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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
95
world-class

819 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 819
Hads: 1,378
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 10.56%
Wants: 250
Gots: 201 | 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: 819 | Hads: 1,378
Photo of Brez07
2.68/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed as part of the Blind Beer BIF #6. 275ml bottle served in a snifter. 1999 vintage

A: Pours brown/dark caramel. Also initially leaves a 1 finger head that doesn't stick around long (3)

S: Nose is mostly dark fruit. Notes of fig, raisin and plum. A swirl of the glass gives way to cherry. Faint alcohol. Eventually I pick up some malt, but also some cardboard and bubblegum (2.5)

T: Sweet throughout. Candied sugar, figs. Some prune, weak chocolate and oak. Artificial fruit, reminding me of a raspberry fruit rollup. Light booze (2.5)

M: Medium bodied. Basically next to no carbonation (3)

D: A little rough. Drinkable, but only to a certain point. Glad I split this one (3) (686 characters)

Photo of mikehblack
2.7/5  rDev -36.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2008 bottle. 275ml

A- Slightly hazy orange. Fluffy white head dissipating quickly to a few big bubbles and a ring. Thick alcohol legs.

S- Massive sweet malt aroma and alcohol. Bready, sticky, caramel, toffee, marshmallow.

T- Smoky, fruity, sickly sweet, some burnt aspect I can't put a finger on, bready, toffee, boozy. Middle of the mouth is like drinking honey, molasses and malt extract. The finish is cloying and slight burn from the alcohol.

M- Full bodied, low carbonation. Coats the mouth with sugary syrup.

O- This is not a beer for me. At least not now. Way too sweet and malty for my tastes. I'll finish the bottle because it is small and was expensive. (668 characters)

Photo of kscaldef
2.75/5  rDev -35.4%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Odd to see I'd somehow failed to transfer my notes over here, although I don't have them for all the vintages I've tried.

2010 (consumed June 2014) - Not terribly good. Maybe needs more age, but there's some funky phenols, as well as sickly sweetness. 2.0.

2006 (consumed Nov 2013) - An okay vintage. Needs a little carbonation. 3.5. (336 characters)

Photo of PopeJonPaul
2.81/5  rDev -34%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Normally I love barleywines, but this stuff rubbed me the wrong way. Cloudy red-brown and syrupy with no head to speak of, even on tap. Looked good in the glass but smelled incredibly sweet (Danger Will Robinson!) Powerfully sweet taste, with a strong heavy malt, brown sugar and tootsie-roll flavor. It's one thing to make a good sweet barleywine, but this stuff tasted like pancake syrup gone over to the dark side. And you'll keep tasting it ten minutes later. The finish was almost cloying, and beware if you're on a date: CheeseWheel (who used to work in a hospital) says it makes your breath "smell like decomposing flesh."

This was on tap though, I will have to give the bottle a shot just because all the positive reviews here are (surely aged) bottles, and I'll bet it gets better with age. We shall see... (818 characters)

Photo of Boppar
2.84/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Vintage 2006, poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A: Pours a bright golden orange color. Great coloring. Completely still. Not even the faintest hint of any sort of carbonation whatsoever. This really does look like a wine.

S: Sherry. That's the only smell I'm picking up on, is that it smells disturbing similar to cream sherry.

T: Sherry, overly-ripe apricots, and honey start this off, with notes of molasses appearing mid-palate. There is also a faint floral suggestion on the finish. Oh, and it's very, very boozey. And yes, it does taste as cloying as it sounds.

M: Perfectly still. Very slick, nice body to it. Good weight.

D: Not at all drinkable. Which is really a shame, because it has some good flavors in it. But it is so mind-numbingly sweet that I just can't handle it.

An interesting take on the style, but not one I much cared for. (854 characters)

Photo of maxpower
2.86/5  rDev -32.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

1988 must have not been stored right, flat no carbonation, sweet sugary caramel aroma, tasted like maple syrup, too sweet two sips and dumped the rest.1997 was much better, very small head, strong caramel aroma, smooth, sweet caramel- toffee flavor, this is what I will rate, the 1988 was ruined. (296 characters)

Photo of vandemonian
2.9/5  rDev -31.9%
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 (490 characters)

Photo of kdahnke123
2.92/5  rDev -31.5%
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. (317 characters)

Photo of BeerFMAndy
2.94/5  rDev -31%
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. (1,292 characters)

Photo of pwoods
2.95/5  rDev -30.8%
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. (503 characters)

Photo of ChadQuest
2.95/5  rDev -30.8%
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. (469 characters)

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
2.99/5  rDev -29.8%
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. (722 characters)

Photo of Marko
3.04/5  rDev -28.6%
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. (1,206 characters)

Photo of beerwolf77
3.05/5  rDev -28.4%
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. (769 characters)

Photo of nihiloexnihil
3.07/5  rDev -27.9%
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. (976 characters)

Photo of kingcrowing
3.1/5  rDev -27.2%
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. (427 characters)

Photo of alcstradamus
3.1/5  rDev -27.2%
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. (822 characters)

Photo of fscottkey
3.12/5  rDev -26.8%
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. (928 characters)

Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.13/5  rDev -26.5%
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! (603 characters)

Photo of shapudding
3.18/5  rDev -25.4%
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. (1,998 characters)

Photo of TasteTester
3.18/5  rDev -25.4%
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. (344 characters)

Photo of Jonada
3.22/5  rDev -24.4%
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. (804 characters)

Photo of Indybeer
3.23/5  rDev -24.2%
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. (400 characters)

Photo of dgallina
3.27/5  rDev -23.2%
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. (741 characters)

Photo of DIM
3.27/5  rDev -23.2%
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. (565 characters)

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 819 ratings.