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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

1,229 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,229
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 211
Gots: 177 | FT: 12
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: 1,229 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of ppoitras
ppoitras

Massachusetts

4.53/5  rDev +6.6%

9.6oz bottle from who knows where. 1999 Edition.

Poured into a Rapscallion glass, formed a 1/4" beige head over the slightly cloudy orangey amber brew. Head quickly fades to an uneven layer of bubbles, and lacing is minimal, both more or less as expected for the style and age. Aroma is strongly of malt sweetness and alcohol. Taste is hearty in body, yet slithers lightly over the tongue and down the hatch, almost seeming to evaporate in the back of the mouth. Alcohol intergrates well, is obviously present, yet not leaving a rubbing alcohol aftertaste or numbness. Mouthfeel and drinkability are superb, so silky smooth, and goes down so well so such a big brew. What an experience...

05-20-2005 00:29:51 | More by ppoitras
Photo of superspak
superspak

Michigan

4.85/5  rDev +14.1%

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.

04-19-2012 04:16:30 | More by superspak
Photo of Huhzubendah
Huhzubendah

District of Columbia

4.35/5  rDev +2.4%

Vintage 2000.

A: The beer pours a reddish brown with a nice head and lingering lace. It appears to be going strong after ten years.

S: Sweet malt, raisins, alcohol, buttery toffee

T: A splendid example of English Barleywine. This beer is still sweet, but ten years has mellowed this beer out quite nicely. There is a buttery, caramel sweetness that could become cloying, but for now it's delicious. There is definitely an alcohol presence that I'm guessing will not go away regardless of how long the beer is aged.

M: Low carbonation, sweet, sticky, alcohol finish. Pleasant lingering aftertaste of caramels, dark fruit, toffee.

D: A small serving is plenty for me. If I'm in the mood for an English Barleywine, this is the first beer that comes to mind.

03-08-2010 00:29:33 | More by Huhzubendah
Photo of Gonzoillini
Gonzoillini

Illinois

3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

04-02-2014 02:21:48 | More by Gonzoillini
Photo of afsdan
afsdan

Colorado

5/5  rDev +17.6%

03-22-2014 21:39:43 | More by afsdan
Photo of BillRoth
BillRoth

Maryland

4.25/5  rDev 0%

12-07-2013 17:23:45 | More by BillRoth
Photo of Mebuzzard
Mebuzzard

Colorado

4.33/5  rDev +1.9%

This is a 1999 vintage, bought and drank on the same day (today). With a medium chestnut brown body this beer looks perty darn good. The semi-soapy head does have some density to it, yet it vanishes in a couple minutes never to return. No colar lacing or anything. Too bad...but still the taste is great. A bit of an alcohol nose on it. Caramel and toffee.
A nice calm caramel sweetness surrounds the malt in the taste. Some mocha and faint vanilla as well. Rich, but not thick. I get a hint of smokiness on the end, with a peppering of spices. This is a darn fine beer. At $10 a bottle it's a good beer to enjoy over a celebration or special occasion. Which is what I did.

12-03-2009 10:11:34 | More by Mebuzzard
Photo of brandoman63
brandoman63

Illinois

3.5/5  rDev -17.6%

11-30-2011 22:15:02 | More by brandoman63
Photo of biegaman
biegaman

Ontario (Canada)

4.43/5  rDev +4.2%

1998 Vintage opened for Thanksgiving - October 13, 2008.

Against and away from the light reveals two completely different looking beers. What sits in front of me is a beer dismal and dreary. It is a muddied, cheerless ocher brown that refuses to refract any light what so ever, denying even the slightest of highlighting. The beer's collar, even along its fringes, can scarcely be noticed.

To the light, however, it quietly erupts with colour. Tones of raspberry and red apple appropriate the 'Harvest Ale' moniker with thoughts of fall time fruit bounty. I can't help but think two different scores for appearance would only be appropriate. It is rather astounding the sparkle it conceals.

This is less a beer than it is a sweet, sugary nectar of over-ripened fruits and sticky butterscotch pudding. The above does little justice to describe the character of an aroma that seems to incorporate elements of tawny-port, dark rum, calvados, sherry, and especially cognac unto itself.

Smell alone will warn you that what you're about to encounter is rich, but only after tasting it will you realize the full extent of this. Its likeness to a full bodied cognac, vintage tawny-port, or five star brandy really can't be overstated. This is as rich as it is complex.

The flavours are so numbered that one could associate this to a long list of things. I would venture to say foremost on my palate is: mushy pineapple, plum pudding, molasses, shortbread cookies, maple syrup, browned sugar, wine grapes, pecan pie, raisin bread, choke cherries, caramelized fruits as well as dates, figs, and plum all coated in a bitter cocoa fondue. It's a nearly endless list.

It makes me think of oak-aged honey, and whether or not there exists such a thing. It is sweet and nectar-like with a complex depth of flavour. The carbonation has long faded which leaves the tastes to stick on palate. The lingering bitterness adds more persistence. It is both intensely bitter and sweet at the same time. The alcohol is quite well pronounced - especially in smell - but as it should be, no?

This ten year old vintage is my only taste of the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale to date. I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it, it is definitely something special and considerably unique. It isn't like other barleywines, it is a beer of its own, one that I can't define yet. Luckily I have a number of other vintages still waiting in the cellar to better become acquainted with.

10-14-2008 01:08:06 | More by biegaman
Photo of John_M
John_M

Oregon

4.55/5  rDev +7.1%

This is for the 2001.

The beer pours a dark cloudy brown, with minimal head, but with good retention and lacing. There is the usual rich, sweet smell, this time with sherry, chocolate, toffee, prunes and maple syrup. On the palate the beer is nothing less then incredible. There is an intense flavor of chocolate, interwoven with vanilla, toffee and butterscotch. The beer has an exceptional mouthfeel, and is just luscious. It is incredibly soft, plush and creamy. Absolutely decadent. The beer ends with a very long, lingering finish. Exceptional beer. Just incredible.

05-23-2007 21:56:06 | More by John_M
Photo of smakawhat
smakawhat

Maryland

4.47/5  rDev +5.2%

Poured from the cask into a medium sized snifter at ChurchKey DC. Vintage 2010.

No head presented but filled to the brim nearly, giving off a dull dark slightly opaque red rust color, and maintaining just a faint tan collar. Shaking it up or bumping produces some more carbonation, giving a slight fizzy faint body.

Nose is stupidly butter rich and apple jam. But not of the diacetyl variety. Rich rum soaking spirits seem to come out in abundance. Smells fantastic.

Taste is just soft an luscious on the palate, bringing in that warm apple butter richness. Some faint licorice that is chewy on the aftertaste too.

Great drink right out of the cask just wonderful.

01-05-2012 23:53:48 | More by smakawhat
Photo of rab53
rab53

Washington

5/5  rDev +17.6%

12-02-2011 03:07:53 | More by rab53
Photo of beerthulhu
beerthulhu

New Jersey

4.25/5  rDev 0%

Bottled Sept. of 1998 and aged 9 years before sampling. 11% abv.

A: Pours a very dark burgundy red with a light thin tan head with some reddish hues.

S: Spicy alcohol, sweet raisins are on the nose. There is also a slight detection of smokiness.

T: The beer starts out with a massive malting and dried fruit smack in the face. Appears to be very rough around the edges malt wise with a dry bitterness and dried raisins for flavor. There is also a big burnt brown sugar flavor with an overpowering sugary sweetness. Thankfully the beer fades beautifully with some pears, apples, cinnamon and a light brown sugar coating that is very smooth leaving a sweet malt residue fade on the tongue.

M: syrupy with some light molasses.

D: Overall there was an overpowering brown sugary sweetness that is sweet making this a sipper. very good.

06-02-2008 22:36:43 | More by beerthulhu
Photo of Viggo
Viggo

Ontario (Canada)

5/5  rDev +17.6%

Vintage 1997. The most spectacular beer I've ever had the pleasure of trying. Pours a pretty clear mahogany brown, with a small thick tan head, spotty lace and plenty of legs. Smell is mollasses, vanilla, super malty, grape, plum/raisin, little bit of alcohol, very vinous. Taste is bitter chocolate/coffee, raisins, plums, dates, spice, figs. Mouthfeel is very full bodied, low carbonation. Fucking amazing, and bottled the same year i graduated elementary school! Thanks DrJay!

12-08-2005 21:18:13 | More by Viggo
Photo of tdm168
tdm168

North Carolina

4/5  rDev -5.9%

02-20-2014 15:47:18 | More by tdm168
Photo of mdaschaf
mdaschaf

Washington

4.25/5  rDev 0%

2010 Vintage.

A: Pours an orange/red/ruby color with a small white head that has very little retention and no lacing. A little bit of sediment.

A: A little bit of alcohol right off the bat, some candied dark fruit - raisins and a bit of prunes, some white grapes. It almost has a liquor/sherry aroma to it.

T: Rather sweet, with some raisins, grape, caramel, and honey, there is almost a mead like character to this beer. Again, reminds me of sherry.

M: Rather syrupy, medium bodied, with low to medium carbonation. Extremely drinkable.

O: Quite good, a very nice sipper that was a perfect end to the evening. I can see why people like to sit on these, I can see this beer mellowing a bit over time, not that the alcohol was a problem on the flavor profile.

02-18-2012 04:15:11 | More by mdaschaf
Photo of Bighuge
Bighuge

Minnesota

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

2000 vintage. This beer is a murky looking deep scarlet color. A slight brown head edges the glass. Very sweet caramel candy aroma. Also get cherry and wood on the nose. These Harvest Ales never cease to amaze me. This is the third vintage I've tried over the past month and they were all wonderful. This beer is so damn smooth for 11.5 a/v. These Harvest ales are truly works of art. This beer is vinous and heavy on the fruits and sweet characteristics. Dark cherry and plum. Vanilla extract. Candied apple. Dry cedar. The more I sip this the more I feel the dominant taste here is cherry-vanilla. Wow. It's great. The mouthfeel is a titch syrupy and almost a full bodied brew. But this is a highly drinkable beer given it's a/v. Another winner from JW LEES.

1998. Appearance is dark burgandy. Thin laced off-white head. The nose is piney, malty and perfumey. And oh yeah, alcohol is there too. My oh my is all I can say when this beer hits the palate. Beautiful. Surprisingly, I get no sign of alcohol whatsoever. And this is 11.5 a/v. This is an incredibly smooth and easy drinking barleywine. This is my first experience with JW LEES and it is very positive. I seem to get some spicing on the palate. Sweet spices like cinamon. This beer has a really nice sweet taste to it. Fairly low on bitterness. Very little aftertaste. This beer is almost a Masterpiece of the Brewing Art.

1997. The beer pours a deep garnet with a decent head. Unbelievable sweet fruity tones on the nose. And some alcohol and brown sugar. The taste is very sherry like. Very nice. Residual sugars are evident. Tastes of brown sugar and candied apple. Very nice taste. A little bitterness perceived. Alcohol is present but not overbearing. This is very good, but the '98 vintage I had a couple nights ago was better.

06-10-2002 22:13:35 | More by Bighuge
Photo of billab914
billab914

Virginia

4.33/5  rDev +1.9%

2001 vintage picked up at Premier Gourmet in Buffalo during my trip back there for the holidays. Poured from a 275 ml bottle into my Dogfish snifter. Pours dark brown with a very thin white ring around the outside edge of the glass. There was a moderate amount of carbonation bubbles and sediment visible from the outside of the glass.

Aroma has some brown sugar sweetness to it as well as some dark rich fruit flavors and a hint of alcohol. There are notes of figs, raisins, and cherries in the complex fruitiness of the nose. Taste is very sweet with some malt, raisins, and figs. There is a lot of dark fruit flavors that make it very complex. it's also a lot sweeter then I expected.

Mouthfeel is on the thicker side with low carbonation. Drinkability is pretty good for the abv%. it's a little too sweet for me to want to drink any more then 1 bottle in a sitting though. It's very good though for a 9 year old beer, and very complex. I'd love to try other vintages.

01-17-2010 18:17:04 | More by billab914
Photo of DrJay
DrJay

Massachusetts

5/5  rDev +17.6%

Vintage 1997:
This beer poured a deep ruby red, mostly clear, and was topped by a thin reddish brown head made up of extremely fine bubbles that produced tiny dots of lace throughout. It was intensely malty, with plum and raisin balancing sweet toffee and caramel, all very English in character. Hints of molasses and vanilla crept in as well. The first flavour that hit me was chocolate covered figs, followed by malty sweet toffee and caramel with some nuttiness. Tobacco, plum and raisin character all appeared, creating a very complex flavour. There was even a bit of bitterness left to balance the overall sweet flavour. The very low carbonation was incredibly fine and completely integrated into the body and texture, which was incredibly smooth. Just a bit of stickiness remained. Drinking this beer was an incredible experience. It felt incredibly light on the palate, almost like there was nothing there, and the flavours were amazing.

12-25-2005 23:07:55 | More by DrJay
Photo of wrightst
wrightst

Maryland

4/5  rDev -5.9%

08-12-2014 18:31:25 | More by wrightst
Photo of Tone
Tone

Missouri

3.98/5  rDev -6.4%

A 2000 version of this brew.

Pours a cloudy brown. 1/2 inch head of a light tan color. Decent retention and decent lacing. Smells of alcohol, strong malt, some roasted malt, and some bread aromas. Fits the style of an English Barleywine. Mouth feel is smooth and thick. Low to average carbonation levels present. Tastes strongly of alcohol, sweetness, then some roasted malt comes through, then the bread flavors dominate, and the finish is mostly the sweetness. Hop bitterness is present, but does not come through very strongly. Overall, complex and rich palate - a little too sweet for my taste.

02-17-2009 05:48:12 | More by Tone
Photo of glid02
glid02

Georgia

3.9/5  rDev -8.2%

Cask at the Brick Store.

Pours a hazy honey-golden color with a one-finger slightly off-white head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of sweet medium and dark fruits with large amounts of sticky sweet caramel malts. Also present are slight amounts of toffee and even slighter amounts of oxidation (the cask was about six hours old).

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Very sweet caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by good amounts of sugar-coated pear flavors. Midway through the sip faint amounts of darker fruit flavors - plums mostly - make a brief appearance before giving way to caramel malts and hints of toffee that carry through to a decidedly sweet ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is OK. I finished my glass without too much of a problem however I'm not sure about another.

Overall I found this beer to be on the sweet side from the bottle and the cask version - even though it's the 2009 version and doesn't have much age on it - is overly sweet. It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the British guy tells Lisa and Bart that "our sweets are different than those across the pond" and then they proceed to go into an LSD-like trip after eating the candy. Very sweet, but if you're a malt-head this may be right up your alley.

11-16-2010 23:43:14 | More by glid02
Photo of Derek
Derek

British Columbia (Canada)

4.22/5  rDev -0.7%

Brewed in 2003.

A: Orangy-brown with a white head. Not much retention, clings to the glass more like a leg than a lace. The Burgundy of Britain?

S: Nice British fruityness.

T: Wow. Very sherry-like, some nice apricot fruit flavour. Balance is slightly tipped to the sweet side. Quality British pale malt in the background, but the yeast really produces the flavours here. I'm not always a fan of the fruity British ales, but this is REALLY nice.

M: Moderate body and carbonation. Very light for its strength (well attenuated).

D: This is a very nice sipper. At 11.5%, you're not looking at a session brew. The taste is easily approachable.

Thanks Kevin... Really, thanks a lot!

11-27-2005 18:04:47 | More by Derek
Photo of HopHead84
HopHead84

California

4.1/5  rDev -3.5%

A generous extra from rsquared618. 1998 vintage. The beer appears dark copper with a light beige head.

The aroma is of toffee, dates, figs, and dried fruits. It smells very sweet and sugary, with some notes of oxidization and alcohol. Hops are nowhere to be found.

The taste is very sugary sweet, reminiscent of dates and toffee, with a strong alcohol presence. Other flavors are of candied sugar and dried fruits. This is a classic English Barleywine that's mellowed with age. The finish is sugary sweet, almost cloyingly so, with toffee and alcohol.

The beer is medium-full bodied with low carbonation.

06-09-2009 02:50:10 | More by HopHead84
Photo of Gusler
Gusler

Arizona

4.53/5  rDev +6.6%

“1997 Vintage”: Been quite sometime since I broke into my stash of J. W. Lees, stash hell I’m down to just a 1988 plus some 4 bottles of 2004, well I guess its what happens, can’t keep them forever. Once liberated from its nine-year incarceration in the 275ml brown bottle, it appears in the glass to be a deep ruby color with a diminutive frothy light tan head that evaporates quickly leaving a velum like coating of lace on the glass. Nose “Woo Hoo”, fusel alcohol dominates with a strong sweet maple sugar sweetness to back it up, a presage of what’s to come at the start, sweet with a modest grain profile, the top fair to middling in feel. Finish is benign in its acidity, the hops present, but totally overwhelmed by the alcohol, vinous, dry and lingering aftertaste, the beer certainly warms the tummy, but after 9 years of setting on a shelf, its still “Magnificent”, damn I love these monsters.

(4.6)
“1988 Vintage”: Decanted before decocting to get all the “dregs” that coated the bottom of the bottle, much to the chagrin of many beer purists, I like all the little “strange particles” that inhabit the bottom of a vintage beer such as this one. The beer decants color a cloudless walnut brown, the decocted color, something akin to a rusty nail. The pour produced little head, and less lace. “Whoa Nellie”, what a nose fusel alcohol, sweet, five star brandies, bubble gum, over ripe pineapple, what a treat for this old schnozzle. Start is maple sugar sweet, top is middling in its feel to the palate. Finish negligible on the carbonation, hops I am sure I taste them, but the big alcohol bite just overwhelms all your olfactory and gustatory senses, and the “tummy warming” sensation quit noticeable, one spectacular beer, but most certainly something that is not meant for those people’s weak of heart and or any other body part and or function, “Whew”!

(4.6)
“1986 Vintage”: The beer appears a deep muddy brown color, No Head and No Lace, the nose, where the "Hell" do I begin, Strong alcohol, brandy, vinous, fresh plowed "Midwest" dirt, (A smell I love). Front is all malt, the middle full, the finish, "Alcohol" dominates, spicy hop bite, under the lingering alcohol dry long lasting aftertaste. "Robust" more like ZAP, ZONK, ZOW, POWIE, Batman, this beer is not for the weak hearted, or anyone who wants to keep their taste buds. “God” I loved it! But then I am quite strange.

(4.4)
“1998 Vintage”: The beer pours a thick cloudy Brownish-Copper, the head profuse, and the lace lavish sheets to coat the glass. Nose is deep roasted malt, caramel, and bittersweet chocolate, somewhat smoky and yes even a bit "Brandy like. Front is sweet, the top "Thick", the finish is mildly acidic with a bounty of hops and the long lasting alcohol bitter aftertaste to end a magnificent beer. I need to find a source for these beers those ships to Arizona, as I must sample more.

07-02-2005 20:57:34 | More by Gusler
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,229 ratings.