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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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1,298 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,298
Reviews: 806
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 13.92%
Wants: 224
Gots: 184 | 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.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,298 | Reviews: 806 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of wedge
4.02/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4


Deep, dark caramel color with a few yeasty chunks that managed to make it into my glass. A thin, very bubbly beige head rest on top and retains as a persistent ring. Aromas of bread crust and raisins fill the nostrils. Dark caramelized malt, honey, dried fruit, and earthy wood. A slight burnt note lingers over all. Sweet complex malty flavor...wow. Sugary raisins, dark bread, toffee, and lots of pure honey. Leaves the lips sweet after every sip. Syrupy sweet really. Figs, dates, and tobacco covered in caramel and a drizzling of chocolate. Absolutely no alcohol at all though...not even a warmth in the throat. Smooth, almost oily, texture.

I think I need to play around with this one to find the right vintage. This bottle was very, VERY rich at nine years. Delicious as a desert, but verging on too sweet for me.

Photo of jrae2424
4.6/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1988 vintage shared with some friends.

A:Poured into a snifter. Pours a really nice dark mohaghany color. The pour is very quiet, thick, no carbonation, with a wafer thin transparent head that dissipates quickly. Was careful not to pour in the massive amount of sediment.

S:Sweet bread, dark fermented fruits, cherry, burnt sugar. Taking a big slow whiff, you can pick up some alcohol, but it's hidden very well.

T:Taste is very sweet, brown sugar, cherry, bready, malty.

M:Thick but not to heavy, just the way it should.

Overall the best of the vintage jw lees ive had and something im going to be looking to get more of.

Photo of BeerNemesis
4.82/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale | 275 ml. | 11.5% ABV | 2002 vintage

Brewer: J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Style: English Barleywine
Glass: fluted snifter

Hazed mahogany with a vanishingly thin head and no lacing. The sediment swirling around the glass is either exciting or a major turnoff depending on how you look at it. I'm going with exciting.

Molasses, honey, toffee—everything dark and sugary. There is a nice raisin fruitiness, and an almost brandy-like alcohol aroma.

As I expected, this would be a journey. Harvest ale is a deep beer. Toffee, honey, and molasses are back in full force. But then there is also a raisin and chocolate mid-layer that's just delicious. Ripe fruit—pineapple especially pushes through, only to be followed by a somber, brandy-like alcoholic finish.

Creamy and resplendent in a tactile-sensory sort of way. The sediment adds a few bumps to the ride.

This, in my humble opinion, is the consumate English Barleywine. It is incredibly flavorful and deep, without being rude or showy. The barrel-aged offshoots it's spawned don't fall far from the tree.

Would I get it again?:
Oh yeah.

Bottled: 2002
Served: August 11, 2011

Price = $20 at The Modern (NYC)

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

I'm basing my scores on the bottles of the '99 vintage that I've had. I've enjoyed two within the past 3 months or so and have been some of the most sublime beer experiences I've ever had. It is an unparalleled beverage, and is worth seeking out regardless of the price.

12 oz. bottle (06' vintage) poured into a tulip glass (8/1/11)

Appearance-Reddish brown color, with decent clarity considering that suspended particles are notable within the beer. Just a trace of a wispy off-white head appears, and vanishes quickly, though the beer shows some serious legs when swirled.

Aroma-Smells a lot like some of the older versions that I've had, though a little bit rougher around the edges. The primary aroma is of sweet rock candy sugar, with hints of toffee and burnt caramel. Some booze is apparent, as are some fruity esters.

Flavor-Flavor is also quite sweet-similar rock candy flavors with caramel edge, molasses, raisins, dark fruit jam, and honey drizzled on toast. A very interesting ash/tobacco flavor comes through rather strong in the finish and takes over the palate in the after taste.

Mouthfeel- Full body, alcohol warmth with a slight burn in the back of the throat. Rather smooth, but compared to older versions it certainly is rough around the edges.

Drinks quite well, and is a pretty damn good barleywine within its own right, but it seems rough compared to versions aged twice as long. The alcohol still needs some time to smooth out, the body needs to thin out a bit, and the flavor profile could use some time as well. Apparently 5 years out isn't nearly enough.

Photo of jondeelee
5/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The 1999 vintage of Harvest Ale begins with an aroma that radiates a good foot or so from the open bottle, and even from that distance the scent of cognac and sherry is heady. Upon closer inspection, the nose is redolent with raisins, port, fresh baguette, and fig.

On the tongue, the brew is thick and sugary, and all of the aromas translate almost directly into flavor: raisins, port, sherry, cognac, fig, prune. Add to these a massive, syrupy dose of brown sugar (touched with confectioner's sugar at the edges), hints of pecan, and fresh wheat, with just the faintest stroke of hops to help balance the sugars. The flavors last throughout most of the mouthful, with only the faintest hint of alcohol at the edges to give away the brew's 11.5% ABV. Just at the end the sugars peel back to reveal a bit more grain base. The aftertaste is a continuation of the body flavors, and lasts for a good while. Mouthfeel is a gloopy, definite "full," and carbonation is light, likely due to the age of the bottle.

Overall, this is amazing beer, and it's difficult to imagine more flavor crammed into one tiny bottle. This is a definite must-try for any beer enthusiast. Highly recommended.


The 2000 vintage bears many of the same initial aromas as the 1999--port, raisins, fig--but is slightly wilder, the extra year that the 1999 vintage has aged having tempered the brew in comparison. The ports and raisins in the 2000 vintage are noticeably stronger, for example, and it's difficult to discern any underlying bready notes because of it. Still, the aroma is intoxicating.

On the tongue, much the same commentary can be made: the same flavors are there as in the 1999, but stronger and less subtle and aged. In addition, the 2000 version's strong ports, cognacs and raisins are joined by a dark undercurrent of deeply-roasted malts--bordering on chocolate--that provides a nice, deep base that helps temper the sugars. The hops are also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, and are especially present as a light citrus buzz towards the end of the mouthful. The 11.5% ABV is also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, though is still for the most part deliciously contained by the massive levels of sugars. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, and carbonation is medium-light.

Overall, given the choice, I'd prefer the 1999, as the extra year of aging has definitely improved the flavors. Don't get me wrong: the 2000 is still an absolutely amazing beer. But if given another bottle of it, I'd cellar it for at least a year or two.

Photo of jale
4.29/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle.

A: Pours a cloudy amber with bits of stuff in it. Spotty lacing

S: Sweet, slightly burnt raisins and smoky malt.

T: Quite sweet to start followed by some earthiness and some alcohol heat. A little burnt sugar, raisins, leather and maybe some tea. Tobacco finish. Very complex beer.

M: A little grainy with medium body. Sweet yet not cloying.

O: I really enjoyed this and will have more.

Photo of Cavery
4.65/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2006 vintage 12oz Shared with my brother Klym, epic night cap!

A: A cloudy brown tea with a bit of rustic orange character to it. This beer poured like thick rust! Love it! It has that real vintage ale look that you'd hop for, with all those suggestions of complexity in the body. Speckles of floaties that ride around a very smokey brown core. The glass is noticeably lighter around the edge, and much darker in the core. Looks like a liquid tree trunk! Rings and all. Pretty awesome. Just wish there was a bit of a head! might be too much to ask given the age. No foam on a violent pour.

S: Complex fancy leathers, the kind that have quite a lot of use and abuse on them. There's a real fresh cut piece of old note that drives me wild. Deep seasonings of Thyme and Cider alcohols. Cinnamon sugared dried apricots. Rich nose with tons of complexity, love the cinnamon dusted pie crusts and other complex pastry notes. Sick good in the nose. Old shortbread coffee biscuits in the finish.

T: Complex fancy cider reductions. I have never tasted anything like this, this is brand new territory. There is an endless fall of depth in here. Aged apple ciders, fancy old maple wood, and a dusting of seasonings that ever so slightly veils the sweetness. The most subdued note of coriander ever. Complex notes of barrel-aged peanut sauces mixed with leathery teas. Ugh, it's so good. Slightly bitter dried fruits help transition into leather plum skins.

M: The mouth is showing it's age, but not a bad one. Soft sugary liquids hit the tongue like heavily brown sugared teas. A noticeable thickness on the tongue that makes it seem like the milkshake of teas. That said the alcohol cuts through and reveals a deceptively lighter body. Due to this complex mouth transition, I'll settle on that it's medium. Emulsions of old tea blends that even feel thick with ingredients.

O: Easily the best English Barley Wine that I've ever had. This thing drinks like an everlasting gobstopper, the depth of flavor is crazy. Leather, fruits, spices, aged maple syrups, and the list goes on. The craziest thing about this beer is that I think this thing has not even come close to peaking. What I am tasting is progression, and by no means completion. This is a beer to sit on for years, and then open it to witness its glory. Truly a memorable beer, I need to try more aged barley wines.

Photo of Klym
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into an oversized wine glass. Shared with Cavery. 2006 vintage.

A: Pours a hazy raisin brown with almost no head besides a patch of clear bubbles that dissipate into a microfoam ring around the top of the beer. Looks flat and honestly unappealing. Still, can't knock it since it's quite an old barleywine.

S: A little heat sets on top of a raisin, oregano, cardimom, black pepper and general spicy kick. Spicy dark fruits run the show here but especially raisin.

T: Wow. Kicks in with truckloads of flavor. Very deep and complex spiciness with far more aspects than I could identify or name. Strong dark fruit/raisin sweetness, leather, deep resin. Balanced, deep, almost jam packed sweetness and flavor. Really, unbelievable taste

M: Watery mouthfeel but it's not unexpected of this old of a barleywine. A little bit thicker of a viscosity, which helps support the sweetness/flavors.

O: Really tasty beer. I can see why people age this for long periods. Glad I have some 2010s to age. Definitely have to try this if you like barleywines.

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

Vintage 2001
A few months back this bottle mysteriously appeared on the shelf and found its way home with me. Pours a muddy brown color with a minimal tan head that forms a ring on the top. This smells great! Sherry and toffee mixed with some brown sugar and a touch of alcohol to keep it from smelling too sweet. Caramel and dark dried fruit with a slightly earthy aroma round out the nose quite nicely. Taste is sweet up front with brown sugar and dark fruit coming in first. Hints of sherry and earthiness hit before the palette goes almost completely dry. Finish leaves a long lingering molasses prune sweetness that is offset nicely with a touch of alcohol. Big thick body with a surprisingly dry finish. Light level of bubbles, sweet almost syrupy mouthfeel. I am a sucker for an aged barleywine, and this one really impressed me, this is a beautifully aged beer. Now the regret sets in when I realize that I only bought one bottle.

Photo of rvdoorn
4.89/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage.
Look: the beer pours a dark brown-copper color with no head, but just some nice lacing around the inside of the glass.
Smell: Absolutely fantastic! One of the most complex smells I ever experienced; maple, barley, butter, alcohol, honey, sweet molasses, raisins, brown sugar and some light hops.
Taste: The taste follows the nose; again maple, barley, butter, alcohol, honey, sweet molasses, raisins, brown sugar, bit vanilla. This beer has a warming boozy aftertaste, with spicy alcohol.
Mouthfeel: Thick sticky body, low carbonation. Very smooth.
Overall: This is one of the best beers I ever had, so full, fruity and complex. This beer proves that English Barley wines still rule the world.

Photo of steenkampa
1.37/5  rDev -67.7%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

Ok...a bit of background.

I've tried almost 1000 different beers at this point,...mainly Belgian and pretentious US Microbrews. I love beer. I LOVE Barley wines.

That being said... I tried both the 2007 and the 2002 in the same sitting, and both were just... Rancid.

Looked pretty nice, except for tons of yeast floating around the bottom. TONS...nice dark-ish golden brown, with a great body. No lacing or head to speak of.

The 2007 was a little lighter in color, just barely.

The flavor of the 2007 was absolutely offensive in every way. It tasted as if I was drinking the run off of rotted raisins. Not fermented, but ROTTED. I spit it out, gagged...gargled a glass of water, and went in for a second try. Again, gagged, nearly vomited, and gave up...gave the rest to my beer nerd friend, who proceeded to do the same.

"This is disgusting. I would rather drink Bud Light pisswater crap over this."

The 2002 was slightly more drinkable, in that the rotted raisin flavor was slightly more "smooth" if you will. I didn't gag, however it still took me over 40min to finish this horrible brew.

I was bound and determined to finish it, because it was $12 per bottle,...a 375ml...

Overall? I would never under any circumstances buy this again, recommend it to any of my friends, or really do anything but lambaste this bastardization of one of my favorite styles.

This was disgusting and offensive on so many levels that I truly would rather drink a Corona.

EDIT: This beer was so absolutely offensive to me, that I got off my ass and did my first official review. Maybe I'll get around to uploading my notes on the other 999 or so, but that'll be another day.

Photo of KAP1356
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Back from a reviewing hiatus! Vintage 2002 bottle poured into a snifter at my local bar...

A - Pours a lovely amber-copper color that really lights up in the right light. Small tan foamy head forms and quickly disappears. Bit of sediment in there, but nothing much.

S - Tons of dark fruits right up front. Raisins, figs, dates, some dried plum. Brown sugar and some maple syrup also make themselves apparent. Really quite nice.

T - Sweet maple sryup and dark fruits right up front. Carmal, toffee, some slight vanilla, brown sugar, and dark fruits right in the middle. The back end is almost entirely rum soaked raisin and makes me want to keep going back for more. Very well balanced flavors and one of the best tastes I have come across in a while.

M - Full bodied with a thick, slick feel to it. Medium carbonation makes the mouthfeel almost perfect.

O - I have had several vintages of this beer, and this one stands out to me. Taste and smell all made this experience one I would love to recreate.

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

Vintage 2002

A: Pours a murky brownish amber color with a very small tan foam head that dissipates and disappears. Provides a small amount of lacing. There is some sediment as well.

S: A large amount of dark fruit. Raisins, dates, plums and figs are quite apparent. There is some burnt brown sugar and alcohol in there as well. Very pleasant and inviting.

T: Starts off with a nice sweetness, not overly sweet. There is some brown sugar, caramel and toffee up front. In the middle, the figs and dates come to the fore front, pushing back the caramel, brown sugar and caramel, but it is still there. On the back, finishes just like the middle, but there is a slight twinge of alcohol (but it is not hot by any means).

M: A nice full bodied beer. Leaves a sweet slick taste on the palate. Perfect mouthfeel for an aged Barleywine.

O: This is a fantastic brew. Aged nicely. Definitely a barleywine for anybody who loves the style or wants to explore other beer styles.

Photo of Knapp85
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured out as a pretty nice looking murky golden amber color. The head is nonexistent, no lacing here either. The smell of the beer has a lot of wood on the nose, and plenty of boozy sweetness to it. Has a strong malty aroma too. The taste of the beer is sweet throughout, the flavors of honey and some spice. The flavors are very strong which makes this beer a sipper, this beer needs to be enjoyed in moderation over a long cold night. The mouthfeel is thick and has no carbonation. Overall it's a very good brew, and needs to be given time in the bottle and in the glass while drinking.

Photo of badboyrsl84
4.7/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1999 bottle

Pours reddish brown with a small fizzy head

Smell - caramel, alcohol, wine barrels, figs. Overall its smell is appealing.

Taste - its sooo smooth and very tasty. Caramel, figs, cocoa, sugar sweetness and some alcohol.

Overall - its now one of my favorites in the barleywine line up

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

Side-by-side comparison of 2005 and 2006 vintages poured (from 275 mL bottles) into snifters.
A: 2005-Pours a medium-dark caramel with chunks of sediment at the end. No carbonation and no head. 2006-Pours an extremely dark brown (much darker than 2005) with loads of sediment. No carbonation and no head.
S: 2005--Caramel, bourbon, whiskey...heavy with sweet alcohol. 2006-Caramel, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla (sweeter, less dense, and less alcohol than 2005).
T: 2005-Sweet caramel malt, hint of sweet bourbon. I was cringing in preparation for the alcohol wallop...it never came. 2006-Vanilla, soft bourbon, sweet caramel malt, the faintest hint of herbal/medicinal hops, tobacco, dark fruit. More deeper, darker, and complex than 2005.
M: 2005-Medium (and maybe even light-medium) body...much less than anticipated. Smooth, sweet, and slightly oily. Leaves a very pleasant sweet coating on the palate that lingers beautifully. 2006-Medium-heavy body. Chewy, soft, smooth, and slightly oily. Again the pleasant sweet coating on the palate. Heavier and more dense than 2005.
D: OK. This deserves the hype and praise. A truly transcendent beer. You honestly can not tell this is 11.5%...crazy good. Sweet nectar of the gods. Damn near perfection. Not enough words to laud this brew.
Hard to pick a winner between 2005 and 2006. Both are quality, distinct, and different brews.

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

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2009, on cask at Blind Tiger, New York, on June 15 2011. Outrageously priced at $12 per mug (about 12 ounces, so you do the math). $11 at happy hour, but still... I foresee this beer lasting on the line for a long while.

Appearance: Totally differet from any J.W. ale I have ever had before. Almost a whole finger of foamy bubbly head, good retention, some thick lacing... yeah! Color is a murky orange, like diseased horse piss and expired warm orange juice. Love it!

Smell: Funk, a bit of sour, also clear hops, which I would have never expected in this beer. Lactic acid, wet grass. Very rural! A tad of caramel sweetness/crystallized sugar at the end. Citrus, orange juice, and a whole lot of fruit-flavored soft drink (Fanta, mostly)!

Taste: In the mouth it is much more sweet and less balanced than in the nose, but still delicious. Very flat, again- like a soft drink, Sunkist or the likes. Very bright and citrusy. Barnyard all over! Dirty cow pen, and I suspect even the mythical and elusive horse blanket is present. Funk for sure! A tad of tangy hops at the very end of the sip. Mushroom, umami, earth. "Live cultures". Real ale, baby!

Mouthfeel: Well balanced and beautiful, with full body, flavor and low-but-perfect carbonation. This is a pretty perfect, ideal cask, wet and funky.

Overall: Top rating, because it is so drinkable it is ridiculous. Chuggable, actually! Absolutely no trace of that 11.5% ABV! Wow. Were it not for the nasty price, I would gladly have a TON of this. Much, much more enjoyable than the bottled version.

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pretty stunning - first time having this - very interested now to try some other vintages. Delighted to find this, unadvertised, by chance, on cask at a Shelton Bros event. 2009 vintage.

Served in a small wine glass - half serving. Chill haze adds cloudy tan highlights to the eventual weathered (less hazy) mahogany color that emerges. Visual carbonation is absent. A still liqueur stance, though lacking legs.

Stale, oxidized worty aromas (which could be a wooden cask derived element, really) prove not, to me, flaws when put up against some of the most wonderfully complex, deep, rich, dried/dark fruit essences I've experienced. I mean, you could present a believable argument that they mashed as much if not more pulpy, stringy dried fruit as malt to come up with this. But I know better. I suppose it falls short of perfection due to the balance of those old, stale smells snuffing out some of the technicolor potential of the dark fruity malt...

Absolutely floored at how stealthily the alcohol slinks into the depths below its thankfully not-anywhere-near-somewhat-sweet, stewy-fruity malt, 5/7ths thick-bodied lusciousness. Port can't help coming to mind, but it's not quite...

This drinks like something that's been sitting around - the dregs, the leavings, a fortunate hodgepodge - very pleased. It's inspiring. I'll say again that I'm super curious to see what older versions offer.

Photo of FosterJM
4.05/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

549th review on BA
Bottle to Sinners glass
2002 Vintage

App- It's brown, it's amber, it's golden, it's murky, sludgy looking with a nice head and a couple dots of lace to it.

Smell- A lot is going on in this glass. It's very malt forward with no hop presence. Smells very creamy with the ABV very noticeable as well.

Taste- Over ripe fruit with some cream and big slick malts. Somehow with the ABV and the feel it works. I can feel how big this beer is almost immediately. A little towards the unbalanced malt side but with some candy notes.

Mouth- Big slick oily and sweet medium bodied and subdued medium carbonation level. Nice and bubbly when it needed to be but smoothed out nicely.

Drink- This was pretty good for a 9 year old bottle. I am glad I picked this one up. I am noticing that most of these are all very much tasting the same but some of the cask versions are just a touch better.

Photo of CuriousMonk
3.5/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 2000 vintage bottle into a snifter glass. Pours a deep red/brown color with a creamy light tan head. Aroma is very sweet and fruity, lots of big malts coming through with a heavy dose of dark fruits, sweet toffee and some prune and plum characteristics. Tastes rich with maple and oaky notes in the start along with the dark overripe fruits. Very sweet from on set to finish, barely any hops present tiny bitterness in the finish. Boozy but blends perfectly like a nice port. Very rich full sticky body and almost no carbonation. Not my style but glad to have tried this one out! A complex beer indeed.

Photo of megahurts4
3.77/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

JW Lees Harvest Ale 2009

Appearance: reddish, small head, and a little lacing.

Smell: malty caramel and toffee.

Taste: malty caramel-honey, spices, some fruit, and an earthy-wood flavor.

Mouthfeel: malty and heavy.

This is a very malty and flavorful brew. It starts with a thick spicy caramel blast. There is an odd earthy-wood flavor at the end.

Photo of Phelps
4.09/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in December of 2000 and sent to me by nlmartin in the Blind Beers BIF. This one’s a ten-ounce-ish bottle labeled “11.5%, Snifter.” I oblige.

Murky milk chocolate brown with some golden highlights when held to the light. A tight half-finger head the color of latte foam fizzles away lickety-split, leaving behind a very thin ring.

Intense nose. Cranberry juice, raisins, brandy, mint, basil, dark chocolate, molasses, candy sugar. Crazy mix of sweet and herbal aromas.

The flavor begins as big and beautiful as you think it would. Very raisiny, with a blend of molasses, cocoa, brandy, port and hints of the herbaceous. The flavors, though good, never seem to fully materialize. The tide of flavor ebbs softly, leaving a lingering sweetness.

Very light, tingly carbonation amidst a soft, buttery medium body. I know the alcohol content is more than 10 percent, but I don’t believe it.

Good flavors and nice complexity. I think age has taken some of the edge off the alcohol content, but it’s also rounded out the flavor a bit too much. Needs more bite.

Photo of scottfrie
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle into AVBC snifter. 2001 vintage.

A: Pours a very dark mahogany red with a thin, eighth-inch light tan head that quickly faded into a collar. No lacing.
S: Big notes of oatmeal-raisin cookies, sweet almost syrupy raisins, honey, vanilla, caramel, orange peel, fermented dark fruits, cinnamon, and a hint of soy sauce.
T: Syrupy sweet and very rich almost meaty flavors. I get big dominate notes of sweet raisins, caramel, brown sugar and honey. The flavors remind me of kettle corn or some kind of sugary meat glaze. The finish contains notes of orange peel, tobacco, barbeque, and candied brown sugar. The flavor coats your mouth and the aftertaste definitely lingers for a while. There is an alcohol presence at the end of the swallow, but it is only slight warm and is non-intrusive.
M: Thick bodied with a heavy, syrupy mouthfeel. Carbonation is low but I find it perfect. Extremely smooth.
O: Wonderful brew that is definitely meant to be sat on for years and years. Most barleywines would not be be this drinkable after 10 years. This is definitely quality.

Photo of pmarlowe
4.27/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage. Tulip glass.

Pours light mahogany with a cap of off-white foam. Pretty good lacing. Aroma is toast and honey, sherry with dark fruit like black currant and fig. Smells good with nice complexity. Taste is... wow, blast of sweetness which hits you up front and then fades into a nice, long honey finish. Honey and sherry are dominant flavors. Full bodied, a minimal carbonation which is fitting for the style, slight acidity which provides some nice structure. Overall, this is a very nice slow sipper for those with a sweet tooth.

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

I had the pleasure and privilege of pouring this 1999 vintage at Albany Craft Beer Fest (thanks to the organizers for giving us all this treat). Poured into 5oz mini-Pilsner tasting glasses.

It poured hazy gold with very little head. Strong fruity nose with banana in the fore. Tastes more like an aged sherry or mead than what you might normally think of as barleywine. The sweetness is dominated by honey and balanced by the complexity of flavors and good old Kent Golding hops. Mouthfeel is silky smooth and leaves sticky honey-like sugar on the lips and glass. It's easy to forget the high ABV of this barleywine.

One of the most complex and biggest beers I've had. This made me a very popular pourer.

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,298 ratings.