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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
Reviews: 822 | Hads: 1,394
Photo of DarkerTheBetter
3.73/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1998 Vintage

This beer pours a glassy brown amber that fades to copper near the edges with no head at all.

Smells of gooey barley, marshmallows and honey with a smooth oak and an over powering alcohol.

Tastes a lot like Southern Comfort with a corn syrup sweetness and a slight orange citrus sting along the sides of my tongue. I’m also getting hints of cocoa and charcoal in the finish with a slight woody oak.

The mouth feel is medium bodied and smooth. It was also a lot cleaner (not sticky) that I anticipated. Can’t say much for the carbonation, sadly.

This one was just too smoky in the flavor and hot in the nose for me. Not my favorite vintage by far. Maybe I missed something, but this wasn’t all that great.

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Photo of BirdFlu
3.73/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark amber, cloudy with little head, good for a barleywine. Smell is very yeasty and sweet, very much like apple cider. Taste is quite sweet and odd, very raisiny as you would expect to find in an eisbock or such. Also fruity and estery. Mouth is medium-bodied with low to medium carb. Fairly straight forward with that strong sweetness having a presence in the feel. The flavor is honestly a bit off-putting (maybe the bottle I had was a bit off after its aging?) Very swwet and malty to an unbalanced extent. That said, its certainly not bad, but a bit syrupy.

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Photo of OddNotion
3.72/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

9.3 oz bottle
Brewed in 2009
Poured into my Delirium Tremens Bulb Glass

Appearance: Pours a deep brown body topped off with a half a finger off white head. Some floaties are visible in the beer even with my careful transport from my cellar to my fridge and my fridge to my glass.

Smell: Very sweet. Some breadiness. With an extremely light inhalation I smell a lit cigar (new one to me).

Taste: Interesting. A little piney, not like the nice hop pine but legitimately like pine needles at the beginning of the sip. Later on I get some maple syrup that quickly turns to molases. Brown sugar. Ends with that same cigar I noticed in the nose. The 11.5% alcohol is not noticable what-so-ever. Unlike any other beer I have ever had.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel lacks carbonation and it is very thick. I think it either needs to be a little thinner for the beer to taste better OR the beer needs to have less residual sweetness to match the viscosity OR the carbonation needs to be higher. For the first time ever, I can now point to a beer that I think has a cloying sweetness.

Overall: A little expensive for the bottle at about $7 for the 9.3 oz. This beer has such a high average but feels subpar to me, little bit of a let down. However, I may buy another one and let it age longer to see if it improves.

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Photo of carln26
3.72/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Medium copper color, mildly hazy and topped by a thin off white head, the beer settled quickly into the glass, as did the head. The nose is very sweet. Some mild yeast, a little dark caramel, sweet date, and a light touch of citrus hops. The flavor is rich and sweet. There are hints of dark fruit, toffee, dates, and a mild yeast note. The hops have run away to hind. There is a subtle bitterness, and maybe, just maybe some orange character. The mouth feel is slick and smooth, and there is surprisingly little alcohol on the finish. Oh, it's there, but at 11.5, I expect a lot more. Surprisingly drinkable.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
3.72/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2006. Really glad to be reviewing this beer. It seems to be one of the standard, traditional English Barleywines. Im making this my 200th review!

A- Nearly flat. A rough pour got barely any head. Some air bubbles but thats just because I started pouring so roughly. I decanted so all those big chunks of sediment I saw in the other cask aged versions stayed in the bottle. The result is a clear deep amber beer. It looks like a spirit more than a beer. No head, no carbonation, no lacing.

S- Very powerful scent. Vanilla extract, darker fruits like prunes and lots of alcohol. Its a spicy alcohol like that of a spiced rum or a scotch.

T- Very deep and caramel-y. Some oak, vanilla, toasted malts and nuttiness. Lots of alcohol, no hops in the taste at all. This is a very sweet beer. Nearly cloying at times.

M- Like the apperance would suggest there is next to no carbonation. The beer is thick as hell and chewy. Not really all that sticky but it remains on the palate because of its sheer thickness.

D- Big, powerful, sweet and almost cloying. A real sipper. This is a good ale, but I dont think it quite lives up to its name.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.71/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2008 vintage. not sure what the big deal is here. this is just a really sweet, yeasty, alcoholic monster. pouring a glittery golden color with a ton of coagulated yeast sediment and a minimal white head. the nose is very sugary, honey sweet, sticky, and yeasty. some fruit notes up front in the taste. alcohol wipes out any other potential subtleties, all i taste is booze and sugar, maybe a hint of vanilla from mid sip onwards. really syrupy in feel, not much carbonation, and more residual sugar that i can handle without turning diabetic. long teeth coating finish. overall not my favorite stuff here, not worth the price or the hype, maybe another decade would make this a star, but im just not feeling it here.

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Photo of meeekyh
3.71/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

2002 vintage

From a 275 ml bottle marked Harvest Ale 2002 into a St. Bernardus chalice.

Upon opening the bottle I was met with a nosefull of dark, dried fruits. A good pour revealed very little tan head and a full brown opaque beer.

Smalls are strong dried fig and currant along with crusty bread.

Taste is full, sweet and complexly layered. An initial sweetness and tang are followed by a woody taste and an alcoholic wafting dissolving into maple sugar.

Mouthfeel is full and a bit surypy though not as coating as could be with almost no carbonation.

This beer has characteristics of many of the fine liquors and liqueurs I have had. There is a distinct caramelization and dark dried fruit flavour that comes through in these elixirs.

A fine once in awhile sipper with little allure to me personally.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.7/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-cask 2/17/2012 at Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub in Pawtucket, RI served in a tulip glass.

A: The beer is a deep coppery brown color with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves very little lace on the glass which is expected from a cask beer.

S: The aroma contains brown sugar, bourbon, caramelized malts, alcohol and a touch of hops.

T: The taste starts out with a burnt malt flavor followed by sweet flavors of caramel, brown sugar and bourbon. The hops presence is mild but complementary and the malt character is hearty but there isn’t much balance. The after-taste is slightly smoky and slightly sweet.

M: Smooth and a little crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: A little tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, very strong kick, good representation of style, I can appreciate the smokiness and aging of the beer but the flavors just didn’t seem to come together well for me. There are several less-expensive alternatives in the style that I enjoy a lot more.

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Photo of charlzm
3.69/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle labeled December 1st, 2001 - consumed October 26th, 2008.

Beverage poured a cloudy, sediment-laden orange/brown into "special" Samuel Adams Boston lager glass. Minimal carbonation, but more than I would have expected from a seven year old barleywine. A thin skin of off-white foam does not quite cover the surface of the beer, but the small ring around the edges performs some minimal lacing duties.

Aroma is strong and sweet; brown sugar and dates, raisins and prunes. Is that a whiff of cinnamon? Bready, too, like a fresh golden fruitcake hot from the oven. A trace of booze, like dark rum as well.

Very thick in the mouth, which was not surprising. The surprise was that the finish was very clean for a beer of this heft.

Flavor: strong and intensely sweet. Alcohol presence. Pitted fruits as in the nose. A bit bready. A slight wood character. But really, the sweetness is overwhelming, making the flavor cloying.

With a bit less sweetness, this would have been awesome. As it was, I still finished the glass, but I did not particularly enjoy it.

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Photo of nriech
3.68/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2000 Edition enjoyed on 11/11/2006

Appearance: Mahogany colored, darker than any regular ale but not quite porter colored either. (I'm a guy, I dont know any color thats not in the 10 color crayon box)

Smell: Oaky oaky oaky. Very nice, almost more enjoyable than a bourbon. A little fruity and more oak, aged nicely.

Taste: Very smooth and sweet. You have to know going into this its going to be sweet and expect it otherwise youll be heading towards the drain with a very expensive pour. A bit of alcohol but not overpowering, nice actually. Not entirely complex though as I would have liked but a nice depart from the usual. Stickeyness at the end which I actually enjoy and get even more flavor from.

Drinkability: Not entirely high due to the sweetness, one bottle once in a while. A great brew to share during a tasting session though.

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Photo of nick76
3.68/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

1997, 1999, 2005. The aroma is very sweet but not cloying. It's got dark fruit, caramel, vinous qualities, oak, and rum. The appearance is nice too with some haze to a dark copper gold. The flavor is like the aroma but a little bit astringent. The palate is smooth and thick as heck. Overall a nice beer. The 97 had a bit of coffee and the 99 was the sweetest.

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Photo of Onenote81
3.67/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2000. Sampled on 2/15/10.

Bottle received from BDLbrewster in a trade awhile back. Thanks!

Poured into a snifter. Pours a thick, syrupy mahogany with a thin tan head on top. This disappears to just a ring around the edge. Little spotty lace. Scents of toffee, molasses, syrup, and wet wood.

The body still retains a good amount of carbonation, but the finish is extremely smooth and warming. This is a very sweet beer after all these years. Big toffee and caramel notes. Sugary syrup finish. Sort of a chalky mouth on the back end. This is almost too sweet for me. It's definitely a slow-sipper. Not a bad bottle to split among friends, and enjoy by the fire.

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Photo of Antilochus
3.65/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Vintage 2006 - reviewed July 2008. 11.5% abv, 275mL bottle. Room temp. Served with Stilton.

Clear dark copper body under a thin cap of bubbles - tiny bubbles stick to the side of the glass. If this isn't a barleywine, what is?

Aromas of toffee, dark fruits, burnt sugar. Yum... dark, sweet grains... rye, nuts. Raisins. Superb.

Feel is remarkably thin, but lots of flavour - raisins, molasses, peaches, prunes, cake mix, rotten apples, burnt sugar. Finish is on mincemeat pie, a hint of astringency. Gigantic malt presence.

A bit young yet, but some things about this 06er are to be greatly admired.

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Photo of desertbronze
3.65/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

9.3 oz. bottle - 2001 vintage.

Copper color in the glass - thin head fades almost immediately.

Smells extremely sweet - oxidation notes in the background.

One dimensional sweet taste with some oxidation noted. Not surprising given the age of the beer.

Cloying on the tongue - sweet taste lingers after the swallow. Oxidation in the aftertaste.

Too sweet to be drinkable in any quantity - I split this bottle with a friend - could have split it four ways without cheating anybody.

I bought 2 of these in 2003 - drank one in 2006 - thought it was good but too sweet. Saved this one - still too sweet and starting to oxidize as well. Seems like laying this down for 2-3 years is about right.

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Photo of zeff80
3.65/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - It poured out a burgandy color with a caramel colored, bubbly, one-finger head. It left some rings of lace.

S - It smelled very floral and very malty.

T - It was sweet and malty. It was almost too sweet. It was candy-like.

M - It was smooth and soft. It had a warm alcohol presence. It was a very heavy-bodied beer.

D - This was a bit too sweet and too heavy for my taste.

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Photo of NCBeernut
3.65/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

1998 vintage poured into a tulip glass. JUST 10 years old. Nearly opaque, but put up against a light, it glows a deep dark hazy amber. There is a bit of a cascade that forms the head, but nothing to the extent of Guinness Draught. A one finger head falls in under a minute, just leaving a ring that leaves behind some spotty lacing. Just what I expected at 11.5% abv.

Smell: Sourdough, raisins, dark fruits, brown sugar, honey, some alcohol. Very sweet smelling.

Taste: Nice and sweet, actually cloying sweetness after a few sips. Brown sugar, maple syrup, dark fruits, molasses and a touch of honey. A bit toasty on the finish. It's like a gourmet candy in a bottle. Not really much for hops of course. I really enjoyed the flavor and complexity for a couple sips but it is a little sickening after a while.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth. Syrupy.

Drinkability: I couldn't really enjoy a whole bottle due to the sweetness. I have an '05 that I am going to forget about for a couple more years and see how that goes.

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Photo of Brew33
3.63/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Received as an extra in a trade, thanks Travis! 2007 Vintage. The color was a muted peach/amber. The aroma was brown sugar, ethyl alcohol, and sweet fruit. The taste was sweet, VERY sweet. Syrupy sweetness. I get a lot of brown sugar and raisin. Slight spicyness. An almost Brandy like finish. Little to no hop character. Completely unbalanced but that is somehow okay here. The alcohol was disguised well but the warming effects were evident. I felt like I'd just had 3 highballs.

This is a good beer. I'm glad I had the pleasure of trying it. It is ridiculously sweet though. Be prepared for a sipper. It gets better the closer it gets to room temperature too.

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Photo of deltatauhobbit
3.62/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

1999 Vintage

Pours a clear amber color with a decent sized tan head, head seems a bit creamy and fades at a decent rate, leaves a thin cap, no lacing.

Smell is predominately malty, bit of alcohol is present which is surprising considering this is a 10 year old vintage, lots of dark fruit and candied sugar.

Taste is very sweet, like lots and lots of sweetness, caramel comes through quite strongly along with dark fruit (such as raisins), bit cloying from the sugary sweetness, the alcohol isn't as noticeable in the taste as it was in the aroma.

I'd be very interested in seeing how this develops by having a mini-vertical. I need to see if I can get a hold of some 1998's still since I know I can get 99-03 no problem.

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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 CampusCrew
3.6/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well I had the honor of doing a special night with a friends and he featured a 10 year vertical from back till 98. he was missing 2 years. 93, 94 if i remeber correctly. Started off with an 2008. Keep in mind he did not age them himself, Bought them in the store aged.

Most of them were oxidizes but some were still pretty good. tasted loads of molases and carmel. Like a milano cookie. Very sweet, but the default with the aging creating a plastic tatse in most. Nice crimson coloring.

I'll grab a fresh one and re score later

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Photo of tpd975
3.6/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2001 Vintage purchased at Whole Foods Columbus Circle in NYC.

A: Clear nutty brown color with red highlights with a small tight creamy off-white head. The lacing is minimal.

S: Tons of sweentess, this one may be cloying. Sweet aromas waft from the glass. Tons of toffee, caramel and molasses. This one is all about the malt. Very malty no matter how you look at it. Besides the sugar there are some dark fruits.

T: Malty, Sweet, downright cloying. Wow the sweetness of this beer. Fresh honey and brown sugar right from the start. Tinges of sweetned milky caramel and rich molasses. There are some massivly ripe fruits beneath. The finish tastes like you just popped a handfull of sunsweet raisins in your mouth. Wow there is a lot of raisin in the finish.

M: Big bold and thick. Very smooth in a syrupy sort of way.

D: Not really. Beers this sweet are hard for me to finish.

Overall: This is one big rich bold full bodied barleywine. It is off the scale when it comes to malt and sweetness. It is a bit overthetop for me, but very unique nonetheless.

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Photo of numenor1
3.57/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

'98 bottling

Pours a hazy opaque garnet hued brown. And even a modest head! Shocking for its gravity and age. Smell is malty sweetness incarnate. Molasses, honey, very slight roast, typical old beer smell and a very slight metallic hint. Taste is sweeett. Too sweet for my tastes. Incredible malt depth. Slight alcohol up front, then a wave of molasses, brown sugar, candied currants, dried prunes, and slight chocolate through the finish. Alcohol is unnoticeable..so long as sips are small. A very very very slow sipper. Syrupy. Overly cloying. Reminiscent of port, which is something I still haven't developed a taste for. Body is incredibly full with lush soft carbonation. A very slow sipper. I said it twice. Impressive, but still not what i want in a beer.

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Photo of AaronHomoya
3.53/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 bottle. 2004 vintage.

Pours an amber color with decent head for a beer of this strength. Aroma is mostly sweet malt and light fruitiness. Taste is very sweet and malty. A little fruity, alcohol and slight earthy hops in finish, but dominated by almost cloying sweetness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and a bit syrupy. Drinkability suffers from the overly sweetness, but the beer is pretty smooth and hides its alcoholic strength.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.52/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

275mL bottle poured into a snifter. Vintage 2006.

(A)- Pours a murky caramel color. No head formation, just some bubbles.

(S)- Super potent. Caramel, toffee, figs, vanilla, and not yet ripe raisins.

(T)- Rich & buttery-like caramel & toffee. Some raisin-like peach fruit thing.

(M)- A lower carbonation level. Rather sweet & rich. Not as boozy as the smell, but is syrupy.

(D)- Not a bad barleywine, but reminds me more of an old ale. I think it needs more time to smooth out its edges. Wished it had a better carbonation level, but it would at least of helped in how rich & sweet it is.

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Photo of JoeySchlitz
3.52/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2005 bottle picked up at Healthy Spirits in SF.

Definitely some floaters in this one - let sit still for a while before pouring. Almost no carbonation in this whatsoever - tried pouring from about 3 feet above glass and nothing. A murky brown, cloudy beverage. The smell is really good, picking up rum soaked plums, dates and figs. Pretty boozy and heavy. The taste is super sweet with a slight bitter mustiness at the tail end - reminds me of my grandparent's basement. This has been the same for all JW HA's that I've had - kind of disappointing. The mouth feel is on the more viscous side and would improve greatly if there were any carbonation in it. Given the high ABV, the super sweet flavor and mustiness I could not drink any more than one bottle max. Overall an interesting beer but not something that I would drink on a regular basis.

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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.