Harvey's Christmas Ale | Harvey & Son Ltd.

very good
164 Reviews
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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Reviews: 164 | Ratings: 196
Photo of Dogbrick
2.31/5  rDev -39.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Dark ruby brown with absolutely no head or lacing. Pungeant alcohol and caramel aroma. Thick and syrupy body with a strong plum and sherry flavor. Even sipping this one made it difficult to drink. Either this does not age well or I just don't like it. The finish is strong alcohol and is a little oily. Not impressed at all with this one.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.42/5  rDev +16.6%
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 fattyre
3.41/5  rDev -10%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

This beer pours a slightly hazy medium dark brown/red with a tightly clingy off white very small head. The mouthfeel is very full and hearty almost meaty- sort of flat. The smell is toffee like malt and a portlike sweet alcohol. The taste is tealike piney and nutty with a slight allspice with a slightly portlike character. This is a pretty good beer in small quantities-very portlike.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.29/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A nice 275ml bottle of Harvey’s Christmas Ale. 8.1% and a couple of years old. The bottle has an appropriately colored red and white label with a rather jovial looking Father Christmas face set amidst some candles.

In the glass, the body of the beer is a supremely clear dark chestnut brown, with some ruby hints.

Aromas are of sweet malt and alcohol with a somewhat surprising odor, others have described a lactic presence, but for me it is more of dairy toffee smell mixed with a ‘sour’ nose. But I like it.

Tastes are quite superb, just what I expect from Harvey’s. A deep malt introduction with warming alcohol which takes you on an all-wheel-drive straight into a toffee and roast middle that is full of dark fruits; sherry soaked raisins, dark thick bonfire toffee, currants, port soaked biscuits and a warming alcoholic finish.

But hold on, there is still the issue of a slight sourness that lingers in the background. This sourness has a French-like lack of ability to invade, or even defend itself, but it is always there, constantly complaining and wanting to be heard but contributing very little. Yet, it adds a real Flemish Brown Ale dimension to this beer, which I dearly love in the midst of a real Christmas Ale.

Absolutely Excellent, and a great English Christmas Ale.

Many years ago, I had the greatest fortune to attend a tour of Harvey’s Brewery, a gorgeous picturesque classic Victorian Tower Brewery on the banks of the oft flooded River Ouse in Lewes. And this beer, just like the tour, and many of their other beers, does not disappoint. It is so strange to think that this beer has traveled all the way to the West Coast. A little bit of England in my Long Beach Apartment. Merry Christmas!

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Photo of UncleJimbo
3.97/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 9.3 oz bottle. Harvey's Christmas Ale 2000. 8.6% abv.

Appearance: Cloudy, light, coppery caramel color with thin tan foam.

Smell: A slight whiff of lactic acid (perhaps a slightly off bottle) was the only negative about this beer. Otherwise, a sweet, malty and yeasty aroma with a hint of fruit.

Taste: Rich caramel and toffee malt flavors with a touch of oak and spice, with a bit of hop bitterness in the finish. The hops carried over to the aftertaste as well.

Mouthfeel: Rich and smooth. Low carbonation.

Drinkability: Very good. Other than the slight hint of lactic acid, this was a very tasty brew.

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Photo of Bunnyhop
3.39/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

A medium dark red/brown, slightly hazy beer with a tightly clinging, off-white head. It has a very malty smell, with a slight toffee scent, along with a presence of darjeeling tea. I know this sounds stange but, it also had a slight teriyaki smell. The first thing I taste is tea, then a sweet maltiness, a slight hint f spice (not quite sure what spice), followed by a pepperiness, finishing with a slight cedar/pine flavor in the back of my mouth. There is a nice lingering flavor, almost a nuttiness. There is a very full hearty, almost meaty, feel in your mouth. Unfortunately, the beer did seem somewhat flat. Something about this beer reminded me of mediera, and it definitely got more complex as I drank it and it slowly warmed up.

(source: PremierGourmet; Buffalo, NY)

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Photo of goz
3.25/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours clear ruby, with a minimal head and non-existant lace. Very small amount of carbonation present. Strong, vinous aroma - fruits like raisin, plum, caramel malts, and alcohol all tickle the nostrils. Flavor is quite sweet, sugary, caramel, and underlying alcohol, along with a mild bitterness in the back that was very subtle. Mouthfeel was buttery and thick. Alcohol is warming towards the end of the small bottle.

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Photo of marc77
4.16/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Murky, mud brown, topped by a thin off white head. Plum - like fruity esters, chocolate, & mellow biscuit combined with smooth dark caramel sweetness in aroma. Light impression of spicy figs. Mild diacetyl. Slight earthy Fuggles hop nose rounds the aroma out. Lightly burnt raisiny sweetness upfront. Prunes and carob laced sweetness dominate the flavor profile, w/ notes of black pepper and biscuit providing a dry contrast. Mildly vinous sherryish notes emerge late. Lightly bittered, but hopped sufficiently to offset malt sweetness for excellent drinkability. Moderate in body and relatively low in carbonation. Semi - stagnant, full and smooth in mouthfeel. Finishes with molasses sweetness briefly lingering. A flavorful, but not overly busy strong ale. Tasty and somewhat of a tease in the 275 ml bottle. A bomber would've been appreciated.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.12/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky brown color, very little head. Distinctive heady aroma of plums, raisins, the usual stamp of a decent barleywine. At 8.1%, very warming and substantial. Thick texture, and, as we sip, the heat increases--not just warming, but HOT! I'm reminded a bit of Young's Old Nick, but just a bit.

A year and two days later, I try this beer again, forgetting I've had it, and reviewed, already! D'oh! Well, let me share with you my most recent notes just to see how what's changed...
Appearance: pours a dark brown, with a rich, tan head, dotted with multiple bubbles throughout.
Aroma: dark, deep, even cavernous, I'd have to say...hints of coffee, molasses, tobacco, leather, cola, and bits of anise and dark rum...slivers of the Imperial Stout persona are apparent here...
Taste: dark, but rather smooth (perhaps to this tongue, others may differ!), but still ridden with undercurrents of complexity, well-blended, and terrrifically tasty, roasty, and nutty.
The heat shows through from the alcoholic content, but it's ably and excellently matched by the bigness of the flavors.
Looking back at last year's comments, I got most of it right in my BA infancy, but didn't go far enough, and clearly it shows that I was too much into comparing beers that have been my crutch when I stuck to the same stuff for years on end!
And, the numbers are spot on for this tasting, so I leave them be.

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Photo of nathi
4.59/5  rDev +21.1%
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 ZAP
4.07/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Quite a complex brew....nose is vinous...smells like a wine almost...dark fruits/raisens on the nose...the mouthfeel lacks carbonation....really flat tasting, but it seems to fit this style well....a real sweet, dark fruit style taste....very enjoyable to drink....a real treat on the buds....thanks to BigHugey for this part of my many bottle Birthday and Christmas present.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.38/5  rDev +15.6%
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 rastaman
2.9/5  rDev -23.5%
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 Jason
4.47/5  rDev +17.9%
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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Harvey's Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
3.79 out of 5 based on 196 ratings.
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