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

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

815 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 815
Hads: 1,357
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 13.62%
Wants: 249
Gots: 198 | FT: 14
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.
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 815 | Hads: 1,357
Photo of vkv822
1.29/5  rDev -69.7%
look: 1 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

9.3oz bottle into tulip snifter.
2010 vintage.

Pours a red orange with a ton of large pieces of yeast sediment floating throughout and a thin off white head.

The aroma is quite malty. Very doughy and biscuity upfront, with some caramel as well.

Something has to be wrong with this beer. Tastes like an ashtray mixed with some bread dough and caramel malt.

Medium-thin mouthfeel with no carbonation.

Absolute drain pour, I have to think there was something seriously wrong with this bottle. (494 characters)

Photo of steenkampa
1.37/5  rDev -67.8%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

Ok...a bit of background.

I've tried almost 1000 different beers at this point,...mainly Belgian and pretentious US Microbrews. I love beer. I LOVE Barley wines.

That being said... I tried both the 2007 and the 2002 in the same sitting, and both were just... Rancid.

Looked pretty nice, except for tons of yeast floating around the bottom. TONS...nice dark-ish golden brown, with a great body. No lacing or head to speak of.

The 2007 was a little lighter in color, just barely.

The flavor of the 2007 was absolutely offensive in every way. It tasted as if I was drinking the run off of rotted raisins. Not fermented, but ROTTED. I spit it out, gagged...gargled a glass of water, and went in for a second try. Again, gagged, nearly vomited, and gave up...gave the rest to my beer nerd friend, who proceeded to do the same.

"This is disgusting. I would rather drink Bud Light pisswater crap over this."

The 2002 was slightly more drinkable, in that the rotted raisin flavor was slightly more "smooth" if you will. I didn't gag, however it still took me over 40min to finish this horrible brew.

I was bound and determined to finish it, because it was $12 per bottle,...a 375ml...

Overall? I would never under any circumstances buy this again, recommend it to any of my friends, or really do anything but lambaste this bastardization of one of my favorite styles.

This was disgusting and offensive on so many levels that I truly would rather drink a Corona.

EDIT: This beer was so absolutely offensive to me, that I got off my ass and did my first official review. Maybe I'll get around to uploading my notes on the other 999 or so, but that'll be another day. (1,668 characters)

Photo of Manosbeeroffate
1.4/5  rDev -67.1%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

1998 Vintage.

Ok, I'm gonna be the weirdo here. I don't like this. I don't know if it's a bad bottle or if it's because I don't like this style. Pours a dark brown, slight reddish tone. Smell is extremly sweet smell. Taste? Way beyond too sweet, like if I was drinking straight malt syrup with a bit of alcohol. Mouthfeel is syrupy. Drinkability is horrid. Spent $6.99 on a 9.6 oz. bottle so I was not going to drainpour, but I was damn close. It may just be me and I do understand if other people do like it but this was just horrible. It only looked nice and that was it. (577 characters)

Photo of jhu1995
1.63/5  rDev -61.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Had the 2002 Vintage in a bottle. Pours a rich brown color with a minimal head. Smell was mostly alcohol as can be expected given the strength of this beer, but did not expect it to dominate as much as it did. Very strong, sweet smell as well. The taste was overwhelmingly sweet. Where is the balance and complexity because I could not find it. Syrupy and no smoothness whatsoever. Very harsh beer that was choked down. Prefer cough syrup over this one. (453 characters)

Photo of ncvbc
1.74/5  rDev -59.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Wow...this was a dreadful experience. I had somewhat high expectations for this beer but it didn't come close.

Deep reddish brown, somewhat murky with a tannish head capping it off. It falls to a ring and looks pretty nice. Bad thing is I smelled it when I popped the cap. Not so impressive. Big time booze immediately. After it's poured, there is a dominant sweetness along with the booze. Something reminds me of vinegar in there, very subtle underneath the sweetness. Well, the smell was pretty strong, not really in the best of ways. The sweetness continues in the flavor. My reaction would have been classic if I was on video. Just a bit of a cringe comes from the flavor here. Maple syrupy and and fruity sweetness. Big toffee and caramel. All soaked in booze. Mouthfeel is full, thick and chewy. It is strongly hurt by the cloying sweetness of the beer, however. If not for that it would be sublime. No way I can drink this beer. I'm giving it sip after sip, minute after minute. Tried to take a big sip and it caused my reaction from above. Not one I'm planning on returning to. (1,088 characters)

Photo of BeerBelcher
1.75/5  rDev -58.9%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

2005 bottle. Pours thick & syrupy with no head and a fair amount of floaties, despite an effort to decant. Aroma is a sweet graininess with some sawdust-like smell. I also get some dried fruit and lots of alcohol. Flavor is sweet, boozy, and very malty. Mouthfeel is sticky, alcoholic, and puckeringly sweet. I'm not quite sure why this stuff is so highly thought of; many of its attributes are things that I'm not looking for in this or any other beer - grainy/cerealness, overpowering sweet maltiness, and smack-you-in-the-face alcohol flavor.

I would not recommend this beer. I bought this bottle at Parti-Pak Discount Liquors in Indianapolis (probably Greenwood). (668 characters)

Photo of BigTomZ
1.76/5  rDev -58.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

2006 vintage.

A - Pours a nice copper color with a thin head that leaves a ring around the glass.

S: The aroma is pretty much what I expect from the style. Raisins, caramel, molasses.I detect a bit of an earthy aroma hidden away also.

T: This is where I was totally disappointed. The raisins, caramel, and molasses from the nose were in the taste. There was also a bit of toffee and brown sugar. The problem was this underlying taste of an uncooked potato. It was like biting into a raw potato. I found it unpleasant and it had enough of a presence that I couldn't finish this beer. This was a drain pour after only a few sips.

M: This was thick, sticky, and sweet, more so than I expect even for this style.

D: Obviously the underlying taste of a spud was off-putting for me. The thickness and sweetness definitely didn't help. In order to ensure it wasn't a bad bottle, I later picked up 2007 and 2009 vintages from different locations. It seems that something in this beer isn't sitting well on my palate. (1,014 characters)

Photo of Webbydag1
1.77/5  rDev -58.5%
look: 2.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 1.25 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.25

Oh man, just not up my alley. Or maybe I had a bad batch. Very syrupy and sweet. It's called a "robust" ale but it reminded me of a fermented mrs.buttersworth. (159 characters)

Photo of TheDM
1.78/5  rDev -58.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

This was a bottle Harvest ale 2001 sample. This brew poured a small head of fine to medium sized light brown bubbles that as it receded left very little lacing. Its body was a cloudy dark brown color. It has an aroma of cinnamon and spice with some fruity notes. It had a burnt taste that was awful. Yuck what a drain pour. Was this sample bad? Maybe I'll have to sample another one if I can brave myself to try it again. (421 characters)

Photo of TexIndy
1.86/5  rDev -56.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

2001 vintage from a trade. Poured from a 275ml bottle. It was a dark opaque brown. It had almost no head and no carb. No lacing. The smell was dominated by raisins and a syrupy sugary sweetness. Not a fan of the overly sweet raisins that I've run across before this one and didn't like it here. The taste was way too sweet to be enjoyable for me. Was like drinking sugar water with a bunch of raisins thrown in. This is my 2nd barley wine and not looking to try another unless part of my Top 100 quest. Don't recommend unless you like the style or very sweet beers. (1.5, NA, ML, N) (582 characters)

Photo of beersgud
1.98/5  rDev -53.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 1

2010 vintage poured into a tulip.

The beer looks nice aside from a bunch of unfiltered crap at the bottom of the glass. Smells really nice as well, but that's about the end things to say about this beer. The faint tobacco aroma that was appealing on the nose becomes offensive when tasting. Tasted like old cigarette butts mixed with other garbage. Probably due to poor storage of a 5 year old beer ( I just bought it about a month ago ), nevertheless, one of my few drain pours. (486 characters)

Photo of RichardMNixon
2/5  rDev -53.1%
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. (408 characters)

Photo of kojevergas
2.29/5  rDev -46.2%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2010 vintage 275 ml brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap served into a nonical Guinness pint glass in me gaff in low altitude Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live, because it fell out of me fridge and foam started building so I knew I had to open it.

Bottle acquired at Hi Time Liquor in Costa Mesa, California.

Served refrigerator cold and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured lightly given extra caronbation was expected.

A: Pours a half finger head of bad thickness, no real cream, and bad retention (maybe 20 seconds). Murky copper-brown colour. Floating yeast particles are certainly visible, with strange white floaters present. Not at all appealing.

Sm: Malty and yeasty. Malt dominates - a mixture of mildly dark malt and bright barley methinks. No roasting or toasting comes through. A mild strength aroma.

T: Heavy on the lees - sweet jaysus. Toffee is also a big element here. A sort of raisiny grapey fruit tone dominates the finish, with a hint of apple. I don't like the third act at all as a result; it feels really awkward and off. The remainder of the beer is merely clean malts. Lees were a bad call for this beer; even after two years of aging they're still quite dominant. It's a lot like drinking pure malt syrup to a degree. No alcohol comes through, which is impressive given the ABV. Overall, it's horribly balanced and badly built for the style.

Mf: Smooth and wet, suiting the flavours of the body nicely I suppose. Adequately carbonated. Thick enough but not quite ideal. It dries on the finish due to the lees, which is pretty nasty.

Dr: Very drinkable for the high ABV - perhaps its best trait. It was nowhere near as good as expected, and I wouldn't have it again unless a friend recommended it and it had a few years on it. The malts make it feel like a base for a better beer. A bastardization of barleywines as a style. Incredibly disappointing.

Overpriced, at least in the U.S.A.

I'll try the cask aged versions in the hope that they're better than this. I don't recommend this for aging or food pairing. A poor example of the style.

(2,123 characters)

Photo of craytonic
2.32/5  rDev -45.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

2001 vintage in early 2012

Appearance: mahogany-brown pour with a short-lived head

Smell: Sickly sweet with some fruit, port, caramel and toffee

Taste: Super-sweet, unbearably so, at least for a sour head like myself. Figs, raisins, port, carmel and toffee

Mouthfeel: Full body from the sugar, similar to sweet tea or a regular coke

Overall: I can't drink anything this sweet. (381 characters)

Photo of morebeergood
2.33/5  rDev -45.3%
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. (377 characters)

Photo of Floydster
2.34/5  rDev -45.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

2002 vintage, 9.3 ounce bottle purchased at Holiday Wine Cellar for $6.99 some time last year, put in the fridge for about forty minutes before cracking, split with my dad about an hour ago, poured into the new Sam Adams glass

A-Light to medium brown with an orange tint, 3/4 inch creamy off white head, suprisingly stuck around for a while which I did not expect because it is six years old, decent retention, no lacing

S-Huge amounts of caramel, toffee, butter, brown sugar, cognac, salt, soy sauce, vanilla, milk chocolate, plums, dates, figs, grainy bread, hint of brandy, aroma was so complex but it almost made me sick to my stomach due to its sweetness

T-I would hope that this beer gets better with even more age because I could barely handle it but then again it could have just been my palate, started off with a big caramel sweetness, along with strong dark fruits and toffee in the middle, finish was hot and burned a little going down, some serious booze here with an aftertaste that just does not want to leave, did not expect hoppiness after this long of an aging period but it needed some kind of dryness to balance out all the sweet accents, each sip made me cringe a little

M-Super sweet, boozy, and pungent mouthfeel, really could have used some carbonation, body was medium to full and very hazy in appearance, taste lingered far too long, also spicy and warming later

D-Could barely get through four ounces of this stuff, extremely heavy on the stomach, way too sweet in my opinion, alcohol is very present and is hotter than it even smells, not smooth, just flat out strong

Alcohol by volume was what it is listed at here but seemed like much more, one of the older beers I have tried at six years, to be honest this was a big let down for me and you can probably see that with the scores, far from a barleywine that I am used to, I would not drink this again, not recommended mainly because it is not my thing (1,938 characters)

Photo of ToasterFork
2.35/5  rDev -44.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

2002

A: Nice rich brown Amber, no head, sediment

S: Fruit first and foremost, rum raisin, liquory, caramel, very complex nose. Smelled like Grandma's minced meat pie.

T: Strong Sherry taste, rum raisin, sugar, I fear this BW is past it's prime

M: Heavy body, Warming

D: Couldn't finish it. (294 characters)

Photo of dogfishandi
2.41/5  rDev -43.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

2001 vintage (a little over 9 years of age)

275ml bottle from the cellar poured into a bulb style glass.

pours out a murky dark brownish red with a layer of bubbly off white head that slowly faded to a thick ring. lots and lots of big chunky sediment visible even after decanting and a careful pour. some spotty lace and some nice legs.

a powerful aroma mostly of almonds and other such nuts. almost a little off putting. behind that theres a lot of toffee, burnt caramel, a bit of chocolate.

again with this overpowering oily almond flavor, overly sweet. lots of caramel, toffee, buttery, a bit of chocolate. hardly any alcohol. my palate just cant get over that burnt nutty taste, a bit disgusting.

pretty decent mouthfeel for such a big beer. hardly any alcohol noticable. slick creamy oily feel.

terrible drinkability, after a few ounces this was sadly a drain pour. id be interested to try other vintages, but this was a turn off. (942 characters)

Photo of grayburn
2.45/5  rDev -42.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2007 Vintage

Poured a beautiful tawny color into the glass at around 50 degrees. Heavy tan head leaves heavy lace.

Smelled completely of a soy or bbq sauce, maybe a touch of white raisin. Interesting, bold, a little too unique for me to be honest. This beer is too food like, too salty, too much plate, not enough glass. Maybe its too young, maybe I'm too young.

Taste was disappointingly similar to the smell, soy sauce and bbq, without the meat. I don't sense hops so much as cooking spices. I really wish I would have just let this one lie for a couple of years, like 10 or so. These flavors really need to mellow

Mouthfeel was good so long as the taste isn't a part. Rather smooth, good carbonation.

I probably won't be getting another of these, I had to suffer it down because I don't believe in pouring. I would not recommend. (837 characters)

Photo of mikesgroove
2.46/5  rDev -42.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2003 poured from a bottle

Poured a cloudy brown with no head at all. Smell was total alcohol, really over powered it and the taste was pretty much the same. There was a bit of a caramel, nutty, sugary taste in there but the alcohol far over powered this. I expected this one to be a bit more rounded out then it was, maybe I am just more of a fan of American Barleywines. Overall it was not bad, but I would pass on a second. (428 characters)

Photo of Sixpack595
2.5/5  rDev -41.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

2001 Edition

Slightly hazy brown with suspended chunks of sediment. Nearly no head. Slightly vinous, slightly sour aroma. Diacetyl and sweet malts dominate both aroma and taste. Big, complex beer...but it still tastes like crap. Honey, licorice, molasses and raw sugar make this a sickly sweet brew that ends with a slightly sour, bitter finish that in no way cuts the cloying, syrupy aspect. I have a couple other vintages from the mid 90s that I will try after I let them mellow for a while longer. I sure hope they get better with age. (541 characters)

Photo of crwills
2.6/5  rDev -39%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

WARNING: This may have been a spoiled bottle, as my rating is significantly lower than the average.

Vintage 1998 bottle.

Poured a muddy brown with a small fizzy head into an oversized wine glass. Doesn't look too bad, although there are some particles in there which make it less appealing than it could be.

Aroma is brown sugar, cake or doughy bread, with alcohol in the forefront. Some mild milk chocolate notes and dark, overripe or rotting fruits. A little bit of a sour, off aroma concerns me...

Taste is... ridiculously sweet. I think this is what happens when an eight year old barley wine doesn't get taken care of. Overwhelming sugary cotton candy and candied prune/date flavours make this impossible to enjoy for me, although it does overwhelm the high alcohol. Aftertaste is terribly sweet, and I had to eat something to get rid of it. Any hops that were in there are long gone... all malt, all the time.

Mouthfeel is still OK, if a bit sticky. I got about 2/3 of the way through this before I had to stop.

I hope this was a bad sample... I've had several other aged barleywines that didn't end up like this. Most of the reviews indicate that it should be very sweet, but this was just unbearable. If given the opportunity, I will grab another bottle (maybe not quite so old) and re-review. (1,319 characters)

Photo of LilBeerDoctor
2.6/5  rDev -39%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Reviewed on 8/26/08. Bottle, 1999 vintage. Pours a cloudy amber brown with a small light tan head that dissipated quickly. Aroma of of oatmeal, sweet brown sugar, sweet fruits (raisin, apple, pear), slight alcohol. Flavor is SUPER sweet. Wow. I've never had port or sherry but I imagine that this beer would taste something like that. Syrupy and thick. Not bad tasting but very strong and it was hard to handle more than one sip of a time of this. Much too sweet and I thought that this would have mellowed somewhat in the 9 years since it was bottled.
6/3/6/2/13 (3.0/5) (571 characters)

Photo of tr4nc3d
2.67/5  rDev -37.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

1999 vintage

Poured into my snifter from a 12floz bottle

Pours a dirty light to medium brown color with a slightly off white one finger head. Below average head retention that when fades leaves a small ring on the outside edges of my beer.

Smell is heavy on the bourbon, some vanilla, toffee, sugar, and malts.

Very sweet upfront with hints of dark candied sugar, vanilla, honey, prunes, caramel, toffee, and a slight bourbon heat. Very malty beer and no hop presence whatsoever(no surprise here for a 10 year old beer).

Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with pretty active carbonation. Very sugary sweet malty beer, its so sugary it leaves it on your lips.

Overall my opinion is that this is one way to sugary beer(kind of reminds me of DFH 120min)except more drinkable. I would never seek out this beer again, but its tolerable. (838 characters)

Photo of Rickythejeweler
2.68/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2008 Vintage

A - Slightly cloudy golden-copper, thin soapy head, no lacing. Good amount of carbonation bubbles along the bottom of the glass.

S - Raisons, fermented fruits, yeast funk.

T - Candi sugar, raisons, old fruit, seaweed.

M - Thick, syrupy.

O - Drain pour. (270 characters)

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 815 ratings.