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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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,221 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,221
Reviews: 793
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 206
Gots: 173 | FT: 11
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)
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,221 | Reviews: 793 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Sammy
Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

4.15/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1998 Vintage. Simply barley and cloying sweet. Peppermint, cinammon, raisin. Not very refreshing nor complex. Full mouthfeel. Little carbonation. Warming did not significantly improve. Saccarin dry aftertaste. I thought this below average for a barleywine, and please don't take offense.

Had 1997 vintage in spring 2006, 4 years past due. Lovely malt complexity and barley, understated carbonation and bitterness. Rating ratched up. I want more.

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2005 04:09:20 | More by Sammy
Photo of t0rin0
t0rin0

California

4.25/5  rDev 0%

11-19-2012 13:51:55 | More by t0rin0
Photo of UCLABrewN84
UCLABrewN84

California

4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

07-07-2012 02:47:45 | More by UCLABrewN84
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djrn2

New Jersey

3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

09-28-2013 13:16:22 | More by djrn2
Photo of Thorpe429
Thorpe429

Illinois

4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage. Consumed in May 2009.

A: Medium reddish brown with plenty of creamy head.

S: Lots of sweet malts and some fruitiness as well; slight earthy/woodiness.

T: Very, very sweet. The malts had blended perfectly together and there was the tiniest bit of tartness to it, in a good way.

M: Pretty full with moderate carbonation.

D: Definitely a sipper, but one I was very glad to enjoy.

Serving type: bottle

09-24-2009 19:39:40 | More by Thorpe429
Photo of BuckeyeNation
BuckeyeNation

Iowa

4.18/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Harvest Ale 1999. Murky raspberry caramel with a butter toffee colored cap that is currently filling most of the snifter. The foam, while not exactly creamy, has a tight-bubbled texture that allows it to linger for quite some time. The look is classic English barleywine.

The nose reminds me of autumn, the season of harvest. Whether that's intentional on the part of the brewers (or whether it's simply my imagination run amok) is anyone's guess. The major characteristics include caramel, dried fruits and an earthiness that puts me in mind of fallen leaves. There's also a refined, tawny port-like quality that should be tremendous on the palate.

Why did it take me so long to drink such a time-honored beer like Vintage Harvest Ale? This bottle has been next-to-forgotten in the back of my beer fridge for too long now. I've decided that I have to see what the original, classic barleywine tastes like before I drink and review the bottles aged in brandy, whiskey, port and sherry casks.

This is surprisingly sweet beer that ventures dangerously close to cloying. It's probably too much to expect a balancing hoppiness, especially in a beer that has seen seven long winters (almost eight) come and go. Even though the tidal wave of malt sugars are threatening to gum up the works, I can still appreciate a fair amount of complexity. Not as much as in the nose, however.

Sticky caramel is the centerpiece around which the rest of the cornucopia is arranged. The fruitiness is on the order of dates, figs and cherries soaking in toffee pudding sauce. It might even be dark enough to include raisins. Also... brown sugar syrup, sweetened pipe tobacco and a hint of molasses. I have a sweet tooth, but man oh man!

Alcohol is barely noticed, other than a spreading warmth that makes me wish it was drinking this bottle during a raging blizzard rather than a crisp autumn morning. The mouthfeel might have been a thick, gooey mess if it wasn't for the beer's age. As it happens, it's a near perfect combination of clinginess and light-medium silkiness.

I have no idea if I'm drinking Harvest Ale 1999 too early, too late or at the exact right time. It's definitely enjoyable beer, but it isn't the world-beater than was expected. Perhaps the 2003 that is resting comfortably in my cellar will define the style like I thought this iteration would.

Serving type: bottle

10-11-2007 15:44:46 | More by BuckeyeNation
Photo of metter98
metter98

New York

4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: It poured dark reddish brown with no head or evidence of carbonation in rising bubbles. There are lots of visible yeast particles floating near the bottom.
S: There is an intense aroma of raisins, caramel, sugars and boozy liqueur in the nose.
T: The taste has lots of very rich flavors similar to the aroma, although not quite as prominent, and is reminiscent of brandy. There is a moderate amount of sweetness.
M: It feels full-bodied on the palate, extremely smooth, somewhat sticky and very boozy.
D: This is a perfect beer for a nightcap, especially if it is aged. Alcohol is definitely evident, yet it is relatively well hidden for the strength.

Note: 1988 vintage (aged 22 years)

Serving type: bottle

05-14-2010 22:11:51 | More by metter98
Photo of brentk56
brentk56

North Carolina

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 Bottling

Appearance: Pours out a dark amber color with a modest head that dissipates and leaves little lace; not surprising for this type of beer

Smell: Gosh, where to begin...rum-soaked candied fruit, honey, caramel, tobacco

Taste: A very complex liqueur washes over the tongue, almost like drambuie, but not as sweet or alcoholic; flavors of sugary burnt fruits such as apricots, raisins, pears, prunes and then some tobacco bitterness strikes up to balance the sweetness through to the finish

Mouthfeel: Thick and syrupy; moderate carbonation

Drinkability: One small bottle would last an entire evening; a wonderful concoction

Got to try the fabled 1998 bottling on 9/21/12 and was blown away by how tasty a 14 year old beer could be

Serving type: bottle

07-20-2005 01:09:10 | More by brentk56
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nmann08

District of Columbia

4/5  rDev -5.9%

11-18-2011 00:58:40 | More by nmann08
Photo of mikesgroove
mikesgroove

South Carolina

2.45/5  rDev -42.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2003 poured from a bottle

Poured a cloudy brown with no head at all. Smell was total alcohol, really over powered it and the taste was pretty much the same. There was a bit of a caramel, nutty, sugary taste in there but the alcohol far over powered this. I expected this one to be a bit more rounded out then it was, maybe I am just more of a fan of American Barleywines. Overall it was not bad, but I would pass on a second.

Serving type: bottle

12-11-2006 02:01:46 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of Phyl21ca
Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle (2004 vintage – drank in 2006): Poured a deep amber color ale with a small off-white bubbly head with minimal retention. Aroma of sweet figs with some very sweet caramel malt. Noticeable trace of dry figs and raisins are discernable in the taste but the overall sweetness is personally just too much for my liking. Body is full but could be fuller. Would definitely improved with a lower level of sweetness.

Serving type: bottle

03-28-2006 18:22:25 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of BEERchitect
BEERchitect

Kentucky

4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Release '05: Sept. 23, 2007

Still considered very young, yet seductive enough to crack open the bottle. I just can't let these beers age at all. They are magnificent at any age. The 05 is no exception. Expecting a heavy sweet beer with some raw sugars and syrups, perhaps a hop bite and conflict; expecting high amounts of co2 to amplify an already-hot brew. Nope -- got none of that. Instead, the same smooth, brandy-like, port-wine brew with a hint of hop bitterness and flavor, mild heat, and creamy co2. Candied fruits take the form of fruit cake soaked in rum, with the finess of an after dinner congnac. The beer is absolutely amazing. Can't wait to see what the next decade does to the other one that I'll try to stash back.

Releases '87, 97, 92 - side by side comparison / Aug. 21, 2007

The '87 shined with higher port-wine, brandy flavors, but much more mellow, and less robust than earlier verisions. The nose was quite light, flavors were muted, with a complex alcohol feel and void carbonation. It looks a lot like prune juice, and tastes syrupy with deep dark fruits (dates, raisons, prunes, plumbs, figs). No hop presence at all. Highly oxidized and musty throughout. Rate 4.4

The '97 has all of the characteristics as the '87, but with richer context, intensity, and mouthfeel. The carbonation rounds out the mouthfeel and makes the beer feel fuller. The fruits are a bit ripe in comparison, but taking on similar proportions. More molassas, maple, wood character persists. Less oxidized, but still characterful with sherry and a touch of soy-sauce. Rate 4.8

The '02 is much sweeter, and has not rounded out fully yet. Rich maple syrup flavors make the beer taste a bit raw. The alcohols come across very warm, nearly hot. Fruits take on fresh fruitcake / dehydrated fruits, pronounced cherry flavor. No oxidation, but more one-dimensional than the earlier versions. Rate 4.25.

What an experiment! The '97 has the best recipe and has aged very well, probably nearing it's peak. The '87, although very nice, has signs of decline. The '02 still needs time to come into it's own. Thanks Clvand0!

Release 1999:

Always a joy to drink. After 8 years of bottle conditioning, great things are anticipated. The sweetness from this brew was fantastic: full of plumbs, grapes, dates, figs, cherries, prunes, and raisons, all swirled around a rum-like liquor. The hops have basically disappeared, leaving a mild bitterness from hop residue, grains, and confectionate sugars. Very rich and syrupy feel with a sharp, hot alcohol thinning. The beer sticks to the insides of the mouth for some time. Though this was a special session, I prefered the 2000 and the Port Cask Harvest Ales better.

Release 2000. Sampled on 06-21-05.

Boy what a terrific beer; best I've had in a while.
Looks brown with amber and tan highlights. Has a smooth, silky viscocity when poured into the glass. 1/2" off white head settles to a trace. Laces well and has legs. Smells fruity and sweet. Fruits resemble dates, figs, and raisons. Mildly alcoholic and spicy. Mouth watering. Tastes sweet and malty. Terrific full and round body. Sweetness hangs around. Mouthfeel is creamy and silky. Complex barley flavors abound. Flavors remind me of dark sweet wines. Quite chewy. Alcohol is hidden well. Finishes sweet and malty. Bittered only to balance; no flavor, no agressiveness. Not as dry as one would expect. Again, mildly alcoholic.

Impression: Probably more akin to an English Old Ale--with a punch. Well matured and melded. Dangerously easy to drink.
I highly recomend. May be substituted for an after dinner Port Wine or a Brandy.

Serving type: bottle

06-21-2005 12:52:06 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of womencantsail
womencantsail

California

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.

Serving type: bottle

07-17-2012 15:56:22 | More by womencantsail
Photo of kjkinsey
kjkinsey

Texas

4/5  rDev -5.9%

12-06-2011 18:42:43 | More by kjkinsey
Photo of ChainGangGuy
ChainGangGuy

Georgia

4.68/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2004 vintage.

Appearance: Pours a chestnut brown body topped with a half inch of creamy-looking, beige head, though admittedly, it's a bit short-lived. Hey, but check out those legs!

Smell: Plump, juicy raisins swimming in sherry and tawny port with gobs of earthy caramel and toffee maltiness.

Taste: Ultra sweet, babies! Smooth, blended flavors of concentrated caramel, treacle, toffee, and simple syrup. Some woody hints. Small pinch of herbal hops but at this point they only present a mild bitterness. Rich raisiny fruitiness washed down with a sip of fine aged sherry and port. Soothing, warming alcohol presence, particularly on the smooth, malty finish.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied. Medium carbonation. Sticky mouthfeel.

Drinkability: J.W. Lees, you've been charged with rampant deliciousness! A perfect late-night, after dinner sipper. Skip the dessert and head straight for a bottle of Harvest Ale instead.

Serving type: bottle

11-28-2008 01:56:14 | More by ChainGangGuy
Photo of Texasfan549
Texasfan549

Texas

2.75/5  rDev -35.3%

04-18-2012 15:46:28 | More by Texasfan549
Photo of jaydoc
jaydoc

Kansas

4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

12-03-2013 04:12:13 | More by jaydoc
Photo of kylehay2004
kylehay2004

Florida

3.88/5  rDev -8.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-14-2012 01:02:05 | More by kylehay2004
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spycow

Illinois

4.25/5  rDev 0%

01-14-2013 04:36:27 | More by spycow
Photo of oberon
oberon

North Carolina

4.38/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage,I opened a 2003 bottle a few months back and it was just a bit much so I picked this one seeing it was aged already seven years.Pours a deep chesnut brown with just a slight ruby hue with one finger head wich honestly I didnt expect,aromas are incredible walnut and raisin stick out most with a touch of orange,rich and robust flavors but are much more in tune with each other than the 2003 big raisin/prune up front with a roasted nut and maple finish.Thick but not quite syrupy mouthfeel glides down easy,cant think of a better nighttime sipper,just awseome.

Serving type: bottle

08-18-2005 01:18:15 | More by oberon
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GRG1313

California

4.25/5  rDev 0%

02-09-2013 22:32:35 | More by GRG1313
Photo of Knapp85
Knapp85

Pennsylvania

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

This beer poured out as a pretty nice looking murky golden amber color. The head is nonexistent, no lacing here either. The smell of the beer has a lot of wood on the nose, and plenty of boozy sweetness to it. Has a strong malty aroma too. The taste of the beer is sweet throughout, the flavors of honey and some spice. The flavors are very strong which makes this beer a sipper, this beer needs to be enjoyed in moderation over a long cold night. The mouthfeel is thick and has no carbonation. Overall it's a very good brew, and needs to be given time in the bottle and in the glass while drinking.

Serving type: bottle

07-02-2011 19:33:28 | More by Knapp85
Photo of zeff80
zeff80

Missouri

3.63/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - It poured out a burgandy color with a caramel colored, bubbly, one-finger head. It left some rings of lace.

S - It smelled very floral and very malty.

T - It was sweet and malty. It was almost too sweet. It was candy-like.

M - It was smooth and soft. It had a warm alcohol presence. It was a very heavy-bodied beer.

D - This was a bit too sweet and too heavy for my taste.

Serving type: bottle

11-27-2007 02:54:06 | More by zeff80
Photo of emerge077
emerge077

Illinois

4.05/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage, poured into a Duchesse goblet.

Dark auburn body, reddish edges in direct light, with a solid finger of creamy foam. When backlit, there were suspended particles visible, and a central stream of carbonation. After fifteen minutes, it still held an unbroken skim, which was admirable for a 10 year old ale.

Definite aged character in the aroma, sweet rich malty notes, lightly nutty. Taste was sticky sweet, brown sugar and raisins, with a warming nutty finish. Perfect for the chilly holiday season, its like fruitcake in a glass. Rich and creamy feel that is probably it's best attribute. If you can get adjusted to the sweetness, the nutty finish is very nice. One at a time for sure, on special occasions.

2008 vintage:
Has a distinct peanut butter flavor and an earthy aftertaste. Very syrupy and viscous. Light metallic note in the aroma, otherwise all toffee. Plenty of oxidation as expected.
Overall score: 3.7

2011 vintage:
Tasted side by side with the '08 in 2013. Lighter orange color, looks like mead almost. A bit more sharpness from the abv, but overall the flavor seems better than the '08 with only trace amounts of oxidation. Slight fruitiness from the yeast, light apricot and honey comb. Overall score: 4.25

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2008 01:51:45 | More by emerge077
Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
westcoastbeerlvr

California

4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

01-10-2013 22:36:56 | More by westcoastbeerlvr
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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,221 ratings.