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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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,271 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,271
Reviews: 798
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 215
Gots: 184 | FT: 12
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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,271 | Reviews: 798 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by Siggy125:
Photo of Siggy125
4.15/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Poured from the original 9.6oz bottle into a couple of 4oz taster glasses. Pretty golden amber with a very small trace of carbonation.

The smell is fantastic, sweet fruity aromas with rich malty nutty essences.

Taste: very sweet, but very enjoyable. Rich ripe golden raisins, molasses and brown sugar. A very subtle alcohol sting on the back end to remind you of the 11.5 abv.

Syrupy mouth feel, but not sticky. Very drinkable but I now understand why the bottles are so small. This is to be enjoyed like a rich, small portion treat. I love it, but enough is enough after a few sips.

Siggy125, Dec 28, 2009
More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage,I opened a 2003 bottle a few months back and it was just a bit much so I picked this one seeing it was aged already seven years.Pours a deep chesnut brown with just a slight ruby hue with one finger head wich honestly I didnt expect,aromas are incredible walnut and raisin stick out most with a touch of orange,rich and robust flavors but are much more in tune with each other than the 2003 big raisin/prune up front with a roasted nut and maple finish.Thick but not quite syrupy mouthfeel glides down easy,cant think of a better nighttime sipper,just awseome.

oberon, Aug 18, 2005
Photo of RoyalT
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – Very thick and cloudy orange with a good head that left little pools of foam on top of the body.

Smell – This carries an aroma similar to a strong/old ale. There’s a malt base to it, but also a significant amount of white wine. The fruitiness is light and mellow, but the alcholol undertones indicate otherwise.

Taste – The sweet wine flavor comes out bigtime. This is more like a fine port or apertiff than a Barley Wine. There’s some huge orange and cherry in here. Not the cheap, candy syrup kind that you get with a lot of ales, but refined, high-quality flavors.

The alcohol is strong but mellow, if that makes any sense. A fine 20% port will go down like Courtney Love at a rock concert, and this one does the same.

Beyond that, the malt backbone comes through qutie nicely, reminding the drinker that this is indeed an ale and not a tawny Australian port. The woody character enhances the other sweets such as rich maple, honey, and pure cane sugar (loads of it). This is a fine ale for sure.

Mouthfeel – This full-bodied ale is extremely rich and chewy. It will actually get your jaws working and have you looking for a spoon.

Drinkability – Before or after dinner would be my suggestion. I had this after a nice Claim Jumper meal with leftover Halloween chocolate, and it was the perfect match.

Comments – This was the 2002 vintage, and I happened on it purely by chance. If you like a fine tawny port you’ll love this ale.

Update – 1997 Vintage: Much darker in color, actually a dark brown, with a deeper malt taste. The sweets are especially different. Here we have dark, overripe fruits with big maple and molasses. Less of a port and more like a strong, malty ale is how I’d describe it.

Probably a half a point higher at the nose since it is so much more blended. Definitely a good keeper at six years old (tasted 11/10/03).

Update – I was fortunate enough to participate in a rack of 2002 – 1998 over at weefishhead’s and here are some abrreviated notes.

2002 – Raisin juice w/hvy port flavors. Needs aging.
2001 – Fruits more complex & mellow but still needs aging.
2000 – Fruits & sugars lighten up & ABV pulls back. Can start to drink at this age (4 y/o).
1999 – Flavors are even & ready to drink (5 y/o), although sugars still dominate.
1998 – Malts now dominate; best drinker of the bunch (6 y/o). Same age as the ’97 I had (see above Update) in 2003.

RoyalT, Nov 02, 2003
Photo of braugon
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Brewed 2011

A - Caramel hue, not as brown as some barleywines, small white head, stayed around as a thin rim

S - Awesome, sweet barleywine scents of rum, raisin, oak, phenol, caramel, slightly musty

T - Lively, sweet, oak, caramel, raisin, port wine,

M - Medium to full, with a present carbonation

O - Really great, if you like barleywines, you will probably like this, 11.5% abv is always a plus when it's this good.

braugon, Dec 20, 2013
Photo of DanGeo
4.25/5  rDev 0%

DanGeo, Aug 08, 2013
Photo of steenkampa
1.35/5  rDev -68.2%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

Ok...a bit of background.

I've tried almost 1000 different beers at this point,...mainly Belgian and pretentious US Microbrews. I love beer. I LOVE Barley wines.

That being said... I tried both the 2007 and the 2002 in the same sitting, and both were just... Rancid.

Looked pretty nice, except for tons of yeast floating around the bottom. TONS...nice dark-ish golden brown, with a great body. No lacing or head to speak of.

The 2007 was a little lighter in color, just barely.

The flavor of the 2007 was absolutely offensive in every way. It tasted as if I was drinking the run off of rotted raisins. Not fermented, but ROTTED. I spit it out, gagged...gargled a glass of water, and went in for a second try. Again, gagged, nearly vomited, and gave up...gave the rest to my beer nerd friend, who proceeded to do the same.

"This is disgusting. I would rather drink Bud Light pisswater crap over this."

The 2002 was slightly more drinkable, in that the rotted raisin flavor was slightly more "smooth" if you will. I didn't gag, however it still took me over 40min to finish this horrible brew.

I was bound and determined to finish it, because it was $12 per bottle,...a 375ml...

Overall? I would never under any circumstances buy this again, recommend it to any of my friends, or really do anything but lambaste this bastardization of one of my favorite styles.

This was disgusting and offensive on so many levels that I truly would rather drink a Corona.

EDIT: This beer was so absolutely offensive to me, that I got off my ass and did my first official review. Maybe I'll get around to uploading my notes on the other 999 or so, but that'll be another day.

steenkampa, Jul 16, 2011
Photo of tectactoe
3.45/5  rDev -18.8%

tectactoe, Nov 02, 2014
Photo of MadScientist
3.94/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: A medium copper colored beer with good clarity and a few chunky yeast blobs floating. There isn't much of a head probably from the high abv but what is there is a tan ring of soapy bubbles.

S: A malty, earth smelling beer with a fair amount of raisin-like fruit esters. There was some chewable-vitamin sort of aroma that calms down into a light anise quality. Some tobacco and light oak aromas as well.

T: Sort of malt concentrate with a lot of sweetness. There is a medium amount of raisin and dried fruit and some orange flavors with a light bit of pipe tobacco. A Medium-strong malt sweetness bring toffee, caramel and a moderately-light cocoa flavor. With a light hops bitterness and the alcohol give a half hearted effort to counter malt the balance ends up being pretty sweet . The finish is sweet and the aftertaste is of malt sweetness, oranges and a a touch of cocoa again.

M: A medium-full bodied beer with a low level of carbonation and a medium amount of alcohol warmth.

O: An elegant and balanced beer if you're looking for a dessert beer. Keep in mind it's a bit sweet even for an English Barleywine. There is a nice complexity to the malt profile.

MadScientist, Jul 30, 2013
Photo of jono0101
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

jono0101, Dec 06, 2013
Photo of brownbeer
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2005 vintage poured into a NB snifter

Tawny in color with a hard pour leaving no head.

Quite a variety of aromas in here, this one's a little tougher. Caramel, tawny port, alcohol, cocoa nibs, cherry fruitiness, vanilla.

Sweet but not cloying. Raisin, rich toffee, a hint of vanilla and maple, and an earthy finish.

Not much carbonation but that doesn't take away from the greatness of this beer. I still don't believe how drinkable this is for how strong it is. True. Age-worthy. World class.

brownbeer, Dec 11, 2009
Photo of kaimcm
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Lees Vintage 2001, reviewed 8/06. poured into a wide St. Berny chalice. served slightly chilled.

A: dark maple, looks like very thin syrup. no head, but no surprise as well. just kinda sits in the glass, body projects a nice color but not much to look at. though with aged beer I tend to cut some slack.

S: huge maple, brown sugar nose. rich malt, some smokiness and even some barbeque qualities. toffee, caramel, loads of sugar. very nutty, almonds and hazlenut essence mostly. creaminess followed and closed by total decadence. some booze, though surprisinly not much. huge.

T: not that different than nose. the caramel, toffee, nutty sugaryness is the first and largest wave. extremely oily and slick, coats the mouth. a light dryness, almost astringency follows and persists through the finish, which is admittedly not that long for such a complex brew. some wood, bourbon, and even light apple qualities pull through near the end before the whole thing finishes. the mouth is left dry on the tongue, but with sugar stuck to the teeth. a slight alcohol warmth rises just as the swallow disappears. five minutes later you feel it all over your head.

M: as mentioned, oily, slick, coating, full bodied, viscous and dense.

D: doesnt count. a pure joy. expensive, high abv, hard to get. who cares. like I said, this doesnt apply to this beer in my opinion. takes all night though, thats for sure.

kaimcm, Aug 06, 2006
Photo of SkiBum22
1.5/5  rDev -64.7%

SkiBum22, Jan 19, 2013
Photo of bulldogg915
4.25/5  rDev 0%

bulldogg915, Mar 06, 2014
Photo of NWer
4.45/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage stored in a pantry that holds a steady 50 - 55 degrees.
Served in a brandy snifter.
Little to no head. Just lies there. Like brandy. Color is rust/brown. Clear. Not much sediment.
First impression is man, this is really sweet. Figs, molasses, honey notes. A pleasant sipper. If in the mood for a sipping wine - er - beer this will fit the bill but man, is it sweet.
I have another I will be putting down for a year or two to see how it mellows.
In spite of my machinations about sweetness, I like it overall.
I might update my review as I get used to it.

NWer, Nov 29, 2011
Photo of DaftPatrick
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

DaftPatrick, Aug 17, 2014
Photo of warnerry
4.44/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage into a tulip

A - Pours clear amber with a thin cap of tan head.

S - Brown sugar, rum, raisins. Definite sweetness in the aroma, but very nice. Also get quite a bit of vanilla and a faint touch of chocolate.

T - Similar to the aroma. Flavors blend together very well. Definitely a touch sweet with lots of honey, caramelized brown sugar and dark fruits, but it works. A faint amount of bitterness keeps the sweetness from being too much.

M - Mouthfeel is pretty full and somewhat sticky. Very smooth.

O - It would be interesting to try a fresher bottle to see how the hops integrate with the other flavors, but this was a very tasty brew.

warnerry, Apr 20, 2013
Photo of Todd
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 275ml brown bottle. Limited Edition - 1st December 2000. No sediment in the bottle.

Appearance: A rich, slightly hazy, copper coloured beer with a magnificent foamy, creamy head. Initial pour is about 3-4 fingers thick! Head retention is outstanding -- seems to last forever.

Smell: Raisins, molasses, raw honey, buttery toffee, rich fruity esters and an almost pungent raw hop aroma.

Taste: This is a huge beer! Silky smooth and ultra-creamy with a gentle carbonation that attempts to break through a thick syrupy malt profile of rich caramel, toffee, molasses, coffee and chocolate milk, honey and raisin. All sorts of toasted malt flavours play the palate, with baked sweet bread flavours. Alcohol notes follow, and try to hide in a cornucopia of big sweet ripe fruit flavours (pineapple and sweet honey dew melon come to mind). Bitterness is just enough to tame the malt from dominating 100%, with light citrus notes. The ale finishes with a touch of buttery diacetyl, toasted malts, coffee, milk and a bit of grain flavour.

Notes: Last time a tried one of these it was a bottle of the 1986, I believe. It was staggering. For being around a year and a half old at the time of this review, the 2000 is simply to die for. There's so much complexity of flavour going on that you almost need to stop analyzing and simply enjoy it before the glass is empty.

Todd, Jul 01, 2001
Photo of marvin213
3.7/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2001 Vintage

It looks like it should be served with a spoon. It smells like a thick, malty, toffee ball of caramel solid. It actually SMELLS like those things! As if i were alive in the sixties, I can smell in this beer "thick and chewy." It's potent and caloric. Again, you can smell it. It will for me define Engiish Barleywine.

It tastes like sweet, raw sugar toffee with chocolate...mixed with yodels of yeast that ate sugar without oxygen...for 10+ years. It's thick and chewy, and it feels like it'll put hair on your nuts. It makes black coffee a bitch's brew. I'm definitely affected by the "World Class" bro and other reviews, as I'll score it high with no plans to revisit. It's just too big for me.

marvin213, Feb 05, 2012
Photo of shapudding
3.2/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Vintage 1988
appear 2.5, aroma 4, mouth 3.5, drink 3
no head, just stillness and some medium bubbles rising on the sides. Huge chunks of brown/grey yeast floating and a lot of white pepper looking ones on the sides that almost look like carbonation. (I did a slow pour too) This stuff looks like it is a jello mold. Musty and cellared scents, cider, sharp and pungent, aged provalone. Smooth with not much carbonation feel, just a bit. Tastes of a barley wine. Hoppy bite, bit of nice heat. Cream sherry, vanilla beans, good port, and maraschino cherries. Drank it slow, very good flavor, but almost scary when you look at it. My partner in crime was not too interested in drinking his at all, a bit turned off by the appearance. By the time I finished my half the bottle, there was almost a teaspoon of sediment in the bottom of the glass.
---
Vintage 1997
apear 4, aroma 2.5, mouth 3.5, drink 2.5
Dated with an end date of Nov. 2002, and a “1" before the 2L.... Hmmmm, did not see the end date before.... whoops! Bottle brown and almost a twinge of ruby seen when held to a light. No head, just a ring and some dust. Thick and cloyingly heavy scented of maraschino cherries, port, cream sherry. The creamy carbonation is just barely there. Port and cream sherry flavors, dark hoppiness, burnt toast at the back of the tongue. A lot of sweetness left in your mouth.
---
Vintage 2000
appear 3.5, aroma 3, mouth 4, taste 3, drink 2.5
I let this sit out for few hours to warm up. A lot of sediment through the deep woodsy brown and reddish tinged brew, bit unclear, faint small bubbles rising up to a ring and dusting of faint warm khaki. Aroma of deep dark cherry and port, heavy and almost syrup sweet, karo, almost molasses more than a bit cloying. Tight carbonation, just a bit foamy, medium body. Thick, dark, caramel sweetness. The overwhelming sweetness is in the flavor, along with hoppiness, burnt toast, port wine and honey. A lot of very intense flavors. Definitely a sipper.

shapudding, Mar 20, 2005
Photo of Callmecoon
4/5  rDev -5.9%

Callmecoon, May 23, 2013
Photo of Snikwad1020
5/5  rDev +17.6%

Snikwad1020, Mar 08, 2013
Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Alcohol is still a bit boisterous as well as the forceful fruitiness. Jam packed with flavour with a similarity to a port or sherry minus the carbonation. I preferred this year over 1997 due to it being a bit more robust and over the top for a barley wine.

Jason, Dec 18, 2000
Photo of tjthresh
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brown when sitting on the table, but a nice orange color when held to light. Very little head formed. Alcohol vapor singed my nose hair on the first whiff. Very complex mix of aromas. Cherry, wine notes, chocolate, caramel, and some leather notes. Loads of chocolate caramel raisin flavor, with some cherry and fig. Wonderful. Silky smooth and lush across the palate. Like this caramel sauce. This was really an unreal experience.

tjthresh, Apr 18, 2007
Photo of BeerIsland
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I got a taste of the '99 at Max's a few weeks back, this was quite a brew. Even though it was on the handpump, it poured very flat and brown to garnet in color. There were some nice honey smells that got a little sweeter as I progressed. The '99 is a rich, deeply flavored beer with butterscotch and toffee flavors all the way through. I'm not sure about the drinkability since it took me 45 minutes to do 5 oz and a companion 5 oz of the 2004 Lagavulin. But who's in a hurry ??

A Very Neat beer drinking experience!

BeerIsland, Aug 04, 2008
Photo of merlin48
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Limited Edition, first bottling of December 1, 1999. Served at cellar temperature into a snifter on October 20, 2004. Bottle cap opens with a mild pop, indicating some carbonation. Indeed, a two finger tightlyknit, beige head forms atop a clear, ruby chestnut body that is effervescant with atomic sized, bubbles rushing to the surface. The attractive head is longlasting, eventually falling into film and collar lace that is tightknit and easily aroused into sheet lace on the sides of the snifter with a gentle twirl. The appearance is absolutely stunning.
The aroma is appropriately complex, and sinfully inviting. Molasses, toffee, burnt brown sugar, and some fresh fruitcake aromas are initially noted. Coffee, tobacco, rum, prunes, and a vinous note of port wine are also picked up. Some smoky, peat rounds out the exceptional nose. Wow! This is a serious undertaking.
Mouthfeel is effervescent, with a mild carbonation that is ideal. A presence of strong alcohol quickly appears and kickstarts a vinous character that reminds you that this has an abv of 11.5 %.
The taste yields an extraordinary, sweet malt character that is exceptionally complex, and complicated by a mild, alcohol burning sensation. Molasses, maple syrup, dark honey, tobacco, and freshly tanned leather comprise the dominant flavors. Pithy, dark fruits are also evident with essences of figs and raisins. This Harvest Ale becomes heavy and syrupy toward the finish, but is never cloying. The taste, overall, has a definite sherry character that compliments the malt complexities.
This is an exceptional example of British craftmanship at its best. At its current age of five years, I can't imagine how this can be better, but I'm definitely curious how this will age. I suggest buying as many bottles as you can afford, and laying down a few for aging. My only complaint is the size of the tiny, 9.6 oz bottle, but this is being greedy.

merlin48, Oct 21, 2004
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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,271 ratings.