J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
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Ratings: 1,228 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
5/5 rDev +17.6%
I've had the privilege of having the 1999 and 2006 versions of the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, a beer recommended highly by a close friend of mine, that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I didn't really know what to expect, but as soon as I cracked the cap off of the bottle, I was overcome by the sweet aroma of fermented apples. Then I partook and was completely blown away. Halfway through the bottle, I turned to my friend and told him with all seriousness that the J.W, Lees Vintage Harvest Ale was the best beer I have ever tasted, and this is coming from someone who has indulged in the pleasures of the Westvleteren 12. If this isn't enough reason to pick this beauty up next time you visit your local bottleshop, I'll do my best to describe its components:
My original thought when drinking the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale was it tastes like a more realized (and better carbonated) Lost Abbey Angel Share. This is primarily due to its pervasive caramel taste, and its syrupy consistency.
A: reddish, golden brown.
S: sweet, fermented fruit, namely apples. spices.
T: perfect balance of caramel, honey, dark fruits, apples, a hint of cinnamon, very much a barleywine.
M: HUGE presence, due to the viscous, syrupy honey nature of the beer.
D: it's delicious, sweet, well-balanced, and complex, but it'd be difficult to drink more than one of these in one sitting.
I recommend this beer highly, and predict that it will soon rapidly climb to at least the top 20 of the Best of BA, so if you're looking for a delicious beer to meet your every expectation, look no further beer enthusiasts, the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale has arrived!
07-21-2009 04:08:33 | More by porterja
5/5 rDev +17.6%
Vintage 2007 poured into a Teku glass.
A- amazing color on this brew. Very uncharacteristic of the style, but definitely a beautiful straw colored hue with a tight cream colored head that stays for quite a while after pouring. It almost looks as if it was nitrogen infused. Minimal lacing present but some does stick to the glass and due to the active yeast in the bottle it has some fizziness after pouring, much like a sparkling wine/cider. Some sediment present, so be careful when pouring vintages 5 years and beyond.
S- smells of grain, malt, cane sugar, and bread. Has a nice bouquet of malty tones, some yeast, and straw. Almost detect a funkiness like brettanomyces, but not quite.
T- flavors of molasses, caramel, barley, and very biscuity. Refreshing carbonation, not too overbearing. Very smooth on the palate. No boozy alcohol aftertaste at all, which is quite impressive for an 11.5% abv beer. Quite possibly one of the best beers I've had the pleasure of consuming.
M- very smooth on the tongue. Very light, refreshing carbonation that drinks through the head and does not leave any slickness on the tongue or unpleasant feeling in the mouth. Very little to no burn from the high abv, which is yet again impressive.
O- overall, a very well rounded brew with an awesome flavor, a warming abv, but none of the unpleasant after effects of many other brews. Definitely worth aging for years to come! I have two...one I will crack open in another 5 years or so. Enjoy!
01-13-2014 07:28:46 | More by Budinetz
5/5 rDev +17.6%
11.2 oz bottle (1999 vintage) poured into a 25 oz snifter on November 23, 2010 at room temperature.
Opened with a hiss! Pours clear and deep ruby-garnet, with a big bubbly light tan head with good head retention and some lacing. Even after 11 years in the bottle, it looks just fine. That's something considering many (other) beers from 2005 or later have the been reported to have the most gross looking sediment at this point. I have had this beer and its other versions before and have seen some floating chunks but this particular bottle had none. Regardless, looks wise it's a 5/5.
The aroma of this beer is like none other in terms of strength. The most prominent notes are of figs, dates and raisins, and of dark caramel, toffee and brown sugar, with some alcohol in the background. This is a familiar aroma, or at least the notes are if not their exact combination, but it is the strength of this intense malty and dried, dark fruity aroma that makes this ale exceptional! The dark sweetness practically jumps out of the glass and keeps inviting to take a sip.
The taste has notes identical to smell, just stronger. Although there were no hops whatsoever in the aroma, there's a nice cleansing bitterness that comes from hops but feels similar to the slight bitterness and slight astringency of dates and figs. Starts quite sweet followed by the said bitterness and some vinous character in the middle and finishes exceptionally clean for its sweetness. The finish is long with an excellent dried fruit flavor. Overall very well rounded and complex. The body is medium with low carbonation and excellent drinkability! This ale offers a great flavor experience and its taste meets and exceeds the expectations set by aroma.
One of my favorites and one of the best I ever had, this ale was an eye opener for me that showed me the level of complexity and deliciousness a malt forward beer could achieve without losing its balance.
11-25-2010 23:25:14 | More by tewaris
5/5 rDev +17.6%
This is the "beer" that both inspired my user name and converted me into the world of craft beer. Here's my story if anyone cares to read. Time to spread the Karma around.
Back in May 2009 an ignorant 33 year old man (ME) thought craft beer was buying Guinness, Harp & Heineken. His friend "the Enlightened One" told him of a Craft Beer Fest. Fortunately, the ignorant one was smart enough to purchase a ticket and despite his ignorance was allowed entry through the door.
During the week before, the ignorant one started to read Beer Advocate and learned this event would have a firkin of a 12 year old JW Lees (1999). The ignorance permeated my brain: Beer that is 12 years old would be bad. Only when I started to read the reviews of BA here did I start to understand my ignorance.
On the day of 10 tasting tickets were provided to sample and luckily for me the "Enlightened One" guided me and I went to the firkin first. At this time the epiphany happened. I had 3 samples from the Firkin and my eyes started to open to the amazing world of craft beer.
This beer was perfect in every way. From the hammering of the wooden firkin to the cask pour to the smell of dark fruits/caramelized sugars to the syrupy full mouthfeel without any unnecessary head or carbonation. My words can't even begin to describe the depth of my experience. Heck I'm not a writer and only starting to learn how to be a BeerAdvocate.
Lastly, I can't even begin to thank JW Lees enough. Maybe 1 person will read this or the other reviews here and pick up a bottle of this. This beer is special! At $9.99 bottle its bargain priced. If ever in my life a firkin comes near Albany, NY again I'll be there. Cheers to all.
04-11-2012 02:27:46 | More by Firkin-Bunghole
4.98/5 rDev +17.2%
On tap (actually a bottle, but I had to review this again) at Amsterdam Cafe, SF. A beautiful pour into a goblet, with a barely discernible white head. The delicate lacing is wiped clean from the glass by the high abv. The aroma is all sweetness, with a shag carpet of roasty malt.
The most feel is what's most immediately remarkable in the mouth. A slippery, syrupy viscosity hugs the tongue like that of an ice wine. Creamy, God! And a light fizzy carbonation.
The full body is a precursor to the port wine sweetness. Mild molasses. Cotton candy. Ripe Fuji apple. Toffee. Surprisingly floral hop flavor keeps the package from sickening territory. Expanded by the baked-bread toastiness.
I haven't enjoyed a sweetness like this since the last Sauterne I had with a Danish blue cheese and white grapes.
11-03-2012 03:21:59 | More by martyl1000
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,228 ratings.