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

Not Rated.
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

1,310 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,310
Reviews: 811
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 186 | FT: 11
Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

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

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (19) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,310 | Reviews: 811 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of perrymarcus
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 vintage bottle served in an oversized wineglass.

pours a hazy amber/copper tone reminiscent of a belgian quad. some sediment; a finger and a half of head with moderate retention and some lacing.

nose is both bold and complex (frighteningly so). a sweet bouquet of dark fruits, molasses, malts, caramel, honey, alcohol, and maybe a touch of... hmm... cognac?

taste follows the aroma. tons going on. booze is more subdued than i'd have thought going off the nose. lot of dark fruits and malt sweetness. very tasty; nice, smooth finish.

mouthfeel is chewy, syrupy - brings to mind the dfh 120. drinkability is solid. i would welcome another. this is definitely not one of my preferred styles but the best i've had to date.

Photo of FLima
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2006, finally! I could not wait more, but anyway it should be excellent by now. Let's see if it holds true against my expectations...
Brown ochre color with an almost inexistent head, so far no sediments. Almost showing some lacrima effect falling down the glass.
Wonderful aroma of Port wine, lots of high grade cocoa chocolate, licorice, molasses, oak, dry fruits, a hint of cinnamon and plums. I could mistake this by a chocolate panettone. I cannot get tire of sniffing this.
Surprisingly, flavor doesn’t entirely follow nose. Some new slightly smoked notes of charred wood or even tobacco. Also, molasses, very subtle earthy English hops, Port Wine, walnut, coconut, figs, cinnamon, prunes, apple juice, pears, licorice and maple syrup. Maybe some pleasant musty. Dry and sticky aftertaste with residual notes that mutates a bit.
Liquorish body with a very low carbonation, but it is still there. Alcohol of 11.5% abv is much better hidden than a bottle of wine given its malty body.
Extraordinaire beer, a sweet malty sipper with great complexity. Bold but still mellow. Highly recommended if you are into Barley Wines. This was in perfect condition after roughly eight years, I can’t wait trying one much younger and another one older.

Photo of purplehops
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
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 BeerForMuscle
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%

Note - Having the 2011 version in November 2014, on tap at UNO in Hamilton NJ.

A - Unfiltered and hazy looking orangey glowing body.

S - Honey coated apricots, marmalade. Candied tropical fruit, light caramel and malt. Fruit jam.

T - Oak barrel aged fruit spread. Sweet, fruit meat and fruit skin, dry wood, farm honey, smooth silky booze. Booze soaked fruit, rum cake, hint of biscuit. I've named mostly sweet flavors but it's never at all cloying.

M - Soft, warming medium body with light carbonation.

O - Amazing. So far this one has trumped all other barley wines that I've had.

Photo of CrellMoset
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review #300. 2006 vintage from Wine Warehouse, Charlottesville, VA. Poured into an Allagash flute.

Appearance: This one opens w/out so much as a hiss and pours a thick, churning, syrupy mess, right down into the flute. It's a dull, hazy reddish brown beer and is full of particulate suspensions - hop particles, yeast clumps, who knows what they are, but there's tons of 'em. Carbonation is ... what carbonation? Head is ... what head? Lacing? Don't think so.

Aroma: Whew, that smells nice. A thick, pungent curtain of the breadiest malts you can imagine. Tons of sweet, layered notes (caramel, toffee, honey, complex fruity sugars), darker fruits (raisins), light leafy hops, wonderful tannin-like notes, and only the faintest hint of sweet alcohol.

Taste: A step-up from the nose. First of all, it's overwhelmingly sweet, but not in an annoying, cloying, sticky way. It's a layered and complex sweetness - doughy bread and toffee are dominant, but darker malts appear as things warm, with light coffee and sweet chocolate making themselves known. There's also, as in the nose, honey and tons of fruit - apple skins and cherries at the top and, progressing downwards, raisins, dates, figs. While there's almost no hop bitterness, there are still the remnants of a few pleasant leafy hop notes, a reminder of a time when, perhaps, this beer was indeed made with the finest harvested hops of that year. Alcohol is still nearly imperceptible - you know it's there on some level, but, eh.

Mouthfeel: 99% certain that tingling is the alcohol and not carbonation. This beer is as dead as they come, but it's a two-year old plus barleywine, so that's to be expected. It's a little thick and syrupy, but as I mentioned before, it's not cloying or sticky, so you can only knock it so much. There's hardly any alcohol warmth to be found, despite the 11.5% bill.

Drinkability: 11.5% abv, but the most well-hidden, well-blended 11.5% you're likely to find. Whether you attribute that to age, to conditioning, to the overwhelming sweetness of this beer ... either way, it's incredibly drinkable. It's complex, inviting, enjoyable, devilishly tasty ... I might just have to recommend trying it.

Photo of udubdawg
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 ml bottle of the 2001 vintage. Man I need to stop collecting and start drinking more of these!

Pours with quite a bit of sediment that settles out, leaving a hazed carmelly brown color. Decent light tan head for the age, but little retention and nonexistent lace.

Smells terrific. In a word: Rich. Lots of warming alcohol, but it isn't harsh - more blended in like a fine brandy. Carmelized sugar sweetness, and dark fruit.

Very sweet, and again rich with a thick molasses and caramel-rich malt profile. Tons of raisin, and some plum and fig. More warming alcohol in the swallow, and pretty much all over by mid-glass.

Sticky sweet full-bodied mouthfeel. I imagine the sweet residue in the mouth is a big reason why some don't care for this. Not a lot of carbonation left in this one.

Drinkability is good - way better than something this strong and sticky sweet would usually be. Strong, warming, complex - I have no trouble finishing one, and on certain sipping evenings, two. Not something I want that often though.

Photo of NWer
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage stored in a pantry that holds a steady 50 - 55 degrees.
Served in a brandy snifter.
Little to no head. Just lies there. Like brandy. Color is rust/brown. Clear. Not much sediment.
First impression is man, this is really sweet. Figs, molasses, honey notes. A pleasant sipper. If in the mood for a sipping wine - er - beer this will fit the bill but man, is it sweet.
I have another I will be putting down for a year or two to see how it mellows.
In spite of my machinations about sweetness, I like it overall.
I might update my review as I get used to it.

Photo of cubedbee
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1998 vintage. Pours a deep dark red with a thin cap of beige head that quickly reduces to a ring. Smell is sweet and dark--raisins, figs, port, and some very earthy aromas. Taste is sugary sweet upfront, with a fruity winelike complexity. Raisins, figs, pineapples, toffee, maple syrup. Just a bare note of hops on the finish to balance the sweetness, which lingers long after a sip. Alcohol is barely detectable, amazing considering the 11.5%. Mouthfeel is full and silky, absolutely suberb. Overall this is a little sweeter than I expected, but it's an absolutely shining example of a barleywine, and I would try another vintage in a second.

Photo of jabocu
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 Edition

This has been laid back since 2000 and WOW. Pours a amber/copper color with a nice 2 finger cap. Lots of floral and fruity esters in the aroma with sweet molasses, caramel, and figs. Flavor was full and sweet. Lots of fruit of raisins, figs, and a viscous quality. Very smooth and not very bitter, but just enough to tone done the sweetness. Rich and smooth is the best way to describe this beer. Too bad that was my last.

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 vintage. Wonderful dark amber with a thin head. Smell is heavy with malt and a touch of soy. Overripe fruit and a whiff of earming alcohol. The flavor is rich with sugars and warming alcohol and rich malt. No hint of soy in the flavor,just big brandyish fruit flavors and honeyed malt. Utterly delicious and meant for a snifter after dinner. Very rich and creamy mouthfeel, but not sticky at all- floats on the palate. Dry and drinkable by this point, but big and rich as well.

Photo of MrSeth
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1997 bottling pours a murky-opaque dark brown with a tan-brown 1/4" head. It keeps settling to bubbly groups of swirling suds, then to a very thin ring around the glass.

Vinous nose, very winey. Earthy walnut, wood and musk are also present.

Smooth, rich and full mouthfeel. The taste has so many different characteristics, maple syrup, molasses, burgundy, brown sugar, sherryish and meaty. The hops have diminished to a subtle bitterness that works well for the ale but doesn't jump out at you on it's own. That may seem like a redundant list, but it isn't just like molasses, or just like brown sugar.. it's a complex maltiness. And saying that it is like burgundy and sherry is no small claim for an ale either.. but try this one and you'll see, it's wonderful.

Photo of russpowell
4.46/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 vintage pours a reddish caramel with a 1/2" offwhite head. No head retention or lacing

Huge oaky, fruitty boozey nose, beautiful

T: Dryness, raisins, dates, & breadyness with a slight booze presence up front. Caramel & rummy flavors follow. Huge praline profile & little vanilla as it warms. Finishes plummy, dry & sweet, extemely complex

MF: Vinous, syruppy, rich & failry low in carbonation

This is a sipper, the overwhelming sweetness/dryness slows you down a little. A nice, if expensive indulgence that went down smoothly, if not so quick this boxing day

Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Alcohol is still a bit boisterous as well as the forceful fruitiness. Jam packed with flavour with a similarity to a port or sherry minus the carbonation. I preferred this year over 1997 due to it being a bit more robust and over the top for a barley wine.

Photo of MuenchenerKindl
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured from a smaller bottle to a snifter, the liquid is a walnut brown, with very good carbonation for a 2002 brew. The head was small, one finger but had great saying power, small bubbles and left great lace.

The smell was heavy of nutty malt and alcohol.

The taste followed, wow what a great tasting brew. I love the nutty flavor with out the crap getting stuck in my theeth. Big alcohol is present and works well.

The mouthfeel is full and the arbonation is in the body even if it has a hard time escaping to the head.

The drinkability is great for a sipping beer.

prosit, MK

Photo of jacobseyb
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 Vintage

Poured cloudy brown with ruby hints. Virtually no head. Great aromas of malty sweetness, very little if any hop aromas. Malty aromas are dark fruits. Definite alcohol in the aroma as well. Taste is very sweet, with some fig, raisin type fruity flavor as well. Alcohol doesn't really appear until the end, pretty well masked. Feel is smooth, syrupy and has very little carbonation. Overall a very good Barleywine with great characteristics. Really enjoyed the beer.

Photo of Tolnik
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured this dark muddy brown beer into a pint glass. Little to no head came when poured. Faint wisps of lacing remain on the top as it sits awaiting to be drank. The aroma of ripe fruit greet the nose. The taste of this beer is that of light molasses, fruit, and slight caramel aftertaste. Overall a great beer.

Photo of smakawhat
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the cask into a medium sized snifter at ChurchKey DC. Vintage 2010.

No head presented but filled to the brim nearly, giving off a dull dark slightly opaque red rust color, and maintaining just a faint tan collar. Shaking it up or bumping produces some more carbonation, giving a slight fizzy faint body.

Nose is stupidly butter rich and apple jam. But not of the diacetyl variety. Rich rum soaking spirits seem to come out in abundance. Smells fantastic.

Taste is just soft an luscious on the palate, bringing in that warm apple butter richness. Some faint licorice that is chewy on the aftertaste too.

Great drink right out of the cask just wonderful.

Photo of Cizauskas
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Ah! Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you...

J. W. Lees Harvest Ale: vintage 2001, rich, full-bodied, potent, racked into a wooden pin whose prior resident had been Lagavulin's peaty, salty whisky, and allowed to slumber since then.

All the longing, striving, seeking, waiting, yearning...

The folks at Sean Bolan's Pub in Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD purchased a wooden pin (5.4 gallon cask) of this elixir in 2002. They aged it undisturbed in their cellar for one year. They tapped it for us unworthy ruck last evening, Thursday, 6 March 2003.

The burning hopes, the joys and idle tears that fall!...

Here was a worthy successor to the late lamented Eldridge Pope Brewery's Thomas Hardy barley wine: a lusty 11.5% alcohol level yet still a beer, nearly still but with a whisper of spritzig, revealing itself with peel after peel of complexity.

In appearance, J. W. was burnished brown and copper, the age in wood having contributed several degrees of shade to that of the bottled version. No sparkler was used so the beer tumbled nearly headless from the wood. The carbonation was mere points over nil, but that seemed appropriate for quiet sipping and contemplation.

The aroma, in order of appearance: a quick whiff of pencil graphite, then waves of dark rum, raisins, dried plums, peat, sea air, Scotch whisky, vanilla, shortbread biscuits, malted milk candy, and the pungent aroma of a roaring fireplace. The body was all soft shoulders and dangerous curves, the aromas reappearing as flavors in teasing combinations, different with each sip.

Smokiness of the Lagavulin-soaked wood lounged blissfully in the finish, a counterweight to J.W.'s voluptuous maltiness and potency.

Sean Bolan's served the ale at a temperature of 55 or so degrees. One's afterglow was several degrees more ardent.

'Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all...

Early in the evening, a gentlemen walked into Sean Bolan's looking for a mainstream 'lite' beer. Failing that, he settled for a Sam Adams Light.
Looking around, he noticed several of us sniffing our goblets. "Why do you keep smelling your beer," he asked? "Try one," we suggested. He did. And Mikey, he liked it! "Never had anything like this before!" He grinned broadly as he drank the glass empty.

I believe that cask beer shines best for lower alcohol bitters and milds. J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale is a wonderful exception.

Photo of abraxel
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed blind as part of Blind BIF 7, courtesy of ShogoKawada.

A - Murky, slightly reddish brown, with a thick, creamy, off-white head that drops very slowly. I accidentally got some glumpy sediment in there... hopefully that won't be a problem. Looks quite appealing, but that sediment or whatever is uuugly.

S - Mmmm, the aroma hit me as soon as I cracked the cap. Super strong, smooth, and decadent -- lots of peanut butter, with maybe some molasses and sweet fruits. I think this is an English barleywine, and perhaps an aged one.

T - Extremely sweet, but it stops short of cloying. The malt is dominant and delicious and somewhat complex. Strong notes of peanut butter, molasses, some caramel and dark fruits. A slight, almost ashy, burnt-caramel flavor lingers afterward. Very tasty.

M - Pretty full mouthfeel. Practically no carbonation, nor a hint of alcohol burn -- this is just silky smooth all the way.

Overall, I like this beer a whole lot. It's just delicious.

Non-blind comment: This was '08 vintage, by the way.

Photo of guitarmage
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: 2005, vibrant orange when held up to the light, cloudy with a slight chill haze, the head wouldn't come out here, but a little lacing leaves a ring around the glass.

Smell: A little horse blanket, then ripe fruit overwhelm, plum, caramel, all kinds of sweetness. I smell more caramel.

Taste: I just had Skullsplitter, and this beer is like that except on steroids, big time. Let's see, caramel, caramel, a single malt scotch alcohol, the beer warms the face, and leaves a cake like finish on the palate, like you just had a bite of peanut butter pie. There's also a light spiciness, peppery, in there.

Mouthfeel: Very thick bodied and syrupy, ultra light carbonation, creamy, like a brandy, easy to sip on.

Drinkability: Well I could drink this until I got hammered, which wouldn't be too long at 11.5. It's very tasty, my first English Barleywine i believe. Very sweet, this would be great to match or contrast with a meal.

Photo of KAP1356
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Back from a reviewing hiatus! Vintage 2002 bottle poured into a snifter at my local bar...

A - Pours a lovely amber-copper color that really lights up in the right light. Small tan foamy head forms and quickly disappears. Bit of sediment in there, but nothing much.

S - Tons of dark fruits right up front. Raisins, figs, dates, some dried plum. Brown sugar and some maple syrup also make themselves apparent. Really quite nice.

T - Sweet maple sryup and dark fruits right up front. Carmal, toffee, some slight vanilla, brown sugar, and dark fruits right in the middle. The back end is almost entirely rum soaked raisin and makes me want to keep going back for more. Very well balanced flavors and one of the best tastes I have come across in a while.

M - Full bodied with a thick, slick feel to it. Medium carbonation makes the mouthfeel almost perfect.

O - I have had several vintages of this beer, and this one stands out to me. Taste and smell all made this experience one I would love to recreate.

Photo of beergod1
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A treat my friend D. Kurtz brought over. Wow, the smell is a treat in itself. Smells like England. Aroma is sweet and an alcohol bouquet. Color is a dark reddish brown, no head, small foam ring around the edge. Flavor is sweet with heavy Dark fruit / malty notes. Strong alcohol presence, but in a nice warming finish. I even noticed a touch of saltiness in the flavor. This is a very big beer, the only down fall is it is thick, I'm not a "Big " barley Wine fan, but this was an amazing beer.1988 vintage.

Photo of Wasatch
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks goes out to Bitterbill for this one.

12oz. Bottle
11.5% ABV
1997 Vintage

Poured into a chalice a dark mahongy color, thick, syrupy, some carbonation, no head, some oil slicks hanging around. The nose is malty, oakey, roasty, some licorice, and caramel. The taste is pretty sweet at first, syrupy. Then the oakey/licorice tones come to play. Nice balance of malt/caramel. Nice warming effect going down, alcohol is hidden pretty well. Full body. Very drinkable, this is a delicious brew. This is also the oldest brew I've had to date. Highly recommended. Thanks again buddy.

Thanks to Bitterbill for this brew.

Vintage 1998

Poured into a chalice a dark brown color, nice carbonation, little fizzy off-white head, basically no sticky lacing, but some oil slicks. The nose is malty, slight licorice/toffee/vanilla, slight dark fruits, and caramel. The taste is sweet, malty, some dark fruit, and caramel. The alcohol is hidden pretty well. Medium body, a complex brew. Very drinkable, another awesome brew, highly recommended.

Thanks to Bitterbill for this brew.

Vintage 2000

Poured into a chalice a dark brown color, nice carbonation, little fizzy off-white head, basically no sticky lacing, but some oil slicks. The nose is malty, slight licorice/toffee/vanilla, slight dark fruits, and caramel. The taste is sweet, malty, some dark fruit, and caramel. The alcohol is hidden pretty well. Medium body, a complex brew. Very drinkable, another awesome brew, highly recommended.

Photo of AtLagerHeads
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2000 consumed 2004. A vvery marvelous brew with an incredible aroma that is very fruity and very full. The primary scent that I noticed was a cross between coconut and prunes with coconut winning the battle. The flavor is truly fruit with big dark fruit predominating, primarily prune flavors.

The eye is filled with a nice ruby to garnet look and topped with a very nice bit of foam that laces with sticky clumps. heavy, cloying feel, and the drinkability is interrupted by this and the ABV.

Photo of kbutler1
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

J.W Lees Harvest Ale 2001 275 ml bottle. Served at 45 degrees.
A: Pours a Apple cider like dark brown color. Some sediment present in the bottle
S: Raisins off the bat followed by molasses and alcohol
T: Very sweet raisin taste with a slight bitterness like sweetened coffee or tea. Reminds me almost of a port wine of sorts.
M: Thick but smooth
D: Hmmm, yes, it is. For an 11.5% alc/vol drink it hides the alcohol quite well. It would be too sweet to drink for the whole day but it is quite good!

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