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

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
94
outstanding
841 Reviews
BEER STATS
Reviews:
841
Ratings:
1,455
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
18.35%
 
 
Wants:
259
Gots:
218
For Trade:
14
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

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Reviews: 841 | Ratings: 1,455
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 thebigredone
3.66/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2008 vintage. Great sweet toffee and caramel upfront, but then a weird plasticy (perhaps slightly oxidized) taste dominates the back end. Wish the beer would have finished better.

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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 Sti555
3.53/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

2011 vintage consumed 2015. Smells fantastic. Tastes cloyingly sweet, spiced, looks like a glass of apple cider. Not for me. Couldn't finish last third after nursing it a while. Kind of a shame, I wanted to like it.

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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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Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.52/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2004 Harvest Ale

A - A relatively clear brown thick syrup with no head. The beer displays some viscous action when swirled.

S - Red grapes, blackberries and faint brown sugar. Smells a bit like some better port wines or a brandy (without the alcohol).

T - Sweet - very sweet. There is some strong brown sugar and extremely strong toffee flavor with some maple syrup underneath and even under that, a the very faint, there is some dark red fruit (blackberries). The flavor is, though very sweet, very good. The first sips are amazing, but ti can be a tad cloying.

M - Smooth, thick, pretty refreshing.

D - Though a good beer, I have to dock it here. I will definitely have this, or one of its casked varieties again. It is basically the gold standard of the english barley wine. Honestly thuogh, it isn't easy to drink, just too sweet. Maybe with some years under its belt it would be a bit better. Would be fantastic on pancakes (not that I'd ever waste it).

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Photo of andrewm190
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This limited edition barley wine was brewed specially in 2002.

Pours a rich amber color, good head, good retention.

It smells very fruity. Apricot is the most prominent smell. But all sorts of fruits could be detected here.

The taste is good, but not as good as the 1998. I detect possibly a faint sense of honey, but mostly apricot again. There is a deep, but perhaps to overbearing fruit taste, even though its a barely wine. I don't think it wonderfully balanced.

The mouth feel is crisp, but not fantastic, which also drops in drink ability when combined with the taste. If your going to spend the money on beer, you could do better with some of the older versions of this brew.

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Photo of Gmann
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2002 Vintage. Pours a murky brown color with some yeast floaters, small white head that settled quickly into a ring. The aroma is meaty, marinated in soy sauce, and raisins. Quite strong. The taste is of candied cherries and honey which slowly transforms into a savory marinade. A bit salty and peppery and sort of like teriyaki sauce. Brown sugar is present and a brown bread malt. The brew has a full body, a bit thick and almost syrupy. The carbonation is still kicking after 7 years. Very sweet and then savory. I feel like I am drinking a candied marinated steak. Definitely has bold flavors but not sure this is what I am looking for in a beer.

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Photo of jcalabre
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1988 Vintage. Originally rated on 22 November 2002. I'm writing this review from my notes.
Poured a deep brown/red with a small head, that lasted quite a long time. Aroma was sweet with raisin and caramel.
The flavor was definitely sweet, perhaps a bit too sweet for me.

This beer is a bit different, but I could see why many like it. It's a must-try for any serious beer drinker.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 2000 vintage bottle into a snifter glass. Pours a deep red/brown color with a creamy light tan head. Aroma is very sweet and fruity, lots of big malts coming through with a heavy dose of dark fruits, sweet toffee and some prune and plum characteristics. Tastes rich with maple and oaky notes in the start along with the dark overripe fruits. Very sweet from on set to finish, barely any hops present tiny bitterness in the finish. Boozy but blends perfectly like a nice port. Very rich full sticky body and almost no carbonation. Not my style but glad to have tried this one out! A complex beer indeed.

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Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served cool from 12 oz amber bottles, vintages 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 courtesy of mjgardner and BRoss242--thanks guys, shared with Prufrock.

Pours with great body generating a slight head that doesn't leave lacing.

Aroma is thick and heady with fruity maltiness and a hint of maple.

Flavor is dominated by the malt, a bit fruity, maybe spicy.

Mouthfeel is rich and heavy. This is a sipping beer, slow going down. The 2000 has a healthy bitterness and is very well balanced, with 2002 being a bit less bitter and 1998 and 2001 being notably lacking in bitterness. None exhibit any high alcohol character--deceptively strong. The 2000 was my favorite, it was best balanced. All four are good sipping barleywines and recommended.

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Photo of GooberMcNutly
3.49/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

An amazing little bottle. Rich, round aromas of dried fruit (apples and raisin with some currants) and treacle. Initial taste was of heavy maltiness bu the hop level keeps the palate clear without coating the tongue. I wish I had a case of this to put away for the future.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 841 ratings.