Harvey's Christmas Ale | Harvey & Son Ltd.

Harvey's Christmas AleHarvey's Christmas Ale
Liked This Beer
3.8 w/ 199 ratings
Harvey's Christmas AleHarvey's Christmas Ale

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

Style: English 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: 199 |  Reviews: 165
Photo of wailingwench
5/5  rDev +31.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2002, from Premier Gourmet, Buffalo $3.20

Eye Candy: Transparent brown in the center with an amber hue around the edges.Excellent head, 1 finger thick, creamy, velevty. Swirling enlarges it. Sticks to the sides of the glass. The best retention I have ever witnessed. I was amazed that after 20 min, swirling renewed the head.

The Nose Knows: Smells British, this is a good thing. Rich molasses, hint of raisin, with a burnt toffee.

Tongueland: WOW. Creamy smooth full body, almost velvety.Thick and "chewy." Dark brown sugar-like that finishes with smooth molasses. Touch of burnt toffee to round things off. Gentle, yet deep. Smooth alcohol at the end emerges as it warms. Not overdone. Absolutely perfect.

Bender Factor: I can't wait to get to the 2003 (my next review) to compare them. This is a stellar brew. The ABV is well hidden. This will be in my Dad's stocking.

Vintage 2003, from Premier Gourmet, Buffalo $3.20

Eye Candy: Dark brown (not transparent/translucent) with slight amber edges. Initial pillowly 2 finger off white head. As it warmed, the head became creamy and thick. Swirling enlarges it when it it warm. Sticks to the sides of the glass. The second best retention I have ever witnessed (the 2002 is the best). I was amazed that after 20 min, swirling renewed the head.

Tongueland: Sweet brown sugar front, hint of raisin, with a burnt toffee.

Tongueland: Thick, chewy full body, almost velvety.Sweet brown sugar, gentle molasses, dark fruit. Touch of burnt toffee to round things off. Toasted almond aftertaste. Slight bubbling alcohol at the end. Finishes slightly astringent.

Bender Factor: 2003 wasnt as good as 2002. It's interesting to see the difference a year makes. Regardless, stellar.

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Photo of Rochefort10nh
5/5  rDev +31.6%

Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +25%
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 seedyone
4.75/5  rDev +25%

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 ajdemma
4.68/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of nathi
4.59/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this the night before, I thnk it was a 2000. An exceptional christmas ale. Very little carbonation but a rough pour will get you a nice lasting head. The aroma is wonderfull, full of rich cherry and barry fruityness with a strong caramel malt background. Just wonderfull. Flavor has a sweet and extrmemly complex maltyness, with more fruit, well balanced by the alcohol and just enough hop bitterness. Stong raisen and plum notes, almost like a nice thick bock, bit woith the complex esters of an ale. An excellent well balanced beer. Probably my favorite Christmas ale and probably ranks in the top 5 of best aromas in a beer for me.

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Photo of Imbiber
4.55/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark ruby coloured with a strong toffee/caramel aroma. Strong on maltiness, fruitiness, and sherry notes; warming, Christmas-pudding-like. A hearty beer to savour on a cold night. Enjoyed to its full potential yesterday evening at a snowbound Spuyten Duyvil, Brooklyn.

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Photo of Skidz
4.52/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours out deep copper-brown and sits reddish-brown in the glass with little to no head and minor lacings.

Smells thick and syrupy with a very strong vinous character, rather like port. Strong toasted malts and high volumes of sharp grassy hops shine through. Raisins, toffee, dates are all there too.

Tastes softly sweet with raisins buidling up in presence all the way through. Dates, prunes and musty pears work their way in. Almost candy-like, with lots of caramel and toffee pushing out. Moves into a moderately bitter finish boasting suitable malt character.

Seductively smooth in the mouth, its no brainer highlight of the beer. Very thin carbonation, delicate on the tongue and well suited for the full body.

A fine, tasty treat leading into the cold season. From the nose, I was expecting the flavor to go overboard too, but I was pleasantly surprised and could easily enjoy this in moderate quantities. Very nice.

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Photo of sgregory
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of IrishRedRock
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I am unsure of the vintage of this bottle. It's great stuff, regardless though. Cloudy ruby body with a thin, dark lace on top. Complex chocolate malty aroma, with fruity, spicy, and yeasty notes. Flavor is beautifully complex as well. Rich coffee notes lead the way to toasty malts, complemented in the aftertaste by notes of fresh mint and plum skins. Alcohol is mildly noticeable. Mouthfeel is amazingly smooth with just a touch of carbonation...makes me think this bottle has been aged for a few years. This brew far exceeded my expectations. I want more of this, for now and for the cellar. Simply an excellent ale.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%

Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +17.6%
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 fx20736
4.46/5  rDev +17.4%
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 cokes
4.44/5  rDev +16.8%
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 NeroFiddled
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
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 GClarkage
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

02/04/05- Purchased at Beverages and More in San Mateo, CA

Presentation- 9.3oz stubby bottle just like the George Gale winter brew I had a couple hours ago. No dates. Poured into my Maredsous glass.

Appearance- A dark amber coloring, 1/2 white creamy head, but lacking a tad on the lacing.

Smell- This is what a winter brew should smell like. Lots of dark fruits. Heavy on the raisins and prunes.

Taste- Very prunelike tastes and raisins and plums make up the main taste in this brew. Maybe a bit of sweet caramel and a dash of dark brown sugar also.

Mouthfeel- Medium carbonation, thick and chewy. Semi-full mouthfeel.

Drinkability- Quite a decent winter warmer. One of the better ones I have had to date. I'll be picking up some more of these net year. I bit steep in price, but it seems that it's worth it. Yum!

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Photo of xav33
4.4/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Harvey's Christmas Ale
275 ml bottle
Strong pour in an English pint
Recent brewing, x-massed 1/07

Poured a clear red brown with an average fizzy somewhat lasting yellowish off-white head that settles in a ring of lacing.

Smelt of sherry, banana candy, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, maraschino cherries.

Taste was upfront moderate bittersweet ginger and allspice bread, with hints of banana followed by a strong bitter dark molasses, roasted almost burnt grain taste with light sweetness on a long finish. Palate was medium to full bodied, creamy and velvety, softly carbonated, and moderately astringent.

Overall, this is my favorite christmas beer yet. Good sweetness upfront followed by a nice bitter roasty malt punch at the end.

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Photo of Calzyne
4.38/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Bighuge
4.38/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

"2000 AD" edition. (Not to be confused with the 2000 BC edition.)

Burgandy/brown in color. Just a couple bubbly islands on the surface comprise the head. Nice biscuit like malt aroma blended with perfumey tones. Mouthfeel is very low on carbonation. Similar to a barleywine. Body hovers somewhere in between medium and full. Just a titch syrupy, but not in a bad way. The malt profile of this beer is pretty impressive. The 2 years of aging seems to have taken off any bitter or alcoholic edges that may have been there. Maltiness is similar to a good malty BW. Biscuit and bread tones mix with a dominating caramel malt presence that let's you know what this show is all about. There's barely a detectable sour lactic note on the finish. Seems a little out of place, but it's so minor it doesn't detract from the taste. Very nice little brew here.

Thanks go out to Chaz for pointing this one out.

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Photo of Pegasus
4.37/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Reddish amber color, with good clarity, modest tan head, excellent broken lacing, moderate carbonation.

Aroma: Sweet, sherry-like aroma, with darks fruits, raisins, spices, and prominent alcohol notes.

Taste: Rich, dark fruits, raisins, plums, spices, and a distinct alcohol note. Late in the taste, wood and evergreen notes appear, there are slight herbal notes at the finish.

Mouth feel: Smooth and quite full, almost syrupy, extremely rich.

Drinkability/notes: Quite superb, unfortunately, also quite rare. Many thanks to Beer Czar Rick for sharing this.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.37/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Darkest of dark deep ruby red with a chestnut brown tone in color, zero head, nada lace, just the thinnest of thin rings around the edge thats like a string of web. Aroma is a mass of malts, sweet and tangy, rich and lush, deep and dark, raisin and plum, caramel and toffee, notes of molasses, dark cherry, vanilla, and tobacco. Taste is nice and thick, dopplebock-like through and through, deeply sweet with a certain twanged tangyness of malty fruitness that lends raisin and plum, smoothing out but keeping its thickness with trails of caramel thats slightly burnt and finishes with a nudge more roasty burntness of caramel floating on the roof of the mouth with a crackly smoken caramel chewyness. Unique finish with a burntly mingling maltyness, quite nice and curiously interesting and appealing. Feel is pretty full, thick for sure with a nice creamy tone and sweetness with a lingering burnt finish. A nice winter sipper, favorably yummy; it's pretty thick and very malty so you more or less slow down to enjoy it.

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Photo of scootny
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
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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Photo of mikesgroove
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I picked this one up on vacation, nice little nice ounce bottle that hit the spot tonight I have to say. Poured into a pint glass and served chilled, this one was consumed on 02/19/2009.

The pour was nice with a dark brown color and a nice almost opaque color to it. Nice head of light brown came up over the top and settled down into a nice little pillow. The aroma was deep malts, lots of molasses and hints of cinnamon. Lots of roasted notes here as I take a sip, really nice and full bodied. Lots of really full, almost oatmeal like flavor to it, with tons of sweet caramel and bready notes. Really impressive here. Rich and a nice carbonation level. I had no issue throwing this one down and was looking for another one right away.

Solid little beer, and my only real complaint was the bottle was a little small as this one really was solid as hell.

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Photo of jwc215
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

9.3 oz. bottle - let warm to near room temp.-

Pours a beautiful mahogany with a thin tan head that stays for much of the duration. Some trailing lace, with "legs", slides down the glass.

The smell is toffee-ish with dark bread, plums - towards prunes and some cherries.

The tase is of plums, raisins, prunes, cherries with toffee-ish maltiness - a bit of dark fruit balances out the sweetness. There's a touch of fruity alcohol, but not in a sharp way. It seems that it should be even sweeter than it is, but there is a balance to it. It has a sweet-ish, long finish with a warming touch. Cherries linger well into the aftertaste.

The feel is cask-like, though from a bottle. It has soft carbonation with a full, though not thick, body. Very smooth despite abv.

I expected this to be a sipper. Drinks very easily despite sweetness and 8%+ abv. Warming, but not hot or sharp. Complex, but approachable and very drinkable. Abv there, but mellow. Big, but soft. A tasty winter brew that fits the winter season very well! A malty delight!

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Photo of wl0307
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the second occasion when I get to taste this ale in its bottled form (bought at the Harveys Brewery Shop), while having the luck to have tasted the cask-conditioned version for many times in Brighton and London. Coming in a small 275ml brown bottle, BB 05/2010, served lightly chilled in a Hapkin's tulip-shaped bowl sniffer.

A: russet brown to dark ruby in colour, topped with a dark beige frothy head that retreats slowly to a thin cap, on top of a mild, healthily carbonated body.
S: the smell is effortlessly attractive and traditionally English-strong-ale-like, full of apple-ly fruits, dense and sweet aroma of overripe fruits (dates and prunes are both noticeable), jammy caramely malts and honey-ish pale malts, aromatic- as well as tea-ish hops (Fuggles I presume?), and a quietly manifesting flow of alc. befitting a well-aged strong ale or barley wine. All goodies are in place, intertwined beautifully with a mildly sour edge that is absolutely essential for the balance.
T: a quiet taste upfront consists of sour woodiness, plentiful berry- & prune-ish fruits, quietly expanding sherry-like dry bitter-sweetness, and spicy+tea-ish hops; in good time, the good level of hop bitterness, fruity malts, and a welcomed dry-ish, even woody, palate takes over until everything is rounded up in the clean finish. Not as complex as the cask-conditioned version, but the alc. is nowhere to be found (much softer than the 2008 cask-version tasted in early December 2008) and the bitter undertone lasts even longer without disturbance. Elegant.
M&D: interestingly, the bottle (be it filtered or pasteurised or both) keeps the most soft yet simultaneously fresh palate for a strong ale at 8.1%abv., showing not a wee bit of syrupy, but only most soothing lubricating, mouthfeel throughout the drink. The bottle version is so... different from the cask one, as far as this year's version is concerned: it's less sweet, cleaner, more hoppy and more bitter, and in every way just as enjoyable in a totally different way!

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Harvey's Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
Beer rating: 63.3% out of 100 with 199 ratings
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