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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

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821 Reviews

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Reviews: 821
Hads: 1,389
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.12%
Wants: 251
Gots: 200 | FT: 15
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.
View: Beers (21) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Reviews: 821 | Hads: 1,389
Photo of Rastacouere
4.24/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

99 vintage in march 2004 Clear deep copper with a generous diminishing off-white head. Aroma is deeply malty, complex and sweet. Honey interplays with smoked maple, plain barley and light golding hops. Definitely have a balance bending to the sweet side: big molasses and caramel flirts brown chocolate and vanilla flavours, like a french pancake with a light smoked note and a slight flower character. Syrupy medium-full palate with a nice carbonation. Tons of maple syrup, rather cloying creamy clover honey, herbal, buttery, grassy. Basically a werthers original palate with tons of little complexities. Very interesting and rich classic english barley wine.

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Photo of PopeJonPaul
2.81/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Normally I love barleywines, but this stuff rubbed me the wrong way. Cloudy red-brown and syrupy with no head to speak of, even on tap. Looked good in the glass but smelled incredibly sweet (Danger Will Robinson!) Powerfully sweet taste, with a strong heavy malt, brown sugar and tootsie-roll flavor. It's one thing to make a good sweet barleywine, but this stuff tasted like pancake syrup gone over to the dark side. And you'll keep tasting it ten minutes later. The finish was almost cloying, and beware if you're on a date: CheeseWheel (who used to work in a hospital) says it makes your breath "smell like decomposing flesh."

This was on tap though, I will have to give the bottle a shot just because all the positive reviews here are (surely aged) bottles, and I'll bet it gets better with age. We shall see...

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Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.13/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2001 Vintage.

Tan head sits atop a cloudy, coppery amber beer. Plenty of suspended particulate matter.
Aroma is vinous and shows too much alcohol. Tad earthy. Rich, sweet malt.

Taste shows a rich, very sweet malt backbone. Vinous and sour. Syrupy sweetness lingers on the palate for some time after the finish.

Full body. Somewhat creamy and sticky mouthfeel.

This is one of those beers I really liked certain characteristics, but really disliked others. Not sure what to make of the beer as a whole, but I won't be in a hurry to give it another try. Big thanks to Blatzman for the bottle!

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Photo of Sixpack595
2.5/5  rDev -41.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

2001 Edition

Slightly hazy brown with suspended chunks of sediment. Nearly no head. Slightly vinous, slightly sour aroma. Diacetyl and sweet malts dominate both aroma and taste. Big, complex beer...but it still tastes like crap. Honey, licorice, molasses and raw sugar make this a sickly sweet brew that ends with a slightly sour, bitter finish that in no way cuts the cloying, syrupy aspect. I have a couple other vintages from the mid 90s that I will try after I let them mellow for a while longer. I sure hope they get better with age.

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Photo of Crosling
4.54/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a murky dark discolored brown rotting apple. The color did not appeal to me. The head was bubbly and quickly diminishing, eventually dying and disappearing.

Rich and powerful aroma of grapes, brandy, caramel and sweet raisins. Wonderful bouquet.

Nice first sip. Figs, raisins and plums first, then, the alcohols, oak and caramel come about, followed by a momentary lapse, then a huge burst of brandy-like sweetness. Very flavorful. A palate soaker.

Great stuff.

It is growing on me a little.

The mouthfeel is full and warming, in fact, this beer is a huge belly warmer. I was planning on having the DFH Olde School Barley Wine after this but the 275 mL seems about perfect.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

The 1999 vintage ale, appearance: Ruby tone with a semi hazy coat on, cream head forms rather thin head leaves behind even layers of lacing nice. Aroma: Rich sugary sweetness with nutty toasted caramel malt character, extremely complex layer of hops East Kent Goldings according to the label very piney in nature. Taste: Sugary complex layers of malt and bitter hop finish seems very smooth for 11.5 abv but wow what a barleywine could be the most interesting one to cross my palate yet. Mouthfeel: Full bodied brew syrupy like texture nice and sticky wow even reserved carbonation butterscotch like. Drinkability: A special occasion once in awhile experience not a beer I would buy a case of but it's so damn tasty the one thing is the sugar sweetness can be a bit overbearing. All in all it's incredible I am wowed.

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Photo of Jon
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask-condtioned from a former Port wine cask. 2002 vintage.

Pours a brownish-copper color that yields no head and shows no hopes of carbonation. Not to worry, however.

Incredibly complex nose -- the port has shown its influence. Rum, vanilla, caramel, toffee, port wine, alcohol and nutty aromas all come through, creating a brilliant effect. The oak aging certainly did a number for this batch. Simply phenomenal.

Rich, complex, and profound flavors. More caramel, vanilla, nuts, rum, port, and definite hints of oak and alcohol are all there. This is one deep barleywine on its own, and the introduction of port and oak influence... wow.

Viscous, minorly syrupy mouthfeel. Super smooth and thick. Mouth-coating.

Drinks exceptionally well for what it is. Very warming. The aromatic and flavorful nuances kept me coming back for more, scratching my head along the way. Is this stuff for real? It simply must be experienced in this rare form.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.85/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 vintage, served in a 275 mL bottle, into a goblet. The color is a dark amber-brown, with a wispy beige head. The smell is a nice porty malt/alcohol. The taste is very flowery malt sweet, with a good mellow hop in the taste and a slightly bitter finish. Mouthfeel is syrupy thick. As for drinkability, if I could find em and afford em, I'd drink these till I fell flat on my face.

Thank you to mydeadguy for the beer for my 500th Karma Point. A simply fantastic barleywine, easily one of the world's best, smooth like a port wine yet with a nice but not harsh alcohol and hop kick to it. Definitely one I'd look for in the future!!

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2000 consumed 2004. A vvery marvelous brew with an incredible aroma that is very fruity and very full. The primary scent that I noticed was a cross between coconut and prunes with coconut winning the battle. The flavor is truly fruit with big dark fruit predominating, primarily prune flavors.

The eye is filled with a nice ruby to garnet look and topped with a very nice bit of foam that laces with sticky clumps. heavy, cloying feel, and the drinkability is interrupted by this and the ABV.

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Photo of ark57
4.42/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1989 Vintage sampled in 2004 - The color is dark orange to brown. The oily body gives rise to tastes of vanilla, wood accents, and citrus notes. This beer is very complex and mellow. It is earthy and slight minty with port/madiera oxidation. The body is lean and smooth, yet it still has some carbonation. Best drank from a snifter.

Just sampled the 1986 Vintage and it was amazing. It was pretty much as expected, but I was surprised that it had quite a bit of carbonation.

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Photo of Zorro
4.82/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Year 2000 Version here.

Pours a deep ruby brown with more carbonation than expected.

Truly powerfully smelling beer! BIG dark fruits and Tutty-fruity smell, and big malt smell. Almost like being punched in the nose by it and it stealing your lunch money! You could really spend an entire day just sniffing this beer.

TASTES LIKE A TOP NOTCH PORT WINE. This is like a $40 bottle of old port wine with a bit of carbonation. Also means this is top notch for any recipe calling for Port or Marsalla wine. Strong nutty and floral tastes, yet not too sweet.

Mouthfeel is big, but you NEVER chug this, to good for that!

Very drinkable, but sip it, you will want to taste every drop.

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Photo of necoadam
4.01/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

On my 20th review, I decided to review the J.W. Lees Harvest Vintage Ale.

This was a 1997 Vintage ale

This brew poured out almost like motor oil. Nice chesnut/reddish color with very little carbonation.

Smell consists of caramel and hints of brown sugar come into mind.

Taste was huge. Big thick body and mouthfeel on this bad boy. Big taste on caramel, figs, plums, Finishes with some toffee. Call me crazy but the finish almost tastes like drinking tea. Mouthfeel is nice and smooth. Love it.

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Photo of CharlesRiver
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Harvest Ale 1997.

I have been dieing to try this beer as I have one each from '97-'00. This beer is dark reddish brown in color with almost no head at all. I actually wouldn't expect one from a beer that is six years old. The smell is port like with tons of malt and cherry notes coming through. The taste is thick and malty! Kind of reminds me of Benolence form CBC but a bit thicker. I would never expect a six year old brew to hold up this well. Anise, pepper, cherries and raisins all come through.

What a great sipper. I can't wait to try the other vintages as well.

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Photo of HappyHourHero
3.97/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage: 1997

Potent, sweet, malty caramel and lightly alcoholic aroma. Dark burgundy colored beer. Tan head composed of fine bubbles that fades to a thin film. Hints of toffee, chocolate, and burnt malt in the flavor. Slick sweet aftertaste that is a bit overpowering. A strong, flavorful beer that is best sipped on a cool winter evening.

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Photo of GreatPondBrewer
4.49/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1988

Poured a leathery color with tints of chestnut. There was plenty of floaties despite a careful pour which I suppose made up for the total lack of head. There was seriously zero carbonation in this beer, but no mind I am not the biggest fan of carbonation. The smell was musty licorice, oak and this other funky musty smell I usually get with a lambic. the taste was super dry with vinous flavors rounded out with more of the licorice and a smooth vanilla finish. The alcohol was not very apparent as it had mellowed considerably along with the rest of the flavors in the beer. The mouthfeel of this brew was perfect for the purpose. I could sip tow or three of these without my pallete being worse for the wear.

I think I have to take minute to talk about this beer. I have never tried a beer that was this old. It was certainly a different experience. I am not exactly sure how to rate this beer so I will do my best. However, that being said I would strongly recomend trying experiments such as this. I feel that this is the english equivalent to Lambics in an esoteric nature. But where Lambics should be drank amidst a good conversation at a dark bar, this beer should be drank from a snifter in contemplative solitude on a cold winters eve.

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Photo of aracauna
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This is a great, deep amber colored body, althoug there's little to no head, it's still a beautiful beer. The aroma is mainly walnuts and honey. The flavor is just a little too sweet. This is very mead-like. A little syrupy. It would be best as an after-dinner sipper, I think.

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Photo of yen157
4.42/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1988: Bottle was from a case we just got in to our store. Dust was caked on nice and thick, and as I was opening it I realized the cap was rusted pretty good. The rust was slightly visible from beneath the foil, but I didn’t realize the extent. No worries…

Brownish-red, slightest ever wisp around the glass. Smells of alcohol, rum, and butterscotch candy. Actually, it kinda smells like a good, British barley wine. Go figure. Vinous up front with some amontillado sherry qualities, followed by dark brown sugar mixed with butter. The malt is so processed by the yeast over 15 years, the sweetness reminds me of a very dilute saccharin solution. Don’t get me wrong, the great malty goodness is still there, but just not in the same form as it would be in a younger bottle. It closes with a refined hop snap that lingers long into the finish playing hide and seek with that wonderful malt. The oxidation makes itself known after the malt finally fades away. Carbonation starts out as very, very light which fades away to nothing about five minutes into the glass. Body is smooth through and through and less cordial-like than very young examples.

This a very complex beer. I didn’t even scratch the surface. I didn’t give the malt presence enough adulation, nor did I address the gullet warming abilities of this brew. Hell, it can’t be a surprise considering the alcohol content! Overall, great beer, but past it’s prime. I’m curious to give my ‘86 a try.

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Photo of nomad
4.85/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1988 vintage

Blowing the dust off of the little nip bottle, this beer poured flat but a lack of carbonation is expected after 15 years of aging. Most surprising was its very dark brown color, much darker than any other vintage I've encountered, especially in its thick body shading toward translucent.

Smelled of a sherry or port profile, impossibly lean but impenetrably complex. Had big notes of butterscotch, dark honey, rum, and each truly so. These are the most recognizable out of the stealthy and heady mix; tough to paint the picture of its scent in more than large strokes. Enough to say that it is quite nice, maybe muddled, and lacking the dizzying pungency of younger vintages.

The taste is just as complex and lean, immediately giving off flavors of buttery rum and hops that have turned into alchol infused floral fruits with aged bitterness. Has a smooth and caramelized sweetness with a buttery touch with opening, and distinct from the rum notes. Like younger bottles, this beer is still malty first then hop cleansing in the finish, though most impressive is the dark alcoholic roastiness that becomes almost mocha-like. Again, so complex, thick, but sleek that its hard to be exacting - instead you get a supreme drinking experience.

A slick, thick, and smooth mouthfeel like none other, after aging for 15 years this is a heavenly syrup. The heights of aged beer, standing up to any liqueur, this is the beer I use to wow my friends that are uninitiated to beer. I would not enjoy vintages older than this, and I never venture younger than 4-year old bottles - maybe 7 to 11 years is the peak.

A comforting beer every time out, so my scores reflect other vintages as well as the particular one reviewed. Thanks to JimD for the assist on the bottle of 1988.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.52/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Reserve-Pours a beautiful copper brown color.No head or carbonation to speak of.Fruity,vinuous aroma.Big upfront malt flavor.Residual sweetness.Treacle like-toffee,caramel,coffeeish notes.A big,big beer.Wonderful mouthfeel.Very "chewy"-a splash would be good over vanilla ice cream.Silky smooth-11.5%?Where?A great beer with a great drinkability.Definately a sipper but you could very easily sip more then one.Would like to try an older vintage.

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Photo of genaro
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A review of the Vintage Harvest Ale 2000. This is a great beer to wind down with on a cold winter night. It has a nice, sweet malty aroma with traces of alcohol and fruit. This cloudy amber/copper beer is capped with a good sustaining head. It has a doughy mouthfeel and I found the taste to be brandy-like with caramel, figs, and oak. The lace is good and it finishes with a slight bittersweet taste. It is a bit pricey, but well worth it. It's potency became apparent as I wrote my original notes.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.87/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage, 12 ounce bottle, purchased at Bierkraft in NYC for $6 or so. A good purchase for sure! This classic brew poured out a nice dark reddish colour with plenty of inherent carbonation. The aromas were all across the board, and very Hardy's like at times. The aromas consisted of dark fruits, spicy alcohol, deep, deep roasted malts, and very freshly cut, bitter, herbal, grassy, sappy, piney, hops. Over the years the hops have been cut down to size and the malt really dominates in this brews taste, but that is OK to me, this is a classic brew, that 6 years of aging has totally rounded into a new dimension of complexity and balance. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, but i'll knock a point off for the lack of liveliness. The drinkability is only marred by the super strong ABV. A classic!

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Photo of DagFishHead
4.84/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 release
Appearance: Clear but deep ruby-mahogany body. Decent, fizzy tan colored head that fades to a very thin but unbroken cap.
Smell: Sherry, oaky, port-wine, fusel alcohol, carmelized malt sugars, dark/ripe fruits. Stunningly complex.
Taste: Stunningly delicious... Molasses, sweet toffee malt, dark cherries, raisins to start, Sherry/port vinous character at the top. Dries with hop bitterness that allows a figgy/prune fruit aftertaste to linger. So big, but so balanced and level controlled.
Mouthfeel: Viscous, knife-and-fork chewy yet does not over-saturate the taste buds, gentle carbonation and warm/numbing alcohol glow. Incredibly smooth and velvety
Drinkability: For me, this will be a barleywine style standard. Too pricey for extended drinking, but worth every penny. Will seek this out every Xmas... and thus begins my true appreciation for aged ales.

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Photo of filabrazilia
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage

This beer pours a dark auburn with a creamy beige head. The lace clings to the glass despite the loss of the head.

Maple, toffee and chocolate dance in the air above the beer and create an anticipation that can't wait to be quenced.

Taste - Wow! Where to start? Smooth, mellow and oh so flavorful. The aromas are more subtle in the taste but no less wonderful. Where is the alcohol? It is so well concealed that you would have no idea it's 11.5%. There is no hop flavor but a nice dry finish.

Mouthfeel - It is creamy like liquid cake. This beer is like a warm blanket on a cold and dreary night. My mouth is swimming in comfort.

This beer has a presence that dominates your senses and leaves you totally satisfied. All beers should be this good. At $6.00 a bottle, this is not your everyday beer but it is worth drinking on occasion. I do have the 2002 vintage waiting--should I open it now or save it for later?

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Photo of Hagbard
3.8/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Vintage: 1997
Serving type: Bottle

The bottle suggested drinking this by the end of 2002...I got to it before the end of 2003 and I don't think it suffered. I received some very good news today so decided it would be a great time to crack it open and also to make my first review for BA (so bear with me!).

This beer poured a deep brown, which was very pleasing to the eye. There was no head to speak of and no lacing...I blame the glassware I chose. Perhaps it was a little dirty or had some soap residue. The beer captured the ambient light very nicely and created a wonderful image that would have beeen even more pleasing with a 3 finger head.

The smell was malt, malt, malt, malt, and a little bit of must. I think I detect some molasses, but I may just be guessing!

The taste is what gets you! So sweet! Almost candy-like. The malt jumps out and grabs you and takes you prisoner. I haven't developed into a hop-head yet, but even I was looking for a little hop flavor to balance the sweetness. Perhaps if I drank this prior to '02 as suggested, the hops would still be there? I definitely taste a bit of molasses. Towards the finish, I pick up definite traces of butter.

I gave this a 3 for drinkability, because at 11.5% ABV it is definitely a sippin beer. Although, they were able to hide the alcohol quite well behind the sweetness, more than 1 of these in a sitting would be too much.

A great beer. One I'll definitely on the lookout for other vintages.

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Photo of Admiraldinty
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow, this is a huge beer. Very port-like. Pours a dark brown with an ample tan head. Aroma is oh so sweet and malty. Also raisins, molasses, and buttery toffee. Taste is incredibly sweet and smooth. Caramel, toffee, raisins, some coffee. Ends with a touch of bitterness and a bit of grain. Thank God for it because otherwise this would be the sweetest thing I've ever tasted. Gives you a nice warm, toasty feeling as well. Perfect for a winter's night.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 821 ratings.