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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)

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397 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 397
Reviews: 220
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 13.58%
Wants: 28
Gots: 74 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: rhoadsrage on 06-23-2005)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 397 | Reviews: 220 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of dbalsock
4.35/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5


App: Pours brown with a reddish hue and no head... little carbonation and what might be the smallest bit of lacing ever seen.

Smell: Bourbon and brandy both come out with the raisins and plums, alcohol and almost chocolate dark malts. This smells fantastic. I just wish I had a fire to enjoy this in front of.

Taste: Raisins, plums, brown sugar and a littlest hint of hops. The aftertaste is of smooth brandy and some woody grape.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, low bitterness and warming alcohol.

Drinkability: Very drinkable for something so strong. I could have this regularly if it was available. It's one of those beers I don't think I could get sick of.

Photo of phisig137
4.18/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

9.3 oz bottle from the 2004 vintage pours a deep amber brilliant ruby red color, with a creamy half finger head. Little retention lets the head completely disappear. Giving the glass a swirl does coax out some carbonation, that slowly rises through the viscous fluid.

Aroma is quite a nose full. Right up front are complex malt aromas of toffee, burnt sugars, and caramel. Apple presence is there, but fairly muted, same with the vanilla aromas. There is a bit of a raw aroma scent mixed in with peppery alcohol, and a bit of leather.

Flavor is much like the "standard" harvest ale, but with a twist. Very sweet from front to back, with massive maltiness up front. Towards the middle of the flavor, the apple really shines through from the Calvados casks, along with warm vanilla notes. raw wood brings up the rear, along with some prevalent alcohol. This is the beer equivalent of Vin Santo. I like the fact that the cask flavor is well integrated, and not overpowering like many barrel aged beers can be. This is a perfect beer to barrel age.

Mouthfeel is incredibly thick, heavy, and creamy. When coupled with the sweetness, it is almost like drinking warm honey. Drinkability is good for the style but pretty low overall.... this is a sipper for sure.

This is one stellar beer. I personally like the original Harvest ale a bit better, especially when it has about 8 years of age on it. I think I'll be holding on to one of these for another 6 years to see if it improves as much.... I'll be curious to see how the cask flavors meld and hold up to the age. Highly recommended if you're looking for a sweeter beer, and fantastic on a cold winter night by the fire after a big dinner. Well worth the $7.95 I paid for the bottle.

Photo of bruachan
4.2/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

just made love to a bottle of the lagavulin. this one is a 2005

for some reason it's not as prolifically pungeant as the one i just tried. the aroma is similar: brown sugar and ethanol, but the apple makes it distinct from the other. there might even be some spice

the difference in flavor is a nuanced one, as well. ii've never tried calvados, but this makes me think i might want to. it's delicious, though i'm not convinced this will lead to eudaemonia like the whisky might. it's not as complex. the apple hits first then toasty caramel

this is a great experiment these fine brewers have conducted. i'd love to do something of the sort

Photo of nouseforotacon
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Ale matured in Calvados, label reads brewed in 2003. Very vinous nose upon opening this one.

Rich, transparent, beautiful amber bottom pours into my over-sized Duvel tulip glass. Visible carbonation from the bottom, with a creamy film of off-white foam sitting on top.

Nose is very vinous and dry, with traces of alcohol. Hints of honey and rich, dark chocolate. Berry and fruity, earthy.

Extremely sweet, honey coated on the tongue. Smattering of spicy, bitter hops all over the flavor. Very sweet, very rich. Warming alcohol presence that pleasantly heats me up. Vinous, wine-like grapes, with a mix of berries. Wood/earthy finish with a lingering hint of apples. Buttery, syrupy mouthfeel, like butterscotch and cream.

This one is truly a treat; it has seemed to age really, really well, with a wonderful balance of flavors and a vinous profile that is not overpowering or overwhelming. I dig this one.

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 akorsak
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is a 2005 bottle of Calvados. Previously, I reviewed a 2004 bottle.

A: The barleywine is a amber orange color with no head and little carbonation.

S: The nose is very sweet malts with a hint of buttery oak.

T: The taste is very malty and punctuated by sugary sweetness. It is oaky and chardonnay-like with a very dry appley finish. Hops are an afterthought, as the malts and calvados have done well flavor-wise.

M: The mouthfeel is both sweet and sharp, allowing appley liquor hints to emerge.

D: This ale seems to do a bit better when fresh (vs an '04 that I tried a few weeks back), but you still can only handle one at a time.

Photo of Bierguy5
3.03/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

11.5 % ABV, 2004 bottle. Pours a hazy chestnut color, with a thin off white head. The head disappears very quickly. Huge apple, pear, brandy, boozy aroma. Aroma really jumps right out of the glass. Sweet, syrupy and fruity flavor, with notes of apples, oranges and pears. Very thick and coating, with very little carbonation. Maybe a bit of caramel flavors at the end. A bit warming from the alcohol. Somehow this is smooth, but overly sweet. The sweetness was too much for me.

Photo of cjgator3
3.73/5  rDev -7.9%
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.

Photo of murrayswine
3.25/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

First, I love Barleywines, they're probably my fav style, but if you let the barrel it's casked in become the beer, then it has failed, in my eyes.

The color is beautiful burnt sienna with a slight unfiltered haze. No head whatsoever.

The smell is, well, calvados, which if you havent had is very acrid, yet dark fruit sweet. Prunes, and wheat bread.

The taste is sweet. Too-sweet apples, like granny smith, unbalanced with a very cloying sweetness. Maybe its' just this bottle. The alcohol is numbing, like a spirit would be.

I will try another bottle. I CAN taste the quality in the beer, and I CAN sense the flavors of the barleywine, but the calvados barrel had to have a more than average amount of brandy left in it, because I have a bottle of real Calvados, and it tastes like I just drank it neat.

Photo of cbl2
4.28/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

7/27/2005 $5.89 275 ml 11.50% No best by date. None Required.


Pours a murky brown, with hints of orange highlights. Moderately still with some fine carbonation, yielding only a thin film around the rim of the glass.


Calvados is an apple brandy, and while I cannot detect the apple, I sure can smell the brandy, lending this an intense alcohol aroma, coupled with some sweet malts.


Sugary sweet, with a ripe tropical fruit/maple syrup viscous mouthfeel. Sugars are so intense that the heady alcohol is almost completely masked until the last drop trickles down your throat.

While not an every day drinker, this is an exceptional treat, that is like liquid gold. I can't wait to compare the Calvados to the Sherry to the Laguvilin, as well as how the age through the years.

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

Pours the color of bright, homemade apple cider, with minimal head. Complex aroma of dark fruit (figs, raisins), molasses, candi sugar, bourbony vanilla, and a trace of candied apples. Huge on the palate. Spiced molasses to start with, then apple tartness combined with rich, figgy sweetness, followed by a vanilla crescendo. Giant malt sweetness is maintained throughout. The finish is long, hot with alcohol, and sweet. A very interesting English barleywine. It seems that the calvados treatment has diminished the coffee/bitter chocolate aromas/flavors of JW Lees Harvest, in favorite of a still-sweet, slightly tart fruitiness in line with a Calvados character. Very interesting brew.

Photo of Fugazme
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Version '04.

A nice ruby-black pour... not much for head, just a nice lacing with some legs when swirled. Looks very nice.

Aroma is large with raisins and figs... very sweet and a touch smokey... caramel... a great nose.

Flavor is sweet... almost too so. A touch cloying, even when sipped over the course of an hour... that being said, this is a tasty beer. Lots of fig and even a little cherry...

Shared a bottle on the back deck in the late evening... highly drinkable if shared... I couldn't down the whole thing myself.

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.9/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2004 Harvest Ale matured in Calvados Casks (tried on 7/7/06)

Presentation: 275ml bottle (9.3 fl.oz.) 11.5% Alc/Vol. Single obverse cream colored label with word Harvest in green text and a small dark green rectangle below which has the words ‘Ale matured in Calvados Casks’. Below that ‘Brewed in 2004 – Limited Edition’. Sealed with a dark green crown cap.

Appearance: A lucid amber body has a polished dark copper glow when backlit and projects a red Autumnal sunset onto the desk. No head, except for a sliver of a halo head formed from very small light tan colored bubbles. Gentles swirls induce a gentle fizz and a temporary thin covering as carbonation breaks form solution, it also coast the walls of my McEwan’s Scotch Ale goblet with a thick oily alcohol residue.

Nose: Apple schnapps and sweet malts meld with a soft alcohol in the nose. Brown sugar with healthy dollops of steaming home-made sweet apple sauce and a thick malty undertone.

Taste: Low on toffee but it is there. The higher tastes are sweet prune juice mixed with a particularly alcoholic apple brandy. Thick texture helps to coat the mouth and tongue with a mastic-like deposit that lingers long after the swallow. Finish has gentle wooden tones as the apple sweetness slowly settles down and fades away; maybe it is the Calvados Oak barrels. Immensely sweet with a healthy alcohol and malt contingent which has an involved flavor profile.

Mouthfeel: Thick and very syrup like, sweet in the sense that it feels like prune juice mixed with rich apple brandy. Smooth feel but very sickly at times.

Drinkability: The sweetness is too dominant, I’m not too big on sweet beers so (for me at least) the Drinkability suffers from a sickly sweetness as you get to the bottom of the bottle, though it does go rather with some Extra Sharp Irish Cheddar I must say, the sweetness helping to balance the dry cutting tones of the cheese.

Overall: 2004 Calvados - is a little too sweet for my liking, maybe time in the bottle will reduce this, but I strongly suspect that actually it will not as the sweetness coming from the Calvados seems engrained. A pleasurable effort nonetheless and a nice night cap, but not one I would pick up again.

Photo of nriech
3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2004 bottle
Poured a dark amber color with no head. Good lacing. Looks a little thick. The initial smell is sweet but there is a touch of charred wood which was very unique (a good unique.) After the sweet passes, there is absolutely an alcohol presence.

The initial taste was very sweet, almost sickening. The flavors that emerged were of plums, apple and walnut. The apple was expected as thats what Calavados is made from but the nutty flavor was unexpected and well received. In the end the initial sweetnes was a little too much to make this a favorite, however it is a great example of a different kind of oak aged beer with complex flavors.

Photo of mcallister
3.55/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Tried at a JW Lees tasting with the Langavulin, and vintage ales of '05, '00, '99, '98, and '88.

This Calvados is an '05 version.

A pale copper color. Very little carbonation with no apparent head or traces of lace.

Sweet wood aromas. Brown sugar, burnt caramel, and a sweet malt expression.

Much more subdued than it's lagavulin counterpart and in my opinion it's a good thing. At least 2% less RS than the lagavulin. Bigger caramel with a more complex malt component. Much more balanced and drinkable. No alcohol present in the mouth. Ends with a long smooth creamy mouthfeel. Yet still overly sweet, hence a less than stellar drinkability.

Photo of scooter231
3.15/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This was an interesting treat, to say the least. Poured into a simple wine glass, it looked like cloudy grapefruit juice. No head. No lacing. Just juice. Smelled like balsamic vinegar and lemon zest, with a hint of tart apple. Still not too scary, though.

The taste was something else. Brandy-esque, sweet. Strong. Calvados. This wasn't horrible, didn't taste bad, but boy is this sucker a sipper. I shared, and we had to eventually take turns taking gulps to finish it- and by gulps I mean barely large sips. It just wouldn't end! It felt like it kept re-filling itself. Mouthfeel was kind of blah, watery, thin. I couldn't have too many of these- I couldn't finish ONE- I'd rather have a smaller portion, as a long, long nightcap.

Photo of Sephiroth
4.38/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2003. Pours with a little head. Body is a toasted orange. Aroma of equal parts apple and young JW Lees Harvest Ale.

Taste has improved over the years. Vanilla slight chocolate multigrain molasses caramel dipped apples. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy. Drinkability is great, I could drink eight or nine of these over the course of the day. I'll try, anyway.

Photo of Jredner
3.9/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Aroma is heavy on alcohol, white fruits...apple/pear, malt and some lesser woody notes. Opaque red/brown/amber in color with no head nor even the suggestion of one. Foretaste is tons of caramel malt, sweet not quite ripe white fruits and a dry (maybe that is from the wood in the casks hard to tell) finish. Quite syrupy, but didn’t seem to work as well to me as the Sherry Aged version.

Photo of pfknapp
3.75/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Had this beer last night, 2004 vintage. I probably should have let it age, but then I wouldn't know how it changes. Anyway, served it in a tulip glass at cellarish temps. Looked beautiful in the glass, minimal head and bright amber color. Smelled strong of booze, malt and dark dark dried fruits. I caught raisins and some prune in there, i think. The boozey smell was a bit over powering. Taste was more of the same. Incredibly sweet, dark dried fruits, intense maltiness and a nice aged oak character. I have never had calvados, but I picked up a liquor character that must have been imparted by the cask. A bit too sweet for me, but otherwise excellent. It had a wonderful aftertaste that lingered pleasantly. The toasted oak and roasty malt flavors really came out in the aftertaste. I can only imagine that they would be more prevelant if the beer weren't so sweet. Mouthfeel was excellent, nice and chewy, just what an english barleywine should be. The drinkability suffered due to the alcohol presence and primarily due to the sweetness. I had trouble finishing the one 9 oz. bottle. All in all, it is a good beer, and if the sweetness diminishes with age it will become an excellent beer.

Photo of ommegangpbr
3.33/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

On cask at the Hop Devil Grill in NYC; a nice, rare opportunity to try such a thing.
A memorable beverage, to be certain.
Calvados profile through and through.
In my opinion, one would be better off drinking Calvados than this but as far as beer making goes this is an interesting experience.
Looks a little ordinary sitting in a wine glass; no head, no lacing; kinda looks like unfiltered apple juice or cider.
Quite fragrant, nearly inviting but stops short of saying "DRINK ME!"
The taste is very much Calvados. Pretty classy apple brandy stuff going on, though it's love it or hate it. I have no doubt this is exactly as it was designed to be and I give it high credit for that but it was pretty tough SHARING an 8 ounce portion. Smooth and viscous but sometimes it wasn't a good thing. This is a thinky-er fluid. Maple syrup came to mind at times... but stops short of being syrup like.
This is a two or three ounce at a time in a snifter sort of creature. Not really my cup of tea... or beer as it were... but I'd give it another go just to be sure.

Photo of Crosling
3.15/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Bright red color. Fairly aromatic, full of deep apple brandy, coconut and vanilla from the wood along with a light aromatic malt presence, with hints of fruits, brown sugar and caramel. The most aromatic of the Harvest cask ales, thus far. Lacking body however, like ever Harvest cask ale. Flavor is very, very sweet, more like a dessert beer and definately more of an after dinner beer. Light apple brandy flavors, caramel and fruit pie with well hidden alcohol. I think these beer need more time in the barrel, perhaps they would take on more depth and body.

Photo of CortexBomb
4.38/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2003 bottling consumed in early 2006.

Pour is pale orange, no head, hardly any carbonation evident at all. No cloudiness in the colour at all. Somewhat surprising. Still maintains a decent score though because of the way it sticks to the sides of the glass properly on shifting. Smell is strongly sweet, with an apple tinged edge on it. Oak. Alcohol. Depthy. Interesting.

Taste starts out very sweet up front, and then turns mildly sour. An apple effect combines with all of this on the back of the tongue where the hops should be. In addition to the apple tinge, other light and dark fruits are certainly present, raisins...plums...as well as a strong brown sugar aspect, i.e.: the normal Harvest Ale flavour profile. The Calvados cask seems to be adding to it without dominating it, just one more thing to savour. A certain woody aspect is there on the finish. Very tasty.

The mouth on this is also quite good, sticky, full, just like a proper english barley wine. Drinkability, as always, depends on how you can rank something like that on a beer that is made to be a sipper, I'll just call it quite good, as it was hard to put down.

These experimental JW Lee Harvest Ales are pricey to pick up, but the flavour more than makes up for it. The Calvados aging adds a definite dimension to the beer that I enjoyed, and I'm sure any English Barley Wine fan who also likes the flavour of apples would enjoy this one. Great beer.

Photo of scruffwhor
3.73/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 275ml bottle. Bottled in 2004.
I don't know what calvados is exactly, but hopefully this brew will give me a good idea in case I ever find the real thing.

Appearance- Pours a clear yet very dark amber with no lacing and a minimal head after a hard pour.

Smell- By far the sweetest smelling beer I've ever had. Apricots, dates, prunes, purple grapes, pears, and cloves make up a powerfully sweet potpurri of smells.

Taste- Starts out as sugared prunes in the front, but the middle and back was just assaulted by sugary sweet malts and fruits. One dominating fruit tase reminds me of when I've had a grape that stayed on the vine a little too long. All itssugar seem to be more concentrated. The fruit flavors were almost overwhelming.

Mouthfeel- A heavy bodied barley wine that just wraps itself around your tongue like a flavor blanket. As interesting as the flavors were, I didn't like the overwhelming sweet palate.

This is a sipping beer. I recommned drink slow starting fresh out of the refrigerator and let it warm up as you drink it. There will be some noticeable differences.

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.6/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Crystal clear, honey-colored body topped with a white frothy head that quickly dissipated to a few random bubbles.

Smell: Very appealing. Fresh apple juice is trenchant with honeysuckle, wood, toffee, and a splash of alcohol.

Taste: Opens distinctly malty-sweet and couples nicely with the lively, electric flavor of apple brandy. The rich, dark fruit flavors from the standard Harvest Ale are apparent. Also, a touch of spice. A bright acidity and leafy hop taste help to balance. If you can drink this beer without at least getting a little sense of joy, you are a cold, unfeeling monster. No offense.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied. The smooth, lush mouthfeel, is nicely accentuated by the fine carbonation.

Drinkability: Truly a sipper, but a good one. When you finish the beer and set down the empty glass with shaky hands and a dopey grin on your face, that means its a good beer.

Photo of nlmartin
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

The beer was poured from the bottle into a wide mouthed wine goblet.

Apperance: This beer poured a amber to copper coloration with a slightly hazy coloration. The head was very thin and resolved quickly. The head coloration was off honey coloration. Thin specks of lacing left behind on the glass.

Smell: The beer smells very very boozy. Underneath all the boozy smell is a very nice malty bed. There is a smell of caramel and apple goodness.

Taste: Like the smell it taste massively boozy. There was a brief spicyness to the beer. Then the beer went straight to sweet malt bomb. The beer is almost cloyingly sweet with very little relief. I could taste a very subdued woody apple taste. The hops are not even a player in this beer.

Mouthfeel: The beer has a very slick mouth feel. There is practically no carbonation. Taste has a very long lasting sweet malty aftertaste. This beer just totally crushed my palate. I couldnt taste anything else for almost an hour.

Drinkability: Frankly the beer was to boozey and just to dam sweet for my taste. This beer would probably be ok for spliting a couple or three ways. Definately a siping beer. I still have another bottle in the cellar. That is probably where it will remain for a year or ten.

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
91 out of 100 based on 397 ratings.