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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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1,228 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,228
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: 1,228 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of hckyfn9999


4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

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.

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


4.97/5  rDev +16.9%

2001 Vintage

Poured dark mahogany into a Chimay glass. There is quite a bit of visible yeast and sediment, along with some visible carbonation. There is nearly no head at all, except for some very fine lacings.

This is simply one of the most aromatic brews that I've had the pleasure of enjoying. In fact, I can make out the delightful fragrance of this beer while the glass is still on the table before me. The heavenly scents include ridiculous amounts of sweet malt, honey, caramel, doughy yeast esters, raisin, grape, plum, clove and a spicy, alcohol bite.

If I have come close to tasting the nectar of the gods, it was while drinking this beer. All of the complexities of the aroma are noted in the smooth, divinely balanced flavor. You could easily lose yourself in the multitude of delicious tastes. Sweet malt, brown sugar, molasses, honey, caramel, vanilla, dark fruit esters, sweet raisin, tart cherry, clove, spices and some wood notes. The alcohol flavor is extremely well masked.

The viscous, light syrup consistency is balanced on the palate by just enough carbonation for a gratifying mouthfeel.

This is simply the most drinkable beer over ten percent alcohol that I've yet to imbibe.

This is by far my favorite barley wine and one of my favorite brews period. I've begun filling my cellar with as many bottles of this wondrous liquid that I can get my greedy hands on.

12-31-2006 04:30:27 | More by Estarrio
Photo of Erdinger2003


4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

1990 vintage--made when I was in 1at grade!!

Pours a little head but nothing that stays very long at all, it soon turns into a headless beer. This one is a little less syrupy then the '98 and the flavors have mellowed and come together to make a burnt caramel flavor. Feels great on the palate and is something I would like to try a few more of in my lifetime.

12-28-2006 11:00:35 | More by Erdinger2003
Photo of russpowell


4.45/5  rDev +4.7%

1999 vintage pours a reddish caramel with a 1/2" offwhite head. No head retention or lacing

Huge oaky, fruitty boozey nose, beautiful

T: Dryness, raisins, dates, & breadyness with a slight booze presence up front. Caramel & rummy flavors follow. Huge praline profile & little vanilla as it warms. Finishes plummy, dry & sweet, extemely complex

MF: Vinous, syruppy, rich & failry low in carbonation

This is a sipper, the overwhelming sweetness/dryness slows you down a little. A nice, if expensive indulgence that went down smoothly, if not so quick this boxing day

12-27-2006 05:45:50 | More by russpowell
Photo of RedHaze


3.9/5  rDev -8.2%

2002 vintage.

Pours a very hazy caramel/brown with a dense one finger had that fades slowly to a nice layer of foam, leaving behind a really good webbing of lace.

Smell; lots of caramel malts, backed up by a little bit of chocolate. There's lots of dark fruits, with some hints of rum soaked wood, and in the background there's a little bit of hops peeking through.

Taste; this one is really sweet, almost to sweet at first. Caramel and brown sugar start things off, and then the fruits come out with raisins and apples.There's a bit of an earthiness to this that in the aroma came of as woody, but now I'm having a bit of a hard time nailing it down. The finish has a definite alcohol presence, but it actually seems to help offset the sweetness.

Mouthfeel is very full, almost syrupy, and with the sweetness and the very high alcohol content it can be a little hard to put this one down. It's definitely a one beer a night kind of beer.

12-20-2006 02:30:13 | More by RedHaze
Photo of AaronHomoya


3.53/5  rDev -16.9%

12 bottle. 2004 vintage.

Pours an amber color with decent head for a beer of this strength. Aroma is mostly sweet malt and light fruitiness. Taste is very sweet and malty. A little fruity, alcohol and slight earthy hops in finish, but dominated by almost cloying sweetness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and a bit syrupy. Drinkability suffers from the overly sweetness, but the beer is pretty smooth and hides its alcoholic strength.

12-17-2006 20:42:11 | More by AaronHomoya
Photo of mrasskicktastic

New Jersey

3.55/5  rDev -16.5%

2004 Harvest Ale

A - A relatively clear brown thick syrup with no head. The beer displays some viscous action when swirled.

S - Red grapes, blackberries and faint brown sugar. Smells a bit like some better port wines or a brandy (without the alcohol).

T - Sweet - very sweet. There is some strong brown sugar and extremely strong toffee flavor with some maple syrup underneath and even under that, a the very faint, there is some dark red fruit (blackberries). The flavor is, though very sweet, very good. The first sips are amazing, but ti can be a tad cloying.

M - Smooth, thick, pretty refreshing.

D - Though a good beer, I have to dock it here. I will definitely have this, or one of its casked varieties again. It is basically the gold standard of the english barley wine. Honestly thuogh, it isn't easy to drink, just too sweet. Maybe with some years under its belt it would be a bit better. Would be fantastic on pancakes (not that I'd ever waste it).

12-12-2006 22:36:02 | More by mrasskicktastic
Photo of mikesgroove

South Carolina

2.45/5  rDev -42.4%

2003 poured from a bottle

Poured a cloudy brown with no head at all. Smell was total alcohol, really over powered it and the taste was pretty much the same. There was a bit of a caramel, nutty, sugary taste in there but the alcohol far over powered this. I expected this one to be a bit more rounded out then it was, maybe I am just more of a fan of American Barleywines. Overall it was not bad, but I would pass on a second.

12-11-2006 02:01:46 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of jhu1995


1.55/5  rDev -63.5%

Had the 2002 Vintage in a bottle. Pours a rich brown color with a minimal head. Smell was mostly alcohol as can be expected given the strength of this beer, but did not expect it to dominate as much as it did. Very strong, sweet smell as well. The taste was overwhelmingly sweet. Where is the balance and complexity because I could not find it. Syrupy and no smoothness whatsoever. Very harsh beer that was choked down. Prefer cough syrup over this one.

12-09-2006 02:53:15 | More by jhu1995
Photo of badbeer


4.25/5  rDev 0%

1998 Vintage.

Poured a nice brown/red color with a white head that left some lacing. Smell was heavenly, super sweet, slightly burnt caramel, raison, cherry, plum, hard to fully describe. Taste was almost as good as the smell, but was a bit overly sweet, not as balanced as the nose was, became a bit cloying even. Sticky on the tongue, low carbonation, full bodied. A sipper for sure, damn glad I got to try this, hopefully some of the other vintages are even better. This one was holding up like a champ, even after 8 years.

12-05-2006 07:22:08 | More by badbeer
Photo of blackie


4.13/5  rDev -2.8%

Vintage 1999

appearance: Pours a 0.5" dirty white head that soon falls back to a generous ring around the glass. The beer is a dark whiskey brown in color.

smell: Huge, sweet barley malt presence with a toasted, dark bread type character. Just the right ethanol presence. Notes of sweet potato, various fruits, wood, and spice play around behind an English hop aroma. Nearing perfection.

mouthfeel: The carbonation is low, and the body quite full and becoming slightly syrupy after the swallow.

taste: Complex, thick barley malt sugars explode all over the tongue. Somewhat grainy, pretty sweet and just a little cloying in that respect. Decent amount of benign English hop flavor. A touch of green hardwood. The finish is a light bitterness with sweet, toasted barley bread flavors lingering for quite awhile with some spicy rootlike notes that remind me a little of cola.

drinkability: A really good bwine, but drinkability is limited by the heavy sugars.

12-03-2006 02:03:05 | More by blackie
Photo of haz77


4.15/5  rDev -2.4%

A - 2003 vintage. Pours a light ruby with a finger of white head, which quickly disappears. A few of the floaties that slipped through are suspended in the body. Small bubbles of low-medium carbonation.

S - Massive aroma is present without going near the glass. Sweet solvent, caramel, cherry, plum, raisin, light brandy scent.

T - Big hit of caramel almost immediately, which coats the mouth and sits there from start to finish, fading only right at the end. The cherries, then the raisins come through, with chocolate lingering in the background.

M - Full bodied, smooth, creamy, rich, and with soft carbonation.

D - On the verge of being cloying, but there is so much to enjoy that it's not too much of an issue. Drinkablility is poor, even for the style, but overall I would strongly recommend giving it a go.

12-02-2006 10:00:27 | More by haz77
Photo of Carleton


4.08/5  rDev -4%

Vintage: 1998

Rich brown color, not much head retention. Warm sweet aroma of mollassess. Taste is delightful, with hints of toffee, strong alcohol presence, which works well with the rest of the flavors actually. All of it is so smooth and mellow, the time in the bottle has really done wonders for it. I haven't tried any other brews by this company but I most certainly will in the future.

11-26-2006 06:23:49 | More by Carleton
Photo of gonzo138


4.38/5  rDev +3.1%

1997 edition, cracked open after thanksgiving dinner

A- pours a very deep brownish red, has a cream colored head that doesnt retain exceptionally well, but laces greatly

S-super rich sweet malts, nice chocolate aroma, also has hints of raisin fruitiness, a little anise smell was present, also had a very strong alcohol smell

T-complements smell, rich and chocoaltey sweet, fruity taste is present in the taste as well, alcohol becomes more pronounced towards bottom of glass

M- very thick and sticky, full body, low carbonation

D- wow, this was one monster beer, glad I found it, it has inspired me to age more beer, absolutely great

11-24-2006 06:18:05 | More by gonzo138
Photo of carln26


3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

Medium copper color, mildly hazy and topped by a thin off white head, the beer settled quickly into the glass, as did the head. The nose is very sweet. Some mild yeast, a little dark caramel, sweet date, and a light touch of citrus hops. The flavor is rich and sweet. There are hints of dark fruit, toffee, dates, and a mild yeast note. The hops have run away to hind. There is a subtle bitterness, and maybe, just maybe some orange character. The mouth feel is slick and smooth, and there is surprisingly little alcohol on the finish. Oh, it's there, but at 11.5, I expect a lot more. Surprisingly drinkable.

11-22-2006 20:40:41 | More by carln26
Photo of GooberMcNutly


3.43/5  rDev -19.3%

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.

11-14-2006 21:22:15 | More by GooberMcNutly
Photo of nriech


3.7/5  rDev -12.9%

2000 Edition enjoyed on 11/11/2006

Appearance: Mahogany colored, darker than any regular ale but not quite porter colored either. (I'm a guy, I dont know any color thats not in the 10 color crayon box)

Smell: Oaky oaky oaky. Very nice, almost more enjoyable than a bourbon. A little fruity and more oak, aged nicely.

Taste: Very smooth and sweet. You have to know going into this its going to be sweet and expect it otherwise youll be heading towards the drain with a very expensive pour. A bit of alcohol but not overpowering, nice actually. Not entirely complex though as I would have liked but a nice depart from the usual. Stickeyness at the end which I actually enjoy and get even more flavor from.

Drinkability: Not entirely high due to the sweetness, one bottle once in a while. A great brew to share during a tasting session though.

11-13-2006 16:09:27 | More by nriech
Photo of beerogre

New York

4.4/5  rDev +3.5%

2001 Vintage sampled Nov 2006.

Another very special sipping beer, which I purchased along with a Thomas Hardy Ale last weekend. Visually both are really quite ghastly, in my opinion!

For me, this had the beating of the Thomas Hardy. Both were excellent little treats, but the Harvest Ale just seemed to have that extra touch of class, which is the difference between finishing in the last 8 of the World Cup like England, or going all the way to the final like Italy or France. Sad but true!

Again, not too hard to believe if someone offered you a glass and told you it was a sherry and when I offered my wife a taste, (as I often do when I believe I'm sampling an exceptional beer) she was reluctant to return it and wanted to down the whole thing. That's usually the sign of a really good beer, as she's normally content with just a little sip.

A rare treat, and worth sampling as a one off, but I'll take my value for money Ommegangs anyday thank you very much.

11-12-2006 04:42:44 | More by beerogre
Photo of wcudwight

North Carolina

4.2/5  rDev -1.2%

1999 Vintage
Pours a ruby walnut color. Decent head for a 11.5% beer.
The odor can clear your sinuses. I'm not a liquer drinker, but this smells like a fine whisky or some other liquer. I also get the aroma of toast made from homemade bread. You don't even have to put your nose down to the glass or swirl or anything to smell this beer. Just pour and the aroma fills the room. It's nice.

Wow!!!! Even at 7 years old this one still packs a punch. It has a cloying sweetness. The beginning is caramel sugar and maple syrup. From middle to the end I get a fine liquor again. Maybe even a hint of chocolate. Kind of reminds me of those Jack Daniel's chocolates with the liquor in them. There is a subtle hoppiness in the finish. The aftertaste is wonderful with the alcohol warming and a nice mild bitterness.
This is a big, complex, full bodied beer. The 11.5% warms the mouth and even burns a little bit. The huge amounts of malts in this thing are chewy and even feel like they stick to the teeth some.
For 11.5% it's very drinkable...just be careful.
I wanted something different for my 300th review and I couldn't have picked a better beer.

11-03-2006 06:41:38 | More by wcudwight
Photo of mynie


3.85/5  rDev -9.4%


Pours dark red and hazy like blood or a Fruit Roll Up.

Smells like very, very intense sweet yeast fruit, molasses, and hops. Good god, this has been aged for five years?

Tastes grainy, very sweet. Candy sweet. Belgian yeast sweet, only sweeter. Brown sugar molasses white can sugar sunshine sweet. Intense, to say the least...a bit too overwhelming to describe.

Too intense to enjoy it as you would a normal beer, but the pure splendor of the whole thing makes this beer more than worthwhile.

10-30-2006 06:01:05 | More by mynie
Photo of Onibubba


4.53/5  rDev +6.6%

2000 vintage enjoyed at home in a Duvel glass. Faintest hiss of air as I popped the cap. Tiny bubbles rush to the top in a futile attemp to form a head. They're persistant. I'll give them that.

What an aroma! Candied fruits, caramel, chocolate covered cherries, raisons, and a strong rush of auslese or eiswine. This is the most amazing beer I have smelled yet. The bubbles are still fizzing. Just an awesome appearence.

Taste is very smooth. Carob, not chocolate. Rich and creamy with a full and coating mouthfeel. Almost cloying in the sweetness, so small sips will benefit. The only taste of alcohol is the aforementioned auslese, but it does assert itself.

Halfway through the glass, there is just a touch of bitterness on the roof of my mouth vainly fighting against the sweet caramel maltiness.

This was a super experience. A 12 oz bottle is perfect. Would even be a great beer to share with someone. Would I want another. No, not tonight. But I have a 1998 that I will be eying greedily in a few months. Seek this out.

10-13-2006 13:22:49 | More by Onibubba
Photo of lpayette


4.83/5  rDev +13.6%

1988 Vintage - Enjoyed at Trias Bar, Philadelphia, June 2006. Yeah baby, 17.5 years old. The oldest beer I've ever had and perhaps the best too. $10 per bottle, and well, well worth it. I wasn't able to write down a complete review at the time, but I was able to jot down some notes and scores.

Sweet and malty flavors... nutty, buttery, fruity, smell of brandy-like alcohol. Grapes, muscot??? Strong malty flavors, musty notes, hidden honey, and strong alcohol.

Simply amazing in the complexity. I'd like to have a a case of this stuff from each year it's been made.

10-09-2006 03:03:10 | More by lpayette
Photo of CortexBomb


4.58/5  rDev +7.8%

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.

09-26-2006 01:42:50 | More by CortexBomb
Photo of mjc410


4.33/5  rDev +1.9%

2002 vintage

My pour into a snifter leaves a half inch of beer in the bottle, to save the dregs for last. There are a few sparse bubbles forming a ring around the glass, which are a middling tan. The beer's body is a hazy copper, with vivid crimson highlights at the glass's stem. The nose runs the myriad of peppery alcohol, strong molasses, sweet cherries, and wheat toast. There's also a lot of caramel about, and caramel notes too. Very nice. Taste is very sweet, cloying if taken too quickly, with a very distinct coffee flavor. Very sweet like honey, with a slight ending bitterness that is over almost before I notice. Very fruity from the alcoholic esters, and incredibly malty, like sweet bread. Mouth is thick and syrupy, with no carbonation. This is a very drinkable BW, because the alcohol burn is hidden so well. It paired marvelously with my girlfriend's apple strudel!

09-19-2006 19:41:53 | More by mjc410
Photo of BlackJeremiah


4.22/5  rDev -0.7%

2000 vintage, poured into a snifter. That makes this one at roughly 5 years, 9 months old. This is the oldest beer in my cellar, and the longest I've ever managed to age something without breaking down and drinking it.

A: I have to adjust the temperature of my cellar a bit, since I see a little chill haze here. Not much, so I'm not too concerned. Color is like iced tea, a mahogany with a burnt red undertone. This is more evident when it is held up to the light. Very little head; dissipates quickly.

S: This smells almost liquorish, like whiskey or tequila. Definite oaky and raisiney characteristics. Smells STRONG, even more than the 11.5% ABV might lead one to believe.

T: A lot of sweetness up front, with powerful prune/raisin characteristics to it. Alcohol is present, but more than balanced, unlike the aroma suggested. Little to no hop character detected, but it might just be completely overwhelmed (or the more likely--my palate is not yet discerning enough). Smooth, but the dried-fruit flavors are downright cloying after a few sips. However, it is truly different than any other barleywine I've tried, and its flavors provide something really interesting. No matter its cloying effect on me, it is an EXCEPTIONAL flavor, and I've ranked it as such.

M: A bit thick for my tastes. That, combined with the raisin and prune flavors, make me feel like I'm drinking a very thin jam.

D: There is no scenario I can imagine in which I would be able to consume more than one bottle of this. It is a remarkable beer, in that it has many excellent and well-balanced characteristics. But I just can't deal with the thick sweetness of this sucker for more than 12 ounces. One I'll break out every so often, just to check on its maturation. This one also brought on some serious heartburn, so those of you prone to gastric mischief should be prepared with the antacids.

09-14-2006 18:57:34 | More by BlackJeremiah
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,228 ratings.