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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

212 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 212
Hads: 383
Avg: 4.15
pDev: 18.8%
Wants: 57
Gots: 83 | FT: 7
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Dantes on 05-07-2004

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (22) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 212 | Hads: 383
Photo of Reason2B
3.9/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A – Opaque bronze in color, with sediment. Very thin white head, with nice white lacing.

S – Strong port smell dominates, with a complex sweet fruit smell that I can’t make out.

T – Sweet, a little too sweet for my liking. Very complex in flavor. Caramel, plum and infusions from the port barrel are prevalent.

M – Nearly no carbonation. Heavy in body. This is very much a sipping drink.

O – I was a little disappointed. I really wanted this to be my benchmark, but it is just too sweet. I do find that I am enjoying it a lot more has it warms up. I think I’m going to try some of the other varsities. The sherry, or even better, the whisky may cut the edge a little better than the port adding to the sweetness.

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Photo of Scrumtralecent
4.12/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2008. Poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A - Very hazy copper with a white head. Some little yeast chunks, but nothing disheartening.

S - Caramel, dark fruit, plum, and they do a good job of getting the aroma out of whatever barrel they put this beer in to. And this is no different, plenty of port aroma coming through, adding a candied sweetness.

T - Blast of candied sweetness, with an oak and peat coming through behind that. The port imparts plenty of sweetness into that Harvest ale, making it very good. I really enjoy that aftertaste, letting the barrel itself get into this beer and not just allowing the port take over.

M - Quite a bit of carbonation to this one, not terribly distracting, but I would want it down a smidge. Otherwise this is a little bit of a sipper, plenty of bold and sweet flavors.

O - I enjoyed this beer. The taste is a little different than what I expected from the smell, but it was good. I've been impressed with JW Lees' barrel aging, I can tell they take their time with it and get it right. I'll be seeking out the other variations.

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Photo of laituegonflable
2.51/5  rDev -39.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a burnished amber colour with unfortunate yeast floaties at the bottom. Head is off-white, kind of a swirl on the top more than anything else. Lace is disappointing. Yeah, a bit odd-looking.

Smells pungent and a bit weird. Leathery, with some strong molasses and an odd, nostril chewing menthol hint on the top. Quite boozey and yeah, a little bit chemical. Not a big fan.

Taste is also fairly bizarre. Sticky sweetness upfront with huge caramel malt that develops some really insane flavours - dirt, wet dog and sweaty gym towel among them. Nuts and honey and oats on there as well. It's... look, it's an experience. But it's way too off-the-wall for me and just too sweet. Definitely needs more balance in there.

Sticky, thick and leaves thick and gooey. Decent for the style.

Not my cup of beer. Way sweet, heavy and just some distinctly bizarre characters that I find a bit too much to handle. I can see someone else really enjoying this beer, but it's not for me.

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Photo of fx20736
3.11/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into a pint glass,served at cellar temp.

Clementine Orange, no head or lacing. Beer originally had prodigious sediment which I used a cloth to strain out.

Aroma of of mellow alcohol, plums, burnt toast, walnuts.

mouthfeel: soft and syrupy

taste: port wine, burnt toast, walnuts.

Notes: Interesting but hard to say alot else. Tons of sediment, which I strained out. This is the 1st of 4 of these cask aged JWL Harvests.

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Photo of ficknish
4.39/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


A - A beautiful copper color. Weak head.

S - Figs. Musky wood. Faint grapes. Molasses. Cookies.

T - Sweet dark fruit. Fig newton cookies. Some Alcohol. Raisins.

M - Thick. Sweet. Slight alcohol.

O - I like the port version much more than the Lagavulin. The fig cookie flavors went great with the alcohol and muskiness. Would drink again.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.8/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a very fine orange colour, with a filmy, but incredibly fine head of pure white. Bubbles form on the top, giving a limpid appearance to the very thick body. Powdery fine carbonation through the body, along with some disturbed floating sediment.

Nose is sweet and rich, cut with pleasant bright characters of peach and oak. The barrels give it a lovely decadence—a refined quality to go along with the heavy sweetness. Hints of greenness, dust and a touch of pepper work really nicely too. It's very complex, and rich but very refined and sophisticated.

Taste is gorgeous and very different. Instead of the bold sweetness, it has a bright acidity through the centre, giving more of those peachskin characters, and a brightness much like a really nice dessert wine. On the back, however, comes through a slightly brassy, almost vegetative character like fresh celery. This mingles pleasantly with the oak and the sweet, fruity dried apricot flavours and cleanses the palate ready for the next sip. Wow, what a great beer.

So smooth, so sweet, and so perfectly cut with freshness to balance. It's gooey, luscious, exciting and dangerously drinkable. Lovely brew.

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Photo of scottyshades
5/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2005 Vintage

A: Pours a semi-opaque toffee/mahogany color with a tiny white cap. Much lighter than I expected. Floaties in the snifter

S: Heavy and rich port wine right off the bat. Plums, cherry, white grape juice, toffee, caramel, leather. Overall very dark fruity and sweet. Unfathomably complex. Impossible to summarize.

T: "Wow" was the first thing that I said. Much richer and sweeter than expected. The beer obviously soaked up that port in the casks. Toffee, butter, honey, tons of candy caramel. To sum it up: port wine, sweetness, delicious

MF/O: Thick, velvety, flat carbonation. Plummy/port wine finish. A masterpiece.

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Photo of drpimento
4.44/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very good beer. Courtesy of Pat n Karen. Poured with a tiny bit of off white head, no lace. Color is a brown amber. Aroma is figs, dates, malt, caramel, wine, sherry, yeast. Flavor is like nose, quite sweet, with just a little carbonic tang to cut it all. Body is excellent; ditto carbonation. Finish is like flavor, longish and a bit of alcohol warmth at the very end. Excellent stuff!

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Photo of DaveHS
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2010

A-Pours rusty orange/amber with a few suspended chunks of yeast and a bubbly, eggshell white head. Traces of spotty lacing.

S-Pale malts,stale fruitcake,a light vegetal note, like broccoli water, tawny port. Interesting. I've found some of the best English barleywines have unusual vegetal aromas. Not sure why.

T/M-Really earthy and vegetal. Dirt, broccoli, stony minerality. The port sweetness is subtle but significant. A very different barleywine, with a flavor profile unlike anything I've had before. Tastes very strongly of freshly tilled earth, but somehow it works. Medium to full bodied with low carbonation.

O-Another fascinating barleywine from England's top producer.

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Photo of Draughtsman
4.5/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 Harvest in port casks. A good beer all around. Pours a maple syrup/dark honey color, cloudy and fairly flat. Dried dark fruit, licorice and banana on the nose. I tasted heavy sweetness in the front: port (obviously) with other nuances, perhaps caramel, toffee and vanilla, but a bitter middle to end. Oak throughout. Good, heavy mouthfeel, what I look forward to in the bigger beers, without too much of an alcohol burn. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable beer.

Thank you, J.W. Lees, for a job well done.

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Photo of olympuszymurgus
4.18/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Smells of deep fruits, sweet tropical sugar, herbs, dirt, banana. Pours a slightly cloudy amber honey, white head that drops fast and leaves a nearly still looking glass. Taste is light and sweet, some oxidation and sherry notes, a bit of vanilla and a cinnamon spice. The port and oak are coming across as a light vinous flavor and a bright sweetness. Over all a sprightly but low carbonation in the thick body, damn fine.

I dig it. A fine brew from the fine folks of Manchester.

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Photo of birderbeerer
4.32/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 2009.

Looks like cider, solid head that rings with a cloud in the center.

Interesting note about the aroma: smell while in the bottle is heavy port, but in the glass it's much more like a typical big barleywine. Very sweet.

Taste is a super sweet barleywine. Not cloying but I wonder how it would be fresh. Good body to it and still good carbonation too. Oak, rich flavor. Good complexity. Apples, caramel, toffee. Very good.

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Photo of FanofHefe
4.22/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 version poured into a Duvel tulip. Deep orange/amber body, cloudy with lots of sediment. One-finger dark tan head that dissipates rather quickly leaving a small amount of lacing.

Very sweet aroma and heavy on the caramel malt. In fact, the caramel malt overpowers almost any other aroma, save a bit of the port.

The flavor is very similar in first presentation to the aroma - very sweet caramel malt. However, in the flavor, more of the port and a very slight hint of bitterness comes through.

Heavy thickness in the mouthfeel, but surprisingly low presentation of alcohol, even with the high abv. Classic, of course, and one most all BA's should give a try.

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Photo of cjacobsen
3.68/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2008 Vintage poured into a snifter.

(A) Pours a deep orange with some dark red hues toward the middle. Like a blood orange. Not much of a head. Huge chunks of shit floating around, I'm talking car sized yeast cakes here. Not pleasant. Asteroid field.

(S) I could smell this one coming out of the bottle. Smells super sweet. Candi sugar. Regular sugar. Yeast. A decent amount of Port, which is quite nice. Alcohol.

(T) You can REALLY taste the Port. It's big and upfront in the flavor. Super sweet light malts and unfermented sugars help boost the sweetness of this beer. Does taste a bit yeasty, not gonna lie.

(M) The term chewy comes to mind. There's definitely some substance here, and I'm not just talking the clumps of land floating around in there.

(O) Really turned off by the fact that I had to strain this brew. I was really looking forward to it as I had never had a JW Lees before and I love Port, which I will say that it had a great Port characteristic to it. It had some really good flavor, just a bit sweet.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.8/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This pours out as a copperish orange color with a very minimal head on top that fades quickly. The smell of the beer is sweet, malty, a little smokey and has some light wooden aromas coming off of it. The taste of the beer had a faint tart flavor in there with a big syrupy sweetness overlapping the tongue. The mouthfeel is slick and creamy feeling. Overall this beer is pretty good, Much like the others it's something that needs to be enjoyed over a period of time and probably best split with a friend.

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Photo of Pahn
4.7/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 vintage. 275ml bottle into Duvel tulip.

Appearance: Free pour yields a 3/4 inch fluffy and fizzy white head that dissipates quickly leaving no lacing. Pours the characteristic chestnut-y red of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, hazy and full of sediment.

Smell: Preeminently sweet, mostly grapes, raisin, and caramel. Faint orange in the background. Deep malt aroma characteristic of the base beer. A little restrained in the nose, over all.

Taste: First sip is surprisingly smokey and nutty; pecan-like. Lots of caramel and raisin as well. Loving this smokiness... where is this coming from? It's remarkably complimentary to the base beer. Not at all as sweet as expected, but the finish brings out a large honey note that's accentuated by the thick, sticky feel. Mild heat threads the long, complexly malty aftertaste.

I don't know if it's the port, the wood, or what, but this version of J.W. Lees has an excellent balance to it. Further sips bring out chocolate covered raisins, a distinct port note, some underlying vanilla, all beautifully in harmony. The sticky sweet finish has just enough hop bitterness to hold it back, and plays off the lingering smokiness perfectly. That long, rewarding aftertaste exemplifies what you should receive from a high alcohol sipper.

The flavor of this beer is outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Full side of medium bodied. Low but noticeable carbonation. Sticky finish leading to a long, full bodied but mildly hot aftertaste that resolves into lingering dryness. Just right for these flavors.

Overall: Just beautiful. This is the second barrel treatment of J.W. Lees I've tried. While the Lagavulin was a worthy and interesting experiment that vacillated between soaring greatness and garish travesty, the port version is amazing and delicious balance from start to finish. Every sip is just about as good as beer gets.

It doesn't seem to make sense that one could improve upon perfection, but the brewers at J.W. Lees do just that with this beer. It's scoring lower than I did the usual version via technicality; the smell is a little worse (just in magnitude, not in quality), but I'd give the Taste and Overall sections higher than a 5.0 if I could.

Also of note, while I love a nice 10 year old Vintage Harvest Ale, I think the base beer is just old enough for this treatment at around 3~4 years as it is now. The alcohol is a little tamed, the complexities are starting to come out, but oxidation really hasn't set in too much and the flavor is punchy and vibrant enough to elevate the sweet and nutty nuances of the port casks.


I will definitely be buying this beer again. This is the kind of beer that validates the whole "beer hobby". I sat down an hour ago to begin tasting and reviewing this beer, and thought (as usual) about what kind of activity I'd engage in while I drink--and just found myself sitting and sipping the entire time. The beer commanded my full attention, gracefully and endlessly rewarding me for the entirety of the glass (which still is not finished). I am in love with this beer.

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Photo of CoalPorter
4.44/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled in 2007, drunk Aug 14, 2011. Poured carefully from bottle into Harpoon tulip glass.

A - Light brown yeast sediment swirls and settles slowly in pretty large chunks. Just a wisp of head, not much carbonation evident, small bubbles rise fitfully from the depths. Color is a lovely tawny burnt orange base with reddish overtones. Drops quite clear and inviting.

S - Here is where this beer really excells. Alcohol esters and honey sweetness hit first followed by notes of resiny tar and black cherry. The port undertone is fruity and magnificent.

T - Again we find the black cherry and fruit flavors with the alcohol kick. The "beeriness" reasserts itself in the back end as the hops suddenly show up in a lingering bitter finish.

M - Medium feel, made a little slick by the port sweetness. Not much carbonation left.

O - Quite impressive in appearance and aroma, and the first few sips were intensely enjoyable. However as I worked my way through the glass the complexity diminished somewhat I was left with only the impression of sweetness and fruit. I love port and beer so this was a great combination for a special occasion, but will only be a one time sipper.

Side tasting note: One favorite pairing for port is chocolate. A good dark chocolate and a tawny port both compliment and enhance each other's flavors. This experiment did not work very well for this beer. The chocolate overwhelmed the port character and left a muddled impression.

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Photo of BeerNemesis
4.42/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) | 275 ml. | 11.5% ABV | 2009 vintage

Brewer: J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Style: English Barleywine
Glass: snifter

Russet body punctuated by black flecks of sediment that hang suspended in the beer.

Complex caramel malt, dark fruits, port.

Having already tasted the Sherry Cask and Calvados Cask varieties of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale—both excellent—I was pretty excited to give Port Cask a try. As expected, the first sip thrusts me into a whirl of flavors: An explosion of toffee, golden raisins, and brown sugar sends ripples of deliciousness down my tongue, followed by an aftershock of berries, grapes, and then the somber, sticky, sweet taste of port. This is most evident in the aftertaste, and it is delightful.

Soft and caressing, it nonetheless lacks a bit of pop, just the teensiest crackle of carbonation. It's vinous and slippery, and just a little bit thick, but it also feels a bit languid and heavy.

How does Port stack up to Sherry and Calvados in the aging processes? All three are excellent varieties. But port and sherry share a vinous sweetness that impart just the right edge and complexity to J.W. Lees venerable ale. It is my impression that sherry is the more interesting of the two, but it's hard to say definitively.

Would I get it again?:

Bottled: 2009
Served: July 23, 2011

Price = $10.00 at The New Beer Distributors (NYC)

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Photo of FosterJM
3.88/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

562nd Review on BA
Bottle to Snifter
9.3 oz

2009 vintage

App- In the middle of the orange, honey, creamy, peache hued realm of the four variants of this brew. A larger head than the rest with about a one finger volume. Besides the whisky cask this has the most residue in the glass.

Smell- Very wine like with many aromatics coming into play. The cask is the most upfront with a muted sweetness and some malts.

Taste- The flavors are a bit melded together but mostly sweet, candy and some honey notes. A pecan like drizzle flavor with a ABV that creeps up on you.

Mouth- For a small beer this leaves a lot of residual flavors. Medium body but feels quite thin at times. The carbonation level is a bit of a low/medium level.

Drink- This is the second best of the four variants. The flavors are the most well put together besides the calvados. I'm glad I got to try all four but probably won't come back to them. Four flavors I'm not the most comfortable with but the experience was well worth it. A must try for all drinkers to experience new and big flavors.

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Photo of cbutova
3.62/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Randomly picked this up for the tasting with Chico1985 last night.

A- Disturbing yeast chunks plop out of the bottle in an amber colored beer. Small frothy pillow but no head or lace. The ring at least stays around so it doesn't end up looking like juice.

S- Honey and dark fruit are astronomical in the aroma but as it warms the port and wine fruit notes really come out. Stale bread and brown sugar come to mind.

T- Very honey and sweet caramel forward with that stale Old Ale feel. Dried dark fruit, stale bread and raisin come into play. With warmth comes some oak and port wine notes.

MF- Oily thick body with light carbonation. Some alcohol warmth and a sludgy sweet feel.

Wine notes come out with warmth and make it a good beer, without them it would have been way too extremely sweet and honey forward. The yeast floaties are amongst the scariest I have ever seen.

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Photo of Daniellobo
4.17/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A very rich and enjoyable sipper, maybe not as profound as some of the other vintage offerings from J.W. Lees but remarkable nevertheless.

Presentation: 275 ml brown capped bottle. Simple and classic design with a light cream background, and green and gold fonts. Notes limited edition, one line description, and ability to be enjoyed now or being cellared for future enjoyment. Shows Alc. by Vol. (11.5%) and brewing date (2009). Poured into a snifter.

A - Medium amber copper pour with minimal head that fades instantly, leaving the faintest of surface rings.

S - Nice caramel with a boozy sense, hint of port and wood.

T - Nice rich range of flavors, dominated by caramel, small fruity notes over a malty sense, raisins, touch of wood, a bit earthy. Hefty and rich alcohol/brandy sense coating it.

M - Medium-full body, very smooth, with little carbonation, and a sweet syrupy finish.

O - Nice sipper with an stimulating range although the port range seems very nuanced.

Notes: This was the last pending Harvest casks to try, and it maintains the quality and overall extraordinary sense. The port side is rather subtle, and maybe a bit shy compared to the others, in particular the Lagavulin, which stands on a category of its own for me. But this is a great brew in any case.

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Photo of Beejay
4.47/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2005

A: Deep amber with a bit of tan head from an aggressive pour. The head fades away almost immediately. Very large chunks of yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass.

S: Very malty sweet. Caramel, maple syrup and molasses dominate the aroma. Hints of wood and dark fruit come out in the finish.

T: Caramel and syrup some right out. There is a nice toffee flavor as well as a touch of biscuit in the finish. Some lovely roasty flavors balance the notes of sweet fruit.

M: Thick and oily. This thing coats your mouth in a wonderful layer of sweet toffee glaze. Carbonation is extremely low.

O: Perhaps a little oxidized, but for a beer brewed 6 years ago, this thing is really holding up. Dynamite stuff.

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Photo of bobhits
4.84/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Bottle.

Classic color and body for this beer. Just enough carbonation so I know it’s there (have to say the non port aged version does have better head). A lot of sediment in the glass, merky, beige head and a nice deep dark amber orange color.

Dark fruits, dates, raisins, figs, brown sugar, not a spice or hop to be noticed in this nose. Some grapes and a smell that I just think of as English barley wine.

Amazingly smooth, just wow. I don’t know what port tastes like, but it has done wonders with this beer. A creamy, fruity, vanilla numbed master piece. The fruity flavors mix with a subtle alcohol and buttery note that just blow my mind. A bit of a hop kiss at the end, earthy and bitter to balance things out. The port has mellowed some of the harsh notes in the regular version of this beer, and perhaps cut years of aging out of the need. I think a bit of nutty flavors has been added her as well.

Creamy thick syrup is the best way to describe this beer. Carbonation is very lacking and who cares? This is an English barely wine and it just works.

I’m not sure where this ranks with different ages and all, but this is about as great a beer drinking experience as I can recall. I just want more in my bottle. 9.99 gone in 30 minutes, I need a raise to keep this pace up!

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Photo of sweemzander
4.17/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3oz. bottle poured into a snifter. 2006 Vintage.

(A)- Pours a fairly thick deep roasted caramel color. Produced some transparent to white froth and bubbles.

(S)- A rich caramel, toffee, honey, and brown sugar profile. Bits of dry oak, vanilla, and very subtle bits of dark fruits; sherry-like.

(T)- Similar to the smell in every way. Sweet and rich with a complex malt profile.

(M)- A mellow carbonation level. A nice balance of rich yet sweet malts without being too sweet or sugary. An excellent ABV integration; in no way does this feel like 11.5%. So very smooth overall.

(D)- A solid Barleywine. Easily my most favorite thus far from the JW Lees variations. The port cask smoothes this out while adding subtle complexities and richness. Good stuff right here.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
4.3/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy orange-ish to brown-ish color, with a tan head. In the aroma, oaky, wine like, I assume port. In the taste, sweet oak, vanilla, and big port/ wine flavor. A smooth and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small dry oak with wine undertones in the aftertaste. Nice wine presence, a bit hot from alcohol, but a nice sipper.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
92 out of 100 based on 212 ratings.