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

121 Reviews
Moonraker AleMoonraker Ale

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

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: 121 | Ratings: 166
Photo of Kwak
2.01/5  rDev -45.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

this one poured thick out bottle the
dark red brown color with no head at all

the smell was very sweet with a slight hoppy aroma

the taste was malty with an sweet prune taste
heavy flavor with a strong alcohol aftertaste
almost win like very strong flavor.

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Photo of hwwty4
1.65/5  rDev -55%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Poured a 500ml bottle into a Smokestack goblet. Appearance is dark brown with hints of purple along the edges. Absolutely no head. Slight bubbles along the edges of the glass but it honestly tastes pretty flat but not oxidized. No lacing. Aroma is oddly sweet, not in a good way. Slight bitterness at the finish of the nose. HOLY SHIT. This beer tastes like Dimetapp mixed with Sweet 'N Low. Yuck. I can't get anything besides that in the flavor. This is awful. By awful, I mean hideous. This is the first beer I have ever drain poured. Goodbye sir, and good riddance.

I feel like it was an insult to my favorite beer glass to pour this beer into it.

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Photo of andrewm190
3.78/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

I have toned down my points because I am not sure a beer should taste so much like grape. The beer reminds me very much of a barley wine.

It pours a nice color, a very dark purple/black, that closes towards red as you hold it to the light.

The smell is entertaining. I sense grape, as I said, I am very much reminded of grape juice. There is something else, chocolate? I don't think so, but thats the only other thing coming to mind. So very fruity, the taste matches the smell. There is definitely a high amount of flavor. The bottle boasts a roast malt finish; I however, cannot discern it.
The beer feels fine to the palate, small carbonation. There is no "bottled by" or "freshness" date on the bottle. My only real complaint is that it tastes a little too much like grape juice, or wine. I find it to be sort of a curious ale.

I give it low marks for drinkability because it is so much like grape juice or wine. I hesitate to call it a beer drinker's beer. I can certainly enjoy a pint, but its a beer I can only appreciate in small doses (relatively, i guess), I wouldn't want to have one followed by another.
All in all a good beer; not a bad pick-up.

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Photo of BretSikkink
3.53/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very dark brown, a few little clumps of sediment. When held to light, a few highlights of dark reddish amber show. Minimal head is foamy and quite sticky, although retention is not great.

Aroma is very thick and malty, very sweet with notes of caramel and toffee. Ester alcohol apparent as well.

Full, but not as thick as I expected, with plenty of bitter hops to balance the malt profile. Flavors emerge dramatically as the glass warms, with notes of coffee and oak join the fruity sweetness of the nose. There's an herbal sensation in the mouth, with a warming alcohol finish.

Winter warmer...interesting style. Big and well fermented, a complex brew but not as thick as other strong ale types.

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Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.07/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - bold reddish purple in color - think dark ripe plum, a touch of off white head ringing the glass that quickly fades to a trickle of bubbles.
S - Huge aromas of ripe dark fruits and rich malts. If you've had the harvest ales this will come across very familiar.
T - similar to the aroma but much deeper in the ripe fruit feel.
M - medium bodied, sweet but not cloying
D - I think I'd prefer this in a 12 oz size. Like the barleywine, this is a sipper. It's great and one I'd have again.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.67/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a very dark reddish-brown body with a rather short-lived, thin head.

Smell: A malty, refreshingly fruity aroma full of sour cherries, dark fruits, caramel, anise, port wine, and molasses.

Taste: Smooth, sweet malt-driven flavors are really allowed to shine here. Toffee, chocolate-covered raisins, light molasses, rum cake, blackberries, dark fruits, and sherry all wrapped up with a gentle, though noticeable sourness in the background. Only the faintest oaky bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-thin body. Not much in the way of carbonation here at all.

Drinkability: An enjoyable, highly quaffable beer. I'm not sure this really belongs in the Winter Warmer category, but what's done is done, I guess.

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.2/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Plain, deep amber sort of color. No real carbonation to it. No real aroma-somewhat sharp and wine like. Deep, sweet malty flavor though not overly impressive. Slight bitterness to it though it seems more from alcohol then hops. Somewhat thin body wise. Overall pretty average all around. No big deal.

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Photo of kkipple
2.77/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

After seeing my buddy pour this one and get no head, I splashed mine in noisily, but to no effect. There's really no head on this beer, just a few white bubbles clinging to the sides for life. Even those fade soon.

The smell is simple: toasted malts, sugar, and a faint whiff of alcohol, with a undefinable sour tinge on the backend. Reminds me of wort before the yeast gets to it....

The taste is decidedly strange, it's a very light-bodied, sweet beer with no discernable hop presence, but with an odd herbal tinge and a lingering, farm-house aftertaste. Malt presence is heavy, with loads of brown sugar and mildly roasted grains coming through. There is an odd biscuity flavor to it, but if this is 7.5% abv color me surprised. I would've guessed more like 4%.

The mouthfeel is equally odd, it's a little syrupy, but with hardly any carbonation and feels quite lifeless. This of course makes it easy to drink, but given the taste I'm not sure I want to...

Drinkability on this is low, I just couldn't get into it. The mouthfeel is too thin, the beer too watery, and the flavors just don't mesh well into anything very pleasant. A curious beer, ultimately unsatisfying. I'm sure this is better at the source.

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Photo of stereosforgeeks
2.59/5  rDev -29.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Appearance – Dark brown with a mild red hue. There was very little carbonation. Nonexistant lacing.

Smell – The aroma is very muffled but from what I can tell there are some caramel malts, with some nuts and fruit (fig or raisin?)

Taste – The caramel malts provide a strong backbone for some sherry and oak notes. This is pretty sugary and while the nuts and dark fruit seem present they are in the background.

Mouthfeel – The full bodied beer was almost sticky in the mouth and there didnt seem to be anything to help light the load on your palate some sort of carbonation would have been nice. Maybe this beer was a little too old?

Drinkability – This one was a bit lackluster. Maybe a fresher bottle will change my mind.

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Photo of Atlas1
3.79/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Hadn't heard of the Moonraker before picking one up at my local beer store this weekend. Classified as a "Winter Warmer," I'm not sure exactly how old this bottle is.

Pours a deep dark brown, with an orange tint at the edges when held up to the light. Really weak head; big bubbles which thin out rapidly and leave nothing but a very thin rinse around the edges of the glass. Nothing special in the pour, for sure. Still, the aroma here is boisterous. Fruity scents take command, with malted tones making a presence, but with much more reserve. Apple, pear, prune. And tasty too. Sweet... some malty sweetness, but mostly this is a fruity sweetness. Not sure how they pull this off without actual fruit in the brewing process (IS there fruit in the brewing process here?) but they do a damn fine job of things. A lightly syrupy mouthfeel. Moonraker would serve as an excellent dessert beer, or after-dinner drink. Not sure I would pair this with a cheese, but definitely a fruit sorbet or plum cake (IS there such a thing as plum cake?). All in all, the Moonraker is a fine brew. Fruity and strong, like the label says.

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Photo of phisig137
3.67/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep brown, almost black color with ruby highlights, and a half finger head. Poor retention doesn't leave anything nice behind, just a flat looking glass of ale.

Aroma is sweet, brightly fruity, and slightly alcoholic. Malty caramel aromas are well blended with an unusually fruity yeast strain... seems almost overly fruity and out of place for a British beer.

Flavor is quite sweet, to the point of being cloying up front. Again, massive fruit flavors here.... peaches, apples, pears, and maybe plums. the finish begins to take on a dryer side, although not hoppy. Finish is lingering. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, and smooth. Drinkability is pretty good for the ABV.

not a bad beer at all. I rather enjoy this one. The yeast must be the house strain over at J.W. Lee's, as you can taste some similarities to the harvest ale in this one. I wonder if this has the potential to age as well... I personally love the harvest ale, and this one pales in comparison. BUT, this was 3.99 a pint, compared to $8.49 for 9 ounces. If I'm in the mood and can't afford it, this is a decent back up.

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Photo of Beertracker
4.04/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

J.W. Lees Moonraker is best served at warmer cellar (50-55°F) temperatures from a brandy snifter or pint glass. This award-winning offering from J.W. Lees from Middleton pours up with ample carbonation followed by a long lasting tannish-white head that engulfs the deep russet-brown body. The sweet, caramel malt aroma is filled with a nice intermingling of fruitiness (candied yams, Shropshire plums, treacle pudding) and spicy (ginger, mace, cinnamon) notes. In addition, there's some notable alcoholic warmth underlying the slightly winy (oxidized) character . The rich, satifying flavor starts off with a wallop of caramel/nougat maltiness which evetually gives way to a light touch of bitterness from continental hops with a light alcoholic warmth to color the cheeks. J.W. Lees Moonraker is a finely crafted example of the style and is the perfect accompaniment to some tangy Stilton cheese. James Bond (007) never had it so good!

CHEERS! Beertracker

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.05/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a standard English Pint glass with an initial plop, releasing a fluffy off-white head that reduced to 1/4" then held firm. Big aromas of ripe and dark fruits with a bold malt base that hinges on toasty and caramels. A mild, tart fruitiness (berry-like) shows complexity and age. The flavors verify the caramel, toffee, toasted character. Fruit flavors of figs, peaches, almonds, and raspberries swirl around the malts and add varity to the taste. The feel is a solid and persistent bold maltiness with firm creaminess that is tempered only by the berry tawny tartness. Finishes quite malty flavored, yet intriguingly light and dry on the toung. Good Warmer for any season.

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

Half pint sampled at the Belfast Beer Festival, 17th November 2006...

Poured a deep red / brown colour. Creamy tan head poured quite thinly then faded to pretty much nothing... no real carbonation or lacing...

Aroma - Strong maltiness, quite sweet - treacle / brown sugar, dark fruits (figs, plums), toffee hints. some leathery notes, nutty, some pepperiness...

Taste – Lightly roasted caramel maltiness, nice fruitiness (cherry and faint over ripe banana hints, figs), nice light spicy hop bitterness, light ginger, slight vanilla notes, some breadiness, alcohol comes through a little...

Feel - Smooth and quite oily with a slight sharpness coming through.... At 7.5% probably couldn't drink too many of these in one sitting...

Overall - A excellent winter warmer.... Recommended....

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Photo of brewandbbq
4.09/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 1999

Pours murky mahogany with a beige head of pourus density.
An exaggerated pour produced a head of approximately 3/8", which faded to medium and large bubbles barely covering the surface.
Within two minutes, only a few scant bubbles remained around the edge of the glass, with no lacework.
Aromatics are fruity and malty.
Cherries and dried caramel dominate the nose, with figs, raisins, and a hint of wet leather.
Mouthfeel is syrupy and lightly carbonated, tacky.
Pallet is thick and chewy with over-ripe dark fruits and mild sugary notes.
Caramelly malt and toffee are large components, and vineousity is quite apparent.
Bitterness is subdued, and the brew is slightly warming.
Only a slight papery note hints at the age, beyond the complex, mellow character.
More attenuated than the Harvest ale, and holding it's own for a seven + year old brew.

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Photo of Budlum
2.55/5  rDev -30.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours with one quarter inch of soda-like foam with even the most aggressive pour. The little amount of head produces leave only a few reminders. Deep brown body displaying red colors when held to light.

Sweet, spicy and soda-like on the nose. This ale starts off with a cigar smoke sweetness before a pepper and cinnamon spice hits. Deeply roasted barley and black licorice precede a long, sugary malt smell. For the moderate ABV, alochol is noticeable.

This ale presents a very sweet ginger and candied yam taste. Slightly peppery with some barley and noticeable anise. Some peaty and strong smoke flavors provide some bold flavors. The finish is long, slightly metallic, and bitter. There is a notable hop flavor on the tongue long after each sip. Soy sauce flavors rise as this beer warms.

Mouthfeel is a little oily and carbonation is practically non-existant.

Drinkability is below average. I can't really picture reaching for another on of these any time soon.

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Photo of fartingdog
4.02/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Update 11/22/06: I decided to crack another bottle with a proper fill level, and it was excellent. Still not alot of carbonation, but definitely at the right level for the style. Flavor was rich and the mouthfeel was thicker than than before. Gritty sediment was still present, but most was left in the bottle. Now I am glad I bought more, and the experience has tought me to pay attention to fill levels. I still feel the $7 price tag is a bit steep for the beer, but nevertheless, a great offering.

10/01/06, original review: This bottle was a low fill (beer only up to the base of the neck) so I didn't quite know what to expect. No immediate off aromas or tastes, but there was a definite musty, woody quality about it. Slight fizz when poured, but almost no head to speak of. In checking the other reviews I would say that this bottle is on par and the low fill was not detremental. Slightly malty, but thinnish on the on the toungue. There's some faintly gritty sediment as well. There's the slight alcohol warming after sipping, but is well hidden up front.

Not bad, but in seeing other reviews, I know this beer is capable of having more carbonation and is probably much superior in that case- very much like Gale's Xmas brew- my first one was brought over from England and was excellent- everything else I bought here in the US was flat as a board. Maybe the same goes for this one. I feel that when this beer is at it's peak it would be awesome, but I'm not sure how many $7 bottles I'd want to buy to find out. (That and I bought 3 others for the cellar with higher expectations- maybe they have faired better- I can only hope.)

Update 11/22/06: I decided to crack another bottle with a proper fill level, and it was excellent. Still not alot of carbonation, but definitely at the right level for the style. Flavor was rich and the mouthfeel was thicker than than before. Gritty sediment was still present, but most was left in the bottle. Now I am glad I bought more, and the experience has tought me to pay attention to fill levels. I still feel the $7 price tag is a bit steep for the beer, but nevertheless, a great offering.

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Photo of mjc410
2.41/5  rDev -34.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured into a La Moneuse tulip...

As I'm pouring, I notice that the beer is pouring with nary a bubble in sight. So, I up-end the bottle, and I am able to coax a very slight head out of this, which quickly fades to a light tan ring. Held up to a window, the beer is on the lowest edge of transparent, showing a ruby world. Smells slightly sour, but not in a spoiled way. Light notes of sour cherries, sugar. Not much else on the nose. Tastes of slight caramel, although this hides behind the sweet and sour berry flavor. End very sweet, with no hop bitterness whatsoever. Seems to pass on a sweet cherry note to the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is on the thin side, and carbonation is almost nonexistent. This beer gets cloying pretty quickly, and I don't see myself reaching for it again.

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Photo of EvilKeith
3.85/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into the glass a murky deep dark perfect brown with a batter-like tan head. The head fell off to a wispy cap and a halo of small bubbles along the glass. Yeast sediment is evident in the bottle. The lacing was impressively thick and sticky.

Overall the smell was sweet. Caramel, malts, faint dark fruit notes, and buttery toffee. The alcohol was well hidden.

The taste was faintly chocolate, sweet rich malts, coffee beans, somehow earthy and a bit woody. The hops and alcohol add a nice spicy, bittering dry finish.

Creamy mouthfeel. Lightly carbonated. Medium bodied.

From the sweet smell I was expecting this to be perhaps too sweet. The brewer did a great job using the hops and alcohol to hold the sweetness in check. Well balanced and very damn drinkable.

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Photo of sacfly
3.42/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

500mL, no date. $5.99
Pours a reddish brown. On the dark side. What little head there was is quickly gone. Smell is fruity. Raisins and a bit of toasted malt. A little sherry. First sip is a bit syrupy and slick. Over ripe fruit. Figs. Almost reminds me of a watered down JW Lees Harvest ale. Aftertaste is sticky and sweet. No hops to speak of.

Again, this seems like a little cousin to the Harvest Ale, which I find far superior. This is not bad by any means, but I would never choose this over the Harvest. Especially with the $5.99 price tag.

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Photo of Vancer
3.29/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pour was the downfall of this one – root beer fizz with no head or lacing. But a nice aroma of sour malts in the aroma picked things back up a bit.

Decent tasting brew of caramel, coffee and spices – finishes with a sour mash bourbon kick. Medium bodied brew, has a nice rich malty backbone. Just a tad to tart & sour to make this one a real session drinker – not to mention the 7.5% abv

Saludos to BRoss242 for the sample.

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Photo of rajendra82
2.16/5  rDev -41.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Clear, reddish brown body, and a small head, made this beer look stately, but boring. The smell was little too fruity for my liking. Apart from unidentifiable dark skinned dry fruits, this one also smelled woody and sour. The taste was pretty much same as the smell. The mix of sweet, sour, and musty flavors didn’t quite rise to undrinkable standards, but did make me wince every time I took a sip. The body seemed thin at first, but after while it got to be more substantial. Usually that is good, but with this Moonraker, more flavors were not necessarily better. About the only positive was the well hidden 7.5% ABV. Not a beer, I’d care to drink again.

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Photo of mattpetti
3.14/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a very dark brown with redish tint. It has almost not head other than from splashing and looks to have almost no carbonation. The smell is of ripe dark fruits, roasted malts and maybe a flutter of hops at the end. Medium bodied with the fruits and roasted flavors leading the way. The fruits are almost overpowering border lining on sweet caramel flavors as well. Almost no carbonation makes this beer tast almost juice like at times. There is a tiny bit of bitterness at the very, very end. Nothing seems to balance out the fruit though. Alcohol isnt very apparent in the taste but it is warming. I can see it hard to drink more than one of these beers due to the overpowering fruit flavors. Would be great with some winter food dishes like turkey with cranberry sauce though.

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Photo of scruffwhor
4.16/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance- A Deep, dark amber with a very merlot highlight when held to the light. Very little bubbling. Only a small island of foam after the head disappears.

Smell- A lovely fruity aroma. A well developed malt presence with the usual English hop aromas present.

Taste- A pretty good fruity character. Lots of dark fruits like prunes and black cherries. Maybe a hint of dryness here and there. The hops just adds a dash of bitterness to keep the super sweet malts at bay from cloying the palate.

Mouthfeel- A very surprising mix of drynes and fruity sweetness all over my palate. This was a barley wine ith the drinkability of a bitter or pale ale.

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Photo of dgallina
3.25/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

500ml brown bottle with no freshness dating.

Pours deep red-brown with zero head or lace, weak carbonation. Smells syrupy sweet; perhaps medicinal cherries candied in caramel. Sticky sweet fruit up front, works through some astringent sourness in the center, but leads to a drier leafy and lightly nutty finish. Flavor is better-balanced than you might hope from the aroma. Medium oily body with bigger carbonation than expected.

Not very well integrated or especially appealing.

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Moonraker Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
3.67 out of 5 based on 166 ratings.
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