1. Don't miss our 7th annual American Craft Beer Fest featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers this May 30 & 31 in Boston, MA! Buy your tickets now!
  2. BeerAdvocate on your phone?! True story. Try the beta now.

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

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

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

1,192 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1192
Reviews: 788
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 14.08%


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)
View: Beers (18) |  Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Latest | High | Low | Top Reviewers | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,192 | Reviews: 788 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of mctizzz
mctizzz

California

3.33/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2006 Vintage.
This great brew has diminished into a flat sweet syrup with almost no hint of booze. I would like to try it after 2 years but this makes me question whether cellaring a brew for 7 years is even worth it. I have only had 3 beers now that have been cellared for over 5 years and this is the only one I know was far over the hill, live and learn...

Serving type: bottle

05-08-2013 22:12:26 | More by mctizzz
Photo of bnes09
bnes09

Illinois

3.33/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light caramel color. Mostly opaque. Weak head. No retention or lacing.

Sweet, dark fruit aroma.

Deep malt flavor, figs and dates mainly. Hint of roasted almonds. Super sweet character overall. No hops to be found.

Dense, syrupy texture. Weak carbonation.

Decent flavor. Just way too sweet for me.

Serving type: bottle

03-28-2014 02:14:08 | More by bnes09
Photo of flagmantho
flagmantho

Washington

3.35/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2006 vintage; poured from 9.3 oz bottle into a wine goblet.

Appearance: deep woody brown, highly opaque with practically no head. When I poured it, I wasn't aware of how many chunky floaties would been in the bottle: there were indeed a few.

Smell: first off, it smells like late-harvest Riesling or maybe a Gewürztraminer. It's got a lot of syrupy grape, apple and pear. If I were blindfolded I would assume this was wine. That said, it is quite pleasing.

Taste: well, at first it tastes similar to a white wine, then I get the malt and grain, then I get what I can only describe as wood and cigarette smoke; it's almost tinny in that respect. I will say it's very complex, and I feel like I should be doing a lot of glass-swirling and erudite pontificating, but really, I just can't get a handle on it.

As I drink, the pattern stays the same: the beginning is quite wonderful and the finish is highly off-putting.

Mouthfeel: medium-thick body which is pretty smooth.

Drinkability: I really don't know what to put here. I don't want to slam this admittedly impressive beer, but it's just not my style right now.

I really would like to come back to this beer later when my barleywine palate is more developed.

Serving type: bottle

09-09-2009 02:26:56 | More by flagmantho
Photo of thickerfreakness
thickerfreakness

Texas

3.38/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

1998 bottle purchased from Sam's in Chicago.

Rich amber brown color. Pours with more head than expected but it fades to a ring of foam around the glass.

Smells really sweet off the bat. Rich toffee, candy, doughy malts, creamy vanilla caramels. Very, very sweet.

Really similar to the smell with the caramels becoming the main flavor component for me followed by other things from the smell and then some really rich overripe fruits like strawberries and cherries. Sweetness just gets to me as it lingers for quite a while after drinking.

A creamy medium bodied beer with more carbonation than expected for a 10 year old beer.

Just gets way too sweet. I don't think I can finish the end of this glass. Really high ABV as well.

Serving type: bottle

06-27-2008 04:02:25 | More by thickerfreakness
Photo of OnThenIn
OnThenIn

Ohio

3.38/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 served on cask.

A: It was an extremely orange color and a bit hazy. Did not have a head when it arrived at my table.

S: Smells very sweet with a ton of a caramel and brandied plums. There was also a fig aroma the was present.

T: Tons of caramel with a solid backing of fruits. I mean this was almost painfully sweet. The fruits seemed like plums with a bit of apple as well.

M: Full bodied without a lot of carbonation, which made the beer a bit syrupy.

D: The mouthfeel made this is a sipper and the sweetness really made it difficult to drink. I was expecting a bit more from this beer. I thought it was going to be mind blowing, especially on cask; however, that did not happen. The sweetness was too much and I ended up cutting the last bit of my glass of this with a sour beer to make it more palatable.

Serving type: cask

12-14-2010 02:24:54 | More by OnThenIn
Photo of PatandDavid
PatandDavid

Massachusetts

3.4/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This is a bottle of the 2000 vintage, shared today between David and I. Dark copper penny color, no head. Aroma is intense: leather, sweet syrup, yeast getting slightly funky. Thick mouthfeel, initial impression is of that leathery taste, ends in some of that sweet syrup. Some fruit as well, dried apricots in there. I'll be honest, it's a bit too weird for my tastes. I know a lot like this complexity, but I find it disjointed. I don't think I'm a big fan of a leather taste in my brews.

Serving type: bottle

10-16-2005 20:00:20 | More by PatandDavid
Photo of joebrewer
joebrewer

Massachusetts

3.4/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

1998 vintage.

Smell: relatively mild malt notes. little hint of alchohol.

Overall I really appreciated the complexity of this bottle. However, there was a strong sweet maple flavor that made it difficult to pick out some of the softer initial flavors. Toward the end of the bottle I felt the hop bitterness to be a little distracting. I now plan to age my JL Vintage bottles a few more years to see how things mellow out. I'm surprised to feel that this still has legs to age after 9 years. I also think that the perfect serving size would be half the bottle. I'll need to find a few friends and do a vertical next time. Drinking a whole bottle is like drinking a similar volume of port. I think it's too sweet to enjoy from first to last.

Serving type: bottle

08-26-2007 17:26:55 | More by joebrewer
Photo of GooberMcNutly
GooberMcNutly

Florida

3.43/5  rDev -19.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-14-2006 21:22:15 | More by GooberMcNutly
Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
BattleRoadBrewer

Massachusetts

3.48/5  rDev -18.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

08-01-2007 04:40:02 | More by BattleRoadBrewer
Photo of jcalabre
jcalabre

California

3.5/5  rDev -17.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-22-2003 21:20:55 | More by jcalabre
Photo of JoeySchlitz
JoeySchlitz

Colorado

3.5/5  rDev -17.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-02-2009 06:22:49 | More by JoeySchlitz
Photo of Gmann
Gmann

New York

3.5/5  rDev -17.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2009 03:58:32 | More by Gmann
Photo of CuriousMonk
CuriousMonk

Virginia

3.5/5  rDev -17.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-01-2011 17:38:54 | More by CuriousMonk
Photo of numenor1
numenor1

North Carolina

3.53/5  rDev -17.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2006 00:11:28 | More by numenor1
Photo of AaronHomoya
AaronHomoya

Indiana

3.53/5  rDev -17.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-17-2006 20:42:11 | More by AaronHomoya
Photo of andrewm190
andrewm190

North Carolina

3.53/5  rDev -17.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

08-25-2007 04:46:57 | More by andrewm190
Photo of mrasskicktastic
mrasskicktastic

New Jersey

3.55/5  rDev -16.7%
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).

Serving type: bottle

12-12-2006 22:36:02 | More by mrasskicktastic
Photo of CampusCrew
CampusCrew

Florida

3.55/5  rDev -16.7%
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

Serving type: bottle

11-19-2009 20:33:36 | More by CampusCrew
Photo of sweemzander
sweemzander

Illinois

3.55/5  rDev -16.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

04-25-2010 15:59:32 | More by sweemzander
Photo of tpd975
tpd975

Florida

3.58/5  rDev -16%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-31-2008 18:13:57 | More by tpd975
Photo of deltatauhobbit
deltatauhobbit

Maine

3.58/5  rDev -16%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-22-2009 03:10:31 | More by deltatauhobbit
Photo of zeff80
zeff80

Missouri

3.63/5  rDev -14.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-27-2007 02:54:06 | More by zeff80
Photo of NCBeernut
NCBeernut

North Carolina

3.63/5  rDev -14.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-08-2008 21:22:13 | More by NCBeernut
Photo of Antilochus
Antilochus

Ontario (Canada)

3.63/5  rDev -14.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

07-14-2008 20:51:06 | More by Antilochus
Photo of desertbronze
desertbronze

Idaho

3.63/5  rDev -14.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-15-2009 07:05:27 | More by desertbronze
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,192 ratings.