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.

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.
View: Beers (19) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
Ratings: 411 | Reviews: 223
Photo of HardTarget
4.65/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 2004 vintage, 9.3 oz. (275 ml), Calvados Cask

Aroma: Malt! Some alcohol, almost a Bourbon aspect, musty grape, and even more alcohol as it warms.

Appearance: Deep brown glass with a tan collar that falls off. Great clarity for how dark the beer is.

Flavor: Oh! Sugar plums, raisins soaked in rum! Deep fruity esters in a sea of smooth malty goodness.

Mouthfeel: Long lingering finish, medium heavy body, low carbonation.

Overall Impression: Simply delicious. Hard core malt bomb with little heat and no burn. More… MORE!

Photo of OWSLEY069
4.3/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clean deep amber color, with a tan head. In the aroma, oaky, dried fruits such as plums. In the taste, oaky, dry alcohol, and plum-ish. A smooth dry alcohol mouthfeel, with a dry, candy dark fruit in the aftertaste. Kind of syrupy, but big flavors. Big in alcohol, but smooth, and a great sipper.

Photo of BEERchitect
4.5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The last in the series of cask conditioned J.W. Lees. This one lands close to the Port wine cask with it's sweetness, viscocity, and complexity. The alchohols are amplified by a rum-like sweetness and power. The flavors swirl around fruit cake ingredients: candied fruits (especially cherries) while throwing in peaches, pears, apples, raisons, nuts, and berries. Deeply sweet and rooted in a rum-cake maltiness and breadiness. Lightly boozy and modestly efforvescent. Finishes with a long, lingering sweetness. For me this one ranks second in the series; right behind the port cask.

Photo of hoppymeal
4.42/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2004 vintage. Pours medium copper, mainly clear, with a flash of cream head that fades immediately. Aroma shows ripe fruits, raisins and cherries, big warming alcohol and bourbon in the aroma, small amount of weet vanilla, and hints of leather when agitated. Taste is a hugely rich raisin and brown sugar flavor, like a dessert with the strong sweetness, nice bourbon hints at a bite but never is more than a growl. Mouthfeel is medium to heavy, low carbonation, slightly dry in the finish with a warmth of alcohol. I love the original harvest ale and find that this one is not blending well yet as far as the flavors go, still an outstanding beer, but compared to the original I think I would cellar it a little longer to let things develop.

Photo of mntlover
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage poured into a sniffer.

Pours a lightly hazy orange/amber color with just a skim of tan foam that falls to small ring. No lace is left but none really expected.

Aroma is vinous, caramel, brown sugars nice spicy alcohol prominent but blends well. Nice barrel notes, good mellow vanilla dominates but some dry wood noted underneath. Very inviting big barley wine aroma.

Taste is sweet malts caramel mingled with brown sugars make a big entrance and is just shy of cloying. Then the vinous fruits check in for a touch moving into vanilla spicy alcohol finish that still contains lingering sweetness. The alcohol that smells big is not big in flavor blends well and is not a distraction at all.

Mouthfeel is a big medium with a good mellow mouthfeel almost no carbonation noted but doesn't seem flat at all.

Drinkability is good an enjoyable treat that would be great on a cool winter night. Only draw back would be cost.

Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.81/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 Calvados cask aged.

A - A slightly hazy orange to amber brew with no head and no lacing.

S - Brown sugar, dates, caramel, strawberries, faint bartlett pears. Alcohol is easily detectable, but not oppressive.

T - Very sweet (though certainly less so than the non-cask aged version) caramel with brown sugar and a touch of faint granny smith apples and a hint of lemon rind. A bit of a woody, mossy bitter finish. Alcohol throughout.

M - Very smooth, medium bodied, pretty refreshing. A warming effect.

D - Not bad. I liked the harvest ale and this is more palatable for drinking a full bottle. I will seek out the the other cask aged types.

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

9.3 ounce (275ml) bottle as shown. A gift from my son. Good boy.

Moderate pour into a tulip glass yields a small tight light-tan head that fades fairly quickly over a hazy dark amber body. the thin lid that remains leaves some nice lacing around the edges.

Smell is all apples (and pears!) over a boozy vanilla-y malt base. Sweet and vinous. Strongly aromatic, with a fascinating vanilla potato-bread-dough backbone. Sweet raisins and salted (!) dates. There's something in there that reminds me of hoar-hound drops: not quite licorice or anise, but heading that way. Wonderful and intense aroma. Vanilla and apples throughout.

Taste is overtly sweet and appley up front, then the middle is like buttered raisin-bread toast. Then the alcohol comes up with figs, dates and the fascinating hoar-hound flavor. A bit of black pepper. Underlying all is a solid cracker malt foundation. Just a hint of metallic-pine hops in the finish. The woodsy notes from the cask are all through it from start to finish: vanilla is ever-present in the front, middle and finish.

Mouthfeel is thick and slurpaliciously syrupy. The long sweet finish sticks to the palate. This is a sipper.

Drinkability is limited by the intensely sweet port-like character and by the 11.5% ABV.

What a great desert beer this would be: the sweet apple flavors from the calvados cask aging are obvious and vigorous, even perhaps a bit too overt for some. It's an intense and astonishingly complex monster, and it grows as it warms a bit and breathes. I highly recommend it. Not for the faint of heart or palate, this is a stand-alone sipping beer.

Photo of jdhilt
4.37/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a three finger cream head that fades slowly to a thin ring leaving some lace. Cloudy amber color. Light carbonation and heavy bodied. Strong molasses nose. Flavor is sweet molasses and caramel, slightly cloying. Sweet alcohol finish, nice ale but must be drunk sloooowly. $6.99 for a 275ml bottle from John's Grocery Iowa City, Ia. Brewed 2004.

Photo of BretSikkink
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Mammoth barleywine from J.W. Lees.

Clear pour, amber colored brew, some head that recedes to almost nothing.

Alcohol and malt dominant, like a powerful doppelbock, vinous and oaky.

Apple, wood, big sugary malt flavor with a lot of fruit underpinnings. Some bitter flavors, definitely the brandy in there. Huge amount of flavor, thick mouthfeel and very smooth despite the 11%.

Photo of SilentSabre
3.97/5  rDev -2%
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
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
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
3.67/5  rDev -9.4%
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
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
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
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
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
4.32/5  rDev +6.7%
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
4.14/5  rDev +2.2%
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
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
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
4.21/5  rDev +4%
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
3.3/5  rDev -18.5%
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
3.1/5  rDev -23.5%
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
3.75/5  rDev -7.4%
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
3.28/5  rDev -19%
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
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
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
4.64/5  rDev +14.6%
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.

to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
90 out of 100 based on 411 ratings.