J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale - J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,284 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,284
Reviews: 798
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 221
Gots: 184 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,284 | Reviews: 798 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of franksnbeans
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001 Vintage

Pours a ruddy cloudy brown with a buttery 1 finger head that dies to a ring and laces. Smells of big caramel, toffee, very sweet, a little creamy and a slight sting of alcohol. Taste is so smooth. Sweet almost syrupy caramel, butter, toffee, earthy and creamy on the finish. Silk in the mouth. ABV is completely hidden which is insane. Those this built as a once in a while sipper, its very drinkable.

Photo of Deuane
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I can remember back in the day waiting every year to enjoy the J.W. Lee's cask offerings at KClinger's Tavern in Hanover, PA. Ahh...the tastes and aromas of the Calvados aged Harvest and the richness of the Lagavulin aged and the sharp dryness of the Sherry version. Back then I simply "enjoyed" beer and didn't take detailed notes. I finally got the chance to try the "regular" Harvest Ale served on cask, what memories!

A-Hazy, golden orange copper with a thin, wispy white head that reduced to a minuscule ring of retention and left very spotty flecks of lace.

S-Powerful alcohol vapors give a ride to rich, sweet vanilla, astringent oak, deep caramel malt sweetness, some apple/pear noted and toffee.

T-Much like the aroma. Massive, sweet caramel malt base takes the center stage. Along the edges an array of characters form an impressive supporting cast. Toffee, turbinado, black strap molasses and fructose sweetness adds amazing depth. Oak dryness and and alcohol burn in the finish add to the ensemble.

M-Medium-heavy, soft and silky smooth. Rich and luscious with a syrupy viscosity.

D-Rich and bold with a boatload of flavour, what is not to like? A slow sipper for sure and this unfortunately detracts from its drinkibility. I love to have one and maybe two snifters but more---no thank you.

Photo of mattmarka1
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%

Photo of cypressbob
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle, poured into a Dobbelen tulip. Served a shade under room temperature

2004 Vintage

Pours with an amazingly thick and almost syrupy body, rich dark ruby red body. Thick rich maroon and ruby highlights through out the beer, syrupy slightly cloudy body from the bottle conditioning. A rich ruby highlighted body with thick cloudy brown hues. An amazingly thick centimetre tall off white head forms with solid retention.... we're left with a few millimetres of tight white head with nice attractive patchy lacing up and and down the glass

Smell, Thick rich maderia soaked ripe fruit along with a sweet body of dried and preserved fruit like ripe raisins, prunes and apricots. Rich and syrupy malty body with a strong effervesent alcoholic whiff. Leather and dried figs along with a cacophony of deep and robust estery sweetness

Taste, sweet rich dried fruit, tonnes of brandy soaked raisins and sultanas plus a sugary prune compliment. Thick syrupy alcoholic malt body. A dense caramelly malty burnt sugar character fills the taste buds. Sticky bourbon tinged alcoholic body with a rich single malt like malty slightly peaty body. Sweet ester laden alcoholic finish alot with a huge degree of ripe fruit, leather, preserved fruit and rich port like qualities.

Superb, not quite as deep or complex as the 2001 but still amazing stuff.

I lost all my reviews of my vintages when BA merged alot however i've tried 1999 - 2005. I think 3-4 years is the peak, the 99 was a bit lacking. The 2002 was probably the best, so inmo 3-5 years is ideal.

Photo of changeup45
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Pours out a brown/amber color with no head at all. Aroma is very nice; roasted malts, tree bark, plums, molasses and a little bit of alcohol. The flavor is sweet and sugary with a lot of dark fruits, particularly raisins with some roasted malt. Silky smooth. The most amazing part about this beer is that the 11.5% is hardly noticed. If any alcohol shows at all it is a little in the finish. Way better than the Thomas Hardy 2005 I sampled recently. This really is impressive.

Photo of dpend
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 275ml Bottle Opened 11/16/03


Deep amber brown appearance with a light fluffy head that dissipated quickly.The aroma is sweet malt with fruit,butter and alcohol.Taste is fruity, with thick malt and butter and a dash of hops on the finish.Mouthfeel is thick and buttery with a light oily feel.This beer was still very young and I will let the other age a bit longer to see where it goes.Outstanding!

Photo of Foxman
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

It pours a hazy amber orange, the color of raw honey. A finger of off-white head sinks soon to scallops of surface froth. Points of lacing lay singularly along the inside of the glass.

The aroma carries a deep, intense toasted maltiness, sweet with molasses, caramel, and dried dark fruits, including raisins and dates. A rye-like earthiness plays off the merest floral hop note. Alcohol is overt but not at all overwhelming.

Upon sipping, there comes a concentrated malt sweetness echoing rock candy, brown sugar, caramel, and cherry and currants. A smooth swirl of vanilla and light lemon outmans the again mere hop floral bit. Alcohol tries to assert but is backed down by molasses and biscuit. The finish continues very sweet and treacly. The flavor denotes a true mastery of malt.

Full bodied, the lip-smacking cloying syrup character is like sugary napalm on the palate.

So it seems that heritage and pedigree drink thickly sweet and so very good. And as sweet as it is, it's not at all gratuitous but rather a key component of the earthy, sugary blend. That sweetness and the marked but warming ABV keep indulgence moderate, just as it should be. This vintage is a gift that gives to the bottom of the bottle.

Photo of toledobeer
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2002 vintage poured into a snifter.
pours with no head a deep bronze color.
Smells strongly of prunes,raisons and carameled sugar with some alcohol.
The taste is along the same lines as the smell without the alcohol but with hints of hops in the finish.
Very sugary surapy mouthfeel one of these at a time is great after that would be a bit much.

Photo of BeardedBoffin
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This 2009 vintage barley wine was consumed at my annual Barleywine and Stilton party this holiday season. The beer has that classic barleywine look of brown and garnet with just a wisp of foam. The aroma is a heavy dose of tobacco along with fig, raisin and fermented fruit. The palate is smooth. The flavor continues along the lines of the aroma with a heavy fig presence and tobacco. The dark ripe fruits adds wonderful complexity. Deep earthiness mixes in, making it a very enjoyable sipping brew.

Photo of beerogre
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2001 Vintage sampled Nov 2006.

Another very special sipping beer, which I purchased along with a Thomas Hardy Ale last weekend. Visually both are really quite ghastly, in my opinion!

For me, this had the beating of the Thomas Hardy. Both were excellent little treats, but the Harvest Ale just seemed to have that extra touch of class, which is the difference between finishing in the last 8 of the World Cup like England, or going all the way to the final like Italy or France. Sad but true!

Again, not too hard to believe if someone offered you a glass and told you it was a sherry and when I offered my wife a taste, (as I often do when I believe I'm sampling an exceptional beer) she was reluctant to return it and wanted to down the whole thing. That's usually the sign of a really good beer, as she's normally content with just a little sip.

A rare treat, and worth sampling as a one off, but I'll take my value for money Ommegangs anyday thank you very much.

Photo of purplehops
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1992 Vintage
The 92' pours a sparkly red-orange (pms 1675c) with very fine particles of yeast in suspension. There is no head to speak of and no lacing on the glass. The aroma is honey and orange with alcohol and prunes/raisin smells. There are also some floral notes like those from a Belgian Triple yeast. The taste starts off very very malty with a mead like alcohol kick and lots of effervescence on the tongue. The finish is dry with alcohol being the main player here. There are some notes of citrus and very faint bitter hop flavors. The aftertaste is alcohol warmth and sweet. Some hints of corriander like spice flavors and hops float in and out of the alcohol glow. You can feel the alcohol in your esophagus long after the last sip. The mouthfeel is full with tongue tingling and a hint of syrupy, but not in an unpleasant way.
Overall a very nice and complex winter sippen' ale. Full of alcohol warmth with lots of malty, citrus, and spice flavors. The 92' may be starting to go. There were a few medicine and metallic flavors trying to get out as if the yeast was done and the malt was ready to start breaking down.

Photo of ShadesOfGray
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2000. Poured from a 9.3oz bottle into my Koningshoeven snifter. Pours a creamy caramel color, but fills the glass on the darker side...mostly brown. Very murky, hazy, and a wonderful looking creamy tan head with very nice retention. Leaves sticky, but patchy lacing all over the glass.

Aroma is sweet, sharp, fruits, booze, smokey, caramel, roasted malts, and yeasts.

Yum! Creamy and smooth! Lots of caramel and roasted malts. Dark and overripe fruits. Seems like the booze has really mellowed by now, it's not very warming for 11.5%. The sweetness is perfect, with just a semi thick mouthfeel. Surprising enough, this big heavy barleywine is more drinkable than I figured it would be, and definitely more than JW Lee's barrel aged versions of this beer. A very nice drinker!

Photo of bobhits
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Interesting to try this again. Last time I had one it was a good bit older, I'm hoping there's a bit more bite and maybe some hop presence in this younger version. If not odds are I'll be wishing I let it age more. 2008 vintage.

Poured into a sifter.

Thick, cloudy, full of yeast, a dark copper oranage body. You really can't see through this and that's pretty special for something that isn't brown/black in color. Creates a half finger of head that goes away in less than a minute.

The nose is an assault of fruits. Raises, sweet sugary malt, and lots of other fruity sweet aromas that I can't fully place.

First thoughts, a bit too much alcohol in this far too young bottle. Hops aren't kicking in so what to say about this. Raises, plums, sugary rum like flavors, Carmel. There's an off putting bitter/funky flavor at the end. I have a feeling if this were isolated it would be that earthy flavor that many English beers have, but mixed in this sweet assault it's somewhat off putting. This beer was reasonably warm to start but as it reaches room temp the mix is getting better. Sweeter and far more interesting. This is a great beer to show a wine lover a spin on beer that they may get into.

A wonderful sipper. Smooth, thick, sticky, and well just done flawlessly.

It's amazing to say a 2 year old beer is still a baby and this review may be a bit unfair, but it is what it is as they say. A very english barely wine and a true classic. I think there are some more interesting examples

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is the 2004 edition drank on 11/17/2005
(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer has a nice warm deep coppery brown body that is crystal clear with a nice thin wispy film of bubble on to that loosely form a head.

S- This beer has a nice vinous, sweet caramel nose that has hints of pear and brown sugar.

T- A smooth sweet sugary toasted caramel malt flavor hits at first and then it finishes with a nice warm alcohol taste in the finish. A slight hint of cherries or dried fruit is noticed in the finish aswell. A nice vanilla oaky quality add another layer to the complexity.

M- A medium-full body with some slippery texture in the finish. The alcohol is a smooth note in the finish, not harsh and no hot.

D- This beer has nice sweet complexity with a nice balance of alcohol to balance the malt sweetness. The tastes of dried fruit and toasted malt really meld nicely.

1999 Vintage drank on 2/14/2010
(Served in a sifter)
A- This beer pours a deep dense brown body with a glow of soft auburn at the base. There is a light bubbly beige head that turns to a thick ring after a bit.

S- A soft tart hint gives way to sherry like sweet malt with some caramel malt sweetness that grows as the beer opens up. There is a soft hop hint in the background.

T- This beer has a rich caramel flavor with a mellow dark toffee note and hints of dark roasted malt buried underneath. There is a nice malt bitter note at the finish that takes on more sherry qualities as the beer opens up.

M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel with no alcohol heat until the beer is pretty warm and a soft fizz note. There is a slight watery texture when the beer is pretty warm but the alcohol warmth is good.

D- Great rich caramel flavor with a good depth and some nice age characteristics.

Photo of bditty187
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997 Edition.

Hazed, pale burgundy hue, modest beige head that fades leisurely to a collar of soapy residue. No lace was produced. The nose is tremendously potent. Oh, the invitation is shouted… caramelized fruit (raisin, apples), spicy alcohol, toffee… and a host of other subtleties. The palate has plenty going on… its buttery and malty… alcohol, apples, and caramelized sugar dominates… very sweet (borderline cloying), the finish is toffee & dark fruit. The hops are noticeable in the aftertaste. Lovely palate, savor & sip! Low carbonation. Full body, it is so chewie I though I was drinking a wookiee. This is a pleasant drink, enjoyable to quaff. The abv is (obviously) noticeable and the effects are felt… you’ll want to lick your lips to savor it all… recommended.

Photo of Bung
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1999. The oldest vintage brew I've had to date. A thick brown/orange pour. Thin layer of off white head that quickly recedes to a ring. Happy to see the carbonation, I know this one's going to be thick and juicy sweet.

Aroma is incredibly powerful. I can still easily smell it sitting on the counter at hip level. A ton of malt, caramel and raisin.

Taste is malty goodness. Many levels of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, yellow raisins, fruitcake, frangelico, seems like you could just keep going and going. Finishes with a little caramelized brown sugar and toasted oak and rum cake.

Big and sticky, but not overly boozy. It is really smooth and coating. Not as syrupy as I though it might be. Actually quite easy to drink. The warming sensation reminds you that this is a big beer.

Not sure this is a good as my favorite, Arctic Devil, but it's certainly up their for the style.

Photo of FeDUBBELFIST
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2004 Vintage, 275mL bottle to tulip
Sampled 16SEP12

[A] A pour down the middle doesn't produce more than a quarter finger's worth of head - and it disappears immediately. The color is light tan. Bubbly foam is the texture. The body is extremely dark brown. Ruby highlights can be seen when backlit - which also shows decent clarity and flecks of sediment clinging to the glass. No film, collar or lacing. The body is completely still.

[S] Dark fruit aromatics lead the way. Particularly prune, but complimented by sun soaked raisin. Caramel pokes through to a small degree but it's more than less masked by the fruity aromas. Light tea leaf. Very little alcohol noticeable.

[T] Dark fruit absolutely dominates. Fig is particularly strong. Light caramel on the back end only. Flavors of red raisin and prune linger long. Very long.

[M] At this age, the mouthfeel is nothing short of absolutely remarkable. Very smooth, very full, soft, velvety. Residual sweetness glides over the tongue, leaves a light coat but avoids being cloying entirely. Carbonation is extremely gentle.

[O] One helluva beer. I prefer less dark fruit and more caramel personally, but damn this works so well as it is. An obvious classic.

Photo of thekanna
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

9.3 oz. bottle, 2006 vintage.

A: Pours a radiant dark amber that glows the color of clear apple cider when held up to light. No head to speak of.

S: Strong, dark, warming yeasts that bequeath notes of caramel, dates, dark fruits, raisins, and molasses. Gorgeous.

T: Bitter-y hop note underscores an extremely complex and earthy taste. A cigar or tobacco pipe-like smokiness is mixed with chocolate, large amounts of dark fruits (figs, dates, raisins come to mind), dried fruits, molasses, vanilla, and maple syrup. There is somewhat of a fruity creaminess at the end, as if someone added fruit flavoring to Bailey's irish cream.

M: Not much carbonation to speak of. Overall, the brew is oily and slick and covers the mouth, with a general creaminess to round out the end. Strong warming effect as one continues to sip.

D: Improves more and more by the sip. I was really impressed by this brew. I have a 1999 bottle that's cellaring right now, but I think I'll wait for a while before I crack that open.

Photo of twiggamortis420
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275 mL bottle of the 2005 vintage pours a limpid, fairly clear brown color with a few bubbles around the collar.

Nose is very sweet and caramely. Bread and toffee play a supporting role and there is an earthy-alcohol thing going on in here too.

Taste is a delicious blend of various malt flavors...from caramel to toast to honey to even a little hint of chocolate. Thick, sweet and syrupy but strangely never gets cloying as the alcohol dries things out nicely on the finish. I did the JW Lees thing a little different as I have had two of the flavored cask versions prior to the regular. I think I enjoyed the cask ones slightly better, but not by much. This is a real treat, I wish this was sold in TX; I'd love to have a case or two of these to drink over the next few years.

Photo of DavoleBomb
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a perfect pint. 1999 vintage. The older beer I've had.

4.0 A: Deep amber color with good clarity. Maybe a 1/8 inch head forms, but that's not too bad given the elderly status of this.

4.5 S: This smells absolutely wonderful! Big aggressive caramel and toffee. Minerally earthiness. Lots of honey and a light sherry. This is oxidized surprisingly little. Plum, prune, and date fruitiness with a slight grape and raisin combo. Moderately sweet and quite clean. Very well rounded.

4.5 T: Taste is even bolder than the nose. Big syruppy sweetness to kick things off. Loads of caramel, toffee, and brown sugar. Even more honey in the taste. I don't know if they even used honey in this. Again just a slight sherry. Plum galore with nearly as much prune and date. Fig, raisin, and tobacco underneath. Earthy mineral. Still has a mild alcoholic tinge. Quite pleasant and shockingly bold after all these years.

4.0 M: Heavy body. Very good carbonation for the age. A little overly syruppy, but otherwise creamy and smooth.

4.5 D: Really enjoyed this. I'm going to have to pick up a few to age.

Photo of ChrisPro
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage poured into a snifter

Pours murky mahogany with frothy light khaki colored head that will NOT disappear.

Aroma is like brandied cherries or plum. Lots of big caramel notes, but the fruity notes (above along with figs or dates) dominate. This is just fantastic.

Taste is similar to the aroma. No huge surprises. Tons of sweet caramel and fermented fruits. This drinks almost like a brandy or even a fruit liqueur. However, it is not cloyingly sweet. There is a great bitter finish that helps maintain some semblance of balance.

Mouthfeel is incredibly full-bodied with some big buttery coating left on the roof of the mouth. Light carbonation, but expected for the style and age.

Overall, this is certainly a sipper, but an incredibly complex sipper. So many different fruit and sweet flavors come out as it warms. Fantastic beer.

Photo of nflmvp
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2001 Vintage....Now this is something you can really sink your teeth into. It pours an amber/orange with a nice tight head that quickly dissipates, leaving a light thin foam. Light traces along the glass reminded me of the wonderful nectar that had once been there. This is a thicker brew, nearly syrupy but missing nothing when it comes to palatability and taste. You want to linger over this brew. Savor it, don't quaf it. The taste has amazing complexity. Starting with a fruitiness and blending into an alcohol warmth and finally finishing with a sweet seduction. If this brew was a woman, she'd be certain to get you into serious trouble....but it would be well worth it.

Photo of TenHornsProud
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 Vintage

Pours a murky amber, brown with almost no head, just a slight ring of tan.

Smells of sweetness, toffee, port wine, booze, earthy/leaf character, some oxidized cherry/sherry notes.

Taste is sweet caramel like malt that goes into a plum/sherry/honey middle and ends on an earthy sweet note that lasts and lasts. The alcohol warms right at the end and is nice lingering. Reminds me of a malty/tawny port in the best ways. Big, heavy, and thick. Pushing the line beyond beer.

Heavy body due to the residual sweetness and alcohol and veryyy little carbonation. Works like a charm.

I'd have to do a vertical to get more perspective, but this is fantastic. Like a fine porto.

Photo of projectflam86
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

-2000 vintage-

This one is a decade old and I want to see how it is holding up...

A- Pours a deep brown raisin color with a thin wispy head that leaves a bit of scattered lace.

S- Rich dark sweetness with a bit of grain and alcohol. Some faint fruit and vinous aromas come through as well.

T- Incredibly rich and sweet with loads of caramel malt and dark fruit leading the way. Flavors of caramel, fig, plum, oak, sherry, and an earthy finish. The alcohol is extremely well hidden. The years have been very kind to this brew.

M- Medium bodied with low carbonation. A bit thin considering how big this baby is.

D- Overall a great brew that holds up incredibly well over the years. I can't wait to crack open a few other vintages a see how the flavors progress.

Photo of mikeys01
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had the privilege to drink some cask '96 J.W. Lees Harvest this weekend at the Moan & Dove in Amherst, MA. Poured directly from the cask, there is no visible head or carbonation, it's a serious cask barleywine. Color is a gemlike clear mahogany, and it appears to be fairly thick from the way it clings to the glass. Aroma is a mixture of whiskey and brandy and a little bit of sweet vanilla. Mouthfeel is fairly thick, without being syrupy however. My cask Lees was served appropriately at room temperature, which allowed the flavors to fully blossom immediately upon sipping. Taste is very oakey and reminiscent of a fine brandy at first, then is rounded out with ample sweetness and notes of coffee in the finish. Alcohol presence is certainly noticeable in the before, during, and after sipping, but it does not overcome any of the complex flavor and the Lees is actually quite smooth. A rare treat to say the least....

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,284 ratings.