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 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 Zorro
4.18/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear red brown brew with no head.

Smell is sweet and fruity clear scents of brown sugar, malt and Rum.

Taste is very much like a Belgian dubbel. Lots of malt and brown sugar flavors, and a heavier than expected hop bitterness in the finish. Lots of caramel, raisin, butter rum, and toffee flavors.

Mouthfeel is good.

Very tasty brew, reminds me very much of Westvleteren 12 in flavor! A superior brew.

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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 UnionMade
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

My bottle was probably a couple years old, as I'd bought it at least a year ago, and I'm sure it was on the shelf for some time before that. The lot # on the cap is CKN.
The beer pours a muddy brown, reminiscent of old leather. Very deep and opaque. A short, bone colored cap of foam appears on the pour, thinning to a slim collar after a sip or two. The carbonation blooms up on the pour as if it were rising through molasses. Very slow. Nice lacing, leaving a solid sheet of foam on the opposite end of the glass.
The aroma brings forth a wooden maltiness, tinted heavily with oak and peat smoke. A pleasant vinous, aged quality. Lots of biscuity malt. Soft prune and red grape. A distinct whisky tinge, mostly a woody alcohol fog. Nicely complex.
The flavor opens with a smoothened maltiness, bready and biscuity, with definite signs of oxodization. A full wood profile, mostly oak, with a pleasant dryish feel through the finish. The fruit runs all the way through. Very rich and elegant. Cidery red apple, aged red grape, with hints of prune and grass. Some aged, honeyed flavor creeps through, shoring up the already solid malt for good measure. A soft sourness rises in the finish, blending nicely with the elderly malt sweetness. No hops the speak of. A lingering vinous aftertaste. Very soft carbonation, with a full, heavy body slightly lighter than milk. Soft and gentle on the palate, albeit a bit sluggish.
A very nice vintage ale. Soft and pleasant, this is a nice late night sipper. I imagine this would be very good fresh, but it's a real treat with a bit of age.

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Photo of rkhaze
4.07/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a thick red/amber color with a tiny but really creamy head.
Left some nice lace patterns.
Initial smells of brandied fruit followed by sweet malt, butterscotch and a wood nuance.
Alcohol soaked fruit hits the palate. Sweet malt, caramel, spices and a sherry character in the back. Mild but noticeable tartness, (yeast?) in the finish. Good blend of flavors.
Medium bodied with a full, rich and thick mouthfeel. A bit chewy.
Definitly a sipper. Rich with a heavy feel to it.

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Photo of Brian700
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a reddish color and has little to no head. Not very impressed with the appearance. The smell was alright. It smells predominately like raisins with a little bit of malty aroma. The taste is a little bitter. It is malty with very little hop presence. The mouthfeel is nothing to brag about but it suits the beer I guess. Light carbonation and a medium body. It's an alright beer. I liked it but I think a lot of people would think it was nothing special. I think this beer would be better by simply increasing the carbonation. I have had 2 of these and both were lightly carbonated so its not just a coincidence. I would recommend it.

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a reddish/brown color with slight carbonation level. While there was basically no head it did leave some nice lacing on down the glass. Low in aroma-somewhat winey and vinuous. Port like. Big upfront flavor of malt and alcohol. Raiseny,caramel,anise. Underlying sweetness. The flavor and alcohol seems to make it a bigger beer then it actually is. Not all that well balanced. Decent body-somewhat viscous. Overall an enjoyable beer. Theres some better winter warmers out there Id try first. This one is trying to hard and it doesnt really come off.

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Photo of Crotor
3.49/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The non-vigorous pour failed to raise up the but slightest feint of a head. Color is a clear deep red.

Aroma is heavily vinous, and a bit alcoholic. It's really almost port-like, with slight esters and a bit of diacetyl. Rather impressive.

The first taste is hot and roasty. Of alcohol and malt, that is. Is there a bit of diacetaly and soy? Wow, this is weird. Interesting, and good, but weird. The vintage is unknown, but I'd have a hard time believing that this wasn't cellared some, if only at the brewery. The mouthfeel is a bit insubstantial considering how big the beer is otherwise, indicating some cellaring. No hopping is noticable. A bit sweet, certainly roasty and alcoholic. There's a weird sour bit at the end. Certainly an interesting experience, but not one I'd like to repeat too often. Strange beer...

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Photo of donnebaby
3.45/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Big pungency of super sweet malts greets the nose. Notes of graham. Taste was equally large, pounding on the pungently sweet malts, heading towards licorice, or molassas, in its strength. Some more graham. There's an after of figs and more graham and some breezy hops develop in bitterness. Mouthfeel was thick and enjoyable.

I was sitting with someone who went wild over this beer, so I guess it's a taste that I just don't crave. Simply much too much, like raw molassas. Couldn't handle it. Maybe I'd enjoy doing shots of it, outside on a snowy day. Who knows. My first british-style winter warmer; I'd like to try another.

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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 PatandDavid
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this over Thanksgiving...a bottle David had purchased last year. Vintage? Who knows...the pormised date on the bottle cap was MIA. Pour in the pint glass (hey, Grandma doesn't have all those fancy glasses) was a dark cola color with a low head. Aroma was of burnt sugar, followed by plums and raisins. Full mouthfeel. Carbonation...still looking for it. Taste is on the sweet side, with a sort of coffee meets caramel thing going on. David and I shared the bottle, so I didn't drink it all by myself, but you could tell there was alcohol hanging out in the back. I enjoyed this beer (probably as I only had half the bottle). By the end of it, the beer had me thinking: Toffifay: it's too good for kids. I'm probably the only person that remembers that candy.

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Photo of alexgash
3.35/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2000 Vintage

Dark russet body with sediment. Head is wispy-light-tan. Decent lacing. Aromas of rich raisins and overripe grapes with a sourish twang (vinegar?) dominate. Cedar and oak fumes, chocolate pudding, and alcohol are also there.
Tangy-sweet fruit flavors up front; tart grapes, plums, and raisins. Licorice flavor develops, backed by musty, sweet and sour malts. maybe a little past its prime (?). Still, interesting, and slightly drinkable. Full-bodied and kind of syrupy. Finish is anise-y and warming.

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Photo of mzwolinski
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I'm not sure what vintage this is. I picked it up in Hi-Times near LA next to a bottle of 1998 Elizabethan, and the label's looking a little worn, so I'm sure it's got a few years on it.

At any rate, this turned out to be a very interseting beer indeed. I was a bit disappointed at the pour, as the beer came out almost entirely flat. Very dark brown in color with a bit of sediment floating about, and only the thinnist halo of a head. Persistent little bugger though -- that halo stuck around for the whole 275 ml.

Oddly, the aroma struck me as very weak at first. A hint of molasses with a bit of mild spice lingering way way in the background. After I had my first sip and went back for another whiff, though, this lad really packed a wallop. The molasses character had ripped off its t-shirt and gone all green and Hulk-like (that's big, for you non-cartooners), and had picked up a nice, subtle vanilla accompaniment.

Malt malt malt and more malt in the flavor, well fermented and giving off all kinds of nice dark fruity flavors -- plum and cherry, mostly -- all accompanied by a fairly heavy caramel flavor. The midsection picks up a bit of dark chocolate character as it warms. The real kicker is in the finish, though, which, following through on the promise of the aroma, yields a massive, slightly burnt molasses character which lingers on and on.

And what a viscous monster this is! I've had a lot of big beers, and this is among the thickest and most syrupy feeling. Quite amazing, yet it doesn't detract from the drinkability one whit!

All in all, a really nice beer -- though definitely an *english* Christmas Ale, and thus heavy on the "warmer" side rather than on the "spicy" side. Good stuff.

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Photo of merlin48
4.24/5  rDev +11.6%
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 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 jackndan
2.5/5  rDev -34.2%
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 AudioGilz
3.94/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It's a thick brownish amber color with hardly any head at all. Wow...strong aroma! Ripe plums and raisins jump out at me, and maybe a spice that I can't name. It's all malts in the aroma and it's great. Not as thick on the palate as I anticipated. It's not thin either of course, very malty...not much hop presence to speak of. The aroma translates directly to the flavors in this beer. It's quite a treat. A bit of alcohol warmth on top of the malty dark fruit and spices make this an awesome brew. A nice and simple label is also an aesthetic plus.

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Photo of sparkydoyle
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer poured into a small wine class. Minuscule head (just a couple of bubbles swimming around on a sea of coffee-colored ale). Very slight carbonation, in keeping with the style.

Nose was very slight. Alcohol note promenent in the flavor profile, mostly a combination of rasins, slight hopp bite, and brown sugar.

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Photo of byrd
3.59/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very little, virtually no, head. What little there is, is light brown and quick to diminish. Clear dark copper in color. Heavy malt notes with aromas of molasses, maple syrup, and dark fruits. Quite a rich aroma with not much hop presence at all. Sweet, rich dark fruit flavors and quickly noticeable on the palate. The finish is tart with notes of grapes or grape skins. Some hops that are a somewhat earthly are noticeable. The mouth feel is medium, however, and times it seems to be a touch watery. The carbonation is soft. Okay brew for once or twice a year, but not one I’ll rush to next Christmas season.

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Photo of JISurfer
4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a nice brew, but a little pricey. That was cool though, cause this rocked. It was a nice dark cloudy amber color, with a tan head. The head wasn't that thick, but lasted the whole beer. It was more bubbly than a solid head, which was an indication of a bit of carbonation. The smell was nice, with hints of caramel and some darker fruits. The taste was similar, but had more of the area of the darker fruits, as well as a little bit of a chocolatey vibe. This was a great brew and was worth the money that was spent. This is probably my fav Christmas ale that I have had this year.

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Photo of WesWes
3.77/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a deep dark black color with a thin tan head. The aroma is good. It is rich with malts and a smooth edge. The taste is decent. It is smooth and creamy and full of dark and crystal malts. It has an elevated abv. (8.1%), but it tastes great. The mouthfeel is good. This is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. It drinks well; a good seasonal.

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Photo of DrewBeechum
3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled in the ubiquitous small brown bottle with the big cheery red label with that merry old soul.

Beer was poured into a pair of crystal brandy sniffers. (Hey.. why not. Big aroma on the beer and it needs time to concentrate in the glass)

Beer is walnut brown with zero head. Really, no head. There's so little head here it invites crude jokes about monasteries.

Aroma is burnt caramel with a large green raisin aroma that hides a malty Christmas pudding.

Flavor is deeply rich with long chain caramels that coat the palate and dance on the tongue with a delightful step. The finish incorporates a combination of mineral and alcohol that cleans off the palate with just a touch of lingering dryness.

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Photo of mickeymac
4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This one came in a 275 ml bottle (who thought that was a good idea?) with an old-fashioned Santa, candles, and bells on the label. The label says to see the bottle top for "best before end date" and lot number. However, the top of the cap is plain red with no inscription. The inside of the cap says only "18". I'm not sure whether this is meant to be January '08 or whether it's the lot number. In any event, nothing says when the beer was bottled.

What's inside soon had me forgetting the lack of a bottling date. The beer is a somewhat murky brown with a thin off-white head. Some small, champagne-like bubbles continue to work their way to the top of the beer even after it has sat for a while. The smell is an astounding mix of ripe fruit (raisin, cherry, and plum), toffee, and sweet bread. Despite the presence of sweet fruit and candy-like flavors, a bit of sour bite also kicks in, keeping the entire affair from becoming cloying. The mouthfeel could be slightly chunkier, but it's easy to overlook in light of the delightful smell and taste. It's certainly not a session beer, but it's quite drinkable for a beer of its style. It has a charming rustic air about it and is nice stuff for a cool winter day.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After a fairly hard pour, a little tannish beige head sit upon a dark amber body revealing large bubbles, then fades quicky into a thin-rimmed coating. Sweet malt, damp cellar, fruit, hops and alcohol are easily noticed. A hint of mint and a herbal smell reminiscent of tarragon linger underneath. This sweet, fruity malty brew is rich in flavor and somewhat oily in texture. Flavors of toffee, prune juice, ripe pears and candy apples are quite distinct. A light taste of lime bitterness and port-like alcohol warmth finish this unique holiday brew. A good beer to sit by the fire with.

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Photo of beerguy101
3.45/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Eclipse dark red color. No head to speak of. Aroma is dark fruits, malts and dried fruits. A medium to full bodied strong ale. Malts are very fruity and very sweet. There are touches of wood and caramel, but its mostly rich malts and dark fruits. It reminds me of a sherry more than anything else. Very smooth tasting. Thick and if not for some tartness it would be cloyingly sweet. As it is, it’s a nice sipping beer. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is sweet.

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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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