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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

1,310 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,310
Reviews: 811
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 187 | 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:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (19) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,310 | Reviews: 811 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Estarrio
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 Vintage

Poured dark mahogany into a Chimay glass. There is quite a bit of visible yeast and sediment, along with some visible carbonation. There is nearly no head at all, except for some very fine lacings.

This is simply one of the most aromatic brews that I've had the pleasure of enjoying. In fact, I can make out the delightful fragrance of this beer while the glass is still on the table before me. The heavenly scents include ridiculous amounts of sweet malt, honey, caramel, doughy yeast esters, raisin, grape, plum, clove and a spicy, alcohol bite.

If I have come close to tasting the nectar of the gods, it was while drinking this beer. All of the complexities of the aroma are noted in the smooth, divinely balanced flavor. You could easily lose yourself in the multitude of delicious tastes. Sweet malt, brown sugar, molasses, honey, caramel, vanilla, dark fruit esters, sweet raisin, tart cherry, clove, spices and some wood notes. The alcohol flavor is extremely well masked.

The viscous, light syrup consistency is balanced on the palate by just enough carbonation for a gratifying mouthfeel.

This is simply the most drinkable beer over ten percent alcohol that I've yet to imbibe.

This is by far my favorite barley wine and one of my favorite brews period. I've begun filling my cellar with as many bottles of this wondrous liquid that I can get my greedy hands on.

Photo of martyl1000
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

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.

Photo of putnam
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had originally rated this when there was sorting for each vintage. I think it was a 1998 that produced this note:
sweet. Tawny port. Dates, figs, cola, caramel, raisins, rum, nutmeg...sweet. swirling, creamy head. port reduction. chewy currants. tangy taffey. scorched honey. custard. graham-cracker crust. bumble-bees. wax. tar. asphalt. rain. bird seed. wild rice. charred, sappy tree bark. charcoal. medium brown in color.
___

Today I opened a 1988 with the Neil Young Harvest Moon label with reca and Mike. A good hiss was heard upon uncapping the rusted cap. The pour produced a surprising amount of fizz, though no real mass of foam -- rather a spiral streak of tiny bubbles. Lots and lots of chunks.
Aromas of French processed prunes, blond tobacco, Madiera, ...ancient, profound.
The texture is light and transparent. It reaveals bitter sugars, stone fruits and cough medicine. The sweetness seems totally dissolved. No sense of fat, syrupy youth is here at all. Only transparencies of flavors: sweet, fresh and aged. It warms the tummy, as "e" pointed out. And that's a good thing.
I'm bumping up the drinkability 0.5 points.

Photo of claytong
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A beautiful beer. At least the 1999 guy I had this year. I might get some more recent guys and save them for a while if I don't get too tempted.
The smell was almost like being in a alcohol candy shop.
The beer had so much toffee, cream, malt, a slight hint of chocolate and the best taste of barley I could imagine and so well blended.
It's sweet, so don't expect anything else. Drink it as a desert to finish a meal or as a night cap. Or a celebration beer at a picnic with kids playing soccer around you.

Photo of Mistofminn
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Polled some BA's on what I should review for my 200th review. J.W. Lees won a close race over several other stellar beers. It was suggested I do a vertical, but now is not the time. Instead, I will try one of my oldest vintages, a 1999.

1999 Vintage. Cracked open with a hiss. Good to know that it was sealed properly. After ten years, you never know. Served just above room temperature. Poured a small amount into a tulip, leaving most in the bottle. Pours a deep ruby, mahogany color. It looks mahogany-brown until you hold it into the light, which reveals it's ruby hues. A very small layer of foam is produced, but dissipates quickly to a small ring around the outside of the glass. A small column of carbonation is rising from the middle of the tulip. Another good sign, it's still carbonated. There is some nice lacing, but nothing excellent.

The first whiff I get is intense. I get dried dark fruit, sweet malts and liqueurs, pollen and toffee. This might be the sweetest smelling beer I've ever had the pleasure of smelling. I also get a slight vanilla scent that reminds me of Bourbon, but it's more of a liqueur than a Bourbon smell.

Liquid gold touches lips, dances on tough and opens eyes to entirely different world. I honestly didn't know a beer could taste like this. If this doesn't define complexity, than I don't know what does. The other night I had a GI BCS, and I thought that was the most complex beer I've ever had. J.W. Lees just left BCS in the dust, turned around and flicked it off. I get vanilla, toffee, sweet malts, dark fruits, liqueur and caramel. How could I forget about the caramel. So intense and sweet is the caramel aftertaste that it begs you to drink more. Did I forget to mention the alcohol? Oh, yes. Thats because it is non existent.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth. No carbonation bite, no hop bitterness. Just pure malt sweetness. Thick and creamy, it coats your mouth. No sign of the 11.5% ABV anywhere. Drinkability is perfect. I could imagine downing way to many of these. Dangerous drinkability.

I had my doubts. How well could a beer 10 years old hold up? Apparently better than I had ever imagined. I know of the benefits of a cellar, and how brews change, but I had no idea what it could do. I had a fresher bottle (2006 I believe) maybe 7 months ago, and I didn't like it. Granted, my palate has changed quite a bit, but I can definitely see how this has changed for the better.

Needless to say I am infinitely impressed. If this wasn't so damned expensive I would do verticals of this every single night! Couldn't have asked for a better brew to do my 200th review on!

Photo of Tupperwolf
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage poured into my Stone Old Guardian stemmed barleywine glass.

Pours a deep, dark cherry-wood color topped with a biscuit of light tan head; It leaves thin, reaching lines of lacing. Lots and lots of very excited bubbles are visible rising up to keep that thin head fed.

The scent is extremely strong - my first instinct is to credit the strength to alcohol, but further examination reveals that little to no alcohol is to be found. The strength is built on big, complex packages of scents - It smells like a bakery, like rye bread and hot oil cooking up doughnuts, honey-drizzled almonds - big, huge, mouth-watering scents.

Now this is just an unreal beer. It's an experience. I bsolutely couldn't beleive the flavors packed into this one! It's incredibly malty sweet, but balanced and complex to absolute perfection. For the first time ever in a review, I wish the scale went higher than five, because it's honestly like nothing I've ever sipped before. Describing the flavors is almost an excercise in futility, because they defy description. Fruity - fermented - nutty - oily - sugary - buttery - Waffles, banana pancakes with maple syrup and almonds, hazelnuts - Hazelnuts! That's a big one. Unbelievable.

The mouthfeel is many things at once. Crisp, oily - fluffy, zippy - with the tiniest warming of alcohol, the only place it's present in the drinking experience.

The more I drink this, the more I keep bumping up my review points. I think I'd better just shut up before I ramble myself off into space. I'm afraid to try other vintages of this beer now, because they might not live up to the 2000! An absolute must. The best. WOW.

Photo of Wonka
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1st December 1997
275 ML
11.5% VOL
Best before end Nov 2002

Gentle puff of air at opening; pours to a dazzling array of carbonation in the body that literally vaporizes within moments

Appearance – carbonation quickly backs off to form an early ½ inch cream-colored head; it backs away to expose the opaque and dominant brown/slightly red body below; no lace, but that’s excused

Smell – the smell honestly does make my mouth water; molasses; caramel; toffee; prunes; raisins; I smell it and ponder the taste and smoothness

Taste – sweetness predominates but its certainly not too sweet; prunes and molasses that coat the top lip; a touch of bitterness closes; the alcohol is amazingly cloaked

Mouthfeel – so smooth with a light oily base and moderate body; there’s an elegant early burst of carbonation that clears the way for the army of flavor; the light tinge at the end is reminiscent of the aftertaste much after chewing a piece of Big Red bubble gum – there’s a very light cinnamon-like pop on the tongue; the smoothness has marathon quality

Drinkability – subtly warming; as drinkable as a barley wine gets; 8 years has created an impossibly smooth ale

This is what a beer experience should be.

Photo of SilentSabre
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Oh my. This is absolutely incredible. In fact, I have never before tasted its equal. I went into this not knowing what to expect. I will, however, most assuredly be purchasing more of this.
The pour was a slightly cloudy dark red amber colour with a bit of debris floating about. It had a sand coloured head about 15mm thick that remained for several minutes. It was beautiful. The smell was delicious, consisting of sweet grasses such as sugar cane, sorghum syrum, brown sugar, faint spices. Oh my, this just heavenly. The taste is much, much more of the same with sweet malts dominating. The decadent tastes wash gently over your tongue with each sip. Its mouthfeel is smooth and there is nothing about it I can find that needs adjusting. If I were to taste this blindly, I would guess it to be around 7,5% or so. Certainly not 11,5%. I am stunned by the inconceivable greatness of this ale. I will definately buy this again. A far, far cry different than its U.S. counterparts, which don't even come close to this.
*Note: This was the 2002 vintage. For some strange reason, the cap was exceptionally difficult to remove.

Photo of brantadid
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured with little to no head. Rich, dark amber in color. Smelled of figs and dates. Tastes of figs and dates. Flavor really matches the noise. Minimal carbonation with makes it very drinkable. Unbelievably long finish. The flavor just goes on and on. Feels like syrup in your mouth. Almost no heat from the alcohol. Just a fantastic beer. To equate this beer to wine; if the various styles of beer could be compared to the various varieties of wine, this beer would be port. Just a great after dinner drink

Photo of Hachiman
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2002 vintage

Had a great odor of bread and raisins straight out of the 'fridge. After it warmed up a molasses-like volatility was evident.

A 3/8 inch, long-lasting beige head. Dark red-brown body was quite attractive.

Wonderful raisin bread taste, with a yeasty aftertaste. Very assertive flavor, meant to be savored.

Substantial mouth feel, giving some meaning to that old saw, "liquid bread". Left sticky feeling on the lips.

Photo of Snikwad1020
5/5  rDev +17.9%

Photo of sm0key
5/5  rDev +17.9%

Photo of jondeelee
5/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The 1999 vintage of Harvest Ale begins with an aroma that radiates a good foot or so from the open bottle, and even from that distance the scent of cognac and sherry is heady. Upon closer inspection, the nose is redolent with raisins, port, fresh baguette, and fig.

On the tongue, the brew is thick and sugary, and all of the aromas translate almost directly into flavor: raisins, port, sherry, cognac, fig, prune. Add to these a massive, syrupy dose of brown sugar (touched with confectioner's sugar at the edges), hints of pecan, and fresh wheat, with just the faintest stroke of hops to help balance the sugars. The flavors last throughout most of the mouthful, with only the faintest hint of alcohol at the edges to give away the brew's 11.5% ABV. Just at the end the sugars peel back to reveal a bit more grain base. The aftertaste is a continuation of the body flavors, and lasts for a good while. Mouthfeel is a gloopy, definite "full," and carbonation is light, likely due to the age of the bottle.

Overall, this is amazing beer, and it's difficult to imagine more flavor crammed into one tiny bottle. This is a definite must-try for any beer enthusiast. Highly recommended.

***

The 2000 vintage bears many of the same initial aromas as the 1999--port, raisins, fig--but is slightly wilder, the extra year that the 1999 vintage has aged having tempered the brew in comparison. The ports and raisins in the 2000 vintage are noticeably stronger, for example, and it's difficult to discern any underlying bready notes because of it. Still, the aroma is intoxicating.

On the tongue, much the same commentary can be made: the same flavors are there as in the 1999, but stronger and less subtle and aged. In addition, the 2000 version's strong ports, cognacs and raisins are joined by a dark undercurrent of deeply-roasted malts--bordering on chocolate--that provides a nice, deep base that helps temper the sugars. The hops are also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, and are especially present as a light citrus buzz towards the end of the mouthful. The 11.5% ABV is also slightly more pronounced in the 2000 version, though is still for the most part deliciously contained by the massive levels of sugars. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, and carbonation is medium-light.

Overall, given the choice, I'd prefer the 1999, as the extra year of aging has definitely improved the flavors. Don't get me wrong: the 2000 is still an absolutely amazing beer. But if given another bottle of it, I'd cellar it for at least a year or two.

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

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5/5  rDev +17.9%

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,310 ratings.