Harvey's Christmas Ale | Harvey & Son Ltd.

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Harvey's Christmas AleHarvey's Christmas Ale
Very Good
208 Ratings
Harvey's Christmas AleHarvey's Christmas 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’.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 12-18-2001

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Ratings: 208 |  Reviews: 168
Reviews by scootny:
Photo of scootny
4.35/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A thin but tightly beaded head forms as I pour form the bottle. Decent retention and a respectable amount of lace. A cola brown brew with sediment particles floating throughout. No carbonation evident.

Smell is sweet with caramel, bready malts, and darker fruits mixed with cherries. Some roasted aromas coming through as well as yeasty fruit esters

Taste is roasty toasted malt and toffee. Coffee and burnt caramel. Figs and currant juice. Finish is long and sweet with a touch of alcohol. Mild hops cut the sweetness and balance it nicely. Dark fruitcake lingers in the mouth along with a sweet alcohol taste and sensation

Mouthfeel is light syrup and superfine carbonation. Just enough bubbles to keep it from sticking.

Drinkability is better than the abv would lead you to believe. Very easy to drink a couple of these. Good stuff here.

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More User Reviews:
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 oberon
3.67/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear medium brown with a thinner white head that is gone pretty fast,whoo this is a malt lovers dream here on the nose brown suger,orange rind,and prune dominate just a light touch of earth letting you know there are hops in there.Full almost syrupy mouth feel it coats the mouth before gliding down quite easily,the orange accents prune flavor is quite intense with notes of vanilla and cedar in the finish.Now this is a very complex sipping beer here only one would be enough for me cuzz it could get cloying,but still a very nice winter warmer I really liked the complexities.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.12/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – Dark brown with the appearance of dark sugar syrup. Absolutely no head to this one.

Smell – The big woody notes lead the way here, followed closely my dark malts, alcohol, and truckloads of sugar. Besides the table and brown, there’s also an aroma of dark, overripe fruits that are liquefied. The brown scars on a banana come to mind.

Taste – There’s a new flavor here that’s not in the aroma. It’s very tart and alcoholic, almost like a shot of apple brandy. Otherwise, the big sugars and dark malt from the nose complete the taste.

Mouthfeel – This tastes a lot stronger than the ABV on the bottle. Besides that, it’s full and juicy.

Drinkability – Excellent ale for the Christmas holiday.

Comments – I reviewed the Elizabethan Ale yesterday, and this has to be from the same barrel.

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Photo of warnerry
3.3/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not sure when this was bottled. Label says there is a best by date on the cap, but I don't see one.

A - Pours a clear amber/copper with almost zero head.

S - Lots of caramel malt, a bit of fruit, mostly apple, and a bit of candi sugar. Pretty nice.

T - Alcohol is quite noticeable, along with sweet caramel malt, some sugar and brown sugar, and some tart fruit. Has a very faint burnt flavor, and some spices leading to a dry finish.

M - Medium mouthfeel s initially quite syrupy, but finishes dry and with some bitterness.

O - A pretty good winter warmer, but not one I would go back to.

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Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: Short brown 9.3 oz bottle, no freshness date found though common sense tell me that it has been brewed for Christmas of 2000.

Appearance: Clear brown amber with a thin yet frothy tiny bubbled light tan lace.

Smell: Fruity tartness with a sugary caramel aroma. Touch of pungent sweet hop oil in the nose. Smells of baked apple crisp.

Taste: Creamy smooth with minimal carbonation, almost velvety smooth from the oats. Full bodied with a big chewy malty mouth feel. Sweet with a quick flash of hop twang, hops struggle to keep up with the sweetness though they leave a trail of earthy oil straight into the after taste. Alcohol is slow to start, then warms more and more towards the end of the glass. Highly crystallized sugars in the crystal malt form a brown sugar like flavour with a mild burnt taste towards the finish. Residual sugars are plenty.

Notes: Close to a stock ale or strong ale from centuries past this brew is indeed a well fortified brew of body, strength and complexity. The most impressive winter seasonal I have had from the UK that is available state side.

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Photo of merlin48
4.24/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2000 vintage, with a colorful, nativity painting from a Sussex, church on the label. Pours a clear, copperish red body with a small beige head of large bubbles on an aggressive pour.

Aroma knocks you back with a powerful assault of maltiness. Caramel, butterscotch, and molasses combine with a rum-like alcohol zing to immediately call you pay attention to this old ale. Some burnt oak wood lends a regal smokiness to the superb nose.

Mouthfeel isn't so exciting. Low carbonation is not a surprise for an aged English strong ale, and the vinous alcohol is appropriate and sherry-like.

The taste is quite complex. Bigtime malt flavors of caramel, toffee, and molasses start things off. Rum soaked dark fruits quickly let you know that you're dealing with a serious, strong ale here. This little bottle is full of surprises, as smoked almonds and a note of dark chocolate join the profile. You can sense a strong alcohol presence here, but it's a warming sensation wrapped up in the complexity of the flavors.

Very well crafted, and a near perfect winter warmer for a strong old ale from England. Have one of these and curl up in front of the fireplace on a cold, winter night. Wish I had bought a few more of these to cellar until next winter. The 2000 vintage will only get better with a bit of age.

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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 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 ADR
3.6/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Dark chestnut color, thin head that's speckly. Tiny dot laces. Very malty aroma, heavy amounts of dark caramel candy. Whopping in thickness and depth, bitter chocolate with about ten tablespoons of dark brown sugar mixed in. Low carbonation and lush mouthfeel. A whiskey-like alcohol takes over mid mouth to close, the heat works as much as the peppery hop to balance. Slightly unpleasant stewed prune effect and cloying aftertaste. Seasonal, a cold night beer seems to be the best niche -- like a pull on a bottle of Yukon Jack behind the bleachers at the High School Winter Dance...

Source: Liquid Solutions

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Photo of ByTor2112
3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Spencer at City Beverage said this was a 2005. Pours a light slightly murky brown color. Very thin head formed and was gone.
Aroma-sweet, malty, buttery, fruitcake-ish with lots of dried fruit aromas. Alcohol was detected on a deep inhale.
Mouthfeel-sweet mellow English Barleywine taste. This aged well and the hops have diminished to an almost nonexistant state. Alcohol is faint and this ale stays sweet to the finish. Very tasty and I would like to taste a fresh one sometime. It was very good as an after dinner beverage also.

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Photo of rastaman
2.9/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A lot better than the Elizabethan ale, quite a raisiny syrup flavour, which i think is associated with most Harveys brews, but this doesn't go too over the top and it least it has a bit of spice to it, which adds a bit to the dimention of the beer overall, but still a little to sweet in my eyes.

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Photo of DagFishHead
4.25/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep ruby-mahogany body. Frothy tan milkshake head fades quickly leaving an edge ring and a few floating dollups. Minimal lace.
Smell: Dark fruits, oaky, woody, molasses, carmelized baked apples with cinnamon. Whiff of alcohol.
Taste & Mouthfeel: Lush, full-bodied, creamy/slick sweet malt, cherries, raisins, molasses at the start. Velvety, low carbonation at the top. Soothing light alcohol warmth. Dry, bitter hops attempt to dry out the finish leaving a semi-dry bitter fruity aftertaste. All very well balanced.
Drinkability: Holy Christmas, a fine sipper!

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Photo of NJpadreFan
1.53/5  rDev -59.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

A friend and I swap beers from our six packs so it is cheaper to try different brews. Since I never heard of Harvey's x-mas ale and its the holidays I thought its worth a try.

Blahhh, man was I wrong.

It poured dark brown with no head.
the smell was wretched raisins, prunes, and something rotten I presume.
the taste was terrible- raisin juice plain and simple. I swear Harvey is an inmate of Sing-Sing prison who makes this Pruno hootch in his toilet.
After 3 sips it was poured down the drain! Sorry Harvey!!

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Photo of tastybeer
4.09/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark red burgundy, cloudy and dense topped by a modest bubbly head. Aroma is tart and sweet, with green grapes, orange peel, lemon peel, purple grapes, plumbs, chocolate, pipe smoke, molasses, toffee, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff. The smell goes on forever until the next beer. Taste is similar in length. Nice balance between the sweetness and dry fruitiness. Body is full feeling but still like an ale. Nice mellow carbonation. Easy to drink at an enjoyable pace.

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Photo of cokes
4.44/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky dark rust with a thin, large-bubbled, lacy sandstone head.
Smells densely of leather and prune juice, interwoven with figs, tart stony cherries, and toffee, riding high atop an oaky port essence. Very few things are so sniffable, and even fewer that aren't chopped into lines.
Enters malty and blanketing. Like a big fuzzy caramel rug with patchwork raisins, molasses, and figs. A sense of smoked pork arrises, fading gradually to a tobacco spiciness. Prunes develop late, preluding the oak-rested port. A black grapiness holds the finish, with everlingering caramel nougat and suede.
This strikes a nimble balance of rich and drinkable.
A bit esoteric, and its eccentricities are difficult to accept up front. But by the finale of this (all too small) glass, I'm willing to call it classic.

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Photo of Sammy
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2003 edition. Dark brown sugar brown with light head. Lots of licorice anise carmel taste and aroma. Modest carbonation. Easy drink, worth trying the one time, but won't go for it again. Bit of tongue tingle. Syrupy mouthfeel. Sweet prune juice and tabacco aftertaste.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.42/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A long-standing bottle pours a clear, deep mahogany body with crimson and orange highlights beneath a thin collar of creamy off-white foam. There's very little head (very British), but the soft and smooth mouthfeel more than makes up for that. It has a very fine, low-level, natural carbonation and medium/full body that work together to give it an impressive mouthfeel! The nose is lightly vinous with dark fruit (plum, cherry, a mild note of currant) and alcohol; but reveals some caramel with further investigation. The flavor is less fruity than the nose suggests; but still offers rich, juicy fruit (mainly cherry) wrapped in caramel and light cocoa with an underlying bitterness. It finishes dry with some residual fruit and caramel that slowly dissolves to reveal the wide bitterness and drying alcohol beneath. It's very well balanced; and the alcohol gives a pleasant warmth on the tongue, but never becomes more than secondary. Fairly rich and complex. Quite nice!

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

9.3oz bottle, Riley's

enjoyed while watching the snowfall

appearance: pours a rich amber with no head to speak of and some moderate lacing. murkey, tinted slightly brown

smell: toasted malts, some dark fruit, red apple, toffee, caramel, raisins, dates, fig...grassy hops present, festive aromas

taste: fruity...apple, cherry, plum...toasted malts, caramel presence, holiday spice, raisins, dates, slightly nutty...slight alcohol. pretty solid warmer

mouthfeel: quite smooth, alcohol not abrasive at all

drinkability: very drinkable, which begs the question, why such a small bottle!?

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Photo of Doppelbockulus
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%

Photo of aztraz
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of russpowell
3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a murky brown with minimal beige head. Above average head retention & lacing

S: Plums, figs & a bit of wet cardboard

T: Rich plums, figs & herbal hops up front. Dryness, metallic hops, apples with cinnamon, & brown sugar as this warms. Finishes fruitty, with a touch of leafy hops, candi sugar & doughy notes

MF: Chewy with minimal carbonation, balances well

Drinks okay, I could do a pint or 2 before moving on. Solid winter warmer that I'm sure would be stellar on cask

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Photo of jackndan
2.5/5  rDev -34.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Harvey’s Christmas Ale: Whoa. Virtually no head to speak of, and I poured the crap out of it. Very lightly carbonated. The beer is a medium brown, which is very hazy, opaque. The aroma is strong, alcoholic with dried fruits like prunes and raisins. Not much of a beer, but not that bad of a plum wine or some such thing. Alcohol is, to me, the dominant flavor of this brew. Tastes are raisins, a little rum, and some Holiday/pumpkin pie spices. Weird candy aftertaste for some odd reason. Not so nice, do not bother.

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Photo of dgallina
2.99/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

275ml thin brown bottle without freshness date. Was labeled a 2002 vintage on the shelf.

Pours clear red-brown without head or lace. Smells sweet and toasted; full of raisins, spiced cookie dough, and caramel laced with alcohol spice. The taste is unexpected to say the least. Starts rounded and toasty, but rapidly turns quite bitter and unpleasant. Mostly an herbal sourness that develops out-of-control diacetyl and phenols in the finish. Medium-sticky body with surprisingly lively carbonation for the age. Perhaps worthwhile when fresh, but hard to tell at this age.

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Harvey's Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
Beer rating: 3.81 out of 5 with 208 ratings