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

816 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 816
Hads: 1,360
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 13.62%
Wants: 251
Gots: 198 | FT: 14
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 (21) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 816 | Hads: 1,360
Photo of aracauna
3.75/5  rDev -12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This is a great, deep amber colored body, althoug there's little to no head, it's still a beautiful beer. The aroma is mainly walnuts and honey. The flavor is just a little too sweet. This is very mead-like. A little syrupy. It would be best as an after-dinner sipper, I think. (277 characters)

Photo of yen157
4.42/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1988: Bottle was from a case we just got in to our store. Dust was caked on nice and thick, and as I was opening it I realized the cap was rusted pretty good. The rust was slightly visible from beneath the foil, but I didn’t realize the extent. No worries…

Brownish-red, slightest ever wisp around the glass. Smells of alcohol, rum, and butterscotch candy. Actually, it kinda smells like a good, British barley wine. Go figure. Vinous up front with some amontillado sherry qualities, followed by dark brown sugar mixed with butter. The malt is so processed by the yeast over 15 years, the sweetness reminds me of a very dilute saccharin solution. Don’t get me wrong, the great malty goodness is still there, but just not in the same form as it would be in a younger bottle. It closes with a refined hop snap that lingers long into the finish playing hide and seek with that wonderful malt. The oxidation makes itself known after the malt finally fades away. Carbonation starts out as very, very light which fades away to nothing about five minutes into the glass. Body is smooth through and through and less cordial-like than very young examples.

This a very complex beer. I didn’t even scratch the surface. I didn’t give the malt presence enough adulation, nor did I address the gullet warming abilities of this brew. Hell, it can’t be a surprise considering the alcohol content! Overall, great beer, but past it’s prime. I’m curious to give my ‘86 a try. (1,471 characters)

Photo of nomad
4.85/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1988 vintage

Blowing the dust off of the little nip bottle, this beer poured flat but a lack of carbonation is expected after 15 years of aging. Most surprising was its very dark brown color, much darker than any other vintage I've encountered, especially in its thick body shading toward translucent.

Smelled of a sherry or port profile, impossibly lean but impenetrably complex. Had big notes of butterscotch, dark honey, rum, and each truly so. These are the most recognizable out of the stealthy and heady mix; tough to paint the picture of its scent in more than large strokes. Enough to say that it is quite nice, maybe muddled, and lacking the dizzying pungency of younger vintages.

The taste is just as complex and lean, immediately giving off flavors of buttery rum and hops that have turned into alchol infused floral fruits with aged bitterness. Has a smooth and caramelized sweetness with a buttery touch with opening, and distinct from the rum notes. Like younger bottles, this beer is still malty first then hop cleansing in the finish, though most impressive is the dark alcoholic roastiness that becomes almost mocha-like. Again, so complex, thick, but sleek that its hard to be exacting - instead you get a supreme drinking experience.

A slick, thick, and smooth mouthfeel like none other, after aging for 15 years this is a heavenly syrup. The heights of aged beer, standing up to any liqueur, this is the beer I use to wow my friends that are uninitiated to beer. I would not enjoy vintages older than this, and I never venture younger than 4-year old bottles - maybe 7 to 11 years is the peak.

A comforting beer every time out, so my scores reflect other vintages as well as the particular one reviewed. Thanks to JimD for the assist on the bottle of 1988. (1,794 characters)

Photo of lackenhauser
4.52/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Reserve-Pours a beautiful copper brown color.No head or carbonation to speak of.Fruity,vinuous aroma.Big upfront malt flavor.Residual sweetness.Treacle like-toffee,caramel,coffeeish notes.A big,big beer.Wonderful mouthfeel.Very "chewy"-a splash would be good over vanilla ice cream.Silky smooth-11.5%?Where?A great beer with a great drinkability.Definately a sipper but you could very easily sip more then one.Would like to try an older vintage. (450 characters)

Photo of genaro
4.3/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A review of the Vintage Harvest Ale 2000. This is a great beer to wind down with on a cold winter night. It has a nice, sweet malty aroma with traces of alcohol and fruit. This cloudy amber/copper beer is capped with a good sustaining head. It has a doughy mouthfeel and I found the taste to be brandy-like with caramel, figs, and oak. The lace is good and it finishes with a slight bittersweet taste. It is a bit pricey, but well worth it. It's potency became apparent as I wrote my original notes. (499 characters)

Photo of francisweizen
4.87/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage, 12 ounce bottle, purchased at Bierkraft in NYC for $6 or so. A good purchase for sure! This classic brew poured out a nice dark reddish colour with plenty of inherent carbonation. The aromas were all across the board, and very Hardy's like at times. The aromas consisted of dark fruits, spicy alcohol, deep, deep roasted malts, and very freshly cut, bitter, herbal, grassy, sappy, piney, hops. Over the years the hops have been cut down to size and the malt really dominates in this brews taste, but that is OK to me, this is a classic brew, that 6 years of aging has totally rounded into a new dimension of complexity and balance. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, but i'll knock a point off for the lack of liveliness. The drinkability is only marred by the super strong ABV. A classic! (804 characters)

Photo of DagFishHead
4.84/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 release
Appearance: Clear but deep ruby-mahogany body. Decent, fizzy tan colored head that fades to a very thin but unbroken cap.
Smell: Sherry, oaky, port-wine, fusel alcohol, carmelized malt sugars, dark/ripe fruits. Stunningly complex.
Taste: Stunningly delicious... Molasses, sweet toffee malt, dark cherries, raisins to start, Sherry/port vinous character at the top. Dries with hop bitterness that allows a figgy/prune fruit aftertaste to linger. So big, but so balanced and level controlled.
Mouthfeel: Viscous, knife-and-fork chewy yet does not over-saturate the taste buds, gentle carbonation and warm/numbing alcohol glow. Incredibly smooth and velvety
Drinkability: For me, this will be a barleywine style standard. Too pricey for extended drinking, but worth every penny. Will seek this out every Xmas... and thus begins my true appreciation for aged ales. (878 characters)

Photo of filabrazilia
4.55/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage

This beer pours a dark auburn with a creamy beige head. The lace clings to the glass despite the loss of the head.

Maple, toffee and chocolate dance in the air above the beer and create an anticipation that can't wait to be quenced.

Taste - Wow! Where to start? Smooth, mellow and oh so flavorful. The aromas are more subtle in the taste but no less wonderful. Where is the alcohol? It is so well concealed that you would have no idea it's 11.5%. There is no hop flavor but a nice dry finish.

Mouthfeel - It is creamy like liquid cake. This beer is like a warm blanket on a cold and dreary night. My mouth is swimming in comfort.

This beer has a presence that dominates your senses and leaves you totally satisfied. All beers should be this good. At $6.00 a bottle, this is not your everyday beer but it is worth drinking on occasion. I do have the 2002 vintage waiting--should I open it now or save it for later? (941 characters)

Photo of Hagbard
3.8/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Vintage: 1997
Serving type: Bottle

The bottle suggested drinking this by the end of 2002...I got to it before the end of 2003 and I don't think it suffered. I received some very good news today so decided it would be a great time to crack it open and also to make my first review for BA (so bear with me!).

This beer poured a deep brown, which was very pleasing to the eye. There was no head to speak of and no lacing...I blame the glassware I chose. Perhaps it was a little dirty or had some soap residue. The beer captured the ambient light very nicely and created a wonderful image that would have beeen even more pleasing with a 3 finger head.

The smell was malt, malt, malt, malt, and a little bit of must. I think I detect some molasses, but I may just be guessing!

The taste is what gets you! So sweet! Almost candy-like. The malt jumps out and grabs you and takes you prisoner. I haven't developed into a hop-head yet, but even I was looking for a little hop flavor to balance the sweetness. Perhaps if I drank this prior to '02 as suggested, the hops would still be there? I definitely taste a bit of molasses. Towards the finish, I pick up definite traces of butter.

I gave this a 3 for drinkability, because at 11.5% ABV it is definitely a sippin beer. Although, they were able to hide the alcohol quite well behind the sweetness, more than 1 of these in a sitting would be too much.

A great beer. One I'll definitely on the lookout for other vintages. (1,482 characters)

Photo of Admiraldinty
4.37/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow, this is a huge beer. Very port-like. Pours a dark brown with an ample tan head. Aroma is oh so sweet and malty. Also raisins, molasses, and buttery toffee. Taste is incredibly sweet and smooth. Caramel, toffee, raisins, some coffee. Ends with a touch of bitterness and a bit of grain. Thank God for it because otherwise this would be the sweetest thing I've ever tasted. Gives you a nice warm, toasty feeling as well. Perfect for a winter's night. (452 characters)

Photo of sulldaddy
4.57/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I am going to review two seperate vintages at once. It is kind of a decade tasting. I have a bottle of 1992 and 2002. I did the beers side by side and did not finish one before starting the other. Ate some pretzel and water in between brews. I will do each review seperately.

1992 vintage
I poured the beer into my tasting glass. It was chilled to just below room temp. Absolutely no head. WOuld have thought it was bourbon if I didnt see it pour from the bottle. dark mahogany in color with slightly rubyish tints. Very strong malt and alcohol aromas. Also maple syrup and some smokiness. No hop presence whatsoever.
First sip. Zero carbonation. Very viscous and thick mouthfeel. Maybe even oily characteristics, definitely syrupy, actually coats my gums a little. Alcohol warmth all the way down into my belly. no hop flavor either. Very vinous overall. SOme medicinal characteristics. As the bottle warms the alcohol flavor gives a little to bourbon flavors and oak as well. Very rich beer. I find the beer to much more drinkable as it warms. Very sweet and tasty. Great experience!
Appearance 4
Smell 4
taste 4.5
mouthfeel 5.0
drinkability 4.0

onto the 2002 vintage (2003 sampling)

This beer pours with a creamy orangish tan head. Very tight bubbles in the foam. THe color is also orange,maybe copper and is kind of bright, very clear pour as well.
The aroma is rather tangy with some hints of oak and again alcohol aromas. The maple syrup is also in there.
First sip. Very mild carbonation. very smooth brew! THis is a lighter bodied brew and the alcohol is not as dominant. I actually taste some earthy hop flavors on the finish in this one. Makes me think of working in the garden. I find this brew to be more drinkable while it is still chilled and the warming only makes it tastier. I am glad I cellared a bottle of this one as well. It will be nice to compare ina year or two to these notes.

2002 bottle sampled in 2009

This is a vintage 2002 bottle. I am splitting with Stopper. Pour at cellar temp into a snifter. A mostly clear rich mahogany color with fizzy beige head that fades rapidly to an edge layer.
Aroma is immediately eveident with dark rum soaked raisins, toffee, and a little booze. Maybe some apple brandy and molasses mixing in there too.
Very complex and enticing nose.
First sip reveals an average body and texture with very fine carbonation, very smooth easy drinker. Flavor is also very complex as the nose aadvertises.
All malt hits with toffee, molassess, rum soaked raisins or prunes again, some red grape as well. No reall alcohol heat anywhere. Very smooth and tasty. Wish I had bought more than this bottle 6 years ago. Absolutely excellent experience!

Appearance 4.5
Smell 4.5
Taste 5.0
Mouthfeel 5.0
Drinkability 4.5 (2,763 characters)

Photo of Winter
3.9/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2000 Vintage

9.3 oz bottle. Pours an unfiltered tawny red with a thin light brown head. Aroma of malt, raisins, dark rum ascend from my snifter. Full-bodied mouthfeel. Strong carbonation attacks the tongue upfront then disappears quickly. Flavors of dark fruit, malt and oak are noticed first. Then a feint cherry sweetness emerges for a second and is gone. There's a light punch of alcohol right before just before flavors of caramel and toffee round out the finish. Very smooth for a 11.5% abv.

Even sitting at three years old this barley wine seems young. Not quite raw, but just seems to still be blending its flavors together. I'd let this one sit and continue to mature for a few more years and see what amazing complexities continue to develop. I'd like to shelve some more of these and seek out an older vintage to sample. (836 characters)

Photo of dpend
4.4/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 275ml Bottle Opened 11/16/03


Deep amber brown appearance with a light fluffy head that dissipated quickly.The aroma is sweet malt with fruit,butter and alcohol.Taste is fruity, with thick malt and butter and a dash of hops on the finish.Mouthfeel is thick and buttery with a light oily feel.This beer was still very young and I will let the other age a bit longer to see where it goes.Outstanding! (407 characters)

Photo of byrd
3.3/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

1998 vintage - opened in 2003

Tight tan head of tiny bubbles. Very dark copper brown that is somewhat murky. The head lingers for a while then settles to a thin lace across the surface. The aroma is immediately sweet and malty with maple, rum raisins, and dark fruits being quite noticeable. A slight hint of alcohol is present. Smooth medium-full mouthfeel, but there’s an incredibly malt sweetness that creeps all over the inside of the mouth. The alcohol is quite subdued and well hidden with only a slight warming sensation. The sweetness does not seem to be a hindrance at first, but by the end of the glass, it begins to get somewhat cloying. Not really any hops to speak of; the sweetness simply fades out in the finish then lingers in the aftertaste. Definitely a brew to be sipped and not guzzled, but even then, I felt the sweetness to be a little too much.

This is a 5 year old bottle. Maybe any hop presence that was there at a younger age has faded? Maybe it still needs a few years for the malts to mellow? One way or the other, this bottle wasn’t quite my cup of tea. The store I purchased it from has ‘98, ‘99, ‘00, and ’01 vintages. Maybe I’ll try to pick up a younger vintage to see how they compare... (1,234 characters)

Photo of mydeadguy
4.7/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage. 4.5

Poured a deep ruby brown with an inch of sticky patchy off white head with plenty of bubbles to begin but dropping rather quickly, though at 11.5% that is to be expected. The aroma is strongly malt sweet with fruit and heady alcoholic esters. Taste is sweet with fruity plum and raisin hints, sweet earthy tobacco, healthy malt profile...barely a hop presence, though slightly bitter.
An exceptionally smooth and warming ale.. alcohol from the back of the throat to the belly. The mouth is round and slick, opening up on swirling, the body is then lightened a bit and slightly chewy to fluffy, with decent amounts of carbonation. This brew is truly a gift from on high, my first non-U.S. barleywine, and amazing at that... impressive.
I look forward to more this coming winter..

___
1998 vintage. 4.7

Pours a deep woody garnet, with an old newspaper tan yellow, patchy loose head, starting at a couple fingers, then disappearing fairly quickly.

Scent is of caramel, over-ripe apple, and overwhelmingly, sweet malt. the alcohol is more muted than the '99, with a deep woody sweetness apparent.

The taste is so good, where to begin? Butterscotch, toffee, caramel and raisins with a slight alchol warming in the belly that mellows from the first sip. Exquisite.
Like burnt apple pie with raisins, sweet, warm, bready, malty and more sweet. I can see people who don't like barleywines not liking this beer, but i love it. Quite beautiful, over the top + mind bendingly strong, don't kid yourself that you're having anything else after this.

Mouthfeel leans towards oil-slick, but also has some strong grip on the tongue, like eating a caramel apple in September. sweet and refreshing, but in an "it's about time to go home" way. a real great beer that knows just how great.

I have to bump the taste up to 5, because its december.
every once in a while, decide that this will be your last two beers of the night, do it, you'll thank me..

___ (1,989 characters)

Photo of mikeys01
4.42/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had the privilege to drink some cask '96 J.W. Lees Harvest this weekend at the Moan & Dove in Amherst, MA. Poured directly from the cask, there is no visible head or carbonation, it's a serious cask barleywine. Color is a gemlike clear mahogany, and it appears to be fairly thick from the way it clings to the glass. Aroma is a mixture of whiskey and brandy and a little bit of sweet vanilla. Mouthfeel is fairly thick, without being syrupy however. My cask Lees was served appropriately at room temperature, which allowed the flavors to fully blossom immediately upon sipping. Taste is very oakey and reminiscent of a fine brandy at first, then is rounded out with ample sweetness and notes of coffee in the finish. Alcohol presence is certainly noticeable in the before, during, and after sipping, but it does not overcome any of the complex flavor and the Lees is actually quite smooth. A rare treat to say the least.... (925 characters)

Photo of RoyalT
4.65/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – Very thick and cloudy orange with a good head that left little pools of foam on top of the body.

Smell – This carries an aroma similar to a strong/old ale. There’s a malt base to it, but also a significant amount of white wine. The fruitiness is light and mellow, but the alcholol undertones indicate otherwise.

Taste – The sweet wine flavor comes out bigtime. This is more like a fine port or apertiff than a Barley Wine. There’s some huge orange and cherry in here. Not the cheap, candy syrup kind that you get with a lot of ales, but refined, high-quality flavors.

The alcohol is strong but mellow, if that makes any sense. A fine 20% port will go down like Courtney Love at a rock concert, and this one does the same.

Beyond that, the malt backbone comes through qutie nicely, reminding the drinker that this is indeed an ale and not a tawny Australian port. The woody character enhances the other sweets such as rich maple, honey, and pure cane sugar (loads of it). This is a fine ale for sure.

Mouthfeel – This full-bodied ale is extremely rich and chewy. It will actually get your jaws working and have you looking for a spoon.

Drinkability – Before or after dinner would be my suggestion. I had this after a nice Claim Jumper meal with leftover Halloween chocolate, and it was the perfect match.

Comments – This was the 2002 vintage, and I happened on it purely by chance. If you like a fine tawny port you’ll love this ale.

Update – 1997 Vintage: Much darker in color, actually a dark brown, with a deeper malt taste. The sweets are especially different. Here we have dark, overripe fruits with big maple and molasses. Less of a port and more like a strong, malty ale is how I’d describe it.

Probably a half a point higher at the nose since it is so much more blended. Definitely a good keeper at six years old (tasted 11/10/03).

Update – I was fortunate enough to participate in a rack of 2002 – 1998 over at weefishhead’s and here are some abrreviated notes.

2002 – Raisin juice w/hvy port flavors. Needs aging.
2001 – Fruits more complex & mellow but still needs aging.
2000 – Fruits & sugars lighten up & ABV pulls back. Can start to drink at this age (4 y/o).
1999 – Flavors are even & ready to drink (5 y/o), although sugars still dominate.
1998 – Malts now dominate; best drinker of the bunch (6 y/o). Same age as the ’97 I had (see above Update) in 2003. (2,441 characters)

Photo of ManekiNeko
4.5/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served at the closest I could get to cellar temperature in a Trois Pistoles goblet.

Appearance: Dark ruby brown liquid, clear, with a short-lived khaki head. A small ring of foam remains at the edge of the glass throughout. The appearance of the bottled version is clear and redder than the casked version.

Smell: Sour molasses aroma with cherry, tawny port, and prune overtones. The fruity aromas are much more prominent in bottle than on cask and without the woodiness.

Taste: Tart, sugary-sweet caramel taste that gives way to intense fruit flavors of raisins, prunes, plums, and cherries. Lightly peppery. Again, the fruitiness is more prominent in bottle than on cask.

Mouthfeel: Precious little carbonation makes this oh-so thick in body, almost syrupy... but that's how barleywine be. Besides, it lets the intense flavors have their way with your taste buds. The flavors are ones that need time to process.

Drinkability: Too bad I only have 2 more bottles if this vintage. So glad there's plenty of 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 at the store. Until Thomas Hardy's hits the market again and is given time to age, I suspect this will be the exemplar barleywine to have. (1,193 characters)

Photo of dedalus
3.93/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1997 vintage bottle.

nearly no head on a deep reddish, garnet colored brew. minimal lacing down the bulb of the snifter.

aromas of intensely concentrated malt and lots of alcohol. heavily sugared dates and raisins.

thick, syrupy mouthfeel. clingy and stringy.

massive flavors of sugared dates, raisins, sweet rum, and sugary cherries in their own syrup. no hop presence whatsoever, no balance at all. but then again, this is a traditional english barleywine, and balance would be inappropriate for the style. this is just pure, concentrated malt in all its glory, what i imagine straight malt wort would taste like. tons of alcohol bite in the finish, which is long and intensely sweet.

i had to conclude that i was just not man enough for this beer. with every sip i could feel the alcohol seeping into every cell of my body. by the time i finished the bottle i was ready for bed, completely glowing with alcohol warmth. luckily, bed was only a room away. this beer put me in my place, and quickly.

i wouldn't recommend this beer for anything but a very special occasion. as the glass becomes emptier, the malt sweetness goes far past cloying, and the beer approaches undrinkability. this one was six years old and probably could have standed about five more years of aging. it was smooth, but probably could have been much more so had i given it another half-decade to mellow out.

if you get a chance to try one, do so, but only if you're close to your bed, or if you have a designated driver, or a tolerance that would put gambrinus himself to shame. and if you're a hophead, dive behind the couch and hope this beer didn't see you.

cheers,

s.d. (1,676 characters)

Photo of BeerResearcher
4.33/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2000 Limited Edition.
Poured into a slim bodied Lindeman's Lambic glass to create a head.
It pours an orange-tinged deep amber with a substantial beige head and solid strips of horizontal lace. A big upfront vintage port aroma along with fresh bread dough, hops, sweet malt, alcohol and mild woody notes comprise a complex array of sweet smells. A full and sweet caramel Maris Otter malt house an amazing variety of flavors. Rich toffee, butterscotch, prunes, coffee, candy sugar and honey. A mild lime-like bitterness and beautifully balanced warming alcohol add just the right amount of contrast to this exceptionally well-crafted brew. Add a touch of creamy sherry and you get the picture. Bring on the winter! (715 characters)

Photo of mickeymac
4.67/5  rDev +9.6%
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. (694 characters)

Photo of rastaman
3.94/5  rDev -7.5%
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. (306 characters)

Photo of Cizauskas
4.47/5  rDev +4.9%
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. (2,413 characters)

Photo of bditty187
4.44/5  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. (786 characters)

Photo of beerguy101
3.88/5  rDev -8.9%
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. (404 characters)

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 816 ratings.