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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Barleywine - English
Ranked #55
Ranked #3,533
4.12 | pDev: 12.38%
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
England, United Kingdom
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)
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Reviews: 281 | Ratings: 567 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of MNAle
MNAle from Minnesota

4.41/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage. Virtually no head from a vigorous pour. Dark brown from the front, orange-red with a backlight. No carbonation visible. The thin ring of off-white foam will leave some dots and loops of lacing if you tip the glass.

Aroma takes some drawing out (likely due to the complete lack of head), but is very nice. Molasses, raisins, some alcohol.

Taste is exquisite. Leather, raisins, other fruit flavors (perhaps apple), tannin, brandy, sweet malts, and more. Quite complex. Beers with flavors this complex exceed my ability to parse out all the elements without seeming ridiculous or pretentious. Suffice it to say as at the beginning: exquisite. The finish is semi-sweet, moderated by the tannin.

Mouth feel is substantial - viscous and chewy. The alcohol and tannin add some zip to the feel, which keeps things from feeling flat.

Overall, outstanding.

Jan 31, 2021
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Pinz412 from Pennsylvania

4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

It poured a cloudy plum color with just a fleeting fizzy head atop. There was quite a bit of sediment that floated around my glass before settling to the bottom. The aroma was heavily Calvados(apple and brandy) with some of the traditional dark fruit notes like raisin and date that I expect from an English barley wine. The taste brought together all of those wonderful smells on the nose and then some. In addition to the still quite hot Calvados and dried fruit, there was also a strong component of caramel or butterscotch that I assume came from the oxidation. It added complexity and was a nice break from the sweetness of concentrated apple, raisin, and fig. The feel was a medium/full body with a bit of stickiness from the sugars. Overall, a highly enjoyable barley wine.

Jan 30, 2021
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SierraNevallagash from Maine

4.41/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2015 Vintage - 275ml bottle - poured into a snifter at 45°F.

Pours a ruddy, cloudy, rusty scarlet/amber-brown hue, with zero head formation, and just a razor-thin cream trim. Zero sigh of effervescence.

Nose: Instantly, it's very sherry-like. Sweet, rich malty aromas of barley, butterscotch, caramel, toffee, leather, oak, red apple, brown sugar, light treacle, brandy, dried fig, plum, and raisin which lend some fruity tang, old stone cellar, dusty attic, old parchment, baking spice, orange zest, wintergreen, and some woody, musty old barrel. A truly amazing English barleywine aroma.

Palate: This barleywine greets the palate with golden malt sweetness, immediately lending butterscotch, toffee, and caramel, followed by brandy, leather, red apple, white grape, raisin, prune, fig, stewed pear, and some dried cherry tartness. There's a really prominent old, leathery, dusty oak character, and some huge sherry notes - i cannot stress how sherry-like this is. The dark fruit acidity cuts through the malty sweetness just enough to allow the dry, musty oak and leather to overtake and begin to dry this out. The Calvados is there, but knows its place, and lands a character so entirely different from any whiskey. The finish is oaky, with lingering brandy, leather, and some more sherry notes, becoming fairly dry from the barrel, and finally showing a whisper of vanilla and some spice.

Mouthfeel/Body: Full-bodied, rich, malty, slick, and soft, with a bit of chew, but not nearly the viscosity of today's big stouts. The effervescence is almost gone here. There's some very subtle prickle, but for all intents and purposes, it's not far from still. Sweet, sticky, and wet up front, but the oak dries it out very quickly, adding balance.

Overall: An excellent English barleywine. Balanced sweetness with malt complexity, firm, splintery, balanced oakiness, amazing Calvados cask character with lots of brandy and a subtle fruity apple thing (very similar to cognac casks) - not an *apple beer* but subtle, mature, and complex hints of apple, with tons of sherry influence. If you like sherry, get this. If like Calvados, get this. If you like barleywine, get this. In fact, just get this. Stellar.

Nov 29, 2020
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Harrison8 from Missouri

4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nutty burgundy-brown with a murky tint to it. Head is null out of this vintage bottle. Aroma is toffee, raisins, peat, cellar stone, oak, char, candied nuts alongside toasty, caramely malts. Mild sweetness with a little dryness from the peat. Blend is good. Flavor profile is raisins, toffee, oak, caramel, candied nuts and peat moss with toasty, caramely malts mingled throughout. It's mellowed to a dull edge. Mouth feel is smooth with a still effervescence and a fine silt for texture. Overall, robust and tightly appointed, it's a great barleywine with a little peaty bite.

Served in a 15.5oz Speigalau tulip from a 9.3oz bottle. Will update my review should I get the chance to review a fresh one. Bottled in 2006.

Apr 08, 2020
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Wolvmar from Michigan

4.36/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage poured into a tulip glass. Purchased at Barrels & Vines.

Pour: ruby brown, no head or lacing. Pretty color but not much else.

Nose: the calvados apples come through really strong but not overwhelming. Some boozy sweet malt.

Taste: complex, calvados upfront, stone fruit, burnt caramel, sweet malt. Slight bitterness on backend rounds it out. No oxidation that I could identify.

Mouthfeel: low carbonation, smooth, slightly viscous. Easy to drink.

Overall: this is a great beer for a football night, by the fire, relaxing anytime. Will definitely get another bottle.

Sep 22, 2019
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DefenCorps from Oregon

3.94/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle, 2011 vintage.

A mildly hazy red with a thin, off-white head with decent retention and lacing, this looks solid. The nose is sweet with some cereal, apple brandy, honey, toffee, a little butterscotch and some brown sugar. The cereal note is a little distracting, occasionally coming off as mildly papery, Oxidation is mild here. The palate opens sweet with a blend of cereal, grain, honey and some apple brandy. Initially sharp, the burn dissipates, yielding a sweeter beer. While there are tart aspects to it, the oxidation hasn't sufficiently developed to result in a top notch beer. Full in body and moderately tannic on the finish, alcohol is noticeable here.

Sep 08, 2019
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descobar from Florida

3.87/5  rDev -6.1%
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...

Feb 28, 2019
Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
MonDak_Joe1953 from Minnesota

4.21/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

Jan 26, 2019
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keithmurray from Connecticut

3.98/5  rDev -3.4%
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

Dec 29, 2018
Photo of Dragginballs76
Dragginballs76 from South Carolina

4.19/5  rDev +1.7%
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.

Dec 23, 2018
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SHODriver from North Carolina

4.49/5  rDev +9%
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.

Oct 18, 2018
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Lone_Freighter from Vermont

4.49/5  rDev +9%
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.

Sep 17, 2018
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markjknowles from Oregon

4.73/5  rDev +14.8%
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!

Jul 06, 2018
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rudzud from Massachusetts

4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
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

May 25, 2018
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jlindros from Massachusetts

4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
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

May 25, 2018
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puck1225 from Texas

4.37/5  rDev +6.1%
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!

Mar 31, 2018
Photo of bret717
bret717 from Pennsylvania

4.29/5  rDev +4.1%
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

Mar 12, 2018
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stevoj from Idaho

4.26/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

Jan 08, 2018
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stratusjeans from Washington

3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
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.

Nov 06, 2017
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JayWhitson from Montana

4.99/5  rDev +21.1%
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.

Oct 23, 2017
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GratefulBeerGuy from New Hampshire

4.13/5  rDev +0.2%
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.

Jul 24, 2017
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bshefftz from California

3.68/5  rDev -10.7%
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.

Jun 24, 2017
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

May 02, 2017
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Fordcoyote15 from Kentucky

4.39/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

Apr 09, 2017
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VoxRationis from New York

4.16/5  rDev +1%
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.

Apr 03, 2017
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 567 ratings