J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) | J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)
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Reviews: 274 | Ratings: 539

#40 ranked British Barleywine | 11.50% ABV

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

Notes: Winter availibility. 
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)
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Reviews: 274 | Ratings: 539
Photo of descobar
3.87/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This 275ml bottle was brewed in 2008! cellared for the last 8 or so. Had no idea what to expect.
Look: pours brown with little or no head. just a tan ring is left around the glass which persists. the beer is very cloudy with visible sediment (yeast, I imagine) floating around when held up to the light.
Smell: bold dark fruits (mostly raisins), molasses, lots of calvados apple brandy boozyness. a hint of oxidation.
Taste: lots of candy sugar sweetness combined with caramelly apples, toffee and grassyness (hops?).
Feel: creamy, sticky texture. full bodied with light carbonation and pronounced astringency. finishes with long lingering sweetness and alcohol warmth and astringency
Overall: probably one of the most complex beers I've ever tasted. due to its overwhelming sweetness, not necessarily my cup of tea, lots of stuff going on...

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Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
4.21/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 275ml bottle into glass. Label has this as brewed in 2014.
Light brown/orange colored body, which is murky in appearance. Minimal head upon pouring, and what remains is a scattered area of small bubbles. No lacing.
Aroma of figs and prunes, with some apple, brown sugar and caramel.
Taste is overall quite sweet, from what seems to be from dark and dried fruit such as prunes, figs, and raisins. Back half is less sweet but includes flavors of caramel, toffee, and caramelized sugar. Has an apple brandy note, especially in the burp.
Medium mouth feel, with some syrup stickiness. Lower felt carbonation. Does not express alcohol hot, but does provide a warming sensation as the beer goes down.
Awesome sipper, with good balance and a wider range of flavor experiences. The smaller body is just the right size for a thorough sampling.

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Photo of keithmurray
3.98/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage

Appearance - murky orange/amber color with thin tan head

Smell - orange marmalade, peat, caramel

Taste - orange marmalade, smoke, toffee, fig, brown sugar, orange peel, apple skin

Mouthfeel - medium bodied, low carbonation, sticky, candied orange peel upfront, peaty smoke on the back end

Overall - This was an enjoyable sipper. give it a try

Price Point - $5.69/9.3 oz bottle

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Photo of Dragginballs76
4.19/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - 2013 vintage pours deep murky brown with a nice tight tan head that settles to a thin cap. Sheets of lacing all around the glass.

Aroma - Plum, fig, brandy aroma, brown sugar, toffee, caramel, apple.

Taste - Lots of dark fruit plum and fig, toffee and brown sugar on the finish. apple, oak, brandy. Pretty sweet taste.

Feel - Medium bodied, smooth slick, nice warming from the alcohol.

Overall - The dark fruit is very prominent in the taste at first but the apple and sweet caramel quickly come in to balance things out.

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Photo of SHODriver
4.49/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured into a barrel aged beer glass to a deep brown topped by a small off white head which fades quickly to a collar around the edge of the glass with minimal lacing
S: Smells of intense dark fruits and brown sugar with some slight oak and mulling spices.
T: Taste is sweet dark fruits with some brandy notes, strong brown sugar and toffee with a some stewed dark fruits along with a touch of oak and toasted bread. On the swallow that slight brandy note is back with more dark fruits, strong brown sugar and dulce de leche with some slight lingering vinous notes, dark fruits, and slight spice.
M: This beer is on the heavier side of things with a slightly syrupy mouthfeel. Carbonation is just below prickly and adequate for the style while the beer has a somewhat dry finish which is surprising given the sweetness on the palate but not out of place.
O: This one is very impressive. The calvados casks were what really drew me into this beer since you don't see that very often. Really nice flavors and complexity on this beer make it a great one to sip and ponder. This one is from 2013 and it has aged extremely well. Definitely worth trying if you can find it.

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Photo of Lone_Freighter
4.49/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter.
The appearance was a deep rugged burnt dark orange/copper color with a small white foamy head sliding off fairly quick. Mild lace.
The aroma had some vanilla, spicy woody barrel, dark chocolate nibs, dark fruits, light tobacco and a touch of red delicious apple.
The flavor yields to the sweetness of the prior mentioned aromas. Yet a stifled spicy barrel makes a great play to blend. Slight aftertaste of sweet tobacco, spicy woody barrel and vanilla.
The mouthfeel was about medium bodied with a fair sipping quality about it. Spicy woody barrel does impart some harshness but I didn't mind. Honestly, it felt good. Carbonation felt a bit under but this is a bottle from 2012.
Overall, an absolutely wonderful English Barleywine well worthy to age. I need more of this for my beer cellar.

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Photo of markjknowles
4.73/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

9.3 oz. bottle poured into a pFriem 12oz tulip glass. Hazy unfiltered apple cider like appearance whit only a brief fizz on top. More of an apple smell than I expected and also caramel. The taste of a liquid caramel apple, brown sugar,alcohol bite in the finish. As it warms, its qualities are magnified. Syrupy fizz on the tongue. This exceeded my expectations. Sweet, more apple than I expected. Still a great balance of flavors. The hops temper the malts, the alcohol heats things through. The carbonation offsets the sugar thickness. I want another!

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Photo of rudzud
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Received as an extra in a trade and shared with JLindros. 2013 vintage.

A -Poured into a Kate the Great tulip a nice slightly hazy dark brown with a thin head that fades to leave light wisps and a thin halo.

S - Big aromas of calvados barrels, sweet apples, brown sugar, butterscotch, caramel sauce.

T - Taste is similar to the nose with excellent calvados barrel, lighter on the apple flavour. Nice very sweet caramel sauce. The finish is lingering bitter hops.

M - Mouthfeel is nicely carbonated, alcohol hidden excellently.

O - Overall this was a rather surprising beer. Really nice barrel notes and a surprising amount of carbonation for JW Lees.

Serving Type: bottle

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Photo of jlindros
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to rudzud, 2013
Light fizzy head not too much retention, no real legs, super hazy dark brown color

Nose big sweet candy malt and calvados like candy, apple cider like notes, apple skin, but a touch of oxidation in the background, brown sugar all over, butterscotch and caramel too, touch of biscuity toffee and brown malts

Taste super sweet, candy sugar, caramel, a little butterscotch, lots of everything sweet, but also lots of apple, apple skin, nice calvados barrel, just a touch of cardboard oxidation but barely, little bitterness in there, little biscuity toffee too, mild sticky sweet finish, little bitterness too, nagging bitterness is a little irking though

Mouth is heavier bod, bit syrupy, decent carb surprisingly, a touch of alcohol barely

Overall much better than i though, only a touch of oxidation, some carbonation too, nice calvados and good sweet flavors, bit over the top on sweetness but good when sipped, not much alcohol either

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Photo of puck1225
4.37/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A treat beer that goes well with steak flatbread pizza! Had it from tap into a small snifter. Golden amber color with a beautiful head and lacing. Very herbal, earthy smell. Taste of toffee, caramel apples, vanilla, warm herbs and some booze. Liked it very much!

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Photo of bret717
4.29/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Look- pours a cloudy orangish brown w/thin ring of bubbly whit head; no lacing

Aroma- subdued leather, dark bread, apples and booze

Taste- starts out with sweet brown sugar and dark break, then leather and the Calvados come in, followed by a little bit of hop bitterness

Overall- Really nice blend of sweet malty flavors and apple brandy from the Calvados

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Photo of stevoj
4.26/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2009 vintage at tasting. Dark-ish, kind of flat. Sweet malt, some of the apples coming through. Taste is sweet malt, apples, brown sugar. Warmth comes late. Pleasant and worth the wait.

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Photo of stratusjeans
3.9/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.75

Opened 11/4/2017, drinking 2006 vintage. Given as a gift 4 months ago so I can't say how it's been cared for prior to that.

Pours a beautiful Amber color, no head. Smells like honey, tastes of honey, oak, Sherry, raisin. Definitely some oxidation on the finish but not nearly as much as you expect. I understand this beer is 11 years old, but the carbonation is completely gone. Feels like a cocktail, not a beer. Actually tastes like a cocktail too, not a beer.

I'm curious what this tastes like fresh. As is, it's not bad at all but too sweet for my tastes, at least to drink more than a cocktails worth.

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Photo of JayWhitson
4.99/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Sweet apple brown sugar molasses booze malty insanity. Bottle dated 2014. I'm sure it would only get better with age but I have no patience. If you love English barleywine then these are some of the best available and totally worth the over a dollar per ounce price tag.

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
4.13/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3 FL. OZ. 275 ml. Brewed in 2014. Opened on 7/24/2017.

Pours out with a muddy amber and golden coloration. Thin, swirley white bubbles and foam create mostly a bubbly ring around the edge.

The aroma is most unique, an apricot, dates and maple syrup combo is pretty inticing. Sweet malt, maple syrup and dense fruits all over. A classic English old leather and antique oak furniture aroma comes from the house yeast and cask aging. Grandma's spice racK , smoke and freshly baked dark wheat bread. Cinnemon and black pepper pop out later.

The taste of sugar coated dates with maple syrup dominate the palate. The flavor is intense and very, very sweet. A bitter, earthy and tangy edge rolls in soon from the English hops. Black pepper, oak cask, vanilla, maple syrup and more sweet fruity dates makes this complexity high, but dominated by sweetness. The malt is unique with these flavor's, dense and heady but perhaps....too heady? Is that possible? Perhaps a bit more hop kick to balance the sweetness out?
The light, earthy effect becomes bitter and dry very quickly. ...really the only true balance found with the big and sweet malt. Slightly boozy cask, woody and sweet , adds further depth to an already devilish complexity. 11.5 % with a quick, boozy heat tingle and, ever-so-long Port wine boozy punch with a sicky-sweet dense finish.

The mouthfeel is about as "full" and thick as you can get. Slick, malty, sticky and only slightly dry. It literally feels and tastes like light-golden maple syrup is poured into the liquid at the last minute.

Overall, this one is very difficult to rate by points. Much like the first time you have a 120 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head, your not sure if it really falls into any one style. J.W Lee's Harvest ale on Calvados cask just jumps out of any style, becoming some freak of brewing. Although closely related to the English Barleywine, clearly this one goes off in a strange but interesting direction. As a beer geek that enjoys "out there" and extreme aspects to beer, I must say, this one is pretty far "out there" for any style. I will say, although very deep and complex the malt and sweetness just goes a bit too far off the hindges. With slightly more hop balance I see a classic brew. Perhaps in 10 to 20 years of cellering, this one might hit the palate just right.

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Photo of bshefftz
3.68/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

June 23 2017 in an Ommegang glass. This is the kind of beer that should be right up my alley, and I wanted to love it, but it had a stale, papery taste around the edges. Improved somewhat as it warmed, but still disappointing. So, caveat emptor.
Perhaps this beer had grown too old, as I will too someday, when I myself will get poor reviews online for being stale around the edges.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.18/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 edition, apple brandy for days! this is great stuff, obviously pretty bulletproof in the cellar, and a really neat little run of barrel treatments they have set up here. this is really interesting, seems like its always stouts or sours in calvados barrels, which i think prevents the spirit from shining through as much with all the other bold flavors going on. this is a robust strong ale, with a lot of caramel malt notes, bready english yeast, and alcohol, but its not so intense that the barrel cant be center stage. bigtime apple note to this in the nose which is great with the malt, very autumnal, almost baked dessert sort of aromatic, mild spice too, peppery wood, booze, brown sugar, and sight oxidation that i always think is good in these types of beers. the flavor lines up with the nose pretty well. the brandy is really forward, slightly sweet, woody, and with a dried apple complexion, raisin and whiskey too though, and then all the malt, which makes this beer what it is. this is a great beer to showcase a barrel like this, and it has aged really well. still hot, but thats the beer in general. of the several of these that i have not had the pleasure of trying, this is among my favorites. there is a natural fit between the barleywine and the apple brandy.

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Photo of rypkr
4.39/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2014. Snifter pour.

L - murky ass off-orange. Frothy head on the edges, little elsewhere. Super sticky lacing.

S - Apples... cider.... apple cider. Brown sugar, toffee, carmel. Candy corn.

T - Sweet cream, vanilla, sugary, apple pie, oaky. Taates like a carmel covered sweet golden delicious apple or even apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

F - Chewy. Dense. Like a slightly carbonated apple cider.

O - It's ridiculously sweet. Probably too much so. I was hoping for more oak, and smoke when I sought this out. Though overall it's pretty true to style and a good example of an English barleywine.

Probably will not buy it again at $9/11oz though.

Edit - bought again and drank on 3-23-18. Bumped taste from 4 to 4.75 and overall from 4 to 4.5. It's exquisite.

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Photo of VoxRationis
4.16/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2012; decanted into a conical pint glass. Pours hazy with a medium copper to amber color (similar to unfiltered cider); sediment evident, little head, but substantial legs on swirling. Nose: whisky to sherry; palate: sherry flavor evident with earthy flavor from sediment. Heavy with gritty mouthfeel. Enjoyed it; might make an aperitif or after dinner treat.

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Photo of Apellonious
4.13/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 version, 9.3 fl oz. poured into a Wicked Weed tulip glass. Pours a dense, murky brownish red with no head and no lace present. This may be the first time I have drank a five year old beer. The smell is of apple, caramel, brown sugar, and dark fruit/molasses/fig. Initially there was some heat, but that dissipated after the first couple wafts. The first sip brought on ash tray, leather, brown sugar, faint pear and apple. Maybe some cherry? Mild heat notes lurk as the sips continue, with less ash, and more fig. Everything becomes pretty balanced as the drink progresses. Odd that the longer the break is between sips, the more chance of the ash/leather aspect to return. The feel is heavy, the carbonation is low but present, and only a tinge of sticky. Overall, an impressive EB. Of the two I have had so far, I preferred the sherry cask, but this one is enjoyable in a different way.

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Photo of citizencane
3.93/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Doesn't look impressive- no head or lace. Smell is good- fermented apples, sugar, raisins, barrel. Taste is good but a bit of a letdown from the smell. Tastes of sugar, apple, and a hint of grape and malt. Not bad, and much better than I expected from appearance, but the other reviews and the smell left me wanting a bit more. That said I'll happily enjoy the rest of the glass without complaining.

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Photo of sokol_1993
4.1/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had it during a team happy hour at Churchkey, DC in a tulip glass. 2015 Vintage.
It's still an excellent beer, but I prefer its brother in the Sherry cask.

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Photo of JackRWatkins
4.59/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a rich caramel color with a minimal white head (a more prominent head than the other barrel version)
S: Smells like a caramel apple, pure and simple, wonderful
T: A wonderful salted caramel apple with a touch of dry tartness that is a touch unexpected and quite pleasant
M: Dry and surprisingly not all that sticky
O: Wonderful, honestly I would say more, but there's just not that much to explain, there are not that many elements (to me) combined here, but the ones that are present are here in just the right shade and meet at just the right angles, this is not a trip through a maze, it's a (very heavy) walk in the park (perhaps in autumn).

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Photo of cjgiant
4.08/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On cask:
A nice deep copper, maybe with a light rusty hue. Big bubbles join a thin ring of whitish (too thin to tell) head around the rim. Translucent body.

Nose is caramel and brown sugar with Brandy notes. I don't get apple specifically, but an apple crisp can be inferred from the nose.

A quite sweet opening shows an English BW base, but the attention is grabbed by the Brandy in short order. It adds a sugary note to the caramel base, bordering on being too sweet. A green wood flavor kinda saves the day, turning my tongue a little.

There is an alcohol twinge, but it feels muffled. Coming from the cask, this warmer beer flows nicely over the tongue, while the flavors are bold on the palate. I'd expect more stickiness to the feel with the sweetness, but it's not there for me, which is good.

Interesting, for sure. I think the flavors work as well together as can be expected, though they aren't the most normal flavors I am used to.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.77/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2006 vintage; drank 7/8/14 @ Deerfield Elementary.

Poured from the bottle into a glass.

Dark red rust hue; tons of cream flotsam.

Minimal off-white head; no lace.

Dark cherry & burnt sugar nose. Inviting!

Medium thick, sticky mouthfeel.

Dark cherry & burnt sugar are joined by toasted oak on the flavor; sweet cherry settles on the lips. 8 years in; perfection!

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 91 out of 100 with 539 ratings