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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.

1,235 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,235
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 209
Gots: 179 | FT: 11
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,235 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Toddv29424
4.25/5  rDev 0%

This beer pours a dark malty brown color with no head, and there appears to be little particles floating around. The smell is very earthy, but does not allude at all to how big this beer is gonna be. The taste is very large, and the lack of any carbonation really lets it sit and develop on the tongue. The consistency is almost like molasses, and you can tell that there is not much more in this beer than extract and water. Very little hop character, but the sheer size of the malt seem to provide a sufficient size for the whole tongue. Also there is absolutely no alcohol taste, which means this beer goes down fast and creeps up on you. I'm not sure about the lack of carbonation, but the taste is terrific.

Toddv29424, Jun 24, 2007
Photo of BretSikkink
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%

Vintage 2006, 11.2 oz. bottle.

Viscous brown liquid, very little head or retention with such high alcohol content. Overly sweet aroma, a lot of caramel malt with some balancing herbal hop, with big ripe dark fruit as well.

Sticky and thick like syrup or honey, this indeed is a fully fermented ale. Creamy depth houses a lot of flavor, with huge toffee/caramel malt sugars that reminds me of a dessert wine with a lighter flavor of molasses. Hops are nice, a touch grassy but doing good work behind the malt screen. These are likely to fade with time, still noticeable after one year. Finish is thick and hard, with a mineral flavor that persists into the sweet aftertaste. Alcohol is very present, from the first sip on.

Very complex and rewarding brew. Different animal from the American barleywine, driven by the malt profile, which dominates what is probably a good amount of bittering. Great special occasion beer.

BretSikkink, Jun 22, 2007
Photo of Damian
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%

Drank from a 275 ml/9.6 U.S. fl. oz. bottle purchased at Liquor World, Cambridge, MA
1998 vintage

Poured a thick, syrupy, cloudy, crimson-mahogany with a saddle-colored layer of bubbly froth.

The aroma was super sweet, alcohol rich and very port-like. Maple syrup and brandy came through strong followed by oak, toffee, moderate oxidative notes and hints of warm butter.

The taste was ridiculously smooth and enjoyable. This beer displayed port-like indications up front (but the oxidative notes were quite minimal). By mid-palate the beer turned hugely malty rich and very sweet (yet not cloying) with raisins, brown sugar and an oaky, woody, aged, bourbon-like quality. Currants, along with a touch of ripe fruitiness, came through as well. A slight alcohol warming in the back of the mouth was detectable. The finish was syrupy and sugary with lingering notes of burnt sugar.

The mouthfeel was super syrupy, sticky and a touch creamy (for a ten-year-old beer, I was amazed at how well it held its carbonation). After every sip, the liquid left a sugary film in my mouth.

As for drinkability, this beer was exceptional. It was so amazingly smooth and pleasant that I had a difficult time actually believing it was 11.5% ABV.

Overall, this beer was outstanding. My previous experiences with cellared beer have been mostly negative, but this barley wine was truly an exception. It would be the perfect libation to savor in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night and it could also pair quite nicely with a plate of blue Stilton and ripe stone fruits.

Damian, Jun 19, 2007
Photo of cypressbob
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%

275ml bottle, poured into a Dobbelen tulip. Served a shade under room temperature

2004 Vintage

Pours with an amazingly thick and almost syrupy body, rich dark ruby red body. Thick rich maroon and ruby highlights through out the beer, syrupy slightly cloudy body from the bottle conditioning. A rich ruby highlighted body with thick cloudy brown hues. An amazingly thick centimetre tall off white head forms with solid retention.... we're left with a few millimetres of tight white head with nice attractive patchy lacing up and and down the glass

Smell, Thick rich maderia soaked ripe fruit along with a sweet body of dried and preserved fruit like ripe raisins, prunes and apricots. Rich and syrupy malty body with a strong effervesent alcoholic whiff. Leather and dried figs along with a cacophony of deep and robust estery sweetness

Taste, sweet rich dried fruit, tonnes of brandy soaked raisins and sultanas plus a sugary prune compliment. Thick syrupy alcoholic malt body. A dense caramelly malty burnt sugar character fills the taste buds. Sticky bourbon tinged alcoholic body with a rich single malt like malty slightly peaty body. Sweet ester laden alcoholic finish alot with a huge degree of ripe fruit, leather, preserved fruit and rich port like qualities.

Superb, not quite as deep or complex as the 2001 but still amazing stuff.

I lost all my reviews of my vintages when BA merged alot however i've tried 1999 - 2005. I think 3-4 years is the peak, the 99 was a bit lacking. The 2002 was probably the best, so inmo 3-5 years is ideal.

cypressbob, Jun 17, 2007
Photo of barefootbrewer
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%

2004 Version - This beer poured a hazy brown with a very thin head. The aroma is malty and syrup like. The taste is very sweet – molasses! It almost tastes like it would go great on a biscuit. The mouthfeel is full and a bet chewy. This is a delicious brew, but it might be a bit much to have more than one – would make a great dessert beer.

barefootbrewer, Jun 17, 2007
Photo of Bobikel
4.2/5  rDev -1.2%

Bottle reads: Dec. 1st 1999 Vintage
Purchased at Liquor Max in Loveland Co.

Appearance - Pours a hazy amber/brown with red highlights in the light. Head is minilmal and recedes to a whispy ring fairly quickly. Not uncommon for an 11.5% ABV.

Smell - Prunes, alchohol, and toffee dominate. A touch of malt, and no noticible hops.

Taste - Thick and bready, with a nice slight alchohol warmth that slithers down the throat and into the belly. Toffee, raisins, prunes, and malt sweetness are quite nicely balanced with a mild bittering. Which I'm sure shows far more IBU's than I'd expect.

Mouthfeel - Thick and viscous, this monster must've had quite a high terminal gravity. Even the Prickly carbonation can't hide that.

Drinkability - The one area where this beer falls short. It's a sipper, and even then, after one I feel as though my palate could not handle another beer this big or heavy or flavorfull or...

Bobikel, Jun 09, 2007
Photo of dirtylou
4.13/5  rDev -2.8%

2003 vintage, no idea who sent this to me, but thanks!

enjoyed on the eve of my summer(winter) journey down under

appearance: murky golden amber body poured into a snifter...very little in the way of head or lace...muddy brown and rather flat

smell: complex nose that resembles a less potent version of some of the aged versions i have tried in the past...big oak/bourbon aromas, vanilla, sweet plum and cherry...very nice!

taste: a well crafted malt masterpiece...bourbon covered dark fruits - heavy on the plum, cherry, raisin, dates, fig. vanilla and brown sugar flavours provide a nice compliment. high sweetness and mild alcohol warming sensation. i like the barrel aged ones a little better but this is nice and smooth

mouthfeel: smooth and coating, nice warming sensation

drinkability: good

dirtylou, Jun 07, 2007
Photo of kajerm
4.13/5  rDev -2.8%

Vintage 2000, pours dark ruby-hued brown with a thin ring of head and just a drop of lacing.

The first word I can think of to describe the aroma is "musty," but I mean that in a good way. There's a dusty, distinguished smell that surrounds the toffeeish malts, honey, brandy alcohol, and fusels. Some light fruity ester and yeast character. This beer is complex enough to warrant extended smelling.

The flavor profile is long and rich, opening up with toffee, honey, and molasses, which blend into to mid-palate fruit and then become almost candyish, as the molasses comes back and blends with higher alcohols. There is just a drop of raisin and coffee flavor, along with some butterscotch from diacetyl. Whatever East Kent Golding hops went in here died between 2000 and 2007, leaving a rich malty monster of a barley wine.

There's something very English-tasting about this beer, but I like it.

The mouthfeel is rich, heavy, and drying, like sweet brandy.

Drinkability is pretty much meaningless for a beer like this; this is a sipping beer.

This is my first vintage beer and my first English barley wine, and it's a stunner.

kajerm, May 29, 2007
Photo of John_M
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%

This is for the 2001.

The beer pours a dark cloudy brown, with minimal head, but with good retention and lacing. There is the usual rich, sweet smell, this time with sherry, chocolate, toffee, prunes and maple syrup. On the palate the beer is nothing less then incredible. There is an intense flavor of chocolate, interwoven with vanilla, toffee and butterscotch. The beer has an exceptional mouthfeel, and is just luscious. It is incredibly soft, plush and creamy. Absolutely decadent. The beer ends with a very long, lingering finish. Exceptional beer. Just incredible.

John_M, May 23, 2007
Photo of geexploitation
4.93/5  rDev +16%

1999 vintage. Pours a very dark, reddish brown with great clarity and a considerable head for a beer of this style and with this ABV. Extremely complex aroma of marshmallow and molasses sweetness, with dried fruits (reminds me of a fruitcake), fresh cut strawberries and smoke. For some reason, I get just a touch of sauvignon blanc-like cat-pee when the beer reaches room temperature. On the palate, fruity malts and a smoky, syrupy sweetness first off. The finish brings out a marshmallow flavor. The whole thing is quite sweet, but with considerable refinement and flavors that keep things just light enough. Mouthfeel is a touch hot and thick and syrupy... but not too much so on any count. For a beer that reaches 11.50 ABV this is incredibly drinkable, with astonishing complexity of flavor. Very enjoyable -- a truly exceptional barleywine.

geexploitation, May 09, 2007
Photo of Redwood21
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%

WOW! 1998 beer reviewed 2007..9 yr old beer!

I am not sure how much i like this beer yet, but wow...Big is the word. big aroma, strong taste wow....
A:I love how this beer appears to be a really dark color, dark brown to black in color. But when held to light, is a more cherry wood brown color. with a nice lasting head that isnt too high, but its a nice creamy head that lasts around the rim for a while.

S: WOW, I can not decide if i enjoy the aroma, but i can not deny that this beer actually has a nice strong one. Almost cognac in nature with some espresso/coffee aromas too. its insane, more aromatic than any beer i have ever had. maybe even some bittersweet chocolate and an aroma that i recognize but cannot pick out. ...insane

T: Honey with coffee, and some other flavors i can not even begin to pick out. extremely syrupy. I would rate this higher if i enjoyed the complexity, but i do not. Maybe in a few yrs after more beers i would, right now its juts too off the wall. What i do know is that this is one of the most flavorful beer i have ever tried. its insane. I want to try a younger beer for comparison. This is one COMPLEX brew

M: too syrupy for me, maybe im just not used to a 9 yr old beer. i have to admit it was different.

D: overall i cant drink this beer easily. I 100% understand it, and maybe its just my flavor choice that hurts it. There are some beers i dont feel bad bashing, this reminds me of when i review scotch, sometimes its a great scotch and ppl just cant handle it...this may be that beer for me. I'll try a younger version and maybe update this review, or do an entirely new one. If you like complex beers, try this one out. It will knock your socks off!!!!

Redwood21, May 05, 2007
Photo of tjthresh
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%

Brown when sitting on the table, but a nice orange color when held to light. Very little head formed. Alcohol vapor singed my nose hair on the first whiff. Very complex mix of aromas. Cherry, wine notes, chocolate, caramel, and some leather notes. Loads of chocolate caramel raisin flavor, with some cherry and fig. Wonderful. Silky smooth and lush across the palate. Like this caramel sauce. This was really an unreal experience.

tjthresh, Apr 18, 2007
Photo of MrBendo
3.8/5  rDev -10.6%

2000 vintage. Clear red/copper color with a large head. Little retention. Fair lacing. Dark fruit, salty balsamic vinegar and attic-stored book aroma. Taste bring in a cloying sweetness, with brown sugar, raisins, toffee and rum. Alcohol is well hidden. Harshly sweet and moderately sour flavor.
A complex beer that you wouldn't want every day.

MrBendo, Apr 17, 2007
Photo of udubdawg
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%

275 ml bottle of the 2001 vintage. Man I need to stop collecting and start drinking more of these!

Pours with quite a bit of sediment that settles out, leaving a hazed carmelly brown color. Decent light tan head for the age, but little retention and nonexistent lace.

Smells terrific. In a word: Rich. Lots of warming alcohol, but it isn't harsh - more blended in like a fine brandy. Carmelized sugar sweetness, and dark fruit.

Very sweet, and again rich with a thick molasses and caramel-rich malt profile. Tons of raisin, and some plum and fig. More warming alcohol in the swallow, and pretty much all over by mid-glass.

Sticky sweet full-bodied mouthfeel. I imagine the sweet residue in the mouth is a big reason why some don't care for this. Not a lot of carbonation left in this one.

Drinkability is good - way better than something this strong and sticky sweet would usually be. Strong, warming, complex - I have no trouble finishing one, and on certain sipping evenings, two. Not something I want that often though.

udubdawg, Apr 09, 2007
Photo of kirok1999
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%

1998 vintage pours a clear light coppery brown. No head, just little bubbles resting on the top. The smell is super sweet, all apples, raisins, plums. The taste is much more than the smell. It is almost all apples, almost like a cider, very sweet and delicious.
There is a dark, almost chocolate/coffee presence here too, very slight but noticable. The mouthfeel is silky smooth. This is easy to drink but so sweet I would only want one. Very nice English Barleywine.

kirok1999, Apr 08, 2007
Photo of allengarvin
4.15/5  rDev -2.4%

2004 bottle, served into a wide-mouthed chalice. It pours a muddy brown color with only a small thin head atop it. Aroma is richly syruply, very malty-sweet. Taste, likewise, is quite sweet, with rich caramel flavors, a little dark chocolate bitterness, and fruitiness reminiscent of cooked cherries. Low on carbonation but big in body and mouthfeel.

A bit on the verge of being too sweet for me, but it makes a great late-night digestif.

allengarvin, Apr 04, 2007
Photo of Georgiabeer
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

2000 vintage. Wonderful dark amber with a thin head. Smell is heavy with malt and a touch of soy. Overripe fruit and a whiff of earming alcohol. The flavor is rich with sugars and warming alcohol and rich malt. No hint of soy in the flavor,just big brandyish fruit flavors and honeyed malt. Utterly delicious and meant for a snifter after dinner. Very rich and creamy mouthfeel, but not sticky at all- floats on the palate. Dry and drinkable by this point, but big and rich as well.

Georgiabeer, Mar 10, 2007
Photo of bigone4
4.38/5  rDev +3.1%

2004 vintage offered up from a friend. This is a great tasting Barley wine. Very different in its flavor compared to most I have had. Many do not have the same protruding sweetness. Poured a amber brownish hue with a thin off-white head. Subtle lace not much left behind in the glass. Smells of sweetness and malt. Almost like a grade A amber maple syrup. Tastes like maple butter. Smooth, sweet and creamy in the mouth. It really did remind me of maple sugar candy. Very easy to drink and it certainly packed a punch. This is a great barley wine that stands up to aging extremely well. I was quite glad to be given a chance to sample such a delectable treat. Thanks Steve!

bigone4, Mar 08, 2007
Photo of EPseja
3.83/5  rDev -9.9%

Served from a 12oz bottle at cellar temperature in a Duvel tulip. Vintage 2002... aging for 5 years.

A - Ruby amber with some sediment cloudiness. Tight knit, meringue head that isn't very large, but has decent staying power. No lacing, and nothing on top once the head subsides.

S - Immediately while pouring (nose about a foot away), I got notes of aged Scotch Whisky and hints of fresh baked cinnamon raisin bread. Getting right in the glass, I find that the raisins are soaked in spiced rum... pralines and figs. Very sweet.

T - Immensely sweet to the point of being on the verge of overbearing. Fresh baked fruitcake and sherry. Caramel candy. Mellows out a bit towards the back, but the alcohol is noticeable, although not biting. Nothing much in the way of hops. The finish is a tad cloying but the aftertaste is pleasant.

M - Slight foam, slight tingle. Very syrupy. Heavy. Smooth swallow.

D - As with most J.W. Lees ales I've had, this one follows suit in it's overwhelming sweetness. Sure it's nice for the first few sips, but over the course of a whole beer, it becomes a bit much. Would like to have seen some more (or any) real hop profile shining through. Good, but not great.

EPseja, Mar 07, 2007
Photo of mdagnew
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%

275 ml bottle bought from Edwin Tuckers online.... 2001 Vintage...

Poured a deep murky russet brown into a brandy snifter.. creamy brown head poured very fizzy and disappears pretty much instantly... no carbonation or lacing...

Aroma - Rich deep alcohol soaked fruits (figs, prunes, black cherries, oranges, raisins, plums), quite harsh alcohol esters mark this one down slightly, strong yeastiness, bready, toffee / treacle, deep Christmas pudding spices, creamy, fresh vanilla seeds, faint anise, marsala / sherry notes, leathery, some light oakiness, faint smokey notes, light cloves, muscavado sugar, some mustiness...

Taste – Rich sticky treacle sweetness, rich fruits (concentrated figs, prunes, date, some raisins also), some light smokiness comes through after the sweetness, strong toasted bready maltiness, malt loaf / Christmas pudding, definite marsala and madera wine notes, some vanilla, milky / creamy hints, light pepperiness, some light medicinal notes, sugar syrup, woody, alcohol nowhere near as noticeable as the aroma would indicate... absolutely exquisite !!!

Feel - Rich, smooth and syrupy... full bodied...Drinkability is pretty decent even for a beer of 11.5% although it might become too sweet after more than bottle...

Overall - A phenomenal beer... every bit as good as i had hoped... Highly recommended.

mdagnew, Mar 05, 2007
Photo of guitarmage
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%

Appearance: 2005, vibrant orange when held up to the light, cloudy with a slight chill haze, the head wouldn't come out here, but a little lacing leaves a ring around the glass.

Smell: A little horse blanket, then ripe fruit overwhelm, plum, caramel, all kinds of sweetness. I smell more caramel.

Taste: I just had Skullsplitter, and this beer is like that except on steroids, big time. Let's see, caramel, caramel, a single malt scotch alcohol, the beer warms the face, and leaves a cake like finish on the palate, like you just had a bite of peanut butter pie. There's also a light spiciness, peppery, in there.

Mouthfeel: Very thick bodied and syrupy, ultra light carbonation, creamy, like a brandy, easy to sip on.

Drinkability: Well I could drink this until I got hammered, which wouldn't be too long at 11.5. It's very tasty, my first English Barleywine i believe. Very sweet, this would be great to match or contrast with a meal.

guitarmage, Feb 27, 2007
Photo of stereosforgeeks
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%

2001 Vintage enjoyed on 2/19/2007

Appearance: A nice dark brown color. Very little head was present on pouring. What little there was soon disappeared. There is quite a bit of sediment and yeast present in the glass.

Smell: This is one of the most complex aromas I have ever smelled. It's actually hard to pick out all the smells here as there is so much going on. First and foremost there is the strong smell of caramel malts. Along for the ride is some honey, vanilla, raisins, grapes, spices, plums, black currants. At 11% the alcohol notes are present as well.

Taste: The smells listed above become well mixed across your palate. There are some wood notes and brown sugar / molasses tastes that become present as well. As you drink there is some nice alcohol warming but it is never overpowering. This is a wonderful tasting beer.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is very syrupy with almost no carbonation. The syrupy consistency is a bit too much for me to drink more than one of these.

Drinkability: Count me more than impressed. The alcohol notes are present but very subdues to the incredible complexity of this beer. I am glad I have another of these to cellar and share with someone who will appreciate it as much as me!

stereosforgeeks, Feb 19, 2007
Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%

Appearance - pours a muddy, murky brown, nearly the same color as the beer bottle. Some decade-old carbonation is still kicking. It manages little more than a scant swirling cover and ring, but for ten years old I'm impressed it's got any action at all.

Aroma - a chocolate and fruity, earthy (musty?) kind of aroma. Settling a bit, fig and raisin slowly come to the fore, almost a grape-like mix with the cocoa. A restrained but detectable vapory alcohol in there, too.

Taste - I'm stuck on where to start. What a full range of flavor all at once! Molasses and brown sugar are the easiest to pull out. Raisiny, with some roasted nuttiness trying to get through but the stage is just too big. Cherries hit about mid-palate with a light bite to them, undoing the sweetness a bit. As the flavor moves to the back, some hops work alongside the cherry flavor to bring a nice balance to the beer. A drying effect with alcohol warming, it takes on a cough syrup effect. The finish shows off the cocoa, the fruit, the hops, and the abv in rare fashion.

Mouthfeel - heavy and viscous, a low key carbonation tickles the tongue while letting the flavor abound.

Drinkability - a fine selection for Valentine '07's nightcap. My wife chose a Beaujolais Noveau tonight, I picked a ten -year old ale. If opposites attract, that's proof we were made for each other. Cheers to you, sweetie on this, our 13th V-Day as a team.

brewdlyhooked13, Feb 15, 2007
Photo of IntriqKen
4.83/5  rDev +13.6%

2002 Vintage reviewed Valentine's Day, 2007
Pours a softly cloudy amber with a full finger white head that melts slowly to very sticky mapping and head covering lace.
Aromas are brown sugar, figs, and a little alcohol.
Taste is sweet dark fruits...lots of sweet dark fruits...raisins, plums, prunes, figs...lots of sugar in here. No noticable hops but finish is not cloying...there is no real sticky residue. Just the memory and hint of the sweet dark fruits that makes me want another sip.
Like a really great dark cake or rich ice creme, the flavors linger in the mouth, yet you want more and more.

IntriqKen, Feb 15, 2007
Photo of jwc215
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%

275 ml bottle from 2003.

Pours mirky light brown with a small bubbly patch that eventually disappears. Some "floaties" present.

The smell is of strong caramel with vanilla, molasses and alcohol. Some underlying dried fruits are also present.

The taste is very sweet and alcoholic. The flavor is the same as the aroma, except that the caramel dominates, as does the sharp alcohol. Very malty, very sweet, quite boozy.

The body is full, becomes more syrupy as it progresses. Flavors hang on for a long time, as does the heat of the alcohol and the sticky sweetness.

This is a slow-sipper. It's well-made, no doubt, but just too sweet and sharp for me to enjoy as much as I would have liked to.

jwc215, Feb 11, 2007
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,235 ratings.