J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
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Ratings: 1,229 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
5/5 rDev +17.6%
The 1999 vintage of Harvest Ale begins with an aroma that radiates a good foot or so from the open bottle, and even from that distance the scent of cognac and sherry is heady. Upon closer inspection, the nose is redolent with raisins, port, fresh baguette, and fig.
On the tongue, the brew is thick and sugary, and all of the aromas translate almost directly into flavor: raisins, port, sherry, cognac, fig, prune. Add to these a massive, syrupy dose of brown sugar (touched with confectioner's sugar at the edges), hints of pecan, and fresh wheat, with just the faintest stroke of hops to help balance the sugars. The flavors last throughout most of the mouthful, with only the faintest hint of alcohol at the edges to give away the brew's 11.5% ABV. Just at the end the sugars peel back to reveal a bit more grain base. The aftertaste is a continuation of the body flavors, and lasts for a good while. Mouthfeel is a gloopy, definite "full," and carbonation is light, likely due to the age of the bottle.
Overall, this is amazing beer, and it's difficult to imagine more flavor crammed into one tiny bottle. This is a definite must-try for any beer enthusiast. Highly recommended.
The 2000 vintage bears many of the same initial aromas as the 1999--port, raisins, fig--but is slightly wilder, the extra year that the 1999 vintage has aged having tempered the brew in comparison. The ports and raisins in the 2000 vintage are noticeably stronger, for example, and it's difficult to discern any underlying bready notes because of it. Still, the aroma is intoxicating.
On the tongue, much the same commentary can be made: the same flavors are there as in the 1999, but stronger and less subtle and aged. In addition, the 2000 version's strong ports, cognacs and raisins are joined by a dark undercurrent of deeply-roasted malts--bordering on chocolate--that provides a nice, deep base that helps temper the sugars. The hops are also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, and are especially present as a light citrus buzz towards the end of the mouthful. The 11.5% ABV is also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, though is still for the most part deliciously contained by the massive levels of sugars. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, and carbonation is medium-light.
Overall, given the choice, I'd prefer the 1999, as the extra year of aging has definitely improved the flavors. Don't get me wrong: the 2000 is still an absolutely amazing beer. But if given another bottle of it, I'd cellar it for at least a year or two.
07-31-2011 03:51:26 | More by jondeelee
5/5 rDev +17.6%
2001 Limited Edition
WOW. First impression came from the dark reddish color. No head at all. Held it up to the light, just a beautiful red.
Then I smelled it and I knew I was going to be in for a treat. It smelled sweet and a bit spicy.
Then I took a sip. It took me a second to realize that I wasn't drinking a sherry. I really had to do a double take. It was a bit syrupy and very sweet. Absolutely amazing.
I split the bottle with my cousin, who was kind enough to bring it for sampling. Let's just say I owe him big.
05-06-2008 15:03:29 | More by kindacold
5/5 rDev +17.6%
2000 vintage, reviewed 12/29/12
Poured into a snifter
Appearance is dark caramel brown, like the color of dried dates (kind of an obscure reference, but it's honestly the best comparison I can think of). Pours a two finger head, even at 12 years old, but dissipates quickly to some whispy foam on top. Beer looks great, the almost opaque brown shows some golden brown on the edge when tilted against the light.
S - vanilla, caramel and earthy notes dominate when the beer is cold, as it warms up it some dark fruit, ripe apples and pears start to come out. It's crazy complex, smells phenomenal.
T - follows right along the nose. Tons of rich and thick caramel dominates at first, vanilla notes come in on the back end. Again, as it warms up the dark fruit come in, ripe red apple. Brown sugar. Like the smell, just amazingly deep and complex. Finish is silly smooth, some honey notes. It's freaky how tasty this beer is.
M - low low carb. Medium thickness. Perfect vehicle for the flavors going on. Can't find any fault.
O - I'm trying to figure out how not to give 5 across the board here. I cant think of a single improvement that needs to be made. This is a special occasion sipper that I can easily spend an hour enjoying. Just absolutely crazy good.
This is my first venture into JW Lees, I got this as part of a sweet BIF box from nlmartin (thanks again buddy). I will definitely be looking out for other vintages, but I don't know how any other year could be any better. 12 years of age set the bar very high.
12-30-2012 01:53:50 | More by Beerandboards
5/5 rDev +17.6%
Big thanks to Bobby8405 for splitting this delicious brew with me. 1998 vintage.
A - Amazing, perfect looking, near-black with tan head and blots of lacing everywhere
S - Chocolate, toffee, caramel, hazelnut, coffee, but not in the way that they are usually present. More than unusually sublime.
T - Very delicious, super-sweet and candy-like; everything about this brew is phenomenal. The definition of smoothness. I cannot detect any alcohol. Loads of big chocolate flavor that segues into caramel, maple and toffee notes seamlessly, and the complexity and richness can't be overstated.
M - Amazing rich velvety texture, and the still-present carbonation is at a near-perfect level.
D - I guess this is too sweet for certain occasions. Other than that, it is amazing.
Update: Time and time again, I am blown away by this beer. '97 and '99 are particularly good.
06-13-2010 19:34:17 | More by ktrillionaire
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,229 ratings.