Brewery: Harvey & Sons, LTD, Leeds, UK
Style: Christmas Ale, Winter Warmer
Availability: annually, winter months
Pairing: Vanilla Ice cream, Cherry Cordials, gingerbread cookies
Harvey’s Christmas Ale appeared randomly in my brewshop (aka the Whole Foods on Bowery) the other day – a lowly 375ml bottle amongst the Noél behemoths – with no gold foil, no cork and cage, and one of the most basic punk-rock photocopy looking labels I’ve ever seen. Simple words on the glass: Holiday beer brewed with spices. So what do we do? Pop the top, pour it out, give it a try.
Appearance: Pours a deep, deep red. Good carbonation that resides quick.
Smell: There are lots of sweet flavors up front; notes of caramel and toffee. When I get through all of that there is some pepper, some chicory, tangerine, allspice and clove. This is not a spice monster and these notes are very subtle and balanced.
Taste:this guy has a big, syrupy body. It reminds me a bit of a barley wine in the sheer amount of malt flavor happening. The taste is right on point with the nose as the malt is back by prunes, raisins and a peppery, lingering finish.
Mouthfeel: Thick, sweet, with a fine carbonation that, when combined with the spiciness, to leave a bit of tingle on the tough. I can taste the alcohol finish in this one but it goes well with all the big flavors. This may be a bit syrupy for some some.
Drinkability: Look elsewhere if you want a crisp refreshing brew, this is a true winter warmer. The flavor is not so complex that it needs to be savored but the thickness and high amount of alcohol keep you my from slinging it back. The first one go down nicely but I fear a second would be a bit long-winded.
Overall:I drank through about 80% of this one and then hit a wall. It just became overly sweet and the alcohol started to set in. This is a nice winter sipper but I’d have trouble putting back more than one of these. It’s more of a heavy classic (brewed for over 25 years) than some of the more finely nuanced strong beers you see today. There’s something to be said for a classic but I wish it was a bit less sweet and more complex.
Brewing Note: Harvey’s Christmas Ale has been brewed for over a quarter of a century. Maris Otter Pale Ale Malts are blended with highly roasted ‘crystal’ malts and pinhead oats. Harveys pride themselves on brewing from local Fuggle and Golding hops grown within 35 miles of the brewery. Fermentation takes place in their traditional ‘open’ fermenting vessels using a strain of yeast which has remained unchanged in the brewery for over forty years. In conditioning tanks the brew is then dry-hopped. The beer remains in these tanks for between two and three weeks during which time it undergoes a secondary fermentation and the hop oils are incorporated into the complex flavor of this brew, giving a most splendid aroma to the finished product. (source)