J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
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Ratings: 1,228 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
3.58/5 rDev -15.8%
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.
12-22-2009 03:10:31 | More by deltatauhobbit
4.1/5 rDev -3.5%
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.
12-21-2009 10:32:11 | More by MPLS
4.72/5 rDev +11.1%
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.
12-21-2009 07:34:27 | More by alovesupreme
4.5/5 rDev +5.9%
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.
12-11-2009 00:36:02 | More by brownbeer
4.3/5 rDev +1.2%
9.3 oz. bottle into Duvel tulip.
$7.99 / ea.
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.
12-07-2009 04:50:11 | More by dpnelson1978
4.33/5 rDev +1.9%
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.
12-03-2009 10:11:34 | More by Mebuzzard
4.63/5 rDev +8.9%
Bottle dated December 1, 2001, opened December 1, 2009.
Pours prune juice brown with a thin, oily head which disappears within minutes.
Nose shows a tremendous burst of toffee followed by port-like aromas (raisins, figs). Sweetness already apparent, plus milk chocolate, cherries, caramel, butterscotch.
Palate is sweet all the way. Big, fruity notes followed by complex, bready finish.
Feel is thick, smooth, creamy all the way until a slightly warming, alcoholic finish.
Overall, incredibly rich an complex, and a good substitute for a nice aged port wine. The sweetness is a bit heavy-handed, but 9.3 oz spread over an hour is close to unbeatable.
12-02-2009 00:19:09 | More by oceanman
4/5 rDev -5.9%
The 2006 bottling poured into a Duvel glass. A glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.
Appearance: The beer as poured is a hazy dark reddish brown with very little head that dissipates quickly leaving behind a tiny ring of foam around the glass. (Any sediment is in the beer.) Sipping initially leaves minimal speckled lacing and lines of tiny bubbles. Later there is hardly anything at all. But given the ABV this is not a surprise.
Smell: The aroma is rich, potent and loaded with malty sweetness. There are some dark fruits present and a strong earthy component mingles with toffee and hints of alcohol.
Taste: The flavor is sweet and liqueur-like from the rich malt. There is some light toffee. There are traces of dark fruits, and there is a component of earthy bitterness hanging out in the background. While its clear that there is alcohol in this one there's no burn, just a bit of sweetness from the alcohol. There is also touch of tobacco flavor that comes in about midway through.
Mouthfeel: The mouth feel is full-bodied and almost oily but the carbonation is virtually non-existent for most of the beer. The finish is medium-long and begins with the sweetness that fades slowly away leaving the earthy character and a touch of bitterness.
Drinkability: The sweetness of this beer is almost but not quite overwhelming. There are times when its almost like drinking syrup. The beer is saved by its complexity and by the earthy bitter character that hangs out in the background. At this ABV the beer is not one to be consumed quickly and it might be best if 2-3 people could share one of these as a digestive after a pleasant dinner. It will be interesting to see what a year or so does to this one and to taste the effects of the beer being aged in different barrels (e.g., Sherry, Calvados, etc.)
12-01-2009 02:27:04 | More by drtth
4.03/5 rDev -5.2%
12 oz bottles provided by bobsy at his great barleywine tasting, there was a 5 yr. vertical going but the ones I got to try were the '99 and the '01.
Both pour a rich amber with about a finger of bone head, pretty good for about 10yrs old!
'99 - Sweet but not too much so, balanced with a light nuttiness and rich toffee flavours. Hints of candied sugar, ginger cookies, faint herbal/grassy hops, light alcohol still in the finish - this one drank really nice.
'01 - Whoa man, this one is way too sweet for me! Same as above but with more emphasis on the sweetness (less balanced), way boozier in the finish, brown sugar dominating, bready. This one just didn't do it for me, even a 12oz bottle of this might be too much!
Lesson of this all: age these for at least 10 yrs! My score reflects the '99 with a slight downgrade on the drinkability for the '01.
11-30-2009 16:52:57 | More by ritzkiss
4.22/5 rDev -0.7%
We did a five year vertical, with a 1998 that Eric brought over, and bottles of 1999 - 2002 that I had brought back from England. I believe that Eric said there is some recipe variation from year to year, which would certainly explain why the flavours were so inconsistent from one bottle to the next. There are a lot of common threads though, and I'll outline them before noting any differences I found in the different years.
Pours a rich orange with a finger of white head that dropped to a film and left a few spots of lace as it did so. As expected with an English barleywine, the aroma is malt driven, with an emphasis on brown sugar, treacle, bread and light alcohol notes. All the vintages had a sweet profile, with brown sugar, sherry and treacle present in each. On the whole, the alcohol was well concealed, though it did provide some warmth going down. The body tends towards the fuller end of the spectrum, and the restrained carbonation is a good match for the style.
98 - Brown sugar and treacle dominate. A bit too sweet and lacking balance.
99 - Again with a marked emphasis on brown sugar, but this time with enough hops to provide balance.
00 - Earthy, and the least sweet of all the years, with a more pronounced hop profile.
01 - Treacle returns as does the sweetness, which now has a bready aspect to it.
02 - Nice brown sugar notes and a good hop balance.
My personal favourite was the 99 - I found it was the most balanced of the quintet, and the more prominent hopping added an extra layer of complexity.
11-30-2009 15:52:01 | More by bobsy
3.55/5 rDev -16.5%
Well I had the honor of doing a special night with a friends and he featured a 10 year vertical from back till 98. he was missing 2 years. 93, 94 if i remeber correctly. Started off with an 2008. Keep in mind he did not age them himself, Bought them in the store aged.
Most of them were oxidizes but some were still pretty good. tasted loads of molases and carmel. Like a milano cookie. Very sweet, but the default with the aging creating a plastic tatse in most. Nice crimson coloring.
I'll grab a fresh one and re score later
11-19-2009 20:33:36 | More by CampusCrew
4.33/5 rDev +1.9%
this beer poured out a darker caramely brown color with very little carbonation and no head to speak of
the noze on this is very rich and smells of figs and rasins strongly and other dried fruits, maybe a hint of dried cherry. there is also an aroma of brown sugar and a bread dough character, a touch of cinnamon and the faintest of woody smells
the taste is of rich toffe and rasin first and foremost followed by astringent tannins that give it a dry feel briefly before it goes down with a warm sweet boozyness
the finish is a stong fulll body that coats the tongue and leaves a great balance of sweet sugars and a drier bitterness along the back of the tongue. i was very interested to find this one and it was a treat to be able to try it. very rich drink but i would like to have some of these that are further down the line to compare.
11-17-2009 15:24:48 | More by Brandt
3.88/5 rDev -8.7%
2002 bottle poured into a New Belgium globe. Most of the yeast sediment was kept in the bottle for the most part.
Appearance: Deep mahogany body turns bright crimson when held to light. Great clarity! A nice column of carbonation can be seen within. Not much head to speak of: just a small, khaki ring.
Smell: Molasses, brown sugar, and other sugary notes. Moist pine, rum, and rust lurk in the background. Very sweet on the whole; smells like candy.
Taste: This tastes like candy, and not in a necessarily good way. The overall flavor - comprised mainly of brown sugar, molasses, and overripe green grapes (much like a dessert wine) - is very sweet and syrupy, with very light toastiness and bitterness coming through on the back end. Alcohol is hidden very well, but it comes at a price.
Mouthfeel: Thick, syrupy, sugary, and a little gritty. Hardly any warmth or dryness for such a high ABV beer. Nice mouth coating. Low bitterness.
Drinkability: The sweetness of this beer is far too high for me to call it drinkable. I suggest splitting a 12oz. bottle amongst two people.
11-11-2009 02:24:42 | More by ThreeWiseMen
4.35/5 rDev +2.4%
Special Beer to celebrate Review #100
1999 Vintage, acquired at Dennis Brothers in Cottage Grove, MN.
Cracking it open, it's weird to think that this beer is 10 years old...
A caramelly alcoholic smell wafts out as it is opened. Pours a nice off white/light tan colored head which slowly recedes to a thin filmy layer. The way the head dissapates is unlike any other beer I've ever seen. Unevely, and in odd patterns and shapes that seem afraid of the liquid below. I can smell this before even putting my nose close to it. A rich smell of dark fruit, (prunes and raisons) is emitted. Wow. Layers of caramel, candied fruit, sweet cherries lingering in the background. Bready/yeasty character is evident as well. Alcohol is masterfully covered up while smelling this directly, which is kind of odd as I smelled it right when it was opened.
All the things going on with this first sip just got me disoriented. Huge chewy body, port-like flavours, and incredible finish. Fruit cake, drizzled with caramel. Cherry, some apple character. It's like a constant barrage of varying degrees of malt flavour attacking my tongue (in the best way possible). Rich, hearty, very sweet--I can see how it covers up the alcohol.
This stuff just sits on your tongue, exuding flavour, refusing to let go. The alcohol is extremely well hidden, and is only there to aid in the balancing of the huge flavors.
As for drinkability, this is Incredibly sweet beer--I'm glad this is only a 9.6 oz bottle, as any more might be hard to stomach.
Those into port that snub their noses at beer--here it is, JW Lee's is about to change your mind....
11-11-2009 01:56:12 | More by darklordlager
4.95/5 rDev +16.5%
this beer is epic. no hot alcohols. fruity esters such as apple and plum.
the taste is very very sweet with a big caramel malt sweetness and low hop bitterness.
incredibly creamy mouthfeel.
this beer is truly epic. go try it now. the alcohol is so deceptive, its ridiculous.
11-08-2009 03:24:45 | More by jasonjlewis
4.72/5 rDev +11.1%
275mL bottle, 1997 vintage, poured into a snifter.
Pours an opaque dark brown with a small creamy off-white head that recedes slowly to a healthy collar and leaves some legs on the sides after each sip.
The aroma is huge. It's got the sweet caramel malts with tons of toffee and dark fruits as well. I get a bit of chocolate as well, especially as it warms and there is a pronounced sherry character in the nose overall. Boozy and powerful nose.
The taste is much of the same and maybe bigger. The underlying caramel malt backbone is still dominant with lots of sweet booze-soaked fruits, raisins and plums especially. Molasses, caramel, chocolate, just tons of flavors on the palate. Tough to exaggerate how wonderful this taste is.
The mouthfeel is medium to full-bodied and very smooth with a perfectly soft carbonation. The alcohol does start to burn a bit, but it's not overly distracting.
I've been sitting on this bottle for a while and was worried it might be headed downhill. As far as I can tell, this one has never been better. Complex, rich, smooth...exceptional beer.
11-07-2009 05:06:15 | More by gford217
4.63/5 rDev +8.9%
2006 Vintage from a 275 ml bottle. That says it all. On to the beer:
No head on the pour. The glow of orange is a nice sight though. But don't base your first thoughts on the look, take in its aroma. The nose is loaded with all sorts of flavors. There is apricot, sherry, vanilla, and oak. And if the aroma isn't for you, taste it! Amazing and full flavored at first impression. And smooth as well. Sweet, sherry, apricots, grapes, butterscotch, cherries, a touch of oak. There is a very light touch of bitterness at the very end, but overall this is very sweet. The alcohol is nowhere is be found despite the listed 11.5% ABV. Thre's very little carbonation in this beer. but it's so smooth, and it's medium-heavy malty feel keeps the beer being sipped on.
I expected some very good things from this beer. Not only did this beer do that, it went beyond very good and become of the most tastiest, thought provoking beers that have crossed my palate. An outstanding example of the barleyewine style, and one that everyone should have the opportunity to taste.
11-05-2009 05:12:40 | More by DoubleJ
3.98/5 rDev -6.4%
Edit: I tried the 1999 vintage, and found it to be much better and likely stored in better conditions. I'm changing the numerical scores to my ranking of the 1999, but leaving the original review in.
I found this bottle at a store in a cool area, so I figured it could have been kept well. The bottle was split with others.
The pour had a rich, reddish brown color. The head had a decent white formation, but you could tell the 10 years and 11.5% affected it.
The aroma had a small amount of oxidation present. There was a nice, rich, alcoholic, and dark dried fruit aroma to it. Some spice came through as well, reminding me of poptori.
The flavor of this vintage was a lot better than the 2000 vintage. I'm guessing this had to do with storing conditions, because with only a year difference, the beer tasted entirley different. Deep, nutty butterscotch flavor. It's impressive how this strong beer has the nutty aspect to it. Some toffee is also there. Slight, rusty oxidation flavor. The beer is sweet, mouth coating, and very rich. Alcohol is slightly present.
Mouthfeel is thick, syrupy, and with more carbonation than I would think. The beer is assaulting on the palate, a sure night cap beer.
This vintage was much easier drinking because of the improved flavor. Still a sipper, and still a very aggressive beer.
Bought at the store, probably not stored in optimal cellaring conditions but also not bad conditions. Split the 10 oz bottle with a friend.
Pours amber and clear in a white wine glass with some nice ruby highlights. Head is minimal, it just forms a thin lacing around the perimeter of the glass. 4
Aroma is very complex, I've never had a beer aged even close to this long so I was just getting used to the characteristics. It has a strong, liqueur type or aroma but without much burning on the nose. Aromas of dark fruits, figs, prunes and currants. 4
Taste is also of dark fruits, figs, prunes, raisins are all definitley detectable. Burning alcohol flavor with a bit of vinegar. Also a hint of honey. Bitterness is there but taking on a syrupy sweetness to go with it, very dulled down from age but interesting. Some sips are pleasant, some are not, but they are all interesting, deep, and filled with character. 3.5
Mouthfeel is thick, sugary, syrupy, and a little hard to choke down after a while. Carbonation is very low, fits good with warmer serving temp. 3.5
Drinkability is limited to small sips. I'm glad I split this bottle because I don't know if I could finish the whole thing myself. As a matter of fact, I fell asleep with maybe an ounce left in my glass. This beer did a good job of knocking me out for a good night sleep, and I remember thinking it might pair well with ice cream, or a strong dessert. It's kind of tough on its own. I look forward to trying some different vintages of this beer. I could see myself liking this one a lot more in the right time and place with added experience of aged barleywines. 2
10-29-2009 22:07:27 | More by jeffthecheff
4.18/5 rDev -1.6%
Thanks to my buddy Dyan for sending me this vintage beer. Decided to share this one at La Bella this past Tuesday night. This is a 1999 Vintage.
Pours a dark copper color with, surprisingly, nearly an inch of head with fairly good retention. The head falls down to a ring which lasts for quite some time. Very lively beer for being a 10 year old barleywine.
Very vinous at first with notes of grapes, alcohol, malt, raisins, dates, dark dried cherries, and toast. As it opens up in the glass it gets fruitier and has hints of caramelized yams, brown sugar, sweet cherries, and what reminds me of toasted bread topped with honey. There's also some chocolate coming through as the beers warms up. Intoxicating aroma.
Tastes of toasted malts upfront, toffee and a little earthy chocolate in the middle, and an almond finish. Has a sweet wort flavor. Hints of maple syrup and toffee candy. I like it quite a bit but the 98' vintage I had earlier this year was just slightly better in the taste so I'm thinking this vintage could still develop more. Hardly any carbonation on the palate but it's perfect for this beer. A little syrupy and thick, coating on the tongue. Great sipping beer for a cold day.
10-22-2009 21:00:09 | More by seaoflament
3.7/5 rDev -12.9%
Pours a dark amber, cloudy with little head, good for a barleywine. Smell is very yeasty and sweet, very much like apple cider. Taste is quite sweet and odd, very raisiny as you would expect to find in an eisbock or such. Also fruity and estery. Mouth is medium-bodied with low to medium carb. Fairly straight forward with that strong sweetness having a presence in the feel. The flavor is honestly a bit off-putting (maybe the bottle I had was a bit off after its aging?) Very swwet and malty to an unbalanced extent. That said, its certainly not bad, but a bit syrupy.
10-21-2009 04:37:31 | More by BirdFlu
3.95/5 rDev -7.1%
A- Dark amber brown. Small thin layer of off white bubbly head that is mostly around the ring of the glass.
S- Whoa, this smells fantastic. Like a fine cigar. Barreled wood, sweet brown sugar, caramel and the strong odor of the 11.5%.
T- Very sweet like honey. Strong ABV presence bringing to to a bourbon-like experience. Strong malt backbone with a hint of tartness.This would probably be consumed better with a paired meal. This is a sipper for sure.
M- Probably the thickest beer I've ever had. Goes down easy and doesn't leave much on the palate.
D- Not the easiest to drink. The thickness and sweetness weakens its character.
10-20-2009 01:49:26 | More by Yesac
3.98/5 rDev -6.4%
I haven't had too many English barleywines before. This one caught my eye at my favorite store and thought I'd give it a go. I was a little apprehensive from experiences of ales with a high alcohol content when they are young. This one is aged so I hoped this would be flavorful and not overbearing.
This is the 1999 vintage.
A: Pours a dark reddish brown with not much head. What head there was reduced to a thin layer. It's clear with thin carbonation trails.
S: Initially I get a molasses sweetness. There's a fruitiness and spiciness in there as well.
T: Sweet malts, a little molasses... If this was young I could see where this might be a little strong. With it being aged the flavors feel matured and mellowed although it is still robust.
M: Heavy almost syrupy. Carbonation is balanced. A surprising slight warming affect from the alcohol with, so far, hasn't really been present. One would thing with 11.5% ABV it would come though more but it hasn't.
D: This is a wonderful experience - eye opening and educational. Over all this is a good beer ranging a little on the sweeter side of things. I would drink only one at a session and have it next to last. This one is worth it.
10-18-2009 03:29:45 | More by BobbyBeerman
4.43/5 rDev +4.2%
This is the vintage 2006 edition.. a 9.3 oz bottle poured into chalice.
This is a dark thick reddish brown color. Some crumbles of sediment lie at the bottom.
The smell is intense and powerful: vinegar, cider, sour apples, pears, sweet caramel, and loads of alcohol.
Taste is not what I expected at all.. this is very sweet and subtle. A mixture of sweet fruits, honey, and something darker (cocoa?) it hits quickly and fades fairly fast. Carbonation is virtually nonexistent here.. alcohol is masked amazingly well, other than the smell it is barely there.
This is one of the more unique beers I've tried. Very liqueur-like: subtle, mellow and for enjoying slowly.
10-10-2009 01:46:20 | More by webmanspidey
4.28/5 rDev +0.7%
taste- roasted malt, licorice, molasses, prunes, coffee and a hint of eucalyptus in the finish
clarity- clear with little to no sediment at the end of the pour
smell- brown sugar, syrup, oak, toffee, spice
body- light-medium weight, syrupy on the palate, quiet, slow finish
appearance- dark, flat, no lace, oily
overall impression- it still blows me away that some beers hold up after 21 years! granted, the experience is totally different than a fresh beer but there is a group of us loyals that treasure the liqueur-like qualities of the likes of lees and hardy's after a deep nights sleep.
notes- this review is for a 1988 vintage
serving temp.- 52.9 degrees
song- "harvest moon"
10-09-2009 03:55:19 | More by NorCalYeti
4.5/5 rDev +5.9%
Finally a close competitor for the mighty Aventinus Eisbock albeit different in style. I like the complex malt profile with lots of fruity and mild bitter notes.
The brew is syroupy but not cloying and surprisingly refreshing on the palate. The aftertaste of alcohol is there but not penetrant and the drinkability is very high for such a strong brew.
10-06-2009 21:58:02 | More by DerBayer
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,228 ratings.