1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

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

1,319 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,319
Reviews: 812
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 189 | FT: 13
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:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (19) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
Ratings: 1,319 | Reviews: 812
Photo of Beerandboards
5/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage, reviewed 12/29/12

Poured into a snifter

Appearance is dark caramel brown, like the color of dried dates (kind of an obscure reference, but it's honestly the best comparison I can think of). Pours a two finger head, even at 12 years old, but dissipates quickly to some whispy foam on top. Beer looks great, the almost opaque brown shows some golden brown on the edge when tilted against the light.

S - vanilla, caramel and earthy notes dominate when the beer is cold, as it warms up it some dark fruit, ripe apples and pears start to come out. It's crazy complex, smells phenomenal.

T - follows right along the nose. Tons of rich and thick caramel dominates at first, vanilla notes come in on the back end. Again, as it warms up the dark fruit come in, ripe red apple. Brown sugar. Like the smell, just amazingly deep and complex. Finish is silly smooth, some honey notes. It's freaky how tasty this beer is.

M - low low carb. Medium thickness. Perfect vehicle for the flavors going on. Can't find any fault.

O - I'm trying to figure out how not to give 5 across the board here. I cant think of a single improvement that needs to be made. This is a special occasion sipper that I can easily spend an hour enjoying. Just absolutely crazy good.

This is my first venture into JW Lees, I got this as part of a sweet BIF box from nlmartin (thanks again buddy). I will definitely be looking out for other vintages, but I don't know how any other year could be any better. 12 years of age set the bar very high.

Photo of claaark13
4.77/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 2 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1988 vintage poured into a small taster flute.

Looks like I was poured a thick reddish brown juice into the glass. Not great at all, no carbonation.

Smells like a bag of twizzlers. Seriously smells like a fresh bag. Unbelievable.

Sweet almost port flavor with sweet cherries, raisins and then that beautiful twizzler flavor. Phenomenal.

Has some syrup feel to it, but complements flavor appropriately. Very drinkable.

Very impressed with this. The guy serving it didn't have too many notes on how it was kept, but I was happy with the results.

Photo of sammo
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of NittanyBeerFan
4.83/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

All tastings poured into tulip glasses...

Bottle from 1998 - Reviewed 4/25/2011 (5, 4.5, 5, 4.5, 5)

Pours a rich brown with garnet hues, almost no head at all, though there are hints of bubbles that do form after the pour. Leggy appearance on the glass after a quick swirl. The aroma is toffee, caramel, sweet syrupy malt, raisins, and dates, along with molasses and some absolutely awesome port/fortified wine character. On to the palate, where this is one of the most delicious and complex barleywines that I have ever tasted. Toffee, caramel, raisins, dates, and that brown sugar syrupy flavor all translate from the aroma. Followed by sherry-flavored oxidation and port-like notes, the fruity and sweet flavor is top-notch. Not even a touch of booze after 12 long winters in the bottle. Thick and syrupy and smooth on the palate that leaves a sticky residue, this beer deserves all the accolades it gets.

Bottle from 1999 - Reviewed 4/28/2011 (4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5)

Appearance as far as color is much the same as the 98, though there is far more carbonation in this that there was in the 1998 vintage. The aroma, as a result is far more open. There are the same aromas of toffee and caramel, more evident here, with lighter fruit, mainly dates and plums. Again, the port-like aromas are evident. On the palate, this is much more concentrated as far as the toffee and caramel go, with the fruits fading a touch to the background. The palate does open up more bringing in some plums and dates, molasses, a touch of leather, and a hint of vanilla. The finish is syrupy and sweet, but not cloying; I find the sweetness in this vintage more balanced with the malt character than it was in the 98. Overall, I prefer the 98 vintage slightly, though this is no slouch.

Bottle from 2000 - Reviewed 6/28/2011 (4.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 4.5)

Bottle opens with a tiny pffft indicating an undercarbed barleywine, but the pour shows otherwise. Light carbonation, but a nice fizzy head does form before vanishing. The aroma is somewhat less integrated than the two previous vintages, even at 11 years in the bottle. Caramel apple, dates, brown sugar, and some molasses. On the palate, the caramel sweetness is especially notable, bordering on candy-like. Deep fruity notes complement brown sugar and molasses in the finish, with just a touch of vanilla and some sherry-nuanced oxidation. Slick and oily, but smooth and lush on the palate. The candy-like sweetness is somewhat tempered by the vanilla and fruit notes, balancing this nicely. This is my second favorite vintage overall behind the '98.

Photo of NWer
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage stored in a pantry that holds a steady 50 - 55 degrees.
Served in a brandy snifter.
Little to no head. Just lies there. Like brandy. Color is rust/brown. Clear. Not much sediment.
First impression is man, this is really sweet. Figs, molasses, honey notes. A pleasant sipper. If in the mood for a sipping wine - er - beer this will fit the bill but man, is it sweet.
I have another I will be putting down for a year or two to see how it mellows.
In spite of my machinations about sweetness, I like it overall.
I might update my review as I get used to it.

Photo of EricCioe
4.19/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 Vintage into a Delirium snifter.

It pours a dark black with a one finger off-white head that fades first to a ring and island and then nothing at all. On the nose the two predominant notes are a very distinct mint and biscuit. On the tongue there is a huge malt sweetness. It's not overpowering by any means, just huge. At the end there is a note of alcohol, not surprising given the content here. In the mouth this beer is syrupy and cloying, pretty large. The alcohol content and price conspire to make this one not something to drink lots of, but it paired wonderfully with a rare ribeye tonight and for that sort of purpose it's a great drink.

Photo of changeup45
4.39/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Pours out a brown/amber color with no head at all. Aroma is very nice; roasted malts, tree bark, plums, molasses and a little bit of alcohol. The flavor is sweet and sugary with a lot of dark fruits, particularly raisins with some roasted malt. Silky smooth. The most amazing part about this beer is that the 11.5% is hardly noticed. If any alcohol shows at all it is a little in the finish. Way better than the Thomas Hardy 2005 I sampled recently. This really is impressive.

Photo of Pellinore1
5/5  rDev +17.9%

Photo of ggaughan
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1988 Vintage. This bottle was compliments of Tom at Union Jack's on the Manatawny, what a treat. This beer poured a port like redish/brown color into a nice miniature brandy snifter with minimal head. The beer had an exceptional aroma similar to a brandy with that strong alcohol smell and some fruit notes, maybe figs or plums. I was a bit apprehensive that the taste would follow along with the brandy like smell but the taste was actually very enjoyable and not burning like a brandy would. The taste was a bit sweet with more plums notes but very enjoyable and complex.

This beer aged very well and would be worth trying again if I can get my hands on it again. What a treat. Thanks Tom!

Photo of Greggy
4.87/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Re-review on 11/20/08. Sampled at cellar temp. 1998 vintage

A- Very nice thick 1 finger head with some nice clinging lace. Dark maroon/brown color with some suspended sediment. After a bit, the foam recedes to a thin cap.

S- Initially I get a huge fresh flour component and sweet brown sugary goodness. I also get some nice cherry and chocolate, with some plum or fig. I also get some nice peppermint aromas.

T- Sweet plum, cherries, maple syrup, brown sugary smoothness. with a very smooth dryness in the fining. Very sweet malt as well. This is outstanding.

M- this thing is the definition of smooth. It has basically no carbonation but is very well balanced and sweet. It's amazing what 10 years on a beer can do for smoothness.

D- 11.5% is pretty high, but it's hidden VERY well. I am Very glad I have 3 more of these.

Photo of Devi0us
4.75/5  rDev +12%

Photo of bluesplit63
3.75/5  rDev -11.6%

Photo of davidwhatshisnam
4.75/5  rDev +12%

Photo of Pete27lax
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of beergod1
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A treat my friend D. Kurtz brought over. Wow, the smell is a treat in itself. Smells like England. Aroma is sweet and an alcohol bouquet. Color is a dark reddish brown, no head, small foam ring around the edge. Flavor is sweet with heavy Dark fruit / malty notes. Strong alcohol presence, but in a nice warming finish. I even noticed a touch of saltiness in the flavor. This is a very big beer, the only down fall is it is thick, I'm not a "Big " barley Wine fan, but this was an amazing beer.1988 vintage.

Photo of jcalabre
3.5/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1988 Vintage. Originally rated on 22 November 2002. I'm writing this review from my notes.
Poured a deep brown/red with a small head, that lasted quite a long time. Aroma was sweet with raisin and caramel.
The flavor was definitely sweet, perhaps a bit too sweet for me.

This beer is a bit different, but I could see why many like it. It's a must-try for any serious beer drinker.

Photo of ROBSTARR
4.75/5  rDev +12%

Photo of kirkse
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of tbeer40
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of Syracuse12
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of Atomicskis5
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of jeremiahoden
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of ChadQuest
2.95/5  rDev -30.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Vintage 1999.
Pretty hazy sunburst orange color with a lasting head.
Aroma is spices such as nutmeg and pumpkin, caramel and apricots. the Apricot aroma is really strong the more i nose into this. The flavors are on the sweet fruit side with some alcohol showing lightly, very smooth and full bodied and syrupy, but it's really too much sweetness for me, a bit outside the balanced range. A good beer that someone with a sweet tooth would enjoy, as it is a decent beer.

Photo of TheSleepyMonkey
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of CharlesRiver
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Harvest Ale 1997.

I have been dieing to try this beer as I have one each from '97-'00. This beer is dark reddish brown in color with almost no head at all. I actually wouldn't expect one from a beer that is six years old. The smell is port like with tons of malt and cherry notes coming through. The taste is thick and malty! Kind of reminds me of Benolence form CBC but a bit thicker. I would never expect a six year old brew to hold up this well. Anise, pepper, cherries and raisins all come through.

What a great sipper. I can't wait to try the other vintages as well.

to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,319 ratings.