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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

1,311 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,311
Reviews: 812
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 231
Gots: 187 | 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: 1,311 | Reviews: 812 | Display Reviews Only:
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!

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

Picked up a bottle of the 1999 vintage a couple of weeks ago. The Fall season is slowly creeping in out here in New Hampshire, so I thought a J.W. Lees Harvest Ale would be a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the season.

Poured this into a snifter. A strong pour produces a decent off-white head that sits on top of a dark autumn amber. The head thins out quite a bit, but leaves a nice foamy ring around the sides of the glass. Some lacing follows.

The aroma is at first a mixture of burnt malts and sweet fruits. Plums, figs and grapes are the strongest notes that come out, followed by some honey sweetness and a bit of estery alcohol. A complex nose that is very enjoyable. I still haven't even taken a sip yet, really enjoying this.

The taste is, well... amazing. Delicious! Thick, syrupy, sugary fruits intertwined with a very hefty amount of malt. Some wood flavors are also coming through, not very strong, but adding to the robustness of the flavor. Hops are there as well, adding a little bit of floral aroma and bitterness, but mostly washed out by the honey laden fruits. Very sweet most of the time, but interrupted occasionally by roasty/burnt malts, keeping it interesting and drawing me back for more.

The mouthfeel is much like I was describing in the taste. Thick, syrupy, creamy. Very filling. A bit of alcohol sharpness here or there, but for the most part the 11.5% ABV is hidden well. Drinkability is good, but with the high ABV, the sugary sweetness and the price, you'll only want one of these for the night. But drinkability is good for what it is.

All in all I am very impressed with this beer. It looks beautiful, the aroma is complex and pleasing and the flavor is delicious. I will be picking up more of this for special occasions and hunting down the other vintages. J.W. Lees 1999 Vintage Harvest Ale is truly a great English barleywine.

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

Harvest Ale 2000 purchased from Knightly Spirits, Orlando FL.

Pours a clear deep dark red amber color with a full finger foamy light tan head that fades to surface fairly quickly but is kept alive by visible effervescence. Sheets of Belgian lacing trail behind. The smell is really rich fruity and sweet. Big dark fruit figs and molasses. The mouth feel is medium-full bodied. Full flavored, the fig brown sugar molasses taste is really rich. It coats the tongue nicely and leaves a n after taste that lingers nicely. A real easy drinker, the 11.5% ABV is well integrated. Highly recommended.

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

'99 vintage at The Stumbling Monk.
Body was mahogany mingled with orange. Miniscule head. Nose was sweet berries like Strawberry, cherry and syrup. I got more red berries in the taste with strong maple syrup in the finish. The alcohol was well hidden though still present. I really enjoyed this, especially at $9 which in my mind is very affordable for a beer of this age. Mouth was decadently creamy. I would love to have this again and hopefully will be able to justify the price the next time I visit The Stumbling Monk.

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

Bottled 2002. Intense, dessert ale. Aromas of toffee and caramel. Slight musky funkiness. Flavor of dried fruit and caramel. Still sweet and syrupy. Could only drink about 5 oz at a sitting. It became rather cloying near the end of the glass. Reminded me of a good sherry and tawny port combined.

Photo of hero27
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

9.3oz bottle. 2004 Vintage.

Pours a bold, bronze color with a respectable frothy, tan head which holds incredibly well for a beer this high in alcohol. Smells unlike any beer I've ever had.. intensely aromatic is not giving this the full credit it deserves. Almost sickly sweet..nearly overwhelming fruity taste of raisins, figs, a countless array of dark fruits and sugars.. Very syrupy in the mouth, and as full-bodied as it is, it slides down dangerously easy. The 11.5% ABV is almost laughable, because hardly any alcohol is noticeable through the immense complexity of flavors this brew has. There very well may be some tremendous hop flavors buried somewhere in this one, but if there are, they are masked by it's sugary sweetness.

I have a 2000 & 1998 still saved up, so I will compare it with the fresh 2004 version and edit my rating & review accordingly. I'm hoping the aged bottles mellow out the sweetness a little...still a bit too sweet for my taste. All-in-all, an extremely interesting and eye-opening beer that everyone should take the opportunity to try.

Photo of KarlHungus
4.48/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1999 Vintage. This brew pours a cloudy dark amber color. The head is large, creamy and off-white. The lacing is thorough. The aroma is very hoppy. The taste is a bit more balanced than the aroma. It is still hoppy, and there is a distinguishable malt backbone. The mouthfeel full bodied with nice carbonation. Overall, this is a fine barleywine; one of the best I have had to date.

Photo of marksto
4.48/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2001 vintage. Pours a deep amber color with garnet highlights and a thin head that falls quickly. Aroma is big and vinous, with lots of fruit - apricot, cherry, and raisins. Very sweet smelling, with alcohol noticible. Flavor shows lots of depth. Mouthfeel has major body and thickness. Very sweet with lots of fruitness mixed in with carmel and a hint of brown sugar. Very rum-like, with alcohol warmth noticible at finish.

All the samples I've had of this one before were the ones aged in various barrels - sherry, calvados, etc.. I prefer this one much better. The complexity shows much more when there's not all that barrel/liquor essence to hide it behind. This is one to enjoy on a cold evening by the fire, or after a good meal. Recommended.

Photo of vladtheimpaler
4.48/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2002 bottle. Pours an awesome crystal clear orange with a nice orangish white head. Aroma is a mix of alcohol and maple-raisin. Flavor is similar, with a dominant maple-alcohol warming flavor, with hints of raisin. Goes great with Irish soda bread. Sweetness of maple syrup lingers on the palate. Delicious!.

Photo of thecheapies
4.48/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 vintage on tap.

Mead-colored body with minimal carbonation. Hazy and murky. No head, just a thin ring.

Booze, honey sweetness, sherry, peanut brittle, candied fruits, fig, green raisins.

Big sherry notes upfront. Sweet and syrupy. Milk caramel, sweet white grapes/golden raisins, molasses hint, Belgian chocolate, honey mead, vinous characteristics. Lack of carb, but heavy body with a sticky coat. Marvelous complexity.

So lucky to have this on tap. Must try. Epic ale.

Photo of brownbeer
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2005 vintage poured into a NB snifter

Tawny in color with a hard pour leaving no head.

Quite a variety of aromas in here, this one's a little tougher. Caramel, tawny port, alcohol, cocoa nibs, cherry fruitiness, vanilla.

Sweet but not cloying. Raisin, rich toffee, a hint of vanilla and maple, and an earthy finish.

Not much carbonation but that doesn't take away from the greatness of this beer. I still don't believe how drinkable this is for how strong it is. True. Age-worthy. World class.

Photo of BierFan
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 9.3 ounce bottle into a cervoise. 2008 vintage.

Appearance: Very thin off-white head. Hazy amber body and good looking carbonation.

Smell: Very rich. Dark sweet figs steeped in rum. Almost smells musty.

Taste: So much going on. Figs, buttered popcorn, toffee. Some hard to describe vague fruitiness. Little bit of alcohol in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Velvety smooth.

I wish this beer wasn't so damn expensive. I'd love to set aside a case or two.

Photo of GreatPondBrewer
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1988

Poured a leathery color with tints of chestnut. There was plenty of floaties despite a careful pour which I suppose made up for the total lack of head. There was seriously zero carbonation in this beer, but no mind I am not the biggest fan of carbonation. The smell was musty licorice, oak and this other funky musty smell I usually get with a lambic. the taste was super dry with vinous flavors rounded out with more of the licorice and a smooth vanilla finish. The alcohol was not very apparent as it had mellowed considerably along with the rest of the flavors in the beer. The mouthfeel of this brew was perfect for the purpose. I could sip tow or three of these without my pallete being worse for the wear.

I think I have to take minute to talk about this beer. I have never tried a beer that was this old. It was certainly a different experience. I am not exactly sure how to rate this beer so I will do my best. However, that being said I would strongly recomend trying experiments such as this. I feel that this is the english equivalent to Lambics in an esoteric nature. But where Lambics should be drank amidst a good conversation at a dark bar, this beer should be drank from a snifter in contemplative solitude on a cold winters eve.

Photo of UncleJimbo
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled at The Moan and Dove in Amherst, MA. This was 1996 vintage, aged in a 100 year old wooden port wine barrel.

This ale poured a clear, golden amber color with no foam or carbonation apparent. The smell was wonderful: smooth caramel, figs, raisins, alcohol. The taste was moderately sweet malt with figs, raisin, molasses, alcohol and a hint of butter. A very complex and exquisite flavor. The mouthfeel was warming. It was light on the tongue but left a residual thick, sweet taste. The body was medium and the carbonation was nonexistent. This was an incredibly awesome barley wine, but due to the strength and fullness, I really cannot say that I want to drink many at one sitting.

Photo of absolutbc2001
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

i had a 2003 harvest.

The smell was sweet and great.

The taste is very sweet but was just a touch sour. i think my beer hadnt been aged terrifically. caramel also.

The mouthfeel was thick and syrupy leaving the taste on my tongue pleasantly. It was like drinking candied beer.

Drinkability was very high for the alchol level as seen by the fact that I drank it way too fast.

Overall a great beer but a little sweet for my taste. Hopefully the Laguluvin aged one will have a little more bite to match that candy flavor.

Photo of HopHobo
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2001 vintage poured from a 9.6 oz. bottle into my HopCat Snifter on 6/6/09.

Beer pours a dark amber color with one finger of head that hangs around for about 20 minutes until my 4th drink. The carbonation is very light and appropriate for the style. The smell of this beer is amazingly complex with smells of sweet fruits like rasians and prunes, also smells of sweet malt and toffee. Oddly enough the smell really has an acid charactor that hangs around in my nose well after the sip, which I really love because I believe that it enhances the flavor of the beer. The flavor is much like the smell, very sweet malt with tastes of prunes and sweet apples along with hints of toffee and carmel throughout the drink. First sip has an amazing buttery creaminess that I'm still loving. I will say that as the beer warms to room temp the sweetness isn't as over powering and it becomes much more of a social style ale for me. Basically, no noticable hop profile at all in the beer and the alcohol in this beer is disguised very well by the maltiness sweetness and creaminess.

Admittedly, I am new to lovely barleywines and old ales and I credit a few beer with really getting me into the style such as Thomas Hardy 2002, Kuhnhenn 4th Dementia and Kuhnhenn Bourban Barrel Barleywine, but this one exceeds those beers on the levels of mouthfeel and smell for me. Not as balanced and drinkable as some of the others that I've had, but I could definetely sip and enjoy this one all day on a cold winters day or a rainy fall day. Absolute heaven in a bottle....I wanna swim in it.

Photo of DaftPatrick
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of olradetbalder
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of whatname
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of zaphodchak
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008, opened 2011.

Caramel brown body with plenty of suspended sediment in it. A bit of surface memory but my pour wasn't big enough to elicit a head.

Nose has some caramel, a bit of apple, chewy-sweet.

Chewy body, plenty of caramel and some (chili pepper?) spice?. Delicious, quite sweet, some raw honey.

Standard, but textured mouthfeel.

Impressive barleywine, quite complex-- I can't wait to see what the barrel aging does to this (this is the first in a horizontal tasting).

NB: The 2006 tasted of caramel, dirt, some soy sauce, and faint coffee grounds. Some of the honey, none of the spice.

Photo of Ciocanelu
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of freewill35
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of grahuba
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of MichaelLamb
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of sammo
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,311 ratings.