1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

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

1,253 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,253
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 212
Gots: 182 | 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)
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: 1,253 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of minterro
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2010 (approximately 3.5-4 years aged)

As a celebrating for cracking 1,000 beer karma (like I need a reason to drink good beer). Bought this gem just a few days ago at Little's Wine and Liquor store in Denver, CO. They have a great cellaring program and this is the oldest beer I've seen them put on the shelves. Poured into a snifter (after letting it sit and warm a bit). Paired with pretzels to cleanse the palate.

A&S: You can see a ton of unfiltered specks floating around the bottle (even when undisturbed) before opening the beer. After cracking this beer there is a immediate and powerful rush of sherry-like red wine tones, cherry fruitiness, very intense sweet. The beer is a semi-transparent murky burgundy color. Understandably not really much going on with the head, pours a fizzy off-white and drops to nothing in a few seconds. Globs of sediment settle to the bottom. As it warms you get whiffs of bitterness, but it is mostly overpowered by sweetness.

T&M: Initially similar to the aroma sherry-like, super sweet, some dark fruit raisin tones. Alcohol is present, but well hidden (but I can feel my face getting flush). But then BOOM surprisingly earthy (and not good earthy, it pretty much tastes like dirt), somewhat metallic tones kick in at anywhere from the mid-taste to the initial finish. The most likely corporate of the not so great taste is oxidation (but it is still hard to get over). Not getting a ton of complexities in the taste cause the flavor is cut so abruptly. The very, very finish is becomes very pleasant (still doesn't make up for the initial finish). Low carbonation, high body. Last sip was pretty good, some of the settled parts actually cut the oxidation characteristics.

Overall: I really have no idea what this beer is like fresh, but at this age I wasn't a huge fan (especially for the price). I trust that Little's cellared this beer properly so I don't think that is the issue. I wouldn't buy this beer again at its price (10$ for less than 10oz), but I'm still glad I experienced this old of a brew. To date this is the oldest aged beer I have ever tasted. After submitting (usually only check rating after reviewing) there seems to be a ton of pDev on this beer, probably due to pushing it past it's limits. Maybe this beer is only meant to be set aside for a couple of years and not a half to a whole decade... just my two cents. I guess I also questions J.W. Lees, I know brewing over seas is based more on tradition, but why not try waxing or corking a beer that everyone is so eager to age... again just my two cents. The smell and initial taste are great, the finish is not, which kinda spoils the beer, which is unfortunate cause I can imagine how awesome this beer could be.

minterro, Feb 01, 2014
Photo of threedaggers
4/5  rDev -5.9%

threedaggers, Jan 30, 2014
Photo of TCgoalie
4/5  rDev -5.9%

TCgoalie, Jan 29, 2014
Photo of Cyclone8
4.25/5  rDev 0%

Cyclone8, Jan 28, 2014
Photo of MrNate
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%

MrNate, Jan 19, 2014
Photo of hopsputin
4.36/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 batch - drank January 2014

a: a mixture of golden amber, ruby red, brown, with a hit of crisp bright yellow. no real head - just some bubbles that collect around the side of the glass

s: tons of caramel and toffee here. alcohol. fresh bread. plums and raisins. hint of baking chocolate, fig, brown sugar, molasses. more sweet caramel. the aroma here is rich, and packing a lot into each sniff

t: flavor is just as rich as the aroma. this is a heavy beer, and a sipper. TONS of caramel and toffee malt flavors assault (in a good way) you up front. then maple syrup, brown sugar, figs, raisins, sweet berries. finish has a hint of alcohol

m: heavy, like syrup. almost no carbonation

o: great evening beer, use this as a nightcap to sip on. its rich and packed with a bunch of nice mellow sweet flavors

hopsputin, Jan 18, 2014
Photo of AnchorsAndAxes
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

AnchorsAndAxes, Jan 18, 2014
Photo of dar482
3.8/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

(Review of a 1999 vintage).

The beer comes in a dark copper color.

The aroma has tons of caramel, brown sugar, toffee sweetness. There's a bit of sweet dark raisin there as well.

The flavor follows with just a rush of caramel and brown sugar. I have never had a beer that is so sweet and caramel forward. It literally tastes like drinking watered down caramel.

In the end, the beer lacked a bit of complexity for me. I really enjoyed the sweetness and it would be a great dessert beer. I just wish there was maybe more carbonation, or drying, or something to separate from simply sweetness. It still surely hits its alcohol though.

dar482, Jan 17, 2014
Photo of Chingringo
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

Chingringo, Jan 17, 2014
Photo of Budinetz
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2007 poured into a Teku glass.

A- amazing color on this brew. Very uncharacteristic of the style, but definitely a beautiful straw colored hue with a tight cream colored head that stays for quite a while after pouring. It almost looks as if it was nitrogen infused. Minimal lacing present but some does stick to the glass and due to the active yeast in the bottle it has some fizziness after pouring, much like a sparkling wine/cider. Some sediment present, so be careful when pouring vintages 5 years and beyond.

S- smells of grain, malt, cane sugar, and bread. Has a nice bouquet of malty tones, some yeast, and straw. Almost detect a funkiness like brettanomyces, but not quite.

T- flavors of molasses, caramel, barley, and very biscuity. Refreshing carbonation, not too overbearing. Very smooth on the palate. No boozy alcohol aftertaste at all, which is quite impressive for an 11.5% abv beer. Quite possibly one of the best beers I've had the pleasure of consuming.

M- very smooth on the tongue. Very light, refreshing carbonation that drinks through the head and does not leave any slickness on the tongue or unpleasant feeling in the mouth. Very little to no burn from the high abv, which is yet again impressive.

O- overall, a very well rounded brew with an awesome flavor, a warming abv, but none of the unpleasant after effects of many other brews. Definitely worth aging for years to come! I have two...one I will crack open in another 5 years or so. Enjoy!

Budinetz, Jan 13, 2014
Photo of xnicknj
4.25/5  rDev 0%

xnicknj, Jan 10, 2014
Photo of mechamifune
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

mechamifune, Jan 09, 2014
Photo of rrski198
5/5  rDev +17.6%

rrski198, Jan 09, 2014
Photo of Docrock
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

Docrock, Dec 28, 2013
Photo of ste5venla
4.25/5  rDev 0%

ste5venla, Dec 28, 2013
Photo of kristougher
2.75/5  rDev -35.3%

kristougher, Dec 28, 2013
Photo of pkalix
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

no head whatsoever, in contradiction to others' reviews.... looks like a pear cider but contains a lovely sweet, malty base aroma ....
sweet caramel. brown sugar. raisin. smooth, no abv discernible.
a little thin. English barleywine vs American barleywine? so far the winner is American.... but this is okay. they could have used a 12 oz bottle, though.... and a little overpriced.

pkalix, Dec 25, 2013
Photo of Casey3236
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

Casey3236, Dec 24, 2013
Photo of braugon
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Brewed 2011

A - Caramel hue, not as brown as some barleywines, small white head, stayed around as a thin rim

S - Awesome, sweet barleywine scents of rum, raisin, oak, phenol, caramel, slightly musty

T - Lively, sweet, oak, caramel, raisin, port wine,

M - Medium to full, with a present carbonation

O - Really great, if you like barleywines, you will probably like this, 11.5% abv is always a plus when it's this good.

braugon, Dec 20, 2013
Photo of mythaeus
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

mythaeus, Dec 15, 2013
Photo of Scotchboy
4.13/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap @ Bittercreek Boise ID. 25th Anniversary blend, unsure of vintage.

A: Opaque, dull gold with no visible carbonation and nonexistent head/lacing.

S: Dark fruit, raisin, rum, caramel, apple, spices, and bready, sweet malt.

T: Malty, with faint booze, notes of red wine and rum, spicy and fruity. Plenty of apple, raisin, toffee, brown sugar, wet oak, tobacco, with a warm finish.

MF: Full, sticky body, viscous with low carbonation.

O: Reminiscent of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, without the Belgian yeast; plenty of dark fruit and malt, with an oaky, rummy undertone. Pretty nice sipper overall.

Scotchboy, Dec 12, 2013
Photo of jds16
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

jds16, Dec 12, 2013
Photo of tobelerone
4/5  rDev -5.9%

tobelerone, Dec 07, 2013
Photo of BillRoth
4.25/5  rDev 0%

BillRoth, Dec 07, 2013
Photo of jono0101
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

jono0101, Dec 06, 2013
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,253 ratings.