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

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

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

817 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 817
Hads: 1,361
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 13.62%
Wants: 252
Gots: 199 | FT: 14
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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 817 | Hads: 1,361
Photo of BradenMK
4.53/5  rDev +6.3%
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. (2,140 characters)

Photo of wethorseblanket
4.24/5  rDev -0.5%
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. (171 characters)

Photo of emyers
4.33/5  rDev +1.6%
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. (739 characters)

Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.24/5  rDev -0.5%
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 (172 characters)

Photo of cooler4life
3.81/5  rDev -10.6%
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! (856 characters)

Photo of pat61
5/5  rDev +17.4%
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. (347 characters)

Photo of Webbydag1
1.77/5  rDev -58.5%
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. (159 characters)

Photo of Jonada
3.22/5  rDev -24.4%
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. (804 characters)

Photo of kscaldef
2.75/5  rDev -35.4%
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. (336 characters)

Photo of TMoney2591
4.31/5  rDev +1.2%
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). (903 characters)

Photo of fscottkey
3.12/5  rDev -26.8%
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. (928 characters)

Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.32/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2008 bottle served into a snifter.

The head is creamy, pale and white and dissipates quickly. I guess that's not unreasonable given the 7 years of age. At least there was head and carbonation at all. The body is medium amber and full of yeast particles. Ain't no thang, I'ma slurp those bad boys down. 4

Quite the lovely smell coming from this: tobacco, oak, caramel and vanilla with a bit of a spicy edge. Takes me to the caribbean for tabaco y ron. There's certainly a vinous quality as well though, port-like oxidation. 4.5

A mishmash of flavors circle on this and they take the beer in a number of different directions. There's a heavily oxidized caramel flavor that is entirely port-like and the hops have faded to the point of imparting a tad of grassy but almost vegetal flavor, but this quickly settles into the background. The deeper I get in the more it becomes a delicious play between rich caramel and port. 4.25

This beer is practically a port. Thick, creamy and smooth almost to perfection with so little carbonation yet it drinks wonderfully with feeling as if something is lacking. There's a tiny amount of bitterness and the sweetness isn't overdone, so it really just drinks like the smooth sipper and warming beer that you'd want and expect. 4.5

Fantastic and ages splendidly. (1,300 characters)

Photo of beersgud
1.98/5  rDev -53.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 1

2010 vintage poured into a tulip.

The beer looks nice aside from a bunch of unfiltered crap at the bottom of the glass. Smells really nice as well, but that's about the end things to say about this beer. The faint tobacco aroma that was appealing on the nose becomes offensive when tasting. Tasted like old cigarette butts mixed with other garbage. Probably due to poor storage of a 5 year old beer ( I just bought it about a month ago ), nevertheless, one of my few drain pours. (486 characters)

Photo of stcules
4.11/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2003.
Dark brown color, almost no foam.
Malty smell, some nut notes. It warms you, even if the alcohol is not directly noticeable (not to much).
Malty taste, with a lot of dried fruit (nuts), some woody note.
Dry finish.
Some green notes walnut husk. Raisin. Pistachio.
A really good and interesting barley wine. (313 characters)

Photo of Immortale25
4.55/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Funky Buddha Brewery snifter. 2011 vintage.

A- Pours a light brown color with a full two finger light tan head that retains well before popping away to a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a mostly full sheet of surface foam. Not-so-resilient lacing leaves small streaks behind.

S- Sweet, biscuity malt with notes of brown sugar, dark bread and toffee.

T- Powerful flavors of burnt sugar, caramel and more toffee. Toasty malt and minimal hop bitterness. The alcohol is hidden quite well but lends a fortified wine characteristic to the overall profile.

M- Somewhat sharp and tangy with medium carbonation and a body leaning toward the fuller side.

O- A fantastic representation of an English Barleywine. The sweetness in particular lends itself to drinkability even with the pronounced alcohol bite. You would expect those two things to clash with one another but this brew shows how the two can co-exist in harmony. (952 characters)

Photo of barczar
4.25/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Very sweet, with huge caramelization and just a hint of sherry oxidation. Malt complexity is abundant. A bit boozy when young, but these age so well. (150 characters)

Photo of JerzDevl2000
4.24/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had one of these last night up at the Cloverleaf in Caldwell. Never had this beer before and I had a feeling that this would take a while to sip through. That was indeed the case but because this was so street and strong in a subtle way, it was worth savoring as it warmed up in the small snifter glass that I poured this out in. A Barleywine doesn't get much better than this and I can't recall the last time I had a beer that was this smooth!

Nice pour to this, as this beer has an apricot hue, cloudy appearance, and little head. It reminded me of a nice sherry or other Barleywines that I've had that packed their punch once they warmed up and were sipped. Like those, this was boozy and like this, this was clear, strong, and unassuming. Unlike some of those, this was balanced - lots of rye here as expected with honey for body and hop oils for balance. Incredibly smooth while being sticky and sweet, this turned out to be what a Barleywine should be without having the alcohol overpower everything else.

Strong, this was but it never felt overpowering. It was so sweet and had just a hint of dark fruit in it while leaving a nice, slick aftertaste that the potency of this ended up taking a backseat. It's so rare to find a beer that pushes the edge of what a beer can be while still remaining true to form, which was the case here. Thoroughly enjoyable while still being a new experience for me, this is a brew that should be on everyone's must-try list, especially if some warming-up is called for this winter. Great stuff! (1,535 characters)

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.61/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, Autumn Limited Edition. Purchased at Nathaniel Square Corner Store in Rochester, NY.

Pours a golden ruby amber, with a small half inch head, and basically no lacing.

Smells wonderful, slightly oxidized, giving off sherry impressions, with caramel, toffee, and some grassy hops.

I can't believe I'm finally trying this beer, I clearly should have a long time ago. It's excellent, and really quite smooth. Silky toffee and caramel, some port-like flavors, molasses and maple, and a little bit of grassy hops. I also get some prune, oak, smoke and brown sugar, a little bit. Finishes very clean. Clearly brewed to perfection.

This is medium bodied and slightly syupy, with a full mouthfeel, and a lower level of carbonation.

This vintage has clearly aged marvelously. It's one of the best barleywines I've ever had. Everything intensely in moderation. (868 characters)

Photo of hombrepalo
3.3/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Tried many vintages a few up to 15 years aged. Nice mahogany color with beige head. Smells of toffee and malts. Taste is silky toffee and caramel. Finish thin and sweet. (169 characters)

Photo of fx20736
4.26/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 Edition. Bought at Premier Gourmet on 11/19/14. Poured into a Chimay chalice, served cool.

Look: Bronze, minimal head.

Smell: butterscotch, vanilla, pecans

Taste: grape skin, smoke, tannins, rich, nutty malts.

Feel: good

Overall: rich, complex, smoky (261 characters)

Photo of BeerForMuscle
4.44/5  rDev +4.2%

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. (587 characters)

Photo of Greasy
4.5/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage. 275 ml poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a very pretty honey color that is unlike most barleywine,. Lighter than I expected.

S: No booze for an 11.5% beer. Nutty.

T. Delicious. Not many other words to describe. Maybe some toffee. Dark fruits. Malty.

M: Pretty viscous. Thick, tongue coating. Nice.

O: If you find this in stores, do not let the smaller size deter you. Great things come in small packages. This is 9.3 ounces of awesome. (453 characters)

Photo of matt_duthie
4.25/5  rDev -0.2%

2008 vintage. Noticed sediment as pouring, then afterwords saw the most concentrated yeast-beer-mix I've ever seen(eventually settled out for the most part). Smells insanely sweet of toffee and fruit. I've not had an English barleywine where the dessert-cake aspect was so intense. Massive cocoa and fruitcake and oh so much more accompany the consistent ring of lacing that follows the 9.25 oz. or whatever to the bottom of the glass. Alcohol hardly noticeable, a fine beer completely different than anything I've ever had. The one I'd recommend to illustrate the difference between an English and American take on what a barleywine ale is... (643 characters)

Photo of kdahnke123
2.92/5  rDev -31.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2012 Vintage Poured into a snifter at room temperature
A - A thin amber pour with minimal carbonation and no lacing.
S - Smells acidic, fruity with a small amount of malt and minimal hops.
T - Odd tasting with acidic notes and an unpleasant finish.
M - Minimall mouth coating with no carbonation.
O - Not recommended. (317 characters)

Photo of Kuaff
4.65/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Harvest Ale 2012, cellar temperature in a snifter.

This barley wine has a modest one-finger white head of foam which subsides unhurriedly. The color is a marvelous brownish, brackish, deep amber orange that looks clear and gem-like, though it isn't totally translucent.

The aroma is a superb one, filled with vanilla, caramel, toffee, ripe red apples, butterscotch, raisins, cider, and lemon zest. There may be a subtle earthy, leathury oak note too. Truly a pleasure to take in.

I taste sweet fruits at first; the sweet, juicy apple mixes with dark red cherries and, surprisingly, a grape flavor that bursts more in the middle, right before the finish sets in, which is something quite special: caramel, smoky leather, and earth abound, lingering prominently with some wonderful toasted nuttiness. And all the while those sweet fruits remain light in the background.

The feel is full, substantial, and a bit sticky.

A brilliant British barley wine with distinctive fruity and nutty traits. (996 characters)

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 817 ratings.