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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

1,270 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,270
Reviews: 798
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 214
Gots: 183 | FT: 12
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: 1,270 | Reviews: 798 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of eatabagofbooger
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2001 vintage. Poured from a 275ml bottle to a snifter. My pre-birthday beer.

A: No surprises here-deep caramel color with a very small head that dissipates quickly. Leaves a very thin lacing and if you swirl it, it even has legs.

S: Holy crap that's strong! In a good way, though. Toasted nuts, alcohol, toffee, caramel, figs, dates. In the past two days, I've had two of the most wonderful smelling beers of my life. This is definitely one of them.

T: Follows the nose, but with a bit of oxidation. Kinda like a cross between a fine tawny port and a barleywine. Toffee and caramel are the most prominent flavors. Nuttiness is far more subdued than in the nose. The dates and figs are there, but there is a slightly more tart fruitiness there too, like cherries and raisins.

M: Could have used some carbonation, but I can't say the lack thereof is a surprise from a nearly 10 year old beer. Very thick and viscous.

D: The prominence of the alcohol, the viscosity, the lack of carbonation, and the rich sweetness create a beer that is best sampled in small doses. Even this 9.3 oz bottle might be a bit much for me. But hey, it's not meant to be a session beer, and for what it is, it does it's job well. This is definitely a special occasion beer, and I'd probably be inclined to share my next bottle, but I'm planning to pick up a couple more while the shop has 'em in stock! Overall a wonderful beer and very unique. The only thing I've had that comes even close to it in character is Cherry Adam on the Wood.

eatabagofbooger, Nov 07, 2010
Photo of DannyS
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2007 vintage. Poured into a bodum double-walled glass.

A - A thick, rich, semi-translucent honey brown that looks positively syrupy, with a thick off-white head that leaves loose, falling spots of lacing.

S - Whoa. The fruity alcohol wafts up and hits you right in the nose, attacking your senses with sweet, sugary, fruity, malty, hoppy power. It'll catch you off guard if you're not careful.

T - Once again, a powerhouse of a brew. Slight bitter coffee notes detected amongst the upfront dried fruit and molasses of the malt. At bit of an odd aftertaste, but very varied and intense in its flavors.

M - Oh so smooth and heavy on the palate, with very gentle carbonation. Just the kind of thick mouthfeel you'd expect from such a strong beer.

D - 11.5% alcohol, heavy mouthfeel, strong flavors...yeah, this is a sipper.

Overall - Crack it open when you want something rich and strong, like a cognac. It almost kind of drinks like utopias, except obviously not as strong or nuanced. Either way, let it age before cracking it open.

DannyS, Nov 04, 2010
Photo of Swill5786
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 Vintage. Pours a yeast-speckled murky brown. Not a hint of head from aggressive pour. No trace of carbonation. Smell is magnificent. Mystical combo of dark fruit, cherries, apples. Hint of alcohol drifts in and out with yeastiness. Overtly sweet start, then bread drives the rest. Visible yeast content hints this should be the case. Medium to heavy mouthfeel. Drinkability? Just one. Quite cloying.

Swill5786, Oct 31, 2010
Photo of Patrick999
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage. Wow, nice gunsmoke upon opening the bottle. Dark pour and even plenty of foam! When they say these beers age well, they aren't kidding!

Aroma is actually kind of a letdown. It smells like alcoholic raisins and not too much else. Port. I was expecting thicker aroma.

Well holy crap. To say this beer aged well is an understatement. The flavor here goes on and on. Maple, whiskey molasses up front, a lot of pipe tobacco, mint and black licorice in the middle, and I'll be damned, a fair bit of earthy hop bitterness in the end after all these years. This is nice. NO f'ing alcohol burn at all! At 11.5%! A sweet, awesome barleywine. Deserves its rating.

Mouthfeel is thick and luxurious with just the right amount of carbonation. Exceptional to say the least.

Awesome. If you have 1999s, check in. I don't see how they could possibly drink any better. I tend to be an aged-beer skeptic, but this is pretty impressive.

Patrick999, Oct 29, 2010
Photo of wordemupg
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 poured into chalice oct20 2010

A hazy brownish amber with a thin film that sits there for some time leaving no lace

S licorice with big notes of brown sugar and molasses with a little earthy wet wood, pretty nice smell going on here

T all I smell but with the darkest toffee you can imagine and the brown sugars a little burnt and there's even more of a earthy flavor and its pretty sweet but not over the top

M very thick, silky, and syrupy pretty much perfect for the style so smooth and zero booze burn and considering the strength that's pretty impressive

D very easy to drink and I wish this one came in a bigger bottle because this little servings just not enough

probably the oldest beer I've ever had and I'm amazed how well it's holding up. one of those beers everybody should try and I need to thank MasterSki for my chance

wordemupg, Oct 28, 2010
Photo of EricCioe
4.2/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 Vintage into a Delirium snifter.

It pours a dark black with a one finger off-white head that fades first to a ring and island and then nothing at all. On the nose the two predominant notes are a very distinct mint and biscuit. On the tongue there is a huge malt sweetness. It's not overpowering by any means, just huge. At the end there is a note of alcohol, not surprising given the content here. In the mouth this beer is syrupy and cloying, pretty large. The alcohol content and price conspire to make this one not something to drink lots of, but it paired wonderfully with a rare ribeye tonight and for that sort of purpose it's a great drink.

EricCioe, Oct 25, 2010
Photo of bruachan
4.08/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

i have 2006, 2007 and 2008 in front of me. i'm not sure if this is frowned upon, seeing as i'm not reviewing a single beer. but i'll be sure to note where the vintages differ

very attractive ruby hue, with an amber highlight. age had a deteriorating effect on foam retention. not much, regardless

deeply fruity (apple cider?) aromas with caramel and buttersctoch. 2008 was the most pungent. vinous and sugary in all vintages

sweet and plentifully nutty. the nuttiness seemed to fade with age. roastiness, on the other hand, grew with age. the 2006 was actually a little overbearing

bodyfeel was at its robustest in the '06 and '08 was next (some inconsistency, i suppose)

heat is most apparent in 2007

hop deterioration is evident: older vintages are noticeably sweeter. 2008 is the only one i can smell/taste hops in

bruachan, Oct 23, 2010
Photo of Beejay
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Harvest Ale 2002 Limited Edition

A: A very murky deep brown with a little bit of ruby in the edges. Not a lot of head, but what is there is tan with large bubbles.

S: Huge caramel sweetness. A bit cloying with a syrupy malty scent. There is a bit of roasting in this, as well as a very strong caramelized aroma.

T: Holy cloying barleywine batman! Sweet with notes of caramel, oak, toffee, and burnt sugar. This walks up to the line of 'too sweet' but only puts a toe across the border. Very enjoyable, though in small sips.

M: Thick and oily. Very little carbonation at all. Almost a pillowy feel after you have swallowed. One hell of a sipper.

D: Overall a very enjoyable beer. Rich caramelized flavors, and a wonderful boldness that hides the considerable amount of booze.

Beejay, Oct 20, 2010
Photo of yeahnatenelson
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Anno 1999.

Appearance -- Pours a deep dark brown, nearly aubergine, with golden highlights and a slim fizzy head upon the hard pour. A bit still.

Smell -- Lots of fig, brandy-soaked prunes, raisin, toffee, bread pudding. Sweet, syrupy, and decadent; on par for the style.

Taste -- An abundance of figs, raisin, prune, light molasses, and brandy. Well-basted bread pudding and challah. Gentle spiciness. Mild herbal bitterness in the finish along with a little bit of mustiness. Alcohol is perceptible, but not remotely sharp and stands as a nice contrast to the rich malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel -- Very full body, quite slick, with a very mild carbonation lending to a very sm.oth feel. In a word: decadent.

Drinkability -- This is incredible, probably the best English Barleywine I've had to date. This truly is the standard bearer of the style. So rich, and with such depth of flavor and velvety body it's hard to see how people could find error in this beer. While not a beer for all occasions, I can't think of a better after-dinner beer. An incredible pleasure to drink, strongly suggested.

yeahnatenelson, Oct 19, 2010
Photo of Manoftyr
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage

Apperance-Pours a rich, dark and cloudy amber-red with resplendent ruby highlights, no real head or lace but hard to detract for that when it's 11.5%abv and over ten years old. Looks lovely to me.

Aroma-Wow, what an overpoweringly tangy aroma; I smell a load of dried and candied syrup-drenched fruits all mingling together in a single aroma making it difficult to pick out individual smells. I definitely smell dates in there though. Some toffee.

Taste-The taste is rather more complex than the aroma and the aforementioned candied fruits are more apparent and distinct. I get dates, plums and raisins most prominently, maybe some figs in there too; extremely sweet. Maybe the faintest hint of chocolate and winter spices towards the back of the middle and some alcohol way, way, WAAAAY in the back end and so faint it's barely worth noting. Delicious.

Mouthfeel-Low-carbonation, thick, syrupy-smooth; perfect for an English Barleywine.

Drinkability-Although this beer has no real alcohol presence it has no shortage of enormous flavors and alcoholic 'weight.' It's a sipper, but not necessarily a very slow one and at this ABV I've gotta rank that high.

Notes/final thoughts-This beer is awesome, didn't expect to like it so much and I'm beginning to suspect I strongly prefer the English interpretations of Barleywines to the hoppy DIPA-like American ones I've been mostly exposed to.

Manoftyr, Oct 16, 2010
Photo of Axic10
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1999 Vintage poured from 275ml bottle into a snifter. As of today, this 11 year old beer is the oldest I've ever had.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown with hints of ruby red and no head at all.

Smell: Raisin, plum, sweet malt, dark candied fruits and some toffee. Nice smelling barleywiine.

Taste: Sweet raisins and other candied fruits, heavy caramel. Very sweet but also very complex.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and extremely smooth.

Drinkability: I have a few more vintages of this, and if they are anything like this I am in for a treat. I think I'm going to pick up some more 1999 vintages when I see them. Very very enjoyable.

Axic10, Oct 11, 2010
Photo of punkrkr27
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle. Bright orangish copper pour with little head. The aroma is loaded with boozy fig, candied dates, rum, raisins, brandy, English toffee, warm spices, pepper, cherries, and subtle noble hops. The flavor is sweet and leathery with lots of over ripe dark fruit and notes of tobacco, rum, brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg, damp wood, alcohol, pepper, and some almond. Creamy, full body with soft carbonation.

punkrkr27, Sep 25, 2010
Photo of track1646
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage poured into a Stone Pairing glass

A - this beer pours a beautiful mahogany color..very red when the light shines through it. Not much head created during pouring.

S - Smells amazing! Dark fruit (raisins and figs) oozes out of the glass with hints of vanilla and chocolate.

T - The taste mimics the nose to a T. Huge dark fruit flavors backed up with chocolate and vanilla. No hops to balance this out...it is a malt bomb. Lingering flavors of vanilla and a mild roast in the finish. No alcohol what so ever...this beers weight is completely masked. Age does wonderful things ..i cant wait to taste some with some more time spent in the cellar.

M - Silky smooth,from front to back this beer is smooth and round.

D - The lack of alcohol burn makes this beer want to fly down your throat..but the weight can be felt (not tasted). Overall drinkability is good for a Barleywine, but it lets you know that its a sipper!

track1646, Sep 22, 2010
Photo of neorunner
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

First blind beer from nlmartin in Round #2 of the Blind Beer BIF. 2000 Vintage.

12oz bottle poured into a Samuel Adams' perfect pint glass. Color is opaque dark brown with a tiny oil slick of head. Carbonation is present but hard to pick out. Aroma is amazing. Malt abound and a very strong alcohol aroma. Mellow dark fruit and a bit of cardboard in the aroma (oxidation?). Raisins and nearly no hops that I can pick out. I know Nate mentioned some of these beers were vintage and this smells the part completely. Flavor is mellow chocolate malts and a nice strong alcohol taste. Very similar to a blend of milk and bitter chocolate with a hint of almond or . I'm having to resist inhaling this beer, its great. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, it has a flavor feel that I tend to associate with oak aging of some form.

neorunner, Sep 21, 2010
Photo of bobhits
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
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

bobhits, Sep 18, 2010
Photo of Jwale73
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage served in my Old Stock snifter. Pours a semi-hazy mahogany with a slick of a head that quickly dissipates into broken spots and a thin, bubbly band around the edges. Some light, spots and strands of lacing revealed during the tasting. Nose is sweet - maple syrup, toffee, prunes, figs and a slightly boozy quality on a malty/bready backbone. Taste consistent with nose - wow this is amazing. Sweet and fruity and the alcohol all but disappears; dangerous for an 11.5% brew. The distinctive aromas in the nose really coalesce nicely in the flavor profile. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with a light carbonation and a slightly oily quality to the texture. What an amazing barelywine. The price is a little steep at $8.00 a bottle but what an exceptional treat. I will need to pick up some more of these over time and stagger their openings.

Jwale73, Sep 17, 2010
Photo of augustgarage
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

1999 vintage. Poured from a 275mL bottle into a snifter.

Maroon body, dark and clear, with a sudsy buff collar. Dusky copper/rust highlights glitter when the glass is held to a strong light. Sandy lacing, and thick viscous tears. A swirl brings back a thread-bare blanket of foam.

Armagnac, leather, plums, apricots, barley syrup, and grandma's house all seem to reside in the nose.

Deep caramelization on the palate - layer upon layer of dark rich toasty candied brandied sugar with a hint of molasses and bread crusts. Cinnamon, clove, and maybe nutmeg are suggested with a subtle abundance. The vinuous notes come mainly in the form of a good well aged cognac, with nothing sour at play. Roast malt, carmelized french toast, and a dry barrel note appear in the finish. Delicious.

Slightly oily, medium-light bodied, and gently warming despite the fairly high ABV.

A superb example of the style, suitable for quiet contemplation or as an accompaniment to a cigar (I imagine).

augustgarage, Sep 14, 2010
Photo of axeman9182
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle of the 1999 vintage, glad to find this buried on the shelf at New Beer Distributor, poured into my Duvel tulip.

The beer pours a rich murky brown. A minimal toffee crown forms, maybe a finger or so in height, before dissipating quickly without leaving any lacing behind. I can't fault the beer too much for that though, it is eleven years old after all. The nose is great, toffee and alcohol soaked fruits and a hint of wet cardboard from the inevitable oxidation. The flavor is an exact duplicate, with a slight warming sensation from the alcohol. I've never had a fresh Harvest Ale, but it's beautiful with a decade plus of age on it. The body on this is incredibly rich and full, and the lessened carbonation leads to ultimately a very smooth and velvety mouthfeel. A phenomenal flavor and solid mouthfeel make this vintage gem very drinkable. I'm just cringing now at the thought that I only bought two bottles of this magic elixer

axeman9182, Sep 11, 2010
Photo of khiasmus
4.08/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from a tasting, vintages 1997-2008.

it's odd, really, when you think back on it, at first the very fact that there is a past, and second that you, the same you, existed then, and third, that you now have bits of it stuck in your head, and no one else has those same bits. The random things we remember, you know. Take 1997, for example. It was a nut brown year, much darker than most, but not in a bad way, just more mahogany. Brown and cloudy in the remembering. Those were nights of sherry, molasses, dates and raisins, back in that wet cardboard box. A good year. I think it is my favorite. 2003 was different. it was thinner, more boozy, and a lighthearted golden, a much more serious year and less complex, but certainly little to no cardboard. There were, of course, the old girlfriends that one never thinks about, and then the old friends that one tries never to think about lest they feel guilty for not making contact in so long. 2002 was about when I started brewing, I suppose, there's that dense haze of pure grain sugar mash, definitely the most grainy year, by far. The absolute sweetest was 2004. Orange marmalade and syrup, and a nice amber hue. 1999 was an odd year. So many licorice sticks that year, I dread to think on it. I got into almonds then, or was that 1998? No, 1998 was almonds, Muscat grapes, and anise.
Then there was the millennium. What a strange year! Everyone was concerned about y2k and the end of the world and why we weren't yet living in space and driving flying cars... lots of booze in that one. Lots of it. Lighter and fruity, more white grape than the rest. Then back to the usual of nuts, grains and amaretto in 2001. They all had just a soap-bubble ring of head, except for the 2000, which had ample head that stuck around. The 2006 was the darkest, a nut brown and with a good bit of sediment, murky. 2005 was a cheery gold, but 2007 was the lightest of all of them.
It's sheer madness, as we look back on these years and see the steady march of time in our own lives, and how we have so much yet that we'd always dreamed of accomplishing, yet so little that we originally set out for has been obtained. There is an answer, you know. There is, in fact, a Reason. So different though, looking at all of the differences in yourself and the brew as the years go by, and being able to say "that was a good year." You, and they, had little idea in the moment what each minute would bring to pass years thence, but each action continues to make you into who you will be tomorrow. You have a choice, you know.

I think the 97 was my favorite, despite the oxidization, or perhaps 2002 because of the lovely grain-husk aromas. The 2004 really stood out as one of the best vintages by far. The 2000 was the oddball, and didn't seem really to belong. There are huge variations in flavour and colour year to year, not simply the minor nuances I was expecting. I certainly recommend a tasting of this magnitude if you can possibly set it up. Cheers!

khiasmus, Sep 11, 2010
Photo of BeerAndBourbon
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Popped a 1999 to end a tasting with a few friends the other night. Similar flavors to the 1998 that I popped to celebrate the end on my second year of medical school.

A. Pours a dark amber with a thin tan head that dissipates to a creamy ring.

S. There's so much going on in the nose: caramel, honey, raisins, oxidized sweet malt.

T. The nose comes through in the mouth with the same flavors of raisins, caramel, and honey. All of these flavors sit on top a bed of sweet oxidized malt. As the beer warms slightly, some of the dark fruit flavors start to emerge.

M. Medium to heavy sticky syrupy body with light carbonation so as not to destroy the flavors coating your tongue.

1986 vintage.

A. Pours amber with slightly orange edges with absolutely no head. 4.0

S. Raisin, caramel, and some oxidation. 4.0

T. Similiar to the smell with oxidized cardboard. Maybe slightly past its prime. 4.0

M. Thin - much much thinner than 1998 or 1999. 3.5

D. Good, but not as good as a bit younger vintages. 4.0

D. The only possible complaint is that there is too little carbonation which leads to overwhelming sweetness, but if you expect this going in it's pure bliss. The best I can imagine in a barleywine. A wonderful night cap. I'm glad I have a few more of these stocked away to enjoy over the coming years.

BeerAndBourbon, Sep 08, 2010
Photo of Metalmonk
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage, poured to a snifter.

Having a good bit of age on it, I gave this a harder pour than normal, and still only got a wispy head. The bubbles are bigger than usual, and most disappear while the rest form a thin crown. The liquid looks like mud-spiked caramel-colored water complete with floaters. I don't mind floaters, but overall this isn't very appetizing looking (although I'm not going to be totally unfair to it, given its age).

But my, that aroma...strong suggestions of vanilla, freshly-cut wood, real aged apple cider, and strong spirits, with hints of sprearmint, cherry blossom and toffee. Robust, bold and complex. Enticing. Perfect.

Flavor is a faithful mirror of the prominent aromas: vanilla, wood, apple cider all there...alcohol is merely a warming element. At 11.5% + 5 years, the alcohol avoids any sort of hotness, thankfully. Caramel brings up the back end, and big-time, providing a candy-like bed of controlled sweetness for everything else to mingle upon. Further back are cellar-stored liqueur-soaked fruits (fig, currant, plum, cherry). A little musty, not the longest finish, but pretty much as comforting a barleywine flavor as I've ever experienced. Depth, balance, deliciousness and, quite apparently, top quality ingredients...this rules.

The feel is pretty much perfect; excellent balance of round, buttery silkiness, a little bit gooey, and just a kiss of carbonation to keep things lively. As soon as it hits the lips, I didn't want it to leave. Hangs in the mouth just perfectly, never too thick or thin, never too carbonated or too dead.

I wondered if 5 years was even too young, but I think this has been poured at just the right time. Lovers of exquisite big beers, especially old ales and barleywines, seek it out (if you haven't already).

Metalmonk, Sep 07, 2010
Photo of dasenebler
4.85/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 Vintage.

Pours a clear, rich ruby hue with a tight tan head. A thin layer retains.

The aroma is incredibly malty, with notes of dark fruit and leather. Bit of alcohol, but not very much.

The flavor is astounding. This is such a rich, succulent malt bomb that is also incredibly drinkable and smooth. Almost syrupy, but in the best possible way, that is, with no cloying character. There are fat notes of molasses, caramel, fig and tobacco. Very layered and deep. Not bitter whatsoever, with a lingering woodiness on the palate. The alcohol is beautifully integrated and incredibly mellow. The mouthfeel is weighty and velvety, with low carbonation that cascades over the palate. Absolutely pleasurable, with no overpowering alcohol flavor.

The oldest beer I've ever sampled, and also one of the best. Fantastic.

dasenebler, Sep 01, 2010
Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage from Super Market Liquors in Ft. Collins. $9.50. 275ml bottle into my Odell flute glass.

A: Pours a mellow brown color with a sand colored head about a quarter of an inch thick or so that has receded to a ring of bubbles around the edges and a thin cap in the middle. Surprisingly clear. Lots of amber colored accents towards the edges of the glass. Looks stellar.

S: Caramel malt profile and a very pronounced sweetness, smells almost syrupy, maybe molasses, there are also some over ripe fruit smells, I get cherries, and just a hint of alcohol as well. Overall very complex, and not as ragingly boozey as I have heard this beer can be. Smell is complex and welcoming. Excellent.

T: Wow, this is incredible. The malt profile of this beer is insanely deep. So many layers, the initial caramel and brown sugar, some notes of molasses, I get some notes of oatmeal raisin cookies as well. Has a slightly rum like quality to it as well. The flavors of golden raisins really lingers on the tongue. Absolutely spectacular. The last 11 years have treated this exceptionally, and there is almost no alcohol presence in the flavor. Fantastic beer.

M: Thick with a velvety smooth carbonation, slightly warm alcohol on the way down, and a nice bit of dryness from the alcohol in the mouth.

D: Well, the alcohol note definitely is not there for such a high abv beer, and the flavors are phenomenal. I would have a hard time saying no to a second, or third serving of this. An absolutely phenomenal beer. Highly recommended. I'm glad I have a few more different vintages of this, and I am excited to let them mature past the 11 year mark. Fantastic.

pokesbeerdude, Aug 29, 2010
Photo of StephenRich
4.03/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Last week we looked at the J.W. Lees Harvest 2005 Lagavulin Cask; a richly deep Vintage ale aged in Lagavulin barrels. This past weekend I opened the other bottle of J.W. Lees that I had, and it is even older. A 2001 bottle of their Vintage Harvest Ale. I was definitely excited to see what nine years would do to this beer, especially after trying one that was aged for five.

J.W. Lees brews this vintage each year in December in limited quantities. Some, like the Lagavulin cask, are aged in various oak casks, but the standard Vintages are left to shine own their own. This should be an interesting contrast at the very least.

The small 275ml bottle proclaims 11.5% abv, but as it is bottle conditioned and nine years old, I expect by now it is closer to 13%, or potentially even more. No doubt this beer should have something very unique to offer, and there was only one way to find out.

I brought the 2001 Harvest out of the fridge and let it warm to cellar temperature around 12C (54F); I did not want to mute any flavors or aromas that would manifest in this beer, so slightly warmer is much better in this case. The pour was thick and syrup like showing no signs of carbonation. I had to pour it from a very high distance to coerce any head out of it. Eventually it did lift a short but dense quarter inch head that quickly faded to a slight film on the surface of the deep maroon beer. It was transparent, with a couple bubbles scattered though it, and glowed with dark bronze and gold. This picture shows it much darker than it really was; it definitely had rich amber hues and traces of deep reds and royal purple.

The nose was, well, as we exclaimed when drinking it, "hectic". It was immensely rich and powerful. Deep dark sweet fruity malts poured from the beer emanating raisins, figs, sticky dates, burnt brown sugar, warm alcohol and notes of spice and pepper. It really was hugely aromatic and showed thick complexity and dense flavors.

The taste would prove to be no different. It melts into your palate thickly with all the same flavors sinking deeply into your tongue and cheeks. Rich and chewy caramel and toffee malt caress your tongue as the deep and dark flavors of the fruits heavily swim by your cheeks. Again, raisins, figs, dates and brown sugar are all very prominent. The alcoholic touch of brandy warms in also, as does rich stewed apples and pears.

Touches of spice and pepper add a hint of balance, but this beer is extremely one sided favoring sweet malt over anything else. The mouthfeel was thick and oily, really bringing a syrup like note to the whole experience. It showed no traces of maple, but a syrup like sweetness, almost like dark rich honey coats this entire beer. It shows loads of caramel and toffee on every dimension, and really sinks into your taste buds.

It is definitely now stronger than 11.5%, and it shows it everywhere. I did split this bottle with a friend, so after I had has maybe 100mls of it my palate was pretty tired already. Its just a massive trump of dense flavor with zero hops and zero carbonation to help cool it down. It really put me to work. Both me and my bud agreed that an entire bottle of this would be too much for one man to really enjoy; unless you have an hour or so.

I think the Lagavulin 2005 benefited greatly from its time in the oak. Some woody or smoky dryness would help round out this '01 Vintage Ale, because on its own it is an intense ride with no seatbelts. It is worth the experience if you can find a bottle, but definitely share it with a friend, or three.

StephenRich, Aug 22, 2010
Photo of emmasdad
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage. Thanks Ken for sharing this one at the first BA gathering I attended. Poured from the smallish 9.3 ounce bottle a slightly hazy orange-amber color, with a little bone colored head. Great aromas of caramel, dark fruit and golden raisins. On the palate, more caramel, light brown sugar and a liqueur-like alcohol presence. An excellent beer.

emmasdad, Aug 20, 2010
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,270 ratings.