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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

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

1,247 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,247
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 214
Gots: 181 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,247 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of HappyBivouac
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage. 9.3oz bottle into an Ommegang Chalice.

a- pours an amber orange with a minimal off-white head that goes away fast. very little lacing on the glass.

s- deep, rich caramel, a heavy done of bready, sweet malts, prunes, figs, tart cherries, and honey all fill the nose. A very sweet, caramelly, bright, and fruity aroma.

t- The first impression is an extremely sweet beer, very much like this was actually brewed with thick caramel. It's almost hard to get past this sweetness as it really dominates, but it's so damn delicious. Whole wheat bread comes though, and a faint tartness like cherries enters in late along with the unexpected but distinct taste of florida oranges, lingering on in the finish. Heat is there to a perfect level; I suspect being masked by the intense sweetness. There is but a faint grapefruit bitterness throughout that intensifies long after the beer goes down. Will the sweetness of this beer be tamed in several years? I have no idea, but I'd like to grab a couple more bottles and find out.

m- Thick, syrupy, chewy. Carbonation is just a faint tickle on the center of the tongue.

d- My overall impression is this is a great, complex beer. There are a lot of flavors in there, but it can be hard to find them underneath the cloying, overpowering caramel sweetness. I have to sip this one really slowly, which is I guess what was intended. Very high quality stuff, and this fresh bottle just screams that it was meant to be aged a long time.

HappyBivouac, Feb 21, 2010
Photo of jrallen34
4.43/5  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.

jrallen34, Feb 16, 2010
Photo of Onenote81
3.65/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2000. Sampled on 2/15/10.

Bottle received from BDLbrewster in a trade awhile back. Thanks!

Poured into a snifter. Pours a thick, syrupy mahogany with a thin tan head on top. This disappears to just a ring around the edge. Little spotty lace. Scents of toffee, molasses, syrup, and wet wood.

The body still retains a good amount of carbonation, but the finish is extremely smooth and warming. This is a very sweet beer after all these years. Big toffee and caramel notes. Sugary syrup finish. Sort of a chalky mouth on the back end. This is almost too sweet for me. It's definitely a slow-sipper. Not a bad bottle to split among friends, and enjoy by the fire.

Onenote81, Feb 15, 2010
Photo of steve8robin
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Opened a vintage 1999 on Valentine's Day with my girl...

A: Not too bad. Murky looking brownish color. Sort of like an iced tea look with a tiny white head that forms a lace on the top of the glass.

S: I love the smell of this. Perfect blent of malt with fruit, sugar, and hints of alcohol on the backend. Awesome!

T: Very, very good! Sugars, caramel, maple, and booziness upfront. Slight bitter hop on the backend. The sweetness might be just a hair too much, but aside from that it's perfect.

M: Perfect amount of carbonation. Syrupy and leaves a very good taste on your tastebuds.

D: Not the easiest to drink due to the heavy sweet sugars and upfront boozy flavor. If you ike sweet and boozy like me, it's not too hard to get down.

All in all, this one is fantastic. Think Papier with heavier sweet sugars upfront. I definitely recommend trying this beers if you're look for an awesomely complex sweet brew. You will not be disappointed.

steve8robin, Feb 15, 2010
Photo of cpetrone84
4.43/5  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.

cpetrone84, Feb 13, 2010
Photo of Lldeegan
4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had at dba in NY. Pours a copper, amber in color.
This beer has a nose of raisins, and sweet dark fruit. Mostly fig.
sweet and vinous on the palate. and was a very good drink. warming boozy feel, great to have in the wintertime. Enjoyable to have and sip after dinner.

Lldeegan, Feb 09, 2010
Photo of tkarsies
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage

Served cool in my Westy chalice. Allowed to warm over about an hour while drinking.

A: Dark brown, murky. Thin tan head. Can't see carbonation. Like a barleywine should look.

S: Smells rich, sweet, malty. Maybe a hint of alcohol in the nose but this is masked well by the other aromas. I have read reviews talking about leather and tobacco aromas/flavors with skepticism, but I'm pretty sure I can pick up these as I sniff. Very nice. Makes me want to dive in.

T: Wow. Again, the word "rich" comes to mind. Very malt forward, with brown sugar and fruits such as plums and raisins. Slight bitterness from the hops but this is not prominent at all. Don't know how this was new but this is currently complex malty goodness.

M: Thick, creamy, smooth. Minimal carbonation at this age.

D: A good sipper. Don't notice any alcohol although I feel it a bit near the end. This bottle must have been stored well because it is aged to perfection. Great nightcap. Great beer experience. Great example of how beer can have the complexity and aging potential of wine. A real treat and something I will have to try again, both this vintage as well as others.

tkarsies, Feb 02, 2010
Photo of Shumista
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 275 mL bottle into a pint glass. 2000 vintage, I think it's about time someone drank this bottle of beer.

A- Dark mahogany brown with a small light brown head.
S- Sweet smell. Caramelly, with dark candied fruit and a little bit of alcohol.
T- Very complex. Sweet and dark fruity. Super caramelly. The finish is earthy with a slight bitterness.
M- Excellent. The 10 years of age have turned this into a mellow pleasant sipping beer that still packs a punch.
D- I'm very sad this is the only bottle I have. Can't wait to try some other vintages.

Shumista, Jan 30, 2010
Photo of Pecorasc
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1999. Split two ways and poured into a Leffe glass.

A- Medium to deep amber in color with swirls of thin film and some streamers of lacing thrown up the sides of the glass. Swirling or tipping the glass to the side move the lacing around and show that this beer has quite a bit of viscosity. The beer is clean, but not polished and shows no noticeable signs of carbonation. A very nice looking English Barleywine that looks more red than other examples of the style.

S- Dominated by a pleasant dust and cardboard-like oxidation. Those aromas are complemented by a cherry and pear sweetness. Some woodiness is present in the background and there is only a slight amount of alcohol. Very unique, somewhat confusing, but certainly a 5.0.

T + M- Right away, this beer distinguishes itself with a thick and creamy mouthfeel that makes it drink like a stout. Wonderful flavors of cherry liqueur, wood, and cardboard. Think grenadine soaked cardboard; sounds gross, but tastes amazing. Transitions to heavier wood and alcohol on top of the malt and cherry flavors and finishes sweet and smooth with very little alcohol burn.

D- Fantastic drinkability on an 11.5% barleywine. No alcohol burn, but the big body makes this a fuller beer that falls between a sipper and a beer with average drinkability. This could make a classic pairing with so many cheeses and cigars. This beer was surely made with an eye to aging.

Pecorasc, Jan 25, 2010
Photo of barleywinefiend
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage sampled on January 21, 2010.
Poured a hazy deep orangish brown color with good carbonation and a dirty white head. Nose is tons of honey and brown sugar, caramel and maybe some dark fruits. Very complex.
Taste was a punch of sweetness,burnt brown sugar, molasses, alcohol, sweet malts, wood, raisin, prune. Motuhfeel is sweet.
///

1998 vintage sampled on August 5 2008. Heavy oxidation,dried fruits,malts and subdued hops. Ten years is to much for me. Bigger dried fruits here, caramel, molasses burnt brown sugar.

barleywinefiend, Jan 22, 2010
Photo of natelocc787
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage.

Amazing appearance. Dark mahogany body, a frothy head the color of french vanilla coffee that lasts, tilt the snifter and the whole 3 finger head moves with it and the cascading effect when tilted looks like whitewater rapids in slow motion, like the bottom of a crashing waterfall. The nose was shocking being it contains a very hefty peppermint aroma. It warms you when smelled, like a minty honey liquor. Very tasty stuff, very complex, no mint in the taste but you still get a whiff every time you raise the glass. Brown sugar, caramel, honey drizzled pralines, white raisin insides and butterscotch all beg to be savored with each sip. Man I wish I had more. Mouthfeel is smooth, creamy and silky. One of if not THE smoothest mouthfeel I've come across. Very understated carbonation almost like it isn't carbonated, just enough bubbles to sniff perfection. The very best of English Barleywines.

natelocc787, Jan 21, 2010
Photo of BedetheVenerable
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Heavy brown pop top with gorgeous label; 2000 vintage; damn, a decade-old beer!

Appearance: Hazy mahogany beer; a strong pour produces a thick, light tan, creamy head with good retention.

Smell: VIBRANT! This is full of sweet, candied cherries and caramel, with a myriad of sweet kitchen spices...this is crazy complex!

Taste: A riot of flavors in the mouth. There's some very earthy woodiness, tons of candied fruit, sherry. This is a SWEET beer, but never becomes cloying. There's nice sweet caramel malt on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Rich, smooth, and full; no burning from the high abv

Drinkability: 1 bottle in snifters split 2 ways = perfect

Conclusion: This beer was challenging, crazy, unique, and complex! At a decade old, I'm not surprised to find some signs of oxidation here, but it's acceptable for the age and the style, and though I didn't LOVE this, I was seriously impressed with it, and would love to try some more vintages of this in the next few years.

BedetheVenerable, Jan 18, 2010
Photo of billab914
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 vintage picked up at Premier Gourmet in Buffalo during my trip back there for the holidays. Poured from a 275 ml bottle into my Dogfish snifter. Pours dark brown with a very thin white ring around the outside edge of the glass. There was a moderate amount of carbonation bubbles and sediment visible from the outside of the glass.

Aroma has some brown sugar sweetness to it as well as some dark rich fruit flavors and a hint of alcohol. There are notes of figs, raisins, and cherries in the complex fruitiness of the nose. Taste is very sweet with some malt, raisins, and figs. There is a lot of dark fruit flavors that make it very complex. it's also a lot sweeter then I expected.

Mouthfeel is on the thicker side with low carbonation. Drinkability is pretty good for the abv%. it's a little too sweet for me to want to drink any more then 1 bottle in a sitting though. It's very good though for a 9 year old beer, and very complex. I'd love to try other vintages.

billab914, Jan 17, 2010
Photo of projectflam86
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

-2000 vintage-

This one is a decade old and I want to see how it is holding up...

A- Pours a deep brown raisin color with a thin wispy head that leaves a bit of scattered lace.

S- Rich dark sweetness with a bit of grain and alcohol. Some faint fruit and vinous aromas come through as well.

T- Incredibly rich and sweet with loads of caramel malt and dark fruit leading the way. Flavors of caramel, fig, plum, oak, sherry, and an earthy finish. The alcohol is extremely well hidden. The years have been very kind to this brew.

M- Medium bodied with low carbonation. A bit thin considering how big this baby is.

D- Overall a great brew that holds up incredibly well over the years. I can't wait to crack open a few other vintages a see how the flavors progress.

projectflam86, Jan 11, 2010
Photo of meeekyh
3.68/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

2002 vintage

From a 275 ml bottle marked Harvest Ale 2002 into a St. Bernardus chalice.

Upon opening the bottle I was met with a nosefull of dark, dried fruits. A good pour revealed very little tan head and a full brown opaque beer.

Smalls are strong dried fig and currant along with crusty bread.

Taste is full, sweet and complexly layered. An initial sweetness and tang are followed by a woody taste and an alcoholic wafting dissolving into maple sugar.

Mouthfeel is full and a bit surypy though not as coating as could be with almost no carbonation.

This beer has characteristics of many of the fine liquors and liqueurs I have had. There is a distinct caramelization and dark dried fruit flavour that comes through in these elixirs.

A fine once in awhile sipper with little allure to me personally.

meeekyh, Jan 06, 2010
Photo of ShogoKawada
4.45/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

ShogoKawada, Jan 03, 2010
Photo of champ103
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This is a 2000 bottle

A: Pours a dark and slightly hazy ruby/brown color. A large foamy beige head rises to over two fingers. Really good retention, especially considering the age.
S: This is just amazing. Toasted malts of sweet toffee and chocolate. Dark fruits of plums and cherries. Dry wood. Very port like. Really complex.
T: Follows the nose. Toasted toffee that is sweet. Boarders on cloying. Chocolate covered cherries. Dark fruits, wood, and port.
M/D: A full and rich body. Just enough carbonation to hold everything together. Decadent, creamy and smooth. Some warming rum like alcohol. A great sipper.

Something for those long cold nights. This is incredible. Truly one of the best Barleyines, make that beers period, that I have tried. This is a monster, and can be aged for even longer. A must try.

champ103, Dec 30, 2009
Photo of Siggy125
4.15/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Poured from the original 9.6oz bottle into a couple of 4oz taster glasses. Pretty golden amber with a very small trace of carbonation.

The smell is fantastic, sweet fruity aromas with rich malty nutty essences.

Taste: very sweet, but very enjoyable. Rich ripe golden raisins, molasses and brown sugar. A very subtle alcohol sting on the back end to remind you of the 11.5 abv.

Syrupy mouth feel, but not sticky. Very drinkable but I now understand why the bottles are so small. This is to be enjoyed like a rich, small portion treat. I love it, but enough is enough after a few sips.

Siggy125, Dec 28, 2009
Photo of mothman
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 Vintage.

Poured into a taster pint glass.

Pours a small off white head. Decent retention thought. Leaves some splattered lace. Color is a very hazed dark caramel brown.

Aroma: Brown sugar, toffee, caramel, grassy hops, and a slight amount of hops.

Taste: Liquid brown sugar, toffee, and caramel. Tons of malt flavors. Some cookies. It has a very sweet taste to it.

Mouthfeel: A little hot, sweet, and smooth. Medium to full bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends full of sweet malts.

Overall, this is a very good for an English B-wine. Very sweet, but still holding up well. Not something I would want a lot of though.

mothman, Dec 23, 2009
Photo of deltatauhobbit
3.58/5  rDev -15.8%
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.

deltatauhobbit, Dec 22, 2009
Photo of MPLS
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From the Harvest of '99 ya'll.

A: Dark nutty brown in color, minimal head from an assertive pour. Carbonation still evident with 10+ years on this bottle and a ring retains itself around the top of the glass. This little guy still has some legs too.

S: A big aroma - vinous cherries, candied sugar, caramel, raisin, hint of alcohol reminds your liver of what will happen to it.

T: Mellower than the aroma but certainly not underwhelming. The sweetness is the biggest component of this beer and comes out in a a wide spectrum. The finish of the beer reminds me of figs, almost as if a thin syrupy layer of them were sitting atop my tongue.

M: Hardly thin and certainly syrupy with a carbonation prickling away at the front of the tongue.

D: Welcome to sweetness 101 and the 10 year flavor voyage. Great beer, price is a turn off, but I am curious how a newer vintage harvest ale is.

MPLS, Dec 21, 2009
Photo of alovesupreme
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1999 and 2000

Poured both with a friend.
Beautiful dark scarlet color with good head retention. Pretty sticky.
Maple syrup, honey, molasses, a hint of citrus. So much complexity.
Oh my! This is the epitome of an English Barley wine. Lots of caramel sweetness, with a sherry like finish. Nutty and rich with the perfect amount of alcohol.
Full bodied, and very chewy.
An absolutely fabulous beer. One of my favorites.

The 2000 was the agreed favorite between my friend and I, with a slightly sweeter, bigger body. The vintage was responsible however and not the age IMO.

alovesupreme, Dec 21, 2009
Photo of brownbeer
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2005 vintage poured into a NB snifter

Tawny in color with a hard pour leaving no head.

Quite a variety of aromas in here, this one's a little tougher. Caramel, tawny port, alcohol, cocoa nibs, cherry fruitiness, vanilla.

Sweet but not cloying. Raisin, rich toffee, a hint of vanilla and maple, and an earthy finish.

Not much carbonation but that doesn't take away from the greatness of this beer. I still don't believe how drinkable this is for how strong it is. True. Age-worthy. World class.

brownbeer, Dec 11, 2009
Photo of dpnelson1978
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

9.3 oz. bottle into Duvel tulip.
2000 Vintage

$7.99 / ea.

55°F

S: Maple syrup. Extremely sweet caramel, and a bit of roasted barley. Hints of oak peek through.

A: Opaque dark brown body, tight medium head, with nice retention, and good lacing leading to a light creamy cover.

T: Very sweet. Strong maple character, with a hint of caramel and malt, with a smooth booze finish, and low bitterness. Well balanced, but perhaps a little too sweet.

M: Smooth heavy body with low carbonation.

D: Strong tasting beer that should be savored rather than sessioned. Excellent beer and this score should not be interpreted as a weakness. Sweetness is a bit cloying.

O: My first J.W. Lees Harvest Ale was delicious. Would be a great after dinner drink due to its massive sweet maple flavor.

dpnelson1978, Dec 07, 2009
Photo of Mebuzzard
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a 1999 vintage, bought and drank on the same day (today). With a medium chestnut brown body this beer looks perty darn good. The semi-soapy head does have some density to it, yet it vanishes in a couple minutes never to return. No colar lacing or anything. Too bad...but still the taste is great. A bit of an alcohol nose on it. Caramel and toffee.
A nice calm caramel sweetness surrounds the malt in the taste. Some mocha and faint vanilla as well. Rich, but not thick. I get a hint of smokiness on the end, with a peppering of spices. This is a darn fine beer. At $10 a bottle it's a good beer to enjoy over a celebration or special occasion. Which is what I did.

Mebuzzard, Dec 03, 2009
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,247 ratings.