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

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

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301 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 301
Reviews: 178
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 14.81%
Wants: 39
Gots: 56 | FT: 4
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.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 301 | Reviews: 178
Reviews by ccrida:
Photo of ccrida
4.03/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage poured into my Meantime Snifter, J.W. Lees Harvest Ale is a hazy bronze with small, large bubbled, off-white bubbles leaving very light lace. Served at 60F. It seems that all of the Cask Harvest Ale's I've had have had more carbonation then the regular version, which I definitely dig, even though I recognize it's not a real characteristic of the style.

Smell is vinous and sweet and boozy, with less emphsis on the malt then usual, more fruitiness, strawberries.

Taste is fairly rounded, dryed out a bit by the sherry and wood. Not as intense and malty as the regular harvest ale, it's also lacking depth and seems more alcoholic. Having had all but the Lagavulin Whisky Cask Harvest Ales now, this is my second favorite, close to the Calvados, both behind the Port.

Mouthfeel is on the sticky viscous side, but it's not as sugary and thick as it could be, in spite of leaving a nice coating on the lips. No rough edges either, it's really quick nice, especially for being on the young side, with a prickly dryness amplified by the carbonation, which for the style is fairly brisk, even if lower overall.

Drinkability is good, this is a great brew and I really dig the different cask aging. Still, it's a bit hot in the belly, and not my favorite of the line up, and at the price it commands, not something I will be drinking on any kind of regular basis. Still worth holding on to a few for the long haul, and worth seeking out - I'd certainly never turn one down!

More User Reviews:
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.38/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage. Brassy orange with sunny Sunkist trim. The upper half of the snifter is filled with a lovely looking chunk of manila colored creaminess that is depositing thin sheets of delicate lace as it slowly deflates. This is a wonderful looking English barleywine if you have a crystal snifter and bright sunlight handy.

The aroma is apricot fruity with a little ripe banana thrown in for good measure. On the positive side, very little alcohol is noted. At more than five years of age, that isn't really surprising. On the negative side, sherry is hard to appreciate.

Thankfully, the cask-aging makes an appearance where it matters most... on the palate. I don't love sherry, but it is an integral part (and a delicious part) of The Macallan, one of my three favorite Scotch whiskies. For whatever reason, this offering is tastier than the standard Harvest Ale. Of course, it's nearly impossible to compare two beers that were reviewed so far apart.

The sherry influence probably has a lot to do with what makes this big brew so complex. Sugar syrup sweetened orchard fruit (apricots, peaches, pears) contrasts exceptionally well with the white grape vibe from the wine. There's also a considerable amount of oak present, although the beer doesn't taste the least bit woody.

Given how much aging has already occured, it isn't surprising how beautifully melded the various flavors are. This bottle has another five years on it with no trouble at all. What a glorious, supremely sippable concoction this is.

The mouthfeel is heavenly as well. What could have easily been overly full, sappy and sticky is leavened by a perfect amount of carbonation. A crushed velvet plushness pampers the mouth with each and every sip.

J. W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale was reviewed first because I wanted to have a baseline with which to appreciate the cask-aged versions. These special release Harvest Ales will be reviewed in reverse order of my preference for the wine or liquor: Sherry Cask, Port Cask, Calvados Cask, and Lagavulin Whisky Cask. Is it possible that the other are this amazing?

Photo of RoyalT
4.52/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - This is a clean orange in color with a couple of soft shades of brown. The head is modest of course.

Smell - The cask aroma is more prominent than in the port or calvados offerings. I have a distinct memory of sherry and it is definitely in the nose here. The barley wine smells are light, although the deeper you drag the sniff the stronger it becomes.

Taste - The barley wine takes over at the taste. The high-quality sherry flavors come over nicely from the nose, but five years of cellaring did not wear on the barley wine flavor at all. It still has plenty of structure and has lost the frustrating tightness one encounters when showing impatience with his JWLs.

The BW hasn't sugared up a whole let yet but there are some juicy fruits peaking out of the cave. It sounds ridiculous to use the word "luscious" to describe a prune, but there isn't a better prune flavor in Mother Nature than the one I'm getting right now. I can get a sense of early-picked figs complete with that green "kick" of bitterness. Overall this is an incredibly fascinating flavor profile that won't quite develop fully for another year, maybe two.

Mouthfeel - This is not a heavy BW and certainly doesn't surpass medium-bodied , but the flavors are so explosive, even when drank early as I'm doing here, that the only way to drink it is by sipping. Again, the greenish fruity bitterness at the very end adds even more complexity to the mouthfeel as if it needed any more. It's probably the most complex mouthfeel of any beer that I've ever had.

Drinkability - The sherry cask seems to always be a year or two behind the others. Here at five years it is just starting to open up whereas JWL's other casked bottled offerings are in their glory at this stage.

It was a real treat though to catch at the beginning of the blossom. It packs a mean punch, has started to fruit up, and still has the structure of a big beer. I am always amazed at the staying power of these beers. At year five it was aged enough to enjoy yet still tight enough to command respect.

Photo of shapudding
4.56/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

No dating, but stamped on the cap is L4082
Clear and dark golden wit not much head, only a dusting with some swirling, itsy bitsy bubbles in a thin ring at the edge. Wonderful scents of whiskey going on, or maybe rum? Makes me think of drinking a rum and coke. Bit of some dark fruits and maple syrup or dark karo syrup, very nice. Wow! This is so thick and creamy, but not heavy, just smooth and lovely! There is a bit of bite from the carbination. I am surprised by the caramelly sweetness that the sherry brings. Tastes of a cream sherry and oakyness. Blackened toast in the aftertaste. After each taste there is a bit of both the dark and the sweet, -NICE! There is so much wonderful flavor in this. Man, I was scared that this would not live up to what I was hoping it would taste like. I love the taste of cream sherry -yeah, so sue me, it is fun chilled with a wedge of lime every once in a while! Pull out the Harveys! Glad that this turned out to be as good as I wanted it to be. Maybe not a session beer, but a wonderful sit down and relax and sipper. Enjoyed this one alot. -Especially after the crappy birds game today, this really took the edge off!

Photo of Billolick
4.29/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours from the funky old wooden cask, dark and muddy, no head nor lace, seems to have very minimal carbonation. Nose is funky, musty, fruity, wine like. Notes here of figs and raisins, bold and deep, flavorful and complex. World class after dinner or desert sipper. Wine sherry notes present here but team players. Whenever you see a wooden cask on the bar or fest table, get on line and get you sample or two.

Photo of mondegreen
3.97/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2005 Vintage. 275ml bottle into a tulip.

Part of my 30th Birthday Celebration thanks to longtime friend and newbie BA graphx3d.

A: Beautiful golden with minimal head.

S: Very very sweet. Smell almost like pancake syrup.

T: Taste follows nose. I nearly considered recapping this and saving it to pour over my pancakes in the morning. Don't get me wrong, it tastes very nice, but is a touch one dimensional, especially beside other J.W. Lees Harvet Ales.

M: Nice and thick, lending even more credence to my pancake theory.

D: I shared this bottle with a friend. This beer would be undoubtedly cloying if I tried to drink it all myself.

Photo of rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a snifter)

A-This beer pours a hazy brown with a slight orange hue and a very thin tan head that dissipates very quickly. gentle carbonation slowly floats to the surface.

S- Sweet floral aromas combine with caramel and other toasted malt smells. A faint grape note in the finish.

T- Very full malt with caramel and some dried fruit notes. A sugary flavor balances with a note of sherry and a slight hop finish. Very faint hop bitterness.

M-Medium-full mouthfeel with some fullness as it warms. A slight alcohol note on the exhale but not during the tasting.

D- This is a very nice barley wine and the slight sherry notes really add a lot of depth to this beer but it didn't taste overly sweet.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.37/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 vintage. Poured into a snifter the color of cherry-juice-infused burgundy. Or...sherry! Has that rusty sunset glow you'll see in many Imperial IPAs. Head is insanely creamy, disappearing rather quickly, leaving a soapy ring in its wake.

The aroma is utterly fantastic. Big juicy cherry, orange, alcohol, wood, all coalescing together wonderfully. An unsubtle hybrid of sweetness, warmth and earth. Tends to get a bit too hot upon warming, the alcohol dominating at that point, so take it in while it's still got a slight chill.

If you're not into incredibly sweet beers, stay away. While the fruitiness is nice (grapefruit, orange, fig, cherry), the hoppiness is obvious, and the wood subtle and simple, the sweetness over-reaches just a tad too much. Had there been a more subtle malt balance, and had the milder elements been given more of a chance to breathe, this would rate astoundingly high in flavor. But still, the good outweighs the band here, and I cannot give it anything less than 4.5.

Unsurprisingly syrupy in texture (and taste), it feels absolutely wonderful in the mouth. Only mildly carbonated, it's got a beautifully soft, sensual feel like liquid velvet from Mars. Only the sugary finish makes it feel less like beer and more like something you'd put on pancakes or in fruit salad. Am I complaining? Nope.

Oh, and the sherry flavor comes through nicely...even strongly. If you don't like sherry, you won't like this. Luckily sherry is one of the few stronger liquors that I like, and also being into barleywines, it seemed a winner before even popping the top. It could've still gone very wrong in the hands of a lesser brewer, but no...this is great stuff for slow sipping and quiet contemplation.

Photo of Sammy
2.74/5  rDev -32.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Disapointing version of something I normally like. Big full mouthfeel, but sourish aroma and only average taste. I cellared with for about 20 months and it has a long shelflife. A bit of sherry, but not too complex. Sorry, not finishable. I guess I am not a sherry fan.

Photo of augustgarage
4.41/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage. Poured from a 275mL bottle into a snifter.

Rust and dark coral intermingle in the color of the body - relatively clear though numerous globules float throughout the liquid. Light ivory head recedes to a bubbly collar and a faint tattoo on the surface. Glassy legs.

Extremely fruit-fillled aromatics - pungent apple sauce notes lead the way into a more diverse array of stone-fruit esters. Leathery young brandy and light oak notes as well. Caramel, orange-blossom honey, and berry syrup is in there as well. Drosophilia come running (well, flying).

Malt syrup, gingerbread, loam, tobacco, and vanilla flavors on the palate. Fine/delicate sherry flavors come out mid-palate along with toffee and stewed fruit. Faintly vinuous, though this is more of a sherry character than that of oxidation. Lush oaky notes with a touch of bergamot in the finish - complexity grows as the beer warms.

Oily, medium-bodied, with low carbonation.

I'm still impressed that the base beer can be improved upon by soaking up the best characteristics of the barrels it is aged in, but these special editions of Harvest Ale have certainly "matured" more than simply "aged."

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.7/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This specially casked Harvest ale pours a deep auburn body with amber and gold highlights beneath an average sized head of creamy off-white froth. The head retention is limited, but at 11.5% that's to be expected - and it still keeps a decent collar which is unusual for such a high alcohol beer! The nose is loaded with sweet, delicately caramelized malt and notes of sticky-sweet dried dark fruit as well as some leafy and almost herbal hops. There's no particular evidence of either sherry or wood, but it is somehow lighter or less malty than the regular version. In the mouth it's full bodied almost to the point of being syrupy; smooth; and quite creamy. It's rich maltiness dominates the flavor with a sticky, honey-like character that's balanced by herbal, leafy and grassy hops. The sherry comes through midway across the palate with a spritz of fruit-juice and alcohol. The bitterness is low-key, but has enough ballast enough to balance it. The sherry comes through again in the finish, lending it just a little more complexity than the original; but of the four specially "casked" versions, this is one of the less interesting (with port being the other - the clavados and Lagavulin were actually interesting).

Photo of spacecake9
4.68/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Opened my first bottle today. Poured into my teku glass. This unassuming little bottle of beer is wonderful. Unique flavors - earthy, raisins, maybe a little apple. Wished I hadn't waited so long to try it! So good I went back and got a second bottle.

Photo of dirtylou
4.4/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 vintage, my last of the 4 varietals

appearance: pours into a snifter...light bodied ruby-mahogany, frothy beige head with decent lacing, clear body. wonderful looking beer from JW Lees, per the usual

smell: a little funky, full of oak, sweet sherry influence on the nose leaves this a bright exciting smelling beer...sweet syrupy malts conistent with what one would expect from this series

taste: very nice...sweet and fruity, berries and cream, vanilla and oak, sherry influence brilliantly placed...super syrupy and boozy, potent and sweet caramel. very lovely beer here, maybe my favourite of the 4 variations

mouthfeel: thick, sweet, and syrupy

drinkability: just fine

Photo of nickd717
4.02/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2007 bottle shared at a cigar tasting. I'm not quite sure who brought this, but thanks to whoever it was.

Pours hazy amber with a small white head and very small chunks floating in the beer.

Aroma is sweet caramel and toffee, spiced apple cider, and sherry.

I got a lot of sherry in the flavor, although others there disagreed. It was almost as if the beer were oxidized, but it worked well. Sweet caramel malt and toffee, apples, spice (cinnamon/nutmeg maybe), sherry, apple brandy, and oak barrel.

Medium-plus bodied with low carbonation and very slight booziness.

Drinkability is pretty good. This is a very solid barleywine overall, although not quite as awesome as the regular and port barrel Harvests in my opinion.

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.16/5  rDev -22%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

275 mL bottle poured into a Hunahpu snifter. 2009 vintage.

Appearance - Just a hint of a head that got me so excited that I forgot that the chunks would soon start to flow. Sadly, a giant lump of something gross fell into my glass. It burst into smaller chunks and suspended itself into the murky amber liquid. Like a water sample from Lake Erie. Yum.

Smell - Huge sherry aroma. Like an oxidized barleywine, but without some of that cardboard. Harsh alcohol in the back of the aroma. Lots of raisins and sugars.

Taste - Intense sherry flavor up front that fades to raisins and brown sugar. Then the back end kicks in. Bitter cardboard. Rather unpleasant.

Mouthfeel - Syrupy as every other Harvest Ale. The sherry does nothing to cut the sweetness. Definitely a rough finish with the bitterness and the cardboard. Almost a burnt oak flavor.

Overall - Big beer. A sipper. A sugary sipper. It's complex, though. It's one of those beers you can ponder for a while. Maybe the result of the pondering isn't the best, but the activity of drinking it is nice.

Photo of russpowell
4.06/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours amber to orange with a minmal white head. Some lacing & no head retention

SmeLL; Huge oaky & sherry notes

Taste: Super sweet up front, followed by raisin, vanilla, treacle/honey and tangerine notes. Very complex, but a little too sweet for my tastes

MF: Syruppy, oily, undercarbonated, & slightly out of balance. A little more hops or gas needed.

Okay drinkabilty for the strength, but a few more years of aging are in order IMHO

Photo of CharlesDarwin
3.72/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2004. In the glass, an apple core tannic bite. With sharp vinous notes and a lot of aged raisins and pudding. Somewhat subdued over oak. Pours crystal clear with dispersed carbonation and a rim of creamy white. Flavor is dense, as is the texture. A lot of syrupy cream alights over gentle fusels and a bowl of dark fruits. Not entirely complex. The sugar is too dense and rich. There aren’t many nuanced notes here. Some plum and pear juices in a rice mixture. Seemingly more confused. After the cloying mixture a brief reprise of light vinous character, a bit of bittered oak resins and then a wash of old hops. This one seems unbalanced. The sugars too abundant, the malt character not forward enough, the barrel character somewhat unpleasent and the hops kind of rotty tasting. A real shame for the price. I appreciate some of the figgy nuts and almonds brought in by the barrel, but I don’t think the beer reacted well. Mostly too sticky. Otherwise, clean.

Photo of bashiba
4.33/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was from a 2005 bottle.

Poured a dirty cloudy brown with lots of sediment and a light soap ring of a head.

Has a big sweet brown sugar malty and syrupy sweet lots of brig bready malts.

Wow the flavor is huge, a big giant sherry and brown sugar sweet malt blast with hints of caramel and toffee and light notes of chocolate. So sweet and malty, great sherry flavors, no hops to speak of left.

The mouthfeel is thick and chewy with heavy lingering finish.

Quite and experiance, a monster of a barleywine, very desert like. Almost like drinking actual sherry.

Photo of DavidSeanNJ
4.4/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

***2005 Vintage***

Poured into a snifter...

A- Beautiful hazy orange/red color. Very thin ring of head around the top of my glass, but enlarged after a nice swirl.

S- Smell was oaky and winey with massive hints of vanilla and cream.

T- This is a dessert in a glass. I got some nice flavors of vanilla icing and fruit, followed up by some really delicate hints of cognac and wine. Not many hints of alcohol, this one seems to have calmed down considerably.

M- Mouthfeel was velvety and sleek. Refined and classy, full bodied.

D- This one would be great while reading a book, sitting in front of the fireplace. I would like to try all of the different Harvest Ale casks.

Photo of shbobdb
2.06/5  rDev -49.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1

Well . . . it said that it was conditioned in a sherry cask and . . . it tasted like sherry! My girlfriend likes cream sherries and this beer tasted like a cream sherry that I'd expect to pay around $8 for (that's not a lot for sherry). Yeah, it tastes like a cheap cream sherry. It feels, in terms of mouthfeel, like a fine, full, rich english beer on a delightful beer-engine.

Yeah, not cool. The only thing about it that didn't feel like cheap sherry was the mouthfeel. Not worth it unless you really like sherry.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention . . . beer isn't sherry.

Photo of trappistlover
4.17/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

(275ml bottle). Pours cloudy reddish-brown coor with minimal off-white head. It's quite impressive to look at. The aroma is sherry, booze, sweet caramel and chocolate malts. I could smell it the moment I popped the cap. Taste is sweet with roasted-almost burnt-nuts and chocolate. A little sweet wine is present also. Full bodied with a sticky texture and smooth finish. This is one nice beer.

Photo of Samp01
3.96/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

9.3oz bottle. Pours a dark rusted cloudy orange brown with a quickly fading small white head. Aroma of sweet fruit , caramel and toffee notes, with some sweet alcohol esters. Taste same as aroma with some fine notes of aged sherry cask wood flavors with light hops notes and sweet alcohol. Palate is a full body and flavor, smooth and sweet sherry cask notes with mild carbonation. Finishes is sweet, fruity, with some nice caramel and toffee flavors and sweet aged sherry cask woody notes with alcohol lingering awhile. Overall a very good, flavorful brew.

Photo of akorsak
3.36/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: The barleywine has a garnet orange-red color with no head and little carbonation.

S: The ale has an unusual alcohol smell. Never having had sherry, I'll say that it is a sherry-like aroma.

T: The ale has the malty sweetness of a barleywine. Mixed into that is a slightly vinous, sharp flavor. The flavor is full-bodied and somewhat unpleasant. I don't think that I will like sherry.

M: The mouthfeel is sweet with a sharp, vinous edge..

D: The ale weighs in at over 10%, making drinkability difficult. Add to that the sweetness of the malts and the intense alcohol of the sherry and this is a one and done beer.

Photo of bluejacket74
4.37/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3 ounce bottle, brewed in 2006. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a murky copper color with a very small off-white head that went away pretty quickly. Not much lacing, either. The aroma is dark fruit (raisins, figs), sherry, brown sugar and sweet malt. The taste is similar to the aroma, it's very sweet and malty. I can taste brown sugar, toffee, raisins, figs, molasses and sweet malt. Alcohol is also noticable in the taste, but that's a good thing for this beer. Mouthfeel/body is full, it's smooth, thick and oily with low carbonation. Drinkability is good, it's enjoyable to drink but it's a sipping beer for me, anyway. All in all I think this is a pretty good brew. I think I'll have to buy another couple bottles of this and let it age longer and see how it turns out.

Photo of Jredner
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Sherry dominates the aroma but you can smell lots of caramel beneath it. Red tinged amber in color this beer appears vaguely luminescent. There is just a slight filmy white slick of a head in the middle of the glass, but the outer edges are a uniform dime sized thickness. Fore is very sweet with caramel, sugar and cream. There are subtle woody notes in the middle and the finish is again very sweet with rich caramel and candy sugar notes. I’m starting to dig English barley Wines.

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
90 out of 100 based on 301 ratings.