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Moonraker Ale | J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

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119 Reviews
Moonraker AleMoonraker Ale

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England)

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 10-15-2001

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Reviews: 119 | Ratings: 163
Photo of Victory_Sabre1973
3.4/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

The date on this beer is 13 Aug 09

This beer pours very dark, and seemed to be a very thick pouring beer. The color is somewhere between brown and black.

There is no head. There were hints of carbonation.

The nose is incredibly complex. There's some sweetness to it. It also has like a wine barrel smell to it, at least to me.

The taste of it is, well, this is the week part. There isn't much. Whatever flavors there were are gone now. It also has a watery feel to it, in spite of the thick looking pour. I would love to try this fresh, because aged is a severe letdown. If I see it again, and it's fresh, I'll gladly revisit it.

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Photo of champ103
4.23/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Hay Merchant in Houston.

A: Pours a near opaque dark brown color with a dense beige head. The head sticks around as a cap throughout and nice lace is left behind.
S: Huge toffee, brown sugar, and molasses in the nose. Then comes some wonderful fruity esters. Apple skins and pears are pretty dominate. Though also some dark fruits like plums peek through as well. Earthy English yeast. I love this.
T: Fruity esters are more up front than the nose. Pears and apples are very nice up front that are even slightly tart (probably why some are misinformed and saying the "I" word). A toffee sweetness, even some wood comes next. Earthy and nutty English yeast rounds everything out. Fantastic.
M/O: A medium body with a surprising amount of carbonation. Crisp, but smooths out as this breaths. So enjoyable to drink. If it was not so expensive this would be a regular purchase of mine.

A fantastic example of the catch all style. I can see this fitting into the Old Ale, Winter Ale, even a slightly less boozy English Barleywine style. This is very hardy without being over the top strong, and while maybe not the absolute masterpiece that the Harvest Ales are, this is still really well done and so enjoyable.

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Photo of chinchill
3.27/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

From a cask at the 2016 Atlanta Cask Ale Festival.
Pours dark brown with a bubbly head. Lightly hazy.
Slightly pungent aroma hints at the strong flavor but the taste is quite tart despite a sweet note up front.

Overall: Fresh and interesting but infected.

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Photo of seedyone
2.23/5  rDev -39.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.25

09/08/11 at RnH, NYC. Not sure who thought this was a good idea. Not to my liking at all. Way too sour. Thought there was peppermint in the aroma but didn't find it elsewhere. Other references claim it was a CAMRA winter beer of Britain winner. Remind me never to go to Britain in the winter.

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Photo of macrosmatic
3.56/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes. Poured from a 500 mL bottle into a Cigar City pint glass.

A: Hazy deep brown, one finger's worth of off-white head, and low visible carbonation.

S: Boozy, caramel, spicy, brown malts (which smell a touch oxidized/cardboard to me).

T: Sweet brown malt, bready, a little cinnamon or nutmeg and vanilla with some rum raisin flavors. It's quite boozy for such a moderate ABV.

M: Medium body, carbonation on the low side but acceptable, and a little hot.

O: It's not bad, but nothing I'd likely repeat. This bottle did have some age on it, which makes the booziness even more surprising.

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Photo of ummswimmin
4.04/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer was served in a fluted glass at the Ginger Man in NYC (review is from notes).

This beer had no foam when served to me. The coloring is brown with some decent light at the edges.

This beer is pretty rich, while being decently thin. I get dark fruit upfront while retaining some good mouthfeel as it eases off.

This one makes for a very good sipper.

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Photo of flyingpig
3.62/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark mahogany colour with deep red tinges with a thin, off-white head that is about a millimetre thick that remains consistent throughout.

Mainly dark fruits to start, a combination of plum and sugar with some raisin and a little spice too. There is some toffee malts and some grapes but it doesn't smell as strong as I had been expecting.

Dark fruits kick things off with the plums and raisin from the nose along with a sort of fig taste. There is some sweet, rich malts and a little sugar along with an alcohol laced finish.

Medium bodied and with moderate to high carbonation, there is a dry finish that is slightly bitter and boozy with some spice in the mix too.

Very fruity and not as dark as I had expected, although still quite sweet. You can definitely feel that 6.5% abv. after a few drinks and it is quite a boozy beer to drink but it is one that I would have again.

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Photo of jonb5
3.58/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Half pint at JDW beer festival. Black, almost opaque apart from the brown edge. Tiny head, poor retention but it kept some lacing. Aroma was cork with notes of cranberry. Malty taste, stoutlike. There was some burn from the booze at the finish. Fairly smooth, texture was like thin syrup, minimal carbonation. Overall it had lots of burn from the alcohol but didn't really have the depth of character that some beers of this strength have.

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Photo of russpowell
3.06/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

One I remember having on cask in England, let's see how this bottled offering compares... Could not find a date anywhere on this bottle...

Pours an effervescent chestnut, with extremely thin cream colored head. Murks up, some lacing, zero head retention

S: Figs, dates & raisins

T: Figgyness & jammyness up front & faint leafy hops as well. More fruittyness, jammyness & a touch of treacle sweetness as this warms, mildly warming booze. Finishes fruitty, dry, & jammy

MF: Fairly thin considering the abv, minimal carbonation, some stickyness

Fails to impress, this bottle didn't fare well on this side of the pond. I remember it being somewhat better on cask, some beers may not be worth revisiting...

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Photo of Samp01
4.32/5  rDev +18%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a slightly viscous cloudy brown with a medium lasting tan head. Aroma toasted caramel malt, dark fruits, plums, figs, and some liquorice notes. Taste is toasted caramel malt, dark fruits of plums, dates, black figs with some mild bitterness. A full bodied brew with a slightly viscous and sticky mouthfeel with some moderate carbonation on the palate. Finish is sweet toasted caramel malt, dark fruits, plums, dates, black figs followed by some sweet alcohol esters and some mild bitterness ending. Flavor and aroma of liquorice, dates and figs becomes more evident as it warms up. Overall an excellent, flavorful nicely balanced, and delicious brew, very enjoyable.

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Photo of metter98
3.78/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: The beer is rather hazy mahogany in color and has no visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high beige head that quickly died down, leaving a thin layer of bubbles on the surface and a ring of large bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: Light but interesting aromas of dark fruits (plums and prunes) and toffee are present in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell but the flavors are a bit stronger and also include notes of caramel and mineral water.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a bit thin and watery on the palate with a low to moderate amount of carbonation (similar to what you would expect from a cask ale). No alcohol warming is detectable.
O: This beer is quite easy to drink compared to others in the style because it isn’t that full-bodied and there are no traces of alcohol in the taste.

Note: 2009 vintage

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.21/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Two year old properly cellared bottle. Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a very dark, nearly opaque brown with a half-finger fine light tan head that actually increased in size as it warmed. Massive lacing. Looks nice. Aroma of dark toasted and caramel malts, slight dark and dried fruit. Flavor follows with dark, toasted and sweeter malt, dark fruit. Finishes with malty dark fruit and a hint of wood, spice and hops. Nice medium body. Very pleasant. I would call this an old ale, not a winter warmer. I don't taste much spicing. I really enjoyed this. Wish this was available more often.

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Photo of jazzyjeff13
4.03/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 500ml bottle with a BB of Jan 2012, although given the strength of this brew I prefer to think of it as vintage rather than old. The label mentions a tale of farm hands attempting to rake the moon from a stream, thinking it was cheese.

Poured into a tulip pint glass. A deep ruby-brown hue with medium carbonation. Forms a huge head of creamy light-tan foam that remains for a few minutes before reducing to a surface layer. A sweet, slightly cloying aroma of dark malt with notes of molasses, dried fruit, brown sugar, liquorice and yeast. A background whiff of booze. Posseses a vinous, wine-like quality.

Tastes of rich dark malt with a dry finish. Notes of dried fruit, molasses, prunes, liquorice, dry yeast and stewed hops. A dry, slightly harsh bitterness upon swallowing, with a warming hint of alcohol in the background. Fruity and vinous. Mouthfeel is thick and smooth, with a pleasing creamy sensation and tingly carbonation. Pretty astringent; dries the palate. Aftertaste of sweet, fruity malt.

A rich, fruity experience - quite intense, definitely one to sip and savour. A pleasing blend of flavours that rounds out nicely. A quality strong ale; goes down nicely on a cold winter night. Well worth trying.

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Photo of Doppelbockulus
3.97/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage

Pours a very deep brown that still allows some light through. About a 2 inch head rises.

The smell includes some sweetness, some hay, and some cream.

Taste is similar to an aging barley wine. The sweetness is barely starting to poke through. Hops are calm, not heavy. Tastes like whole wheat toast that is lightly toasted and still has a moist center. Very dim caramel that may be more apparent after a few more years.

Mouthfeel is much like bread. Mouth is full and busy, the beer is not syrupy but is still thick.

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Photo of Fatehunter
3.94/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip glass. Copper to dark brown color with barely any head.

Smells of hay, mild caramel and musty malt.

Packs a malt punch, but retains a lighter body. Sweet, like overripe plum. Malt all the way through. Despite a relatively low ABV there is a little alcohol heat to it.

Lots of bubbles but not very carbonated. A sticky texture, clings to the mouth.

A great winter warmer sipper. Dark and sweet.

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Photo of fx20736
4.08/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a goblet, served at 63f.

Lovely tawny port brown with an offwhite head.

Aroma: baking in the oven molasses-gingerbread cookies and faint suggestions of toffee, earthy Fuggles hoppiness, caramel and diacetyl.

mouthfeel: silky and smooth

taste: bready malt, molasses sweetness, with a slightly sour twang and a finish that is Treacly sweet with just a kiss of prunes.

Notes: Is this a Barleywine, a Strong Ale as the bottle suggests or a Winter Warmer as BA calls it? I guess it doesn't matter, this is another malty, sweet beer like a Wee Heavy but without the peatiness or a Belgian Strong Dark Ale but without the spices. The sweetness of this beer and 7.5% abv make this a sipper. Don't drink this if you're in a hurry, it's a beer to lay down and avoid a bit, then a sip and then another laydown. Good stuff.

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Photo of AEK
4.66/5  rDev +27.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

500ml brown bottle poured into a JW Lees bitter pint pot.

A. A clear, autumnal red-brown beer topped by a slightly tanned bubbly head.

S. Vine fruits, fruity malt and some sherry notes in the background.

T. Honey, cloves, figs, spice and kirsch blend harmoniously with the alcoholic warmth this ale gives off.

M. Full.

D. A delicious strong ale from Manchester. Although good in bottled form this comes nowhere near to its cask counterpart which is a REAL brute!! 3 pints of this beast on draught and you will know about it (so will your pocket).

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Photo of 7ways
2.95/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Gotta say I expected more from Harvest Ale's little brother. This bottle is 1.5 years old, but others have given this vintage at least decent marks, and it's certainly not oxidized. Someone please BM me if this is supposed to only be consumed fresh.

Pours murky brown with a quickly vanishing head. Oily. Maybe I swirled too much, but it leaves only tiny pin pricks of lace. The constant swirling was because I can barely smell this damn thing; what I do get is pretty cheesy, with raisins and fruit X in the background.

The cheese plate aroma does not carry over to much into the taste. It's much more nutty and malty, with a vinous, not quite tart quality. Consumed cold it's quite metallic, but at the proper temp it vanishes. Nice caramel and bread notes, but they're just too weak. There is something that distracts from the taste as soon as I swallow; it's not exactly bad, but it hurts drinkability. Low but lively carbonation.

While not bad compared to most English beers available in the US, there is something essential missing here. With every sip I wait for something to happen, or to change, but it never does.

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Photo of avalon07
4.32/5  rDev +18%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a orange-red color and a thick, cloudy texture. There was an inch of fairly long-lasting, foamy, head. OK lacing.

S: A nice aroma of malt, caramel, and some spices.

T: A solid, focused flavor of caramel and malt up front, with toffee and spices in the finish. A bit more noticeable alcohol than I would have expected, but not overly so. A very sweet, pleasant taste.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a super dry finish. Medium-bodied.

D: A surprisingly flavorful and balanced beer. Drinkable.

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Photo of Zimbo
3.41/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

In the bottle the nose is deep with some appetising fruit. In the glass it is more cola like. There is a contant head on top of this reddish brown beer and body is slightly carbonic and quite thin for a 7.5% ABV beer. Slight banana quality to the tasty but not much else of interest. Decent complex lacing. Eventually coats mouth with a slight sappiness. There is development over time in the glass as it opens up. At least I didn't serve it chilled.

Certianly is Moonraker. Too bad I was expecting From Russia With Love.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle says 13 Aug 09 (Served in a dimple mug)
A- This beer has a dense opaque brown body with a bubbly porous head that soon fades to a thick bubbly ring and a few tiny bubble that stick to the base of the glass.
S- The woody brown malt and caramel aroma have toffee note to them and some light dry raisins come through as the beer opens up. There is a faint vinous note in the finish and a soft buttery hint to the woody brown malt.
T- There is a light toffee and vinous note with some slightly sweet caramel malt flavor and a very light tartness in the finish. The flavor of apple cider vinegar grows as the beer warms.
M- This beer has a medium-light mouthfeel with a tight fizz and a soft alcohol warmth.
D- This beer is dark and dry with some light sugary notes and soft woody/toffee raisin qualities. The softer characters make this easy to drink and beg for another sip to try and figure it out.

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Photo of glid02
4.1/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at the Porter in Atlanta.

Pours a hazy brown color with a one-finger tan head. The head recedes into a wispy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of red wine barrels with dark caramel malts with hints of toastiness. Also present are slight amounts of dark fruit aromas that intensify as the beer warms.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Medium malt flavors with solid amounts of toasted malts kick things off. Joining in shortly thereafter are mildly tart fruit flavors that segue into softer dark fruit flavors. Finally, hints of indistinct spices and cocoa powder come into play before a mildly bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with moderate carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall I didn't know what to expect from this beer and was pleasantly surprised by the complexity. An interesting beer that's well worth a shot.

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Photo of Offa
4.77/5  rDev +30.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is an excellent, flavourful, well-rounded ale with good depth and complexity. Called a winter warmer here, the brewer calls it "strong ale" and it could easily be a lower ABV barleywine, somewhat similar to Young's Old Nick (although I can't currently compare the two side by side since Old Nick hasn't been available 'round these parts for some time). Like many "strong ales" the categorising it is rather vague.

Slightly hazy red-brown amber, it has a big tan head shrinking steadily to a foamy ring and wispy top with a little fleeting lace.

Aroma is strong whole wheat bread, fermented prunes and raisins, sweet flowery tea and leaves, sweet rummy hint.

Taste is spicey raisin & prune, with fermented rich whole wheat bread dough and leafy-woody-peppery-spicey character. On the swet side up front, it becomes drier in the middle before a slightly sweet finish nevertheless backed up by a light spicey bitterness with the hop traits noted above. Aftertaste is initially drier and toasty, leafy and peppery with some caramelised prune, before becoming sweeter. Feel is just right, a slight oiliness is just enough to give it enough body without making it heavy. Drinkability is exceedingly high. This is excellent.

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Photo of John_M
3.75/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Don't see this on tap too often, so thought I'd give it a whirl at Max's today.

The beer pours a dark ice tea color with fair head retention and some decent lacing. Don't get a great deal on the nose... mabye some brown sugar, cherry and orange citrus. Really, this beer has a bit of a sweet ice tea aroma to it. The flavor profile is a bit more straight forward and one dimensional, but with a fair amount of brown sugar, vanilla and light sherry. Mouthfeel is medium bodied to full, and drinkability is OK. The beer is a bit heavy, and in fact the alcohol feels as if it's a higher than it actually is.

I don't know... nothing wrong with this beer, but it just isn't doing a lot for me today. It's really not much better than a lot of English style brown ales out there, which is what this beer reminds of. Nothing wrong with that, but... just seems like it could be so much more.

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Photo of wl0307
4.15/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Purchased at the Trafalgar Wines, a pretty good beer shop in Brighton. The bottle is 500ml now, BB 07/01/2011, served cool in a straight imperial pint glass.

A: coming in a dark ruby-brown colour, great clarity, gentle yet constant streams of fizz ascending from the bottom to support a 2cm thick creamy beige froth to last throughout the drink.
S: sour-sweet prune-ish fruits and berry fruits (plus jammy sweet cherry liquor) dominate the nose, but not without a good balance from the influence of malts, hinting at creamy toffee, sweet licorice, melted treacle, sweet nutty brown malts... all in all almost like that used in a Scottish Wee Heavy Ale. A good swirl would bring out the really aromatic hoppy (as of Styrian Golding really) and estery elements, while the old-ish woody odour stays in the remote corner. Overall, the complexity does shine through, although the overall balance gives way to a touch of sweetness too much.
T: cleaner and less sweet than the nose, the foretaste hints at liquidy caramely malts, sweet herbs, and a bitter edge of licorice, backed by bitter-sweet maltiness, lightly salty-sweet nuttiness, burned malts, black cherry's aroma, sweet jammy berries, etc., yet turning very quickly into a dry-ish, bitter and semi-rough aftertaste, on a par with a deepening and lingering dry-ish palate presumably rendered by long maturation as well as considerable hop bitterness. In some ways, the finishing touch is reminiscent of a slightly nutty yet old-ish aftertaste as of oloroso sherry - but only just.
M&D: being semi-clean on the palate, or at least "cleaner" than the smell would tend to suggest, coupled with a very mildly carbonated mouthfeel and a refreshingly dry-bitter palate, this med-plus bodied old ale is as well-structured as it is delicious. I would very much like to try the cask-conditioned version of this once Champion Winter Beer of Britain.

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Moonraker Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
3.66 out of 5 based on 163 ratings.
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