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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

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

830 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 830
Hads: 1,417
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.35%
Wants: 260
Gots: 205 | FT: 15
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style | ABV
English Barleywine | 11.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (22) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Reviews: 830 | Hads: 1,417
Photo of MrStark
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a vintage 1999 275ml bottle into a snifter glass.

Appearance is a cloudy orange/brown with a small off white head that dissipated fairly quick. Not too bad for a beer this old I think.

Smell is heavy in sweet malts, caramel, fruit and brown sugar. Very nice to breathe in. A quite complex, sweet and inviting aroma.

Taste upfront is just what the nose was offering up. Sweet malts , caramel , dark fruits , molasses and brown sugar all come together to make a wonderfully sweet and complex flavor. As it warms there is a bit of spiciness and a very mild hint of the alcohol which feels pretty nice on the way down. I'd say 11 years of aging certainly made this a treat for the palette.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and goes down smooth leaving a nice lingering sweetness on the tongue. And surprisingly it has a decent amount of carbonation after all that time.

Drinkablity is just, wow! This beer tastes amazing and goes down very easy and smooth. I had to slow down to try to make it last longer. I believe this is the oldest brew I've had so far and its just very lovely. There is no question that I'd would have this again.

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Photo of brantadid
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured with little to no head. Rich, dark amber in color. Smelled of figs and dates. Tastes of figs and dates. Flavor really matches the noise. Minimal carbonation with makes it very drinkable. Unbelievably long finish. The flavor just goes on and on. Feels like syrup in your mouth. Almost no heat from the alcohol. Just a fantastic beer. To equate this beer to wine; if the various styles of beer could be compared to the various varieties of wine, this beer would be port. Just a great after dinner drink

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Photo of jahred
4.36/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 vintage, consumed on 3/13/05. Pours a very dark, reddish brown color, and before I got even 1/3 of the way thru pouring the bottle, an intensely strong aroma of honey and molasses erups from my glass. Wow - the aroma is fantastic and overwhelming, if in a "Holy F---ing S--T that smells good!" sorta way.

I finish pouring the beer, and find a modest-sized tan head that disappears after about a minute. Still, quite impressive considering how long it's been in the bottle. Now I go back to that aroma. Toffee, hazelnuts, honey and molasses. This might be the best-smelling beer my nose has ever come across.

The taste continues through on the aroma, though it's only almost as impressive. More honey and molasses, with a rich, thick syrupy mouthfeel. A tiny touch of hoppy bitterness remains after all this years, lingering in the aftertaste to balance out this otherwise incredibly sweet brew.

Impressive, and I still can't believe this was 11.5% ABV. The alcohol was barely noticeable.

An amazing beer, for sure.

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

Had this on-tap at Frisco Grille in Columbia, MD. It was a bit pricey ($9 for a chalice), but was well worth it, IMHO.

A: Poured a brackish-amber with virtually no head into a chalice.

S: The aroma was of caramel, brown sugar, and alcoholic esters. No discernable hop aroma, so I could tell right away that this way going to be a fairly sweet barleywine.

T: A very sweet profile, as expected, with caramel, toffee, and brown sugar dominating. Big-time alcoholic esters, but really no discernable hop component - not a complaint, just an observation - I thoroughly enjoyed this beer even though I enjoy a nice hoppy brew.

M: Fairly syrupy and thick.

D: A hefty, albeit sweet, barleywine. I would have liked more of a hop component in the aroma and flavor, but still a very enjoyable sipping beer.

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Photo of nriech
3.68/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2000 Edition enjoyed on 11/11/2006

Appearance: Mahogany colored, darker than any regular ale but not quite porter colored either. (I'm a guy, I dont know any color thats not in the 10 color crayon box)

Smell: Oaky oaky oaky. Very nice, almost more enjoyable than a bourbon. A little fruity and more oak, aged nicely.

Taste: Very smooth and sweet. You have to know going into this its going to be sweet and expect it otherwise youll be heading towards the drain with a very expensive pour. A bit of alcohol but not overpowering, nice actually. Not entirely complex though as I would have liked but a nice depart from the usual. Stickeyness at the end which I actually enjoy and get even more flavor from.

Drinkability: Not entirely high due to the sweetness, one bottle once in a while. A great brew to share during a tasting session though.

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Photo of guitarmage
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: 2005, vibrant orange when held up to the light, cloudy with a slight chill haze, the head wouldn't come out here, but a little lacing leaves a ring around the glass.

Smell: A little horse blanket, then ripe fruit overwhelm, plum, caramel, all kinds of sweetness. I smell more caramel.

Taste: I just had Skullsplitter, and this beer is like that except on steroids, big time. Let's see, caramel, caramel, a single malt scotch alcohol, the beer warms the face, and leaves a cake like finish on the palate, like you just had a bite of peanut butter pie. There's also a light spiciness, peppery, in there.

Mouthfeel: Very thick bodied and syrupy, ultra light carbonation, creamy, like a brandy, easy to sip on.

Drinkability: Well I could drink this until I got hammered, which wouldn't be too long at 11.5. It's very tasty, my first English Barleywine i believe. Very sweet, this would be great to match or contrast with a meal.

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

I've had various vintages of this at the bar but never saw it for sale around here until this week. Purchased a 4-pack of the 1999 vintage.

Serving: 275 ml bottle into a snifter.

A: Slightly cloudy, dark brown/amber color. Had the slightest bit of carbonation that never really produced any head. After a minute or so of sitting in the glass, most of the head is gone.

S: The JW Lees Harvest Ale has a scent unlike any other beer I've ever smelled. A thick, sweet, barley-syrupy smell that you can smell across the table. One evening at the bar, I told the girlfriend that she should just dab a few drops on her neck, perfume was no longer required.

T: A syrupy, caramel-like flavor. It's very, very good. A slightly elevated level of bitterness that I haven't tasted in younger vintages such as the 2005 and 2002. The label claims an 11.5% ABV which I cannot detect at all.

M: After 5 minutes in the glass, the carbonation has mostly gone. It has a thick, viscous feel in the mouth. Very good.

D: The 1999 is slightly MORE bitter than the more recent vintages that I've tried recently, which suggests it may be past its prime. The carbonation has also receded as well. However, it's still very, very, very good.

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

A review of the Vintage Harvest Ale 2000. This is a great beer to wind down with on a cold winter night. It has a nice, sweet malty aroma with traces of alcohol and fruit. This cloudy amber/copper beer is capped with a good sustaining head. It has a doughy mouthfeel and I found the taste to be brandy-like with caramel, figs, and oak. The lace is good and it finishes with a slight bittersweet taste. It is a bit pricey, but well worth it. It's potency became apparent as I wrote my original notes.

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Photo of gonzo138
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

1997 edition, cracked open after thanksgiving dinner

A- pours a very deep brownish red, has a cream colored head that doesnt retain exceptionally well, but laces greatly

S-super rich sweet malts, nice chocolate aroma, also has hints of raisin fruitiness, a little anise smell was present, also had a very strong alcohol smell

T-complements smell, rich and chocoaltey sweet, fruity taste is present in the taste as well, alcohol becomes more pronounced towards bottom of glass

M- very thick and sticky, full body, low carbonation

D- wow, this was one monster beer, glad I found it, it has inspired me to age more beer, absolutely great

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Photo of Boppar
2.84/5  rDev -33.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Vintage 2006, poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A: Pours a bright golden orange color. Great coloring. Completely still. Not even the faintest hint of any sort of carbonation whatsoever. This really does look like a wine.

S: Sherry. That's the only smell I'm picking up on, is that it smells disturbing similar to cream sherry.

T: Sherry, overly-ripe apricots, and honey start this off, with notes of molasses appearing mid-palate. There is also a faint floral suggestion on the finish. Oh, and it's very, very boozey. And yes, it does taste as cloying as it sounds.

M: Perfectly still. Very slick, nice body to it. Good weight.

D: Not at all drinkable. Which is really a shame, because it has some good flavors in it. But it is so mind-numbingly sweet that I just can't handle it.

An interesting take on the style, but not one I much cared for.

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Photo of mcann2pu
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage bottle. My 40th review!

Appearance: Poured into my DFH Signature glass a luscious dark rust color, almost brown at first glance, clear looking brew no detectable sediment or "floaties" although a small amount of compact sediment did remain in the bottom of the bottle when I poured, not much in the way of head, but had an impressively strong lace forming a ring around the inside of the glass.

Smell: First on the nose is an appealing heavy dark fruit aroma, with a detectable toffee-like malt smell as well.

Taste: Rich, delicious, the first taste I get is a malty dark fruit taste, like an aged fig or a prune, this is followed by a sweet molasses-like caramel flavor that gives way to a vanilla / wood finish. Great taste, seems like this one cellared quite well.

Mouthfeel: Great, very appropriate for this type of beer, it's a little syrupy, but I think that is to be expected in an aged beer of this style.

Drinkability: The sweetness of the brew might effect the drinkability for some, but I think that it's a good sipping ale with a lot of fairly complex flavors, I can't wait to see how this one continues to age.

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Photo of Fatduck
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 Vintage 275 ml bottle.

Pours a dark brown, with a fleeting head, fades to a ring. This one is a little muddy. Smells very sweet, but there is a hint of roasted malts in there too, I love it.

Taste is very sweet, lots of stuff going on here, this is one beer that I know is great, but it eludes me. Taste is very fruity, raisins, pears? I don't know, but its great.

Creamy silky mouth, very smooth, barely carbonated. Nice easy drinker.

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Photo of Hagbard
3.8/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Vintage: 1997
Serving type: Bottle

The bottle suggested drinking this by the end of 2002...I got to it before the end of 2003 and I don't think it suffered. I received some very good news today so decided it would be a great time to crack it open and also to make my first review for BA (so bear with me!).

This beer poured a deep brown, which was very pleasing to the eye. There was no head to speak of and no lacing...I blame the glassware I chose. Perhaps it was a little dirty or had some soap residue. The beer captured the ambient light very nicely and created a wonderful image that would have beeen even more pleasing with a 3 finger head.

The smell was malt, malt, malt, malt, and a little bit of must. I think I detect some molasses, but I may just be guessing!

The taste is what gets you! So sweet! Almost candy-like. The malt jumps out and grabs you and takes you prisoner. I haven't developed into a hop-head yet, but even I was looking for a little hop flavor to balance the sweetness. Perhaps if I drank this prior to '02 as suggested, the hops would still be there? I definitely taste a bit of molasses. Towards the finish, I pick up definite traces of butter.

I gave this a 3 for drinkability, because at 11.5% ABV it is definitely a sippin beer. Although, they were able to hide the alcohol quite well behind the sweetness, more than 1 of these in a sitting would be too much.

A great beer. One I'll definitely on the lookout for other vintages.

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Photo of Manoftyr
4.73/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage

Apperance-Pours a rich, dark and cloudy amber-red with resplendent ruby highlights, no real head or lace but hard to detract for that when it's 11.5%abv and over ten years old. Looks lovely to me.

Aroma-Wow, what an overpoweringly tangy aroma; I smell a load of dried and candied syrup-drenched fruits all mingling together in a single aroma making it difficult to pick out individual smells. I definitely smell dates in there though. Some toffee.

Taste-The taste is rather more complex than the aroma and the aforementioned candied fruits are more apparent and distinct. I get dates, plums and raisins most prominently, maybe some figs in there too; extremely sweet. Maybe the faintest hint of chocolate and winter spices towards the back of the middle and some alcohol way, way, WAAAAY in the back end and so faint it's barely worth noting. Delicious.

Mouthfeel-Low-carbonation, thick, syrupy-smooth; perfect for an English Barleywine.

Drinkability-Although this beer has no real alcohol presence it has no shortage of enormous flavors and alcoholic 'weight.' It's a sipper, but not necessarily a very slow one and at this ABV I've gotta rank that high.

Notes/final thoughts-This beer is awesome, didn't expect to like it so much and I'm beginning to suspect I strongly prefer the English interpretations of Barleywines to the hoppy DIPA-like American ones I've been mostly exposed to.

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Photo of faernt
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I tried some of the 1980's vintages and was disappointed. This is 2000 and it's wonderful. It smells good from two feet away. It's huge! Al K Hall (we all know him) aroma is attractive. I get raisins and caramel ( again from two feet away) The mouthfeel is velvet. This is the nightcap beer! Stock up.

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Photo of andrewm190
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This limited edition barley wine was brewed specially in 2002.

Pours a rich amber color, good head, good retention.

It smells very fruity. Apricot is the most prominent smell. But all sorts of fruits could be detected here.

The taste is good, but not as good as the 1998. I detect possibly a faint sense of honey, but mostly apricot again. There is a deep, but perhaps to overbearing fruit taste, even though its a barely wine. I don't think it wonderfully balanced.

The mouth feel is crisp, but not fantastic, which also drops in drink ability when combined with the taste. If your going to spend the money on beer, you could do better with some of the older versions of this brew.

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Photo of Cheesemoose
4.39/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2006 poured into a brandy snifter.

No head, or carbonation for that matter. The color of unfiltered maple syrup. Dark brown, but when shown from like, it is near ruby in the body with yellow edges. I forgot to leave the sediment out, but I do not feel it complimented more than hindered the overall experience.

Wow. Simply gorgeous bouquet. Maple syrup, toffee, port, candied apples, vanilla notes all pair with a pepper/alcohol finish. All well balanced. A charred oak and maple character is the overall character.

A slow coursing beer, open that starts slow but finishes strong. Vanilla notes to begin, then moves into a oak, maple syrup, and touch more vanilla. Finishes with a nice pepper touch and an appreciated warming alcohol. Very port like.

Carbonation is non-existant, but that is to be expected. Creamy, lingering flavors. Makes for a great sipper. Given that the alcohol is rather well masked, and at 5 years, it is near gone from the profile. Yet, it does still give the great warmth you would want in a fine aged Barleywine.

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Photo of LittleBreeze
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 1998

I was a little worried about trying this one. I hate when a good beer has gone down hill.

Not the case with this baby. First sip seemed a bit sweet. After the second...or third sip the complexity...various layers of flavors presented themselves. Burnt sugar is there. Dark fruits. Oak. Plums. A lot going on in this sipper. It is warming and inviting. I shared the bottle. This is a nice one to share on a chilly evening.

Good beer experience.

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Photo of SnifterLifter
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2000 Vintage. 275 ml bottle poured into snifter, very excited to try this one.

Pours dark reddish brown, no murkiness, very little sediment. Leaves lacing and has a very quickly dissipating pinky sized head.

Nose is strongly of sherry, very very slight alcohol presence. I think there would be more to say, but I have a poor sense of smell.

Up front is the butterscotchy sherry flavor, dark fruit, caramel, brown sugar. Possibly a slight tobacco note in there that I didn't expect.

Mouthfeel is not particularly thick, leaves a coating of flavor on your tongue and lips which is pleasant.

This is a wonderful beer. I spent 8.50 on it and I was satisfied. Definitely a sweet sipper for a special occasion. I haven't had this before now but I suspect the age did this beer wonders. Very satisfying.

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Photo of byrd
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

1998 vintage - opened in 2003

Tight tan head of tiny bubbles. Very dark copper brown that is somewhat murky. The head lingers for a while then settles to a thin lace across the surface. The aroma is immediately sweet and malty with maple, rum raisins, and dark fruits being quite noticeable. A slight hint of alcohol is present. Smooth medium-full mouthfeel, but there’s an incredibly malt sweetness that creeps all over the inside of the mouth. The alcohol is quite subdued and well hidden with only a slight warming sensation. The sweetness does not seem to be a hindrance at first, but by the end of the glass, it begins to get somewhat cloying. Not really any hops to speak of; the sweetness simply fades out in the finish then lingers in the aftertaste. Definitely a brew to be sipped and not guzzled, but even then, I felt the sweetness to be a little too much.

This is a 5 year old bottle. Maybe any hop presence that was there at a younger age has faded? Maybe it still needs a few years for the malts to mellow? One way or the other, this bottle wasn’t quite my cup of tea. The store I purchased it from has ‘98, ‘99, ‘00, and ’01 vintages. Maybe I’ll try to pick up a younger vintage to see how they compare...

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Photo of DagFishHead
4.84/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 release
Appearance: Clear but deep ruby-mahogany body. Decent, fizzy tan colored head that fades to a very thin but unbroken cap.
Smell: Sherry, oaky, port-wine, fusel alcohol, carmelized malt sugars, dark/ripe fruits. Stunningly complex.
Taste: Stunningly delicious... Molasses, sweet toffee malt, dark cherries, raisins to start, Sherry/port vinous character at the top. Dries with hop bitterness that allows a figgy/prune fruit aftertaste to linger. So big, but so balanced and level controlled.
Mouthfeel: Viscous, knife-and-fork chewy yet does not over-saturate the taste buds, gentle carbonation and warm/numbing alcohol glow. Incredibly smooth and velvety
Drinkability: For me, this will be a barleywine style standard. Too pricey for extended drinking, but worth every penny. Will seek this out every Xmas... and thus begins my true appreciation for aged ales.

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Photo of 86MonteSS
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

1998 vintage. By the sip, not the gulp. Heavy molasses and heavy alcohol. Definitely a dessert drink. The taste is quite overwhelming. Drinkability is saved only by the sweetness. Flavorful, but I could probably drink a worldwide stout (23% abv) twice as fast. Thick, sweet, very alcoholic. Tastey, but it's kind of like putting a little too much sugar in the Kool Aid.

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Photo of jhu1995
1.63/5  rDev -61.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Had the 2002 Vintage in a bottle. Pours a rich brown color with a minimal head. Smell was mostly alcohol as can be expected given the strength of this beer, but did not expect it to dominate as much as it did. Very strong, sweet smell as well. The taste was overwhelmingly sweet. Where is the balance and complexity because I could not find it. Syrupy and no smoothness whatsoever. Very harsh beer that was choked down. Prefer cough syrup over this one.

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Photo of Siggy125
4.14/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

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.

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Photo of gotbeer
4.57/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage this time for me.

Just as I remember the 98 vintage from earlier this year. Huge malt profile- flavors of sherry, vanilla, molasses, and roasted chocolate. Incredible.

I'm glad I have another 99 in the cellar. I wonder how it will taste at 10 years plus. I would reccomend everyone to start cellaring some of this stuff ASAP. It's almost perfection for it's style.

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