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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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1,228 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,228
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 211
Gots: 176 | 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: 1,228 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of GilGarp


4.72/5  rDev +11.1%

2000 vintage. Easily the oldest beer I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

275mL brown bottle with golden-yellow label and black cap.

Served cool into a Belgian globe, Vintage Harvest Ale has a deep redish brown color with good clarity when held to the light. The head is creamy and dense but pretty short-lived.

Aroma is sweet and pungent. It's so full of greatness here - all sort of dark and dried fruits - raisins, plums, prunes, figs, cherries, and so on. The alcohol is evident here too but it's pleasant like a port wine.

Flavor is equally amazing and really strengthens the port similarities. Strong in the dark fruits again, especially cherries and figs. There is a hint of toasted malts and some gentle bitterness but any bit of sharpness has been rounded off over the past 10+ years. Raisins, caramel, chocolate... the depth of flavor is amazing.

Mouthfeel is medium-full in body with soft carbonation that just keeps it above being flat.

What a beer. This isn't what I was prepared for but I'm so glad I finally got to try it. Just fantastic from start to finish.

03-11-2010 01:06:53 | More by GilGarp
Photo of Huhzubendah

District of Columbia

4.35/5  rDev +2.4%

Vintage 2000.

A: The beer pours a reddish brown with a nice head and lingering lace. It appears to be going strong after ten years.

S: Sweet malt, raisins, alcohol, buttery toffee

T: A splendid example of English Barleywine. This beer is still sweet, but ten years has mellowed this beer out quite nicely. There is a buttery, caramel sweetness that could become cloying, but for now it's delicious. There is definitely an alcohol presence that I'm guessing will not go away regardless of how long the beer is aged.

M: Low carbonation, sweet, sticky, alcohol finish. Pleasant lingering aftertaste of caramels, dark fruit, toffee.

D: A small serving is plenty for me. If I'm in the mood for an English Barleywine, this is the first beer that comes to mind.

03-08-2010 00:29:33 | More by Huhzubendah
Photo of 05Harley

New Hampshire

3.95/5  rDev -7.1%

Brewed in 2005

Purchased @ Julio's liqours, Mass

Price - $7.49

Appearance: Pours headless with a dark orange/copper hue. A thin white ring appears on the edge of the glass and remains throughout the experience. Sediment visible both in suspension as well as on the bottom of the glass.

Smell: Heavy sweetness. Candy sugar and caramel come to mind. A hint of alcohol in the backround.

Taste: A strong sweetness hits first followed by a mild warming sensation. Flavors of brown sugar toffee and molasses. Alcohol is well hidden for 11.5%.

Mouthfeel: Quite viscous with no carbonation what's so ever.

Drinkability: A little on the sweet side for my taste. A bottle split amongst friends is perfect.

03-06-2010 21:36:58 | More by 05Harley
Photo of jacobseyb


4.45/5  rDev +4.7%

2001 Vintage

Poured cloudy brown with ruby hints. Virtually no head. Great aromas of malty sweetness, very little if any hop aromas. Malty aromas are dark fruits. Definite alcohol in the aroma as well. Taste is very sweet, with some fig, raisin type fruity flavor as well. Alcohol doesn't really appear until the end, pretty well masked. Feel is smooth, syrupy and has very little carbonation. Overall a very good Barleywine with great characteristics. Really enjoyed the beer.

03-04-2010 04:33:47 | More by jacobseyb
Photo of PBoegel

New York

4.33/5  rDev +1.9%

2002 Vintage

First JW Lees Harvest Ale, with just over 7 years in the bottle.

Nice pop of carbonation from this well aged bottle, poured into a Brooklyn brewery Snifter. Deep amber to reddish brown hues. No head forms whatsoever.

Aromas are incredibly rich maple, honey, faint woody oak like characteristics, but not at all like beer aged in oak, think more of when you cut wood. There are no hops left in this beer, it is all malt. Very reminiscent of port wine character. Faint alcohol, well masked in the nose.

The flavor profile is equally rich, very nuanced with layers of maple, vanilla, faint hints of tobacco. Again very similar to quality ports with an obvious differenc being the lack of grape characteristic. But very similar sweetness and texture.

The mouthfeel is full bodied, with very faint carbonation and absolutely a bare minimum remaingin bitterness which is slightly detectable before a bit, very small bit of dryign from the alcohol. The latter is beyond well masked at this point. Very sweet from start to finish.

A beer worth gathering vintages, cellaring and sampling over the years. Drinkable but it is a night cap, not a beer that is going to mix in with a night of others by any stretch.

03-02-2010 15:13:26 | More by PBoegel
Photo of kingcrowing


3.1/5  rDev -27.1%

275ml bottle, 199 vintage poured into a tulip.

Pours a very ruddy/cloudy red with a very thin off white head, almost none, but for an 11 year old bottle it's ok. Nose is still very boozy, theres some sweet maltiness as well.

Taste is not quite as boozy as I thought, it's full and sweet with a strong malt backbone. Really can't get any hops here at all. Son't seem to be any off flavors but it's a bit cloying on the finish.

02-28-2010 20:14:46 | More by kingcrowing
Photo of HappyBivouac


4.3/5  rDev +1.2%

2008 Vintage. 9.3oz bottle into an Ommegang Chalice.

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

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

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

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

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

02-21-2010 21:59:25 | More by HappyBivouac
Photo of jrallen34


4.43/5  rDev +4.2%

I drank this 1999 version from a 12oz bottle into a Chimay glass.

The beer pours a medium brown with a light tan head that comes about only a quarter of a finger and is gone right away. Lacing is medium, much stronger than I thought with such a weak head.

The aroma starts off pretty malty light toffee but then overwhelms you with a ton of yeasty bread. At the end you get the lightest whiff of alcohol and vanilla.

The taste starts off pretty malty, pretty bready and yeasty with a bitter alcohol finish.

The feel is medium, semi lasting finish, pretty smooth.

The drinkablility is good for 11.5 abv.

Overall, this is a pretty great bw, can't wait to buy some to age for a long time.

02-16-2010 03:29:49 | More by jrallen34
Photo of Onenote81

North Carolina

3.65/5  rDev -14.1%

Vintage 2000. Sampled on 2/15/10.

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

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

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

02-15-2010 18:30:44 | More by Onenote81
Photo of steve8robin


4.53/5  rDev +6.6%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02-15-2010 01:45:33 | More by steve8robin
Photo of cpetrone84


4.43/5  rDev +4.2%

1998 Vintage

A-extremely dark ruby red beer with a creamy light kahki colored head leaving some light lacing.

S-the nose is huge and brings a ton of dark fruits. those fruits include plum, raisin, and dark cherries. there is also a whiff of candied fruit and brown sugar.

T/M-extremely full bodied and quite syrupy. very smooth on the palate and a low level of carbonation that I actually very much enjoy. the taste is also huge and very sweet. tons of candied and dark fruits. a light note of caramel malt, tons of plum and raisin. there is some cherry taste in there as well. notes of molasses and brown sugar towards the back. a hint of alcohol comes in at the finish; but not much at all.

D-this is actually going down extremely easy and I have to catch myself to drink slowly. huge alc content is hidden nicely, although after about 11 years you would expect that. tons of sweetness, almost more than i can handle; but so tasty. wouldn't want to drink it all night; but I do wish I had another.

02-13-2010 02:18:00 | More by cpetrone84
Photo of Lldeegan


4.22/5  rDev -0.7%

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

02-09-2010 00:04:01 | More by Lldeegan
Photo of tkarsies


4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

1999 Vintage

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

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

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

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

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

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

02-02-2010 02:38:41 | More by tkarsies
Photo of Shumista


4.55/5  rDev +7.1%

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

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

01-30-2010 05:15:14 | More by Shumista
Photo of Pecorasc


4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

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

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

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

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

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

01-25-2010 02:23:08 | More by Pecorasc
Photo of barleywinefiend


4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

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

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

01-22-2010 00:16:29 | More by barleywinefiend
Photo of natelocc787


4.63/5  rDev +8.9%

1999 vintage.

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

01-21-2010 06:15:56 | More by natelocc787
Photo of BedetheVenerable


4/5  rDev -5.9%

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

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

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

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

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

Drinkability: 1 bottle in snifters split 2 ways = perfect

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

01-18-2010 03:09:34 | More by BedetheVenerable
Photo of billab914


4.33/5  rDev +1.9%

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

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

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

01-17-2010 18:17:04 | More by billab914
Photo of projectflam86


4.43/5  rDev +4.2%

-2000 vintage-

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

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

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

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

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

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

01-11-2010 04:53:51 | More by projectflam86
Photo of meeekyh


3.68/5  rDev -13.4%

2002 vintage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01-06-2010 03:33:17 | More by meeekyh
Photo of ShogoKawada

Rhode Island

4.45/5  rDev +4.7%

Another from augustgarage. Thanks! I was tempted to sit on this one, but screw it, 9 years is enough!

A- Fizzy on the pour, cap gave a little 'pfft'. 12oz into flute, by the way. Appearance... zero head, but active carbonation. Thin, tiny bubbles are cropping up on the sides. Beer is a ruby/chestnut color, almost a zesty pumpkin when held up to the light.

S- Honey, maple sugar (??) or brown sugar and a very fruity, berry-juice sweetness. Pretty inviting.

T- Whoa. A big rush of flavors... floral, almost. Caramelized sugar. Candied plums. Overpowering, oppressing (in a good way) malt. Rasins, dried cranberries. Hints of chocolate, coffee bean, and sweet cream.

M- Smooth as all hell, no sign of ABV... so this is what a good aged beer tastes like. Fantastic mouthfeel, incredible flavor, yet so smooth and mellow. Wow.

D- Surprisingly high for +11%. Prob. the smoothest beer I've ever had... incredible. I would say this is drinking pretty damn good 9 years in. I'll have to see if I can pick up some other vintages. A wonderful beer.

01-03-2010 02:32:06 | More by ShogoKawada
Photo of champ103


4.55/5  rDev +7.1%

This is a 2000 bottle

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

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

12-30-2009 02:16:10 | More by champ103
Photo of Siggy125


4.15/5  rDev -2.4%

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

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

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

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

12-28-2009 06:49:47 | More by Siggy125
Photo of mothman

United Kingdom (Wales)

3.9/5  rDev -8.2%

1999 Vintage.

Poured into a taster pint glass.

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

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

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

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

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

12-23-2009 17:51:34 | More by mothman
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,228 ratings.