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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

1,319 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,319
Reviews: 812
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 189 | FT: 13
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.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,319 | Reviews: 812
Photo of brakspear
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage.

Appearance is a brownish amber, no head to speak of, but I would not expect much of one for the style. The aroma contains an immediate blast of alcohol, followed by a malty caramel and toasted sweetness, little hop bite of smells. The taste....wow! Thick chewy sweetness, caramels, port or brandy qualities in finish...exceptional. This beer is deceptively easy to drink given the high alcohol content. Sublime joy in the glass.

Photo of apintofknowledge
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated 1999, tasted February 2005. Poured a deep caramel hue, slightly cloudy in appearance. The aromas of alcohol, Scotch and fresh baked bread were all present. A variety of flavors come through, including sweet honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, rye whiskey, all with a hint of mild bitterness while remaining sweet throughout. Very complex, and different flavors come forward the more you drink. The mouthfeel was thick and syrupy with a very mild carbonation.

Altogether, an exceptional barleywine to sip and enjoy and linger over... the experience of a 12 oz bottle should last longer than two or three pints of just about anything else.

As for pairing, I've tried it with stilton as some have suggested, and it just doesn't work for me personally. Too many strong flavors competing there. I say enjoy this one all by itself.

Photo of yen157
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1988: Bottle was from a case we just got in to our store. Dust was caked on nice and thick, and as I was opening it I realized the cap was rusted pretty good. The rust was slightly visible from beneath the foil, but I didn’t realize the extent. No worries…

Brownish-red, slightest ever wisp around the glass. Smells of alcohol, rum, and butterscotch candy. Actually, it kinda smells like a good, British barley wine. Go figure. Vinous up front with some amontillado sherry qualities, followed by dark brown sugar mixed with butter. The malt is so processed by the yeast over 15 years, the sweetness reminds me of a very dilute saccharin solution. Don’t get me wrong, the great malty goodness is still there, but just not in the same form as it would be in a younger bottle. It closes with a refined hop snap that lingers long into the finish playing hide and seek with that wonderful malt. The oxidation makes itself known after the malt finally fades away. Carbonation starts out as very, very light which fades away to nothing about five minutes into the glass. Body is smooth through and through and less cordial-like than very young examples.

This a very complex beer. I didn’t even scratch the surface. I didn’t give the malt presence enough adulation, nor did I address the gullet warming abilities of this brew. Hell, it can’t be a surprise considering the alcohol content! Overall, great beer, but past it’s prime. I’m curious to give my ‘86 a try.

Photo of cpetrone84
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 Vintage

A-extremely dark ruby red beer with a creamy light kahki colored head leaving some light lacing.

S-the nose is huge and brings a ton of dark fruits. those fruits include plum, raisin, and dark cherries. there is also a whiff of candied fruit and brown sugar.

T/M-extremely full bodied and quite syrupy. very smooth on the palate and a low level of carbonation that I actually very much enjoy. the taste is also huge and very sweet. tons of candied and dark fruits. a light note of caramel malt, tons of plum and raisin. there is some cherry taste in there as well. notes of molasses and brown sugar towards the back. a hint of alcohol comes in at the finish; but not much at all.

D-this is actually going down extremely easy and I have to catch myself to drink slowly. huge alc content is hidden nicely, although after about 11 years you would expect that. tons of sweetness, almost more than i can handle; but so tasty. wouldn't want to drink it all night; but I do wish I had another.

Photo of Wildman
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1999 Bottling: This version has many of the same qualities I listed in the previous 2001 review. I do believe the alcohol presence is more apparent in both the aroma and the taste. A very good beer that obviously ages quite well, but definately a sipping beer.

2001 Bottling: I realize I may be reviewing this one too soon, but I couldn't wait. This beer poured a dark reddish amber color and formed a small off white head that left some circular lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. A heavy aroma of malt, caramel, raisins and other dark fruit. A slight hint of the alcohol is also present. A flavor of malt, caramel and raisins/plums with a slight vinous quality, but without leaning too much into wine or hard liquor as some others do. A slightly syrupy finish, but not enough to damage it, just push it into more of a sipping style, with at this alcohol level, it should be. Would make a fine after dinner beer and will no likely improve with age.

Photo of CAMRAhardliner
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage, I kept it till the 31st to make sure its at least a 10 year old sample, oldest beer Ive ever had.

Pours a viscous, murky mahogany with an ominous stillness underneath a small foam ring. The ring never leaves and manages to muster up a bit of lacing, pretty impressive for such an old beer. The aroma is a heady mix of rum drenched Christmas pudding, strawberry jam on toast and maple syrup. The taste is very sweet with layers of doughy malts and ripe fruit flavors. After a while toffee covered cashews, roasty dark malts and clover honey shows. Hops are essentially imperceptable against the barage of malt flavors. The mouthfeel is immensely thick and creamy and more briskly carbonated then I expected. The finish is fruity, sweet and a bit warming from booze.

The alcohol is very well hidden for 11.5%, but the intensity of the malt flavors makes it a slow sipper. Tonnes of nuance shows with warmth, with new flavors emerging all the time. Very nice.

Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1997 edition. Pours a dark ruby color, very little head - disappears fast. Dark, fruity smell and taste. Full mouthfeel, good balance (though more towards the malt). Very wine-like (in a good way). Reminded me a lot of a really good Baltic porter in taste (like Stepan Razin?), only fuller in body. Alcohol not overwhelming, this one is enjoyable all the way through. A high quality ale that I will try again.

Photo of JAXSON
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a lightly hazed garnet with a small ring of fine bubbles that cling to the edges. Nose is of rich malt, peat, toasted nuts, sweet candied cherries. Ice cream sundae toppings, awesome. Super sweet in the mouth, candied fruits, toasted nuts. Doesn't even express as malt, but as sweet dark fruits, candied walnuts, a lot of maraschino cherries. Decadent, port-like, vinous. Balance is superb, just marvelous and one of the best beers I've had. '99 vinatge.

Photo of webmanspidey
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is the vintage 2006 edition.. a 9.3 oz bottle poured into chalice.

This is a dark thick reddish brown color. Some crumbles of sediment lie at the bottom.

The smell is intense and powerful: vinegar, cider, sour apples, pears, sweet caramel, and loads of alcohol.

Taste is not what I expected at all.. this is very sweet and subtle. A mixture of sweet fruits, honey, and something darker (cocoa?) it hits quickly and fades fairly fast. Carbonation is virtually nonexistent here.. alcohol is masked amazingly well, other than the smell it is barely there.

This is one of the more unique beers I've tried. Very liqueur-like: subtle, mellow and for enjoying slowly.

Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2004.

The beer poured into the chalice clear deep golden amber with a low and wispy off-white head that formed slowly and never grew.

The aroma was malty with an intense caramel and old ale characteristic of ruby port. The aroma was fruity and contained a sherry presence. The aroma was also strongly sweet like a freshly cut juicy apple.

The flavor was malty with a strong caramel sweetness and an intense caramel presence. The sweetness the attacked the palate at first swallow begins to dry as the beer lingers on the palate. The bittering, while in the background, was strong enough to lend a drying character to the beer.

The finish was even, oh heck, just a bit on the not dry side with lasting caramel and malt long and pleasantly into the aftertaste. The body was full and viscous. The alcohol was mainly present in the warming that occurred after consumption. A very nice beer, but could have used a bit more head retention.

9.3 ounce bottle.

Photo of mrfrancis
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: The 2005 bottling pours a smoewhat hazy amber with a thin, fizzy whitish mousse that dissipates quickly. Little chunks of yeast collect in the bottom of the glass. Has a pleasant, rustic appearance. I like it.

S: The nose is dominated by notes of toffee, cider apples, brown sugar, roasted nuts, and a boozy scent that is somewhat reminiscent of calvados. A complex, interesting nose automatically signals this ale as a winner. Very inviting.

T: Opens sweet and a bit fiery with notes of apple, nuts, brown sugar, cream, vanilla bean, toffee, moist earth, and warming alcohol. The finish is warming and mellow with flavors of apple, toffee, and roasted nuts standing out amid a swirl of alcohol.

M: Full-bodied and thick, but also a bit oily and syrupy. Still, it goes down much more smoothly than one would expect.

O: This is one of my favorite English barleywines. No two bottles are alike, even if they are bottled in the same year. When you can find this one, buy at least two or three bottles.

Photo of ark57
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1989 Vintage sampled in 2004 - The color is dark orange to brown. The oily body gives rise to tastes of vanilla, wood accents, and citrus notes. This beer is very complex and mellow. It is earthy and slight minty with port/madiera oxidation. The body is lean and smooth, yet it still has some carbonation. Best drank from a snifter.

Just sampled the 1986 Vintage and it was amazing. It was pretty much as expected, but I was surprised that it had quite a bit of carbonation.

Photo of seand
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage.

A: Pours a clear light amber with red highlights, with just a touch of white head. What little head there is leaves a few spots of lacing here and there.

S: Very rich, sweet honey, black licorice, and raisins.

T: Complex and rich. Strong honey through the mid palate, with the raisin dominating a bit more through the finish. There are some also some faint notes of cherries, dried fruit, and just the slightest hint of bitterness.

M: Full body, low but noticeable carbonation.

Really excellent. Not quite as rich and complex as the barrel aged versions, but they are also older; I'd like to try this aged another few years as a more direct comparison to the barrel aged versions.

Photo of BeerFink
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 edition, decanted with care from a 9.6oz bottle...

Pours with a rich caramel color with noticeable floaties. Head is almost nonexistant, even after a vigorous pour. Aroma is boozy and ripe with apples and berries, along with sweet caramel and powerful malts. The huge flavor initially hits me like a bus. Malts are huge, lots of bread and biscuit going around. Sugary sweetnees comes in early and hangs around. Caramel, toffee, molasses, and even some black licorice are all out to grace my palate. Slightly acidic apples and other fruits fight to get past the sweetness. Hops are barely there, some herbal hints and slight orange peel are the only sign. Mouthfeel is heavy and oily, and warm with alcohol. Although the alcohol is present, it is surprisingly well hidden, especially for this vintage and abv. Finish is oily and laden with sugary malts. A bit too sweet for my taste, but it is an outstanding offering nonetheless.

Photo of jrallen34
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I drank this 1999 version from a 12oz bottle into a Chimay glass.

The beer pours a medium brown with a light tan head that comes about only a quarter of a finger and is gone right away. Lacing is medium, much stronger than I thought with such a weak head.

The aroma starts off pretty malty light toffee but then overwhelms you with a ton of yeasty bread. At the end you get the lightest whiff of alcohol and vanilla.

The taste starts off pretty malty, pretty bready and yeasty with a bitter alcohol finish.

The feel is medium, semi lasting finish, pretty smooth.

The drinkablility is good for 11.5 abv.

Overall, this is a pretty great bw, can't wait to buy some to age for a long time.

Photo of Dogbrick
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

December 2001 Bottle (Sampled 5/1/03 - 4.15): Pours a dark copper color with a medium and dense beige head. Aroma is very sweet malt and caramel, and the alcohol is well masked. Full-bodied and chewy with flavors of caramel and rum, along with some malt. As with the aroma, you don't really get a sense of the alcohol level in the flavor. Finish is long and sweet (borderline cloying). $4 for a 9.6oz seems a little high but it was worth it.

1999 Bottle (Sampled 9/23/03 - 4.35): This vintage is a ruddy dark amber color with a medium beige head. Thin lacing. Aroma is very sweet, mostly caramel with some malt as well. The richness of body is similar to the 2001 vintage. Very rich and chewy. The flavor is very sweet caramel and malt along with some plum. Alcohol is well hidden. The finish is full and sweet. I am giving this vintage a slightly higher score.

Photo of bobhits
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Interesting to try this again. Last time I had one it was a good bit older, I'm hoping there's a bit more bite and maybe some hop presence in this younger version. If not odds are I'll be wishing I let it age more. 2008 vintage.

Poured into a sifter.

Thick, cloudy, full of yeast, a dark copper oranage body. You really can't see through this and that's pretty special for something that isn't brown/black in color. Creates a half finger of head that goes away in less than a minute.

The nose is an assault of fruits. Raises, sweet sugary malt, and lots of other fruity sweet aromas that I can't fully place.

First thoughts, a bit too much alcohol in this far too young bottle. Hops aren't kicking in so what to say about this. Raises, plums, sugary rum like flavors, Carmel. There's an off putting bitter/funky flavor at the end. I have a feeling if this were isolated it would be that earthy flavor that many English beers have, but mixed in this sweet assault it's somewhat off putting. This beer was reasonably warm to start but as it reaches room temp the mix is getting better. Sweeter and far more interesting. This is a great beer to show a wine lover a spin on beer that they may get into.

A wonderful sipper. Smooth, thick, sticky, and well just done flawlessly.

It's amazing to say a 2 year old beer is still a baby and this review may be a bit unfair, but it is what it is as they say. A very english barely wine and a true classic. I think there are some more interesting examples

Photo of warnerry
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage into a tulip

A - Pours clear amber with a thin cap of tan head.

S - Brown sugar, rum, raisins. Definite sweetness in the aroma, but very nice. Also get quite a bit of vanilla and a faint touch of chocolate.

T - Similar to the aroma. Flavors blend together very well. Definitely a touch sweet with lots of honey, caramelized brown sugar and dark fruits, but it works. A faint amount of bitterness keeps the sweetness from being too much.

M - Mouthfeel is pretty full and somewhat sticky. Very smooth.

O - It would be interesting to try a fresher bottle to see how the hops integrate with the other flavors, but this was a very tasty brew.

Photo of Urbancaver
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1986 and 1999 side by side for beerandbourbon's birthday.

Both pours a nice reddish brown. Both are a bit murky with almost no head to speak of. The 1986 is darker slightly. Rest of the review is for 1999 as i liked it just a touch better. Smells so sweet and malty. Lots of dark fruits and a nice raisiny on the nose and the tongue. Some subtle vanilla and almost woody. Some nice earthy tones. No real hops to speak of. Super smooth and a nice solid mouthfeel. Thick, boozy still. Very very good

Photo of mcann2pu
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage bottle. My 40th review!

Appearance: Poured into my DFH Signature glass a luscious dark rust color, almost brown at first glance, clear looking brew no detectable sediment or "floaties" although a small amount of compact sediment did remain in the bottom of the bottle when I poured, not much in the way of head, but had an impressively strong lace forming a ring around the inside of the glass.

Smell: First on the nose is an appealing heavy dark fruit aroma, with a detectable toffee-like malt smell as well.

Taste: Rich, delicious, the first taste I get is a malty dark fruit taste, like an aged fig or a prune, this is followed by a sweet molasses-like caramel flavor that gives way to a vanilla / wood finish. Great taste, seems like this one cellared quite well.

Mouthfeel: Great, very appropriate for this type of beer, it's a little syrupy, but I think that is to be expected in an aged beer of this style.

Drinkability: The sweetness of the brew might effect the drinkability for some, but I think that it's a good sipping ale with a lot of fairly complex flavors, I can't wait to see how this one continues to age.

Photo of zhanson88
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage. Poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Pours a nice mahogany color with an outstanding amount of tan colored head, considering the age. Retention is actually decent, lacing is limited.

Smell: Smells of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, fig, and raisin. Very rich. Oxidation is also apparent not too surprisingly, which retracts for me.

Taste: Outstanding. Taste is rich with toffee, raisin and fig with other dark fruits as well. Oxidation is much less apparent on the palate and doesn't retract at all. Finish is a sweet mix of toffee and dark fruits.

Mouthfeel/Overall: Medium bodied with low, fine carbonation. Smooth, and the amount of carbonation left in this beer is excellent. Overall, a beautiful beer. Would love to get ahold of another bottle of this.

Photo of Ian
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage bottle, courtesy of Mahar's Public Bar, Albany, NY.

A - Pours a cloudy brown with reddish hues. Barely a pinky finger head in a chalice. Sipped slowly over the course of 45 minutes.

S - Simply put - delicious. Boozy, sweet and malty as can be. What a whiff.

T - Wheeww! Huge...Sweet as honey, hints of fruit, mighty yeasty. Intense maltiness completely overpowers the hops.

F - Thick and heavy...great slow drink - perfect for the occasion. However, it did leave me with a slight headache...

Overall, superbly done - I look forward to trying the 2000 Harvest.

Photo of ShogoKawada
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Another from augustgarage. Thanks! I was tempted to sit on this one, but screw it, 9 years is enough!

A- Fizzy on the pour, cap gave a little 'pfft'. 12oz into flute, by the way. Appearance... zero head, but active carbonation. Thin, tiny bubbles are cropping up on the sides. Beer is a ruby/chestnut color, almost a zesty pumpkin when held up to the light.

S- Honey, maple sugar (??) or brown sugar and a very fruity, berry-juice sweetness. Pretty inviting.

T- Whoa. A big rush of flavors... floral, almost. Caramelized sugar. Candied plums. Overpowering, oppressing (in a good way) malt. Rasins, dried cranberries. Hints of chocolate, coffee bean, and sweet cream.

M- Smooth as all hell, no sign of ABV... so this is what a good aged beer tastes like. Fantastic mouthfeel, incredible flavor, yet so smooth and mellow. Wow.

D- Surprisingly high for +11%. Prob. the smoothest beer I've ever had... incredible. I would say this is drinking pretty damn good 9 years in. I'll have to see if I can pick up some other vintages. A wonderful beer.

Photo of bditty187
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997 Edition.

Hazed, pale burgundy hue, modest beige head that fades leisurely to a collar of soapy residue. No lace was produced. The nose is tremendously potent. Oh, the invitation is shouted… caramelized fruit (raisin, apples), spicy alcohol, toffee… and a host of other subtleties. The palate has plenty going on… its buttery and malty… alcohol, apples, and caramelized sugar dominates… very sweet (borderline cloying), the finish is toffee & dark fruit. The hops are noticeable in the aftertaste. Lovely palate, savor & sip! Low carbonation. Full body, it is so chewie I though I was drinking a wookiee. This is a pleasant drink, enjoyable to quaff. The abv is (obviously) noticeable and the effects are felt… you’ll want to lick your lips to savor it all… recommended.

Photo of ChrisPro
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage poured into a snifter

Pours murky mahogany with frothy light khaki colored head that will NOT disappear.

Aroma is like brandied cherries or plum. Lots of big caramel notes, but the fruity notes (above along with figs or dates) dominate. This is just fantastic.

Taste is similar to the aroma. No huge surprises. Tons of sweet caramel and fermented fruits. This drinks almost like a brandy or even a fruit liqueur. However, it is not cloyingly sweet. There is a great bitter finish that helps maintain some semblance of balance.

Mouthfeel is incredibly full-bodied with some big buttery coating left on the roof of the mouth. Light carbonation, but expected for the style and age.

Overall, this is certainly a sipper, but an incredibly complex sipper. So many different fruit and sweet flavors come out as it warms. Fantastic beer.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,319 ratings.