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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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,236 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,236
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 208
Gots: 179 | 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: 1,236 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of mickeymac
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1998 vintage enjoyed at the October 2003 BA gathering at Lucky Baldwin's. The head was almost non-existent. What did appear on pouring disappeared almost immediately. What remains is sort of a swampy brown. Its appearance does not do justice to what follows. The smell is a wonderful mix of ripe fruit: raisins, dates, hints of cherry, and a nice molasses smell. Hops are barely detectable. The taste is reminiscent of a vintage port and provides the same warming experience found in a fine port. Although some alcohol smell and taste is present, it blends very well and doesn't hint at 11.5%. I'm glad I tried this one early in the evening before my taste buds were shot. It's truly a classic.

mickeymac, Oct 12, 2003
Photo of rastaman
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 Vintage (quite young):Beautiful stuff. Really dessert wine-ish, lots of raisins and marmalade, with a long sweet finish. NOt cloying at all like i was expecting, really well balannced, and would really go well with some sort of sweet dessert, delicious. I'm looking forward to trying an older vintage.

rastaman, Sep 08, 2003
Photo of Cizauskas
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Ah! Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you...

J. W. Lees Harvest Ale: vintage 2001, rich, full-bodied, potent, racked into a wooden pin whose prior resident had been Lagavulin's peaty, salty whisky, and allowed to slumber since then.

All the longing, striving, seeking, waiting, yearning...

The folks at Sean Bolan's Pub in Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD purchased a wooden pin (5.4 gallon cask) of this elixir in 2002. They aged it undisturbed in their cellar for one year. They tapped it for us unworthy ruck last evening, Thursday, 6 March 2003.

The burning hopes, the joys and idle tears that fall!...

Here was a worthy successor to the late lamented Eldridge Pope Brewery's Thomas Hardy barley wine: a lusty 11.5% alcohol level yet still a beer, nearly still but with a whisper of spritzig, revealing itself with peel after peel of complexity.

In appearance, J. W. was burnished brown and copper, the age in wood having contributed several degrees of shade to that of the bottled version. No sparkler was used so the beer tumbled nearly headless from the wood. The carbonation was mere points over nil, but that seemed appropriate for quiet sipping and contemplation.

The aroma, in order of appearance: a quick whiff of pencil graphite, then waves of dark rum, raisins, dried plums, peat, sea air, Scotch whisky, vanilla, shortbread biscuits, malted milk candy, and the pungent aroma of a roaring fireplace. The body was all soft shoulders and dangerous curves, the aromas reappearing as flavors in teasing combinations, different with each sip.

Smokiness of the Lagavulin-soaked wood lounged blissfully in the finish, a counterweight to J.W.'s voluptuous maltiness and potency.

Sean Bolan's served the ale at a temperature of 55 or so degrees. One's afterglow was several degrees more ardent.

'Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all...

Early in the evening, a gentlemen walked into Sean Bolan's looking for a mainstream 'lite' beer. Failing that, he settled for a Sam Adams Light.
Looking around, he noticed several of us sniffing our goblets. "Why do you keep smelling your beer," he asked? "Try one," we suggested. He did. And Mikey, he liked it! "Never had anything like this before!" He grinned broadly as he drank the glass empty.

I believe that cask beer shines best for lower alcohol bitters and milds. J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale is a wonderful exception.

Cizauskas, Sep 07, 2003
Photo of bditty187
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997 Edition.

Hazed, pale burgundy hue, modest beige head that fades leisurely to a collar of soapy residue. No lace was produced. The nose is tremendously potent. Oh, the invitation is shouted… caramelized fruit (raisin, apples), spicy alcohol, toffee… and a host of other subtleties. The palate has plenty going on… its buttery and malty… alcohol, apples, and caramelized sugar dominates… very sweet (borderline cloying), the finish is toffee & dark fruit. The hops are noticeable in the aftertaste. Lovely palate, savor & sip! Low carbonation. Full body, it is so chewie I though I was drinking a wookiee. This is a pleasant drink, enjoyable to quaff. The abv is (obviously) noticeable and the effects are felt… you’ll want to lick your lips to savor it all… recommended.

bditty187, Sep 05, 2003
Photo of beerguy101
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2000 vintage. Medium brown color, small head. Very deep malt flavor, rich and robust, toffeeish. There is a nice hoppyness to this beer as well. Intense malts are balanced by a sharp, subtle and spicy hoppyness. Mouthfeel is very full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is malty. Interesting beer. High alcohol content 11.5% is evident, as a slightly oiliness, not much of an alcohol bite.

beerguy101, Aug 25, 2003
Photo of scottum
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle of the 1997 vintage.

Pours out a hazy brown with a very small quick fading head. Wow! wow! wow! This is not an overrated brew. So damn good on so many levels. Huge malts are so complex. If only all six year old beers were to be this good! I wish I could drink this liquid gold every day. Certainly one of the best barleywines I've ever sampled. Gots to try me some other years.

scottum, Aug 22, 2003
Photo of roguetester
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I recieved two bottles of the '99 vintage in a barleywine sample case.

I had never had it before, but when I poured the first bottle out, I new I was in for a treat...

A small amount of head formed in the glass, but this dissapeared rather quickly. For a beer that had been in the bottle for ~4 years I was surprised that almost no residue was left in the bottle.

The aroma was not unlike that of a fine brandy. Alcohol was quite obvious as were other deep aromas.

The taste was exceptional. Very rich in flavor. All sorts of complex notes going on. You know the alcohol was there, but it ducked in and out of the other flavors the whole time.

This stuff is wicked expensive. There are very few cases that are north of $100 that I'll even entertain. This is one of them. This is a brew that I'd be proud to share with people the same way some share a fine cognac. If you decide to try this, get your hads on a few bottles so that you can enjoy it over a few years.

roguetester, Aug 17, 2003
Photo of Indybeer
3.23/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Part of Vintage beer Tasting
Vintage 1998 & 1999. Both poured a deep dark amber, with a moderate head that didn't stick around very long, and left no lacing on the glass. Aroma is caramel malt and alcohol. Taste is thick, chewy, and very sweet. After a couple of minutes, I got really tired of it. I gave it a low drinkability score because it was like drinking a glass of syrup, laced with alcohol.

Indybeer, Aug 16, 2003
Photo of ADR
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 edition...

Dark copper-tinted brown with shiny red highlights. Head is thinnish, vaguely yellow/tan and laces simple in a couple of rings. Big nose, alcohol, cask bourbon, sherry and woody musk. Whew. Rolling and coating mouthfeel, senses of of very sharp and hot nutmeg and a triple shot of fortified wine, diacetyl, and candied fruit (very candyish profile overall) in a solidly consistent statement. Less hop sizzle than most American Barleywines, lays back more like a Fuller's Vintage but with stronger fruit. Masterful finish -- some fruitcake with rum and a bit of unsurprisingly and not-that-subtle alcoholic heat. Great drinkability per style. Simply an outstanding example of a big beer and one well worth stocking in the closet for over a year.

ADR, Jul 17, 2003
Photo of TheDM
1.65/5  rDev -61.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

This was a bottle Harvest ale 2001 sample. This brew poured a small head of fine to medium sized light brown bubbles that as it receded left very little lacing. Its body was a cloudy dark brown color. It has an aroma of cinnamon and spice with some fruity notes. It had a burnt taste that was awful. Yuck what a drain pour. Was this sample bad? Maybe I'll have to sample another one if I can brave myself to try it again.

TheDM, Jul 15, 2003
Photo of UncleJimbo
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled at The Moan and Dove in Amherst, MA. This was 1996 vintage, aged in a 100 year old wooden port wine barrel.

This ale poured a clear, golden amber color with no foam or carbonation apparent. The smell was wonderful: smooth caramel, figs, raisins, alcohol. The taste was moderately sweet malt with figs, raisin, molasses, alcohol and a hint of butter. A very complex and exquisite flavor. The mouthfeel was warming. It was light on the tongue but left a residual thick, sweet taste. The body was medium and the carbonation was nonexistent. This was an incredibly awesome barley wine, but due to the strength and fullness, I really cannot say that I want to drink many at one sitting.

UncleJimbo, Jul 14, 2003
Photo of brakspear
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage.

Appearance is a brownish amber, no head to speak of, but I would not expect much of one for the style. The aroma contains an immediate blast of alcohol, followed by a malty caramel and toasted sweetness, little hop bite of smells. The taste....wow! Thick chewy sweetness, caramels, port or brandy qualities in finish...exceptional. This beer is deceptively easy to drink given the high alcohol content. Sublime joy in the glass.

brakspear, Jul 13, 2003
Photo of jcalabre
3.5/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1988 Vintage. Originally rated on 22 November 2002. I'm writing this review from my notes.
Poured a deep brown/red with a small head, that lasted quite a long time. Aroma was sweet with raisin and caramel.
The flavor was definitely sweet, perhaps a bit too sweet for me.

This beer is a bit different, but I could see why many like it. It's a must-try for any serious beer drinker.

jcalabre, Jun 22, 2003
Photo of faernt
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I tried some of the 1980's vintages and was disappointed. This is 2000 and it's wonderful. It smells good from two feet away. It's huge! Al K Hall (we all know him) aroma is attractive. I get raisins and caramel ( again from two feet away) The mouthfeel is velvet. This is the nightcap beer! Stock up.

faernt, Jun 04, 2003
Photo of Brent
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1989 Vintage.

After 13+ years of aging, almost all carbonation has gone. Pours a tea brown with no head and no bubbles rising from the beer - almost still, with only a slight tingling of the tongue disclosing any carbonation.

Aroma is sugary, over the top with maple syrup. Flavor is also sweet, almost candy-like. Maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar - the malt has surrendered and the hops are nowhere to be found. Borders on cloying, but holds back, just barely. The 11.5% alcohol is also surpisingly absent from the flavor profile (or was it the alcohol that caused my tongue to tingle, and not carbonation?).

The final pour of the last few oz. is a murky prune juice with a few sediment chunks. Bolstering my courage, I down this and find it to be a good finish to the beer, a bit softer than the rest.

I think this beer has reached the end of the road and wonder if further aging will be beneficial. If it gets any sweeter it will be undrinkable, but perhaps the malt has broken down as far as it will. I plan to hang on to another bottle and try it in a few years, just out of curiosity.

2000 Vintage, sampled 2004

In comparison with the 13 year old vintage, this relatively younger vintage is much brighter in carbonation and flavor profile. As with the older version, tons of sweet maple syrup, prunes, dates and overripe orchard fruit dominate the flavor profile. More hops are evident, not yet having faded away. The alcohol seems a bit more prominent. At 3-4 years old, this beer still seems a bit young, and would benefit from a couple of years of mellowing. Hmm - 13 years seemed a bit too long, 4 years not quite enough. I'll just have to keep sampling to determine the magic number.

Brent, May 28, 2003
Photo of 86MonteSS
3.88/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

1998 vintage. By the sip, not the gulp. Heavy molasses and heavy alcohol. Definitely a dessert drink. The taste is quite overwhelming. Drinkability is saved only by the sweetness. Flavorful, but I could probably drink a worldwide stout (23% abv) twice as fast. Thick, sweet, very alcoholic. Tastey, but it's kind of like putting a little too much sugar in the Kool Aid.

86MonteSS, May 02, 2003
Photo of Dogbrick
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

December 2001 Bottle (Sampled 5/1/03 - 4.15): Pours a dark copper color with a medium and dense beige head. Aroma is very sweet malt and caramel, and the alcohol is well masked. Full-bodied and chewy with flavors of caramel and rum, along with some malt. As with the aroma, you don't really get a sense of the alcohol level in the flavor. Finish is long and sweet (borderline cloying). $4 for a 9.6oz seems a little high but it was worth it.

1999 Bottle (Sampled 9/23/03 - 4.35): This vintage is a ruddy dark amber color with a medium beige head. Thin lacing. Aroma is very sweet, mostly caramel with some malt as well. The richness of body is similar to the 2001 vintage. Very rich and chewy. The flavor is very sweet caramel and malt along with some plum. Alcohol is well hidden. The finish is full and sweet. I am giving this vintage a slightly higher score.

Dogbrick, May 01, 2003
Photo of fattyre
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This was a 1997 vintage 275ml 9.6 fluid oz. bottle that was enjoyed on 10-9-02.
This beer pours a slightly hazy very slightly brownish red color with a smallish creamy brownish tan clingy head. The mouthfeel is resiny/oily. The smell is of port wine and RAISINS. The taste is plumlike, portlike , raisiny and alcohol with a mild hoppy finish. Portlike barleywine that is not for beginers-quite tasty.

fattyre, Mar 30, 2003
Photo of cokes
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1 December 1999.

A fuzzy ambered fluid underneath a pale yellow cap.
A nostril enlarging, mind boggling aroma of figs and pineapples, covered in butter toffee, carried within a supple leather basket. I'd like to pour this over my head just to savor the aroma for awhile.

The mouth is raided with candied figs looting tobacco stores. Mangoes toss earthy clumps of sod through the windows. Raisins and plums look on in awe. The Butter police arrives, sirens blaring. A sugary toffee ruffian flips the bird to the Pigs, and steals a leathery baseball mitt and a few bottles of white wine.
This is an immensely intense fracas, of which I only caught a snapshot.

Luxuriously ample and silken within the mouth. World class, without a doubt.
Smooth criminal.

cokes, Mar 01, 2003
Photo of Bunnyhop
4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 1997 (1st December 1997). A slightly hazy, very slightly brownish red Barley Wine with a smallish, creamy, brownish-tan, clingy head. The smell is nutty, oaky, and raisin-like. The smell continues when the alcohol kicks in, ironically reminding me of Worcestershire sauce. The taste is a mix of raisin and plum, along with an oakness. The sweetness remains on the back of my tongue, and a pepperiness lingers in the middle. The body is resiny and oily in my mouth. Overall, a very tasty Barley Wine, but not for the faint of heart.

(source: PremierGourmet; Buffalo, NY)

Bunnyhop, Feb 25, 2003
Photo of Wildman
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1999 Bottling: This version has many of the same qualities I listed in the previous 2001 review. I do believe the alcohol presence is more apparent in both the aroma and the taste. A very good beer that obviously ages quite well, but definately a sipping beer.

2001 Bottling: I realize I may be reviewing this one too soon, but I couldn't wait. This beer poured a dark reddish amber color and formed a small off white head that left some circular lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. A heavy aroma of malt, caramel, raisins and other dark fruit. A slight hint of the alcohol is also present. A flavor of malt, caramel and raisins/plums with a slight vinous quality, but without leaning too much into wine or hard liquor as some others do. A slightly syrupy finish, but not enough to damage it, just push it into more of a sipping style, with at this alcohol level, it should be. Would make a fine after dinner beer and will no likely improve with age.

Wildman, Feb 24, 2003
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The creamy tan head doesn't stay long in the glass, but the color beneath is a gorgeous deep, dark plum. Aroma is potent and vinous, giving off great reminiscences of port wine, sherry, cognac, even as it sits on the table, before I even bring it to my nose. On closer inspection, we get a full, thick, lush feel of black licorice, a profound winey flavor. Thick texture, like raisinbread, or plum pudding! A slow sippin' beer, with a slightly oily mouthfeel. At 11%, it's a whopper, but the alcohol sits behind the profound, commanding flavors, and only later does it slowly emerge.
Perfect thing to put in your hand and slide down the lips on cold-as-bejeezus days like things..
I was supremely satisfied with this one.
1997 vintage

feloniousmonk, Feb 12, 2003
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.

zerk, Feb 04, 2003
Photo of purplehops
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1992 Vintage
The 92' pours a sparkly red-orange (pms 1675c) with very fine particles of yeast in suspension. There is no head to speak of and no lacing on the glass. The aroma is honey and orange with alcohol and prunes/raisin smells. There are also some floral notes like those from a Belgian Triple yeast. The taste starts off very very malty with a mead like alcohol kick and lots of effervescence on the tongue. The finish is dry with alcohol being the main player here. There are some notes of citrus and very faint bitter hop flavors. The aftertaste is alcohol warmth and sweet. Some hints of corriander like spice flavors and hops float in and out of the alcohol glow. You can feel the alcohol in your esophagus long after the last sip. The mouthfeel is full with tongue tingling and a hint of syrupy, but not in an unpleasant way.
Overall a very nice and complex winter sippen' ale. Full of alcohol warmth with lots of malty, citrus, and spice flavors. The 92' may be starting to go. There were a few medicine and metallic flavors trying to get out as if the yeast was done and the malt was ready to start breaking down.

purplehops, Jan 17, 2003
Photo of maxpower
2.83/5  rDev -33.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

1988 must have not been stored right, flat no carbonation, sweet sugary caramel aroma, tasted like maple syrup, too sweet two sips and dumped the rest.1997 was much better, very small head, strong caramel aroma, smooth, sweet caramel- toffee flavor, this is what I will rate, the 1988 was ruined.

maxpower, Dec 13, 2002
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,236 ratings.