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

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

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1,319 Ratings

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Ratings: 1,319
Reviews: 812
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 188 | FT: 13
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:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,319 | Reviews: 812
Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
3.5/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served cool from 12 oz amber bottles, vintages 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 courtesy of mjgardner and BRoss242--thanks guys, shared with Prufrock.

Pours with great body generating a slight head that doesn't leave lacing.

Aroma is thick and heady with fruity maltiness and a hint of maple.

Flavor is dominated by the malt, a bit fruity, maybe spicy.

Mouthfeel is rich and heavy. This is a sipping beer, slow going down. The 2000 has a healthy bitterness and is very well balanced, with 2002 being a bit less bitter and 1998 and 2001 being notably lacking in bitterness. None exhibit any high alcohol character--deceptively strong. The 2000 was my favorite, it was best balanced. All four are good sipping barleywines and recommended.

Photo of Atron67
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A 2001 bottle thats been aging for awhile

A- poured a dark reddish amber with a thin tan head that lasted a little while and didn't leave much head. Foggy with little bit of particulate visible
S- Very malty, little syrupy notes, dark fruits, some figs not much notes of hops, interesting and complex smelling
T- this is dangerous for its alcohol, smooth malty layers with the dark fruits providing complements to the malty character, low hops. a little syrupy but still exceptional
M- a little syruppy, heavy body, light carbonation
D- its very good, its smoothness and body provide a really nice barelywine which goes down really smoothly

Photo of CharlieMopps
4.58/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2000

A: Poured a dark garnet with brighter ruby hues showing through when held to light. All of this topped by a one-finger layer of off-white, bubbly head.

S: A depth of malts here, with an almost leathery scent with mellow, dark fruit, a definite side-effect of aging is noticeable. Kind of a yeasty aroma is also detectable, and comes part in parcel of the aging. This will be quite an interesting one, I hope.

T: This one introduces itself with a powerful, sweet malty base fright up front, and maintains the sweeter part, but it has definitely mellowed with aging. A light hop presence later, but barely noticeable, along with the alcohol, which blends incredibly. The finish is one of the best I've had, as the only thing that sticks around is the best parts of the sweet maltiness. A unique offering that deserves the highest of accolades.

M: A viscous, and slightly oily texture, carbonation has relaxed, but still retained a certain complement to the flavor profile. It's like a beer made out of malty syrup. I love it.

D: Due to its limited availability in the area, this one is quite a treat. It's akin to a sugary bread snack in liquid form, and I can definitely see the harvest-time connection. A great beer that stands out above so many others, and the best old ale I've had, to date.

Photo of weeare138
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 Harvest Ale...
Appears a dark amber and crimson with a 2 finger beige head that fades to a fluffy cap. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is syrupy, lightly oxidized, maple syrup, caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, cherries, red grapes, nougat, and rich toffee.
Taste is of rich, boozy, caramel, vanilla, cocoa powder, rum soaked raisins, nougat, and cherries.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, syrupy, sugary, dessert like, with cherry concentrate and a boozyness that hangs on. This is the equivalent of a tawny port wine. Delicious stuff.

Photo of smcolw
4.19/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1997 version of the Harvest Ale. This one pours a muddy, dark brown. Good initial head that dies to a ring of bubbles on the side of the glass. No permanent lace.

Very strong aromas of brown sugar, some raw bread and nearly burnt toffee.

Molasses is the first flavor I taste. This is a very sweet beer up front and in the swallow. Nice hop bitterness in the middle. The aftertaste has strong mocha notes. The alcohol is very strong--it doesn't dominate, but it certainly warms. The body is expectedly thick like heavy cream. Good strong carbonation to balance the body.

This is not a very "drinkable" beer, but it is an excellent single winter warmer for slow sipping. No one will ever accuse this beer of blandness. More than two of them, you might not taste anything.

Photo of drseamus
4.55/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1998 vintage that I found at a store.

A: It pours a nice dark opaque brown color. I poured it into one of my Chimay glasses to get a bit of carbonation out of it.

S: The smell is very rich, sweet, and malty and there are definitely some wood aging aromas in there too. I get a sherry aroma also.

T: As I took the beer into my mouth, it was initially very hot and I got worried. As soon as it gets in my mouth and I let it sit for a second, it smooths right out and tastes AWESOME!! This beer has the best aftertaste of anything I've had before. There are smooth buttery caramel notes and a whiskey character and it just fades slowly in the aftertaste.

M: Medium bodied but with a big flavor that makes it seem heavier. This beer is VERY smooth.

D: This is a great beer. I'm due a free case at Mahar's and I think I'll get one of these.

Photo of TexIndy
1.86/5  rDev -56.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

2001 vintage from a trade. Poured from a 275ml bottle. It was a dark opaque brown. It had almost no head and no carb. No lacing. The smell was dominated by raisins and a syrupy sugary sweetness. Not a fan of the overly sweet raisins that I've run across before this one and didn't like it here. The taste was way too sweet to be enjoyable for me. Was like drinking sugar water with a bunch of raisins thrown in. This is my 2nd barley wine and not looking to try another unless part of my Top 100 quest. Don't recommend unless you like the style or very sweet beers. (1.5, NA, ML, N)

Photo of gamblor21
3.32/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Dark in color, Smell of Raisins, as well as the taste. Also hints of cinnamon. Not easy to find, had from a bottle. Can also detect the Kent Golding's hops. The flavor is strong, and the high alc/vol makes it hard to drink more than one in a night, It feels like it would be a good winter beer after a day on the mountain

Photo of peabody
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1st of december 1998 bottleing.

Pours out like a dark root beer with just a dash of off-white suds.
Great lacing with the 11.5% abv. Looks great.
Smell is straw and soured grapes and sugar coated raisins. Almost a clove/cinnamon smell.
Taste is sugary sweet. Very Very Very sweet. Whoa, hard to describe. Caramel and sugar and warm alcohol with just hints of plum and raisin. Almost a cotton candy flavor.
Mouthfeel is oily and alcoholy. this is almost 10 years old.
The warmth would be perfect on a cold winter's night. My AC just ain't up to the challenge on this warm June Night.
Drinkability is low because of abv and availability.

Photo of Toddv29424
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours a dark malty brown color with no head, and there appears to be little particles floating around. The smell is very earthy, but does not allude at all to how big this beer is gonna be. The taste is very large, and the lack of any carbonation really lets it sit and develop on the tongue. The consistency is almost like molasses, and you can tell that there is not much more in this beer than extract and water. Very little hop character, but the sheer size of the malt seem to provide a sufficient size for the whole tongue. Also there is absolutely no alcohol taste, which means this beer goes down fast and creeps up on you. I'm not sure about the lack of carbonation, but the taste is terrific.

Photo of BretSikkink
3.98/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2006, 11.2 oz. bottle.

Viscous brown liquid, very little head or retention with such high alcohol content. Overly sweet aroma, a lot of caramel malt with some balancing herbal hop, with big ripe dark fruit as well.

Sticky and thick like syrup or honey, this indeed is a fully fermented ale. Creamy depth houses a lot of flavor, with huge toffee/caramel malt sugars that reminds me of a dessert wine with a lighter flavor of molasses. Hops are nice, a touch grassy but doing good work behind the malt screen. These are likely to fade with time, still noticeable after one year. Finish is thick and hard, with a mineral flavor that persists into the sweet aftertaste. Alcohol is very present, from the first sip on.

Very complex and rewarding brew. Different animal from the American barleywine, driven by the malt profile, which dominates what is probably a good amount of bittering. Great special occasion beer.

Photo of Damian
4.57/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Drank from a 275 ml/9.6 U.S. fl. oz. bottle purchased at Liquor World, Cambridge, MA
1998 vintage

Poured a thick, syrupy, cloudy, crimson-mahogany with a saddle-colored layer of bubbly froth.

The aroma was super sweet, alcohol rich and very port-like. Maple syrup and brandy came through strong followed by oak, toffee, moderate oxidative notes and hints of warm butter.

The taste was ridiculously smooth and enjoyable. This beer displayed port-like indications up front (but the oxidative notes were quite minimal). By mid-palate the beer turned hugely malty rich and very sweet (yet not cloying) with raisins, brown sugar and an oaky, woody, aged, bourbon-like quality. Currants, along with a touch of ripe fruitiness, came through as well. A slight alcohol warming in the back of the mouth was detectable. The finish was syrupy and sugary with lingering notes of burnt sugar.

The mouthfeel was super syrupy, sticky and a touch creamy (for a ten-year-old beer, I was amazed at how well it held its carbonation). After every sip, the liquid left a sugary film in my mouth.

As for drinkability, this beer was exceptional. It was so amazingly smooth and pleasant that I had a difficult time actually believing it was 11.5% ABV.

Overall, this beer was outstanding. My previous experiences with cellared beer have been mostly negative, but this barley wine was truly an exception. It would be the perfect libation to savor in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night and it could also pair quite nicely with a plate of blue Stilton and ripe stone fruits.

Photo of cypressbob
4.38/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle, poured into a Dobbelen tulip. Served a shade under room temperature

2004 Vintage

Pours with an amazingly thick and almost syrupy body, rich dark ruby red body. Thick rich maroon and ruby highlights through out the beer, syrupy slightly cloudy body from the bottle conditioning. A rich ruby highlighted body with thick cloudy brown hues. An amazingly thick centimetre tall off white head forms with solid retention.... we're left with a few millimetres of tight white head with nice attractive patchy lacing up and and down the glass

Smell, Thick rich maderia soaked ripe fruit along with a sweet body of dried and preserved fruit like ripe raisins, prunes and apricots. Rich and syrupy malty body with a strong effervesent alcoholic whiff. Leather and dried figs along with a cacophony of deep and robust estery sweetness

Taste, sweet rich dried fruit, tonnes of brandy soaked raisins and sultanas plus a sugary prune compliment. Thick syrupy alcoholic malt body. A dense caramelly malty burnt sugar character fills the taste buds. Sticky bourbon tinged alcoholic body with a rich single malt like malty slightly peaty body. Sweet ester laden alcoholic finish alot with a huge degree of ripe fruit, leather, preserved fruit and rich port like qualities.

Superb, not quite as deep or complex as the 2001 but still amazing stuff.

I lost all my reviews of my vintages when BA merged alot however i've tried 1999 - 2005. I think 3-4 years is the peak, the 99 was a bit lacking. The 2002 was probably the best, so inmo 3-5 years is ideal.

Photo of barefootbrewer
3.92/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2004 Version - This beer poured a hazy brown with a very thin head. The aroma is malty and syrup like. The taste is very sweet – molasses! It almost tastes like it would go great on a biscuit. The mouthfeel is full and a bet chewy. This is a delicious brew, but it might be a bit much to have more than one – would make a great dessert beer.

Photo of Bobikel
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
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...

Photo of dirtylou
4.12/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage, no idea who sent this to me, but thanks!

enjoyed on the eve of my summer(winter) journey down under

appearance: murky golden amber body poured into a snifter...very little in the way of head or lace...muddy brown and rather flat

smell: complex nose that resembles a less potent version of some of the aged versions i have tried in the past...big oak/bourbon aromas, vanilla, sweet plum and cherry...very nice!

taste: a well crafted malt masterpiece...bourbon covered dark fruits - heavy on the plum, cherry, raisin, dates, fig. vanilla and brown sugar flavours provide a nice compliment. high sweetness and mild alcohol warming sensation. i like the barrel aged ones a little better but this is nice and smooth

mouthfeel: smooth and coating, nice warming sensation

drinkability: good

Photo of kajerm
4.1/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2000, pours dark ruby-hued brown with a thin ring of head and just a drop of lacing.

The first word I can think of to describe the aroma is "musty," but I mean that in a good way. There's a dusty, distinguished smell that surrounds the toffeeish malts, honey, brandy alcohol, and fusels. Some light fruity ester and yeast character. This beer is complex enough to warrant extended smelling.

The flavor profile is long and rich, opening up with toffee, honey, and molasses, which blend into to mid-palate fruit and then become almost candyish, as the molasses comes back and blends with higher alcohols. There is just a drop of raisin and coffee flavor, along with some butterscotch from diacetyl. Whatever East Kent Golding hops went in here died between 2000 and 2007, leaving a rich malty monster of a barley wine.

There's something very English-tasting about this beer, but I like it.

The mouthfeel is rich, heavy, and drying, like sweet brandy.

Drinkability is pretty much meaningless for a beer like this; this is a sipping beer.

This is my first vintage beer and my first English barley wine, and it's a stunner.

Photo of John_M
4.52/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

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.

Photo of geexploitation
4.92/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage. Pours a very dark, reddish brown with great clarity and a considerable head for a beer of this style and with this ABV. Extremely complex aroma of marshmallow and molasses sweetness, with dried fruits (reminds me of a fruitcake), fresh cut strawberries and smoke. For some reason, I get just a touch of sauvignon blanc-like cat-pee when the beer reaches room temperature. On the palate, fruity malts and a smoky, syrupy sweetness first off. The finish brings out a marshmallow flavor. The whole thing is quite sweet, but with considerable refinement and flavors that keep things just light enough. Mouthfeel is a touch hot and thick and syrupy... but not too much so on any count. For a beer that reaches 11.50 ABV this is incredibly drinkable, with astonishing complexity of flavor. Very enjoyable -- a truly exceptional barleywine.

Photo of Redwood21
3.97/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

WOW! 1998 beer reviewed 2007..9 yr old beer!

I am not sure how much i like this beer yet, but wow...Big is the word. big aroma, strong taste wow....
A:I love how this beer appears to be a really dark color, dark brown to black in color. But when held to light, is a more cherry wood brown color. with a nice lasting head that isnt too high, but its a nice creamy head that lasts around the rim for a while.

S: WOW, I can not decide if i enjoy the aroma, but i can not deny that this beer actually has a nice strong one. Almost cognac in nature with some espresso/coffee aromas too. its insane, more aromatic than any beer i have ever had. maybe even some bittersweet chocolate and an aroma that i recognize but cannot pick out. ...insane

T: Honey with coffee, and some other flavors i can not even begin to pick out. extremely syrupy. I would rate this higher if i enjoyed the complexity, but i do not. Maybe in a few yrs after more beers i would, right now its juts too off the wall. What i do know is that this is one of the most flavorful beer i have ever tried. its insane. I want to try a younger beer for comparison. This is one COMPLEX brew

M: too syrupy for me, maybe im just not used to a 9 yr old beer. i have to admit it was different.

D: overall i cant drink this beer easily. I 100% understand it, and maybe its just my flavor choice that hurts it. There are some beers i dont feel bad bashing, this reminds me of when i review scotch, sometimes its a great scotch and ppl just cant handle it...this may be that beer for me. I'll try a younger version and maybe update this review, or do an entirely new one. If you like complex beers, try this one out. It will knock your socks off!!!!

Photo of tjthresh
4.6/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brown when sitting on the table, but a nice orange color when held to light. Very little head formed. Alcohol vapor singed my nose hair on the first whiff. Very complex mix of aromas. Cherry, wine notes, chocolate, caramel, and some leather notes. Loads of chocolate caramel raisin flavor, with some cherry and fig. Wonderful. Silky smooth and lush across the palate. Like this caramel sauce. This was really an unreal experience.

Photo of MrBendo
3.78/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2000 vintage. Clear red/copper color with a large head. Little retention. Fair lacing. Dark fruit, salty balsamic vinegar and attic-stored book aroma. Taste bring in a cloying sweetness, with brown sugar, raisins, toffee and rum. Alcohol is well hidden. Harshly sweet and moderately sour flavor.
A complex beer that you wouldn't want every day.

Photo of udubdawg
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle of the 2001 vintage. Man I need to stop collecting and start drinking more of these!

Pours with quite a bit of sediment that settles out, leaving a hazed carmelly brown color. Decent light tan head for the age, but little retention and nonexistent lace.

Smells terrific. In a word: Rich. Lots of warming alcohol, but it isn't harsh - more blended in like a fine brandy. Carmelized sugar sweetness, and dark fruit.

Very sweet, and again rich with a thick molasses and caramel-rich malt profile. Tons of raisin, and some plum and fig. More warming alcohol in the swallow, and pretty much all over by mid-glass.

Sticky sweet full-bodied mouthfeel. I imagine the sweet residue in the mouth is a big reason why some don't care for this. Not a lot of carbonation left in this one.

Drinkability is good - way better than something this strong and sticky sweet would usually be. Strong, warming, complex - I have no trouble finishing one, and on certain sipping evenings, two. Not something I want that often though.

Photo of kirok1999
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage pours a clear light coppery brown. No head, just little bubbles resting on the top. The smell is super sweet, all apples, raisins, plums. The taste is much more than the smell. It is almost all apples, almost like a cider, very sweet and delicious.
There is a dark, almost chocolate/coffee presence here too, very slight but noticable. The mouthfeel is silky smooth. This is easy to drink but so sweet I would only want one. Very nice English Barleywine.

Photo of allengarvin
4.17/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 bottle, served into a wide-mouthed chalice. It pours a muddy brown color with only a small thin head atop it. Aroma is richly syruply, very malty-sweet. Taste, likewise, is quite sweet, with rich caramel flavors, a little dark chocolate bitterness, and fruitiness reminiscent of cooked cherries. Low on carbonation but big in body and mouthfeel.

A bit on the verge of being too sweet for me, but it makes a great late-night digestif.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,319 ratings.