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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.

821 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 821
Hads: 1,387
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 18.12%
Wants: 253
Gots: 200 | FT: 15
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
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: 821 | Hads: 1,387
Photo of Greasy
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage. 275 ml poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a very pretty honey color that is unlike most barleywine,. Lighter than I expected.

S: No booze for an 11.5% beer. Nutty.

T. Delicious. Not many other words to describe. Maybe some toffee. Dark fruits. Malty.

M: Pretty viscous. Thick, tongue coating. Nice.

O: If you find this in stores, do not let the smaller size deter you. Great things come in small packages. This is 9.3 ounces of awesome.

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Photo of matt_duthie
4.25/5  rDev 0%

2008 vintage. Noticed sediment as pouring, then afterwords saw the most concentrated yeast-beer-mix I've ever seen(eventually settled out for the most part). Smells insanely sweet of toffee and fruit. I've not had an English barleywine where the dessert-cake aspect was so intense. Massive cocoa and fruitcake and oh so much more accompany the consistent ring of lacing that follows the 9.25 oz. or whatever to the bottom of the glass. Alcohol hardly noticeable, a fine beer completely different than anything I've ever had. The one I'd recommend to illustrate the difference between an English and American take on what a barleywine ale is...

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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 Kuaff
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Harvest Ale 2012, cellar temperature in a snifter.

This barley wine has a modest one-finger white head of foam which subsides unhurriedly. The color is a marvelous brownish, brackish, deep amber orange that looks clear and gem-like, though it isn't totally translucent.

The aroma is a superb one, filled with vanilla, caramel, toffee, ripe red apples, butterscotch, raisins, cider, and lemon zest. There may be a subtle earthy, leathury oak note too. Truly a pleasure to take in.

I taste sweet fruits at first; the sweet, juicy apple mixes with dark red cherries and, surprisingly, a grape flavor that bursts more in the middle, right before the finish sets in, which is something quite special: caramel, smoky leather, and earth abound, lingering prominently with some wonderful toasted nuttiness. And all the while those sweet fruits remain light in the background.

The feel is full, substantial, and a bit sticky.

A brilliant British barley wine with distinctive fruity and nutty traits.

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Photo of FLima
4.44/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2006, finally! I could not wait more, but anyway it should be excellent by now. Let's see if it holds true against my expectations...
Brown ochre color with an almost inexistent head, so far no sediments. Almost showing some lacrima effect falling down the glass.
Wonderful aroma of Port wine, lots of high grade cocoa chocolate, licorice, molasses, oak, dry fruits, a hint of cinnamon and plums. I could mistake this by a chocolate panettone. I cannot get tire of sniffing this.
Surprisingly, flavor doesn’t entirely follow nose. Some new slightly smoked notes of charred wood or even tobacco. Also, molasses, very subtle earthy English hops, Port Wine, walnut, coconut, figs, cinnamon, prunes, apple juice, pears, licorice and maple syrup. Maybe some pleasant musty. Dry and sticky aftertaste with residual notes that mutates a bit.
Liquorish body with a very low carbonation, but it is still there. Alcohol of 11.5% abv is much better hidden than a bottle of wine given its malty body.
Extraordinaire beer, a sweet malty sipper with great complexity. Bold but still mellow. Highly recommended if you are into Barley Wines. This was in perfect condition after roughly eight years, I can’t wait trying one much younger and another one older.

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Photo of SnifterLifter
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2000 Vintage. 275 ml bottle poured into snifter, very excited to try this one.

Pours dark reddish brown, no murkiness, very little sediment. Leaves lacing and has a very quickly dissipating pinky sized head.

Nose is strongly of sherry, very very slight alcohol presence. I think there would be more to say, but I have a poor sense of smell.

Up front is the butterscotchy sherry flavor, dark fruit, caramel, brown sugar. Possibly a slight tobacco note in there that I didn't expect.

Mouthfeel is not particularly thick, leaves a coating of flavor on your tongue and lips which is pleasant.

This is a wonderful beer. I spent 8.50 on it and I was satisfied. Definitely a sweet sipper for a special occasion. I haven't had this before now but I suspect the age did this beer wonders. Very satisfying.

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Photo of DerelictPI
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2011 vintage.

Look: A beautiful reddish orange color. Almost like a honey color. I poured it straight out and it developed a nice head that went away immediately.

Smell: Sweet, dried fruit.

Taste: Follows the smell. I've been sipping on this 750 ml for about an hour and a half, so it has changed as it has warmed (and as I have warmed). Rich malty sweetness that is in line with dried fruits. The booze is well hidden. This is not a terribly carbonated beer but it does go down easy. I am glad I bought two more bottles to age!

Overall: If you like sweeter barleywines, quads and dopplebocks, do yourself a favor and grab this!

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Photo of morebeergood
2.33/5  rDev -45.2%
look: 2.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.25

Purchased three bottles: 2008, 2007, 2006 a couple years back and have aged them in my proper beer cellar since then. Cracked them all open last night. All three were flat, overly sweet, and metallic tasting. They did not age well at all. I bought them at a decent price, so no big loss. But I expected more since this was a beer that the label says can be laid down for years.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.07/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from Tipples, 11-2012 release. Pours murky reddish orange as all the versions do, with essentially no head at all on top. Beautiful aroma of toffee, figs, pears, plums, sweet caramel. Smells rich and sweet. Flavor is a beautiful nutty toffee fruit flavor. Pecans and caramel galore with an extra sweet fruit character like pears and figs. Really nice. Sweet full mouthfeel with adequate carbonation. A very nice beer.

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Photo of Rollzroyce21
4.15/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

1000th rate/review! Woot wooot!

2010 vintage purchased at Warehouse Liquors in Chicago not long before it was consumed. Do not know aging conditions.

11.2 oz. bottle poured into Lost Abbey teku on 12-Apr-14 (aged for about 4 years; 2nd daughter's first birthday)

Must be noted that I unintentionally poured a lot of sediment into the glass. Had to let the glass sit and let it settle and took quite a bit of time, about an hour, in order to clear up the upper half of the glass. So getting some of the sediment into the aroma and flavor was unavoidable. Made it much more bitter than it should, but I was still able to enjoy the toffee and caramel sweetness that wasn't cloying at all and the warm, toasted oak. Notes of dark fruits with hints of coconut. Low to medium level of carbo and mouthfeel was slightly more viscous than other BW's in general.

Overall, a nicely aged barleywine that I'd love to revisit if given the chance. I wanna say a little more age would do nicely.

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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 reebtaerG
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had on draft at Columbia Ale House in a tulip

A-Pour was cloudy orange/brown with LOTS of sediment. Thin head that stayed thought drinking. Decent lacing.

S-Aroma of brown sugar, dark fruit, raisin, caramel.

T-Taste started sweet and transitioned to tart.

M-Mouthfeel was buttery/oily and full with a lively subtle carbonation.

O-Overall a great barleywine a must get.

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Photo of CanuckRover
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a murky brown. It's not pretty, but it's on style, so can't be too hard on it. Thin film, showing some carbonation, which is promising.

Sweet nose. Aroma of apple pie, honey.

As expected from the nose. Calvados flavours, dates, and just a bit of spice, cinnamon-like. Slightly woody. Alcohol is nowhere to be seen, just a tingle in the finish.

A classic for a reason.

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Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.6/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage

Appearance - A golden brown color with sediment floating near the bottom of the glass. The sediment almost looks like fresh wheat.

Smell - The sweetness in the aroma is intense. Laying a backbone to the sweetness are some wood based notes.

Taste - This is a near perfect English barleywine. The first impression I have is, "this is like drinking caramel." The sweetness is amazing, but it is paired with oak, sweet fruits, and hints of malts. I wish it was a little thicker to allow the aftertaste to linger a little longer. For an 11%, there is little burn. The sweetness leans toward dry in the finish.

Mouthfeel - I wanted this to be a little thicker so it could last longer.

Overall - I wish this came in bigger bottles. Though if it did come in bigger bottles, the night could end badly for me. Love this stuff.

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Photo of KevBot89
4.44/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 edition

Appearance: opaque copper/brown, large cream head that dissipates rather quickly

Smell: rich malt, woody/spicy hops

Taste: a lot of malt flavor. rich, dark fruits, light earthy tones. finishes with a caramel/biscuit flavor lingers at length afterwards

Mouthfeel: thick, heavy, moderate carbonation.

Overal: the aroma matches the taste for the most part. Picked up more earthy hops on the back of the palate that I couldn't detect with the scent. Nice bittersweet and caramel finish after beginning with tons of malt and dark fruit flavors.

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Photo of KYGunner
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


I love the color in this Barleywine as it has a wine like texture and a cloudy rusty amber hue. Perhaps its the age but the head was virtually non-existent.

The aroma keeps in the barley vein as the barley maltiness is strongest but then a rich dried fruit scent becomes apparent. Date and fig seem more prevalent at the end.

The flavor is strongly malty, earthy and musty with caramel malt, a dry nutty and biscuity flavor. This ends with wine like alcohols and dried prunes.

This is very thick in feel with a bit of alcohol bite but no alcohol warmth.

This is my first try at this Barley wine and am interested in how it evolves from year to year.

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Photo of minterro
4.03/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2010 (approximately 3.5-4 years aged)

As a celebrating for cracking 1,000 beer karma (like I need a reason to drink good beer). Bought this gem just a few days ago at Little's Wine and Liquor store in Denver, CO. They have a great cellaring program and this is the oldest beer I've seen them put on the shelves. Poured into a snifter (after letting it sit and warm a bit). Paired with pretzels to cleanse the palate.

A&S: You can see a ton of unfiltered specks floating around the bottle (even when undisturbed) before opening the beer. After cracking this beer there is a immediate and powerful rush of sherry-like red wine tones, cherry fruitiness, very intense sweet. The beer is a semi-transparent murky burgundy color. Understandably not really much going on with the head, pours a fizzy off-white and drops to nothing in a few seconds. Globs of sediment settle to the bottom. As it warms you get whiffs of bitterness, but it is mostly overpowered by sweetness.

T&M: Initially similar to the aroma sherry-like, super sweet, some dark fruit raisin tones. Alcohol is present, but well hidden (but I can feel my face getting flush). But then BOOM surprisingly earthy (and not good earthy, it pretty much tastes like dirt), somewhat metallic tones kick in at anywhere from the mid-taste to the initial finish. The most likely corporate of the not so great taste is oxidation (but it is still hard to get over). Not getting a ton of complexities in the taste cause the flavor is cut so abruptly. The very, very finish is becomes very pleasant (still doesn't make up for the initial finish). Low carbonation, high body. Last sip was pretty good, some of the settled parts actually cut the oxidation characteristics.

Overall: I really have no idea what this beer is like fresh, but at this age I wasn't a huge fan (especially for the price). I trust that Little's cellared this beer properly so I don't think that is the issue. I wouldn't buy this beer again at its price (10$ for less than 10oz), but I'm still glad I experienced this old of a brew. To date this is the oldest aged beer I have ever tasted. After submitting (usually only check rating after reviewing) there seems to be a ton of pDev on this beer, probably due to pushing it past it's limits. Maybe this beer is only meant to be set aside for a couple of years and not a half to a whole decade... just my two cents. I guess I also questions J.W. Lees, I know brewing over seas is based more on tradition, but why not try waxing or corking a beer that everyone is so eager to age... again just my two cents. The smell and initial taste are great, the finish is not, which kinda spoils the beer, which is unfortunate cause I can imagine how awesome this beer could be.

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Photo of hopsputin
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 batch - drank January 2014

a: a mixture of golden amber, ruby red, brown, with a hit of crisp bright yellow. no real head - just some bubbles that collect around the side of the glass

s: tons of caramel and toffee here. alcohol. fresh bread. plums and raisins. hint of baking chocolate, fig, brown sugar, molasses. more sweet caramel. the aroma here is rich, and packing a lot into each sniff

t: flavor is just as rich as the aroma. this is a heavy beer, and a sipper. TONS of caramel and toffee malt flavors assault (in a good way) you up front. then maple syrup, brown sugar, figs, raisins, sweet berries. finish has a hint of alcohol

m: heavy, like syrup. almost no carbonation

o: great evening beer, use this as a nightcap to sip on. its rich and packed with a bunch of nice mellow sweet flavors

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Photo of dar482
3.78/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

(Review of a 1999 vintage).

The beer comes in a dark copper color.

The aroma has tons of caramel, brown sugar, toffee sweetness. There's a bit of sweet dark raisin there as well.

The flavor follows with just a rush of caramel and brown sugar. I have never had a beer that is so sweet and caramel forward. It literally tastes like drinking watered down caramel.

In the end, the beer lacked a bit of complexity for me. I really enjoyed the sweetness and it would be a great dessert beer. I just wish there was maybe more carbonation, or drying, or something to separate from simply sweetness. It still surely hits its alcohol though.

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Photo of Budinetz
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

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!

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Photo of pkalix
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

no head whatsoever, in contradiction to others' reviews.... looks like a pear cider but contains a lovely sweet, malty base aroma ....
sweet caramel. brown sugar. raisin. smooth, no abv discernible.
a little thin. English barleywine vs American barleywine? so far the winner is American.... but this is okay. they could have used a 12 oz bottle, though.... and a little overpriced.

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Photo of braugon
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Brewed 2011

A - Caramel hue, not as brown as some barleywines, small white head, stayed around as a thin rim

S - Awesome, sweet barleywine scents of rum, raisin, oak, phenol, caramel, slightly musty

T - Lively, sweet, oak, caramel, raisin, port wine,

M - Medium to full, with a present carbonation

O - Really great, if you like barleywines, you will probably like this, 11.5% abv is always a plus when it's this good.

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Photo of Scotchboy
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap @ Bittercreek Boise ID. 25th Anniversary blend, unsure of vintage.

A: Opaque, dull gold with no visible carbonation and nonexistent head/lacing.

S: Dark fruit, raisin, rum, caramel, apple, spices, and bready, sweet malt.

T: Malty, with faint booze, notes of red wine and rum, spicy and fruity. Plenty of apple, raisin, toffee, brown sugar, wet oak, tobacco, with a warm finish.

MF: Full, sticky body, viscous with low carbonation.

O: Reminiscent of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, without the Belgian yeast; plenty of dark fruit and malt, with an oaky, rummy undertone. Pretty nice sipper overall.

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Photo of RichardMNixon
2/5  rDev -52.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Second one of these I had from the 2011 vintage, and the second was worse than the first.

Looks fine in the glass, light carbonation. Has a pleasant smell of malt I'd expect from a barleywine. The taste starts there, with nice notes of sherry and fig. From there it goes to smokey and leathery notes and finally leaves you with what I imagine licking an ash tray must taste like. Couldn't finish the bottle.

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Photo of Danny1217
4.21/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2010 vintage.

Pours light brown. Very little foam or lacing.
Smells of toffee, caramel, dark fruits, maple, and honey. A touch boozy, but that is expected by the strength.
Tastes of maple, caramel, toffee, honey, dark fruits, slightly smokey, bread-like. Slightly musty. Very sweet, slightly vinous. Almost like a port wine. Very low carbonation, medium-full body. Great sipping beer.

An astonishingly complex beer, though perhaps a touch sweet for my tastes. Would work well as an after dinner drink, perhaps even splitting the small bottle between two people. I had the last few ounces with a cigar, which worked very well and I highly recommend.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 821 ratings.