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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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BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,236 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,236
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 209
Gots: 179 | 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)
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: 1,236 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of largadeer
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

'98 vintage.

Appearance - Oily and thick, mahogany in color, hazy but still transparent. Pours with a small, short-lived head.

Smell - Earthy and sweet. Caramel and raisins with woody undertones. Very bold, similar to a nice port or sherry.

Taste and mouthfeel - Layers of flavor unfold with each sip. Strawberries, followed by caramel, wood, iron and raisins. Bitter earthy hops provide a necessary touch of dryness in the finish that prevent this from being cloying. Very full-bodied, almost syrupy, with just enough carbonation to keep the mouthfeel lively. Very drinkable despite the syrupy texture and sweetness.

largadeer, Mar 15, 2008
Photo of zeff80
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.

zeff80, Nov 27, 2007
Photo of JAHMUR
4.25/5  rDev 0%

JAHMUR, Nov 16, 2011
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001 vintage, enjoyed straight from the cellar at 55F. A very deep copper-brown body with amber highlights rests gently beneath an average sized head of creamy off-white froth. The head retention is limited, but at 11.5% that's to be expected - and it still keeps a decent collar which is unusual for such a high alcohol beer! The nose is loaded with sweet, caramelized malt and notes of sticky-sweet dried dark fruit as well as some leafy and almost herbal hops. In the mouth it's full bodied to the point of being syrupy; smooth; and quite creamy. The massive flavor assault that J.W. Lees delivers is quite astounding! It's beyond wort-like in its rich maltiness, dripping with sticky sweetness that's like a combination of honey and port wine. The Kent Goldings come through however, and help to dry it with their leafy and grassy character. The bitterness is noticeably limited, but it's there; and there's a mineral-like edge to it as well that helps keep its toffee/caramel/molasses and dark-fruit maltiness in-check. This is an exceptional Barleywine that's not to be missed!

NeroFiddled, Feb 28, 2005
Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Alcohol is still a bit boisterous as well as the forceful fruitiness. Jam packed with flavour with a similarity to a port or sherry minus the carbonation. I preferred this year over 1997 due to it being a bit more robust and over the top for a barley wine.

Jason, Dec 18, 2000
Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.68/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-cask 2/17/2012 at Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub in Pawtucket, RI served in a tulip glass.

A: The beer is a deep coppery brown color with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves very little lace on the glass which is expected from a cask beer.

S: The aroma contains brown sugar, bourbon, caramelized malts, alcohol and a touch of hops.

T: The taste starts out with a burnt malt flavor followed by sweet flavors of caramel, brown sugar and bourbon. The hops presence is mild but complementary and the malt character is hearty but there isn’t much balance. The after-taste is slightly smoky and slightly sweet.

M: Smooth and a little crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: A little tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, very strong kick, good representation of style, I can appreciate the smokiness and aging of the beer but the flavors just didn’t seem to come together well for me. There are several less-expensive alternatives in the style that I enjoy a lot more.

TheManiacalOne, Feb 21, 2012
Photo of RblWthACoz
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001.

Pours a foggy brown with a very thin creme head. Nose is very sugary sweet. Masked alcohol and caramel tones. Flavor is sweet as well. Lots of sugars. Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much complexity beyond that. It's sweet. It's slightly earthy. But it's still nice. Smooth liquid feel and a smooth lower carbonation as well. Very easy to drink. But oddly enough this still could use a good bit more time on it to even it out. You'd think after 7 years it'd be good to go, but I think at least another 2 or 3 (or more) would do it good.

RblWthACoz, May 29, 2008
Photo of nickfl
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1998 Vintage

A - Half finger of light brown head quickly dissipates and leaves minor lace. The body is dark brown and opaque.

S - Very unusual musty, toasted oak/ dark caramel aroma. Spicy notes and some vanilla as well.

T - Very smooth milk chocolate like flavor up front along with big, creamy caramel apple character. Spicy, slightly woody notes follow, ginger and cinnamon as well as some roasty toffee notes. Some very rounded bitterness asserts itself towards the end, but fades into a lingering alcohol warmth and amazingly rich caramel notes in the finish.

M - Thick, syrupy body, moderate carbonation, and a sweet finish.

D - Keeping in mind that this is far from a session beer, it is an extraordinarily sippable sipping beer. Other vintage English beers I have had showed a similar complexity, but never seemed as drinkable as this. The caramel character is nothing short of spectacular and even though it is a very sweet beer it somehow avoids becoming cloying. Despite nearly 10 years in the bottle it shows no signs of oxidation, and has very little of the sherry character that one might expect of a beer this age. Overall, this is a really excellent vintage beer to enjoy on a cold winter night.

nickfl, Feb 02, 2008
Photo of WVbeergeek
4.68/5  rDev +10.1%
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.

WVbeergeek, Mar 08, 2004
Photo of Kegatron
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On cask, via hand pump, @ the Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, VA) on 2/11/12 during their 2nd Annual Barleywine Festival. Served in a small footed Pils glass. 2010 Edition.

Pours a clear coppery gold, with a thin covering of off-white head. This fizzles out pretty quickly, leaving nothing back in terms of retention or lacing. The aroma smells woody and herbal, with some earthy hops and alcohol up front. This works into sweeter notes of toffee, sugary dough, brown sugars, and dark fruit. The fruit and brown sugar elements are standing out to me the most here, as the nose on the whole here is very rich feeling.

The taste is quite similar, with notes of caramel, dough, brown sugar, dark fruit, vanilla, and herbal hops along the back. The finish is woody feeling and very dry, with an almost parching quality to it. The mouthfeel is full bodied, with a slick firm creaminess that glides along quite easily for the size. Some alcohol does start to emerge as this warms but the overall robustness of the flavors do their best to overcome its overall heady presence here.

Wow, this was good. Maybe the quintessential English Barleywine here, this just brings in droves of complex flavor to the senses, with a heavy yet still approachable alcohol presence to it. I think that I tend to enjoy this bear a little fresher before too much heavy sweetness sets in. Having this on cask was a real treat and one of the true highlights of the fest for me.

Kegatron, Feb 14, 2012
Photo of russpowell
4.45/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 vintage pours a reddish caramel with a 1/2" offwhite head. No head retention or lacing

Huge oaky, fruitty boozey nose, beautiful

T: Dryness, raisins, dates, & breadyness with a slight booze presence up front. Caramel & rummy flavors follow. Huge praline profile & little vanilla as it warms. Finishes plummy, dry & sweet, extemely complex

MF: Vinous, syruppy, rich & failry low in carbonation

This is a sipper, the overwhelming sweetness/dryness slows you down a little. A nice, if expensive indulgence that went down smoothly, if not so quick this boxing day

russpowell, Dec 27, 2006
Photo of MasterSki
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I meant to drink this on December 1st to celebrate the bottle's 10th anniversary, but my wife was on a 5-day cleanse and I had to wait until she was done. 1998 Vintage obviously, poured into a tumbler.

A - Pours a murky orange-brown, with no head and sparse spiral lace. There's a little bit of carbonation coming to the surface. It's a barleywine, and it's ten years old - what were you expecting?

S - Very sweet malt, with strong presence of dried fruits (raisins, prunes, dates, etc.). There's also a nutty quality and it almost has a bit of a port flavor to it. It's a little boozy, but not as much as you'd think.

T - The strongest taste is raisins, with some of the other dark fruits present in the nose. However it appears that these dried fruits have been doused in caramel, maple syrup, toffee, and candy coating. This is one sweet brew - reminds me of rumcake. I think the high alcohol content implies an oak taste even though I don't think this is barrel-aged (now there's an idea...). The flavor really comes out as this warms up, so don't serve it too cold.

M - Viscous, but not too thick. It has a fresh melt-in-your-mouth bread quality to it that complements the density of flavor. Very smooth - not much burn for something so strong.

D - Uhhh...who would consider having more than one? That's just crazy talk. It's delicious but not something I'd have more than once in a while. On the other hand it goes down easy when I'm drinking it.

Did a side-by-side with a 2004 Old Stock at Thanksgiving dinner and this one came out on top. Great beer for fancy dinners and special occasions.

MasterSki, Dec 10, 2008
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The creamy tan head doesn't stay long in the glass, but the color beneath is a gorgeous deep, dark plum. Aroma is potent and vinous, giving off great reminiscences of port wine, sherry, cognac, even as it sits on the table, before I even bring it to my nose. On closer inspection, we get a full, thick, lush feel of black licorice, a profound winey flavor. Thick texture, like raisinbread, or plum pudding! A slow sippin' beer, with a slightly oily mouthfeel. At 11%, it's a whopper, but the alcohol sits behind the profound, commanding flavors, and only later does it slowly emerge.
Perfect thing to put in your hand and slide down the lips on cold-as-bejeezus days like things..
I was supremely satisfied with this one.
1997 vintage

feloniousmonk, Feb 12, 2003
Photo of Slatetank
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

Slatetank, May 13, 2013
Photo of StonedTrippin
3.71/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2008 vintage. not sure what the big deal is here. this is just a really sweet, yeasty, alcoholic monster. pouring a glittery golden color with a ton of coagulated yeast sediment and a minimal white head. the nose is very sugary, honey sweet, sticky, and yeasty. some fruit notes up front in the taste. alcohol wipes out any other potential subtleties, all i taste is booze and sugar, maybe a hint of vanilla from mid sip onwards. really syrupy in feel, not much carbonation, and more residual sugar that i can handle without turning diabetic. long teeth coating finish. overall not my favorite stuff here, not worth the price or the hype, maybe another decade would make this a star, but im just not feeling it here.

StonedTrippin, Jan 11, 2013
Photo of drabmuh
3.25/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2007 - why let it age.

Beer poured into a snifter. Beer is dark yellow to brown and forms no head. Leaves very little lacing on the glass and carbonation is low. Beer is really hazy. I should have checked for sediment.

Sweet sweet caramel. This beer is really sweet smelling. Raisins and plums. Smells like a homebrew I made a while ago.

Beer is sweet with kind of an odd earthy flavor to it. I'm not really feeling this beer. Caramel note with some forward sweetness and no real bitterness. Beer finishes slightly dry. Drinkability not good. I don't think I'll be able to finish the whole thing. Maybe the aged versions are better or with another 10 years on it it will improve. Right now, not my favorite.

drabmuh, Mar 19, 2010
Photo of oline73
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I had this on-tap at Max's. Poured into a tasting glass. This was the 2010 batch.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy amber with almost no head at all.

Smell: Extremely sweet. Some malt and dark fruit along with caramel, port, and some alcohol.

Taste: This one is just a bit too sweet for me. I understand it comes with the territory, but this is a bit much. Malt and ripe dark fruit/wine flavors. The finish is slightly bitter with some warm alcohol and still really sweet.

Mouthfeel: The body is thick and mildly syrupy. Very mild, tingly carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: I thought this was way too sweet. I'd like to try an older version to see if things mellow out at all.

oline73, Nov 22, 2011
Photo of WesWes
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The beer pours a darl cloudy brown color with a thin white head that fades to very little. The aroma is great. It has a warm, malty scent that screams burnt toffee. It's mellow and sweet smelling; very nice. The taste is perfect. It has a rich, malty flavor that goes down so smooth and flavorful and finishes warm with a sweet, burnt toffee taste. This is one tastey beer. The mouthfeel is perfect as well. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is the best English barleywine I've ever had. It exceptional in all categories except appearance. I'm a sucker for at least minimal head retention. This is truely a great beer.

WesWes, Feb 11, 2008
Photo of mendvicdog
4/5  rDev -5.9%

mendvicdog, Aug 02, 2013
Photo of mdfb79
4.05/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From 6/6/10 notes. Had on tap at Max's in Baltimore. 2006 vintage.

a - Pours an amber-golden color with light carb and a little biit of white head.

s - Ssmells of sweet sticky dark fruits, sugar, and wheat.

t - Tastes a bit syrupy, and also of sweet fruit and malts, sugar, and dark fruits.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Very smooth and very sweet.

d - A nice barleywine but very very sweet, If you like sweet fruity barelywines this is for you. Would like to try another vintage of this.

mdfb79, Jun 12, 2010
Photo of jwc215
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

275 ml bottle from 2003.

Pours mirky light brown with a small bubbly patch that eventually disappears. Some "floaties" present.

The smell is of strong caramel with vanilla, molasses and alcohol. Some underlying dried fruits are also present.

The taste is very sweet and alcoholic. The flavor is the same as the aroma, except that the caramel dominates, as does the sharp alcohol. Very malty, very sweet, quite boozy.

The body is full, becomes more syrupy as it progresses. Flavors hang on for a long time, as does the heat of the alcohol and the sticky sweetness.

This is a slow-sipper. It's well-made, no doubt, but just too sweet and sharp for me to enjoy as much as I would have liked to.

jwc215, Feb 11, 2007
Photo of Rochefort10nh
5/5  rDev +17.6%

Rochefort10nh, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of smcolw
4.2/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1997 version of the Harvest Ale. This one pours a muddy, dark brown. Good initial head that dies to a ring of bubbles on the side of the glass. No permanent lace.

Very strong aromas of brown sugar, some raw bread and nearly burnt toffee.

Molasses is the first flavor I taste. This is a very sweet beer up front and in the swallow. Nice hop bitterness in the middle. The aftertaste has strong mocha notes. The alcohol is very strong--it doesn't dominate, but it certainly warms. The body is expectedly thick like heavy cream. Good strong carbonation to balance the body.

This is not a very "drinkable" beer, but it is an excellent single winter warmer for slow sipping. No one will ever accuse this beer of blandness. More than two of them, you might not taste anything.

smcolw, Jul 05, 2007
Photo of Gueuzedude
3.85/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2003 vintage edition, sampled March 2005
Pours a orange copper color that is brilliantly clear and topped by a thin pale tan head. The aroma is richly malty with notes of sugar, toffee, alcohol, and already a bit of oxidation notes that add a richness to the aroma. The taste is sweet up front, with a candied toffee-like concentrated maltiness. This beer is fairly simplistic, with a hint of hoppiness that rounds out this beer a bit. Despite its simple nature this beer is still enjoyable on this night.

Gueuzedude, Mar 10, 2005
Photo of Halcyondays
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

275 mL bottle, 2001 Vintage, brewed when I was a senior in high school,

A: Pours a dark brown with a light head that doesn't last too long. Not murky.

S: Sweet nose with caramel, raisin, maple syrup and Pedro Ximenez sherry. Hints of fig and apricot, very mild oxidation character. Great nose.

T: Caramel, brown sugar syrup and dark fruit for the main flavour. Delicious, still has plenty of residual sugar left. Great note of cocoa on the finish. The ultimate beer for malt lovers.

M: Thick, viscous and chewy. Has a really similar feel to a Port wine on the tongue. Mild carbonation works wonders here. Nice amount of warming alcohol in the tummy and going down.

D: An easy sipper for an after dinner drink. Even at 9 years old this is still drinking very young and I could see it lasting another 10-30 years simply because of the sugar content, liken it to a vintage Port, Sauternes, Tokaji - classic dessert wines. The '99 I had of this a few years back was one of the best beers I've ever had; that beer had a little more complexity and oxidation character, but this '01 is still a damn fine beverage.

Halcyondays, Mar 24, 2010
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,236 ratings.