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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

1,228 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,228
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 211
Gots: 176 | FT: 12
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: 1,228 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of NCBeernut
NCBeernut

North Carolina

3.63/5  rDev -14.6%

1998 vintage poured into a tulip glass. JUST 10 years old. Nearly opaque, but put up against a light, it glows a deep dark hazy amber. There is a bit of a cascade that forms the head, but nothing to the extent of Guinness Draught. A one finger head falls in under a minute, just leaving a ring that leaves behind some spotty lacing. Just what I expected at 11.5% abv.

Smell: Sourdough, raisins, dark fruits, brown sugar, honey, some alcohol. Very sweet smelling.

Taste: Nice and sweet, actually cloying sweetness after a few sips. Brown sugar, maple syrup, dark fruits, molasses and a touch of honey. A bit toasty on the finish. It's like a gourmet candy in a bottle. Not really much for hops of course. I really enjoyed the flavor and complexity for a couple sips but it is a little sickening after a while.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth. Syrupy.

Drinkability: I couldn't really enjoy a whole bottle due to the sweetness. I have an '05 that I am going to forget about for a couple more years and see how that goes.

01-08-2008 21:22:13 | More by NCBeernut
Photo of stephendr
stephendr

California

4.45/5  rDev +4.7%

smell 4.5 taste 4.5 app 3.5 mouth 4.5 drink 4.5
1998 vintage 9.6 oz. glass bottle sample cellared at least 11 years- opened 10/28/07- color of murky brown, with a super thin off white colored head - nose of sweet brown sugar, over ripe tropical fruit, stale sourdough bread, and hint of cappuccino – taste of sweet malt, caramel, very full, chewy prunes, raisins, and syrup- body is thick, and round, and with no carbonation – aftertaste of raisins, toasted, rock candy sweet, and lingering

01-05-2008 08:17:17 | More by stephendr
Photo of trumpetego
trumpetego

Pennsylvania

4.72/5  rDev +11.1%

1998 Vintage opened on 1/1/08, ten years to the day after it was bottled.

The beer pours a dark brown, with a head that disappears quickly.

The smell is incredible, and much like a vintage port. Dark fruit, molasses, maple syrup, and a hint of alchohol.

Taste is more of the same. Very smooth and malty, still reminiscent of port. Dark fruit, particularly prunes, and just a hint of alchohol. No hops to speak of, but I expect this from English Barley Wines. Very sweet, but not overpoweringly so.

Mouthfeel is surprisingly light with very little carbonation.

Drinkability is good for what it is: just as I wouldn't be able to drink more than 9.6oz of port in a sitting, I wouldn't be able to have more that one of these at a time. Very tasty though, and an excellent New Years evening treat.

01-02-2008 04:01:49 | More by trumpetego
Photo of GbVDave
GbVDave

Illinois

4.97/5  rDev +16.9%

Poured from a 9.6oz bottle into a Caracole tulip. Extra special thanks to Killer for giving this to me after laying it down for 10 years!

1997 Vintage

A: Pours a dark and opaque, burnt-orange highlighted brown with a tiny hint of a khaki-colored head which quickly disappears to a faint, swirly skim and unbreakable ring.

S: Huge aromas of tobacco, caramel, rum soaked raisins, plums, molassas, oak, chocolate, bourbon, and cherry. As it warms, a slightly boozy alcohol aroma emerges. It only adds another layer of complexity to this wonderful beer.

T: Sweet oaky caramel and tobacco hit my tongue right off the bat. After this I'm greeted by a rush of dark fruit, sherry, chocolate covered cherry, pear, tart apple, coconut, dark chocolate, and finally, spicy hops.

M: Smooth, slick, and oily, but not syrupy. Very sweet and coating with a spicy hop bite towards the finish.

D: Absolutely incredible! This a perfect example of a beer that's completely inoffensive to the palate yet hugely interesting and compelling. I loved the tobacco aroma and flavor. Once again, hats off to Killer. Thanks brother!

12-31-2007 23:08:30 | More by GbVDave
Photo of Traquairlover
Traquairlover

Virginia

4.72/5  rDev +11.1%

2002 Vintage, 275ml poured into a pint glass.

A = Dark, murly orange brown, more floaties than I expected (though my pour was not as delicate as it should have been either). Almost no head, no lacing, but does coat the side of the glass nicely.

S = Sweet molasses, prunes, raisins, yeasty undertones, although there is some hint of alcohol, the aging seems to have helped this quite a bit.

T = Maple syrup, molasses, honey are the first things to arrive, then some fruits, cooked apples, prunes all eventually flowing into a good barley grain taste of dense homemade bread. Long sweet finish.

M = Thick body, coats mouth and won't let go, next to no carbonation, as high as the ABV is the alcohol is not too strong in the mouth.

D = A sipping beer but one for the ages. This is a great drinking beer!

I have updated this review after a review of one of my bottles of the 1999 (and frankly, the 1998 was even better but I did not take notes). The only real change to the description is that with a better pour I had clear beer, no floaties. The original score was a 4.6/A+. I now think it is better than that and appproaches perfection.

12-31-2007 17:12:41 | More by Traquairlover
Photo of dogger6253
dogger6253

Minnesota

4.6/5  rDev +8.2%

This one is from 2000. It slides out of the bottle, settling into a murky brown with lots and lots of floaties. There isn't much for a head, a small ring bubbles popping around the side.

The nose is pretty big: plums and cherries along with other, ripe, dark fruits. There is a noticeable amount of alcohol in the aroma, coupled with wheat and yeast, an almost sourdough quality. Past this, more fruit comes out - green apples and green grapes in one major assault. Bits of hops come in and out; floral and grassy.

Well, the taste wasn't much of a surprise - sweet plums and cherries up front, sliding into apples and grapes. There is a bit of a sour lemon flavor, but it's very mild. The balance and complexity is glorious - layers and layers of flavor. Raisins and dates come out a little in the finish. Not really any presence of hops in the flavor.

This was very thick and syrupy with a heavy body. There's a little bit of carbonation going on and a very strong warmth from the alcohol. I'd call this a definite sipper, with a little too much alcohol for mass consumption.

12-26-2007 00:24:34 | More by dogger6253
Photo of Boppar
Boppar

New Hampshire

2.88/5  rDev -32.2%

Vintage 2006, poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A: Pours a bright golden orange color. Great coloring. Completely still. Not even the faintest hint of any sort of carbonation whatsoever. This really does look like a wine.

S: Sherry. That's the only smell I'm picking up on, is that it smells disturbing similar to cream sherry.

T: Sherry, overly-ripe apricots, and honey start this off, with notes of molasses appearing mid-palate. There is also a faint floral suggestion on the finish. Oh, and it's very, very boozey. And yes, it does taste as cloying as it sounds.

M: Perfectly still. Very slick, nice body to it. Good weight.

D: Not at all drinkable. Which is really a shame, because it has some good flavors in it. But it is so mind-numbingly sweet that I just can't handle it.

An interesting take on the style, but not one I much cared for.

12-24-2007 02:38:03 | More by Boppar
Photo of AKBelgianBeast
AKBelgianBeast

Alaska

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

Wow! This is an intense brew.

Vintage 2001.

Pours a deep brown with ruby red haziness through the light. appears very thick and has little head. The nose is a glorious mix of dark fruits with raisins and dates. Caramely and sugary with some slight smoke taste. liquid candy. mouthfeel is very, very thick and creamy as hell. goes down smooth and is very drinkable for its 11.5 abv. The finish lingers forever and leaves a sugary residue on the lips that takes a while to lick off. An excellent offer from JW Lees. Much better than any of the recent cask aged lees brews. I would say this is my favorite english barleywine behind arctic devil. Great brew.

12-22-2007 02:39:54 | More by AKBelgianBeast
Photo of xgrigorix
xgrigorix

Michigan

4.85/5  rDev +14.1%

Brown 275 ml bottle, 1997 vintage (10 years old).

Rich, dense burnished amber topped by a thin white halo.

Wonderful aroma of nuts, alcohol and dried fruit.

Layers of tropical fruit, raisins, lush malt, oranges, rum, and plums. Finishes sweet but not cloying. Moderate bitterness. Rich and syrupy, with incredibly easy carbonation.

12-21-2007 03:02:52 | More by xgrigorix
Photo of DIM
DIM

Pennsylvania

3.23/5  rDev -24%

note: This was the 2001 vintage.

a: Cloudy almost opaque caramel color. Pours with a minimal head that leaves a ring around the glass.

s: Smells of smokey maple syrup, some brown sugar, and alcohol.

t: An almost overwhelming sugary maple syrup flavor hits first. There is some raisin flavors to found here as well. The warming tingly alcohol finish is the best part.

m: One of the thickest and most syrupy barleywines I've tried. Some chalkiness at the finish.

d: Maybe I'll try another year at some point but sweetness of this beer will probably keep me away.

12-17-2007 13:25:51 | More by DIM
Photo of JayQue
JayQue

Virginia

4.05/5  rDev -4.7%

2000 vintage. Served in a Chimay goblet. Murky dark orange color. Small white head that melts down quickly, no lacing. Smell is strong, caramel and dark fruit. Good taste. Sweetness, especially caramel is strong but not quite over the line as too sweet. Less complex flavor than the Port Wine cask Lees I had yesterday, but still tasty and warming. Some taste of alcohol, especially the closer you get to the end. Mouthfeel is rich and smooth. Drinkability is good for a sweet, high abv beer. A great nightcap and winter warmer.

12-17-2007 03:26:15 | More by JayQue
Photo of brewcrew76
brewcrew76

Wisconsin

4.7/5  rDev +10.6%

2000 Vintage

A - Dark brown cola color with crimson highlights, a tan head and a few spots of lacing.

S - Caramel, raisins, dried fruits, figs, molasses, honey and brown sugar.

T - Very sweet caramel and toffee but not cloying, tobacco, brown sugar, maple syrup and molasses. It has a port like quality. Some dark fruits, raisins and figs but they are not as apparent as in the aroma.

M - Medium body, smooth and silky. Alcohol warming but not as noticeable in the taste as I expected. If this was any heavier it might make the beer to cloying.

D - A great sipper that has held up nicely after 7 years. I am wondering if it might be slightly sweet and sticky fresh.

1999 Vintage - 8/27/08 - not reflected in score since can only review a serving type once

4.0
A - Dark brown cola with ruby highlights and 1 finger of tan head.

5.0
S - Dark fruits galore, rum soaked raisins, figs, prunes, carmalized brown sugar, old overripe blackberries, leather, tobacco and black licorice.

4.5
T - Sweet caramel, brown sugar and molasses with some leather and old dried fruits of raisin, prune, fig and some type of berry I can't place. Somewhat earthy as it warms.

4.5
M - Medium bodied with low carbonation. Smooth with the lightest hint of sticky barleywine. Very nice.

4.0
D - I am guessing this one is past its prime but it is amazing what type of nice flavors develop as these beers get older. A highly enjoyable sipper. Hopefully I can find more vintages.

12-15-2007 00:37:25 | More by brewcrew76
Photo of Risser09
Risser09

Pennsylvania

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

Bottled shared at the homebrew club • Vintage 2000 • Into a tulip

Appearance: This beer pours a hazy brown color with red hues. It has an ivory head that is small and short lived but produces alot of residual lacing.

Smell: Boozy with a strong malt aroma. Caramel, oak, dark fruit, molasses, raisins, fig and licorice. Lots going on and a pleasure just to smell.

Taste: Molasses is quite strong and shares room with all the same aromas above. This beer is a complex one. It is complex and warm. Awesome dark fruit flavors.

Mouthfeel: Vinous, syrupy and boozy. This beer has lots and lots of legs. It is juicy and complex and sugary. Perfect for a sipper like this one.

Drinkability: Best served in a snifter and warmed to room temperature. Quite frankly, I could drink a ton of these. Perfectly aged beer is a beautiful thing.

12-04-2007 13:21:10 | More by Risser09
Photo of Lupe
Lupe

New York

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

Vintage 2000

Copper brown colored, with a tight and creamy ivory head that leaves behind some lace. Size of the head was a surprise considering the abv and age. Beautiful amber-red hues shine through as it's held up to the light.

Sweet aroma of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. Doses of honey, raisin, fig, brown sugar, and alcohol are all mixed in. Very inviting.

Lots of sweet malt flavors, like the aroma - dark and tropical fruit, toffee, caramel, and mild coffee. Some honey and brown sugar along with a touch of vanilla and faint woodiness. Herbal hop bitterness as well as spicy alcohol and yeast round thing out. Absolutely delicious.

Full-bodied - velvety smooth, creamy, thick and syrupy. Start with juicy burst and finishes dry with a lingering spicy tickle.

Incredible drinkability for such a big and complex sipping beer. Alcohol never gets in the way. Truly special.

12-03-2007 01:38:23 | More by Lupe
Photo of BiereBlanche
BiereBlanche

Colorado

4.88/5  rDev +14.8%

A flight of shared 12 oz. bottles of the Dec. 1 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2006 Whiskey-aged (comments under that specific style) courtesy of the owner at Deep Ellum, Allston MA. Served just below cellar temp and allowed to warm in small flutes.

An excellent flight and nice to pick out the subtle differences. All the vintages shared the same great characteristics. The pours were dark, caramelly ambers of slightly varying shades. Cloudy, with yeasty sediment evident at the end of the bottles. Light head was impressive in size for an easy half bottle pour and took minutes to fall. All these drinks were incredibly rich with complex, sweet malt characters, little hops, little carbonation and slight alcohol. Filling and incredibly smooth.
The 1999 was my favorite, the smoothest, richest and sweetest of the flight. The nose and taste were incredibly complex and I'd love to see an ingredients list for all the wonderful flavoring that was picked out for the brew. It brought to mind sweet potato and brown sugar so strongly I could almost picture it in front of me. The drink would be a great desert for a holiday feast. Caramel, lightly burned brown sugar, buttery toffee, a tiny bit earthy. The aging had mellowed and smoothed this vintage so nicely. Almost no alcohol or bitter flavors. Absolutely delicious. To this point, my perfect desert beer.
The 2002 was a little darker, and just the tiniest bit of bitter. Again, almost no carbonation. A bit less caramelly, less burned and a little smoky flavor picks up. This vintage seemed to be the sweetest and least bitter.
The 2005 was the first to have a little alcohol bite to it, surprising in the earlier two, given the still high 11.5 ABV. A bit less smoky. Still really delicious and along side any other beers, this would have been incredible, it was only in this flight that I was able to pick out that it was missing a bit of the complexity of the 1999 and 2002. Caramelly and sticky.
The 2006 had less of the caramelly, burned-brown sugar sweet potatoes notes that were so distinct in the 1999 and was the most different of the flight. Clearer appearance than the rest, lighter malt characteristics. There was an earthy note in aroma and taste that was distinct to this vintage, it was fitting and fairly mild but stood out. Tiny bitter and alcohol bite.

These were all a real treat, I would have been happy with any one of them and having the flight brought out details that wouldn't have been noticed otherwise. Incredibly flavorful, smooth, rich and delicious. They could all drink like fine liquors and I can't think of anything I'd rather have for a desert beer than a bottle of the 1999 vintage.

12-03-2007 00:24:35 | More by BiereBlanche
Photo of hwwty4
hwwty4

Missouri

4/5  rDev -5.9%

Vintage 2001. Poured a bottle into a Chimay chalice. Poured a dark hazy brown with lots of floaters (I'm assuming yeast). Poured a thin head that stuck around for a while, no lacing. Aroma is of roasted malts, plums, and alcohol. It has a really complex taste. It starts of as caramel/toffee sweet. Then it goes into nuts, and dark fruits. For me it finishes with almost a slight coffee taste. Very interesting brew. Mouthfeel is excellent. Coats your mouth with a nice oily sensation that lingers for quite a while.

12-02-2007 04:54:01 | More by hwwty4
Photo of franksnbeans
franksnbeans

Ohio

4.4/5  rDev +3.5%

2001 Vintage

Pours a ruddy cloudy brown with a buttery 1 finger head that dies to a ring and laces. Smells of big caramel, toffee, very sweet, a little creamy and a slight sting of alcohol. Taste is so smooth. Sweet almost syrupy caramel, butter, toffee, earthy and creamy on the finish. Silk in the mouth. ABV is completely hidden which is insane. Those this built as a once in a while sipper, its very drinkable.

11-29-2007 00:33:51 | More by franksnbeans
Photo of zeff80
zeff80

Missouri

3.63/5  rDev -14.6%

A - It poured out a burgandy color with a caramel colored, bubbly, one-finger head. It left some rings of lace.

S - It smelled very floral and very malty.

T - It was sweet and malty. It was almost too sweet. It was candy-like.

M - It was smooth and soft. It had a warm alcohol presence. It was a very heavy-bodied beer.

D - This was a bit too sweet and too heavy for my taste.

11-27-2007 02:54:06 | More by zeff80
Photo of MuenchenerKindl
MuenchenerKindl

Germany

4.47/5  rDev +5.2%

poured from a smaller bottle to a snifter, the liquid is a walnut brown, with very good carbonation for a 2002 brew. The head was small, one finger but had great saying power, small bubbles and left great lace.

The smell was heavy of nutty malt and alcohol.

The taste followed, wow what a great tasting brew. I love the nutty flavor with out the crap getting stuck in my theeth. Big alcohol is present and works well.

The mouthfeel is full and the arbonation is in the body even if it has a hard time escaping to the head.

The drinkability is great for a sipping beer.

prosit, MK

11-24-2007 20:38:25 | More by MuenchenerKindl
Photo of rye726
rye726

Colorado

5/5  rDev +17.6%

'99, lovely vintage.

Great looking beer, hazy reddish brown color that has a slight glow and a silky tan head. Nice lace along my glass.

Nose has lots of ripe fruits, caramel, toffee, bready malts, pecans, brandy and peppery alcohol.

So complex. A perfect blend of rich nutty malts, dark fruits, rich candies, cognac and sherry.

Thick, silky body with delicate carbonation. Lovely brew. Well aged.

Other Vintages(All sampled around the same time)

1998- (4.9) Just as good or better than the '99 aside from the aroma which is slightly dulled.

2002: (4.8) Good, but stil needs a few years of of maturing. The flavors and aromas have not yet reached full complexity. The body and color don't share the same richness as older vintages.

2007: (4.7) Young, still an amazing ale. Just doesn't have the same complexities and body lacks the same depth.

11-24-2007 18:45:46 | More by rye726
Photo of LittleBreeze
LittleBreeze

New York

4.38/5  rDev +3.1%

Vintage 1998

I was a little worried about trying this one. I hate when a good beer has gone down hill.

Not the case with this baby. First sip seemed a bit sweet. After the second...or third sip the complexity...various layers of flavors presented themselves. Burnt sugar is there. Dark fruits. Oak. Plums. A lot going on in this sipper. It is warming and inviting. I shared the bottle. This is a nice one to share on a chilly evening.

Good beer experience.

11-24-2007 05:33:15 | More by LittleBreeze
Photo of charlesw
charlesw

New York

4.78/5  rDev +12.5%

Obtained in the powerbeer BIF. And, wow. People are really generous and I was very fortunate indeed!

2001 vintage on this bottle. Dark and rich and thick and malty and WOW that's a lot of caramel and sweetness and body... The wife said that it was more like drinking port than drinking beer. I say... That was freaking intense. Seriously. You like intense flavor? Over the top stuff? Yeah, you'll like it. And you won't be alone!

11-06-2007 01:43:28 | More by charlesw
Photo of sinistrsam
sinistrsam

Maryland

4.28/5  rDev +0.7%

The appearance was cloudy brown with a small tan head, a pretty good ammount of sediment that was suspended in the almost viscous body.
The smell was tons of honey and brown sugar, some chocolate, caramel and maybe some dark fruits. Very complex.
The taste was a punch of sweetness; burnt brown sugar, molasses, alcohol, sweet malts, wood, raisin, prune. I'm sure there is more there but theres so much going on its hard to really decipher.
The motuhfeel is sweet. And I mean sweet. Begninning, middle and end, and leaves your tongue coated and feeling smooth.
I think I could do only one of these at a time, as you might go into diabetic shock. Very complex, smooth and interesting, though.

11-05-2007 18:35:41 | More by sinistrsam
Photo of Phatz
Phatz

Pennsylvania

4.6/5  rDev +8.2%

Vintage 2000

Huge Thanks to mac300 for graciously sharing this delicious treat with me. Most most generous of you.

This beer is always a special experience. every different vintage at various ages makes it a unique experience every taste I get of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. This Barleywine is sweet. Even at 7 years old, I can still see it holding up to another five years in the cellar. Spectacular.

Appearance: Pours a ruddy coper brown color with a creamy ivory head and spotty lace. It showcases some amber hues as it moves through the light.

Smell: Sweet dark fruits and caramel, with a drizzle of molasses fig and fruit cake. Honey raisins and licorice. A plethora of pleasantness!

Taste: Everything in the nose and more. It is boozy. Sweet alcohol, how I love thee! =) The brandy port attribute does not hide with big sweet malts and sugars and fruits. It is simply large and in charge.

Mouthfeel: Nearly perfect velvety smooth mouth presence with just a touch of alcohol sting and sweet residual sugars left on the palate.

Drinkability: You would be a fool not to realize this is a sipping beer. Drink it like your evening sipping whiskey of choice and it will drink very nicely.

Hope this is helpful.
Cheers!

10-30-2007 20:10:23 | More by Phatz
Photo of Bitterbill
Bitterbill

Wyoming

4.68/5  rDev +10.1%

This is the 1998 vintage:

I've had this bottle for about 3 years now so I decided now was the time to try it:

It pours from 275ml bottle a clear very deep brown with lots of red highlights and when I hold my glass up to the light, I see no sediment. The foam whilst pouring looked like it was going to be non existant or at least, very small but when I put my glass down on the table there's a nice 1" layer sitting there all pretty looking. Plenty of sticky lacing on the sides of my glass as well. Btw, the small head of foam stays around for the entire session.

On to the smell and I'm greeted with a very strong nose of caramel malt along with some dark fruit like raisin, plum, and some fig. Nice.

The taste is very sweet because of the huge caramel malt but as in the smell, I can taste some raisin, plum, sherry, molasses, some chocolate. and other flavours that I can't even begin to describe accurately. There's a decent warming during and after the swallow but at 11.50%abv, it comes as no surprise.

The mouthfeel is really chewy and the carbonation is low and it finishes as sweet as it started out. What a sipper! What a Barleywine Style Ale! I *have* to pick up some more of these...any and all vintages I can find...because I'm getting a great drinking experience here and for the price, I think it's a damned good bargain. I highly recommend it!!!

10-25-2007 00:14:05 | More by Bitterbill
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,228 ratings.