J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale | J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
94
outstanding
839 Reviews
BEER STATS
Reviews:
839
Ratings:
1,449
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
18.35%
 
 
Wants:
257
Gots:
217
For Trade:
15
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

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Reviews: 839 | Ratings: 1,449
Photo of ummswimmin
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had this at the Ginger Man. The review is taken from notes.

This beer had a pretty brown color with minimal head. The head was just scum when it got to my table. They poured this in a small snifter glass which worked perfectly for a stong, fragrant beer.

There was minimal smell here. I picked up brown suger and general sweetness. You can pick up the alcohol when you provide movement to the glass.

The flavor is incredibly rich and very complex. The taste is strong, but the balance works really well. There is a ton of alcohol notes.

This is an awesome barleywine. I recommend it to sip by the fire while narrorating a classic english novel. Just be careful because this beer is still very smoothe.

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

Poured into a perfect pint. 1999 vintage. The older beer I've had.

4.0 A: Deep amber color with good clarity. Maybe a 1/8 inch head forms, but that's not too bad given the elderly status of this.

4.5 S: This smells absolutely wonderful! Big aggressive caramel and toffee. Minerally earthiness. Lots of honey and a light sherry. This is oxidized surprisingly little. Plum, prune, and date fruitiness with a slight grape and raisin combo. Moderately sweet and quite clean. Very well rounded.

4.5 T: Taste is even bolder than the nose. Big syruppy sweetness to kick things off. Loads of caramel, toffee, and brown sugar. Even more honey in the taste. I don't know if they even used honey in this. Again just a slight sherry. Plum galore with nearly as much prune and date. Fig, raisin, and tobacco underneath. Earthy mineral. Still has a mild alcoholic tinge. Quite pleasant and shockingly bold after all these years.

4.0 M: Heavy body. Very good carbonation for the age. A little overly syruppy, but otherwise creamy and smooth.

4.5 D: Really enjoyed this. I'm going to have to pick up a few to age.

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Photo of wd40
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage sampled in 2012.

Opaque orange/brown appearance with absolutely no head. The smell is reminiscent of raisins, hints of coffee and chocolate. The taste is quite fruity with a bit of coffee in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is the only thing lacking in this beer since it has nearly zero carbonation right out of the bottle. Doesn't bother me too much since it should only have a little to begin with. Overall a great beer. I'll be getting a few more of these to age.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle, poured into a snifter

I had the 1998 and 1999 side by side. They were practically identical, with the 1998 being a little bolder.

The body sits a rather clear, mahogany color, with some darker brown in the depths of the glass. No head or lacing, just a thin collar of white foam around the edges.

Broad and deep nose. Sherry, lemon, honey, cabernet, sweet toffee, cocoa powder, and a huge layer of booze. Crazy levels of complexity.

Sweet, and not as boozy as the nose let on. I kept coming back to describing this as similar to a Luden's Golden Honey cough drop dipped in sherry, and then mixed with cocoa and toffee.

The feel was syrupy, lending even more credence to the cough syrup/drop comparison. Full, rich body and flavors. The finish is sweet and boozy, but no real warming getting in the way.

These were two of the most complex beers I have come across. Equally delicious, with the 1998 edging the 1999 by a thin margin. Smooth, complex, rich, sweet....simply incredible. Seek out the older vintages.

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Photo of jrenihan
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Ginger Man in NYC. 2011 Vintage.

Beer is a deep copper/caramel colour. Small white head. The head that does exist stays a long time.

Smell is big. Lots of caramel malt, quite boozy. Wood.

Taste is malty, lots of caramel. Bready and heavy. Very rich. Caramel is pretty dominant, but a bit of fruit is there as well. Surprisingly simple, but huge and good.

Full bodied, moderate carbonation. Bready and thick.

Overall, good but a disappointment. Perhaps tap is not the way to have this beer, but I found it was all power and no subtlety.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
4.41/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275 mL bottle of the 2005 vintage pours a limpid, fairly clear brown color with a few bubbles around the collar.

Nose is very sweet and caramely. Bread and toffee play a supporting role and there is an earthy-alcohol thing going on in here too.

Taste is a delicious blend of various malt flavors...from caramel to toast to honey to even a little hint of chocolate. Thick, sweet and syrupy but strangely never gets cloying as the alcohol dries things out nicely on the finish. I did the JW Lees thing a little different as I have had two of the flavored cask versions prior to the regular. I think I enjoyed the cask ones slightly better, but not by much. This is a real treat, I wish this was sold in TX; I'd love to have a case or two of these to drink over the next few years.

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This will be my first side-by-side vertical tasting, and with a beer that I’ve been desperately wanting to try: J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. I’ll be tasting a 2004 bottle alongside a 2008 bottle, separating out experiences by vintage, then averaging the scores for the final grade.

A (2004): Pours a thick, translucent caramel color with a ton of bubbles clinging to the side of the glass – looks like the carbonation is more in the body than in the head. What’s left above is a small crescent of shining bubbles on a thin strip around the glass. Slight bubbly lacing with a bit of sediment floating in the body.

A (2008): Pours the same color, but this one has much less sediment in the body – it’s not hazy at all. Plus, this vintage actually has a head, showing a moment stark white foaminess before quickly subsiding. Similar lacing, but this one actually sticks around instead of sliding back.

S (2004): Phenomenally rich, with big scents of buttered raisin bread, thick caramel, butterscotch, and black cherry. A solid base of thick malt, of course, but with alcohol constantly peeking from beneath to show a peppery, slightly oaky underbelly. A nose of sweet and buttery malt in strong, boozy fashion.

S (2008): Oh damn, that is much different. It has a vegetal character – dark caramel is strong, thick, and so cloying that it seems to come out with a moderate vegetable aroma. Other than that, it’s all malt; very caramelly, very buttery (even more so than the 2004). Much less alcohol.

T (2004): Damn sweet: covers every inch of the tongue with thick cherry syrup, caramel, maple syrup, and raisin tastes. Imagine Dr. Pepper syrup that hasn’t been mixed with the soda water yet – yeah, it’s thick. Not cloying, though, which is surprising. Plum, buttered pumpernickel, and honey have a slight moment to shine, as well as a touch of baked apple. Finishes with cedar wood tastes, toasted caramel malts, and sweet, mead-like alcohol.

T (2008): Upon first sip, it’s all dust, cardboard, and corn tastes: nearly unbearable. What the hell? A few more sips and the caramel notes come out, but it’s not enough to overshadow the off-flavors. Underneath, it’s just like the 2004 bottle with more peppery flavors – raisin and toffee are big and beautiful – but nothing is getting over those initial setbacks.

M (2004): Thick – unbelievably syrupy. Feels like what I’d imagine pure wort would be like. Funny thing is, I like it for this style; the beer becomes more of a liqueur. It works well for a traditional barleywine, which is often missing a certain fullness in the body.

M (2008): Identical to the 2004, only with a bit more fizzing carbonation to it.

O: Something’s wrong here. A quick look at the bottles shows that the yeast in the 2008 bottle was chunky, muddy-looking...and with those DMS and oxidation tastes, it’s pretty clear that this bottle was infected. Fortunately, though, the 2004 was damn good – a model barleywine. And even with that bad experience with the 2008 bottle, I’ll definitely try another vintage in the near future.

Note: since the 2004 seemed to be more of what this beer is really about, I weighted the final score based on that experience more than the 2008.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2006 Vintage 12 oz. bottle Poured into a Surly Darkness Chalice.

Appearance: Pours a deep and very hazy brownish amber orange. Moderate amount of bubbles. Virtually no head to speak of, but a decent amount of lace sticks to the glass.

Smell: A big sweet malty aroma with lots of caramel and dark fruits. Sweet, slightly roasted malts with big hints of caramel and toffee. Hints of maple syrup, vanilla, and oak. Big dark fruit presence with lots of prunes, figs, dates, and raisin. Also some brown sugar, molasses, and apple hints. Smells pretty boozy. Quite interesting.

Taste: Wow. Quite a rush of strong flavors as soon as it hits the mouth, its almost overwhelming. Really big taste of caramel and toffee from some lightly roasted malts. A little bit of chocolate comes in along with some dark bread. A sweet kick from some maple syrup, molasses, and brown sugar. Some vanilla and oak. Big taste of dark fruits with notes of prunes, figs, raisins, and a lot of dates. Light hop bitterness. Also a taste of booze. Really robust flavors considering this is six years old.

Mouthfeel: Heavy body with a fairly low level of carbonation. Very thick and syrupy. Smooths out a bit midway through the mouth. Definitely a sipper and not a easy drinker, but its well worth the effort. Alcohol heat is actually kind of hidden by the heavy sweetness.

Overall: A really great take on the Barleywine. Very thick and sweet but not cloying. Great mix of flavors.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer is a murky amber color with a small off-white head. A bit oxidized, but a really nice caramel and dark fruit aroma. Good brown sugar and maybe a hint of vanilla. The flavor is also slightly oxidized with a hint of alcohol. Great brown sugar, caramel, and toffee flavors. A nice bit of cherry and plum to go with raisins.

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Photo of jamespub
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Drinking a 2000 vintage in celebration of my daughter's birth. poured into a Duvel Tulip.

A- Much darker than i recall the 2007 and 2008 bottles I had last fall. Dark brown with low carbonation, but what is there lingers around the edge. A beautiful dark brew....was it particular to the year, or did age somehow do this? I'm not sure.

S- ah....amazing. malt, malt, malty sweetness. it has the distinct smell of an aged brew. toffee, caramel.

T- simply stunning. toffee, grain, caramel. it has the incredible grain flavor that the 07 and 08 years had, but it is so much more refined. the yeast has settled well and leaves a clear brew that tastes absolutely stunning. i could drink this all day, every day.

M- sticks to the tongue. smooth, velvety with a feel that lingers. a faint hint of carbonation. mildly sticky finish due to the sugars.

O-Easily one of the best beers I have ever had. I had one and this was the best occasion to open it on. I wish I had a case more. I will be aging the rest of them as long.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a very cloudy orange-brown with a thin layer of fizzy tannish head. The head fades down fairly quickly leaving behind a touch of lace.

S - Aroma is a mix of raisins, prunes, other dark fruits, maple, caramelized malts, brown sugar, caramel malts, a bit of light citrus fruits, and some booze.

T - Starts off with a mix of sweet raisin and prune with some brown and maple sugars with some dark caramel malts and a bit of citrus fruit. Through the middle, some more caramel flavor comes through with some more maple syrup and molasses. The finish is a mix of dark fruits with some caramelized malts and other dark malts, molasses, a touch of citrus and earthy hop, and some booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with mild carbonation. Feels smooth and syrupy with a warming and sweet finish.

D - Very drinkable. Really nice rich sweet malt backbone with a great balance of sugars and dark fruit flavors.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach, CA.

Billed as the 25th Anniversary edition of this beer.

Pours a slightly murky honey orange-brown with a foamy off-white head that settles to a small cap on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, caramel, toffee, and some light apple-like fruit aromas. Taste is of malt, brown sugar, caramel, toffee, and some fruity flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and full bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is quite strong and rich and has a better smell than taste in my opinion.

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

A: One of the hazier beers I've ever had but that is to be a little expected given that the vintage is four years old. There was no head when poured into a 12 oz globe glass.

S: Boozy. It hits you in the face immediately. There is a nice malty and maple aroma.

T: Excellent. There is a fantastic maple start with a nice grain/malt middle and a somewhat strong alcohol finish. This is what a barleywine is suppose to be.

M: Heavy due to the high alcohol and malt profile. A little under carbonated.

O: Excellent beer. If given the opportunity to try this it is a must. This joins the list of great barleywines that I've had with Abacus, King Henry, and Mother of All Storms.

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Photo of drpimento
4.56/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Whoa, serious beer. Poured this at a good temperature with a small, foamy head that promptly disappeard and no lace. Color is a hazy/cloudy amber brown with a lot of sediment. Aroma is a very volatile blend of caramel, yeast, malt, dark ripe fruit, raisins, bread dough, and seemingly many other things. Flavor's like nose, with sweet out front along with, curiously, a little chili pepper, bitter a little behind that and just a smidgen of carbonic tang. Body is full and lush with some little bitter points that just contribute to the beautiful picture. Carbonation is a little tame, but it works. Finish does get a little boozy, but overall is pleasant and on the long side. Outstanding beer.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.87/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 version

A: murky and muddy brown body. No head.

S: sherry and cabernet dominate. some dark fruit, ofee, chocolate and caramel malts. forbodes a strong boozy flavor.

T: wow. This one is strong and not just in the boozy way but also in the tart, sweet and sour way. sherry, tons of dark fruit mostly raisin. The finish has an oak, smokey and cake batter character.

M: so sweet its hard to tell. medium body and light carbonation. oily and thick.

Overall: almost got a headache right away from the sweetness. This one is definitely unique and somehow complex in the finish despite the overwhelming tart and sweetness. I couldnt finish this one.

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Photo of Hophead717
3.8/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 vintage bottle, 275ml, poured into my CBS snifter.

A: Halfway between deep brown and ruby red. Small cap of foam sits atop the beer after the head fizzes away.

S: Sherry, dark fruits, light raisin. Very sweet and malty, dominated by the fruity sherry scent.

T: This is rich! Deep, sweet intoxicating fruits. There sherry notes present in the nose are also easy to pick out. I am unsure to what degree this sherry taste is from oxidation. Sweet and malty, overall, but it's a bit too sherry-heavy, probably from great oxidation.

M: Light to medium bodied, lower in carbonation, semi-slick. Works for the style.

O: It's fun to have such a vintage beer (the oldest I've been lucky enough to sample). The beer is a bit over the hill, in my opinion. It's enjoyable to sample, but not a vintage I'll see out in the future.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 mL bottle poured into a CCB snifter. 2008 vintage.

Appearance - Pours with no head and no lacing. Sticky legs down the side, but not much else redeeming. Looks syrupy in the glass. Huge chunks of sediment come out of the bottom. Suspending in my maple-syrup looking beer. Kinda gross.

Smell - Oh wow. Raisiny goodness. Like a dense fruitcake. Definitely booze to it. Some caramel behind all of it, but it's all about the fruits.

Taste - And it's sweet as hell. Like a dense fruitcake. Deep raisin and dark fruit flavors. Quite a nice taste, but golly it's sweet.

Mouthfeel - Did I mention the sweetness? Thick and syrupy. Took me a really long time to finish this bottle. Low carbonation.

Overall - I can only hope some more years of aging will do this nicely. Maybe dry it out a bit. I love the flavors, but they get masked by the sugars.

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

2002 Vintage Bottle

A-murky brown with coppery highlights, very small if any head.

S-lots of prune/fig/dates with an oaky backbone. Slight smokiness too.

T-sweet goodness. Has a huge sweet soy sauce flavor with pit fruits. Big oakiness and candi sugar taste too. May be a new fav.

M-thick body with little carbonation but it is a 10 year old bottle...

O-may be my new favoite ever!!

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

Brewed in 2011, bought from Ellwood Thompson's Local Market on May 11, 2012. Couldn't resist trying it, I'll probably buy another bottle to cellar at some point! Drank it out of an oversized wine glass.

A - Beautiful clear, amber pour with white pillowy head. Reduces down to a cloudy residual layer on the top. Good amount of lacing too. Steady carbonation rising from the bottom but not too much. This is a beautiful beer! 4.5

S - So many scents it's almost impossible to decipher them all. Buttery diacetyl, fresh-cut grass, an abundance of fruits like apricot, apples, and pears; maybe a hint of esters in there as well. Strong floral, hoppy notes in there as well. Caramel, toffee, molasses, and malt are also present. 5.0

T - Wowza. Just like the aroma, this beer is hard to decipher. Sugary, buttery notes up front with malt, toffee, caramel, and fruit. I'd compare it to toffee dipped in butterscotch. Middle of the tongue gets a strong malt flavor and a sort of spiciness imparted by the strong alcohol content. Wraps up nicely with a little bitter, floral hop on the back of the tongue. Aftertaste is clearly sweet on the front of your tongue, bitter on the back. Absolutely delicious but there is SO much flavor you have to sip this beer slowly to fully appreciate it. 5.0

M - Somewhat thick, almost "chewy" as I've seen others describe it. High alcohol content makes it feel almost sappy on the tongue, leaving a slight residue of flavor. 4.5

O - This beer is quite possibly one of the most complex--and dare I say it--and best beers I've ever had. The myriad of flavors is truly unbelievable, and I can't even imagine what this would be like if it were cellared for two or three years even. I will definitely be buying a bottle of this and keeping it for as long as I can. 4.5

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Photo of BostonHops
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2001 vintage bottle served in an oversized wineglass.

pours a hazy amber/copper tone reminiscent of a belgian quad. some sediment; a finger and a half of head with middling retention and some lacing.

nose is both bold and complex. a sweet bouquet of dark fruits, molasses, malts, caramel, honey, alcohol, and a touch of something else i can't quite pin down... cognac maybe? taste follows the aroma. tons going on. booze is more subdued than i'd have thought going off the nose. lot of dark fruits and malt sweetness. very tasty; nice, smooth finish.

mouthfeel is chewy, syrupy - brings to mind the dfh 120. drinkability is solid. i would welcome another. this hasn't been one of my preferred styles but the best i've had to date; in fact it's offerings like this that show you how good the style can be. fantastic EBW.

original review on: 08-19-2010

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Photo of kawilliams81
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

1999 vintage, big thanks to kecarl7 for this amazing extra!
Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Alesmith Horny Devil snifter.

A- Pours a thick dark amber, brown with a thin beige minimal head. Lacing on the edge of glass resides almost immediately.

S- sweet dark fruits, caramel, toffee, leather and tobacco.

T- crazy sweetness, dark fruits, maple syrup, molasses, some leather as well.

M- full bodied not said lightly, medium carbonation. Thick syrup feel with a smooth finish.

O- a little overly sweet but the body and falvors in this beer is like no other barlewine I have ever had. Believe I have a 2002 which I hope is near as amazing as the 1999!

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Photo of Marko
3.04/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

For all the hype this seems like it should be a great beer, and I think it possibly is, but there was something off about mine.

I purchased the 2007 vintage and upon pouring it I noticed all sorts of particles in it. I'm guessing it was just the yeast, and just not a very flocculent strain of it, as I don't see any remaining in the bottle. From some of the other reviews it seems like this may be normal, but still it was a little off-putting.

The bigger issue was the flavor. There was a distinct "dirty snow" taste masking the raisiny, nutty, malty sweetness that you would expect. I saw another reviewer here saying that their 2010 version tasted like an ashtray. I would agree, definite ashtray flavor in mine. I'm guessing most of the bottles aren't like this, but it seems like there must be something causing this every so often. Maybe bad oxidation?

Besides that, it smells great, raisins and nuts. When the particles settle, it has a great clear copper/brown color. Behind the ashtray flavor there's definitely a warm, malty, nutty and honey sweetness.

If not for the dirt/ashtray taste, it would have lived up to its hype... who knows, maybe one of the brewers ashed their cigar in my beer.

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

700th review! 275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2002 vintage(12/1/2002). Pours a murky dark brown color with a small dark khaki head with decent retention that reduces to a ring of lace as expected. Some slight bits of lacing on the glass. Aromas of huge caramel, molasses, biscuit, wood, toffee, raisin, earth, whiskey, chocolate, and light herbal. Damn nice aromas with good strength and complexity. Taste of HUGE caramel, toffee, molasses, brown sugar, wood, raisin, butterscotch, chocolate, biscuit, honey, and slight herbal hops. Lingering notes of molasses, caramel, toffee, raisin, honey, and butterscotch on the finish for a good while. Insane complexity, balance, and smoothness; with no cloying sweetness at all; despite this being a 100% malty beer. Light carbonation and full bodied; with an absolutely beautiful creamy, slick, and thick mouthfeel. Alcohol is insanely well hidden with no warming noticed at all. Definitely a sipper, but I can’t even consider drinking this fast at all. Overall this is an absolutely mind blowing barely wine that was pushing 10 years old. I will not turn down purchasing older vintages of this in the future. Absolutely fantastic.

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

1987 Vintage, enjoyed on 4/10/12 at Monk's Cafe Beers of the Cellar event. I was born in 1988, so this is pretty cool.

It's a beautiful, very deep dark ruby pour that is completely clear and devout of head. 5

I was just bombarded by the aroma at first. This is a big change from the sours we've been working on. It smells very roasty and velvety smooth. Caramel, molasses, and a blend I only expect from perfectly aged beers. Is this melted toffee or is it alcoholic? 5

Guys this is, wow, a completely new experience with beer. I'm just, blown away. Toffee, caramel, butter, slight roast, melted candy-like taste that stands on its own. A 25 year old beer that is just out of this world. I can't believe it. 5+

It feels like velvety chocolate on the palate. Absolutely sweet, drinkable, and delicious. For the first time tonight I'm getting hints of booze. 5

Paired with a steak culotte, my drinking buddy noted he's getting a balsamic vinegar type taste here, sweet and dark, and I don't disagree. The steak and leaks have a great flavor and pair wonderfully. Apparently steak culotte is a very difficult meat to cook, and I’ve never had it. Still rare in the middle, this meat is really melt in your mouth good. The food has been out of this world do far. Ladies and gentlemen here you have it, my first and probably only perfect 5. Perfect pairing, setting, look, aroma, taste, and feel. It's like I've reached a plateau. I hope I'm wrong. 5

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Photo of Firkin-Bunghole
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is the "beer" that both inspired my user name and converted me into the world of craft beer. Here's my story if anyone cares to read. Time to spread the Karma around.
Back in May 2009 an ignorant 33 year old man (ME) thought craft beer was buying Guinness, Harp & Heineken. His friend "the Enlightened One" told him of a Craft Beer Fest. Fortunately, the ignorant one was smart enough to purchase a ticket and despite his ignorance was allowed entry through the door.

During the week before, the ignorant one started to read Beer Advocate and learned this event would have a firkin of a 12 year old JW Lees (1999). The ignorance permeated my brain: Beer that is 12 years old would be bad. Only when I started to read the reviews of BA here did I start to understand my ignorance.

On the day of 10 tasting tickets were provided to sample and luckily for me the "Enlightened One" guided me and I went to the firkin first. At this time the epiphany happened. I had 3 samples from the Firkin and my eyes started to open to the amazing world of craft beer.

This beer was perfect in every way. From the hammering of the wooden firkin to the cask pour to the smell of dark fruits/caramelized sugars to the syrupy full mouthfeel without any unnecessary head or carbonation. My words can't even begin to describe the depth of my experience. Heck I'm not a writer and only starting to learn how to be a BeerAdvocate.

Lastly, I can't even begin to thank JW Lees enough. Maybe 1 person will read this or the other reviews here and pick up a bottle of this. This beer is special! At $9.99 bottle its bargain priced. If ever in my life a firkin comes near Albany, NY again I'll be there. Cheers to all.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 839 ratings.