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 claytri
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured an opaque brown with a tan head. The aroma was of sweet malt and spice. The taste started out very sweet with just a bit of spice to it. But, as it warmed the sweetness dropped and the spices gained. The feel was heavy and wet. Even though it was on cask so it came out fairly warm, it still improved greatly as the temperature improved, in the end it was a very decent beer.

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Photo of ccrida
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275ml bottle (fantastic, old school label) from this year, I picked it up probably 3 months ago. Poured into my Meantime snifter, Harvey's Christmas Ale is a murky brown with a small, large bubbled off-white head that leaves scattered lace.

Smell is very sweet and malty, brown sugar and rice pudding, with surprisingly strong hop resins. Not to strong though over all, served around 60F.

Taste is pretty good, reminds me more of an English BW, sweet and a little sour, like the nose, loads of sweet malts and some esters, but with an impressive amount of hops for an English ale, which add some bitterness to the dry, spicy finish. I'll definitely have to track down a few more of these to cellar!

Mouthfeel is on the still, sugary side, think any classic English BW, although I can easily rouse foam by swirling the glass or swishing the beer in my mouth. Medium bodied.

Drinkability is pretty good, a really unique Winter Warmer, especially for the UK. It is decidedly British, much more akin to an barleywine then I was expecting, which is great! Still, it's a pretty slow sipper and not something you'll session with.

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Photo of antilogic
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Cask at Ginger Man in Norwalk. Only 24 casks in the US this winter, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Very smooth and low on carbonation, as expected from a cask. Nice sized white head that lingered.

Taste was good, but a little on the sweet side. Heavy on sugars, fruits and maybe some caramel and cherry. A nice change from a typical spiced winter warmer. Higher ABV than I expected, as it goes down smooth; however, almost too sweet.


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Photo of scootny
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
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 gford217
4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask at the Brick Store in Decatur.

Pours a deep amber brown with a very bubbly head that lingered with sizable bubbles for a while. Lacing was minimal.

The aroma is very sweet with caramel malts and some dark fruits but there is a lot of vinous characteristics coming out as well - lots of wood and a bit of booze.

The taste is heavy of the sugary malts with plenty of dark fruits - plums, figs and raisins. There is a hint of hops in the finish but only in the background. As in the aroma, the wood comes through in the form of some vanilla sweetness and a slightly dry finish.

The mouthfeel is, not surprisingly, super smooth with little carbonation.

I haven't had this in a bottle so I don't have a direct comparison, but I definitely enjoyed this on cask.

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Photo of Deuane
4.24/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-Clear deep brownish amber with a thin barley present ring of light tan foam...nothing very impressive.

S-Fruity tartness of fresh cherries with a deep brown sugar, caramel blast. Hint of apple crisp in the background.

T-Smooth dark brown sugar caramel sweetness with a blast of cherry tartness. A bit of hop bitterness. Deep dark fruit in the finsih of mainly prunes.

M-Medium-heavy body with lots of residual brown sugary sweetness. This is a fruity sweet delight!

D-Port like in it's brilliance! A well fortified brew of body, malt goodness and flavour complexity. This one is so much like a liquid fruit compote it's crazy! So luscious and delicious....a winner EVERY year!

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Photo of TheBear11D
3.41/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours an amber, dark stained wood-like color that is clear enough to see through with a soft thin light tan head.

Has an up front fruitiness with woods and sweet aromas.

A variety of fruits as well as a hint of raisens, honey and syrup.

Full bodied beer with low carbonation.

A sippable beer. The ABV seems greater than it actually is, but still enjoyable.

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

Pours a brillant clear reddish brown color. No head, minimal CO2 and poor lacing. Aroma was a pleasently sweet malt aroma, no hops but I didn't expect any being it is a British beer. The flavor was better than I expected. Starts out malty and toasty like aroma and leaves you with nothing. Better than most British beers but that isn't saying much.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber to a brown-ish color, with a small light tan head. In the roma, mainly licorice, and small hints of dark fruit, plums and figs. In the taste, licorice, dark fruits, figs primarily, and just a touch watery. A smooth and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small dry licorice aftertaste. Nice flavor, although a bit watery. It was great, but thinner than expected.

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

The Christmas ale from Harvey's poured a dark brown color with very little foam head and some minimal lacing. The aroma was of a raisin and fruit.

The taste was definitely a malt lovers dream. With sweetness filling the palate with that dark raisin taste. You got a slight hop presence on the finish but not much in the smell. It was pretty viscous on the tongue and left the slick at the back of the throat. Definitely old school winter warmer style. Enjoyable warmer but I seem to enjoy the ones with a stronger hop profile but this was worth the money. The ABV was pretty aggressive but not too much over the top.

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Photo of corby112
3.53/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving type: bottle.

Pours a dark plum color with barely any head. Aroma of black cherries and other dark fruits such as plum and raisin. Also hints of cinnamon spice and alcohol. Very smooth tasting with a nice fruit (fig, raisin, plum), alcohol and hop balance.

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Photo of charlzm
3.82/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Consumed 11/20/08, bottle purchased recently, not believed to be aged.

Pours a very clear, reddish caramel hue. A one-finger yellow-white head forms and collpases fast, leaving a ring of sticky lacing. This also disappears before the bottom of the glass. Some carbonation lasts to the end, though.

Aroma is strong, marked by pitted fruits, booze (think brandy) and mild "winter" spice (nutmeg, cinnamon).

Mouthfeel is slightly thick.

Flavor is a little hot on the booze side. Sweet fruits like plum and date mix with a mild caramel malt character. Some spiciness. Finish is more malt than hops. In fact, I don't think I'm noting any hop presence at all.

Not a gulper, but a sipper. Smooth like a red ale, but with the "winter flavors" as an added bonus.

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

2007 Vintage

Pours a reddish brown color with minimal head. Very little lacing is left on the glass.

Rich aroma of dark fruit. Some medicinal(band-aid) aromas are also present.

Caramel. That is the big flavor in this beer. Figs and prune flavors give more richness to the flavor. Fig aftertaste that lasts quite some time.

Medium body with low carbonation.

Nothing really special with this beer. If you are a fig fanatic you probably would love this beer. High ABV lowers the drinkability.

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Photo of russpowell
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
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 tastybeer
4.09/5  rDev +7.9%
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 BeardedBoffin
3.62/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A dark clear brown with a small amount of off white foam. The smell is sweet burnt sugar, ripe dark fruit, raisins perhaps, with some autumn spiciness and alcohol esters. The beer is sweet and sugary. The sweetness is slightly offset by some mild earthy hops, but the sweet dark fruit flavors and sugary malt character is dominant. The finish is smooth and the alcohol is hidden well. The feel in the mouth is medium bodied and has an almost oily smoothness about it. This is an elixir to be sure.

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

A: Poured a dark cranberry red with virtually no head. Visible carbonation was soft almost non-detect.

S: The nose was beautiful with a burbon-brown sugar toasted sweetness with spicy alcohol (cinnamon, nutmeg) hints. There was a dark roasted caramel, some lightly burnt woodiness and boozy alcohol as well detected.

T: The initial flavor was malty and sweet with a spicy burbon barrel woodiness, cinnamon and sweet dark fruit. There was a nice roasted caramel and a dominant spicy black licorice flavor that really stood out. An earthy bitterness and warming caramel malting with festive spicing added complexity making this one of the finer xmas ales ive tasted. Perhaps it was the black licorice flavor that added a nice zesty and spicy zing to this beer.

M: The mouthful was medium-full with a nice viscosity and nice soft carbonation factor.

D: Overall a nice dark festive drink with a spicy black licorice flavor makes this a standout amongst other xmas beers and very enjoyable.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with a frothy, scant-half-finger thick, amber tinged, tan colored head that sits on top a opaque, reddish tinged, dark amber colored brew. When held up to the light the beer shows an almost brilliantly clear, ruby hue. The aroma is a mix of fruit and malt aromatics with perhaps just a hint of herbal character thrown in. The nose reminds me of tart, dried cherries, brown sugar, caramelized bread crust, prunes and lightly noticed burnt grain. As the beer warms up a bit the herbal hop character becomes much more aromatic in scope, though I would still say that the nose is malt / fruit leaning.

Sweet up front, with a substantial herbal hop character and a finish that is a bit astringent from dark malt flavors and hop bitterness. Quite hoppy with a lingering mix of bergamot, light-menthol notes, and a grassy / herbal edge that lingers on in the finish for quite some time. A substantial malt character that is made up of complex sugars is found in this brew though and it contributes flavors of treacle, dark brown sugar and toffee, when combined with the fermentation influence notes of caramelized fruit, raisins, figs, dried berries and perhaps a touch of sweet cherry flavors. A medium fullness to this brew makes this much more drinkable than many an American alcohol bomb, but it still achieves a richness appropriate to the holiday season.

This is quite hoppy, or much hoppier than I was expecting from this English brew. I really like how the hop character is offset b the complex, dark malt flavors. It is surprisingly evenly balanced between sweet, enveloping malt and sharp hop character. This is definitely a pleasant surprise, one that I will have to pick up more of when I get the chance.

Purchased: Plaza Liquors, Tucson AZ

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

The bottle says something about a best by date on the bottle top, but I don't see anything. I assume its an '07.

Pours a dark mahogany color with hardly any head...more of a fine sheet and creamy, bubbly ring. Some minor lacing. The aroma is strong - heavy, rich malts, apples, brown sugar, toffee, and sweet bread. Raisin and black tea flavors...lots of raisins actually. Rich malts and dark, sugary fruits. The mouthfeel is smooth and coating. This is a nice, festive English strong ale of sorts. No heat from the alcohol at all, just a rich, flavorful beer.

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

Poured from a bottle the color of dark tea and barely a head or lacing.

Aroma of figs, dark ripe fruit, warm malts, toffee, and alcohol.

Tastes of raisins, dark fruits, dark caramel, brown sugar, and toffee. Alcohol is more hidden than I thought it would be based on the aroma.

Medium mouthfeel, sticky, and lightly carbonated.

I'm glad I stumbled onto this beer. It was quite enjoyable.

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Photo of udubdawg
4.22/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

275 ml bottle. I'm guessing I've held onto this one for 4 years. Let's see how it's done.

pours a reddish brown color, with pretty good clarity and a very brief head. No lace. Nose may be the highlight, featuring lots of fruit, especially prune, somehow sweet and tart at the same time. Quite a bit of biscuity malt background, with a definite aged character. Alcohol? None here. Really nice.

Plenty of carmelized sugar in the flavor, plus more fruit though less noticeable than in the aroma. Very pleasantly surprised that the bitter hoppy kick has not been completely beaten into submission by the age - along with a vague sour hint that I can't nail down the bitterness keeps the sweet nature from ever approaching cloying. Very good.

Minimal carbonation and smooth. Figured it would be sticky with this much sweetness but it is quite enjoyable. Body is pretty full otherwise, and quite enjoyable. Couldn't tell you how much I paid for this, but I've noticed it showed up in Kansas in the past several months, so it looks like I can replenish my supply.

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Photo of aforbes10
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from John's Grocery in Iowa City. Pours brown with no head, but lots of bubbles. Lacing slow and fracticious. Smells of toasted caramel, figs, hints of cherries, brandy, malt syrup. Flavor is rather reserved for what i was expecting. Toffee with chocolate notes giving way to a sweet bitterness, vegetal and lemony. Spiced flavors of anise and nuts. Bitterness slightly over the top. Mouthfeel a bit sticky. Medium bodied. Overall, its good, but im a little overwhelmed. Still, its well made and interesting.

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

Poured from a 255 mL bottle

A: Pours a clear rusty brown under a near nothingness of head. No retention or lace.

S: Very nice blend of dark fruit and some fruity sourness, along side of caramel and toffee.

T: Not much hint of the sour character in nose. A lot of dark fruit character, nothing over the top and some sweet caramel maltiness, some cherry and maybe some pluminess, finishes with a slightly roasted malt and a decent amount of bitterness. Slight hint of alcohol as well. A little dry.

M/D: Solid medium body, kind of slick mouthfeel. Drinkability is pretty good on this one, as nothing is really wrong with it, just no totally redeeming qualities (although the sourness in the nose was a surprise). In the world of winter warmers, this is a pretty solid offering.

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

a: Produces a scant head upon pouring into my snifter. The beer is a dark brown in color.

s: Not obviously complex upon first sniff, but eventually reveals its subtlety. Heavy on the toasted caramel grain, with a highish level of sweetness and some sugary English pipe tobacco. Plump raisins and dates on the nose with just a hint of the ABV. Reminiscent of crusty baked goods incorporating dark sugars and candied tree fruits. Strange enough, the mention of orange marmalade I read in another review rings true. Enough English hops to give some balance. Nice.

m: The carbonation is low, and the body full.

t: Considerable caramel grain presence in this malt forward warmer. Not terribly but pretty tasty. Subdued dark fruits and the same crusty baked goods found on the nose. Moderate level of English hops and a low bitterness. In the aftertaste I pick up on some sulfuric molasses and a metallic note that diminishes a bit after allowing the beer to warm. Pretty clean finish, considering.

d: Not bad, not great...ABV well hidden. This beer isn't really for me, but I gotta give a little respect.

single bottle from Whole Food Raleigh

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Photo of gubbt
4.17/5  rDev +10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Unknown vintage pours a dark brown with a thin head that quickly dissipates.

Aromas are of ripe plums, unripened banana, vinegar (perhaps from an old vintage), and a bit of bourbon.

Taste is quite sweet throughout. Notes of plums, ginger snaps, and dark chocolate. It's sweet, but not cloying or boozy like some english strong ales can be.

Mouthfeel is bigger side of moderate.

This, overall, is a nice beer to have after dinner if you are in the mood for something sweet. Glad I had the opportunity to taste this beer.

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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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