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

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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: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Dantes on 05-07-2004

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Reviews: 253 | Ratings: 494
Photo of Sammy
3.97/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An interesting malty, slightly sour barleywine. Pours cloudy orangey with little head. Above average mouthfeel. A fine glass with or after a meal as you would a fortified wine. A bit drying.Alcohol and citrus and port aroma. ABove average for the style.

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Photo of Knapp85
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was the first one of the four that I tried. This brew poured out as a thick looking amberish orange color. The head was only visible for a minute or so. The smell of the beer is full of fresh wooden aromas, sweet malts and booze. The taste of the beer is a little earthy, with plenty of wooden sweetness. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Overall this brew is very big despite the smaller bottle. These could be sold at 8.5oz and they'd be plenty big. Worth trying for sure. Very nice stuff.

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Photo of metter98
4.07/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is very hazy amber orange in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a half finger high dense beige head that quickly died down, leaving a thin film of bubbles on the surface and a collar around the edge of the glass.
S: The nose has aromas of caramel and toffee in the nose along with some hints of alcohol from the apple brandy.
T: The taste is similar to the smell but is a bit more complex, having notes of calvados and hints of brown sugar flavors. There is some malty sweetness, although this isn’t cloying.
M: It feels a bit shy of full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation with some warming from the alcohol.
O: This is a nice dessert beer to sip, and it seems a bit easier to drink compared to the sherry version because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste.

Note: 2011 vintage

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The last in the series of cask conditioned J.W. Lees. This one lands close to the Port wine cask with it's sweetness, viscocity, and complexity. The alchohols are amplified by a rum-like sweetness and power. The flavors swirl around fruit cake ingredients: candied fruits (especially cherries) while throwing in peaches, pears, apples, raisons, nuts, and berries. Deeply sweet and rooted in a rum-cake maltiness and breadiness. Lightly boozy and modestly efforvescent. Finishes with a long, lingering sweetness. For me this one ranks second in the series; right behind the port cask.

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Photo of brentk56
3.94/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Brewed in 2006; tasted in 2010

Appearance: Pours a rather hazy caramel color with neither head nor carbonation

Smell: Caramel and a bowl of mixed fruit - apricots, pears and, of course, apples

Taste: The caramel and fruit flavors blend together from the start, though the wood and the apple brandy elements take over at mid-palate; after the swallow, there is a depth of earthy, tobacco-like character that joins the fruit flavor to keep the sweetness in check; serious apple cider elements in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Full bodied but flat

Drinkability: More like a liqueur than a beer, this is an interesting beer but the lack of carbonation reduces it to a sipper that is hard to finish (As the other beers in this series have been much more rewarding, I will need to re-visit this one with a bottle procured from another source.)

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.37/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 vintage bottle courtesy of Kryptic drank in 2008: Poured a cloudy brown color ale with a small foamy head with light retention and some very minimal lacing. Aroma consists of sweet malt with some light ester of apples which are really well integrated in the beer. Taste is a nice mix between a sweet rich malt base with some nice apples ester coming from the Calvados. Full body with limited filtration with some low carbonation and no alcohol notes. The Calvados is really well integrated with the regular beer and does not clash or completely take over - really well done.

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Photo of zeff80
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, burgundy color with a small, tan head of bubbly foam. It left sudsy trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of whiskey notes with some sweet caramel notes.

T - Good oak and vanilla flavors with a kiss of whiskey. Good sweet maltiness with a touch of caramel.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium bodied ale with a dry clean finish.

O - This was really good. I preferred this one to an '08 bottle that was not aged in any barrels.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.32/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes.

Poured into a snifter. The body is a fairly-bright, yet still murky, orangish color with a thin light head that persists for a bit of time before fading. The nose brings a good dose of booze and the brandy comes through quite well. There is a bit of caramel and toffee plus some light fruits. The taste is just a bit boozy and also has a tiny bit of astringency. Feel is a bit boozy with a nice body. Overall, not nearly as good as the original.

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Photo of superspak
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2007 vintage. Pours very cloudy orange copper color with a small off white head with poor retention, that reduces to a thin lace ring. Minimal lacing on the glass. Aromas of big raisin, apple, fig, prune, caramel, toast, toffee, molasses, light pepper, brown bread, brandy, vanilla, oak, and toasted earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt, cask, and fruity notes; with good strength. Taste of big raisin, apple, fig, caramel, toast, toffee, brown sugar, brandy, brown bread, vanilla, oak, light pepper, and toasted earthiness. Lingering notes of raisin, apple, fig, caramel, toast, toffee, brown sugar, brandy, oak, vanilla, light pepper, brown bread, and toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Fantastic balance and complexity of malt, cask, and fruity flavors; with zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Minimal carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very slick, creamy, and lightly syrupy mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is a really excellent English barelywine style. Great balance and complexity of malt and cask flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of nickfl
4.31/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2004 Vintage

A - A clear, dark brown body topped by a minimal, brownish white head that disappears immediately after being poured.

S - Earthy, fruity notes of apples and toffee with caramel, figs, plums, cinnamon, allspice, and a hint of licorice.

T - Sweet toffee and spice cake. There is a rich caramel note and the distinct syrupy complexity of dark navy rum. The finish is sweet, but not cloyingly so, and is pleasantly reminiscent of a caramel apple.

M - Low carbonation, a thick, syrupy body, and a sweet finish.

D - I am pleasantly surprised by the drinkability of this beer. I was hesitant to buy it because I usually dislike any and all apple flavors in beer, but I went ahead with it because I have always been so impressed by JW Lee's beer and once again they have not let me down. I feared that the apple might make the sweetness of the beer cloying, but it does he opposite. The apple character really only comes out as it would in a brandy with a rich complexity rather than an excessive apple bite and it combines wonderfully with the caramel notes inherent in the harvest beer. I can't say that I want a whole case of this, but it is an exceptional and unique beer and I am very happy to have had the chance to enjoy it.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.7/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Calvados is one of the best kept secrets in the world of fine spirits, and therefore an introduction may be needed. It's an apple brandy, distilled at least twice from a dry cider that's made from special varieties of apples. It's always aged in French Oak barrels, and then blended and bottled for sale. This special version of the Lee's Harvest Ale has been aged in those casks!

It pours a clear (it's been filtered), medium-amber body with a full head of frothy white that drops slowly but leaves little lace. The nose is malty with some wood and a mild vinous character (but that might just be the alcohol). It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a restrained, fine-bubbled carbonation and full body. The flavor is intense, and it's almost too much to take in all at once. This is surely a sipper! Some apple from the Calvados does carry through (cold, it appears almost grape-like), but mainly it's the sweeter brandy (sugar/alcohol) that comes through. It finiishes surprisingly drying given the huge amount of sugar there, but its underlying bitterness and alcohol help with that. Very nicely done!

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Photo of chinchill
3.99/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.97/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Note: Brewed in 2005

A: Pours a hazy dark orangish amber in color with minimal amounts of visible carbonation and some orange + brown highlights. The beer has a thin (1/8 finger tall) tan head that is comprised of a single layer of medium sized bubbles and reduces to a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Minimal amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of caramel + toffee sweetness from the malts and moderate aromas of apple brandy + alcohol.

T: Upfront there are strong flavors of sweet malts - toffee, caramel, and brown sugar. There is a moderately strong flavor of Calvados (apple brandy). This beer is fairly sweet and just borders on being cloying.

M: Just shy of medium bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Moderate to strong amounts of alcohol warming in the finish.

O: This is a nice dessert beer and requires slow sipping but is quite enjoyable and the Calvados flavors really come through.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.57/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Crystal clear, honey-colored body topped with a white frothy head that quickly dissipated to a few random bubbles.

Smell: Very appealing. Fresh apple juice is trenchant with honeysuckle, wood, toffee, and a splash of alcohol.

Taste: Opens distinctly malty-sweet and couples nicely with the lively, electric flavor of apple brandy. The rich, dark fruit flavors from the standard Harvest Ale are apparent. Also, a touch of spice. A bright acidity and leafy hop taste help to balance. If you can drink this beer without at least getting a little sense of joy, you are a cold, unfeeling monster. No offense.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied. The smooth, lush mouthfeel, is nicely accentuated by the fine carbonation.

Drinkability: Truly a sipper, but a good one. When you finish the beer and set down the empty glass with shaky hands and a dopey grin on your face, that means its a good beer.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage. Polished apricot that is as clear as the proverbial bell. A vigorous pour has produced a good-sized crown of firm creaminess that is midway between ecru and ivory. Very little lace isn't surprising and doesn't detract too much.

It's probably nothing more than an overactive imagination, but the apple quality of the Calvados is appreciated in the aroma (Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France). The beer also smells sweet and a trifle woody. For some reason, the noses on these cask-aged versions never really knock me out.

The flavor is another matter entirely. I don't care what sort of barrels or casks you age it in, this is a fantastic English barleywine... that I need to review again because I probably didn't give it (the standard Harvest Ale) a fair shake.

While newer vintages are all over the place, don't worry a bit about the '03 if that's all you see. It's still fantastic and should last several more years at least. Time has smoothed and shaped and melded and done all sorts of good things that are evident with each eagerly anticipated sip.

Be prepared for some sugary sweetness. It's easily tolerated, though, especially since the bottle only holds 275 ml. That isn't much beer for $6.99, but it's worth it for an occasional treat, especially when the beer is this incredibly delicious. Which one you buy depends on whether you prefer sherry, port, brandy or Scotch whiskey. What the hell... try them all!

This is one of the fruitiest barleywines you'll ever drink. Specifics: apricots, peaches and apples swimming in candi sugar syrup. There's some amount of countering bitterness and the alcohol cuts through the sugars nicely as well. Butter caramel and wood make me think of an aged bourbon, although the beer tastes nothing like that particular spirit.

As always, the mouthfeel is all kinds of glorious, especially if you like them full and chewy. It could hardly be otherwise with so much malt and so many sugars. The bubbles, even though few and far between, keep the beer inflated and expansive in the mouth rather than flat and sticky.

J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) is the third member of this barrel-aged series that I've reviewed, and is the third gobsmacker of an English barleywine. Despite the expense, multiple bottles are purchased whenever I see them. They're incredibly good and they hold up ridiculously well. Highly recommended.

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Photo of russpowell
3.96/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2006 vintage pours orangey/brown with a bit of sand colored head. Minimal head retention & lacing

S: Raisins, dark candi, charred toffee & oak

T: Boozey raisins, tropical fruit, dryness & more booze up front. Charred toffee, pineapple, oak & vanilla as this warms. Finishes dry, with more toffee, booze infused apples & raisins

MF: Syruppy with minimal carbonation, too hot booze-wise

Not a huge fan of calvados, liked the Norman Cider better. This one just drank pretty slow between the complexity & hotness

Maybe age this a few more years & you'll have something

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.62/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I grabbed this bottle when I was in florida. A 2007 vintage it was still a bit fresh but this one was drinking wonderfully. Served at cellar temp and poured into a snifter this one was consumed on 04/23/09.

The pour was very nice and pretty spot on for the style I have to admit. Rich caramel in color with great clarity and a smooth soft and creamy head of white. Rich toffee and caramel just dominated the aroma. Huge sweetness here with a touch of light fruit notes that came up as it warmed. Rich flavor as well. Very sweet with loads of caramel, toffee, and sweet candied sugar notes. Alcohol was very mellow even at this young age.

Overall a very solid beer and one of the best representations od the style I have had. I will be picking this up whenever I run into it for sure.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.36/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I enjoyed a full pour of this for the Christmas event at Hunger & Thirst, served chilled in a snifter.

the color is cherry red with golden hues with head that comes and recedes to a ring of beads. The smell is very vinous, lots of apple skin tart berry-like fruity yeast esters and mild sweet odors from malt with gentle alcohol in the nose. The feel is great, good body with slight tanginess of yeast and mild malt sweetness with extremely low alcohol influence and the strong ale finishes dry with crisp carbonation level for the high strength.

The flavor of brandy is apparent right away with some woody tannic flavors and light berry-like tangy fruit with a mix of spice and oak adding to the light caramel and malt with slight vanilla earthy character. The vinous flavor is there with subtle alcohol making for a splendid barleywine. Overall I had a hard time keeping myself from downing this it is so flavorful, however it evolves as it warms and opens up to an even more complex strong ale over the course of tasting when it nears cellar temps-worth every cent a truly remarkable beer.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From 01/16/11 notes. Tried this after trying the normal JW Lees Harvest, vintages of 1998, 2001, and 2004. This Calvados vintage was 2003.

a - Pours a reddish mahogany brown color with less than an inch of head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of caramel malts, apples, brandy, oak, dark fruits, molasses, and alcohol.

t - Tastes of apple brandy, caramel malts, oak, and fruity malts.

m - Medium body and low carbonation.

d - I found the 3 normal vintages very sweet and hard to drink a lot of, but the apple brandy barrels definitely smoothed this one out and made it easier to drink. Would have again but might have to split a bottle with someone.

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served in a Lexington Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter.

2013 edition. The final stop on our tour of the Lees Harvest horizontal. This one pours a clear tawny amber topped by a finger or so of khaki foam. The nose comprises sweet caramel, rich toffee, light fig, and a vague bit of stonefruit. The taste brings in more of the same, the stonefruits now resembling caramelized apples (like those found in pie and strudel). Nice. The body is a hefty medium, with a rather light moderate carbonation and a full feel. Overall, one of the better editions, a nice twist on what could have been a trainwreck (look to the tequila barreled, well, anything...).

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.86/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 mL bottle poured into a Kuhnhenn snifter. 2006 vintage.

Appearance - Pours a dark amber. Clear with no head and just the slightest hint of some bubbles on the surface. I stopped it before the chunks started to flow, at least.

Smell - Sweet apples and raisins. Like regular Harvest with apples. Sweet smelling. Maybe a little less complex.

Taste - I thought the calvados would intensify the sweetness, but it seems to cut it nicely. Huge dark fruit and caramel presence. Raisins and calvados. A touch of vanilla and oxidation to it. Apples and an earthy bitterness in the finish.

Mouthfeel - Syrupy and nearly flat. It doesn't matter a whole lot, though. It's still pleasant to drink.

Overall - An improvement over the base. Anything that distracts from the sugar is a welcome. Maybe it's the age that makes it seem less sweet. I'm not sure.

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Photo of stakem
3.92/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to optimator13 for the bottle. 2007 offering poured into a pair of 6oz snifters.

This brew appears a hazes brownish copper color. Some white bubbles appear and quickly dissolve to nothing. A swirl hardly releases more than a pair of bubbles making the appearance of this brew seem still. When held to the light, there is orange and yellow tints of coloration around the edges.

The smell is sweet like caramel candy apples. There is a light citrus element present quite similar to orange rinds but faint. There is a touch of oxidation present but not distracting. It smells faintly like cardboard with some boozy abv that tingles the nose.

The taste is candy caramel sweetness with a touch of the previously mentioned cardboard oxidation. There is a grainy flavor present that melds into a bit if musty character. Big booze flavor is present which lines up with the listed percentage but it is enjoyable and well integrated in the brew. Some faint herbal hops are noted. There is a residual fruity flavor to this brew that lasts into the aftertaste which tastes faintly of apple.

This is a full bodied brew with an acceptably very low level of carbonation. Clingy sweetness sticks to your tongue with this and mixes with lots of oxidative quality. It's a well made old ale/English barleywine with good balance and enjoyable for 11%. I've been on an apple brandy barrel aged beer kick lately and really enjoy the normal harvest offering but this fell a little short for me. I think my expectations were a bit too high considering how much I like the base beer.

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Photo of rolltide8425
3.75/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

2010 vintage. Pours a buby reddish-brown with floaties. The barrel is very prevalent in the aroma, with some cherry and other dark fruit underneath. Very complex taste with notes of brandy, bark, leather, and various fruits. Definitely a sipper, and surprisingly strong after 5 years.

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Photo of GClarkage
4.85/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

03/22/09- Purchased at Sun Devil Liquors in Mesa, AZ.

Presentation- 9.3oz bottle, vinatge 2004 poured into my JW Lees glass.

Appearance- Lighter colored caramel colored pour. 1/4 inch head with a light rim of foam. Light lace patches left behind.

Smell- The norm of dark fruits, raisins and figs. Sugary spice, a touch of alcohol and some caramel of course.

Taste- Really similar to the sherry cask one I had last night. Only a bit if barrel flavoring was the difference..and that was minimal. Strong sweet caramel flavor with dark fruits mingling around. Light alcohol taste.

Mouthfeel- Nice and thick, very smooth and dessert-like. Creamy as well. Lowest carbonation of the bunch.

Drinkability- The best of the bunch I have had so far. Overall the smoothest and best flavors.

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Photo of aasher
3.77/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2006 vintage. This beer pours a syrupy dark maple brown in color with no head at all and seemingly little carbonation. A good amount of sediment slipped into my snifter and resembles clumps of cinnamon floating throughout my glass. It is very aromatic and gives of aromas of apples, caramel, oak, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and and maple syrup. The nose is phenomenal and heavy on the caramelized apples. The flavors given are of sweet apples, cinnamon sticks, oak, tree bark, vanilla, and caramel. It is very, very sweet and also quite syrupy. It drinks syrupy and medium in body and has almost lost all of its carbonation. Overall this beer is a sipper or to be shared and could be defined as a dessert beer at this stage in its life. It's a fine drinker and I prefer this to the Sherry Cask version. I'm glad I have another bottle to open again in another couple years. It's a good English Barleywine.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.08 out of 5 based on 494 ratings.
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