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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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

1,310 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,310
Reviews: 811
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 187 | 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:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (19) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,310 | Reviews: 811 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of oberon
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage,I opened a 2003 bottle a few months back and it was just a bit much so I picked this one seeing it was aged already seven years.Pours a deep chesnut brown with just a slight ruby hue with one finger head wich honestly I didnt expect,aromas are incredible walnut and raisin stick out most with a touch of orange,rich and robust flavors but are much more in tune with each other than the 2003 big raisin/prune up front with a roasted nut and maple finish.Thick but not quite syrupy mouthfeel glides down easy,cant think of a better nighttime sipper,just awseome.

Photo of egajdzis
4.28/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999... Poured a bubbly ruby red color with a thick and creamy off white head that left nice lacing. Sweet (caramel) and spicy (clove, cardamom). Sweet taste, some chocolate, fruits (raisins, plums) and a nice alcohol finish. Sweet and sticky. A nice vintage.

Photo of Bierguy5
4.69/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Cask conditioned, served in a 10 ounce goblet at Buffalo Wild Wings in Indy. Lighter mohogany color, with some ruby edges. Not much head at all on this monster. Huge oaky, coconut aroma. Also seems slightly somkey. Very sweet, fruity and oaky. Alcohol is not hidden, it is certainly there. Full body, low carbonation. This is outstanding. Not the most drinkable, but complex. A definite sipping beer.

Photo of mntlover
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 1st December 1998

Pours a mahogany color witha medium sized tan head that falls to ringed bubbles and leaves some lace behind.

Aroma is big fruity malt prunes, raisins, plums, and brown sugar/molasses some earthy spicey yeast also.

Taste is sweet fruity some carbonation felt in the begining fruity malt is tasted thru out very nice very smooth hardly any alcohol noticed in this brew. Some very light hops tingle the tounge towards the end, or it could be spicey yeasts, but thats it. This beer is very smooth very tasty hard to believe its going on 7 years old, this Dec.

Mouthfeel is big nice full smooth easy to drink, more a pleasure to drink really.

Drinkability is well wonderful comes to mind wish I had a few more to save but do have 2 1999's and a 2004 which I might try to see what its like fresh. But don't you wait to try it, buy this if you see it. Only complaint I have is its only 9.6oz instead of 12.

Photo of Buildscharacter
4.06/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

I had a bottle of 1998 J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale. Seeing as how this bottle was 7 1/2 years old, I was hoping for some good things, and boy did this beer pull through. It remindes me very much of a 10 year old bottle of Thomas Hardy Ale that I had not too long ago.

It pours out thick, with little head. There are aromas of brown sugar and maple. Thin head that quickly goes into nothingness....as would be expected from an 11.5% beer.

First taste sends my taste buds reeling. Wow.. good powerful stuff. Super smooth in the mouth, and almost creamy in feel. The alcohol is well blended in this warming barleywine. Reminds me of sitting in front of a fire with spiced cider. There are spicy undertones to the very maple syrup like flavor. There is a sweetness that prevades the overall taste, which is great in my opinion. I may even smell a hint of vanilla in there.

I was quite pleased. Especially because I found this bottle at Whole Foods on 24th Street in Manhattan. Three Chreers for Whole Foods for stocking a great selection of quality beers.

Photo of brentk56
4.85/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 Bottling

Appearance: Pours out a dark amber color with a modest head that dissipates and leaves little lace; not surprising for this type of beer

Smell: Gosh, where to begin...rum-soaked candied fruit, honey, caramel, tobacco

Taste: A very complex liqueur washes over the tongue, almost like drambuie, but not as sweet or alcoholic; flavors of sugary burnt fruits such as apricots, raisins, pears, prunes and then some tobacco bitterness strikes up to balance the sweetness through to the finish

Mouthfeel: Thick and syrupy; moderate carbonation

Drinkability: One small bottle would last an entire evening; a wonderful concoction

Got to try the fabled 1998 bottling on 9/21/12 and was blown away by how tasty a 14 year old beer could be

Photo of hero27
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

9.3oz bottle. 2004 Vintage.

Pours a bold, bronze color with a respectable frothy, tan head which holds incredibly well for a beer this high in alcohol. Smells unlike any beer I've ever had.. intensely aromatic is not giving this the full credit it deserves. Almost sickly sweet..nearly overwhelming fruity taste of raisins, figs, a countless array of dark fruits and sugars.. Very syrupy in the mouth, and as full-bodied as it is, it slides down dangerously easy. The 11.5% ABV is almost laughable, because hardly any alcohol is noticeable through the immense complexity of flavors this brew has. There very well may be some tremendous hop flavors buried somewhere in this one, but if there are, they are masked by it's sugary sweetness.

I have a 2000 & 1998 still saved up, so I will compare it with the fresh 2004 version and edit my rating & review accordingly. I'm hoping the aged bottles mellow out the sweetness a little...still a bit too sweet for my taste. All-in-all, an extremely interesting and eye-opening beer that everyone should take the opportunity to try.

Photo of cubedbee
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage. Pours a deep dark red with a thin cap of beige head that quickly reduces to a ring. Smell is sweet and dark--raisins, figs, port, and some very earthy aromas. Taste is sugary sweet upfront, with a fruity winelike complexity. Raisins, figs, pineapples, toffee, maple syrup. Just a bare note of hops on the finish to balance the sweetness, which lingers long after a sip. Alcohol is barely detectable, amazing considering the 11.5%. Mouthfeel is full and silky, absolutely suberb. Overall this is a little sweeter than I expected, but it's an absolutely shining example of a barleywine, and I would try another vintage in a second.

Photo of Gusler
4.54/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

“1997 Vintage”: Been quite sometime since I broke into my stash of J. W. Lees, stash hell I’m down to just a 1988 plus some 4 bottles of 2004, well I guess its what happens, can’t keep them forever. Once liberated from its nine-year incarceration in the 275ml brown bottle, it appears in the glass to be a deep ruby color with a diminutive frothy light tan head that evaporates quickly leaving a velum like coating of lace on the glass. Nose “Woo Hoo”, fusel alcohol dominates with a strong sweet maple sugar sweetness to back it up, a presage of what’s to come at the start, sweet with a modest grain profile, the top fair to middling in feel. Finish is benign in its acidity, the hops present, but totally overwhelmed by the alcohol, vinous, dry and lingering aftertaste, the beer certainly warms the tummy, but after 9 years of setting on a shelf, its still “Magnificent”, damn I love these monsters.

(4.6)
“1988 Vintage”: Decanted before decocting to get all the “dregs” that coated the bottom of the bottle, much to the chagrin of many beer purists, I like all the little “strange particles” that inhabit the bottom of a vintage beer such as this one. The beer decants color a cloudless walnut brown, the decocted color, something akin to a rusty nail. The pour produced little head, and less lace. “Whoa Nellie”, what a nose fusel alcohol, sweet, five star brandies, bubble gum, over ripe pineapple, what a treat for this old schnozzle. Start is maple sugar sweet, top is middling in its feel to the palate. Finish negligible on the carbonation, hops I am sure I taste them, but the big alcohol bite just overwhelms all your olfactory and gustatory senses, and the “tummy warming” sensation quit noticeable, one spectacular beer, but most certainly something that is not meant for those people’s weak of heart and or any other body part and or function, “Whew”!

(4.6)
“1986 Vintage”: The beer appears a deep muddy brown color, No Head and No Lace, the nose, where the "Hell" do I begin, Strong alcohol, brandy, vinous, fresh plowed "Midwest" dirt, (A smell I love). Front is all malt, the middle full, the finish, "Alcohol" dominates, spicy hop bite, under the lingering alcohol dry long lasting aftertaste. "Robust" more like ZAP, ZONK, ZOW, POWIE, Batman, this beer is not for the weak hearted, or anyone who wants to keep their taste buds. “God” I loved it! But then I am quite strange.

(4.4)
“1998 Vintage”: The beer pours a thick cloudy Brownish-Copper, the head profuse, and the lace lavish sheets to coat the glass. Nose is deep roasted malt, caramel, and bittersweet chocolate, somewhat smoky and yes even a bit "Brandy like. Front is sweet, the top "Thick", the finish is mildly acidic with a bounty of hops and the long lasting alcohol bitter aftertaste to end a magnificent beer. I need to find a source for these beers those ships to Arizona, as I must sample more.

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

Release '05: Sept. 23, 2007

Still considered very young, yet seductive enough to crack open the bottle. I just can't let these beers age at all. They are magnificent at any age. The 05 is no exception. Expecting a heavy sweet beer with some raw sugars and syrups, perhaps a hop bite and conflict; expecting high amounts of co2 to amplify an already-hot brew. Nope -- got none of that. Instead, the same smooth, brandy-like, port-wine brew with a hint of hop bitterness and flavor, mild heat, and creamy co2. Candied fruits take the form of fruit cake soaked in rum, with the finess of an after dinner congnac. The beer is absolutely amazing. Can't wait to see what the next decade does to the other one that I'll try to stash back.

Releases '87, 97, 92 - side by side comparison / Aug. 21, 2007

The '87 shined with higher port-wine, brandy flavors, but much more mellow, and less robust than earlier verisions. The nose was quite light, flavors were muted, with a complex alcohol feel and void carbonation. It looks a lot like prune juice, and tastes syrupy with deep dark fruits (dates, raisons, prunes, plumbs, figs). No hop presence at all. Highly oxidized and musty throughout. Rate 4.4

The '97 has all of the characteristics as the '87, but with richer context, intensity, and mouthfeel. The carbonation rounds out the mouthfeel and makes the beer feel fuller. The fruits are a bit ripe in comparison, but taking on similar proportions. More molassas, maple, wood character persists. Less oxidized, but still characterful with sherry and a touch of soy-sauce. Rate 4.8

The '02 is much sweeter, and has not rounded out fully yet. Rich maple syrup flavors make the beer taste a bit raw. The alcohols come across very warm, nearly hot. Fruits take on fresh fruitcake / dehydrated fruits, pronounced cherry flavor. No oxidation, but more one-dimensional than the earlier versions. Rate 4.25.

What an experiment! The '97 has the best recipe and has aged very well, probably nearing it's peak. The '87, although very nice, has signs of decline. The '02 still needs time to come into it's own. Thanks Clvand0!

Release 1999:

Always a joy to drink. After 8 years of bottle conditioning, great things are anticipated. The sweetness from this brew was fantastic: full of plumbs, grapes, dates, figs, cherries, prunes, and raisons, all swirled around a rum-like liquor. The hops have basically disappeared, leaving a mild bitterness from hop residue, grains, and confectionate sugars. Very rich and syrupy feel with a sharp, hot alcohol thinning. The beer sticks to the insides of the mouth for some time. Though this was a special session, I prefered the 2000 and the Port Cask Harvest Ales better.

Release 2000. Sampled on 06-21-05.

Boy what a terrific beer; best I've had in a while.
Looks brown with amber and tan highlights. Has a smooth, silky viscocity when poured into the glass. 1/2" off white head settles to a trace. Laces well and has legs. Smells fruity and sweet. Fruits resemble dates, figs, and raisons. Mildly alcoholic and spicy. Mouth watering. Tastes sweet and malty. Terrific full and round body. Sweetness hangs around. Mouthfeel is creamy and silky. Complex barley flavors abound. Flavors remind me of dark sweet wines. Quite chewy. Alcohol is hidden well. Finishes sweet and malty. Bittered only to balance; no flavor, no agressiveness. Not as dry as one would expect. Again, mildly alcoholic.

Impression: Probably more akin to an English Old Ale--with a punch. Well matured and melded. Dangerously easy to drink.
I highly recomend. May be substituted for an after dinner Port Wine or a Brandy.

Photo of mentor
4.78/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Uhm, this was a pretty good beer. Review recorded on paper from a 1998 bottle obtained from John's Grocery (Iowa City) and consumed a couple evenings later (June 2005). Pours a finger and a hlaf tan (pinewood) colored head over a red dark-rust orange liquid.. Nearly clear except a few particulates. Smells citrusy tang with alcohol. Sweet and caramel. Tastes smooth sweet then citrusy tnag, then wet sweet, then richly rolls of caramel and toffee and some chocolate banter about (as aftertastes) vying for attention. That was a long sentence, but then, that was an amazing first gulp. Yummy complex beers! A nice transition of flavors from start to end, plus a nice combination of layered flavors at any given moment in the experience. Alcohol is noticable in the start as a gentle burn on the front of my tonguebefore it blends into and finally beaten out by a citrusy tang. In the middle, fruit flavors consist of cherry sour, apricot, pear, watermelon, oranges (perhaps comes as part of a hop bitter?) and malt flavors consist of crystal/caramel malt and a biscuity barley. The beer ends with a great malt sweetness (I love malty beers) that almost has a bock quality about it. Thick mouthfeel and mildy carbonated. Minimal lacing on the inside of the glass.

2001 Vintage in December, 2010 (A:4 S:4 T:3 M:3.5 D:2);
2001 vintage ($4.49 price tag). Obtained from John's Grocery (Iowa City) probably 7ish years ago and cellared by me since then. Slight hist when opened carried soy and cognac aromas. Pours a thin ring of tan head over a very dark ruby liquid. Smells soy, clover honey, salt, mild clean alcohol sting.

Tastes sugary sweet with salty to counter. Oranges, wax, honey, rootbeer soda, and clean alcohol on the edges of the tongue trying (but failing) to keep the beer from sticking too much. With searching, the salty soy can be thought of as coffee/toffee/caramel with a bit of scorch to the toffee. Like a burnt heath bar.

In the mouth it's thick, but it cleans away fairly well, partly due to the alcohol. Mild carbonation, as to be expected from a beer a decade old. hard to choke down the entire 9 oz bottle.

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

2001 vintage. Tasted May 2005. Pours a dark, red-brown with very persistent, one finger thick, off-white head. Some large bubbles ring the glass, but otherwise the head is composed of uniform one millimeter diameter bubbles. Nice lacing of the glass throughout consumption. Smells of sticky sweet malt, with some nice spicy and earthy hop notes. A bit of an alcohol aroma, not surprisingly, is also present, but does not distract from the beer at all. Taste is very, very good. Quite sweet, but well balanced by some nice hop bitterness. Alcohol comes through nicely to further cut the sweetness and leaves a nice warming in the mouth. Full bodied and oily slick feel in the mouth, this beer goes down very smooth. Overall an outstanding beer.

Photo of BeerFink
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 edition, decanted with care from a 9.6oz bottle...

Pours with a rich caramel color with noticeable floaties. Head is almost nonexistant, even after a vigorous pour. Aroma is boozy and ripe with apples and berries, along with sweet caramel and powerful malts. The huge flavor initially hits me like a bus. Malts are huge, lots of bread and biscuit going around. Sugary sweetnees comes in early and hangs around. Caramel, toffee, molasses, and even some black licorice are all out to grace my palate. Slightly acidic apples and other fruits fight to get past the sweetness. Hops are barely there, some herbal hints and slight orange peel are the only sign. Mouthfeel is heavy and oily, and warm with alcohol. Although the alcohol is present, it is surprisingly well hidden, especially for this vintage and abv. Finish is oily and laden with sugary malts. A bit too sweet for my taste, but it is an outstanding offering nonetheless.

Photo of clvand0
4.63/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage. Poured a very thick and dark brown with a small head that fell quickly and left minimal lacing on the glass. The aroma was very strong. Lots of molasses, grapes, alcohol, and possibly a wine-like thing going on. Smells like it will taste "slick." The actual flavor is so far from this. The flavor is wonderful. Lots of chocolate and dark fruits. Some slight roasted malts and raisins. Absolutely wonderful. The alcohol is very well hidden in the flavor. The body is on the thick end of moderate. Drinkability is very good - I wish I had more of this one.

Photo of ppoitras
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

9.6oz bottle from who knows where. 1999 Edition.

Poured into a Rapscallion glass, formed a 1/4" beige head over the slightly cloudy orangey amber brew. Head quickly fades to an uneven layer of bubbles, and lacing is minimal, both more or less as expected for the style and age. Aroma is strongly of malt sweetness and alcohol. Taste is hearty in body, yet slithers lightly over the tongue and down the hatch, almost seeming to evaporate in the back of the mouth. Alcohol intergrates well, is obviously present, yet not leaving a rubbing alcohol aftertaste or numbness. Mouthfeel and drinkability are superb, so silky smooth, and goes down so well so such a big brew. What an experience...

Photo of warriorsoul
4.65/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2003 bottle thanks to Downtown in Davis.
Pours an extremely attractive cloudy orange w/ an almost full finger of bright white head...sudsy w/ minimal cling.
Aroma packed w/ flavor...reminiscent of a fine port...w/ cherries, oranges, and butter rum.
Taste is glorious...sweet, yet very mellow. Cherries and raisins dominate w/ sherry-like bitterness lingering.
Mouthfeel is thick and the level of carbonation is perfect.
The alcohol is also very well hidden, even at room temperature...making this highly drinkable...that is until the 11.5% ABV kicks my ass.
A bit steep at over $6 a bottle, but certainly well worth it. I will need to pick up the '02 I saw on the shelves.

Photo of corporatejim
4.13/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2000 Vintage
Pours thick and strupy into the glass. No discernable head. A hazy Caramel color with little to no lacing. A faintly sweet bouqout greets the nose. First taste comes on a little tart with a smooth syrupy full mouth feel that gives way to combating tart and sweet aftertastes. Hints of licorice and what seems like pear taste. I will let it warm a bit.

After warming for 20 to 30 thirty minutes the big roasty malt taste is paramount with smoky woodsy undertones. A very big beer. Excellent for the style.

Photo of MrSeth
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1997 bottling pours a murky-opaque dark brown with a tan-brown 1/4" head. It keeps settling to bubbly groups of swirling suds, then to a very thin ring around the glass.

Vinous nose, very winey. Earthy walnut, wood and musk are also present.

Smooth, rich and full mouthfeel. The taste has so many different characteristics, maple syrup, molasses, burgundy, brown sugar, sherryish and meaty. The hops have diminished to a subtle bitterness that works well for the ale but doesn't jump out at you on it's own. That may seem like a redundant list, but it isn't just like molasses, or just like brown sugar.. it's a complex maltiness. And saying that it is like burgundy and sherry is no small claim for an ale either.. but try this one and you'll see, it's wonderful.

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

1998 bottle pours a dark brown with a little head and slight red hue. a swirly ring of bubbles covers the top. the aroma is strong with notes of caramel, scotch, brown sugar, and a syrupy malt smell. Very sweet to start with a roasty but soft flavor. the sweetness is very reminiscent of sherry or port. There are some woody flavors in the beer that add a creaminess and subtle nutty flavor along with some fruit/berry flavors. There is a light grape flavor and a strong alcohol finish. The aftertaste is lightly roasty. Smooth and very rich. Excellent. This is very nice beer to drink. At 11.5% it's no wonder why it comes in 9.5 ounce bottles.

1999 bottle pours dark brown again. similar flavors to the 1998 but less woody and more malty. rich caramel malts dominate and a burnt sugar flavor comes in. also a banana and brandy sweetness. the roasty aftertaste is much the same as the 1998. this 1999 bottle seems to hide the alcohol better than the 1998.

Photo of canucklehead
4.7/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It is so nice to find a 1999 bottle of this great beer at Archers Ale house in Bellingham. The bottle opened to produce a tawny brown that looks like heaven in a glass. Nose was malts, old fruit and remnants of hops. The taste was sublime, very big yet smooth as silk. Not as complex as Thomas Hardy but the sum of the parts make this a world class beer. A great reminder why I love beer.

Photo of shapudding
3.18/5  rDev -25%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Vintage 1988
appear 2.5, aroma 4, mouth 3.5, drink 3
no head, just stillness and some medium bubbles rising on the sides. Huge chunks of brown/grey yeast floating and a lot of white pepper looking ones on the sides that almost look like carbonation. (I did a slow pour too) This stuff looks like it is a jello mold. Musty and cellared scents, cider, sharp and pungent, aged provalone. Smooth with not much carbonation feel, just a bit. Tastes of a barley wine. Hoppy bite, bit of nice heat. Cream sherry, vanilla beans, good port, and maraschino cherries. Drank it slow, very good flavor, but almost scary when you look at it. My partner in crime was not too interested in drinking his at all, a bit turned off by the appearance. By the time I finished my half the bottle, there was almost a teaspoon of sediment in the bottom of the glass.
---
Vintage 1997
apear 4, aroma 2.5, mouth 3.5, drink 2.5
Dated with an end date of Nov. 2002, and a “1" before the 2L.... Hmmmm, did not see the end date before.... whoops! Bottle brown and almost a twinge of ruby seen when held to a light. No head, just a ring and some dust. Thick and cloyingly heavy scented of maraschino cherries, port, cream sherry. The creamy carbonation is just barely there. Port and cream sherry flavors, dark hoppiness, burnt toast at the back of the tongue. A lot of sweetness left in your mouth.
---
Vintage 2000
appear 3.5, aroma 3, mouth 4, taste 3, drink 2.5
I let this sit out for few hours to warm up. A lot of sediment through the deep woodsy brown and reddish tinged brew, bit unclear, faint small bubbles rising up to a ring and dusting of faint warm khaki. Aroma of deep dark cherry and port, heavy and almost syrup sweet, karo, almost molasses more than a bit cloying. Tight carbonation, just a bit foamy, medium body. Thick, dark, caramel sweetness. The overwhelming sweetness is in the flavor, along with hoppiness, burnt toast, port wine and honey. A lot of very intense flavors. Definitely a sipper.

Photo of jahred
4.36/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 vintage, consumed on 3/13/05. Pours a very dark, reddish brown color, and before I got even 1/3 of the way thru pouring the bottle, an intensely strong aroma of honey and molasses erups from my glass. Wow - the aroma is fantastic and overwhelming, if in a "Holy F---ing S--T that smells good!" sorta way.

I finish pouring the beer, and find a modest-sized tan head that disappears after about a minute. Still, quite impressive considering how long it's been in the bottle. Now I go back to that aroma. Toffee, hazelnuts, honey and molasses. This might be the best-smelling beer my nose has ever come across.

The taste continues through on the aroma, though it's only almost as impressive. More honey and molasses, with a rich, thick syrupy mouthfeel. A tiny touch of hoppy bitterness remains after all this years, lingering in the aftertaste to balance out this otherwise incredibly sweet brew.

Impressive, and I still can't believe this was 11.5% ABV. The alcohol was barely noticeable.

An amazing beer, for sure.

Photo of apintofknowledge
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated 1999, tasted February 2005. Poured a deep caramel hue, slightly cloudy in appearance. The aromas of alcohol, Scotch and fresh baked bread were all present. A variety of flavors come through, including sweet honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, rye whiskey, all with a hint of mild bitterness while remaining sweet throughout. Very complex, and different flavors come forward the more you drink. The mouthfeel was thick and syrupy with a very mild carbonation.

Altogether, an exceptional barleywine to sip and enjoy and linger over... the experience of a 12 oz bottle should last longer than two or three pints of just about anything else.

As for pairing, I've tried it with stilton as some have suggested, and it just doesn't work for me personally. Too many strong flavors competing there. I say enjoy this one all by itself.

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.85/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2003 vintage edition, sampled March 2005
Pours a orange copper color that is brilliantly clear and topped by a thin pale tan head. The aroma is richly malty with notes of sugar, toffee, alcohol, and already a bit of oxidation notes that add a richness to the aroma. The taste is sweet up front, with a candied toffee-like concentrated maltiness. This beer is fairly simplistic, with a hint of hoppiness that rounds out this beer a bit. Despite its simple nature this beer is still enjoyable on this night.

Photo of Sammy
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1998 Vintage. Simply barley and cloying sweet. Peppermint, cinammon, raisin. Not very refreshing nor complex. Full mouthfeel. Little carbonation. Warming did not significantly improve. Saccarin dry aftertaste. I thought this below average for a barleywine, and please don't take offense.

Had 1997 vintage in spring 2006, 4 years past due. Lovely malt complexity and barley, understated carbonation and bitterness. Rating ratched up. I want more.

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,310 ratings.