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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.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

831 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 831
Hads: 1,419
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.35%
Wants: 260
Gots: 206 | FT: 15
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

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: 831 | Hads: 1,419
Photo of Can_has_beer
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2001 Vintage, poured from the bottle into a rinsed glass tulip.

This poured dark brown with no head and a slight murky edge. Not bad looking at all, for a 15 yr old. The aroma is very complex. It is an amalgam of tobacco, toffee, honey and candied almonds. The prominent flavor is honey, lots of sweet honey tones. The mouthfeel is very appropriate, as its viscous and syrupy. Upon a few imbibes, the taste has quite a long finish that keeps radiating flavors of black tea leaves. It's surprising for how sweet the beer tastes, it is not cloying and I think it's because it's supported by those dark tea-like tannins.

This was very interesting. Its quite amazing when you get to drink a perfectly cellared vintage beer. This is definitely a dessert sipper, not a post-workout or shower beer. A nice splurge.

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

Cask of 2015 vintage.
Sweet and near cloying but acceptable given style and ABV.
High abv is not hidden but the ale is not hot.
Complex aroma is better than the flavor which would probably benefit from some aging.

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

Mine's a 2013 vintage. I have three more bottles that I shall age.

A: Pours out nice and gloopy. Lovely clear bright amber with an off-white bubbly head.
S: Bready yeast and loads of rum. Cannot overstate how rummy it smells.
T: Yup, very rummy indeed. Very sweet, but not as sweet as the cherry/whisky cask aged versions I've tried. Gloopy and almost flat but has a very classy effervescence. Drinks like it's on cask. Very cough-syrup like. The mouthfeel is just perfect. Liquorice makes a late appearance.
O: It's taken a couple of years to hunt down one of these buggers but the wait was worth it.

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Photo of tbryan5
4.04/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

I thought this beer was very sweet and almost bordered on being a dessert beer. But yes, it is an excellent English barleywine that packs a ton of flavor in a small bottle.

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Photo of BIll_Currie
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

had a hard time finding this one. great smell when the cap came off. English barleywines are a bit different that us barelywines in my opinion. takes a little getting used to. great taste. also found some barrel aged versions.

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Photo of dleigh
3.23/5  rDev -24%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dirty brown red-ish tea color. Fizzy carbonation that quite quickly fades to nothing. Quite nice smell--lots of toffee. Tastes sweet but with an kind of off grassiness to it. Maybe it's me, but I don't love it. Swing and a miss.

This is like a steak that's been aged too long--I want to like it, and I feel like I should like it, but maybe the flavor is just too "challenging" for me. But, on the premise that a beer is supposed to be enjoyable rather than challenging, I am forced to give the taste a (relatively) low rating.

Bottle of the 2012.

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Photo of CaptFrothy
4.6/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sublime, a 2004 vintage that cost me $15 and was worth every penny. Toffee, biscuits, burnt brown sugar, just a spectacular fireworks on the taste buds.

Pulled out a Goose island BBCS with 3 years on it for comparison, the JW lees is just in another class, although sweeter, I can't imagine anything that can measure, a beaut of a tipple, every sip a lip smacking wonder.

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Photo of ajm5108
4.66/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a rich toffee amber with good foam. Lots of fruity esters on the nose, raisin bread, honey and peat. Very enticing. It has a creamy, sticky mouthfeel like caramel, very smooth. Starts out very boozey, almost abrasively so, but opens up fantastically. Started at slighlty below room temp but it's a whole different beast once it sits for 15 minutes or so. Toffee-covered nuts, butter, & butterscotch, vanilla from the oak, a faint hint of peat & caramel malt, rum raisin, sherry Decadent. Lots of flavors battling it out but it works wonderfully.

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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 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.

Cheers!

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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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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 831 ratings.