My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 4 – Harvest Ale – JW Lees Brewery (Middleton, Manchester) – Strong Ale – 11.5%abv


A legendary Manchester annual beer that I had never tried. I have friends (OK – One friend. Well, The Arch-Nemesis) who absolutely swears by it, so when I saw bottles at Booths recently, I just HAD to!

A crystal clear deep ruby coloured beer (almost mahogany) with a lasting off white head and a very winey boozy aroma full of caramelised banana, whisky macerated vine fruits, oak, deep caramel and peppery hop. Now to taste the legend.

Unsurprisingly, this is sweet. That is the first thing that hits the tongue. Sweet like juicy raisins soaked in rum. That caramelised banana makes it through as well. This is definitely a post meal dessert beer.

The thing is, this is hugely complex, so much so that my limited vocabulary doesn’t do it justice. I would have said that this kind of beer wasn’t my thing. Strong Barley Wine type beers. Until I drank this.

There are stewed vine fruits, oranges, banana again kind of smothered in a light peaty whisky sauce. Quite a spicy little finish too. This is most certainly not a beer too be trifled with (No pun intended – for a change!) Needless to say, this is hugely warming as it slides down.

I will finish, by saying that if this label had a Stars and Stripes on the front, some of the “Crafterati” (How I wish that I had coined that term!) would be reaching for the post-beergasm kleenex. But it hasn’t. It’s from Middleton, Greater Manchester. So it will stay in the shadows. Go figure.

I’ll just have to reach for mine.