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)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

180 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 180
Hads: 306
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 12.59%
Wants: 38
Gots: 57 | FT: 6
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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 180 | Hads: 306
Photo of maximum12
3.82/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Part of a three-bottle J.W. Lees experience my wife bought me last Christmas, & here it is almost this Christmas, & hey, I don't want her to think I don't appreciate it! So here goes the second, 9.3 ounce bottle, 2007 vintage, popped while pecking away at the Great American Novel.

Pour is smooth amber silk until the last ounce or so disgorges dozens of solids, & the liquid turns to a sludgefest; guess I'm going to have a late snack with my beer! Little if any carbonation survived the brewing & bottling process. Nose is whack sherry, along with a heavy yoke of sweetness. Like the Lagavulin Whiskey, the barrel drowns the beer in its infancy. But that's OK.

J.W. Lees Harvest (Sherry Cask) could be reviewed in two words: sweet sherry. But I'll waste a few more. It's sweet, & the sherry is strong. Really? OK, so there's a ton of caramel, sticky sugar-water, honey, touch of raisin. Consistency is thick, strong, & edging towards boozy. When I poured I cursed the midget bottle, but now, I'm appreciative of the brewer's restraint in portion control.

Overall? Good, solid, unique beer. I couldn't name another sherry-aged beer. Now just the Port version to go, & looking forward to it. (1,197 characters)

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. (1,056 characters)

Photo of metter98
4.07/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is very hazy amber orange in color and has some large particles of yeast visible that are floating in suspension. It poured with a quarter finger high dense beige head that gradually died down, leaving a thin film on the surface and a collar around the edge of the glass.
S: There are sweet aromas of caramel, grapes and toffee in the nose; these become stronger as the beer warms up.
T: Like the smell, the taste is sweet and has an interesting mix of butterscotch, caramel,
sherry and toffee flavors.
M: It feels a bit shy of full-bodied on the palate and has a low to moderate amount of carbonation with some warming from the alcohol.
O: This is a very nice dessert beer to sip. Although it tastes a bit strong, any flavors of alcohol are surprisingly well masked from the taste considering its strength. I thought it could use a slightly stronger body and a bit more carbonation.

Note: 2010 vintage (915 characters)

Photo of wd40
3.93/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage.

Pours a nice hazy orange/reddish colour. I love the aspects of the Harvest Ale base that are present in the smell and taste. There was a really nice amount of carbonation that balances out the sweetness of the base nicely. The sherry cask's contribution to the taste is actually pretty well integrated and pleasant, but I don't love the contribution to the nose. It's just a little overwhelming for me. Everything else about the beer is really enjoyable and I look forward to trying the other versions of this beer. (530 characters)

Photo of ColForbinBC
4.09/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a snifter; 2008 Vintage

Shared side by side with the Lagavulin 2008

A murky, iced tea brown color with no head or lacing. A thin collar surrounds the glass. The nose is full of sweet sherry, tobacco, raisins, cocoa, brown sugar, and molasses. This versions tends to enhance the sweeter characteristics of the base beer. On the palate, raisins and cocoa hit you up front, then a wave of sweet sherry, with molasses, brown sugar, and dry tobacco in tow. The finish is sweet and boozy. Full body, low carbonation. High complexity. This varietal was more enjoyable than the Lagavulin. The sherry flavors/aromas imparted by the aging process seemed much better incorporated and really enhanced some of the other flavors that weren't present in the other version. (778 characters)

Photo of Dope
3.87/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 bottle

A: Murky rusty brown with just a tiny tan head. Almost no lacing.

S: Lots of molasses, toffee and fig. Sherry is there but milder than the other barrel-aged versions I've had. Smell isn't nearly as overpowering either, it's actually quite nice.

T: Syrupy sweet molasses and toffee just like all of the variants. Sherry adds a decent fruitiness without being overpowering AND it covers a bit of that ridiculous molasses.

M: Super heavy, syrupy, blah blah blah.

O: Honestly not a bad variant. The sherry is very mild but it helps ease some of the ridiculously cloyingly sweet molasses. Not to say that it's NOT ridiculously cloyingly and syrupy sweet, just less so. (682 characters)

Photo of jrenihan
3.82/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2005 Vintage.

Beer is a murky toffee colour. A vigorous pour results in a bit of bubbly off-white head.

Lots of sweet caramel malt in the nose. Sherry, apple, brown sugar, raisin.

Taste is like the smell, but the sherry flavour is stronger. Caramel malt, brown sugar, oak, apple, cherry. Very sweet. Alcohol is noticeable, even seven years after bottling. Finish has an odd flavour that I can't place, makes me think of leather.

Full bodied, but with a low carbonation that makes it feel quite thin. Syrupy sticky.

Overall, too sweet for me. Some very nice flavours, but too sweet and sherry is not one of my favourite flavours. Worth checking out but I don't expect I would buy this again. (698 characters)

Photo of mrfrancis
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a hazy, ruddy amber with no head.

S: Aromas of sherry, apple, caramel, toffee, milk chocolate, and brown sugar fill the nose.

T: Notes of sherry, apple, milk chocolate, toffee, caramel, brown sugar, vanilla bean, black currant, plums, raisins, figs, and Medjool dates. The finish is sweet and long with plenty of port, chocolate, and dark fruit notes.

M: Full in body, sticky, and syrupy. Carbonation is very gentle, but even after eight years in the bottle, is still present. Alcohol presence is decidedly restrained.

O: This is a fantastic English barleywine, and may very well be my favorite of J.W. Lees' cask-aged ales. Definitely worth a try. (661 characters)

Photo of ngeunit1
4.42/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a cloudy brown-orange color with a bit of bubbly white head. The head fades away fairly quickly leaving behind barely any lacing.

S - Aroma is a mix of rich sweet caramel malts with some white grape, dark fruits, some oak, brown and caramelized sugars, a bit of vanilla, and some booze.

T - Starts off with a mix of rich sweet caramel malts, caramelized sugars, grape, and some raisin and other dark fruits. Through the middle, some oak comes through with some more sherry flavor alongside some vanilla and a bit of brown sugar. The finish is a mix of sherry, sweet caramel malts, brown sugar, oak, and some booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with mild carbonation. Feels smooth and syrupy with a sweet and warming finish.

D - Very drinkable. The Sherry adds a nice complexity to the base beer. Overall nicely bold and fairly balanced. (844 characters)

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.92/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to barfdiggs for sharing this one at NoSignsOfPain's birthday bottleshare hosted by mrbubbler.

2009 vintage.

Pours a murky honey orange with a foamy orange-tan head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, honey, brown sugar, wood, and sherry/alcohol. Taste is much the same with a nice sherry and woody aftertaste. There is a medium amount of bitterness on the palate after each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that features a nice barrel aged treatment. (641 characters)

Photo of BostonHops
4.11/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

9.3oz bottle served in a snifter.
2006 vintage.

pours a murky russet brown tone with a fair amount of flakes/sediment; no head whatsoever. not entirely unexpected so i'll keep style in mind but, judging solely on appearance, this is one unappealing looking beer! good thing appearance is the least important judging criteria. nose is sweet and malty with notes of caramel/toffee, brown sugar, sherry, and some dark fruit-like qualities.

taste follows the nose, very rich and buttery with a tasty range of flavors, from the toffee and brown sugar to the sherry and fruity notes. medium-full bodied mouthfeel with below average carbonation, the latter being (beside the appearance) one of my few criticisms.

overall a tasty, tasty beer; while far from flawless - or cheap - it's rich and complex. worth the occasional splurge.

(originally reviewed: 08-23-2011) (862 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
3.18/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2008 vintage, 9.3 oz. bottle poured into a taster glass. Tried side by side with a 2008 Calvados version.

a - Pours a dark reddish amber color with a few bubbles of off white head and light carbonation evident. Darker then the Calvados, and with less carbonation and head.

s - Smells of sherry, oak, clay, light fruity malts, dark fruits, sugar, and molasses. Not bad, but the clay smell is a littl weird. I think I like the Calvados smell a little better as it is a little sweeter and doesn't have that clay smell to it.

t - Tastes of sherry, sweet dark fruits, fruity malts, molasses, sugar, clay, light smoke, and toasted malts. Again decent, but I think I like Calvados better again.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Thick and some alcohol to it.

o - Overall a decent beer but my least favorite of the variants so far. I like the normal Harvest Ale, and love English barleywine's in general, but for some reason can't get into the variants at all; I really don't think they add anything good to the base beer. This one had some weird clay-like smells and tastes to it. I'd personally rank them the normal Harvest Ale, Calvados, Port, and then Sherry. Wouldn't seek it out again. (1,191 characters)

Photo of UnknownKoger
3.97/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Last reviewed a year ago. Scores reflect the latest tasting. 2005 vintage poured into Bruery tulip glass

Appearance is a hazy brown color. Virtually no carbonation. It's pretty flat

Smells delicious. The sherry is very apparent in the nose. There are also notes of fig and other dark fruits. Some smoke. Malt sweetness. Smells good

The taste is pretty good. The sherry notes give this barleywine a pleasant sweetness. Even though it's lacking carbonation, it's still pleasant to drink. No hop presence.

Mouthfeel is very smooth. Goes down nicely.

Overall I'm giving the 2005 a better score than the 2007 I reviewed a year ago. Perhaps the vintage is different or perhaps my tastes have changed. Cheers


Bottled in 2007, consumed now. Purchased from K&L Wines in Hollywood and poured into my New Belgium tulip glass.

A: After pouring, I was afraid I'd screwed something and would have to strain the beer or chew it. The floaties others have mentioned I think are congealed bits of liquid because I tried smashing some against the side of the glass with my finger. I suppose the lesson learned here is don't pour it too cold. Otherwise it poured a hazy brown with very light carbonation

S: Smells like it was made in a sherry cask. Very sweet and malty. It made my mouth water

T: Granted, this is my first English barleywine, it's definitely a sipper in my opinion. Whereas in American barleywines it's a hopfest, this brew is all about the sweet sherry notes mixing with the caramel malty goodness. First drink I was kind of put off, but it started to warm up to me.

M: Like gold, this is super smooth and light on the tongue and goes down smooth. It's weird; you can taste the alcohol, but it's not overwhelming. Given that it's 11.5% it goes down a lot smoother than others near this level and in this style.

D: As I mentioned earlier, it's definitely a sipper. Others have mentioned it's a good nightcap, and that's exactly how I'm drinking it. Not sure if I'm entirely sold on English barleywines, but it's definitely a good beer...just not my particular style of choice (2,089 characters)

Photo of jdprmd
4.59/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 Vintage, pored in oversized snifter.

A - ruby red, very little head that disappears quickly.

S - Wow, sherry, and so many dark fruits, peat and sweetness... sublime

T - Damn this is sweet, tastes more like a grand crue than a barleywine. It has some smokiness and peaty notes that make it interesting. This taste is really complex, if you like sweeter beers this is a home run. Lots of dark fruits: grape, cherry, plum... and so on... and of course sherry! The only thing not giving this a 5 on taste is the high sweetness.

M - very velvety, I had the lagavulin version the other night and it was perfect, this one not as good but very close... super smooth going down the hatch.

O - damn J.W... the whole series is great from what I have had... if you find any of them do your self a favor and make the purchase! This as well as the others are very complex... a bit pricy but well worth it. What is even greater is that you can find bottles as far back as 2005! I will be seeking bottles of this out for years to come. (1,033 characters)

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

2008 Vintage
appearance: Amber, slightly hazy, not so much as I recall of the Port version. Slight wisp of a head.
smell: Sherry much more prominent than Port was in that version. Sweet fruit and caramel.
taste: Rich and full with all the characteristics of the nose.
overall: Very nice. Better at this age than the Port version I recently had, but also has 2 years age on the 2010 Port version. We'll see what happens as this ages further. (441 characters)

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

Bottle from '03 into a medium-sized Duvel tulip. Big thanks to Matt for sharing this one.

A: Clear orange body with a few stray tan bubbles on top. A swirl brings more to view, showing that the beer still has real life. Impressive.

S: Yup. Sherry. Rich, candied, slightly oxidized sherry. It's impossible to tell where the barrel ends and the age begins. Some strong, pure brown sugar sweetness backs up all the nutty, fruity sherry goodness. Wow.

T: Creamy, rich, sweet, and simple: sugar, sherry, toffee, vanilla, and more sherry. So, so good. No booze at all. Again, wow.

M: Full, sticky, creamy, and amazingly lively. I honestly couldn't imagine a better-feeling Barleywine.

O: Incredible beer. I feel like we really hit the nail on the head with this one's age, as the fresher bottle of the Port version I tried was (while equally delicious) significantly boozier. The '03 Sherry could not have been smoother. If I happen to run into any from this year, I'll buy them without hesitation. You should, too.

Cheers! (1,023 characters)

Photo of seand
4.62/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage.

A: Pours a clear amber with red highlights, slightly deeper in color than the regular '08 harvest ale. Hardly any head, and what does show up dissipates fairly quickly.

S: Rich honey, and raisins, with a slightly vinous backdrop.

T: Extremely well balanced rich sweetness. Strong honey, along with molasses and dried fruit. No bitterness.

M: Fully body, very little carbonation.

Fantastic; possibly the best I've tried in the style, though I've yet to try any of the other barrel aged versions of this beer. (526 characters)

Photo of jsanford
3.67/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

04 Vintage. 12oz bottle poured into a Snifter.

Pours a hazy mahogany with a thin white head that settles to a slight haze and ring. Moderately sweet aromas of caramel, ripe pear, and toffee with a ton of oak and Sherry character. Taste is right in-line with the nose, the oaky Sherry character definitely overpowers the rest of the beer, and I'm getting a decent amount of oxidation. Mouthfeel is smooth and sticky, with a medium-full body and low carbonation. Overall a decent treatment of J.W. Lees, but Sherry already isn't my preferred taste, so I didn't enjoy this as much as the "regular" or Calvados versions I had alongside it. (636 characters)

Photo of fx20736
2.71/5  rDev -33.1%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

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

Bronze Orange, small head, signs of decent carbonation. Beer was strained prior to serving which may have reduced head somewhat.

Aroma: I smell mellow alcohol which must be the sherry cask.

mouthfeel: soft and syrupy

taste: cloyingly sweet with a warming alcohol vibe. Like a plum flavored syrup.

Notes: Darker, sweeter with less sediment than the Port version of cask aged JWL Harvest. This is simply too sweet to enjoy. (495 characters)

Photo of champ103
4.39/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is a 2008 bottle.

A: Initially this pours a clear ruby red color. Be careful because lots of suspended yeast is sitting on the bottom. Definitely bottle conditioned. A bubbly two finger white head forms that recedes to a ring. Some lace is left behind.
S: Toasted malts, chocolate, wood aromas. The sherry is very apparent with a great fruit medley. Apples, pears, cherries. Excellent.
T: Again a great warm toasted malt flavor that follows the nose. Chocolate, caramel, lots of wood flavors. Big on the apples and cherries. Awesome.
M/D: A full body that is slightly sticky. Very smooth though. So easy to sip on. The huge alcohol is nowhere to be seen, and very enjoyable.

Yep this is a good one. J.W. Lees makes the definitive Barleywines. I really like what the Sherry casks add. Something I would highly recommend. (826 characters)

Photo of beerandcycling88
4.17/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On cask at brouwers.

A pours a kind of orange color with no head to speak of.

S very fruity with lots of apple, some berries, and booze. The sherry definitely is present.

T again very fruity with a very strong berry taste, that is accompenied by a nice earthy flavor. The ABV is very well hidden.

M thick yet smooth with little carbonation and no alcohol burn.

Overall this is a great beer to spend an evening sipping on and enjoying its nuances. (453 characters)

Photo of DaveHS
4.42/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2005

A-Pours a bit darker than the regular harvest ale. When held up the light, the sherry red highlights reflect the time this beer has spent in casks. A few fat chunks of yeast settle at the bottom of the glass. Let this one settle for a while before you open it, and pour with care.

S-Like the non barrel aged harvest ale, earthy aromas of dirt and molasses are right up front. However,they are muted, more rounded and soft. Barely perceptible dark berry sweetness peeks through, on the heels of a slightly dry boozy sharpness.

T/M-The time this one spent in the barrel (and the bottle) has rounded off some of the edges that made the straight harvest ale so dynamic. This one is all about elegance. The body is thinner, with an undernote of vinous acidity playing against musty sherry soaked wood. The sweetness of this version is more sugary and straightforward, accentuated by the thinner, sharper mouth feel, with tart grape juice acidity on the back end.

O-An excellent example of how barrel aging can add a new layer to a beer without disrupting its true character. (1,086 characters)

Photo of sweemzander
3.99/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2007 Vintage.

(A)- Pours a cloudy caramel color. Produced some white to transparent bottles.

(S)- Lots of sweetness. Fig, toffee, subtle cherry, caramel, and oak.

(T)- Similar to the smell. Lots of toffee, fig, cherry, caramel, and oak. Some subtle funk in the barrel character, though very subtle.

(M)- Not completely flat, but just enough to hold this up well enough. Sweet and rich, though very smooth and an expertly integrated 11.5%ABV leve; zero burn on this.

(D)- Another interesting take on the JW Lee's Harvest. Perhaps a tad richer than usual, though very smooth and drinkable for the style. (642 characters)

Photo of rudzud
3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Enjoyed this bottle at a Julio's weekly tasting.

A - Pours a deep copper hue with a thin off white head that faded rather quickly to leave a slight halo.

S - A few steps back from the regular harvest line. The sweet carmel/toffee malts are there with the addition of barrel and well, sherry. A bit too vinuos for me.

T - This is where it really steps back. The sweet carmel/toffee malts are there but I think the sherry adds something not too good to this. It just gets a bit too muddled for me, and too vinuos.

M - Still nice and smooth with enough carbonation to keep it up off the tongue.

O - Overall this beer wasnt that bad. Nice appearance, aroma, and mouthfeel. The sherry just doesnt work for me, I prefer the original harvest line. (745 characters)

Photo of Arbitrator
3.55/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Chilled bottle into a glass. 2009 vintage.

A: Pours a clear, reddish chestnut body with a finger of beige head that retains a little longer than expected, collapsing into the hint of a thin film on top of the beer. It actually maintains a collar, too. Nice.

S: This has a remarkably meaty, red-bean like aroma to it up front. Very odd. The sherry cask is noticeable as a concentrated grape aroma. The base beer's sugar content wafts to the nose as toffee, caramel, dark fruit. Even a touch of earthy hops in there.

T: I'm not sure if this is an off flavor or if it's characteristic of the sherry casks used here, but this beer has a dominant meaty, beany nose as I mentioned in the aroma notes. I don't really know how to react. I don't HATE it... But I don't like it, either. Truthfully, I was hoping this would pass for an approximation of aged J.W. Lees, which takes on a strong sherry note from the oxidation. I taste some sherry here, but it's another flavor component and not a well-integrated accent on the rest of the taste. Some interesting fruitiness is noted (apricot, bananas) along with fig and oak. Quite complex in the finish; if it weren't for that odd beginning, I'd be much more impressed.

M: Great mouthfeel on this one. Very smooth, nearly velvety. Medium-plus bodied.

O: This is enjoyable, but I'd still give the nod to the Port and Calvados versions out of all the cask treatments. (1,413 characters)

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
90 out of 100 based on 180 ratings.