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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

1,296 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,296
Reviews: 804
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 13.92%
Wants: 224
Gots: 184 | FT: 11
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.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,296 | Reviews: 804 | Display Reviews Only:
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.

Photo of stephendr
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

smell 4.5 taste 4.5 app 3.5 mouth 4.5 drink 4.5
1998 vintage 9.6 oz. glass bottle sample cellared at least 11 years- opened 10/28/07- color of murky brown, with a super thin off white colored head - nose of sweet brown sugar, over ripe tropical fruit, stale sourdough bread, and hint of cappuccino – taste of sweet malt, caramel, very full, chewy prunes, raisins, and syrup- body is thick, and round, and with no carbonation – aftertaste of raisins, toasted, rock candy sweet, and lingering

Photo of FarmerTed
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just had a bottle of the 2001 Limited Edition Harvest Ale that I picked up today at a local store. It was in the cooler, but I have no idea how it was stored over the last 10 years. It cost $8.60.

On opening, there was a nice pop from the CO2 pressure. On pouring, there was some fizzing, but no head. The beer looks like root beer (dark brown), and has a big, caramel-like aroma. There was some yeast floating around in the beer; it probably would've settled out if I'd let it sit a few days, but it was jostled a bit after purchase, and I didn't feel like waiting.

The taste is like a combination of a port with a big caramel or toffee finish (it's amazing that grapes weren't used to make it, to be honest). There is some carbonation or fizz to it that gives it a bit of a bite. I really, really enjoyed it. It was sweet; I'm glad the bottle is only 9.3 oz. I'm not sure I could've drunk much more. I needed to eat a bit afterwards, due to the sweetness.

Overall, it was an excellent beer. I'd probably like to try some of the more recent vintages next, to see how they compare.

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

2002 Vintage

Pours to a reddish-brown color with a thin off-white head that leaves spotty lacing. The aroma is semi-sweet, malty, toffee, molasass and honey. Very nice.

The flavor is malty, honey-like, with toffee and a bit of chocolate. It is a bit vinous as well. It is full bodied and smooth drinking for it strength. It has a nice creamy texture as well. A very nice brew. Thanks to Jimmy.

Photo of tony223366
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage

A: Deep amber red color. Decent clarity but most of the problem was my bad pour. A thin layer of very light tan foam that dissipates into an island.

S: Really rich almost syrupy butterscotch and caramel. Honey. Tons of rich dark fruitiness. Alcohol is present too. Very port-like.

T: Wow, so fruity. Tons of buttery/caramel flavors. So much complexity in a great port-like way. Huge finish with some light, warming alcohol. Some roasted malt flavors and oaky almost vanilla tastes. Finish is very long. Tons of residual sugars. Molasses and a touch of acidity.

M: Unbelievably smooth and full bodied. Carbonation is light but present.

O: I know I throw this word around a lot but this beer is so decadent. As rich as it is though you can tell it could still use another two years or so. I think 5 years may be the sweet spot for this beer. Would love to have it over some ice cream! Not something you want too early but practically a perfect way to end a cold rainy night. Can't imagine a more model English Barleywine.

Photo of KevBot89
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 edition

Appearance: opaque copper/brown, large cream head that dissipates rather quickly

Smell: rich malt, woody/spicy hops

Taste: a lot of malt flavor. rich, dark fruits, light earthy tones. finishes with a caramel/biscuit flavor lingers at length afterwards

Mouthfeel: thick, heavy, moderate carbonation.

Overal: the aroma matches the taste for the most part. Picked up more earthy hops on the back of the palate that I couldn't detect with the scent. Nice bittersweet and caramel finish after beginning with tons of malt and dark fruit flavors.

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

2001 vintage bottle served in an oversized wineglass.

pours a hazy amber/copper tone reminiscent of a belgian quad. some sediment; a finger and a half of head with moderate retention and some lacing.

nose is both bold and complex (frighteningly so). a sweet bouquet of dark fruits, molasses, malts, caramel, honey, alcohol, and maybe a touch of... hmm... cognac?

taste follows the aroma. tons going on. booze is more subdued than i'd have thought going off the nose. lot of dark fruits and malt sweetness. very tasty; nice, smooth finish.

mouthfeel is chewy, syrupy - brings to mind the dfh 120. drinkability is solid. i would welcome another. this is definitely not one of my preferred styles but the best i've had to date.

Photo of FLima
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2006, finally! I could not wait more, but anyway it should be excellent by now. Let's see if it holds true against my expectations...
Brown ochre color with an almost inexistent head, so far no sediments. Almost showing some lacrima effect falling down the glass.
Wonderful aroma of Port wine, lots of high grade cocoa chocolate, licorice, molasses, oak, dry fruits, a hint of cinnamon and plums. I could mistake this by a chocolate panettone. I cannot get tire of sniffing this.
Surprisingly, flavor doesn’t entirely follow nose. Some new slightly smoked notes of charred wood or even tobacco. Also, molasses, very subtle earthy English hops, Port Wine, walnut, coconut, figs, cinnamon, prunes, apple juice, pears, licorice and maple syrup. Maybe some pleasant musty. Dry and sticky aftertaste with residual notes that mutates a bit.
Liquorish body with a very low carbonation, but it is still there. Alcohol of 11.5% abv is much better hidden than a bottle of wine given its malty body.
Extraordinaire beer, a sweet malty sipper with great complexity. Bold but still mellow. Highly recommended if you are into Barley Wines. This was in perfect condition after roughly eight years, I can’t wait trying one much younger and another one older.

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

1992 Vintage
The 92' pours a sparkly red-orange (pms 1675c) with very fine particles of yeast in suspension. There is no head to speak of and no lacing on the glass. The aroma is honey and orange with alcohol and prunes/raisin smells. There are also some floral notes like those from a Belgian Triple yeast. The taste starts off very very malty with a mead like alcohol kick and lots of effervescence on the tongue. The finish is dry with alcohol being the main player here. There are some notes of citrus and very faint bitter hop flavors. The aftertaste is alcohol warmth and sweet. Some hints of corriander like spice flavors and hops float in and out of the alcohol glow. You can feel the alcohol in your esophagus long after the last sip. The mouthfeel is full with tongue tingling and a hint of syrupy, but not in an unpleasant way.
Overall a very nice and complex winter sippen' ale. Full of alcohol warmth with lots of malty, citrus, and spice flavors. The 92' may be starting to go. There were a few medicine and metallic flavors trying to get out as if the yeast was done and the malt was ready to start breaking down.

Photo of BeerForMuscle
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%

Note - Having the 2011 version in November 2014, on tap at UNO in Hamilton NJ.

A - Unfiltered and hazy looking orangey glowing body.

S - Honey coated apricots, marmalade. Candied tropical fruit, light caramel and malt. Fruit jam.

T - Oak barrel aged fruit spread. Sweet, fruit meat and fruit skin, dry wood, farm honey, smooth silky booze. Booze soaked fruit, rum cake, hint of biscuit. I've named mostly sweet flavors but it's never at all cloying.

M - Soft, warming medium body with light carbonation.

O - Amazing. So far this one has trumped all other barley wines that I've had.

Photo of CrellMoset
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review #300. 2006 vintage from Wine Warehouse, Charlottesville, VA. Poured into an Allagash flute.

Appearance: This one opens w/out so much as a hiss and pours a thick, churning, syrupy mess, right down into the flute. It's a dull, hazy reddish brown beer and is full of particulate suspensions - hop particles, yeast clumps, who knows what they are, but there's tons of 'em. Carbonation is ... what carbonation? Head is ... what head? Lacing? Don't think so.

Aroma: Whew, that smells nice. A thick, pungent curtain of the breadiest malts you can imagine. Tons of sweet, layered notes (caramel, toffee, honey, complex fruity sugars), darker fruits (raisins), light leafy hops, wonderful tannin-like notes, and only the faintest hint of sweet alcohol.

Taste: A step-up from the nose. First of all, it's overwhelmingly sweet, but not in an annoying, cloying, sticky way. It's a layered and complex sweetness - doughy bread and toffee are dominant, but darker malts appear as things warm, with light coffee and sweet chocolate making themselves known. There's also, as in the nose, honey and tons of fruit - apple skins and cherries at the top and, progressing downwards, raisins, dates, figs. While there's almost no hop bitterness, there are still the remnants of a few pleasant leafy hop notes, a reminder of a time when, perhaps, this beer was indeed made with the finest harvested hops of that year. Alcohol is still nearly imperceptible - you know it's there on some level, but, eh.

Mouthfeel: 99% certain that tingling is the alcohol and not carbonation. This beer is as dead as they come, but it's a two-year old plus barleywine, so that's to be expected. It's a little thick and syrupy, but as I mentioned before, it's not cloying or sticky, so you can only knock it so much. There's hardly any alcohol warmth to be found, despite the 11.5% bill.

Drinkability: 11.5% abv, but the most well-hidden, well-blended 11.5% you're likely to find. Whether you attribute that to age, to conditioning, to the overwhelming sweetness of this beer ... either way, it's incredibly drinkable. It's complex, inviting, enjoyable, devilishly tasty ... I might just have to recommend trying it.

Photo of udubdawg
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle of the 2001 vintage. Man I need to stop collecting and start drinking more of these!

Pours with quite a bit of sediment that settles out, leaving a hazed carmelly brown color. Decent light tan head for the age, but little retention and nonexistent lace.

Smells terrific. In a word: Rich. Lots of warming alcohol, but it isn't harsh - more blended in like a fine brandy. Carmelized sugar sweetness, and dark fruit.

Very sweet, and again rich with a thick molasses and caramel-rich malt profile. Tons of raisin, and some plum and fig. More warming alcohol in the swallow, and pretty much all over by mid-glass.

Sticky sweet full-bodied mouthfeel. I imagine the sweet residue in the mouth is a big reason why some don't care for this. Not a lot of carbonation left in this one.

Drinkability is good - way better than something this strong and sticky sweet would usually be. Strong, warming, complex - I have no trouble finishing one, and on certain sipping evenings, two. Not something I want that often though.

Photo of NWer
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage stored in a pantry that holds a steady 50 - 55 degrees.
Served in a brandy snifter.
Little to no head. Just lies there. Like brandy. Color is rust/brown. Clear. Not much sediment.
First impression is man, this is really sweet. Figs, molasses, honey notes. A pleasant sipper. If in the mood for a sipping wine - er - beer this will fit the bill but man, is it sweet.
I have another I will be putting down for a year or two to see how it mellows.
In spite of my machinations about sweetness, I like it overall.
I might update my review as I get used to it.

Photo of cubedbee
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage. Pours a deep dark red with a thin cap of beige head that quickly reduces to a ring. Smell is sweet and dark--raisins, figs, port, and some very earthy aromas. Taste is sugary sweet upfront, with a fruity winelike complexity. Raisins, figs, pineapples, toffee, maple syrup. Just a bare note of hops on the finish to balance the sweetness, which lingers long after a sip. Alcohol is barely detectable, amazing considering the 11.5%. Mouthfeel is full and silky, absolutely suberb. Overall this is a little sweeter than I expected, but it's an absolutely shining example of a barleywine, and I would try another vintage in a second.

Photo of jabocu
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 Edition

This has been laid back since 2000 and WOW. Pours a amber/copper color with a nice 2 finger cap. Lots of floral and fruity esters in the aroma with sweet molasses, caramel, and figs. Flavor was full and sweet. Lots of fruit of raisins, figs, and a viscous quality. Very smooth and not very bitter, but just enough to tone done the sweetness. Rich and smooth is the best way to describe this beer. Too bad that was my last.

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 vintage. Wonderful dark amber with a thin head. Smell is heavy with malt and a touch of soy. Overripe fruit and a whiff of earming alcohol. The flavor is rich with sugars and warming alcohol and rich malt. No hint of soy in the flavor,just big brandyish fruit flavors and honeyed malt. Utterly delicious and meant for a snifter after dinner. Very rich and creamy mouthfeel, but not sticky at all- floats on the palate. Dry and drinkable by this point, but big and rich as well.

Photo of MrSeth
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1997 bottling pours a murky-opaque dark brown with a tan-brown 1/4" head. It keeps settling to bubbly groups of swirling suds, then to a very thin ring around the glass.

Vinous nose, very winey. Earthy walnut, wood and musk are also present.

Smooth, rich and full mouthfeel. The taste has so many different characteristics, maple syrup, molasses, burgundy, brown sugar, sherryish and meaty. The hops have diminished to a subtle bitterness that works well for the ale but doesn't jump out at you on it's own. That may seem like a redundant list, but it isn't just like molasses, or just like brown sugar.. it's a complex maltiness. And saying that it is like burgundy and sherry is no small claim for an ale either.. but try this one and you'll see, it's wonderful.

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,296 ratings.