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: 195
Photo of claspada
2.39/5  rDev -36.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Aromas are initially sweet with dark fruitiness throughout; plums and dried figs. Dark maltiness lingers with cocoa and dark toffee notes. Alcohol is detectable, but it keeps getting pushed into the background as the fruits dominate my nostrils.
Extraordinarily sweet brown sugar maltiness. Cloyingly overpoweringly sweetness; please some hops anywhere; please.. uh no, can't find em. Mouthfeel is also miserably less than substantial. Dark fruity maple syrup is the only way to describe this. Wow avoid, miserable beer; tastes like sweet mead with added brown sugar. Thus is not beer; period, gross wow pass, not recommended.

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Photo of Rhettroactive
2.71/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

From bottle to Bruges hybrid glass on 2/11/11

*I'm performing a "Spring Cleaning" of sorts, and finishing off the holiday beer in and around my home - this being the last of them (Thank God!)

A: Slight ruby in hue. A hard, forceful pour leads to zero head. None. Nada. I Bobby Brown'ed the hell out of it, yet nary an ounce of froth or even a smidgen of lacing appeared. Quite dissapointing.

S: Simply lovely - sugar sweet plums and dried figs. I also notice a trace of mild alcohol, but it keeps getting pushed into the background as the fruit flirts with my nostrils.

T: Wow, this one is really, really sweet - it feels like my teeth are rotting. Oddly though, the flavor is wonderful: there isn't any hop presense, but what's there is freshly baked fruit cake and juicy prunes.

M: Blech! It's flat. Literally flat like a tall glass of water. I don't know if this is to be expected or if it is strictly my bottle, but it's extremely unappealing.

O: As you'd assume from reading the above, the drinkability is limited. Leave a can of soda open on the kitchen counter all night, and have it with tomorrow night's dinner and you'll understand. There is too much residual sugar and fruit in this one not to find some semblance of balance in even mild carbonation.

The nose and flavor are there. Sadly though, there are signifigant pieces of this brew that seem to be missing, and therefore I cannot give it my recommendation.

Might I also add that I'm thrilled to be finished with my Holiday catch-up. Now on to one last pumpkin ale, then back to the IPA's!

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Photo of aasher
2.4/5  rDev -36.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This beer pours a burnt, dark brown with amber accents. It has virtually no head but some light foam does lace the glass. This beer smells exactly like spicy raisins. It's strange and is a total malt bomb. It tastes like melted brown sugar mixed with raisins and figs. It is syrupy sweet. It drinks smoothly but it's way too sweet. This beer is near undrinkable. Not quality whatsoever.

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Photo of Halcyondays
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

9.3 oz. nip bottle, nice to see this back in the Southland after a 4 year absence, it's back like Goudenband, great label,

A: Pours a dark amber with a mild white head. Lighter than I expected it to be. Good head retention, no lace.

S: Very malt, has a booze presence. Caramel and molasses, with a hint of soy sauce.

T: Brown sugar and soy (though this goes away as it warms a bit) with a fair amount of hoppiness for this style. Really more an old ale or a barleywine than a winter warmer. Cracked grainy finish.

M: Full-bodied, smooth, solventy at times, very light, soft carbonation character.

D: It's a warming brew, it doesn't lie. The flavour is nice, not great, there are better English beers for the price.

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Photo of rtepiak
4.02/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

a english malt bomb with a subtle bitter kicker to its otherwise arrange of malts. pour is rich amber with a yellowish off white head. nose is caramel and toffee toasted malt. palate is that sort of sweetness with a hint of mild citrus note. toffee, toasted and burnt, a bit of a pineapple candied sweet, persimmon, and a assam tea bitter at the end that gives it a much drier note than expected. although i must say that the abv is evident. definitely made the bitter burnt quality more prevalent. but still quite nice.

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Photo of avalon07
3.89/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a ruby color and a cloudy texture. There was a small amount of quickly dissipating, foamy head. Almost no lacing at all.

S: A nice aroma of malt, toffee, some spices, and a bit of alcohol.

T: Tasted of malt and toffee more than anything, with a slightly spicy finish. Alcohol wasn't quite as noticeable as I would have thought. A generally good flavor.

M: An average amount of carbonation with a slick finish. Medium-bodied.

D: On the whole, this is a solidly made, drinkable beer.

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Photo of DmanGTR
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes on 12/25/09. How appropriate :)

A - Poured brilliant deep ruby red, perfectly clear, with a 3/4" light tan bubbly head. Small streams of bubbles continuously sustained the head for a bit, then it diminished to a nice ring around the glass. No lacing. 4.5

S - Strong notes of cream sherry, caramel, and raisins control the aroma. Mild oxidation and maybe a touch of prunes as well. The nose bouquet is wonderfully balanced and rich. 4.5

T - Deliciously sweet and fruity. Very malt forward, rich toffee and plum flavors. My tastebuds are attacked by lots of caramelized malt, black currants, and sweet plum. Again, the oxidation brings out some more cream sherry notes. Quite the complex beer and finishes forever, with lots of lingering sweetness. 4.0

M - Still well carbonated and very smooth. Mildly thick bodied, slight warmth of alcohol in the finish. For only 8.1%, the alcohol is a bit pronounced. 4.0

D - Pretty good, definitely a dipper. I'd rather have this one over many other Christmas ales. As a winter warmer, it definitely warms your throat. I would buy this again. 4.5

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

a: very limited amount of white head quickly fades away leaving one splotch of white floating on top of a burgundy-brown body

s: it is very fragrant; coffee scent; toffee; sweet spices; some wine/whiskey; sweet plum;

t: warm abv; sweet malts; light raw wheat; a light tartness at the end of the sip; there is a lot here--thick with flavor; spice and brown sugar

m: smooth and velvety; a little cloying; thick bod very mild carb

d: an interesting beer that is definitely worth a try and begs to be enjoyed in front of a fireplace

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Photo of jgasparine
4.15/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Note: This bottle has been sitting in the fridge for at least two years. Don't know the date of production, but I DO know that it wasn't temperature abused.

A- Poured from the bottle almost completely flat. No head, nor lacing, and only the faintest visible traces of carbonation where a collar would normally form on the beer. The body was an attractive opaque ruby-tinged brown, but the lack of any head was dissapointing.

S- A rich nose comprised of caramel, dark fruit, leather and madiera aromas. A little oxidization here, but not off-putting. The oxidization may be from the age on my bottle...

T- Starts off sweet on the palate with candy malt and the anticipated flavors of caramel and dark fruit. Some very subtle spiciness emerges in the middle. The finish exhibits a mild hop bitterness and fades quickly with faint traces of butterscotch and oxidation left behind.

M- A medium body. Not very viscous, but there is a little slickness to the brew as it coats the mouth. The carbonation is extremely soft and delecate.

D- Very tasty and very drinkable. The alcohol is undetectable on the nose and palate. I could make a night out of this quite easily... especially in the colder months.

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Photo of clayrock81
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a claer brown with ruby tints that gave a good head and lace on top of a sweet smell with some spiciness and minor hop bitterness. Really sweet and mellow, medium body, beer passes easily while giving off caramel, cinnamon, bread, minor hops and other sugary sweetness but all so subtle. ABV complements beer with warming sensation on backend and this one is real enjoyable to drink.

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Photo of ShareANevada
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Christmas beer for Christmas night. Shared with Tonybrew,
Happy Santas birthday everybody!

Into a stemmed tulip, the beer is dark brown and rich, you can almost see the sweetness. Decent head forms, thin layer stays.
Dar fruit like plums, figs, dates breathe richly from this one.

On the tongue, it actually seems fairly thin. There is some sweetness here, but I think this beer has mellowed out with a little age, with a year on it in my hands.

A nice sipper, not too rich, and respectively, not too sweet. Pretty good beer.

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Photo of likethetaste
3.37/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured a medium brown with little head. Smells of christmas spices. taste like prunes with some nutmegs spicing. High alcohol content gives this a warm but sharp after taste that some may not like. I usually do not like high alcohol beer but this one was ok. Not bad, just not great. Definately a winter warmer because you feel the alcohol warm you.

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Photo of indiapaleale
3.63/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pour - dark, murky brown. Low carbonation levels, almost like a cask pour. The head is reminiscent of an oil slick. Bubbly froth clings to the inside walls of the glass while islands of oily looking foam cover the top of the beer.

Aroma - wow. I can smell this a good 2-3 feet away. Strong dark, dried fruit smells and oxidization emanate from the glass. It also provides some medicinal aromas along with strong alcohol.

Taste - plums, figs, prunes and raisins galore. Tons of dried dark fruit flavors. Sweet concentrated flavors. There is also brown bread, toffee and an essence of brandy. This is sweet but not cloying, thankfully. The oxidization I smell did not translate into this beer being bad either.

Overall - Warm and smooth with a good deal of flavor. This is one to sip by the fire and/or enjoy with a nice dessert. Great for a cold winter night and definitely a good candidate for sharing.

Would I buy more of it? - yeah maybe, not totally sure. There are way too many other beers out there that I'd love to try before I go back to this one. It would make a nice gift for any beer lover on your Christmas list!

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Photo of Oxymoron
3.36/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Tis the season. Pours a mostly cloudy darker brown color with more of a mahogany color. A softer amber hue through out as well. Some white fizzy head that does last for a bit but not through the full tasting.

The nose is rich with malt. A mostly caramel and bready aroma with toffee and a hint of pumpernickel bread. Some melanoidin like notes with a kettle aroma. Noticeable esters with plumes and sugar raisins. Some noticeable fusel notes as well but not over the top.

The taste is similar to the aroma. The malt is not as dominant than what the nose would indicate. But I think that is more of the yeast and esters coming out versus the malt backing off. More of a toffee notes almost candi like in the finish. Some bready notes but more of a kettle flavor than anything. Noticeable plums that could rival Belgian beers. Some yeasty notes but mostly clean. Big fusel notes though that is a bit of a deterrent.

The body is between moderate and full but a very light carbonation that could benefit from a bit more carbonic bite. A bit too sweet as well, would like to see a bit smoother. Noticeable alcohol that is bit off. Overall a good beer but would benefit with age for sure.

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Photo of RedBrewer83
3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into goblet...

A: Ruby brown with hints of orange hue and pours with no head, just a few bubbles rising to the surface. Reminds me of their le coq, which I am sad to say I did not like at all...a little scared...

S: Not a huge aroma, definitely get some raisiny dark fruit, brown sugar, a nice earthy aroma kind of like wet moss in the background and you can smell a hint of booziness as well. Reminds me more of a barleywine at this point.

T: Definitely get the dark fruit mixed with brown sugar and a hint of molasses upfront, mid palate has a nice boozy note but its well balanced and the finish is pretty smooth, leaving you with some caramel malt.

M: Almost no carbonation and surprisingly it works for this beer. Heavy mouthfeel but very smooth despite a little booziness.

D: Again, very smooth and drinkable, if it was a little boozier I might knock it down a notch, but this is pretty well balanced. Overall a very nice offering as a winter warmer, but I would almost call this a barleywine. Still pretty delicious.

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Photo of BierFan
4.27/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 275ml bottle into a cervoise. No date anywhere on the bottle.

Appearance: Small tan head. Dark body.

Smell: Barleywinish and fruity. Brown sugar, raisins, and apples.

Taste: Figs come through pretty strongly. Brown sugar sweetness.

Mouthfeel and Drinkability: Low carbonation, very smooth. Trying very hard to savor this beer and not chug it.

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Photo of BeerMark
3.7/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Purchased this one at Derk's Fillet and Vine in Montgomery, Alabama. Harveys Christmas Ale doesn't make much head when it is poured but it looks nice in my glass. It's a deep amber color with a small head. The smell is sweet and earthy. It tastes sweet with just a little alcohol burn. The alcohol is hidden here in my opinion. I detect sweet fruit with a truckload of malt. I find this beer pretty tasty for the style. Not my favorite style but this one is pretty nice. Maybe one of the best winter warmers I've tried so far. At $4.75 this seems a little overpriced to me. Quite mellow and....English.

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Photo of JohnQVegas
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes Dec. 19, '08.

Pours a deep ruby, with the standard big bubbled cask head.

Nose is a bit faint, but with notes of sweet maple and fruit, combinations of citrus and port.

Taste is rich up front, with maple and candied fruit overtaken quickly by a beautiful, spicy hop bitterness that balances the massive sweetness wonderfully.

Mouthfeel is silky and just a bit sparkling. Lovely beer.

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Photo of coldmeat23
3.2/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 45 degrees

I have no idea how old this is, as there is no indication on the packaging. I'm guessing it's at least a year old, if not longer.

Pours a dark, murky, amber color. A minimal head of foam, slightly more than a topfilm forms, then quickly reduces to a nice topfilm. Lacing is odd. It's not so much 'lace' like. It's a bunch of 'bumps', or 'spots', but they are pretty sticky. Slightly impressive, even if it's different.

I am attacked by a big booziness. Very sherry-like. Very strong woody/oaky presence. Thick malty notes.
From the nose, there's no denying that this would be a great winter warmer.

Very similar to a cask-aged sherry. High presence of booziness (which is, indeed, very warming). Very woody presence, oaky and butterey. Strong presence of over-ripened dark fruits. This is all backed by a strong maltiness.

Here's where this one falls flat. Just barely qualifies as medium-bodied. Way too thin, for the style. The minimal carbonation level is fine, and well-suited. I just think that this one would be worlds better with a nice bit of thickness behind it.

Because of the (lack of) body, this one scores low on drinkability. It has decent flavor, but the thin nature of it makes it so much less enjoyable than it could be.

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Photo of mynie
3.59/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Christmas ale. God knows which year, but it's from Christmas and here we are in February so it should still be good, I think.

Pours limp and dark, opaque and multi-shaded, lighter near the bottom which is where a bunch of little champagne bubbles sit all showy and needy like "hey look at me!"

Smells sour, woody, very strong and syrupy malt. Complex wood, the kind that's been polished and taken care of.

Tastes strong upfront, weak in the back. Hurt pretty badly by a weak body. Big wood, strong malt, and for the advanced alcohol level it does a pretty good job of not getting too sweet or burny, but like I said the lack of balance between the front and back really hurts it.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
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 Georgiabeer
4.08/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on cask at the Brick Store Pub. Poured a dark chestnut with some Oloroso sherry highlights and a thin, grainy head. Smells slightly sour and woody to start followed by some stewed fruit and light malt. Clearly not in tip-top shape after its voyage, but still pretty tasty. Tastes very fruity, with a sherry like component that makes itself known now and again. Spicy and malty as well and altogether rich and fruitcake-like. Very smooth and pleasant to drink. A nice winter treat. Many thanks to the Brick Store for going through the effort to put this on.

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Photo of jwc215
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
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 +14.8%
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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Photo of bainard
4.23/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on cask at map room, chicago. nice little new year's surprise.

a- deep deep amber with some nice, white, cask-generated bubbles.

s- christmas spice and perhaps a bit of honey or potpourri? maybe it's my brain imparting this.

t- as with the style, very little hops, nice sweetness, a little bit of pine, cinnamon, malt. it's a really drinkable, marvelous thing as it warms.

m&d- the cask-ness of this means there's very little carbonation, but the spiciness and malty sweetness means it dances over the tongue. this is a very drinkable, excellent brew that exemplifies its style, but is also drinkable year-round. wonderful brit brew.

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Harvey's Christmas Ale from Harvey & Son Ltd.
3.79 out of 5 based on 195 ratings.
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