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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.

1,319 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,319
Reviews: 812
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 188 | FT: 13
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,319 | Reviews: 812
Photo of Hopstout
4.36/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This review is based upon a J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Vintage 2001.

Appearance - Wine colored and clear. Colored water. Limpid. Barely any carbonation. No head with massive legs.

Aroma - Strong scent of port wine and quality bourbon whiskey. A firm wave of vanilla ice cream and caramel creme brulee. Pure sweet dessert with strong scent of alcohol topping.

Taste - This is filled with a variety of powerful flavors. Massively sweet and porty. Layers of vanilla bean and warm caramel and hot butterscotch and cool cream. Brandy. Molasses. Maple syrup. Dark fruits. Dollop of oak.

Mouthfeel - Huge body with a silky and suave finish. There is a hefty dose of alcohol mid-swallow then it fades to a sweet and buttery aftertaste.

Overall - This ale is one of the most curious and unique "beers" that I have ever had which makes it difficult to rate. It is nothing like a "beer". It is more like a port. A boozy and sweet rare treat. A twelve ounce serving is plenty. A little too sweet to drink alone, more of a novelty beer. Share this with another beer enthusiast.

Photo of intovert2438
4.36/5  rDev +2.8%

Photo of jjanega08
4.36/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2002

A= Pours a dark brown color with a finger of head! I didn't expect much head at all if any here but I got a finger that sticks around as a thin skin on the top of the beer for a while and even leaves some lacing.

S= Big sweetness on this one. There's a slight booze note. Tons of toffee. Maple syrup comes to mind as well. I get a bit of nuttyness from it in the nose as well if that makes sense. I feel like a get a bit of woodyness as well... I dunno if this has any wood in it?

T= Big on sweetness again. Loads of tobacco in the taste. Toffee and tobacco. A sweet leathery taste and any wood that I smelled is gone. Just leathery tobaccoy sweetness.

M= Slick and smooth. Low carbonation and not nearly as thick as I expected without being thin either.

D= Wonderful beer. Worth checking out and pairing with a nice cigar. I see why this is so highly regarded and sort of ask myself why it took me so long to try it.

Photo of oberon
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage,I opened a 2003 bottle a few months back and it was just a bit much so I picked this one seeing it was aged already seven years.Pours a deep chesnut brown with just a slight ruby hue with one finger head wich honestly I didnt expect,aromas are incredible walnut and raisin stick out most with a touch of orange,rich and robust flavors but are much more in tune with each other than the 2003 big raisin/prune up front with a roasted nut and maple finish.Thick but not quite syrupy mouthfeel glides down easy,cant think of a better nighttime sipper,just awseome.

Photo of BeerIsland
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I got a taste of the '99 at Max's a few weeks back, this was quite a brew. Even though it was on the handpump, it poured very flat and brown to garnet in color. There were some nice honey smells that got a little sweeter as I progressed. The '99 is a rich, deeply flavored beer with butterscotch and toffee flavors all the way through. I'm not sure about the drinkability since it took me 45 minutes to do 5 oz and a companion 5 oz of the 2004 Lagavulin. But who's in a hurry ??

A Very Neat beer drinking experience!

Photo of ggaughan
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1988 Vintage. This bottle was compliments of Tom at Union Jack's on the Manatawny, what a treat. This beer poured a port like redish/brown color into a nice miniature brandy snifter with minimal head. The beer had an exceptional aroma similar to a brandy with that strong alcohol smell and some fruit notes, maybe figs or plums. I was a bit apprehensive that the taste would follow along with the brandy like smell but the taste was actually very enjoyable and not burning like a brandy would. The taste was a bit sweet with more plums notes but very enjoyable and complex.

This beer aged very well and would be worth trying again if I can get my hands on it again. What a treat. Thanks Tom!

Photo of prototypic
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 1998

Appearance: It's very cloudy with minute sediment particles swimming about. It's dark and reddish brown in color. Head is about a finger deep and an off-white color. It receded very quickly and left little to no lace behind. Very nice looking color nonetheless.

Smell: This is a very complex scent that is bursting at the seams with loads of aromatic goodness. It's a strong mix of figs, dates, and dark fruits up front. Dark fruit aroma consists of plum, raisin, and prune. Smells malty and sweet. It has notes of brown sugar and molasses. Alcohol is a little noticeable, but not overly so. Damn fine smelling beer.

Taste: It's very sugary sweet, bordering on too sweet. But, it's not quite there. It has a nice caramel malt base that adds some more sweetness. But, it works and works very well. Dark fruits and fig work wonders with the other flavors. It tastes extremely well balanced and the vast array of flavors have an excellent synergistic effect on the palate. There's a slight alcohol taste that warms a little on the way down. Finishes sweet and dry.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: It feels medium bodied and has an excellent smooth quality to it. I was expecting a heavier feel, but color me surprised. It's very drinkable. It's strong at 11.5%, which limits drinkability just a tad. Nonetheless, it's smooth and easy drinking.

The '98 Vintage release is impressive. I didn't quite know what to expect considering I'm drinking it in 2008. But, it's aged well and is a very nice beer. I'd be very interested to pick other releases for a comparison. In any event, it's an easy recommendation from me.

Photo of Flashsp2
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

JW Lees 2007 (served May '10) into snifter

Pours a very lightly hazed orange with a short lived bone white head
that thins down to a solid ring. Slight touches of lace. Looks like a
fine fine cognac with seltzer.

Toffee, raisin, intense caramels, dark fruits, spicy alcohol, earth,
vinous port notes, cognac.

Deep dark dried fruity stewed in sweet rum, prickly alcohol,
earthy/vegetal hops, medium caramels, light citrus. So boozy, but so
delicious. A very faint oxidation note reveals toward the end as it
warms, that brings the port qualities to the forefront. Leans toward
the sweeter side, but only teeters toward cloying sweetness without
ever stepping over.

Heavy slick mouthfeel that has a low level carbonation that is
comprised of exceptionally small bubbles.

An exquisite beverage that begs contemplation. A sipper for certain,
even in such a small quantity it takes a good hour to conquer this

Photo of kirkpjr
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2002 vintage poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a deep, murky, copper brown with almost 1 finger of khaki head. A thin ring of head remains as the beer drinks down.

S: Raisins, figs, and toasted caramel. Really sweet malts with maybe a touch of chocolate. A sweet booziness and a touch of oxidation rounds this one out.

T: Raisins and figs make this one sweet off the bat. Thick caramel malts add to the body. You can feel the heat in your stomach, but 8 years has seemed to treat this one well - sweetness overtakes any bite the heat may have given off.

M: The body is thick and almost syrupy. Moderate to low carbonation.

D: This one is a fine sipper that gets better as it warms.

Photo of weeare138
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 Harvest Ale...
Appears a dark amber and crimson with a 2 finger beige head that fades to a fluffy cap. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is syrupy, lightly oxidized, maple syrup, caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, cherries, red grapes, nougat, and rich toffee.
Taste is of rich, boozy, caramel, vanilla, cocoa powder, rum soaked raisins, nougat, and cherries.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, syrupy, sugary, dessert like, with cherry concentrate and a boozyness that hangs on. This is the equivalent of a tawny port wine. Delicious stuff.

Photo of LittleBreeze
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 1998

I was a little worried about trying this one. I hate when a good beer has gone down hill.

Not the case with this baby. First sip seemed a bit sweet. After the second...or third sip the complexity...various layers of flavors presented themselves. Burnt sugar is there. Dark fruits. Oak. Plums. A lot going on in this sipper. It is warming and inviting. I shared the bottle. This is a nice one to share on a chilly evening.

Good beer experience.

Photo of tar
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2001 vintage. Tasted May 2005. Pours a dark, red-brown with very persistent, one finger thick, off-white head. Some large bubbles ring the glass, but otherwise the head is composed of uniform one millimeter diameter bubbles. Nice lacing of the glass throughout consumption. Smells of sticky sweet malt, with some nice spicy and earthy hop notes. A bit of an alcohol aroma, not surprisingly, is also present, but does not distract from the beer at all. Taste is very, very good. Quite sweet, but well balanced by some nice hop bitterness. Alcohol comes through nicely to further cut the sweetness and leaves a nice warming in the mouth. Full bodied and oily slick feel in the mouth, this beer goes down very smooth. Overall an outstanding beer.

Photo of IBUnit63
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 vintage

Hazy oak barrel color with tight, dense yeasty head. Nice amount of carbonation.

Syrupy, copious malt and slight ginger beer spice. Almost toffee-like. Excellent.

Wow - doesn't get much better than that. HUGE sweet, deep malt with big alcohol. Strong vanilla and oak backbone. Well-aged; nicely mellowed.

Extra deep start and finish. Excellent warm, oak feel.

A sipper by nature but an incredibly enjoyable one.

Edit: Also sampled 2005 vintage - great stuff with a little more alcohol burn - the 2005 rolls hot and could definitely use a few years in the basement to calm down. Notes for 2005 say A/S/T/M/D = 4/4.5/4.5/3.5/4 = 4.25

Photo of Zraly
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Harvest '10 on-tap at The Birch. Served in a snifter.

Pours a deep copper-gold with no head to speak of. Semi-interesting notes of alcohol and honey in the nose.

Really heady flavor of honey and cognac. A touch of bread and toasted nuts. World-class flavor wise. Sweet and smooth, the alcohol is slow to burn. Heavy but well-balanced between malt and hops. Finishes nicely with little cloying.

I had mine as my night cap with crackers, honey, and chunks of stilton -- it was sublime. I can't wait to try the bottles of '08 and the '10 in port casks that I recently picked up.

Photo of BrewMaster
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 bottle pours a dark brown with a little head and slight red hue. a swirly ring of bubbles covers the top. the aroma is strong with notes of caramel, scotch, brown sugar, and a syrupy malt smell. Very sweet to start with a roasty but soft flavor. the sweetness is very reminiscent of sherry or port. There are some woody flavors in the beer that add a creaminess and subtle nutty flavor along with some fruit/berry flavors. There is a light grape flavor and a strong alcohol finish. The aftertaste is lightly roasty. Smooth and very rich. Excellent. This is very nice beer to drink. At 11.5% it's no wonder why it comes in 9.5 ounce bottles.

1999 bottle pours dark brown again. similar flavors to the 1998 but less woody and more malty. rich caramel malts dominate and a burnt sugar flavor comes in. also a banana and brandy sweetness. the roasty aftertaste is much the same as the 1998. this 1999 bottle seems to hide the alcohol better than the 1998.

Photo of darklordlager
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

Special Beer to celebrate Review #100
1999 Vintage, acquired at Dennis Brothers in Cottage Grove, MN.

Cracking it open, it's weird to think that this beer is 10 years old...

A caramelly alcoholic smell wafts out as it is opened. Pours a nice off white/light tan colored head which slowly recedes to a thin filmy layer. The way the head dissapates is unlike any other beer I've ever seen. Unevely, and in odd patterns and shapes that seem afraid of the liquid below. I can smell this before even putting my nose close to it. A rich smell of dark fruit, (prunes and raisons) is emitted. Wow. Layers of caramel, candied fruit, sweet cherries lingering in the background. Bready/yeasty character is evident as well. Alcohol is masterfully covered up while smelling this directly, which is kind of odd as I smelled it right when it was opened.

All the things going on with this first sip just got me disoriented. Huge chewy body, port-like flavours, and incredible finish. Fruit cake, drizzled with caramel. Cherry, some apple character. It's like a constant barrage of varying degrees of malt flavour attacking my tongue (in the best way possible). Rich, hearty, very sweet--I can see how it covers up the alcohol.

This stuff just sits on your tongue, exuding flavour, refusing to let go. The alcohol is extremely well hidden, and is only there to aid in the balancing of the huge flavors.

As for drinkability, this is Incredibly sweet beer--I'm glad this is only a 9.6 oz bottle, as any more might be hard to stomach.

Those into port that snub their noses at beer--here it is, JW Lee's is about to change your mind....

Photo of aforbes10
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I've had the 1998, and felt it had gotten a little too old (oxidized, cardboardy, etc), but i felt i should go for the 2000 to give it another shot. Pours an extremely dark red. Short ring of a tan head. Lazy slow lacing. I can smell it from several feet away. metallic fruitiness, very pungent. malt underneath, ethanol. very much the odor of a beer liquor. Taste is strong and aggressive. cherries and malts mixed in with warm alcohol, quickly mellowing and transitioning to a warming, biscuity and chocolate/nougat flavor. Some roastiness. a decadent taste experience. Full bodied and heavy. Yeah, this is a great drinking experience. very nice. Like i said, i thought the 1998 had gone over the hump, age-wise, so it was nice to have one that tasted as i expected it would.

Photo of blitheringidiot
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 Vintage Limited Edition.

Label lore: First brew from the 1998 harvest. 11.5 % ABV. 275 mL 9.6 oz. Marris Otter malted barley and East Kent Goldings. Bottled 12/1/1998.

Poured into me Flying Fish tulip with a furious cloudy brown no-light escaping hued ale under a razor thin ring of off white head collar and a foamy island in the middle of the surface. A few swirls erupt an ephemeral khaki tan coating that creeps into the corners of the glass.

Quad like dark fresh baked bundt cake malt muscle and plenty of awl-kee-hawl esters, even fresh out of a chilled bottle. Cigarette ash scents and woodiness meets prunes. This smells like a spicy dessert drink. Some yeasty esters become more pronounced as warmed.

First swigs: Big mad props to GeoffFromSJ for this treat. A thick syrup cake batter smoked port wine that contains doughy enigmatic flavors. Each sip reveals a different taste. Smoked peat, foamy feel and brown spiced wafer flavor. Surprising, the awl-kee-hawl esters are under the radar. Slight smokiness keeps the fire smoldering. Spices range from cinnamon to nutmeg and ginger. Karo syrup sweet.

Thick fullness - I mean as full bodied gets! Sticks to your lips sticky.

Last swigs: The oak wood characteristics bring this to the doorstep of Sam Adams Triple Bock. Barley Wine Style Ale prescence is what this sipper is all about. My only frownie face: 9.6 oz. Boo hoo! 1998 is probably not going to get any better. This is liquid bundt cake batter.

Beer is good. Happy strong beering.

Photo of CharlesRiver
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Harvest Ale 1997.

I have been dieing to try this beer as I have one each from '97-'00. This beer is dark reddish brown in color with almost no head at all. I actually wouldn't expect one from a beer that is six years old. The smell is port like with tons of malt and cherry notes coming through. The taste is thick and malty! Kind of reminds me of Benolence form CBC but a bit thicker. I would never expect a six year old brew to hold up this well. Anise, pepper, cherries and raisins all come through.

What a great sipper. I can't wait to try the other vintages as well.

Photo of Admiraldinty
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow, this is a huge beer. Very port-like. Pours a dark brown with an ample tan head. Aroma is oh so sweet and malty. Also raisins, molasses, and buttery toffee. Taste is incredibly sweet and smooth. Caramel, toffee, raisins, some coffee. Ends with a touch of bitterness and a bit of grain. Thank God for it because otherwise this would be the sweetest thing I've ever tasted. Gives you a nice warm, toasty feeling as well. Perfect for a winter's night.

Photo of Bierman9
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle reviews....
(08JAN05) Another nice bier to warm up with on a cold, snowy night! Label states 1st December 1997. Bottling date, or brew date? Anyhow, label also states best before Nov 2002. Oooops, just a bit late. Oh well. Better nate than lever....

Into the snifter she goes, and it's a dark brown, opaque brew, with a very thin, wispy head congregating only around the rim of the glass. Upon closer inspection, with a little light turned on, I see that the Harvest has a deep ruby hue. Quite nice! Nose is a potent, sweet, rich combo of dark fruit and malty sweetness. Mmmm! Body is more than medium, almost chewy, and silky smooth. Oh yeah! And the flavor is replete with fruity notes, like plum and raisin. Not quite as sweet as the nose suggests, but bulging with dark fruit notes. The high abv is oh-so-well concealed! Don't feel any real warmth, though it's early yet! Along with the fruit is an undercurrent of caramel/toffee sweetness. Real nice! Gotta sip it though; take your time! Tasty bier!!

overall: 4.35
appearance: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4

*** ***

(20FEB03) This is a 275ml bottle of 1997 vintage. Poured a very rich, dark brown color, with little transparency to it. Head is a finely bubbled, tan layer, with more head ringing the outer rim of the snifter. It leaves a fair amount of lace, yet nothing spectacular. Upon taking a whiff I am inundated by raisiny, dark fruit aromas, as well as the unmistakable nose of alcohol. Sweet and rich....quite nice! The body is medium to medium-plus, and the biers' passage across the tongue ruffles nary a feather....nice and smooth! The taste itself is loaded with creamy, rich, sweet flavors...lots of dark fruit and some toffee notes as well. A verrry nice sipping bier, which has aged well since '97. Cheers!! (4.5/4.5/4.5/4.5/4.5 = 4.50)

*** ***

Cask sample from 20MAY02... This beer was sampled at the Boston Beer Summit. The following, courtesy of Matthias Neidhart of B. United: "It was 2001 vintage , 11.5% alc./vol. The wooden cask was primed with E.Dupont's
calvados from Normandie,France, prior to its filled with JW Lees Harvest Ale." Lovely mahogany-like color; minimal head and lace, though. Assertive sweet nose, with alcohol quite present. Very nice body, and the smoothness caresses the tongue. Rich, sweet, malty, oaky, nutty flavors with the ever-present alcohol. A wonderful brew! (4.0/4.5/4.5/4.5/4.5 = 4.40)


Photo of Fatduck
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 Vintage 275 ml bottle.

Pours a dark brown, with a fleeting head, fades to a ring. This one is a little muddy. Smells very sweet, but there is a hint of roasted malts in there too, I love it.

Taste is very sweet, lots of stuff going on here, this is one beer that I know is great, but it eludes me. Taste is very fruity, raisins, pears? I don't know, but its great.

Creamy silky mouth, very smooth, barely carbonated. Nice easy drinker.

Photo of franksnbeans
4.38/5  rDev +3.3%
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 cypressbob
4.38/5  rDev +3.3%
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 srandycarter
4.38/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 Version

A - Dark caramel, not much head. Ring is left. Thin leggy lacing.

S - Friggin wow. Deep meaty dark fruits, sweet and thick, booze evident. Yum.

T - Beautiful high volume flavor, sweet and complex, giving you a meal in rich deep fruits and booze.

M - Medium to full, great coating, wish a little more carb.

D -Not a session by any stretch.

1997 and 2000 Version Very similar! :), except the carb was better. LOVE THIS BEER.

Happy to say.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,319 ratings.