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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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BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,235 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,235
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 209
Gots: 180 | 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
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Ratings: 1,235 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Shiredave
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%

2000 vintage. Not bottle conditioned, (ie no yeast )but cellarable, I'm sure the 11.5% alc / vol ensures it's longevity, but I question whether the flavors change.We will see in time. The condition of this bottle was near perfect. Dense and clingy, slighlty off white head, mega malt to start but fresh earthy hop aroma fights it's way through around the alcohol notes. Label states only "the choicest East Kent Goldings" hops are used. This Brarley wine is as close to a US / W. coast barleywine
( more malt than Ol Crusty, more Hop than Ol Foghorn..)as I've ever tasted from the UK. This beer explodes w/ hopflavor and bitterness - all EK Golding grassiness and fruity pine. Massive amounts of malt must be used in this brew and much remains in the sweet, honey like , full bodied flavors that stack up to the uncommonly strong hop presence. As this beer warmed the alcohol notes came through a bit more ; but only a bit as the thickness and hoppiness hide the alcohol very well. If there were dyacitals and funky alcohol flavors, I couldnt find them. The warmth down the throat and into your veins keeps you aware of the Hugeness of what your sipping. This is without a doubt the best British barleywine Ive ever had and quite possibly one of the best made beers. Aged before release, exceptionally well balanced, Humongously Massive in every way... as the bottle states this beer is brewed " as a Celebration of the Brewers Art". IMHO, I think JW Lees has done just that.

Shiredave, Sep 07, 2002
Photo of ZAP
5/5  rDev +17.6%

F#@ck Yeah!!! I love drinking a GREAT beer for the first time...OUTSTANDING....High in alcohol...the type you want to sip, but the type you can't keep your hands away from grabbing the minute you put it down..fascinating drinking experience....I get a sweet fruity nose with some hints of brown sugar and molasses....the taste is incredible...huge dark fruits...definitely plum...maybe some prunes...dark cherries...the brown sugar is there...as is the molassis....and dare I say some odd hints of coconut....the nose immediately reminded me of a champagne or wine or something...the flavor though is more like a port...or Brandy with a nice hit of brown sugar...this is one of those beers that transcendes the entire beer drinking experience....there is no Barley Wine finer..

ZAP, Aug 07, 2002
Photo of marc77
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%

1997. Hazy chestnut hue, topped by a thin, but persistant tan head. Intensely aromatic-- a waft of oaky vanilla is followed by darkly caramelized fruit & carob. The complex flavor profile is comprised of diacetyl butterscotch, nutty, almost peanut - brittle like caramel notes, mellow banana & plenty of residual sweetness. Hop bitterness asserts itself welcomely in the pleasantly bittersweet finish. A soothing alcohol warmth rounds everything out.

1998. Beautiful clear deep ruby hue w/ flecks of suspended yeast aggregates. The head settles into a tight ring. Vinous, intensely caramelly sweet, buttery, toffeeish aroma, w/ hints of caramelized fruit & licorice. Mild, but heaty fusels round out the aroma. The malt profile is quite deep. Residual unfermented sugar and caramel malt sweetness provide the foundation for subtle vanilla notes, date - like fruitiness & carob. The body is rich, dextrinous & almost viscous. Although faded, hop bitterness eeks its way towards the end, preventing syrupy sweetness. Finishes bittersweet & fruity, w/ sugary sweetness on the lips.

1999. Hazy deep garnet hue, w/ a beige head quickly receding into a glass coating ring. Assertive dark caramel malt and nutty biscuit malt lend an upfront toffeeish sweetness in aroma, then notes of prune like dark fruity esters follow. Trace heaty, solventy fusels prevent the aroma from reaching perfection. Syrupy, molasses like sweetness hits the palate at first, then is ensued by a deep, dark fruity melange of figs, dried dates and raisins. Hop bitterness is muted, and is overpowered by malt sweetness. Moderate to full in body, w/ plenty of residual dextrins for a smooth, rich mouthfeel. Finishes w/ a snap of sugary sweetness, but otherwise clean. Mellow alcohol warmth emerges slowly.

marc77, Jul 02, 2002
Photo of Bighuge
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

2000 vintage. This beer is a murky looking deep scarlet color. A slight brown head edges the glass. Very sweet caramel candy aroma. Also get cherry and wood on the nose. These Harvest Ales never cease to amaze me. This is the third vintage I've tried over the past month and they were all wonderful. This beer is so damn smooth for 11.5 a/v. These Harvest ales are truly works of art. This beer is vinous and heavy on the fruits and sweet characteristics. Dark cherry and plum. Vanilla extract. Candied apple. Dry cedar. The more I sip this the more I feel the dominant taste here is cherry-vanilla. Wow. It's great. The mouthfeel is a titch syrupy and almost a full bodied brew. But this is a highly drinkable beer given it's a/v. Another winner from JW LEES.

1998. Appearance is dark burgandy. Thin laced off-white head. The nose is piney, malty and perfumey. And oh yeah, alcohol is there too. My oh my is all I can say when this beer hits the palate. Beautiful. Surprisingly, I get no sign of alcohol whatsoever. And this is 11.5 a/v. This is an incredibly smooth and easy drinking barleywine. This is my first experience with JW LEES and it is very positive. I seem to get some spicing on the palate. Sweet spices like cinamon. This beer has a really nice sweet taste to it. Fairly low on bitterness. Very little aftertaste. This beer is almost a Masterpiece of the Brewing Art.

1997. The beer pours a deep garnet with a decent head. Unbelievable sweet fruity tones on the nose. And some alcohol and brown sugar. The taste is very sherry like. Very nice. Residual sugars are evident. Tastes of brown sugar and candied apple. Very nice taste. A little bitterness perceived. Alcohol is present but not overbearing. This is very good, but the '98 vintage I had a couple nights ago was better.

Bighuge, Jun 10, 2002
Photo of Murph
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%

1999. Pours a clear bright amber with a thick creamy tan head that refuses to go away. Intense sweet chocolate and caramel malts dominate with some raisins tossed in and some very slight alcohol. Intense maltiness right away. Chocolate and caramel. Some fruitiness; raisins, faint cherries, and some other dark fruits. Extremely chewy mouthfeel and nicely drinkable. Not quite up to par with its older brothers yet, but still an awesome brew. A couple of years of cellaring would do this brew very nicely.

1998. Pours a clear dark amber/brown with a thick, rocky, tan head that retains very well. Smells are of cherries, raisins, toffee, chocolate, and some barely noticeable warming alcohol. Tastes start off with some sweet, chewy malt then fade to chocolate before going fruity. Cherries, raisins, and apples are the big ones. Woody and slightly smokey. The chocolatey malty flaovrs stay pretty much throughout. Great creamy smoothness in the mouth and very drinkable for the style. Damn do they ever know how to make a barley wine at this brewery. The best I have had of the style. Some might like it aged some more but I like the somewhat raw characters of the fruits.

1997. Beautiful light brownish/amber with a nice tannish head. Smells of malty sweetness, apples, smokey/wood, light alcohol, and a touch of honey. Taste is unbelievably complex. Tart fruits, smokey character, big maltiness, some earthy hops, honey, chocolate, and more maltiness. Those are just a few of the flavors that I am pulling off of this one. I can't even identify some of them. Incredibly smooth and creamy and pretty damn drinkable for a BW. This was an absolutely awesome brew, if you love barley wines like I do then you have to get some of these. A great special occasion beer.

Murph, May 20, 2002
Photo of Bierman9
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%

Bottle reviews....
(08JAN05) Another nice bier to warm up with on a cold, snowy night! Label states 1st December 1997. Bottling date, or brew date? Anyhow, label also states best before Nov 2002. Oooops, just a bit late. Oh well. Better nate than lever....

Into the snifter she goes, and it's a dark brown, opaque brew, with a very thin, wispy head congregating only around the rim of the glass. Upon closer inspection, with a little light turned on, I see that the Harvest has a deep ruby hue. Quite nice! Nose is a potent, sweet, rich combo of dark fruit and malty sweetness. Mmmm! Body is more than medium, almost chewy, and silky smooth. Oh yeah! And the flavor is replete with fruity notes, like plum and raisin. Not quite as sweet as the nose suggests, but bulging with dark fruit notes. The high abv is oh-so-well concealed! Don't feel any real warmth, though it's early yet! Along with the fruit is an undercurrent of caramel/toffee sweetness. Real nice! Gotta sip it though; take your time! Tasty bier!!

overall: 4.35
appearance: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4

*** ***

Bottle...
(20FEB03) This is a 275ml bottle of 1997 vintage. Poured a very rich, dark brown color, with little transparency to it. Head is a finely bubbled, tan layer, with more head ringing the outer rim of the snifter. It leaves a fair amount of lace, yet nothing spectacular. Upon taking a whiff I am inundated by raisiny, dark fruit aromas, as well as the unmistakable nose of alcohol. Sweet and rich....quite nice! The body is medium to medium-plus, and the biers' passage across the tongue ruffles nary a feather....nice and smooth! The taste itself is loaded with creamy, rich, sweet flavors...lots of dark fruit and some toffee notes as well. A verrry nice sipping bier, which has aged well since '97. Cheers!! (4.5/4.5/4.5/4.5/4.5 = 4.50)

*** ***

Cask sample from 20MAY02... This beer was sampled at the Boston Beer Summit. The following, courtesy of Matthias Neidhart of B. United: "It was 2001 vintage , 11.5% alc./vol. The wooden cask was primed with E.Dupont's
calvados from Normandie,France, prior to its filled with JW Lees Harvest Ale." Lovely mahogany-like color; minimal head and lace, though. Assertive sweet nose, with alcohol quite present. Very nice body, and the smoothness caresses the tongue. Rich, sweet, malty, oaky, nutty flavors with the ever-present alcohol. A wonderful brew! (4.0/4.5/4.5/4.5/4.5 = 4.40)

160

Bierman9, May 20, 2002
Photo of Viking
4.68/5  rDev +10.1%

I must say my first experience with JW Lees Harvest Ale was a great one! This beer is dark reddish-brown, yet not cloudy. The head was a bit weak, and dissolved quickly. The aroma was rich and saturated with molasses. The beer is thick, but not overly surypy. It has a strong, sweet, buttery caramel flavor with some odd fruit flavor hiding away inside. Damn good at nearly 3 and a half years old!

I might have to pick up a couple more bottles and save them for next fall.

Viking, Apr 09, 2002
Photo of mattmaples
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%

1998. OK, I love this just as much as the 97. Both are great beers. I was fortunate enough to have this beer on tap this summer and baby was it good.

1997. EEEXcelent! I like Todds rum rasin comment, malty smooth nice alcohol presence. Complex, asertive flavors but easy to drink (unlike some barley wines). This is what an aging beer should taste like. Lucky for us B United (the US Importer) ages these beers for us and periodically releases some of them. Rumor is that they are still sitting on some 88. I currently have 97 and 98 on the shelf due to these wonderful people. It's still out there to be had, go hunt some down.

mattmaples, Oct 16, 2001
Photo of Todd
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

Presentation: 275ml brown bottle. Limited Edition - 1st December 2000. No sediment in the bottle.

Appearance: A rich, slightly hazy, copper coloured beer with a magnificent foamy, creamy head. Initial pour is about 3-4 fingers thick! Head retention is outstanding -- seems to last forever.

Smell: Raisins, molasses, raw honey, buttery toffee, rich fruity esters and an almost pungent raw hop aroma.

Taste: This is a huge beer! Silky smooth and ultra-creamy with a gentle carbonation that attempts to break through a thick syrupy malt profile of rich caramel, toffee, molasses, coffee and chocolate milk, honey and raisin. All sorts of toasted malt flavours play the palate, with baked sweet bread flavours. Alcohol notes follow, and try to hide in a cornucopia of big sweet ripe fruit flavours (pineapple and sweet honey dew melon come to mind). Bitterness is just enough to tame the malt from dominating 100%, with light citrus notes. The ale finishes with a touch of buttery diacetyl, toasted malts, coffee, milk and a bit of grain flavour.

Notes: Last time a tried one of these it was a bottle of the 1986, I believe. It was staggering. For being around a year and a half old at the time of this review, the 2000 is simply to die for. There's so much complexity of flavour going on that you almost need to stop analyzing and simply enjoy it before the glass is empty.

Todd, Jul 01, 2001
Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%

Alcohol is still a bit boisterous as well as the forceful fruitiness. Jam packed with flavour with a similarity to a port or sherry minus the carbonation. I preferred this year over 1997 due to it being a bit more robust and over the top for a barley wine.

Jason, Dec 18, 2000
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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,235 ratings.