Christmas Ale
Harvey's Brewery

Christmas AleChristmas Ale
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Harvey's Brewery
England, United Kingdom
English Barleywine
Ranked #160
Ranked #20,943
3.8 | pDev: 14.74%
Jun 18, 2022
Dec 18, 2001
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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Photo of jlindros
Reviewed by jlindros from Massachusetts

2.19/5  rDev -42.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.75
NO vintage I can see
Pours a mild foamy bubbly small head that fades fairly quickly, fair lacing, very clear cranberry auburn red color

Nose is a bit strange and unique, sweet malt, candy malt, lots of fruit, like fig and date but a rotting version or something, sour plum, a little foot like musty funk thing, mild oxidation with some cardboard and port wine, sweet mild syrupy malt and candy

Taste brings the sweet candy malt, candied apple, burnt rubber and sour plum, more mild foot funk, cardboard oxidation and some brandy, a mild bitter spicy hop, rotting fig, weird burnt spices, I don't think I can do much more of this

Mouth is mild syrupy sweet, med to lighter carb, a hint slimy like somehow to to add more evil to the experience

Overall WTF did I just experience?! Something must have really gone wrong with this beer or batch, it's only 7.5% abv so different than the original, and just bad, wow.
Jun 18, 2022
Photo of 40ontarget
Reviewed by 40ontarget from Colorado

3.64/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5
Amber brown color with only a sparse bit of off white head. The smell is big and bready, toffee, Earl Grey tea, leathery, with honey and lavender. Taste is dates, currants, port wine, and dry tobacco on the finish. Medium bodied with mild carbonation. This is an interesting pour...not one of my favorites though.
Mar 03, 2022
Rated: 3.77 by prototypic from Ohio

Jan 16, 2022
Rated: 4.04 by GregSemenza from Connecticut

Dec 25, 2021
Photo of GuyFawkes
Reviewed by GuyFawkes from Illinois

3.59/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
Undated bottle; drank 12/20/21 @ the Yarchives.

See-through orange/brown appearance.

A rough pour yielded almost no tan head; decent lace.

Mulled cider & mild vinegar notes in the nose.

Medium mouthfeel. Apple cider, mild caramel & faint vinegar flavors.

This was...interesting, but not all that appealing. Not one I'll seek out again.
Dec 21, 2021
Photo of emerge077
Reviewed by emerge077 from Illinois

3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75
This one is a little odd. Not much spice to speak of, malty and leathery. Two fingers of tan foam and ample delicate lacing. Smells like Malt-o-meal cereal, cooked malt, burnt sugars.

Tastes raisiny, like prunes and fairly vinous. Supposedly this is what Christmas pudding tastes like, but it’s sort of a loose impression. Light bodied and fruity, stewed fruit, burnt sugar, malty stickiness in the aftertaste. Mellow carbonation, lighter side of medium bodied. Slight astringency, a whiff of hop bitterness in the aftertaste. Pretty old school, though not like any barleywine i’ve tried.
Dec 09, 2021
Photo of DIM
Reviewed by DIM from Pennsylvania

3.35/5  rDev -11.8%
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
Rated: 4 by paulish from New York

Mar 14, 2021
Photo of micada
Reviewed by micada from New York

3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
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
Rated: 2.92 by rangerred from Tennessee

Jan 04, 2021
Rated: 3.99 by ummswimmin from New Jersey

Dec 20, 2020
Rated: 3.84 by tobelerone from New Jersey

Dec 13, 2020
Photo of Sigmund
Reviewed by Sigmund from Norway

4.16/5  rDev +9.5%
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
Photo of vinicole
Reviewed by vinicole from England

4.04/5  rDev +6.3%
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
Rated: 4.25 by steverx8 from England

Dec 22, 2019
Photo of superspak
Reviewed by superspak from North Carolina

3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
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
Photo of dcotom
Reviewed by dcotom from Iowa

3.63/5  rDev -4.5%
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
Photo of Sludgeman
Reviewed by Sludgeman from District of Columbia

3.26/5  rDev -14.2%
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
Rated: 4.15 by Luscious_Malfoy from Illinois

Mar 22, 2018
Photo of bret717
Reviewed by bret717 from Pennsylvania

4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
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
Rated: 3.5 by aztraz from Sweden

Jan 08, 2018
Rated: 3.92 by _nickg_ from New Jersey

Jan 06, 2018
Rated: 3.02 by baklo from North Carolina

Dec 25, 2017
Photo of woodychandler
Reviewed by woodychandler from Pennsylvania

4.09/5  rDev +7.6%
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
Photo of cjgiant
Reviewed by cjgiant from District of Columbia

4.17/5  rDev +9.7%
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
Rated: 4.03 by Beer-A-Lot from Virginia

Dec 16, 2017
Rated: 3.72 by mltobin from Connecticut

Nov 26, 2017
Rated: 3.68 by Silke_Neryn from Sweden

Nov 11, 2017
Photo of Bouleboubier
Reviewed by Bouleboubier from New Jersey

3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
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
Rated: 4.07 by Cascade24 from Iowa

Aug 03, 2017
Rated: 3.73 by Wer34truh from Minnesota

May 30, 2017
Rated: 3.75 by rfgetz from New Jersey

Mar 12, 2017
Rated: 4.3 by CwrwAmByth from England

Jan 17, 2017
Rated: 3.75 by bigred89 from Maryland

Jan 01, 2017
Photo of ClavisAurea
Reviewed by ClavisAurea from New York

4.28/5  rDev +12.6%
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
Rated: 3.29 by jmg480 from Pennsylvania

Dec 11, 2016
Rated: 4.68 by ajdemma from New York

Dec 07, 2016
Photo of Beginner2
Reviewed by Beginner2 from Illinois

4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25
I might reveal too much about myself, 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, sometimes sweet and minimal bubbles to let the fruit work its way into the palate.... just the way I like.
So if I like English barleywines so well, why don't I move there? (After the 2016 election, I thought I might.)

That said, Christmas Ale is highly-hopped by English standards. Not surprisingly, this goes great with dry Christmas cookies... with lots of butter fat.

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... but I prefer cookies.

12/8/21 After a seven hiatus (itch?), I had Harvey's Christmas Ale again. It was good, again. I edited the above review for maturity and am happy to keep count over @ UnTappd, whenever I get the itch.

I also owe Harvey's one of my micro-reviews. My story is I intended to visit them in 2014 when we went to Brighton and took the train to a tennis tournament in Eastbourne. Lewes was a stop on the train. But as life is, we had tickets to the tournament and were late. So, we didn't stop at Lewes. But I did see that Harvey's is right near the station and did see their sign inviting me in. It would have been a nice slice of tradition... but this Christmas Ale is enough.

And for the review.. While I've had only three different ales of their's, the website indicates Harvey's is a classic southern English brewery; having less than a dozen products, but some 45 of their own pubs and multiples more offering Harvey's ales. Family owned for generations, they strive for perfection and pass it on. Cheers !
Apr 30, 2016
Rated: 4 by shigg85 from Japan

Apr 09, 2016
Photo of Jerseyislandbeer
Reviewed by Jerseyislandbeer from Jersey

4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
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
Christmas Ale from Harvey's Brewery
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 226 ratings