1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale 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.

402 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 402
Reviews: 222
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 13.58%
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
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 402 | Reviews: 222 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of SilentSabre
3.93/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

275mL bottle $6,49 Merchant Package Johnson Ferry Rd. Marietta, Ga USA.
Brewed in 2004
Poured a warm, medium brown colour with a nice slightly off-white head that faded away in about 90 seconds. The warm, inviting colour paired with the consistency of the liquid make this a very attractive looking drink. I can only imagine having this on a cold December night. Smell is quite sweet. Brown sugar, toasted cereal grains, and perhaps some cooked apples and really mild spice are what immediately comes to mind. This smells so nice.
While this is indeed a really nice drink, I didn't think the taste was as *amazing* as I was thinking it would be. It's very sweet, and as it warms (no, I didn't have it cold, just cool) notes of apples, alcohol, and wood become apparent. All of this is very nice, but the sweetness here is quite assertive. Mouthfeel is very heavy and solid, which I like very much. Overall, this is a very nice English Barley Wine, but I think there are better offerings available from this brewer.

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

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

2003 Vintage

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

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

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

mouthfeel: very smooth, filling, boozy sweetness

drinkability: tough but i'll manage

Photo of yelterdow
3.65/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served at cellar temperature in a bulbous, oversize brandy snifter. Brewed in 2004 and cellared at home for about two years.

Appearance- Pours a rich, deep amber... almost a syrupy body... which attempts to create a small, sporadic thin head. An interesting swirl of hazy film caps the beer, with larger bubbles that pop away along the edges. Looks like a traditional high-octane sipper of an EBW.

Smell- Luscious, gooey malts surround and enter the nose, accompanied by the boozy Calvados character from the barrels. Rich, dark fruits and apples now make their aromas known and they mix with the powerful malts.

Taste- Rich and intensely sweet, the malt profile concedes to a massive wave of concentrated, matured flavors with a latent finish of apples soaked in port wine. After the swallow, the tongue and insides of the mouth bask in the tingly, alcoholic sensations left behind.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Prickly at the tip of the tongue, this beer retains some activity while in the mouth and keeps it from being flat. Bursting with huge, complex flavors... but not my favorite of the special edition Harvest series.

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


It pours a ruby amber, bordering on a rich copper brown. A thin finger of thick, creamy beige head settles soon to surface traces. Tracings of lacing etch the inside of the glass, but only barely.

The aroma is a testament to blended complexity, with a repetitive progression of toffee, caramel, plum, currants, and just burnt brown sugar. Also redolent but a step behind are oak, apple, honey, brandy, bourbon, and alcohol-soaked vanilla.

Upon sipping, the malt sweetness is dense and happily cloying, like brown sugar syrup mixed with treacle and plums, with raisins and vanilla dipped in for good measure. An oak note comes through loud and clear, again with an almost smoked impression, and the alcohol is cloaked slightly by a fortified brandy effect. The sweetness clings tenaciously throughout, with caramel and apples along for the juicy ride. The finish sees the apples crisp a bit, becoming green perhaps, but drying only the merest tad. The one downside to this earthy beast is that the sweetness takes over the tastebuds and renders much of the flavor a brief visitor.

Full bodied, it's thick, dense, syrupy, and sticky, laying a candy-napalm slick across the tongue and refusing to give up ownership to the territory.

In the aroma, there's just so much of everything, and in the flavor, as much as there is, the sweetness still slaps it back into a subservient role, but the result is a bold yet subtle blend of complex elements. I can tell you it is a simply marvelous partner to any number of blue cheeses, with Cabrales my personal favorite at the moment. The ABV is notable, just slightly masked, and a force with which to be reckoned. Still, as a standalone sipper or as a mate for earthy foods, this is one British beauty that has a place in just about anyone's cellar.

Photo of bluejacket74
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

9.3 ounce bottle, brewed in 2004. The beer pours a reddish/brown color with no head at all. It smells like dark fruit, apple/pear/brandy (which I assume is from the Calvados casks aging), sweet malt and brown sugar. The taste is sweet and tastes like brandy, brown sugar and some dark fruit, it's a very sweet tasting brew. Mouthfeel is full, slick and thick. Drinkability is good, even though this is definitely a sipping beer. Overall I liked this beer a lot, although I don't think I could drink more than one of these at a time.

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.

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