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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale | J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
94
outstanding
842 Reviews
BEER STATS
Reviews:
842
Ratings:
1,458
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
18.35%
 
 
Wants:
260
Gots:
218
For Trade:
14
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

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User Reviews
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Reviews: 842 | Ratings: 1,458
Photo of kellyst
4.57/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 vintage. Pours a cloudy light brown with a thick tan head. Aroma is a standout of caramel, toffee, and sweet grains. The flavor does not dissapoint: caramel, toffee, molasses,sherry, some dark fruit and sweet grains all meld into one terrifically balanced barleywine. Bitterness is not noticeably present, but the beer is not cloying and perfectly balanced. There is some slight oxidation which probably improves this beer. Mouthfeel is spot on for a barleywine, and drinkability is impressive for a beer this big. This is my favorite barleywine to date, and a real treat that I drank to celebrate the birth of my first daughter.

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Photo of Pecorasc
4.87/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1999. Split two ways and poured into a Leffe glass.

A- Medium to deep amber in color with swirls of thin film and some streamers of lacing thrown up the sides of the glass. Swirling or tipping the glass to the side move the lacing around and show that this beer has quite a bit of viscosity. The beer is clean, but not polished and shows no noticeable signs of carbonation. A very nice looking English Barleywine that looks more red than other examples of the style.

S- Dominated by a pleasant dust and cardboard-like oxidation. Those aromas are complemented by a cherry and pear sweetness. Some woodiness is present in the background and there is only a slight amount of alcohol. Very unique, somewhat confusing, but certainly a 5.0.

T + M- Right away, this beer distinguishes itself with a thick and creamy mouthfeel that makes it drink like a stout. Wonderful flavors of cherry liqueur, wood, and cardboard. Think grenadine soaked cardboard; sounds gross, but tastes amazing. Transitions to heavier wood and alcohol on top of the malt and cherry flavors and finishes sweet and smooth with very little alcohol burn.

D- Fantastic drinkability on an 11.5% barleywine. No alcohol burn, but the big body makes this a fuller beer that falls between a sipper and a beer with average drinkability. This could make a classic pairing with so many cheeses and cigars. This beer was surely made with an eye to aging.

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Photo of Mess
4.52/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage. Cellar temp, poured into a snifter on a clear chilly night.

A - pours ruby and brown whiskey, frothy white head. light sparkles through beautifully.

S - First thought smelled a waft of soy, but was mistaken. Rum soaked raisins, brown sugar, vanilla. Alcohol.

T - sweet Rumcake. vanilla, shortbread, un-lit swisher sweet cigar flashback to freshman year of highschool

M - smooth as velvet, thin layer sweet syrup on the tongue.

O - Really pleasantly surprised, was half expecting soy sauce given first whiff and 13 years and 3 moves over the years. Wonderful gentle slow slipper. Will look to cellar these again in the future.

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Photo of Bobikel
4.15/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle reads: Dec. 1st 1999 Vintage
Purchased at Liquor Max in Loveland Co.

Appearance - Pours a hazy amber/brown with red highlights in the light. Head is minilmal and recedes to a whispy ring fairly quickly. Not uncommon for an 11.5% ABV.

Smell - Prunes, alchohol, and toffee dominate. A touch of malt, and no noticible hops.

Taste - Thick and bready, with a nice slight alchohol warmth that slithers down the throat and into the belly. Toffee, raisins, prunes, and malt sweetness are quite nicely balanced with a mild bittering. Which I'm sure shows far more IBU's than I'd expect.

Mouthfeel - Thick and viscous, this monster must've had quite a high terminal gravity. Even the Prickly carbonation can't hide that.

Drinkability - The one area where this beer falls short. It's a sipper, and even then, after one I feel as though my palate could not handle another beer this big or heavy or flavorfull or...

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Photo of RobH
4.92/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1998 vintage. This was my first-ever barleywine style beer. I must say, it blew me away. It was served in a snifter glass at the bar at Birreria Paradiso in Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Excellent after-dinner beer/drink. Like a cordial.

Smooth, inviting to the nose, and quite pleasing to the taste buds, this is a sipper to enjoy over conversation about all the beers that came before it.

If you have never tried a barley wine before and have an opportunity to taste this one, do not pass it up!

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Photo of JoeySchlitz
3.52/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2005 bottle picked up at Healthy Spirits in SF.

Definitely some floaters in this one - let sit still for a while before pouring. Almost no carbonation in this whatsoever - tried pouring from about 3 feet above glass and nothing. A murky brown, cloudy beverage. The smell is really good, picking up rum soaked plums, dates and figs. Pretty boozy and heavy. The taste is super sweet with a slight bitter mustiness at the tail end - reminds me of my grandparent's basement. This has been the same for all JW HA's that I've had - kind of disappointing. The mouth feel is on the more viscous side and would improve greatly if there were any carbonation in it. Given the high ABV, the super sweet flavor and mustiness I could not drink any more than one bottle max. Overall an interesting beer but not something that I would drink on a regular basis.

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Photo of skivtjerry
4.82/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage drank in late 2010:

Looks rather viscous while being poured. Forms a sticky 1" head that persists until the glass is empty (actually, who knows how long it would last - I drank the foam too). Smells wonderful, a humungous malt bomb with luscious sherry notes, toast and alcohol too. Taste is mind-blowing good. Waves of malt attack the tongue and surrender feels great. Figs, rich desserts, chocolate, melons, and a nice grainy note. No hint of hops left, the alcohol provides as much bitter dryness as the IBU's. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, low carbonation and enough alcohol to balance the immense weight. I could drink this stuff until I collapsed, which probably wouldn't be that long. The ultimate beer for a cold evening.

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Photo of wd40
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage sampled in 2012.

Opaque orange/brown appearance with absolutely no head. The smell is reminiscent of raisins, hints of coffee and chocolate. The taste is quite fruity with a bit of coffee in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is the only thing lacking in this beer since it has nearly zero carbonation right out of the bottle. Doesn't bother me too much since it should only have a little to begin with. Overall a great beer. I'll be getting a few more of these to age.

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Photo of slentz
4.09/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage. Bottle to snifter at about 55 degrees. Pop the cap not much of a hiss here.

A: Easy pour down the center of the glass produces zero head but a few bubbles appear. After a minute it all subsides and just looks super flat in the glass. Very dark caramel color. Not the best looking beer. 3.0

S: Smells super malty, caramel, little brown sugar, vanilla, raisins, smells like a barleywine, nice and balanced. Really no hint of alcohol here which is impressive due to the abv. Pretty good nose on it. 4.0

T: Super smooth, very sweet, and malty. Tastes of brown sugar, molasses, slight cinnamon notes. Absolutely no alcohol burn or taste at all. A damn fine beer. 4.5

M: Mouthfeel is nice but I would like to see a tad more carbonation here a little too syrupy. 3.5

O: Overall a very nice beer and a sipper for sure. Really enjoying this one on a sunday evening. 4.0

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Photo of hoser
3.88/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 1999 Harvest Ale was sacrificed this evening. It is really hard to rate a beer this old and be fair to the brewers intentions.
Huge vino and port notes and this fucker could have used another ten years in the cellar. One of the few times I wish I had more patience with some older bottles.

Always love the JW Lees stuff.

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Photo of GregBarleycorn13
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage. Pours a murky mahogany brown with no head. As soon as you bring it to your nose you Know your in for an excellent beer. Taste reminds me of a port. So delicious. For me there was an aftertaste of a bitterness just like Campari. Never had that taste in a beer and enjoyed that , too.

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Photo of dpend
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 275ml Bottle Opened 11/16/03


Deep amber brown appearance with a light fluffy head that dissipated quickly.The aroma is sweet malt with fruit,butter and alcohol.Taste is fruity, with thick malt and butter and a dash of hops on the finish.Mouthfeel is thick and buttery with a light oily feel.This beer was still very young and I will let the other age a bit longer to see where it goes.Outstanding!

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Photo of tkarsies
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage

Served cool in my Westy chalice. Allowed to warm over about an hour while drinking.

A: Dark brown, murky. Thin tan head. Can't see carbonation. Like a barleywine should look.

S: Smells rich, sweet, malty. Maybe a hint of alcohol in the nose but this is masked well by the other aromas. I have read reviews talking about leather and tobacco aromas/flavors with skepticism, but I'm pretty sure I can pick up these as I sniff. Very nice. Makes me want to dive in.

T: Wow. Again, the word "rich" comes to mind. Very malt forward, with brown sugar and fruits such as plums and raisins. Slight bitterness from the hops but this is not prominent at all. Don't know how this was new but this is currently complex malty goodness.

M: Thick, creamy, smooth. Minimal carbonation at this age.

D: A good sipper. Don't notice any alcohol although I feel it a bit near the end. This bottle must have been stored well because it is aged to perfection. Great nightcap. Great beer experience. Great example of how beer can have the complexity and aging potential of wine. A real treat and something I will have to try again, both this vintage as well as others.

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Photo of throwitallaway
3.76/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to roymunson for this brew! This is the from the 2001 vintage. Decanted from the bottle into a snifter. Pours a quite dark amber color with zero head as expected. Smells of huge malts, cherries, toffee, and alcohol. I've had very few barleywines, so this aroma is quite unique and interesting. The taste is sweet, with raisins, cherries, toffee, and booze all making an appearance. This is so sweet I should have definitely waited to try it later in the day, like after dinner, as opposed to 2 pm. Mouthfeel is quite thick. Drinkability is extremely low as it would take me forever to even finish one of these. I'm conflicted with this beer. It's obviously an excellent beer, but it's so far out of any style I enjoy, that it's hard for me to get too into it.

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Photo of hopoilcrazy
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The bottle says 1987 so I thought I would trust it. I grab my bottle opener, and it opens with no sound, just metal tapping glass.
It pours a dark burgundy color and settles with a suspended sediment, even if you are careful during the pour.
With agitation, the barleywine emits a strong alcohol wave followed by a strong musty aroma that definitley cost it some points.
The taste makes up for any defeciency that might exist. The first 30 minutes (I drink slow, okay), the barleywine is very robust with figs, anchoes, slight banana, medium sweetness, lightly toasted malt, and no bitterness. Very akin to port. In the last thirty minutes of drinking notes of menthol, wood, smoke, and reduced sweetness, all together very dark.
The mouthfeel is very very syrupy and medium bodied.
At 11.5%, in theory this barleywine would be a chore to down, but it is very smooth.

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

Brewed in 2011, bought from Ellwood Thompson's Local Market on May 11, 2012. Couldn't resist trying it, I'll probably buy another bottle to cellar at some point! Drank it out of an oversized wine glass.

A - Beautiful clear, amber pour with white pillowy head. Reduces down to a cloudy residual layer on the top. Good amount of lacing too. Steady carbonation rising from the bottom but not too much. This is a beautiful beer! 4.5

S - So many scents it's almost impossible to decipher them all. Buttery diacetyl, fresh-cut grass, an abundance of fruits like apricot, apples, and pears; maybe a hint of esters in there as well. Strong floral, hoppy notes in there as well. Caramel, toffee, molasses, and malt are also present. 5.0

T - Wowza. Just like the aroma, this beer is hard to decipher. Sugary, buttery notes up front with malt, toffee, caramel, and fruit. I'd compare it to toffee dipped in butterscotch. Middle of the tongue gets a strong malt flavor and a sort of spiciness imparted by the strong alcohol content. Wraps up nicely with a little bitter, floral hop on the back of the tongue. Aftertaste is clearly sweet on the front of your tongue, bitter on the back. Absolutely delicious but there is SO much flavor you have to sip this beer slowly to fully appreciate it. 5.0

M - Somewhat thick, almost "chewy" as I've seen others describe it. High alcohol content makes it feel almost sappy on the tongue, leaving a slight residue of flavor. 4.5

O - This beer is quite possibly one of the most complex--and dare I say it--and best beers I've ever had. The myriad of flavors is truly unbelievable, and I can't even imagine what this would be like if it were cellared for two or three years even. I will definitely be buying a bottle of this and keeping it for as long as I can. 4.5

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Photo of nflmvp
4.42/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2001 Vintage....Now this is something you can really sink your teeth into. It pours an amber/orange with a nice tight head that quickly dissipates, leaving a light thin foam. Light traces along the glass reminded me of the wonderful nectar that had once been there. This is a thicker brew, nearly syrupy but missing nothing when it comes to palatability and taste. You want to linger over this brew. Savor it, don't quaf it. The taste has amazing complexity. Starting with a fruitiness and blending into an alcohol warmth and finally finishing with a sweet seduction. If this brew was a woman, she'd be certain to get you into serious trouble....but it would be well worth it.

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Photo of kindacold
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 Limited Edition

WOW. First impression came from the dark reddish color. No head at all. Held it up to the light, just a beautiful red.

Then I smelled it and I knew I was going to be in for a treat. It smelled sweet and a bit spicy.

Then I took a sip. It took me a second to realize that I wasn't drinking a sherry. I really had to do a double take. It was a bit syrupy and very sweet. Absolutely amazing.

I split the bottle with my cousin, who was kind enough to bring it for sampling. Let's just say I owe him big.

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

1997 on tap at Max's taphouse in Baltimore! I was stunned when I saw it on the beer list and even more pleased after tasting.

Brilliant deep dark golden brown, with a slight head.

Aroma of sweet malt faint earthy hops and butterscotch.

Flavor was full of sweet, sweet malt. Mild bitterness with lots of butterscotch. Probably diacetyl but it somehow worked very well in this beer.

Dangerously drinkable for the ABV. I was amazed and ecstatic to be able to try this vintage brew on tap at one of my favorite bars.

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Photo of FarmerTed
4.44/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just had a bottle of the 2001 Limited Edition Harvest Ale that I picked up today at a local store. It was in the cooler, but I have no idea how it was stored over the last 10 years. It cost $8.60.

On opening, there was a nice pop from the CO2 pressure. On pouring, there was some fizzing, but no head. The beer looks like root beer (dark brown), and has a big, caramel-like aroma. There was some yeast floating around in the beer; it probably would've settled out if I'd let it sit a few days, but it was jostled a bit after purchase, and I didn't feel like waiting.

The taste is like a combination of a port with a big caramel or toffee finish (it's amazing that grapes weren't used to make it, to be honest). There is some carbonation or fizz to it that gives it a bit of a bite. I really, really enjoyed it. It was sweet; I'm glad the bottle is only 9.3 oz. I'm not sure I could've drunk much more. I needed to eat a bit afterwards, due to the sweetness.

Overall, it was an excellent beer. I'd probably like to try some of the more recent vintages next, to see how they compare.

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Photo of Swill5786
3.99/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2006 Vintage. Pours a yeast-speckled murky brown. Not a hint of head from aggressive pour. No trace of carbonation. Smell is magnificent. Mystical combo of dark fruit, cherries, apples. Hint of alcohol drifts in and out with yeastiness. Overtly sweet start, then bread drives the rest. Visible yeast content hints this should be the case. Medium to heavy mouthfeel. Drinkability? Just one. Quite cloying.

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Photo of vladtheimpaler
4.48/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2002 bottle. Pours an awesome crystal clear orange with a nice orangish white head. Aroma is a mix of alcohol and maple-raisin. Flavor is similar, with a dominant maple-alcohol warming flavor, with hints of raisin. Goes great with Irish soda bread. Sweetness of maple syrup lingers on the palate. Delicious!.

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Photo of GooberMcNutly
3.49/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

An amazing little bottle. Rich, round aromas of dried fruit (apples and raisin with some currants) and treacle. Initial taste was of heavy maltiness bu the hop level keeps the palate clear without coating the tongue. I wish I had a case of this to put away for the future.

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Photo of Brandt
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage

this beer poured out a darker caramely brown color with very little carbonation and no head to speak of

the noze on this is very rich and smells of figs and rasins strongly and other dried fruits, maybe a hint of dried cherry. there is also an aroma of brown sugar and a bread dough character, a touch of cinnamon and the faintest of woody smells

the taste is of rich toffe and rasin first and foremost followed by astringent tannins that give it a dry feel briefly before it goes down with a warm sweet boozyness

the finish is a stong fulll body that coats the tongue and leaves a great balance of sweet sugars and a drier bitterness along the back of the tongue. i was very interested to find this one and it was a treat to be able to try it. very rich drink but i would like to have some of these that are further down the line to compare.

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Photo of BobbyBeerman
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I haven't had too many English barleywines before. This one caught my eye at my favorite store and thought I'd give it a go. I was a little apprehensive from experiences of ales with a high alcohol content when they are young. This one is aged so I hoped this would be flavorful and not overbearing.

This is the 1999 vintage.

A: Pours a dark reddish brown with not much head. What head there was reduced to a thin layer. It's clear with thin carbonation trails.

S: Initially I get a molasses sweetness. There's a fruitiness and spiciness in there as well.

T: Sweet malts, a little molasses... If this was young I could see where this might be a little strong. With it being aged the flavors feel matured and mellowed although it is still robust.

M: Heavy almost syrupy. Carbonation is balanced. A surprising slight warming affect from the alcohol with, so far, hasn't really been present. One would thing with 11.5% ABV it would come though more but it hasn't.

D: This is a wonderful experience - eye opening and educational. Over all this is a good beer ranging a little on the sweeter side of things. I would drink only one at a session and have it next to last. This one is worth it.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 842 ratings.