hidden. Mouthfeel is full bodied, almost syrupy with low carbonation, smooth and drinkable if on the sweet side. Sugary, wouldn't be able to drink a lot of but its a nice sipper, thanks Russ!

Photo of beerthulhu
4.02/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Aged in calvados casks.

A: Pours a dark amber red with bright orange hues around the edges when held up to the light.

S: sweet honey and whiskey aroma.

T: The taste was equally as sweet with a huge sugary flavor with tons of brown sugar and molasses. There was a big caramelized malting with hardly any hopping to balance out the sweetness. Alcohol is spicy and sweet as well. This is truly a beer that should be sipped and savored. Overall a highly unique flavor but find it hard to consider this a barleywine with exception of the alcohol content.

M: thick , viscose, sweet, with a syrupy texture on the tongue with some honey sweetness.

D: Could not imagine drinking more then one at a time. A slow sweet sipper probably best suited to be shared due to its overwhelming sweetness.

Photo of cvfish
3.88/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured a cloudy brown color that produced a slight white head that disappeared quickly after it was poured

S - Complex scents, spices, fruit (possibly apples) and caramel

T - Wow, a mix of caramel and spices, light fruits and sutle bitterness

M - Heavy bodied, light carbonation but very filling

D - A beer like this was made to be savored, and if you slowly enjoy, it is great

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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.