Christmas Ale | Harvey & Son Ltd.

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Christmas AleChristmas Ale
Very Good
Christmas AleChristmas Ale

Brewed by:
Harvey & Son Ltd.
England, United Kingdom

Style: British Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.10%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
A traditional barley wine. The biscuit malt and vinous fruit palate is balanced by a strong hop bitterness. It is warming and reflects the spirit of Christmas. Recipient of Finland’s Olutseura Olviretki award for ‘excellently’ fulfilling “The Christmas Beer Regulation” described in Aleksis Kivi’s novel ‘Seven Brothers’.

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Reviews: 170 | Ratings: 211
Photo of superspak
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

9.3 oz bottle into tulip glass, no bottle dating. Pours fairly crystal clear deep orange/amber/light copper color with a small dense cream colored head with good retention, that reduces to a thin lace cap that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of raisin, plum, cherry, fig, date, peach, pear, apricot, melon, red apple, honey, caramel, brown sugar, toffee, toasted biscuit, nuts, and brown bread; with lighter notes of sherry, roast, leather, tobacco, citrus peel, wood, herbal, floral, grass, pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Touch of diacetyl in the aromas, but not overwhelming. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/bready malts, fruity yeast, and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with solid strength. Taste of big raisin, plum, cherry, fig, date, peach, pear, apricot, melon, red apple, honey, caramel, brown sugar, toffee, toasted biscuit, nuts, and brown bread; with lighter notes of sherry, roast, leather, tobacco, citrus peel, wood, herbal, floral, grass, pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Light herbal, floral, grassy, woody, peppery, roast bitterness on the finish. Lingering notes of dark fruit, cherry, peach, pear, apricot, melon, red apple, honey, caramel, brown sugar, toffee, toasted biscuit, nuts, brown bread, sherry, roast, leather, tobacco, citrus peel, wood, herbal, floral, grass, pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/bready malts, fruity yeast, and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; with a great malt/bitterness balance, and no cloying/astringent flavors after the finish. Light-moderate increasing dryness from lingering bitterness. Light carbonation and medium-full body; with a very smooth, moderately creamy/silky/bready/grainy, fairly sticky/resinous, and lightly slick balanced mouthfeel that is nice. Minimal warming alcohol for 7.5%. Overall this is a very nice English barleywine. All around nice complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/bready malts, fruity yeast, and light-moderate earthy hop flavors; very smooth and easy to drink with the modestly bitter/resinous/drying finish, not aggressive. Great balanced complexity of rich malts, fruity yeast, and earthy hops against sweetness. A very enjoyable offering, and spot on style example.

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Photo of dcotom
3.63/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 11.2-ounce bottle into a holiday tumbler. Color is a deep reddish amber, with one finger of off-white head that left a bit of lacing as it settled. Big aromas and flavors of caramel, biscuit malt, prune, and raisin, with a touch of honey-like sweetness. Bitterness is understated. Good body, quite a bit of dried fruit and a little sourness lingering on the finish. Nice warming quality that befits a winter beer. Recommended for fans of the style.

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Photo of bret717
4.42/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Look- pours a beautiful crystal clear deep golden brown; thin ring of head, no lacing

Smell- Leather, prunes, sweet tobacco

Taste- leather, sweet pipe tobacco, prunes, finishes slightly bitter with a mild boozy kick

Feel- medium body, coats the mouth

Overall- very nice sipper with a ton of flavor packed into it. Like chewing on leather belt (in a good way)

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Photo of woodychandler
4.09/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Christmas 2017 is progressing nicely! I have a (crock) pot roast going, the Doctor Who marathon on the telly & now I am about to delve even more deeply into some English Christmas Ales. I should do this every year.

From the bottle: "The British Bottlers' Institute Awards [-] Gold Medal 2000[,] 2011[,] 2013[,] 2014"; "Recipient of Finland’s Olutseura Olviretki award for ‘excellently’ fulfilling 'The Christmas Beer Regulation' described in Aleksis Kivi’s novel ‘Seven Brothers’."; "Winner of Finland's 'Paivyri' and Sweden's Dagens Nyheter Christmas Beer Competitions"; "Sussex Brewers since 1790".

I Pop!ped the cap & began a slow, gentle pour into my awaiting glass. I had not left a lot of room for a swirl or any resulting head, but I gave it a try all the same. This produced a brief finger of soapy, foamy, light-tan head with modest retention. Color was Dark Brown to Very Dark Brown (SRM = > 27, < 34) with NE-quality & garnet highlights. Gorgeous! Nose smelled like "Ho ho ho!" in a glass. Dark, dried fruits ruled the day, ranging from raisins & prunes to cherries, raspberries & blueberries as well as a light woodiness & a wrap of caramel. 8=O I think that I may buy another bottle (or two) for aging! Mouthfeel was a little thin for the style. Oh, well. Can't have it all. The initial taste was like a dark fruit riot, but a bit sweet, kind of sugary overall. I repeat, this may be a great candidate for aging. There was a woody flavor, to boot, like it had been barrel aged, but don't take my word for that. The yeast had clearly done its job as it tended towards fairly dry on the finish, but without diminishing the persistent fruit flavors. I totally agree with calling it "vinous" & while it was not especially bitter, it definitely had a pronounced fruitiness leaning towards tart. I would be VERY interested to see how it ages. Back to The Friendly Greek Bottle Shop!

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Photo of cjgiant
4.17/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap:
This seems a nice cross of an English and American barleywine, though the bitterness has a slight oxidized note to it.

Clear amber-brown, with a sustaining rusty head and moderate early lacing.

Nose is caramel sweet malts with a dose of pine and grass hoppiness. Light booze, toffee, spiced bread is countered by an earthy hoppiness.

Flavor shows the booze with a candied date, dark cherry, and sherry-like taste. Sweetness peaks early, then let’s the balance of hops play with it. A little berry-like tartness teases the back before a sweet coating plays against a hop dryness.

Interesting and enjoyable, not too malty, not too bitter. This beer seems to balance some it’s internal leanings to extremes quite well.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
3.73/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

(11.2 oz bottle, poured into a teku)

L: clear, garnet-colored liquid - striking, brilliant; very little foam on pour, and what built up is a shore of fisheyes... only a thin, and broken collar clings; no lace

S: lightly-burnt sugar, hard candy, spice, subtle plum, soft hint of tobacco and its smoke... no overt hoppy notes, any fruity aromas seem to be dominantly yeast/alcohol-derived... sort of smells more akin to a Belgian Scotch ale (or something like Kwak)... halfway through, and some pleasant vinous booze emerges, nicely balanced against the other aromas

T: berry-flavored bourbon, backed by a burly, moderately dry, mildly roasty malt... dark caramel awash in port... wide, perhaps acrid, vaguely black pepper and green tea flavors and lingering, bitingly tannic bitterness at the back of the palate, almost, in combo, seeming partially as if coming from mild infection, or just aggravated by phenols... some cereal character in the malt arrives late

F: light-bodied and taut, with a delicate syrupy viscosity; lifting, medicinal parch at the back of the tongue; mellow, rosy warmth at the top of the throat... lovely interplay of oils and heat, whiskey-like

O: tasty and full-flavored, for sure, but not as uniquely nuanced and dirty as I'd hoped... but it does beg for sipping and could pair well with some nutty, nougat-y sweets, and/or some dried, dark fruits or earthy cheese

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Photo of ClavisAurea
4.28/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

No bottle date to be found. It's old though. Looks pretty clear and ruddy. Low to no carbonation. Tobacco, figs, port, sherry, raisins, dates, malty sweet. A nice winter warmer for a cold Christmas Day.

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Photo of Beginner2
4.04/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

I might make myself unpopular, but I really prefer the English rendition of the Barleywine than the American. And the reason is simple: I prefer malt over hops.
Harvey's is malty, even sweet and, by American standards, flat.... just the way I like.
So if I like their barleywines so well, why don't I move there? (After the last election, I think I will.)
Christmas Ale is highly-hopped by English standards. Not surprisingly, this goes great with Christmas cookies.

Reviewed in the "1001 Beers To Drink Before You Die," it deserves to be on the list.
Reviewed in MJ's "Guide" gave it 3 of 4 stars and called it "cakey." An apt description.

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Photo of Jerseyislandbeer
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A Xmas gift from a friend who went to Lewis for work. 275ml bottle. Pours a dark reddish colour with a very small beige head. Aromas of sweet malt, toffee & caramel. Taste is much as aroma along with biscuit, and mild alcohol. The finish has a sweet caramel bitterness. Overall a very good winter ale.

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Photo of Brutaltruth
4.04/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thoroughly enjoyed from the bottle in a snifter via our Scottish friend----Thanks Keith!

This fine ale pours a brilliant ruby red color with a thin dissipating head that subsides to a thin ring and subtle pool. Nose of toffee, sherry, and moderately strong booze. Flavors far exceed the nose with toffee and sherry notes up front and to the middle of the taste with notes of brown sugar and light yeast notes. Back fades to a cherry and fig flavor with a light breaded quality. Light carbonation as a good English warmer should be, smooth and warming with a coating effect. Very solid, VERY nice. An excellent ale from England and a welcome brew to behold-----and one I could hold out on no longer. Excellent!


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Photo of MacMalt
3.94/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into tulip glass. It pours a lovely ruby red with a thin, ecru head and lacing. It has that quintessentially English smell of toffee, along with some brown sugar and biscuit. What a rich taste: sweet malt, cranberry, cherry, prune, caramel, and brown sugar. It is like drinking a fruit cake. There is no hop presence. This is a nice, full-bodied ale with little carbonation; it's almost like drinking port. You really don't notice the 8.1% ABV. This is truly a winter warmer and a delightful dessert beer. It's a festive brew and I wish I had drank it at Christmas rather in the "Bleak Mid-Winter." I may buy a couple of these and save them till December.

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Photo of bark
3.63/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

The colour is mahogany-brown, the liquid is clear. The finger thick beige head dissolves quickly leaving no lacing.

The quite mild smell got notes of biscuits and wood-aged liquors. Some alcohol and toffee.

The taste is sweet and malty balanced with floral hops, orange peel and biscuits. Full body. The aftertaste is bitter-sweet with caramel sauce, rhubarb jam and smooth alcohol. The long finish got booth clean bitterness, tart fruits and caramel biscuits.

The carbonation is strong, the short-lived bubbles are sharp. The liquid is semi-smooth ans sticky.

A malty caramel brew with interesting floral/fruity citric hops.

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Photo of Kendo
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle has been in my fridge since last Christmas. Consumed on 12/25/15.

A: Poured from the bottle into a Corsendonk Christmas glass. Body is chestnut-amber with no real head.

S: Dark fruit, toffee, brown sugar, caramel.

T: Fruity malt with dried fruit, port wine, caramel, brown sugar, some notes of toasted grain. Hint of booze.

M: Completely flat, call it medium-to-full in heft.

O: A good seasonal sipper. May've been better when fresh.

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Photo of 57md
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours the color of chestnut roasting on a open fire with a finger of head.

The feature in both the nose and flavor profile is a molasses sweetness. The body is average for the style and the mouthfeel is sticky

Update December 2017: Enjoyed a year-old version of this holiday tradition on Christmas Day. Honestly, I did not notice much of a discernable difference between the aged version and a freshie but my memory may be fading.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +24.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

L: Brilliant chestnut under a very thin white film of foam. S: An array of dark dried fruit and spice. T: Yeast esters, dark dried fruit, fig, and big malt flavors. F: Chewy and low carbonation.

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Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.59/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 275ml bottle with a BB of May 2015. ABV is stated as 7.5%. Purchased a little while back from the Harvey's brewery shop. Bring on the Christmas!

A: Poured into a cervoise. A clear coppery-brown hue with medium carbonation. Yields a small head of frothy beige foam that lasts for a minute or two before subsiding and disappearing.

S: Aroma of sweet, fruity malt with hints of prunes, dried fruit, port/sherry, fruitcake, caramel, mild brown sugar, yeast esters, faint stewed leaves and just a twinge of sourness in the background. Not particularly assertive but pretty good.

T: Tastes of sweet, fruity malt with a lingering yeasty finish. Notes of prunes, dried fruit, port/sherry, caramel, brown sugar, mild toasted grain, fruity yeast esters, stewed leaves and a touch of cardboard. Possesses a subtle vinous quality that adds depth, along with a hint of booze. Quite sweet, followed by a leafy bitterness upon swallowing.

M: Mouthfeel is smooth and tingly, with soft carbonation and decent body for the style. Somewhat astringent, accompanied by an aftertaste of sweet, fruity malt, twiggy bitterness and stewed leaves/cardboard.

O: OK if not outstanding. Looks a tad lacklustre, while the aroma and flavour supply a reasonably interesting blend of rich, fruity malt notes and yeast esters. Sweet and slightly vinous, though the bitterness jars a little. Body is alright. Decent but not the greatest Xmas brew ever. Try it if you stumble across it.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.28/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This pours a clear dark copper with a tiny head of foam that shrinks quickly to just a ring around the glass.

The smell is malty, sweet like Port, with a slight bitter note or two.

Yummy the taste is.Besides the Port like character, which I almost always dig, I get some nice nutty tones and more than a bit of bitterness.

Medium body goes well with the light carbonation.

A real treat of a beer for me and my palate.

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Photo of fx20736
4.46/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bought from Premiere Gourmet, December 2014. Poured cool into a St Bernardus chalice.

Look: Sharp and clear dark amber with a Tawny Port hue. Minimal head disappears quickly. No lacing.

Smell: winey over some thinnish toasted malt. More complex than that but I can't define it.

Taste: rich nutty malt is overlaid with young raisins and toffee.Dark fruit finish.

Feel: clean and soft, minimal carbonation.

Overall: The sum is greater than its' parts. Barleywinish. Very good.

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Photo of seedyone
4.75/5  rDev +24.7%

01/11/14 From bottle at Rattle n Hum, NYC. Smooth, rich, prunes, thick. Not sweet nor too hoppy or dry. Lovely perfume for an aroma. 8% and you'd never know it. Liked this a lot but can get pricey. Reminds me of a very good sherry or light port. Not meaning to sound gauche, but did I mention rich?

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Photo of NilocRellim
2.82/5  rDev -26%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured from the bottle.

The beer poured with very little carbonation.

It was hazy and auburn in colour.

The beer smelled strongly of figs and spices.

The taste was like drinking alcoholic raisin/prune juice with a few spices. It was also a bit slimy on the tongue.

Would I buy it again? No. I just do not care for those types of flavours.

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Photo of kaufmaal
3.36/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This one sloshed out of the bottle, virtually no carbonation other than some off-white bubbles around the edges. Undated bottle, so perhaps an old one. It has the color of iced tea. Smells like Coca-Cola: sweet, some ripened fruit, raisins, vanilla. The taste is a real let-down: sweet, a bit malty, some more vanilla. The alcohol is well hidden, but it tastes like flat coke mixed with some orange soda. I'm willing to try it again as this may be an old bottle.

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Photo of BraveUlysses
2.35/5  rDev -38.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Truly a let down. After seeing the high reviews on BA, I had very high expectations for this brew. It poured with little to no head (maybe due to a bad pour) and the color was fine, but nothing particularly appealing. I drank this out of a Perfect Pint glass, but didn't really experience much nose on the beer after pouring (related to my imperfect pour, perhaps?) But the taste was the biggest disappointment - I can only compare it to flat soda. Sweet, with little carbonation and just a mediocre sugary taste. Couldn't even finish it.

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Photo of brentk56
3.68/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours a hazy ice tea brown color; the head is a mass of large bubbles that quickly fade away, leaving a salting of lace on the tulip glass

Smell: Burnt brown sugar, leather, cream sherry and a hint of soy

Taste: Soy sauce infused toffee, on the front end, with leather and caramel apple flavors in the mid-palate; the finish is somewhat boozy, with cream sherry notes; a touch of lactic sourness in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with low carbonation; a bit of warmth in the gullet

Overall: Though I bought this bottle the other day, I have no idea how old it was; given the price mark-down, I am sure it was not this year's edition and it may not have been last year's either; as I look through the previous reviews there is a distinct downward trend and reduced number of reviews over the last few years so it would not surprise me if this beer hasn't been imported for a while; trying to account for all this, I find that there are some pleasing aspects to the beer but the soy sauce, in particular, really detracts from the overall enjoyment

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Photo of Beerenauslese
3.32/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Body is dark reddish brown, head dissipates rapidly.

Smells malty sweet, raisins and honey, a little fresh tobacco.

Tastes very malty sweet, with notes of raisins, prunes, and other dark fruit, a little coffee. Has a slightly bitter finish.

Body is medium and carbonation is low, not quite flat but close.

This is a winter warmer that is very malty, fruity, and pretty sweet, but not very spicy. It is just OK and lacks complexity. It doesn't hold my interest and I would not have another glass of this.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
3.47/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Review from 1/2010 notes. Poured into a Caracole small snifter. Pours a somewhat cloudy dark, ruddy brown amber. Very slight head formation on pouring that disappears quickly, little carbonation. Aroma of dark fruit and sweet malt. Flavor is moderate dark and dried fruit and sweet malt with light holiday spicing. Medium body. Pleasant, but nothing to bring me back next year. Kind of wanted to like this a bit more. No date on the bottle, from the source, it could have been an older bottle.

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Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
Beer rating: 3.81 out of 5 with 211 ratings