Christmas Ale
Harvey's Brewery

Christmas AleChristmas Ale
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Barleywine - English
Ranked #214
Ranked #21,399
3.87 | pDev: 14.21%
Harvey's Brewery
England, United Kingdom
Very Good
Christmas AleChristmas Ale
Notes: 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: 176 | Ratings: 220 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of DIM
DIM from Pennsylvania

3.35/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

No freshness information that I can see. Faint tea, tingly potpourri, and mild apple and pear.
Floral, perfumed bitterness at the end. No off flavors, it's just milder than I expected, even for 8.1%. pretty lackluster overall.

Jul 02, 2021
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micada from New York

3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

No date? There is a “12” underlined on the bottom of the bottle. Poured fridge cold, hard to an IPA glass. Color is a dark, clear amber. No head, but some carbonated bubbles. No real nose, but maybe some plum vibe. I think the cold is doing major disservice. First sips are very stone fruit forward, with a fair amount of floral hops, not in the bitter range, though. It’s tasty and goes down easily, especially in this baby bottle of 9.3 oz. 7.5% ABV is hidden well up front, and no warming as it’s consumed. $5 on advice of the clerk I trust, it’s good though I’d definitely go warmer to start if I tried it again. Overall, refreshing.

Feb 15, 2021
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Sigmund from Norway

4.16/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

275 ml nip bottle, at London Pub, Aalborg. ABV was 8.1%. Dark ruby colour, minimal beige head. Low carbonation. Intense aroma of malts, molasses, caramel and oak. The flavour has loads of malty sweetness, molasses, fruity, vinous and oaky notes (port wine, sherry), low bitterness.

Dec 05, 2020
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vinicole from England

4.04/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bootle conditioned. 7.5% ABV. Pours deep amber with a quickly diminishing light tan head.
Rich fruity aroma. Toffee noticed.
Toffee apple flavour. Initial sweetness completes with a light bitter taste. Some tobacco and stewed prunes.
Soft carbonation the feel of which is quickly lost. Lighter than expected body.
An excellent beer for the 25th December.

Dec 25, 2019
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superspak from North Carolina

3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

Dec 20, 2018
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dcotom from Iowa

3.63/5  rDev -6.2%
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.

Dec 19, 2018
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Sludgeman from District of Columbia

3.26/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Purchased at Arrow Wine for $4.99. Poured into a tecnu glass.

An easy drinking beer. More like an higher ABV ESBB than a barleywine. I will rate to style as categorized. 3.25

A - Pours a clear amber with a one-finger rocky off-white head. An aggressive pour resulted in an almost nitro-like roiling carbonation. Good lacing. Head dissipates pretty quickly. 3.75

S - A malty aroma. No sweetness and a bit of alcohol. 3.25

T - Malty, faint sweetness, biscuty, some herbal hoppiness, slightly vinous. 3.25

MF - Medium light body with smooth dry, but not bitter, finish. 3.0

Dec 08, 2018
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bret717 from Pennsylvania

4.42/5  rDev +14.2%
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)

Feb 21, 2018
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

4.09/5  rDev +5.7%
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!

Dec 25, 2017
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cjgiant from District of Columbia

4.17/5  rDev +7.8%
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.

Dec 23, 2017
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Bouleboubier from New Jersey

3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
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

Aug 16, 2017
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ClavisAurea from New York

4.28/5  rDev +10.6%
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.

Dec 25, 2016
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.04/5  rDev +4.4%
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.

Apr 30, 2016
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Jerseyislandbeer from Jersey

4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
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.

Mar 31, 2016
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Brutaltruth from Ohio

4.04/5  rDev +4.4%
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!


Mar 01, 2016
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MacMalt from New Jersey

3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

Feb 01, 2016
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bark from Sweden

3.63/5  rDev -6.2%
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.

Dec 27, 2015
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Kendo from New York

4.02/5  rDev +3.9%
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.

Dec 26, 2015
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57md from Pennsylvania

4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
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.

Dec 10, 2015
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pat61 from Minnesota

4.75/5  rDev +22.7%
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.

May 13, 2015
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jazzyjeff13 from England

3.59/5  rDev -7.2%
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.

Jan 09, 2015
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Bitterbill from Wyoming

4.28/5  rDev +10.6%
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.

Jan 04, 2015
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fx20736 from New York

4.46/5  rDev +15.2%
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.

Dec 28, 2014
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zeff80 from Missouri

3.97/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle. Poured out a burgundy color with little to no head. It smelled of vanilla, sweet caramel and toffee notes, too. It tasted very malty and sweet with caramel and sweet toffee.

Dec 15, 2014
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seedyone from New York

4.75/5  rDev +22.7%

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?

Sep 27, 2014
Christmas Ale from Harvey's Brewery
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 220 ratings