Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

830 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 830
Hads: 1,418
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.35%
Wants: 260
Gots: 205 | FT: 15
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

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 (22) | 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: 830 | Hads: 1,418
Photo of Afterburner
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Note: This was a 1998 vintage.

Appearance: Hazy reddish brown, with a moderate beige head that retired slowly.

Smell: The predominant note here was almost teriyaki in its bouquet. When I worked in the restaurant biz, a common "oriental" marinade was created by mixing soy sauce and pineapple. This beer has that aroma. In addition, there's a ton of malt, a hint of molasses, and a faint alcohol tinge.

Taste: Forceful malt character in the early stages, followed by maple syrup, hints of green apple, and more malt. Finish is strongly flavored of toffee. There's also a faint character at the end that reminds me of nothing so much as a gooey cinnamon roll with lots of butter. It's not a strong flavor, but it's there.

Mouthfeel: My personal preference for beers of this nature is for a thick, viscous mouthfeel with light, small-bead carbonation so as not to combat the flavor. This brew has that in spades.

Drinkability: I found this to be an exceptionally flavorful beer, easy to drink, and I certainly would have enjoyed another.

 1,049 characters

Photo of GuinnessSmurf
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This is a 2000 Vintage harvest ale reviewed April of 2004.

When I cracked open the cap, an animated and scented gas crept out of the bottle like an extinguished candle. It was like when the cartoon aroma turns into a finger and becons you to come closer.

I poured it into my glass. So excited. It was a cloudy brown/orange color. The beer had that look of many beers before they settle in the glass - that kind of cloudiness. But it never cleared up. It stayed full of anticipation for the whole drink.

The smell was very interesting. It had elements of apples, sharp/strong barley, and a very sweet hops smell. There was only hints of alcohol in the aroma.

The taste begins with a sweet, almost floral flavor. There are some fruits in the opening flavor too - as mentioned, apple, pear, and perhaps some white grape. The taste quickly turns to a bready flavor - that yeasty taste that still has some strange sweetness to it. It then evolves into a semi-bitter finish that carries with it a mild alcohol aftertaste.

The body was so thick and full - it was truly heavenly to feel this beer in your mouth. I couldn't possibly describe or critique it - but I need to mention that it was pure passion....seriously.

 1,226 characters

Photo of Tballz420
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1999 reviewed april 2004

This is a murky brown colored brew, small tan head on top. Scent is woody, alcoholic, and malty. The taste is really sweet up front, and has some raison/plum tones, alcohol is felt but tastewise it is blended well. Syrupy feel, sticks all the way down. Hops are there but the malts keep them from making a big scene. Excellent brew.

 360 characters

Photo of vladtheimpaler
4.48/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2002 bottle. Pours an awesome crystal clear orange with a nice orangish white head. Aroma is a mix of alcohol and maple-raisin. Flavor is similar, with a dominant maple-alcohol warming flavor, with hints of raisin. Goes great with Irish soda bread. Sweetness of maple syrup lingers on the palate. Delicious!.

 308 characters

Photo of shippos
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1997 vinatge, 275ml bottle, sampled 12-04-2003

poured with a dark ruby amber color with a thick dense tannish head that kept producing even to the last drop. chocolaty sugary aroma with wood vanilla molasses and brown sugar showing through. has a rich mocha chocolate taste with an excellent thick but not not syrupy mouthfeel. for 11.5% this is amazingly hidden and just enough hops to give a little balance to the huge amount of malt but restrained enough to let the malt be the dominant flavor in this beer.

this is an amazing beer, the past 6 years have done this beer wonder. you just can't get any perfect than this. 5.0

1998 vintage, sampled on 04-11-2004

has a more pronounced vinous sour wine-like aroma that completely envelops the malt aromas. huge sugary sweet taste, brown sugar chocolate...chewy with an warmth of alcohol in the finish. 4.4

 867 characters

Photo of yankeeheel
4.82/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage

Pours a dark garnet with a small, yet very active, dark eggshell colored head. Head settles out in to a H shaped foam line in the middle of the tulip glass. Lots of little volcanic carbonation bubbles ebb to the surface. Bits of uncaught yeast slither around.

Smells quite strong. Quite sugary with a lethal dose of alcohol vapor hiding behind it. Very intriguing.

Leathery flavors are the first sensation that comes to mind. However, this is quickly replaced by a sweet rush of brown sugar malt. Sweet gives way to fruit. Apple, plum, fig, and butterscotch show up, then a strong vanilla presence. The flavors just drift away(or is it me drifting)only to have the void filled with a gentle glowing warmth. Fucking brilliant.

Mouthfeel is quite syrupy, which I normally don't go for, but here it works. This brew fits like old blue jeans. Comfortable.

I could drink a lot of this. I could at least try. I can't imagine letting this age too much longer. I'd be afraid of missing some of the goodness that the malt decompensation would bring. I have an 02 that I'll let ride until 06.

 1,111 characters

Photo of IrishRedRock
4.26/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

1988 vintage.

It keeps going through my mind...I'm drinking sixteen year old beer. My oldest beer sampled to date, wow. Loads of very tiny sediment floating in the brew, ruby/amber/mahogany colored with absolutely no head or anything resembling carbonation. Aroma is exquisite...notes of vanilla, port wine, sherry, brown sugar, cherries, and alcohol. Wow, complexity in the nose for sure. Flavor is very sweet the whole way through. Hops are not much of a factor at this point, but it retains a nice, rich maltiness. Candy-like sweetness and warming alcohol take over the aftertaste. Chunks of sediment remaining in the bottle are HUGE. This bottle may be past its prime, but its quite delicious right now. Very impressive. I feel as though I am not worthy?

 761 characters

Photo of ElGuapo
4.34/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1988 vintage.

A very chunky pour of deep brown amber with a tiny little bit of head on top. The floaties are large in quantity and size, but that doesn't bother me. The aroma is big, sweet, and malty. Rich aromas of dark fruits hit the air as well as touches of alcohol.

It is very smooth, and the carbonation is almost not there at all. I usually like atleast a little bit of bubbles, but this one didn't need them at all. The thick beer must have had plenty of time to mature. It still had loads of flavor. Sweet malts, dark fruit, hints of caramel. There were also mild spicy flavors, and little bits of alcohol. It was complex and heavy, yet very drinkable. This is a treat, and I sure can not wait to try the other vintages I have sitting around.
Thanks to IrishRedRock for this oldie but goodie!

 810 characters

Photo of sbattert
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a 275 ml. 2002 limited edition bottle into a wine glass. The label is dated "1st December 2002". A small tan head disappears revealing a golden dark amber elixor. Smells of honey and barley invite a mouthwatering palate. Tastes of sweet honey, molasses, and malt with a buttery mouthfeel. Early on, there is quite a bit of carbonation that blossoms around the tongue nicely. This carbonation seems to fall off about halfway through.

This is a fine english barleywine that one should savor. It is perfect if you are in the mood for sweet honey. It is a close second to tom hardy's which seems to balance the sweetness with a little more alcohol flavor.

 661 characters

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.

 661 characters

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...

 818 characters

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!

 603 characters

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.

 541 characters

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.

 696 characters

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.

 817 characters

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.

 956 characters

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!!

 638 characters

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.

 503 characters

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.

 477 characters

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.

 690 characters

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.

 508 characters

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.

 578 characters

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.

 343 characters

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.

 1,264 characters

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.

 277 characters

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 830 ratings.