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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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1,221 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,221
Reviews: 793
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 205
Gots: 172 | 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)
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,221 | Reviews: 793 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of claytri


4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage.

The beer poured an opaque medium brown with ruby highlights with an off white head. The aroma was very vinous, much like a red wine. The taste was a combination of medicinal, vanilla, and wine, with the vanilla winning out. The feel was heavy creamy and wet. A very enjoyable brew, I can't wait to get some more.

Serving type: on-tap

01-02-2009 18:59:44 | More by claytri
Photo of jeffwright


4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

02-13-2014 01:20:06 | More by jeffwright
Photo of Seaba


4/5  rDev -5.9%

02-28-2013 19:16:50 | More by Seaba
Photo of JohnnyDuvel


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

1997 edition. Pours a dark ruby color, very little head - disappears fast. Dark, fruity smell and taste. Full mouthfeel, good balance (though more towards the malt). Very wine-like (in a good way). Reminded me a lot of a really good Baltic porter in taste (like Stepan Razin?), only fuller in body. Alcohol not overwhelming, this one is enjoyable all the way through. A high quality ale that I will try again.

Serving type: bottle

09-15-2004 04:04:15 | More by JohnnyDuvel
Photo of heysuz


3.5/5  rDev -17.6%

03-07-2014 23:09:59 | More by heysuz
Photo of zerk


4.15/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on cask at Chalkies. Clear deep copper with no head. Has a very strong alcohol aroma, with notes of smoke, scotch, and sweet malt. Flavor is very sweet, but not what I'd call cloying. Very complex... begins with very sweet caramel and butterscotch, then some smokey, peat-like flavors, finishing a little bit spicey. Had no carbonation to speak of, but had a very full and smooth mouthfeel. A wonderful sipping beer.

Serving type: cask

02-04-2003 21:11:32 | More by zerk
Photo of BeerAndBourbon


4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Popped a 1999 to end a tasting with a few friends the other night. Similar flavors to the 1998 that I popped to celebrate the end on my second year of medical school.

A. Pours a dark amber with a thin tan head that dissipates to a creamy ring.

S. There's so much going on in the nose: caramel, honey, raisins, oxidized sweet malt.

T. The nose comes through in the mouth with the same flavors of raisins, caramel, and honey. All of these flavors sit on top a bed of sweet oxidized malt. As the beer warms slightly, some of the dark fruit flavors start to emerge.

M. Medium to heavy sticky syrupy body with light carbonation so as not to destroy the flavors coating your tongue.

1986 vintage.

A. Pours amber with slightly orange edges with absolutely no head. 4.0

S. Raisin, caramel, and some oxidation. 4.0

T. Similiar to the smell with oxidized cardboard. Maybe slightly past its prime. 4.0

M. Thin - much much thinner than 1998 or 1999. 3.5

D. Good, but not as good as a bit younger vintages. 4.0

D. The only possible complaint is that there is too little carbonation which leads to overwhelming sweetness, but if you expect this going in it's pure bliss. The best I can imagine in a barleywine. A wonderful night cap. I'm glad I have a few more of these stocked away to enjoy over the coming years.

Serving type: bottle

09-08-2010 04:43:33 | More by BeerAndBourbon
Photo of allforbetterbeer


4.13/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2001, opened on 5/12/2011. Poured into a Swiss wine snifter.

Pours with just a thin ring of lace around the edges of the glass, no real head. There was a nice hiss when I opened the bottle however, so I expect the ABV is what is killing the head, not the 10 years this spent in the bottle. The body is a rich clear ruby color. Quite outstanding.

Dried raisins, dates, and figs come to mind as I smell this brew. English toffee is present but without any major sweetness in the nose. The sugar takes more of a burnt toffee/caramel aroma. Nothing in the way of hops is detectable. There are some earthy undertones to the dark fruit flavors, and it is this quality that sets the nose of this beer apart.

The sweetness of this ale reaches new heights in my palate's experience. Imagine drenching a dark wheat bread loaf in melted toffee, soaking it in rum and adding blended dried dark fruits to the mixture. In the aftertaste I detect notes of leather and tootsie roll. There is a slightly acrid bitterness in this flavor, and it is very hard to put a finger on what it resembles. Maybe burnt sugar? It tastes slightly burnt but not in any way smoky.

The mouthfeel is syrupy sweet, but there is some mild carbonation that lifts the beer in the mouth and keeps it from being sickeningly syrupy.

Conclusion: Sweeter than I expected from tasting other aged English barelywines. I am now curious to taste how much less sweet it is fresh. This is now the oldest beer I have tasted (though not the oldest in my cellar), and it was a true treat.

Serving type: bottle

05-12-2011 21:06:01 | More by allforbetterbeer
Photo of Lupe

New York

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2000

Copper brown colored, with a tight and creamy ivory head that leaves behind some lace. Size of the head was a surprise considering the abv and age. Beautiful amber-red hues shine through as it's held up to the light.

Sweet aroma of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. Doses of honey, raisin, fig, brown sugar, and alcohol are all mixed in. Very inviting.

Lots of sweet malt flavors, like the aroma - dark and tropical fruit, toffee, caramel, and mild coffee. Some honey and brown sugar along with a touch of vanilla and faint woodiness. Herbal hop bitterness as well as spicy alcohol and yeast round thing out. Absolutely delicious.

Full-bodied - velvety smooth, creamy, thick and syrupy. Start with juicy burst and finishes dry with a lingering spicy tickle.

Incredible drinkability for such a big and complex sipping beer. Alcohol never gets in the way. Truly special.

Serving type: bottle

12-03-2007 01:38:23 | More by Lupe
Photo of EPseja

New Jersey

3.83/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from a 12oz bottle at cellar temperature in a Duvel tulip. Vintage 2002... aging for 5 years.

A - Ruby amber with some sediment cloudiness. Tight knit, meringue head that isn't very large, but has decent staying power. No lacing, and nothing on top once the head subsides.

S - Immediately while pouring (nose about a foot away), I got notes of aged Scotch Whisky and hints of fresh baked cinnamon raisin bread. Getting right in the glass, I find that the raisins are soaked in spiced rum... pralines and figs. Very sweet.

T - Immensely sweet to the point of being on the verge of overbearing. Fresh baked fruitcake and sherry. Caramel candy. Mellows out a bit towards the back, but the alcohol is noticeable, although not biting. Nothing much in the way of hops. The finish is a tad cloying but the aftertaste is pleasant.

M - Slight foam, slight tingle. Very syrupy. Heavy. Smooth swallow.

D - As with most J.W. Lees ales I've had, this one follows suit in it's overwhelming sweetness. Sure it's nice for the first few sips, but over the course of a whole beer, it becomes a bit much. Would like to have seen some more (or any) real hop profile shining through. Good, but not great.

Serving type: bottle

03-07-2007 03:09:46 | More by EPseja
Photo of TheSleepyMonkey


4.25/5  rDev 0%

04-16-2014 18:47:37 | More by TheSleepyMonkey
Photo of ark57


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

1989 Vintage sampled in 2004 - The color is dark orange to brown. The oily body gives rise to tastes of vanilla, wood accents, and citrus notes. This beer is very complex and mellow. It is earthy and slight minty with port/madiera oxidation. The body is lean and smooth, yet it still has some carbonation. Best drank from a snifter.

Just sampled the 1986 Vintage and it was amazing. It was pretty much as expected, but I was surprised that it had quite a bit of carbonation.

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2004 22:51:52 | More by ark57
Photo of plfahey


4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I'm basing my scores on the bottles of the '99 vintage that I've had. I've enjoyed two within the past 3 months or so and have been some of the most sublime beer experiences I've ever had. It is an unparalleled beverage, and is worth seeking out regardless of the price.

12 oz. bottle (06' vintage) poured into a tulip glass (8/1/11)

Appearance-Reddish brown color, with decent clarity considering that suspended particles are notable within the beer. Just a trace of a wispy off-white head appears, and vanishes quickly, though the beer shows some serious legs when swirled.

Aroma-Smells a lot like some of the older versions that I've had, though a little bit rougher around the edges. The primary aroma is of sweet rock candy sugar, with hints of toffee and burnt caramel. Some booze is apparent, as are some fruity esters.

Flavor-Flavor is also quite sweet-similar rock candy flavors with caramel edge, molasses, raisins, dark fruit jam, and honey drizzled on toast. A very interesting ash/tobacco flavor comes through rather strong in the finish and takes over the palate in the after taste.

Mouthfeel- Full body, alcohol warmth with a slight burn in the back of the throat. Rather smooth, but compared to older versions it certainly is rough around the edges.

Drinks quite well, and is a pretty damn good barleywine within its own right, but it seems rough compared to versions aged twice as long. The alcohol still needs some time to smooth out, the body needs to thin out a bit, and the flavor profile could use some time as well. Apparently 5 years out isn't nearly enough.

Serving type: bottle

08-01-2011 06:03:47 | More by plfahey
Photo of hckyfn9999


4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

What better way to celebrate the new year than to go back in time with this 2000 edtion of the Harvest Ale. Pours a hazy deep amber color with a small cream colored head that leaves some nice lacing. There are also some golden hues when held to light.

Intense malt aroma with some caramel, honey, molasses, toasted malt, raisins, and alcohol. Wonderful aroma. Taste is very sweet. Definitely some molasses, caramel, raisins, and a little citrus (grapefruit) in the finish.

Mouthfeel is smooth and full.

Very drinkable despite the sweetness and high alcohol.

This is an incredible beer. Im glad I could buy a beer this old in the store because there is no way I could hold onto it this long. Definitely worth the purchase despite the high (nearly $6 a bottle) price tag.

Serving type: bottle

01-02-2007 03:54:14 | More by hckyfn9999
Photo of Bobbydigi


4.25/5  rDev 0%

09-08-2013 01:56:15 | More by Bobbydigi
Photo of geuze_gone_wild


4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

08-25-2013 06:22:57 | More by geuze_gone_wild
Photo of CortexBomb


4.58/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2003 vintage, consumed in fall of 2006.

Appearance is standard English Barley Wine, deep, coppery brown with a light white ring on top, not much head but exceptionally heavy lacing. Smell is a left hook, carmel, dates, malts, other dark fruits, and a soft alcohol / white wine aspect as well. Really good.

Taste is extremely depthy...the initial flavour of malts segues into brown sugar and caramel. A sweet, sugary aspect sits in the background during this, and a strong dark fruit presence of dates is present throughout. The sweetness peaks on the swallow, which leaves a slight alcohol presence behind. Exceptional.

The mouthfeel on this is right up there with the best, extremely thick and wonderful. Drinkability, there is nothing to complain about here, a very tasty beer that I have no problem drinking.

Overall: the Harvest Ale series is very expensive when you can find it (about $1 per ounce of beer) but the flavour makes it a semi-regular in my rotation. It is an English Barley Wine, so people who are hop heads will probably think this beer is bland or not interesting enough, but for people who like malt dominance this is one of the absolute gold standards. The other, special barrel aged harvest ales are slightly better than this (if you can find them...the lagavulin one is particularly tasty) but I would never turn down a bottle of anything out of this line. Truly one of the best in its style.

Serving type: bottle

09-26-2006 01:42:50 | More by CortexBomb
Photo of PatronWizard


4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 vintage oh yeah baby. Today I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety nine. Uh, sorry.

Deepest shade of caramel known to man. I'm talking dark caramel. Head tried to well up, but fell on it's sword.

Quite fragrant. As a man of few review words, I'm gonna sum up the scent like this: caramel, alcohol, and roses.

Wow, incredibly smooth. This has the most caramel flavor I've ever encountered in a beer. Seriously, it tastes like 8 parts caramel and 5 parts alcohol. Very sweet and very strong.

Slightly more than medium body and as I said, oh so smooth. Very nicely done at 11.5%

Overall: fixed my wagon

Serving type: bottle

10-09-2008 03:39:48 | More by PatronWizard
Photo of Beerandboards

New Mexico

5/5  rDev +17.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-30-2012 01:53:50 | More by Beerandboards
Photo of yen157

New Jersey

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

1988: Bottle was from a case we just got in to our store. Dust was caked on nice and thick, and as I was opening it I realized the cap was rusted pretty good. The rust was slightly visible from beneath the foil, but I didn’t realize the extent. No worries…

Brownish-red, slightest ever wisp around the glass. Smells of alcohol, rum, and butterscotch candy. Actually, it kinda smells like a good, British barley wine. Go figure. Vinous up front with some amontillado sherry qualities, followed by dark brown sugar mixed with butter. The malt is so processed by the yeast over 15 years, the sweetness reminds me of a very dilute saccharin solution. Don’t get me wrong, the great malty goodness is still there, but just not in the same form as it would be in a younger bottle. It closes with a refined hop snap that lingers long into the finish playing hide and seek with that wonderful malt. The oxidation makes itself known after the malt finally fades away. Carbonation starts out as very, very light which fades away to nothing about five minutes into the glass. Body is smooth through and through and less cordial-like than very young examples.

This a very complex beer. I didn’t even scratch the surface. I didn’t give the malt presence enough adulation, nor did I address the gullet warming abilities of this brew. Hell, it can’t be a surprise considering the alcohol content! Overall, great beer, but past it’s prime. I’m curious to give my ‘86 a try.

Serving type: bottle

01-10-2004 04:14:17 | More by yen157
Photo of surlytheduff


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

2002 bottle. Drank from a snifter. The barleywine poured a dark tawny brown, with just a thin film of a head. The liquid clung like a viscous oil to the sides of the glass after swishing it around. The smell was focused sweetness. Brown sugar, molasses, little bit of cola, plum, raisen, fig.

The taste was a very slight letdown. It was good, but my points of reference are a 2000 and 2001 that I've had recently. The sweetness just was just a bit much. There was caramel, vanilla, some leather, a little astringency from the alcohol and the dark fruit flavors. The mothfeel was thick and syrupy. The liquid coated my mouth - very much a sipper.

Serving type: bottle

02-11-2011 03:43:33 | More by surlytheduff
Photo of TheBungyo


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

'99 vintage at The Stumbling Monk.
Body was mahogany mingled with orange. Miniscule head. Nose was sweet berries like Strawberry, cherry and syrup. I got more red berries in the taste with strong maple syrup in the finish. The alcohol was well hidden though still present. I really enjoyed this, especially at $9 which in my mind is very affordable for a beer of this age. Mouth was decadently creamy. I would love to have this again and hopefully will be able to justify the price the next time I visit The Stumbling Monk.

Serving type: bottle

07-19-2006 05:51:51 | More by TheBungyo
Photo of fsck


4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

08-26-2013 05:07:27 | More by fsck
Photo of BobZ


4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

9.3 oz., 1999 Vintage, Poured into my Aventinus Eisbock glass.

Appearance: Golden orange, very little head, and only small traces of lacing.

Smell: Very sweet & malty, honey, caramel, molasses.

Taste: Follows the nose. Almost malt syrup, very sweet. The alcohol is only evident by the warmth in the finish. Complex in its diversity of sweet flavors.

Mouth feel: The syrup like feel verges on cloying, almost completely coats the mouth, lightly carbonated.

Drinkability: A slow sipper; too sweet for multiple bottles but definitely and enjoyable beer.

Nice to try my first English Barleywine, the flavor profile is very similar to De Dolle Stille Nacht; however, I prefer the Belgian in both taste and mouth feel.

Serving type: bottle

06-13-2010 18:36:16 | More by BobZ
Photo of Brez07


2.68/5  rDev -36.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed as part of the Blind Beer BIF #6. 275ml bottle served in a snifter. 1999 vintage

A: Pours brown/dark caramel. Also initially leaves a 1 finger head that doesn't stick around long (3)

S: Nose is mostly dark fruit. Notes of fig, raisin and plum. A swirl of the glass gives way to cherry. Faint alcohol. Eventually I pick up some malt, but also some cardboard and bubblegum (2.5)

T: Sweet throughout. Candied sugar, figs. Some prune, weak chocolate and oak. Artificial fruit, reminding me of a raspberry fruit rollup. Light booze (2.5)

M: Medium bodied. Basically next to no carbonation (3)

D: A little rough. Drinkable, but only to a certain point. Glad I split this one (3)

Serving type: bottle

01-17-2012 12:44:58 | More by Brez07
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,221 ratings.