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

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)
533 Ratings
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)

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

Style: British Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Dantes on 05-07-2004

View: Beers
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Ratings: 533 |  Reviews: 271
Reviews by Dantes:
Photo of Dantes
4.17/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Package:275 ml brown, crowned bottle, much like a 7/8ths scale longneck. Parchment-like, cream-colored label with green lettering. Boldly labelled “Harvest Ale 2003" and “Calvados.”

Cost: NA

Presentation: Riedel Port glass at ~50°

Appearance: I think that the Calvados adds little or no extra color to the standard Harvest Ale. Otherwise, the pour yielded the standard J.W. Lees “look:” a tight, creamy, beige head and a russet, tobacco-colored body.

Smell: I had a harder time discerning the Calvados in this brew than I did the other specially casked versions. I think it was subsumed by the natural fruitiness already present in the beer and the more noticeable tobacco, toast, and raisiny elements.

Taste: Not remarkably different than the standard offering, this seemed to exhibit a touch of honey and smoke that wasn’t present in the other versions. In contrast, the nuttiness of the regular offering seems a tad more subdued. However, none of this affects the lengthy, substantial, warming finish.

Mouthfeel: A silky, creamy mouthfeel carries the sweetness and toastiness of this fine ale. Again, the carbonation is exhibited well but not intrusively. I wonder if this will become somewhat more flaccid as it ages.

Drinkability: My least favorite of this series, I still wouldn’t pour it down the drain! I look forward eagerly to trying this in the future, to see how it develops. Might be perfect for a tarte tatin.

Backwash: I think that the Calvados cask version of this beer is the weakest of the lot. While I happen to be a big fan of Calvados, one of the best “brandies” out there and a great value; I don’t find the Calvados as complementary with the rest of the flavors of the beer as I do the Port, Sherry, and whisky (Lagavulin). In fact, I think I’d rank the “regular” vintages of Harvest Ale above this. Perhaps it will improve with age. Only time will tell.

NB: Given the opportunity, I'd probably give this a "taste" rating of 4.25, as I don't think it's substantially worse than the others.

 2,056 characters

More User Reviews:
Photo of floridadrift
4.83/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2006 POOF!

Almost tart, perfectly mellow with a back-end of alcohol. When I'm not skiing the Alps, I always try to let it warm. This reminded me of a candied apple; this beer was incredibly good, especially with time. One day, this will come in a bomber for $50 and we will all be pissed.

 290 characters

Photo of JayWhitson
4.99/5  rDev +22.6%
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.

 274 characters

Photo of bret717
4.29/5  rDev +5.4%
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

 358 characters

Photo of RoyalT
4.68/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This one was orange and both glowed in the dark and was heavily murky at the same time. There was actually even a light head to this one.

Smell – The big, raunchy wine aroma is soaked in huge prunes. The booze is big as well. The grapes though are not to be outdone. They are white and grape-juicy.

Taste – Oh, God, is this thing got some big flavors. Man, you can barely sip it. The prune juice is just monstrous and the booze, although super smooth, is large as well. The white grapes are really big, too.

Whenever I partake of an EBW, I always pay particular attention to the sweetish flavors that are present. Here they aren’t sugary per se but thick, syrupy, and pruney. Lastly, the French Calvados casks imposed a light presence of wood, just enough to add a new dimension to the experience. It all worked together more like a fine tawny port than anything else.

Mouthfeel – This is close to full-bodied and super full in its flavor. It is one of the most flavorful ales that I’ve ever had. I can’t begin to explain how the sweetish grape and prune flavors just explode on the palate.

Drinkability – This was a real treat to drink. It is exciting, explosive, and sure to spur an hour-long discussion among beer advocates.

 1,263 characters

Photo of DanGeo
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of MadScientist
4.29/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: A medium amber with a deep orange hue and good clarity. The are only a few bubbles that quickly fade leaving a swirl of tiny, hardly there bubbles floating around the beer.

S: There is that rich malt of a barley wine with a sharp oak and brandy aroma. There is a light bit of an aroma that reminds me of a hard cider. The alcohol is soft and some what floral. There is a light bit of the rasin aroma in a Barleywine but not as much as most usually have.

T: Malty and sweet with a moderate oak flavor that bring a fair amount of vanilla and a touch of cinnamon flavors. The calvados becomes a bit more evident in the finish as the malt goes away leaving the alcohol warmth to mingle with the apple-brandy notes. There isn't much in the the way of hops flavors and just a light hops bitterness. The balance is strong towards the malt sweetness and the finish is sweet as well.

M: Medium-full bodied with moderately-light carbonation. moderate creaminess and moderately-strong alcohol warmth.

O: A strong Barleywine with a lot of sweetness that is checked by the alcohol more than the hops.
Brewed in 2007

 1,110 characters

Photo of tbryan5
4.13/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A- Little to no head. Pitch black.
S- Peaty. With raisins and toffee.
T- More booze and dark fruits.
M- Full, slick and smooth.
D- Its a sipper but a very nice one that warms you up.

 183 characters

Photo of bishopdc0
4/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of merlin48
3.81/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2003 vintage, small 750 ml bottle, served slightly chilled into a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter. Pours a clear, glistening, topaz amber body that exhibits lively carbonation. Small, offwhite head is tightknit and persistent, eventually falling into a collar with an extensive draping of sheet lace. The appearance is divine.

Aroma begins with a sharp note of Calvados apple brandy. Calvados is a fine French brandy that is both expensive and difficult to find. It is excellent to cook with, but I don't really care to drink it. The aroma also features freshly sliced McIntosh apples, some raisins, and some toffee and butterscotch maltiness. The alcoholic brandy notes are dominant all the way through, and some peppery spice notes are also in play.

Mouthfeel is slick and full bodied. Smooth, but there is an alcohol bite that is peppery.

The taste is dominated by the Calvados, much more so than expected. Significant alcohol warming is present throughout. Malt notes include raisins, toffee, and butterscotch, with caramel coming on toward the finish. A pleasant earthy/woodsy character emerges at room temperature. Pepper accents are definitely noted, but I'm not certain if they derive from the hops or the alcohol. Very vinous and brandy-like, much more so than any other J.W. Lees product I've tried.

Surprisingly close to Calvados in taste and character. This one is definitely a slow sipper that would be ideal in front of the fireplace on a cold winter night. Very warming. Interesting how a beer acquires the higher alcohol and flavors of the spirit that previously was aged in the same wooden cask. At a price of over $8.00 for this small bottle, I think I will pass on this one next time, though I'm likely to try the other cask aged Harvest Ales that Lees offers. For value, stick with their more pedestrian ales which have a higher drinkability and the same superb quality. The Calvados is so pervasive in this one that it renders it somewhat one dimensional.

 1,994 characters

Photo of tigg924
3.42/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2009 version. Pours hazy, orange-brown in color, with heavy sediment and no head. Taste is dried stone fruit, toffee, wood, nut, and perhaps peanut butter. Tasty, different from the other JW Lees beers I have had. Not sure if I would get this one again. Perhaps I would try it with less aging, however this one is still good.

 330 characters

Photo of sm0key
4.65/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a bottle with a friend.

A: looks like a Barleywine, just like you would expect!

S: Apples! some kind of fruity, sweet smell.

T: Like nothing I ever had before! I was amazed at how you can blend the apple brandy and barleywine flavor into one. It was very obvious where this beer was aged, but it's not a fruit beer. This is a barleywine at it's core.

M: Low carbonation, thick, but dry (if that makes sense!)

O: If this wasn't so hard to find, and so expensive, I'd drink it all the time!

 501 characters

Photo of magictrokini
3.68/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 vintage. Pours oily copper with no head, only a ring of sparse bubbles. No lacing. Perfume and alcoholic aroma, very floral with a heap of honey. Lots of oak and berries, not as vinuous as expected. Super-sweet taste. Sugary and fruity; white grapes, raisins, plums, and boysenberries. A fair amount of dark rum flavor to go with the oak. Didn't really get the spice others were finding. Long finish. Denser mouthfeel with the minimal carbonation, kind of sticky towards the end. Drank more like a dessert wine/appertif than a beer.

 537 characters

Photo of jaminjohnson
4.75/5  rDev +16.7%

Photo of bpfrush
4/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of SquidLizard
4.24/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a 2010 bottle, so it's got 5 years on it. This is my first review, and I likely don't really have a masterful grasp of the language and nuanced palate/nose etc. But here goes.

The look of it is a nice, mildly reddish...deepish brown.

The aroma is just...lovely. I believe I am picking up sort of a wet, kind of dank wood. Raisiny. Something about JW Lees always makes me think of something leathery. This one is no different. The same thing could be said of some sort of nut shell...like pecan shells maybe. Especially pronounced in the regular Harvest Ale, but it is very detectable here.

Ahhh yes...the flavor is much, much closer to the regular Harvest Ale than the Lagavulin aged one. I love the Lagavulin, but this is so much more savory tasting. Much less sweet seeming. The flavors I am getting are very much in tune with the nose. Raisiny, leathery, pecan shells....some sort of other dark fruit in addition to the raisiny-ness.

Mouth feel is quite nice. Slightly thick, and wonderfully coating. It has just a bit of carbonation.

Overall, I am extremely happy with this one. It's rich and sweet, but has more of a dark, savory flavor than the Lagavulin. It's absolutely lovely. I am so pleased I was able to get hold of a bottle of this. JW Lees Harvest Ale remains my favorite (in my somewhat limited experience) in production beer to date.

*extra- this one had a modest amount of sediment. I drank it, like a shot. Wonderfully dank and...smile making

 1,476 characters

Photo of Seattle_Suds
3.62/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of chinchill
3.99/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Shared 2008 bottle. Cask sample in 2017.
Clear body looks like whisky but with a good light tan head.
Very sweet up front but more moderate by the finish.
Sweet malty aroma with more complexity in the flavor. More boozy and not a good as the sherry version.

 258 characters

Photo of glid02
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased from Green's on Ponce in Atlanta.

Pours a slightly hazy dark copper color with a half-finger cream-colored head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving light lacing but decent legs.

Smells of sweet (almost too sweet) caramel malts with hints of vanilla and medium fruit undertones.

Tastes good. Sweet and sticky caramel malt flavors up front run the show and are joined periodically by medium fruit flavors. Also underlying it all is a mild earthiness that keeps the malt sweetness from being over the top. The ending is decidedly sweet.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a smooth thickness with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is good. I split the bottle but could polish one off myself.

Overall I have to be honest and say I didn't know what Calvados was and couldn't tell 100% from the beer however now it makes perfect sense. The third one I've had (besides Laguvalin and Port) and my least favorite, but even so it's still a good beer and worth a shot.

 986 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a snifter)

A-This beer pours a clear light mahogany body with a gentle carbonation and a thin ring of tan head.

S- The smells of toasted malt, brown sugar and a bit of dried fruit with a nice hint of apples.

T- This beer has a sweet light taste with the hint of calvados. The maltyness is very light caramel and very sweet and light.

M- This has a full mouthfeel with a slight alcohol warmth that you only notice when you exhale. No fizz or alcohol heat.

D- This is a very interesting barley wine. I think it was made to be light and sweet to compliment the aging in calvados casks. Very nice beer with a very interesting twist.

 658 characters

Photo of acurtis
3.74/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.12/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 9.3 ounce bottle into a teku glass. Brewed in 2006

The pour produces absolutely no head, and the liquid flows from the bottle like thick maple syrup, at least in color and appearance. The body is repleted with floating yeast that muddies it's dark copper and brown color. Carbonation bubbles stick to the sides of the glass and occasionally work their way upwards. This is by no means a pretty looking beer.

Oak and sherry dominate the aroma. In a blind test, I'd be forgiven for thinking this was a sherry or port. Beneath the sharp spicy pungent smell lies a sweet, caramel-like character.

My first taste of the beer seems to not offer much in the way of variation from the nose---there's still strong oaken and sherry notes---but the back of my palate gets a blast of caramel and chocolate. The chocolate flavor is rich and lingers on the tongue. Some warming does wonders for this beer too as I start to get a smoky, tobacco-like taste that is quite agreeable.

This drinks like a port or sherry, thick, viscous, almost syrupy. There's not a sign of carbonation and the liquid coats the tongue and seems to stick there. Many of the flavors linger towards the finish.

This is mighty tasty as it warms up. I really enjoyed it and appreciated that I could slowly sip it like a harder liquor, savoring it for over an hour.

 1,344 characters

Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
4.13/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

 2,339 characters

Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.37/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2005 vintage

Pours blood thick with no head. A slightly hazy brown with a slight orange tint. No head at all. Smell is of meat and major malts. Taste pretty much follows. To me this is the least overpowering of the cask series. Taste is of a ton of malts and dark sugars. Very meaty with super dark fruits. Sugary as hell, and sweet, sweet, sweet. Mouthfeel is very thick and viscous. As far as drinkability, the sugar and mouthfeel defenitely make this one a sipper. Another good one from JW lees. But I still say nothing beats the good old harvest ale.

 555 characters

Photo of SomethingClever
4.34/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

9.3 oz bottle poured into nonic pint

A: very light amber almost soft a slight haze to it very little head

S: my god the barrel is amazing oak, vanilla, toffee, dates, raisins, this nose goes on for days

T: date, fig taste, taste is nowhere near the smell and I caught a little off vegetable taste in it. However it's sweet boozy vanilla and smooth

M: Very syrupy and it lingers a lot on the tongue

O: What a fantastic smell and the taste is nearly there but it's slightly off too I'm wondering if it's light struck or something because it's almost a great beer but the taste is tweaked

 592 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 4.07 out of 5 with 533 ratings