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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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

831 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 831
Hads: 1,419
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.35%
Wants: 260
Gots: 206 | FT: 15
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
United Kingdom (England) | website

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 (22) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Reviews: 831 | Hads: 1,419
Photo of bnes09
3.32/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light caramel color. Mostly opaque. Weak head. No retention or lacing.

Sweet, dark fruit aroma.

Deep malt flavor, figs and dates mainly. Hint of roasted almonds. Super sweet character overall. No hops to be found.

Dense, syrupy texture. Weak carbonation.

Decent flavor. Just way too sweet for me.

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Photo of HopEnthusiast
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Marked 2004. Decanted from the bottle into a snifter. Pours a quite dark amber color with zero head as expected. Smells of huge malts, cherries, toffee, and alcohol. I've had very few barleywines, so this aroma is quite unique and interesting. The taste is sweet, with raisins, cherries, toffee, and booze all making an appearance. This is so sweet I should have definitely waited to try it later in the day, like after dinner, as opposed to 2 pm. Mouthfeel is quite thick. Drinkability is extremely low as it would take me forever to even finish one of these. I'm conflicted with this beer. It's obviously an excellent beer, but it's so far out of any style I enjoy, that it's hard for me to get too into it.

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Photo of byrd
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
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...

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Photo of hombrepalo
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Tried many vintages a few up to 15 years aged. Nice mahogany color with beige head. Smells of toffee and malts. Taste is silky toffee and caramel. Finish thin and sweet.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2007 - why let it age.

Beer poured into a snifter. Beer is dark yellow to brown and forms no head. Leaves very little lacing on the glass and carbonation is low. Beer is really hazy. I should have checked for sediment.

Sweet sweet caramel. This beer is really sweet smelling. Raisins and plums. Smells like a homebrew I made a while ago.

Beer is sweet with kind of an odd earthy flavor to it. I'm not really feeling this beer. Caramel note with some forward sweetness and no real bitterness. Beer finishes slightly dry. Drinkability not good. I don't think I'll be able to finish the whole thing. Maybe the aged versions are better or with another 10 years on it it will improve. Right now, not my favorite.

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Photo of dgallina
3.27/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Vintage 2003. Sampled 1/2005.

Pours a translucent copper with an insignificant head and light lacing. Smells quite strong; sweet and port-like with loads of oak, a touch of vanilla, and lots of spicy alcohol. Flavors begin somewhat sour and acidic, gradually developing very sweet sherry tones and finishing with alcohol spice and huge alcohol warming. Body is quite rich (nearly syrupy really) and somewhat oily. Surprisingly well carbonated for a barley wine, however.

An interesting, if very uneven brew in my opinion. The smell is enticing, but the sweet / sour dichotomy and the cloying syrupy flavor and body make it somewhat difficult to finish. I'll try the other years and styles, but I won't be in a rush to revisit this one.

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Photo of DIM
3.27/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

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.

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Photo of Indybeer
3.23/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Part of Vintage beer Tasting
Vintage 1998 & 1999. Both poured a deep dark amber, with a moderate head that didn't stick around very long, and left no lacing on the glass. Aroma is caramel malt and alcohol. Taste is thick, chewy, and very sweet. After a couple of minutes, I got really tired of it. I gave it a low drinkability score because it was like drinking a glass of syrup, laced with alcohol.

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Photo of dleigh
3.23/5  rDev -24%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dirty brown red-ish tea color. Fizzy carbonation that quite quickly fades to nothing. Quite nice smell--lots of toffee. Tastes sweet but with an kind of off grassiness to it. Maybe it's me, but I don't love it. Swing and a miss.

This is like a steak that's been aged too long--I want to like it, and I feel like I should like it, but maybe the flavor is just too "challenging" for me. But, on the premise that a beer is supposed to be enjoyable rather than challenging, I am forced to give the taste a (relatively) low rating.

Bottle of the 2012.

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Photo of Jonada
3.22/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2011 vintage. 275 ml bottle poured into a snifter

Appearance: Pours amber in color with less than a finger of an off white head that settles to a thin ring. Body is lightly hazy with moderate visible carbonation.

Smell: Lost of dark fruit. Raisin, fig, toffee, mild booze and hint of vanilla.

Taste: Syrupy sweetness, tobacco, slight smokiness, earth, burnt sugar. There' some mild dark fruit character, but it's mostly just a generic sweetness with some odd earthy character that doesn't really compliment it well.

Mouthfeel: Fuller end of medium with a slightly syrupy mouthfeel and medium fine carbonation. Sweet finish is balances slightly with some light boozy heat.

Overall: Not a fan of this one. There's some odd, unexpected flavors that don't mesh well. Will skip this one in the future.

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Photo of shapudding
3.18/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Vintage 1988
appear 2.5, aroma 4, mouth 3.5, drink 3
no head, just stillness and some medium bubbles rising on the sides. Huge chunks of brown/grey yeast floating and a lot of white pepper looking ones on the sides that almost look like carbonation. (I did a slow pour too) This stuff looks like it is a jello mold. Musty and cellared scents, cider, sharp and pungent, aged provalone. Smooth with not much carbonation feel, just a bit. Tastes of a barley wine. Hoppy bite, bit of nice heat. Cream sherry, vanilla beans, good port, and maraschino cherries. Drank it slow, very good flavor, but almost scary when you look at it. My partner in crime was not too interested in drinking his at all, a bit turned off by the appearance. By the time I finished my half the bottle, there was almost a teaspoon of sediment in the bottom of the glass.
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Vintage 1997
apear 4, aroma 2.5, mouth 3.5, drink 2.5
Dated with an end date of Nov. 2002, and a “1" before the 2L.... Hmmmm, did not see the end date before.... whoops! Bottle brown and almost a twinge of ruby seen when held to a light. No head, just a ring and some dust. Thick and cloyingly heavy scented of maraschino cherries, port, cream sherry. The creamy carbonation is just barely there. Port and cream sherry flavors, dark hoppiness, burnt toast at the back of the tongue. A lot of sweetness left in your mouth.
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Vintage 2000
appear 3.5, aroma 3, mouth 4, taste 3, drink 2.5
I let this sit out for few hours to warm up. A lot of sediment through the deep woodsy brown and reddish tinged brew, bit unclear, faint small bubbles rising up to a ring and dusting of faint warm khaki. Aroma of deep dark cherry and port, heavy and almost syrup sweet, karo, almost molasses more than a bit cloying. Tight carbonation, just a bit foamy, medium body. Thick, dark, caramel sweetness. The overwhelming sweetness is in the flavor, along with hoppiness, burnt toast, port wine and honey. A lot of very intense flavors. Definitely a sipper.

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Photo of TasteTester
3.18/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Bottle from 2000. I had really high hopes for this beer, my first real vintage experience, but I was rather let down. It tasted like sour grapes and malt, almost wine-like. Had the grape flavor been more subtle, I may have enjoyed it more. I also got a bad headache from drinking this beer, which kept me from trying anything else this evening.

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Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.13/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2001 Vintage.

Tan head sits atop a cloudy, coppery amber beer. Plenty of suspended particulate matter.
Aroma is vinous and shows too much alcohol. Tad earthy. Rich, sweet malt.

Taste shows a rich, very sweet malt backbone. Vinous and sour. Syrupy sweetness lingers on the palate for some time after the finish.

Full body. Somewhat creamy and sticky mouthfeel.

This is one of those beers I really liked certain characteristics, but really disliked others. Not sure what to make of the beer as a whole, but I won't be in a hurry to give it another try. Big thanks to Blatzman for the bottle!

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Photo of fscottkey
3.12/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Harvest Ale Limited Edition Brewed in 2010. Poured into a tulip glass.

A: [3.25] Dark mahogany brown color. Like rich leather color. Forms a minor head that is gone after pouring. The bottle lists the ABV at 11.5%. There was some coding on the cap - but I couldn't determine a date.

S: [3.00] I smell a smokey essence. It also smells like a red wine scent.

T: [3.00] Uck... holy... ugh (exact words after the first sip). Okay. Gotta try a few more. Subsequent sips are much improved. Trying to isolate flavors. Vanilla, tannins, maple syrup, brown sugar. Overall it is very sweet.

M: [3.50] It is smooth on the palete. Low carbonation. Lingering sweetness on the tongue.

O: [3.25] This is the most unique beer I think I have reviewed. My initial impression was a drain pour. But it grew on me. The flavor profile is like nothing in my experience. I would not get it again. But It was worth drinking.

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Photo of kingcrowing
3.1/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

275ml bottle, 199 vintage poured into a tulip.

Pours a very ruddy/cloudy red with a very thin off white head, almost none, but for an 11 year old bottle it's ok. Nose is still very boozy, theres some sweet maltiness as well.

Taste is not quite as boozy as I thought, it's full and sweet with a strong malt backbone. Really can't get any hops here at all. Son't seem to be any off flavors but it's a bit cloying on the finish.

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Photo of alcstradamus
3.1/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

1999 vintage

A--Pours a deep mahogany/brown with about a finger of head using a fairly hard pour into a pint glass. The head recedes quickly and leaves no lacing

S--I could smell this one as I poured it. Very fruity, dark fruits mostly. Raisins, figs, bourbon soaked cherries, this is a powerful liquid.

T--Lots of dark fruits on the palate, banana bread-like malts, light maple syrup flavor, wood. This is very complex but EXTREMELY sweet, far more so than any other English Barleywine I've had. Notes of lip gloss and acetone.

M--Medium bodied yet has a weird thickness to the consistency like pureed raisins.

D--This is a slow sipper for sure. I have also had a 2007 vintage which was an unbearably sweet drain pour. Overall this beer is just not my cup of tea. I like the style, but something isn't working here.

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Photo of nihiloexnihil
3.07/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle 2008 vintage poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: brilliant golden/deep amber, with a significant amount of stirred up yeast sediment even after a careful pour. Minimal head. The yeast clumps are a bit distracting.

Smell: apples. I'm sort of blown away by the almost cider-like scent, with a light yeasty component.

Taste: Hm. Initially I'm hit with cinnamon, apple- but not fresh apples, almost like what I imagine rotten apples taste like, a sweet necrotic taste- which then transforms to an almost fungal, mushroom-like non-fruit sensation which is hard to place. Someone mentioned "vegetal" which I think is accurate. A bit unexpected.

Mouthfeel- good carbonation but feels much like a cider.

Overall- I'm honestly not sure what to say about this beer. I'm a fan of barleywines but this seemed more like a strong, sweet cider on the initial attack with an unusual, fibrous, rotten-apple, yeasty finish that didn't quite jive. Just not for me, I guess.

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Photo of beerwolf77
3.05/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to sweemzander fro sharing this one with me. Another top 100 I've been meaning to get to.

2006 Vintage

A: Golden amber, no head no lace. Pretty much where I expected a 5 year old barley wine to be.

S: Tons of caramel, toffee, faded hops, buttery bread, dark fruit, brown sugar. Quite complex and interesting.

T: This is where things start to fall short for me. The flavors are simply not there from the nose. The buttered bread seems to be the biggest flavor I can pick out. Age seems to have been hard on this one. Maybe it's just at an awkward phase.

M: Medium to light body. Seems rather thin and lifeless.

D: I don't have much experience with English barley wines so I hope this isn't what they turn into when aged. Glad I was able to sample this one.

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Photo of Marko
3.04/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

For all the hype this seems like it should be a great beer, and I think it possibly is, but there was something off about mine.

I purchased the 2007 vintage and upon pouring it I noticed all sorts of particles in it. I'm guessing it was just the yeast, and just not a very flocculent strain of it, as I don't see any remaining in the bottle. From some of the other reviews it seems like this may be normal, but still it was a little off-putting.

The bigger issue was the flavor. There was a distinct "dirty snow" taste masking the raisiny, nutty, malty sweetness that you would expect. I saw another reviewer here saying that their 2010 version tasted like an ashtray. I would agree, definite ashtray flavor in mine. I'm guessing most of the bottles aren't like this, but it seems like there must be something causing this every so often. Maybe bad oxidation?

Besides that, it smells great, raisins and nuts. When the particles settle, it has a great clear copper/brown color. Behind the ashtray flavor there's definitely a warm, malty, nutty and honey sweetness.

If not for the dirt/ashtray taste, it would have lived up to its hype... who knows, maybe one of the brewers ashed their cigar in my beer.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
2.99/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

poured into tulip glass.

Vintage 2008.

Appearance: reddish light brown bodied beer with large floaties. a cap of white head with large bubbles that drops to a ring.

Smell: Malty and fruity. Rubbing alcohol is strong and it almost burns the nostrils with a deep breath.

Taste: Sweet honey mixes with smokey malts. Fairely fruity also. Finishes with a clovingly sweet taste of more honey almost mead like. As a matter of fact, this beer almost tastes like a smokey mead.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with low carbonation. Booze is farily mellow compared to what the nose leads you to think.

Overall: Not a huge fan of this one. Its just too sweet for me to enjoy and i love malt forward beers just as much as anyone.

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Photo of pwoods
2.95/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

'98 vintage poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a deep murky brown. 1 finger of tannish head struggles to form and falls fast. Very little lacing.

S: Dark fruits and rummy phenols. A bit of oak/vanilla and a super sweet maple syrup.

T/M: Very vinous, which I personally don't like too much. Some dark fruits and a sweet maple syrup. A touch of oak in the back. Body is syrupy and carbonation is very low.

D: I was really looking forward to this but I don't think it's for me. I had trouble finishing it.

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Photo of ChadQuest
2.95/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Vintage 1999.
Pretty hazy sunburst orange color with a lasting head.
Aroma is spices such as nutmeg and pumpkin, caramel and apricots. the Apricot aroma is really strong the more i nose into this. The flavors are on the sweet fruit side with some alcohol showing lightly, very smooth and full bodied and syrupy, but it's really too much sweetness for me, a bit outside the balanced range. A good beer that someone with a sweet tooth would enjoy, as it is a decent beer.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
2.94/5  rDev -30.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

11.2 oz bottle split and poured into a Stone RIS tulip. 11.5% ABV, 2006 vintage but not other date.

Thanks to Sweemzander for sharing this bottle with me.

A - Absolutely hazed over with lots of floating particles despite the slow, careful pour. Muddy brown/orange with no head what-so-ever. A ring of loose bubbles around the outside is the only indicator of carbonation.

S - This Harvest Ale has a big, boozy nose that I think I just got drunk from smelling. Deep caramel malt nose with lots of toffee and toast. Minimal hop involvement here with tons of low fruity alcohol notes. It's largely a boozy alcohol aroma.

T - It starts with a big toasted and caramel malt flavor with a low fruity alcohol but big boozy punch. The first part is good but moves to a disgusting plastic and grassy finish. After a few sips I either became used to that gross part (which I'd guess) or it went away. Still, it's off-putting to me.

M - Medium-bodied and round with a very sweet flavor and low carbonation. The finish lingers for a while and doesn't leave tasting very good at all.

D - Not a fan. The back end of the flavor has a gross taste I really don't care for. Not something I want to have again. An example of a beer probably not worth aging past a few years. Or it needs to age even longer.

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Photo of kdahnke123
2.92/5  rDev -31.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2012 Vintage Poured into a snifter at room temperature
A - A thin amber pour with minimal carbonation and no lacing.
S - Smells acidic, fruity with a small amount of malt and minimal hops.
T - Odd tasting with acidic notes and an unpleasant finish.
M - Minimall mouth coating with no carbonation.
O - Not recommended.

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Photo of vandemonian
2.9/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 2006 is a sweet barleywine with some odd flavours. In particular, I don't like the Vegemite flavour resulting from yeast autolysis.

A: Red brown colour and almost no head. I guess that's to be expected after sitting in the bottle for 6 years. 3.5

S: Sweet toffee and alcohol. Some definite Vegemite aroma from the yeast autolysis. 3.5

T: Sweet malt and umami from yeast autolysis. Bleh. I don't like the flavour at all. Very grainy. 2.5

M: Flat. 2.5

O: 3

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 831 ratings.