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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

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821 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 821
Hads: 1,387
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 13.88%
Wants: 251
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 Axic10
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1999 Vintage poured from 275ml bottle into a snifter. As of today, this 11 year old beer is the oldest I've ever had.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown with hints of ruby red and no head at all.

Smell: Raisin, plum, sweet malt, dark candied fruits and some toffee. Nice smelling barleywiine.

Taste: Sweet raisins and other candied fruits, heavy caramel. Very sweet but also very complex.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and extremely smooth.

Drinkability: I have a few more vintages of this, and if they are anything like this I am in for a treat. I think I'm going to pick up some more 1999 vintages when I see them. Very very enjoyable.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance - pours a muddy, murky brown, nearly the same color as the beer bottle. Some decade-old carbonation is still kicking. It manages little more than a scant swirling cover and ring, but for ten years old I'm impressed it's got any action at all.

Aroma - a chocolate and fruity, earthy (musty?) kind of aroma. Settling a bit, fig and raisin slowly come to the fore, almost a grape-like mix with the cocoa. A restrained but detectable vapory alcohol in there, too.

Taste - I'm stuck on where to start. What a full range of flavor all at once! Molasses and brown sugar are the easiest to pull out. Raisiny, with some roasted nuttiness trying to get through but the stage is just too big. Cherries hit about mid-palate with a light bite to them, undoing the sweetness a bit. As the flavor moves to the back, some hops work alongside the cherry flavor to bring a nice balance to the beer. A drying effect with alcohol warming, it takes on a cough syrup effect. The finish shows off the cocoa, the fruit, the hops, and the abv in rare fashion.

Mouthfeel - heavy and viscous, a low key carbonation tickles the tongue while letting the flavor abound.

Drinkability - a fine selection for Valentine '07's nightcap. My wife chose a Beaujolais Noveau tonight, I picked a ten -year old ale. If opposites attract, that's proof we were made for each other. Cheers to you, sweetie on this, our 13th V-Day as a team.

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Photo of MrStark
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a vintage 1999 275ml bottle into a snifter glass.

Appearance is a cloudy orange/brown with a small off white head that dissipated fairly quick. Not too bad for a beer this old I think.

Smell is heavy in sweet malts, caramel, fruit and brown sugar. Very nice to breathe in. A quite complex, sweet and inviting aroma.

Taste upfront is just what the nose was offering up. Sweet malts , caramel , dark fruits , molasses and brown sugar all come together to make a wonderfully sweet and complex flavor. As it warms there is a bit of spiciness and a very mild hint of the alcohol which feels pretty nice on the way down. I'd say 11 years of aging certainly made this a treat for the palette.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and goes down smooth leaving a nice lingering sweetness on the tongue. And surprisingly it has a decent amount of carbonation after all that time.

Drinkablity is just, wow! This beer tastes amazing and goes down very easy and smooth. I had to slow down to try to make it last longer. I believe this is the oldest brew I've had so far and its just very lovely. There is no question that I'd would have this again.

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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 roguetester
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I recieved two bottles of the '99 vintage in a barleywine sample case.

I had never had it before, but when I poured the first bottle out, I new I was in for a treat...

A small amount of head formed in the glass, but this dissapeared rather quickly. For a beer that had been in the bottle for ~4 years I was surprised that almost no residue was left in the bottle.

The aroma was not unlike that of a fine brandy. Alcohol was quite obvious as were other deep aromas.

The taste was exceptional. Very rich in flavor. All sorts of complex notes going on. You know the alcohol was there, but it ducked in and out of the other flavors the whole time.

This stuff is wicked expensive. There are very few cases that are north of $100 that I'll even entertain. This is one of them. This is a brew that I'd be proud to share with people the same way some share a fine cognac. If you decide to try this, get your hads on a few bottles so that you can enjoy it over a few years.

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Photo of elgiacomo
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Enjoying a 1999 vintage on New Year's Eve 2010, right around 11 years old. Review and score of previous 1997 vintage pretty much holds true for this one. A massively rich and complex brew. Fantastic.

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1997 vintage, enjoyed at about 12 1/2 years old. Served cool room temp into a Duvel tulip.

Pours brown with a small light brown head, reduces to a ring and leaves some spots of lacing. Appearance is spot-on for the style.

The aroma hit me before even pouring the beer with a hefty dose of booze, but does settle down to reveal a rich aroma of molasses, brown sugar, dark fruits, raisins, figs, plums, some nice chocolate, spice, and I am getting some oxidation on the nose. Doesn't really detract and I was kind of expecting some of that.

The flavor on this is so incredibly rich and strong and complex, a treat. Starts with the absolute best dark fruit flavors I've encountered in a beer, raisins, figs, and plums showcased at their best. A supporting cast of chocolate, molasses, grapes, brown sugar, very malty and sweet. Tastes a lot like Raisinettes, and I love me some Raisinettes. Yum.

Mouthfeel is full and sticky, low carbonation, one to sip and savor.

My 2nd JW Lees Harvest, had a '98 on its 10th birthday and it blew me away, this '97 follows that trend. Got a '99 on deck very, very soon, and there will be many more to come. One of my all-time favorites, a masterful creation.

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Photo of Vancer
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The big bad boy of English BWs, whata great brew.

A very lite amber, had a nice head for a 11+ abv brew, but it was the aromas that start this one off. Massive amount of bourbon, raisins, plums, cherries, i.e. the works.

Whoo, is this cherry bourbon or beer? Has hints of porter wine. The alcohol is very present, but not overpowering at the same time. Smooth, full bodied and an unambiguous sipper – be sure to have this by a winter fire. This has been quite the treat, a brew that one does not quickly forget.

Damn bottle was only 9.3 ounces. #600 on a great journey.

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Photo of WorldWideStout
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I've had various vintages of this through the years, but thought I should finally review one. 2001 vintage.

A: A warm copper and auburn body, slightly murky, with no head or lacing. Just the way a barleywine should look.

S: A delightful aroma greets my nostirls whenever my nose gets anywhere near the glass. Rum raisins, brandy, and various dessert breads soaked in alcohol. The alcohol is not hot or unpleasant in any way, it just enriches the other flavors, much as it does in deserts.

T: Much like the aroma. I can also now pick up a bit of sherry, cherries, and almonds. Not a terribly strong aftertaste, but it lingers in small doses for quite awhile in my mouth. Very rich and tasty.

M: A good amount of carbonation that doesn't overwhelm the flavors but keeps the body from being too heavy. It's not particularly smooth or silky though.

D: Despite the rich flavors, I think I could enjoy a second one of these, as it's so smooth and warming.

A world-class brew right here folks. If you like malts at all, you need to try this one. I've had one that was only a few years old and didn't think it was so great, but once you get 5+ years on it, it's a champ.

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Photo of nickfl
4.77/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1998 Vintage

A - Half finger of light brown head quickly dissipates and leaves minor lace. The body is dark brown and opaque.

S - Very unusual musty, toasted oak/ dark caramel aroma. Spicy notes and some vanilla as well.

T - Very smooth milk chocolate like flavor up front along with big, creamy caramel apple character. Spicy, slightly woody notes follow, ginger and cinnamon as well as some roasty toffee notes. Some very rounded bitterness asserts itself towards the end, but fades into a lingering alcohol warmth and amazingly rich caramel notes in the finish.

M - Thick, syrupy body, moderate carbonation, and a sweet finish.

D - Keeping in mind that this is far from a session beer, it is an extraordinarily sippable sipping beer. Other vintage English beers I have had showed a similar complexity, but never seemed as drinkable as this. The caramel character is nothing short of spectacular and even though it is a very sweet beer it somehow avoids becoming cloying. Despite nearly 10 years in the bottle it shows no signs of oxidation, and has very little of the sherry character that one might expect of a beer this age. Overall, this is a really excellent vintage beer to enjoy on a cold winter night.

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage, poured to a snifter.

Having a good bit of age on it, I gave this a harder pour than normal, and still only got a wispy head. The bubbles are bigger than usual, and most disappear while the rest form a thin crown. The liquid looks like mud-spiked caramel-colored water complete with floaters. I don't mind floaters, but overall this isn't very appetizing looking (although I'm not going to be totally unfair to it, given its age).

But my, that aroma...strong suggestions of vanilla, freshly-cut wood, real aged apple cider, and strong spirits, with hints of sprearmint, cherry blossom and toffee. Robust, bold and complex. Enticing. Perfect.

Flavor is a faithful mirror of the prominent aromas: vanilla, wood, apple cider all there...alcohol is merely a warming element. At 11.5% + 5 years, the alcohol avoids any sort of hotness, thankfully. Caramel brings up the back end, and big-time, providing a candy-like bed of controlled sweetness for everything else to mingle upon. Further back are cellar-stored liqueur-soaked fruits (fig, currant, plum, cherry). A little musty, not the longest finish, but pretty much as comforting a barleywine flavor as I've ever experienced. Depth, balance, deliciousness and, quite apparently, top quality ingredients...this rules.

The feel is pretty much perfect; excellent balance of round, buttery silkiness, a little bit gooey, and just a kiss of carbonation to keep things lively. As soon as it hits the lips, I didn't want it to leave. Hangs in the mouth just perfectly, never too thick or thin, never too carbonated or too dead.

I wondered if 5 years was even too young, but I think this has been poured at just the right time. Lovers of exquisite big beers, especially old ales and barleywines, seek it out (if you haven't already).

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Photo of Elendinn
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2002 vintage, poured into a tulip glass, and raised in praise of Don Younger.

Wow, this beer looks beautiful! It pours a dark, leathery, bronze-tinged mahogany; so dark that it's practically opaque, though, when held to the light, becomes a slightly more translucent copper, with bits of yeast floating around, possibly from a novice pour. It's got no head, save for a thin ring of caramel-colored effervescence around the circumference of the glass. It looks like an eleagant, refined liquor -- brandy or cognac.

Smells like it looks: a spicy, refined liqour. Cinnamon, chocolate, and lots of dark fruits (figs, raisins, port-like grapes) are all extremely prominent. There is a very discernable aroma of rubbing alcohol that permeates the nose, which is a bit of a distraction, but, ultimately, it coalesces into something very sweet and pleasing.

The taste is immediately reminiscent of port, primarily featuring the dark fruits present in the nose. There are some very earthy elements in there, as well, like a decades-old red wine. It's a little boozey in the finish, but a very noticeable chocolate flavor interjects itself and lingers long after everything else, rounding the experience out nicely. Not too sweet, not too hot.

Like a port, the body on this is quite thick, practically syrupy. Fortunately, the moderate amount of carbonation makes for a pleasurable stay on the tongue.

J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale is everything I expect from a traditional barleywine and more. Deep, rich, and as complex as a fine port -- eleagant, nuanced, and spectacular. It transcends what one would typically define as beer. Yes, it's drinkable, despite the abv., but should be savored, fully and completely. Buy these, age them for as long as you can, and open them on special occasions when reflection and contemplation are paramount!

For Don Younger. A perfect beer to honor you with.


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Photo of mentor
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Uhm, this was a pretty good beer. Review recorded on paper from a 1998 bottle obtained from John's Grocery (Iowa City) and consumed a couple evenings later (June 2005). Pours a finger and a hlaf tan (pinewood) colored head over a red dark-rust orange liquid.. Nearly clear except a few particulates. Smells citrusy tang with alcohol. Sweet and caramel. Tastes smooth sweet then citrusy tnag, then wet sweet, then richly rolls of caramel and toffee and some chocolate banter about (as aftertastes) vying for attention. That was a long sentence, but then, that was an amazing first gulp. Yummy complex beers! A nice transition of flavors from start to end, plus a nice combination of layered flavors at any given moment in the experience. Alcohol is noticable in the start as a gentle burn on the front of my tonguebefore it blends into and finally beaten out by a citrusy tang. In the middle, fruit flavors consist of cherry sour, apricot, pear, watermelon, oranges (perhaps comes as part of a hop bitter?) and malt flavors consist of crystal/caramel malt and a biscuity barley. The beer ends with a great malt sweetness (I love malty beers) that almost has a bock quality about it. Thick mouthfeel and mildy carbonated. Minimal lacing on the inside of the glass.

2001 Vintage in December, 2010 (A:4 S:4 T:3 M:3.5 D:2);
2001 vintage ($4.49 price tag). Obtained from John's Grocery (Iowa City) probably 7ish years ago and cellared by me since then. Slight hist when opened carried soy and cognac aromas. Pours a thin ring of tan head over a very dark ruby liquid. Smells soy, clover honey, salt, mild clean alcohol sting.

Tastes sugary sweet with salty to counter. Oranges, wax, honey, rootbeer soda, and clean alcohol on the edges of the tongue trying (but failing) to keep the beer from sticking too much. With searching, the salty soy can be thought of as coffee/toffee/caramel with a bit of scorch to the toffee. Like a burnt heath bar.

In the mouth it's thick, but it cleans away fairly well, partly due to the alcohol. Mild carbonation, as to be expected from a beer a decade old. hard to choke down the entire 9 oz bottle.

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Photo of Halcyondays
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

275 mL bottle, 2001 Vintage, brewed when I was a senior in high school,

A: Pours a dark brown with a light head that doesn't last too long. Not murky.

S: Sweet nose with caramel, raisin, maple syrup and Pedro Ximenez sherry. Hints of fig and apricot, very mild oxidation character. Great nose.

T: Caramel, brown sugar syrup and dark fruit for the main flavour. Delicious, still has plenty of residual sugar left. Great note of cocoa on the finish. The ultimate beer for malt lovers.

M: Thick, viscous and chewy. Has a really similar feel to a Port wine on the tongue. Mild carbonation works wonders here. Nice amount of warming alcohol in the tummy and going down.

D: An easy sipper for an after dinner drink. Even at 9 years old this is still drinking very young and I could see it lasting another 10-30 years simply because of the sugar content, liken it to a vintage Port, Sauternes, Tokaji - classic dessert wines. The '99 I had of this a few years back was one of the best beers I've ever had; that beer had a little more complexity and oxidation character, but this '01 is still a damn fine beverage.

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Photo of stereosforgeeks
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001 Vintage enjoyed on 2/19/2007

Appearance: A nice dark brown color. Very little head was present on pouring. What little there was soon disappeared. There is quite a bit of sediment and yeast present in the glass.

Smell: This is one of the most complex aromas I have ever smelled. It's actually hard to pick out all the smells here as there is so much going on. First and foremost there is the strong smell of caramel malts. Along for the ride is some honey, vanilla, raisins, grapes, spices, plums, black currants. At 11% the alcohol notes are present as well.

Taste: The smells listed above become well mixed across your palate. There are some wood notes and brown sugar / molasses tastes that become present as well. As you drink there is some nice alcohol warming but it is never overpowering. This is a wonderful tasting beer.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is very syrupy with almost no carbonation. The syrupy consistency is a bit too much for me to drink more than one of these.

Drinkability: Count me more than impressed. The alcohol notes are present but very subdues to the incredible complexity of this beer. I am glad I have another of these to cellar and share with someone who will appreciate it as much as me!

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Photo of Jon
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cask-condtioned from a former Port wine cask. 2002 vintage.

Pours a brownish-copper color that yields no head and shows no hopes of carbonation. Not to worry, however.

Incredibly complex nose -- the port has shown its influence. Rum, vanilla, caramel, toffee, port wine, alcohol and nutty aromas all come through, creating a brilliant effect. The oak aging certainly did a number for this batch. Simply phenomenal.

Rich, complex, and profound flavors. More caramel, vanilla, nuts, rum, port, and definite hints of oak and alcohol are all there. This is one deep barleywine on its own, and the introduction of port and oak influence... wow.

Viscous, minorly syrupy mouthfeel. Super smooth and thick. Mouth-coating.

Drinks exceptionally well for what it is. Very warming. The aromatic and flavorful nuances kept me coming back for more, scratching my head along the way. Is this stuff for real? It simply must be experienced in this rare form.

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Photo of cindyjeffsmith
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2002 Vintage
appearance: Mostly clear reddish copper. No head or lacing to speak of but hey, it's 11.5% and 10 years old.
smell: butterscotch, raisins, and toffee just poppin out. Huge, refined nose.
taste: sweet but not cloying. a big assertive butterscotch finish. Amazingly smooth given the high abv. I've never had this fresh but i have to believe the decade has done wonders to this amazing beast.
overall: one of the best beers i've ever had.

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Photo of papat444
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

***2000 Vintage***

Big thanks to jtrockchalk for getting me this a few years ago. This will be the oldest beer i've had. Enjoyed on Dec. 1, 11 years after the bottling date (Dec. 1, 2000).

Appearance: A lop-sided light brown head forms, 1-2 fingers. Am opaque body that looks brown but actually has strong deep red hues. Lots of coating on the glass as i swirl.

Smell: Strong leather, musty, earthy, toffee, dark cherries, wood raisins and figs. Constant and strong aroma. Very nice.

Taste: Wow, this is rich! Raisins, fig newtons, caramel, dark fruits (mostly cherries, not tart), caramelized sugar and fruit cake. Decadent, sweet but not cloying and just great.

Mouthfeel: This has literally alcohol heat on it. Deceivingly easy to drink, smoothness is incredible and just a slight bit syrupy but i still like it a lot.

Overall: This drinks so well. Great flavor. One of my favorites and a highlight of this year.

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Photo of jvillefan
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: One of the hazier beers I've ever had but that is to be a little expected given that the vintage is four years old. There was no head when poured into a 12 oz globe glass.

S: Boozy. It hits you in the face immediately. There is a nice malty and maple aroma.

T: Excellent. There is a fantastic maple start with a nice grain/malt middle and a somewhat strong alcohol finish. This is what a barleywine is suppose to be.

M: Heavy due to the high alcohol and malt profile. A little under carbonated.

O: Excellent beer. If given the opportunity to try this it is a must. This joins the list of great barleywines that I've had with Abacus, King Henry, and Mother of All Storms.

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Photo of rhinos00
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale Vintage 1998...poured out of 275 mL into a snifter.

"Nectar of the Gods'"

A- Dark, murky brown. When held in light a nice blood red complexion turns in the glass. Inch of nice cream colored head gathered and dissipated into a nice ring as the beer was consumed.

S- The smell was insane! So complex that I don't even no where to start. Almost smelled like homemade cider. It had a sweet smell along with aromas of caramel, malt, and several fruits (cherries, plums, raisins). Oh yea, I forgot to mention the alcohol.

T- If not better then just as good as the smell. A nice sweet fruit/caramel/malty flavor hits the palate, followed by a nice gush of warm alcohol.

M- Judging by the smell, I figured it would be super thick and syrupy and to my surprise it wasn't. While it was close to being full-bodied, it went do so smoothly.

D- With a taste like this, I only wished it would come in a bottle bigger than 9.6 oz. Every time I took a whiff, I didn't want to put it down.

Overall, one of the best experiences I have ever had with beer...period. If all barlywines taste like this, I think I may have a new favorite style of beer.

Part 1 of rhinos00 vintage night. 1988 vintage. Poured from a 275 mL bottle into a snifter.

A- Poured a gorgeous dark, copper/amber. Very clear with plenty of visible flakes throughout the glass. Imagine a snow globe except with a nice, vintage barleywine.

S- There is just something about JW Lee's that appeals to my senses. Very potent and pervasive. Deep candied malts with lots of rich raisin, plum aromas. Most akin to an aged port. Little bit of alcohol in the finish.

T- Mmmm mmmm good. After 20 years in the cellar, this has held up pretty damn well. A lot of rich dark fruit flavors and heavy malts. Yes, there was quite a bit of oxidation, but it still held its own after all these years.

M- This aspect of the beer seems to have suffered the most after all these years. Virtually no carbonation, which yielded a rather thin mouthfeel for a rich tasting barleywine.

D- The taste was there, but the mouthfeel coupled with the oxidation hampered the overall drinkability of this beer.

Overall, I can't tell you how privileged I felt when I poured this beer into my snifter. I mean this beer was made when I was 3 years old. That being said, this vintage is way past it's prime. It can hold it's own in the taste department, but the oxidation is a rather large detriment to this beer. I would stick to the 1997 or 1998 vintage as of now.

4/5/4/3.5/4 = 4.15

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Photo of Beersignal
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got two bottles of this J.W.Lees Harvest Ale 1997 vintage from my uncle who purchased them in Boston at Charles Street Liquors... I owe him a solid.

Dark brown with burnt caramel highlights underneath a slim head of evanescent foam that is tan in colour. After 8 years in the bottle I wouldn't expect a gigantic and billowy cap, nor would it be very fitting for the style. A rich and attractive looking brew.

The aromas are tremendously complex and I, once again, fear that I will be at a loss to do them justice but... here it goes. Very harmonious and rounded notes of malt and dried fruit blast out of the glass right up front. Sweetness of sultanas seems to dominate the initial aromas but are certainly not limited to this alone. A slight tartness creeps in, reminescent of sour cherries and is closely followed by faint hints of black olives. A mild aroma of pralines keeps returning at every whiff followed by sweet tobacco leaves and traces of milk chocolate. The finish is slightly sherried and as rounded and complex as the front.

This is a big, bold, and rounded brew of colossal proportions. Extremely full bodied but by no means cloying, it has a subtle and balancing bitterness derived from the alcohol and hops which renders this brew surprisingly drinkable for such a heady drink. The flavours are easily as complex as the aromas. Long notes of chocolatey maltiness develop initially and are followed by a mix of toffee, dark fruits like black cherries, currants, plums and raisins. Once again, as in the aromas, a distinct sweet tobacco flavour permeates and gives the impression that I had been sucking on a Partagas Mille Fleurs. The aftertaste is long and mild with a gentle replay of the sweetness and roundedness experienced throughout the tasting.

This is without a doubt a nightcap brew but, due to its smaller than average format I could easily see myself polishing a few bottles of this off after dinner or before bed. Has become my new favourite barleywine hands down.



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Photo of hoppymeal
4.79/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2000 vintage. Pours amber to ruby red in color, mainly clear with a decent sized buttery cream colored head. Aroma is rich sweet malty prunes and raisins, a salty soy sauce and a worn leather aroma as well that is almost chocolatey with hints of sweet berries. Taste follows with huge rich pruney malts, nice worn leather qualities, and a rich buttery caramel taste as well. Mouthfeel is full and creamy, soft on the tongue, hops or alcohol presence are unnoticeable, just soft rich maltiness dominating. An absolutelt phenomenal beer, not too many brewers putting out a barleywine this big, esp that can age this nicely. Gorgeous beer at the moment will love to see how it continues to develop.

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Photo of merlin48
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Limited Edition, first bottling of December 1, 1999. Served at cellar temperature into a snifter on October 20, 2004. Bottle cap opens with a mild pop, indicating some carbonation. Indeed, a two finger tightlyknit, beige head forms atop a clear, ruby chestnut body that is effervescant with atomic sized, bubbles rushing to the surface. The attractive head is longlasting, eventually falling into film and collar lace that is tightknit and easily aroused into sheet lace on the sides of the snifter with a gentle twirl. The appearance is absolutely stunning.
The aroma is appropriately complex, and sinfully inviting. Molasses, toffee, burnt brown sugar, and some fresh fruitcake aromas are initially noted. Coffee, tobacco, rum, prunes, and a vinous note of port wine are also picked up. Some smoky, peat rounds out the exceptional nose. Wow! This is a serious undertaking.
Mouthfeel is effervescent, with a mild carbonation that is ideal. A presence of strong alcohol quickly appears and kickstarts a vinous character that reminds you that this has an abv of 11.5 %.
The taste yields an extraordinary, sweet malt character that is exceptionally complex, and complicated by a mild, alcohol burning sensation. Molasses, maple syrup, dark honey, tobacco, and freshly tanned leather comprise the dominant flavors. Pithy, dark fruits are also evident with essences of figs and raisins. This Harvest Ale becomes heavy and syrupy toward the finish, but is never cloying. The taste, overall, has a definite sherry character that compliments the malt complexities.
This is an exceptional example of British craftmanship at its best. At its current age of five years, I can't imagine how this can be better, but I'm definitely curious how this will age. I suggest buying as many bottles as you can afford, and laying down a few for aging. My only complaint is the size of the tiny, 9.6 oz bottle, but this is being greedy.

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Photo of IntriqKen
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2002 Vintage reviewed Valentine's Day, 2007
Pours a softly cloudy amber with a full finger white head that melts slowly to very sticky mapping and head covering lace.
Aromas are brown sugar, figs, and a little alcohol.
Taste is sweet dark fruits...lots of sweet dark fruits...raisins, plums, prunes, figs...lots of sugar in here. No noticable hops but finish is not cloying...there is no real sticky residue. Just the memory and hint of the sweet dark fruits that makes me want another sip.
Like a really great dark cake or rich ice creme, the flavors linger in the mouth, yet you want more and more.

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Photo of akorsak
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a 1998 vintage, purchased today from Wells Discount Liquors (n.b. they have an impressive selection of vintage JW Lees, 1998 through 2001 at least, as well as the 2004 vintage). I am drinking it from my Devil's Milk snifter, served cold.

Appearance: Dark ruby red in color, lighter colors emerge when held up to light. The ale poured with a decent head (1 finger's worth) that dissapated quickly and left no lace.

Smell: A veritable malt bomb here. The malt aroma make themselves abundantly known. I also see an undercurrent of licorice (albeit slight).

Taste: The ale is seven years old. In that time, the heady malt in the aroma has mellowed dramatically in the taste. Malt is still the predominant flavor, but it does not numb the mouth. Instead, it leaves a light refreshing taste in the mouth that is very well balanced.

Mouthfeel: Exquisite! The ale has aged so well that the alcohol does not overpower, nor do the malts used.

Drinkability: I need to make a return trip to Wells to purchase this vintage as well as those before (and after) that they stock. I'm gonna age a few of these up to 10+ years, they are that drinkable.

In my opinion, this is the standardbearer for vintage/cellared ales.

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Photo of yankeeheel
4.82/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2001 vintage

Pours a dark garnet with a small, yet very active, dark eggshell colored head. Head settles out in to a H shaped foam line in the middle of the tulip glass. Lots of little volcanic carbonation bubbles ebb to the surface. Bits of uncaught yeast slither around.

Smells quite strong. Quite sugary with a lethal dose of alcohol vapor hiding behind it. Very intriguing.

Leathery flavors are the first sensation that comes to mind. However, this is quickly replaced by a sweet rush of brown sugar malt. Sweet gives way to fruit. Apple, plum, fig, and butterscotch show up, then a strong vanilla presence. The flavors just drift away(or is it me drifting)only to have the void filled with a gentle glowing warmth. Fucking brilliant.

Mouthfeel is quite syrupy, which I normally don't go for, but here it works. This brew fits like old blue jeans. Comfortable.

I could drink a lot of this. I could at least try. I can't imagine letting this age too much longer. I'd be afraid of missing some of the goodness that the malt decompensation would bring. I have an 02 that I'll let ride until 06.

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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.