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

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

822 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 822
Hads: 1,394
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.12%
Wants: 249
Gots: 199 | FT: 14
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (22) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
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Reviews: 822 | Hads: 1,394
Photo of Qbdoo
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Beautiful reddish orange with absolutely no head. Extremely sticky in texture. Scent is fruity, with a bit of citrus and lots of sweet dark fruit and caramel. Taste is similar but there's more of an earthy quality and a slight spciy bite.

Wow! I tried this about 20 years ago when I was first dabbling in craft beer. I remember liking it but being overpowered by it. I wondered how I'd feel about it. I loved it on first sip and it only got better and better as iit warmed.

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Photo of Kurmaraja
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

18 years old and still going strong!! Pour is murky brown, slight reddish orange hints, not much head but still sufficiently carbonated. Looks ... old. Smell is still lively though; leathery, dark fruit, caramel / toffee / golden syrup, musty sherry / nutty notes (pretty slight oxidization, adds depth rather than detracting), savory back note. Flavor delivers. Bursts with plum / raisin / toffee sweetness, leather / smoke and a finish of slight soy that gives a balancing savory impression to keep it from going cloying. Thick without being too coating. Compellingly drinkable ... not so heavy you have to nurse it for days. Really a spectacular beer ... a subtle carboard note in the middle and the murky looks is all that keeps this from perfection of the style.

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Photo of durlta
4.26/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2005 vintage. Super sweet, appoaching mead territory. Full of chunks. Absolutely no head. Golden brown. Tastes and smells of carmel, honey, bread, fried bananas. Tons of flavor. No carbonation.

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Photo of infinitebruner
3.61/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

August 15, 2015

9.3 oz bottle, snifter

2010 Vintage

A – Medium brown with a lot of copper, slightly mahogany. Thick, and slightly hazy/cloudy. Basically no head, a quick off-white foam-up and then gone.

S – Raisins, caramel, brown sugar, some sherry and fruity alcohol esters. Rich, but not as dense as I would expect.

T – Toffee and raisins, with a spicy note I can’t quite put a finger on, almost vegetal and garden pepper-like. Not particularly pleasant. Sherry and esters here as well.

M – Carbonation is light though definitely noticeable. Body is full, thick. The alcohol is still warming tipping towards hot.

O – Everything that should make a great English barleywine is here, but the odd vegetal flavor and too-prominent alcohol throw the entire thing off. Unfortunate.

DISCLOSURE: Because it's a big, complex beer, it's hard for me to say one way or the other if this was infected or if it's just a flaw in the beer. I'm unsure enough to allow the review to stand, for now.

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Photo of SaisonRichBiere
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2011 Vintage, consumed on 8-12-2015

Pours rich amber with carbonation in the pour but almost none in the glass. Smells like caramel, candied nuts, brown sugar, figs, pralines, and a tart vinous note. Tastes like caramel, butterscotch, candied pecans and cashews, sweet wheat cereals, as it warms, it tastes exactly like a vintage Kellogg's cereal called Nut and Honey Crunch. Very tasty beer. Feel is slick and sugary. Overall very tasty. I prefer this to some of the barrel-treated versions. Great beer.


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Photo of BradenMK
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

The hazy apricot color was pretty brilliant, to be sure, but the smell was perplexing. At first I thought I'd accidentally picked up a wild ale. And, hell, maybe there is some spontaneous fermentation going on in this beast, I wouldn't know, but the thing smelled like bread at first. Not sweet bread, but, like, buttered white toast or something. It has a somewhat sour note to it like sourdough. It put me off at first, but then I poured it from the bottle into a glass.

And everything changed.

The taste is incredible. Massive caramel bomb, to the point that I almost feel like I'm tasting some salt in this. Certainly very sweet up front, reminiscent of sherry but not nearly so raisin-y, though a little bit of white grape juice. Let's call it vinous but without getting raisin-y, if that makes sense, but then it flips a little and the huge caramel/sherry notes fall to earthy hops and a surprising smoky, burnt honey/sugar character. So you have a strong beginning and end, two very distinct vibes, and yet in the middle is more complexity than I recall ever enjoying in a barleywine. Great, great stuff.

Somewhat overcarbonated, not that I expected it to be flat, but there was juuuuuust a bit too many prickles in the mouth to render this beer as smoothly as I feel it ought to be. Medium but thick, though the hops and the smoke (wherever that comes from) cuts the sweetness so much that it never becomes cloying. Heaviness is less than some of my favorite imperial stouts and yet I sipped on this a lot slower than any beers in recent tastings.

The smell certainly improved as it warmed, going from a savory, yeasty bread to that caramelly/chocolatey cake that most people were talking about.

Overall, the most interesting, complex barleywine I've had, possibly, ever. I'd have to give Sucaba another taste test (as when I had it I was barely a young pup when it came to craft beer, though I loved it), but I'm confident this is just as good and I imagine probably better. Amazing stuff, if you see it under $8, even for just 9.3 oz, buy it. It's the only beer in that price range I've ever bought that I'd say was worth it.

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Photo of wethorseblanket
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a clear copper with only a trace of thin white cap. Aroma of malts, alcohol and a bit of smoke. Sweet caramel and smoky flavor on warming. Full body. A slow sipper.

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Photo of emyers
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2002 edition poured into Founders snifter.

Appearance: pours a deep amber-brown with a thin off-white lacing.

Smell: a potent bouquet of raisin covered in molasses. Tons of caramel malt. Maybe a bit of vanilla, but the raisin-molasses thing really overpowers everything else. Very, very potent aroma.

Taste: just as the nose advertised. Tons of raisin with quite a bit of caramel, mocha, just a touch of oak. Very, very sweet. Extreme richness and depth of flavor.

Mouthfeel: thick, sweet, fairly low carbonation barely keeps it from getting unpleasantly syrupy.

Overall: this is a slow sipping beer in its most pure form. The sweetness can get overbearing in a hurry if you drink this too quickly, but damn it has a lot of flavor.

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had the 2010 vintage of this. Really big beer with some serious kick. I am a huge fan of Barleywines but this wasnt up near the top for me. Tasted more like a wheat wine

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Photo of cooler4life
3.81/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

'10 Edition given by a wonderful brother.

A: Poured a syrupy zero finger head that disperses what little foam present as a thin ring around the edges of my NB chalice. Lots of floaties. Fallen soldiers of the yeast brigade.

S: Sun kissed raisons, prune juice, burnt sugar, caramel. Fairly one dimensional, but after 5 years the aromas have settled.

T: This is where it shines. Dark fruits up front mixed with maple syrup and fresh tobacco. Sweet like a port wine but different in the fact you get some grassy notes (faded hops?). Finishes with a surge of grassy moss funk and smoke.

F: Limited. Carbonation is very fine, to the point of almost being non-existent.

O: This was a real treat, lots of different dimensions. Age has masked the ABV well- you don't see it coming until you start barking orders to family members like General Lee. Salute!

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Photo of pat61
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

L: Pours bright dark chestnut topped with a thin white film.
S: Malt, raisins and port aromas.
T: Has a sweet port quality loaded with raisins, alcohol and a slight prune and a hint of bread and caramel.
F: Chewy, low carbonation.
O: This is the 2006 vintage also had the 2005 vintage which leaned more to sherry than port. Both are excellent.

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Photo of Webbydag1
1.77/5  rDev -58.4%
look: 2.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 1.25 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.25

Oh man, just not up my alley. Or maybe I had a bad batch. Very syrupy and sweet. It's called a "robust" ale but it reminded me of a fermented mrs.buttersworth.

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Photo of Jonada
3.22/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2011 vintage. 275 ml bottle poured into a snifter

Appearance: Pours amber in color with less than a finger of an off white head that settles to a thin ring. Body is lightly hazy with moderate visible carbonation.

Smell: Lost of dark fruit. Raisin, fig, toffee, mild booze and hint of vanilla.

Taste: Syrupy sweetness, tobacco, slight smokiness, earth, burnt sugar. There' some mild dark fruit character, but it's mostly just a generic sweetness with some odd earthy character that doesn't really compliment it well.

Mouthfeel: Fuller end of medium with a slightly syrupy mouthfeel and medium fine carbonation. Sweet finish is balances slightly with some light boozy heat.

Overall: Not a fan of this one. There's some odd, unexpected flavors that don't mesh well. Will skip this one in the future.

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Photo of kscaldef
2.75/5  rDev -35.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Odd to see I'd somehow failed to transfer my notes over here, although I don't have them for all the vintages I've tried.

2010 (consumed June 2014) - Not terribly good. Maybe needs more age, but there's some funky phenols, as well as sickly sweetness. 2.0.

2006 (consumed Nov 2013) - An okay vintage. Needs a little carbonation. 3.5.

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.31/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served in a Lexington Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter.

2012 edition. The first stop of our trip through the Lees Harvest horizontal. This stuff pours a clear sunshine tawny topped by a finger or so (at best) of khaki foam. The nose comprises sweet caramel and toffee, white grapes, light stonefruits, mild vanilla, and a bit of booze tossed in for good measure. The taste brings in more of the same, the robust sweetness shining through, not unlike a sherry or even a tokaji. The body is a hefty medium, with a rather light moderate carbonation and a full feel. Overall, a damn fine beer, straight up. I remember thoroughly enjoying the 1999 vintage I had in 2010, and even this much fresher this stuff comes charging through. It's definitely sweet, but never comes across as cloying. I wish it were cheaper, just so I could drink and age as many as possible (and I don't age many beers, mind you).

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Photo of fscottkey
3.12/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Harvest Ale Limited Edition Brewed in 2010. Poured into a tulip glass.

A: [3.25] Dark mahogany brown color. Like rich leather color. Forms a minor head that is gone after pouring. The bottle lists the ABV at 11.5%. There was some coding on the cap - but I couldn't determine a date.

S: [3.00] I smell a smokey essence. It also smells like a red wine scent.

T: [3.00] Uck... holy... ugh (exact words after the first sip). Okay. Gotta try a few more. Subsequent sips are much improved. Trying to isolate flavors. Vanilla, tannins, maple syrup, brown sugar. Overall it is very sweet.

M: [3.50] It is smooth on the palete. Low carbonation. Lingering sweetness on the tongue.

O: [3.25] This is the most unique beer I think I have reviewed. My initial impression was a drain pour. But it grew on me. The flavor profile is like nothing in my experience. I would not get it again. But It was worth drinking.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2008 bottle served into a snifter.

The head is creamy, pale and white and dissipates quickly. I guess that's not unreasonable given the 7 years of age. At least there was head and carbonation at all. The body is medium amber and full of yeast particles. Ain't no thang, I'ma slurp those bad boys down. 4

Quite the lovely smell coming from this: tobacco, oak, caramel and vanilla with a bit of a spicy edge. Takes me to the caribbean for tabaco y ron. There's certainly a vinous quality as well though, port-like oxidation. 4.5

A mishmash of flavors circle on this and they take the beer in a number of different directions. There's a heavily oxidized caramel flavor that is entirely port-like and the hops have faded to the point of imparting a tad of grassy but almost vegetal flavor, but this quickly settles into the background. The deeper I get in the more it becomes a delicious play between rich caramel and port. 4.25

This beer is practically a port. Thick, creamy and smooth almost to perfection with so little carbonation yet it drinks wonderfully with feeling as if something is lacking. There's a tiny amount of bitterness and the sweetness isn't overdone, so it really just drinks like the smooth sipper and warming beer that you'd want and expect. 4.5

Fantastic and ages splendidly.

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Photo of beersgud
1.98/5  rDev -53.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 1

2010 vintage poured into a tulip.

The beer looks nice aside from a bunch of unfiltered crap at the bottom of the glass. Smells really nice as well, but that's about the end things to say about this beer. The faint tobacco aroma that was appealing on the nose becomes offensive when tasting. Tasted like old cigarette butts mixed with other garbage. Probably due to poor storage of a 5 year old beer ( I just bought it about a month ago ), nevertheless, one of my few drain pours.

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Photo of stcules
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Dark brown color, almost no foam.
Malty smell, some nut notes. It warms you, even if the alcohol is not directly noticeable (not to much).
Malty taste, with a lot of dried fruit (nuts), some woody note.
Dry finish.
Some green notes walnut husk. Raisin. Pistachio.
A really good and interesting barley wine.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Funky Buddha Brewery snifter. 2011 vintage.

A- Pours a light brown color with a full two finger light tan head that retains well before popping away to a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a mostly full sheet of surface foam. Not-so-resilient lacing leaves small streaks behind.

S- Sweet, biscuity malt with notes of brown sugar, dark bread and toffee.

T- Powerful flavors of burnt sugar, caramel and more toffee. Toasty malt and minimal hop bitterness. The alcohol is hidden quite well but lends a fortified wine characteristic to the overall profile.

M- Somewhat sharp and tangy with medium carbonation and a body leaning toward the fuller side.

O- A fantastic representation of an English Barleywine. The sweetness in particular lends itself to drinkability even with the pronounced alcohol bite. You would expect those two things to clash with one another but this brew shows how the two can co-exist in harmony.

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Photo of barczar
4.25/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Very sweet, with huge caramelization and just a hint of sherry oxidation. Malt complexity is abundant. A bit boozy when young, but these age so well.

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Photo of JerzDevl2000
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had one of these last night up at the Cloverleaf in Caldwell. Never had this beer before and I had a feeling that this would take a while to sip through. That was indeed the case but because this was so street and strong in a subtle way, it was worth savoring as it warmed up in the small snifter glass that I poured this out in. A Barleywine doesn't get much better than this and I can't recall the last time I had a beer that was this smooth!

Nice pour to this, as this beer has an apricot hue, cloudy appearance, and little head. It reminded me of a nice sherry or other Barleywines that I've had that packed their punch once they warmed up and were sipped. Like those, this was boozy and like this, this was clear, strong, and unassuming. Unlike some of those, this was balanced - lots of rye here as expected with honey for body and hop oils for balance. Incredibly smooth while being sticky and sweet, this turned out to be what a Barleywine should be without having the alcohol overpower everything else.

Strong, this was but it never felt overpowering. It was so sweet and had just a hint of dark fruit in it while leaving a nice, slick aftertaste that the potency of this ended up taking a backseat. It's so rare to find a beer that pushes the edge of what a beer can be while still remaining true to form, which was the case here. Thoroughly enjoyable while still being a new experience for me, this is a brew that should be on everyone's must-try list, especially if some warming-up is called for this winter. Great stuff!

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.61/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, Autumn Limited Edition. Purchased at Nathaniel Square Corner Store in Rochester, NY.

Pours a golden ruby amber, with a small half inch head, and basically no lacing.

Smells wonderful, slightly oxidized, giving off sherry impressions, with caramel, toffee, and some grassy hops.

I can't believe I'm finally trying this beer, I clearly should have a long time ago. It's excellent, and really quite smooth. Silky toffee and caramel, some port-like flavors, molasses and maple, and a little bit of grassy hops. I also get some prune, oak, smoke and brown sugar, a little bit. Finishes very clean. Clearly brewed to perfection.

This is medium bodied and slightly syupy, with a full mouthfeel, and a lower level of carbonation.

This vintage has clearly aged marvelously. It's one of the best barleywines I've ever had. Everything intensely in moderation.

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Photo of hombrepalo
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Tried many vintages a few up to 15 years aged. Nice mahogany color with beige head. Smells of toffee and malts. Taste is silky toffee and caramel. Finish thin and sweet.

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Photo of fx20736
4.26/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 Edition. Bought at Premier Gourmet on 11/19/14. Poured into a Chimay chalice, served cool.

Look: Bronze, minimal head.

Smell: butterscotch, vanilla, pecans

Taste: grape skin, smoke, tannins, rich, nutty malts.

Feel: good

Overall: rich, complex, smoky

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 822 ratings.