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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

1,309 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,309
Reviews: 811
rAvg: 4.24
pDev: 14.15%
Wants: 230
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: 1,309 | Reviews: 811 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of PEIhop
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%

Photo of beerthulhu
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled Sept. of 1998 and aged 9 years before sampling. 11% abv.

A: Pours a very dark burgundy red with a light thin tan head with some reddish hues.

S: Spicy alcohol, sweet raisins are on the nose. There is also a slight detection of smokiness.

T: The beer starts out with a massive malting and dried fruit smack in the face. Appears to be very rough around the edges malt wise with a dry bitterness and dried raisins for flavor. There is also a big burnt brown sugar flavor with an overpowering sugary sweetness. Thankfully the beer fades beautifully with some pears, apples, cinnamon and a light brown sugar coating that is very smooth leaving a sweet malt residue fade on the tongue.

M: syrupy with some light molasses.

D: Overall there was an overpowering brown sugary sweetness that is sweet making this a sipper. very good.

Photo of johnnnniee
4.54/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2001
A few months back this bottle mysteriously appeared on the shelf and found its way home with me. Pours a muddy brown color with a minimal tan head that forms a ring on the top. This smells great! Sherry and toffee mixed with some brown sugar and a touch of alcohol to keep it from smelling too sweet. Caramel and dark dried fruit with a slightly earthy aroma round out the nose quite nicely. Taste is sweet up front with brown sugar and dark fruit coming in first. Hints of sherry and earthiness hit before the palette goes almost completely dry. Finish leaves a long lingering molasses prune sweetness that is offset nicely with a touch of alcohol. Big thick body with a surprisingly dry finish. Light level of bubbles, sweet almost syrupy mouthfeel. I am a sucker for an aged barleywine, and this one really impressed me, this is a beautifully aged beer. Now the regret sets in when I realize that I only bought one bottle.

Photo of chippo33
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of Tone
3.96/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A 2000 version of this brew.

Pours a cloudy brown. 1/2 inch head of a light tan color. Decent retention and decent lacing. Smells of alcohol, strong malt, some roasted malt, and some bread aromas. Fits the style of an English Barleywine. Mouth feel is smooth and thick. Low to average carbonation levels present. Tastes strongly of alcohol, sweetness, then some roasted malt comes through, then the bread flavors dominate, and the finish is mostly the sweetness. Hop bitterness is present, but does not come through very strongly. Overall, complex and rich palate - a little too sweet for my taste.

Photo of DrJay
5/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 1997:
This beer poured a deep ruby red, mostly clear, and was topped by a thin reddish brown head made up of extremely fine bubbles that produced tiny dots of lace throughout. It was intensely malty, with plum and raisin balancing sweet toffee and caramel, all very English in character. Hints of molasses and vanilla crept in as well. The first flavour that hit me was chocolate covered figs, followed by malty sweet toffee and caramel with some nuttiness. Tobacco, plum and raisin character all appeared, creating a very complex flavour. There was even a bit of bitterness left to balance the overall sweet flavour. The very low carbonation was incredibly fine and completely integrated into the body and texture, which was incredibly smooth. Just a bit of stickiness remained. Drinking this beer was an incredible experience. It felt incredibly light on the palate, almost like there was nothing there, and the flavours were amazing.

Photo of Derek
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2003.

A: Orangy-brown with a white head. Not much retention, clings to the glass more like a leg than a lace. The Burgundy of Britain?

S: Nice British fruityness.

T: Wow. Very sherry-like, some nice apricot fruit flavour. Balance is slightly tipped to the sweet side. Quality British pale malt in the background, but the yeast really produces the flavours here. I'm not always a fan of the fruity British ales, but this is REALLY nice.

M: Moderate body and carbonation. Very light for its strength (well attenuated).

D: This is a very nice sipper. At 11.5%, you're not looking at a session brew. The taste is easily approachable.

Thanks Kevin... Really, thanks a lot!

Photo of Viggo
5/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Vintage 1997. The most spectacular beer I've ever had the pleasure of trying. Pours a pretty clear mahogany brown, with a small thick tan head, spotty lace and plenty of legs. Smell is mollasses, vanilla, super malty, grape, plum/raisin, little bit of alcohol, very vinous. Taste is bitter chocolate/coffee, raisins, plums, dates, spice, figs. Mouthfeel is very full bodied, low carbonation. Fucking amazing, and bottled the same year i graduated elementary school! Thanks DrJay!

Photo of flagmantho
3.4/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2006 vintage; poured from 9.3 oz bottle into a wine goblet.

Appearance: deep woody brown, highly opaque with practically no head. When I poured it, I wasn't aware of how many chunky floaties would been in the bottle: there were indeed a few.

Smell: first off, it smells like late-harvest Riesling or maybe a Gewürztraminer. It's got a lot of syrupy grape, apple and pear. If I were blindfolded I would assume this was wine. That said, it is quite pleasing.

Taste: well, at first it tastes similar to a white wine, then I get the malt and grain, then I get what I can only describe as wood and cigarette smoke; it's almost tinny in that respect. I will say it's very complex, and I feel like I should be doing a lot of glass-swirling and erudite pontificating, but really, I just can't get a handle on it.

As I drink, the pattern stays the same: the beginning is quite wonderful and the finish is highly off-putting.

Mouthfeel: medium-thick body which is pretty smooth.

Drinkability: I really don't know what to put here. I don't want to slam this admittedly impressive beer, but it's just not my style right now.

I really would like to come back to this beer later when my barleywine palate is more developed.

Photo of Bighuge
4.85/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage. This beer is a murky looking deep scarlet color. A slight brown head edges the glass. Very sweet caramel candy aroma. Also get cherry and wood on the nose. These Harvest Ales never cease to amaze me. This is the third vintage I've tried over the past month and they were all wonderful. This beer is so damn smooth for 11.5 a/v. These Harvest ales are truly works of art. This beer is vinous and heavy on the fruits and sweet characteristics. Dark cherry and plum. Vanilla extract. Candied apple. Dry cedar. The more I sip this the more I feel the dominant taste here is cherry-vanilla. Wow. It's great. The mouthfeel is a titch syrupy and almost a full bodied brew. But this is a highly drinkable beer given it's a/v. Another winner from JW LEES.

1998. Appearance is dark burgandy. Thin laced off-white head. The nose is piney, malty and perfumey. And oh yeah, alcohol is there too. My oh my is all I can say when this beer hits the palate. Beautiful. Surprisingly, I get no sign of alcohol whatsoever. And this is 11.5 a/v. This is an incredibly smooth and easy drinking barleywine. This is my first experience with JW LEES and it is very positive. I seem to get some spicing on the palate. Sweet spices like cinamon. This beer has a really nice sweet taste to it. Fairly low on bitterness. Very little aftertaste. This beer is almost a Masterpiece of the Brewing Art.

1997. The beer pours a deep garnet with a decent head. Unbelievable sweet fruity tones on the nose. And some alcohol and brown sugar. The taste is very sherry like. Very nice. Residual sugars are evident. Tastes of brown sugar and candied apple. Very nice taste. A little bitterness perceived. Alcohol is present but not overbearing. This is very good, but the '98 vintage I had a couple nights ago was better.

Photo of tobelerone
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of HuskyinPDX
3.75/5  rDev -11.6%

Photo of harpus
3.75/5  rDev -11.6%

Photo of Axnjxn
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of drummermattie02
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of ZEB89
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of wordemupg
4.52/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 poured into chalice oct20 2010

A hazy brownish amber with a thin film that sits there for some time leaving no lace

S licorice with big notes of brown sugar and molasses with a little earthy wet wood, pretty nice smell going on here

T all I smell but with the darkest toffee you can imagine and the brown sugars a little burnt and there's even more of a earthy flavor and its pretty sweet but not over the top

M very thick, silky, and syrupy pretty much perfect for the style so smooth and zero booze burn and considering the strength that's pretty impressive

D very easy to drink and I wish this one came in a bigger bottle because this little servings just not enough

probably the oldest beer I've ever had and I'm amazed how well it's holding up. one of those beers everybody should try and I need to thank MasterSki for my chance

Photo of glid02
3.9/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Cask at the Brick Store.

Pours a hazy honey-golden color with a one-finger slightly off-white head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of sweet medium and dark fruits with large amounts of sticky sweet caramel malts. Also present are slight amounts of toffee and even slighter amounts of oxidation (the cask was about six hours old).

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Very sweet caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by good amounts of sugar-coated pear flavors. Midway through the sip faint amounts of darker fruit flavors - plums mostly - make a brief appearance before giving way to caramel malts and hints of toffee that carry through to a decidedly sweet ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is OK. I finished my glass without too much of a problem however I'm not sure about another.

Overall I found this beer to be on the sweet side from the bottle and the cask version - even though it's the 2009 version and doesn't have much age on it - is overly sweet. It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the British guy tells Lisa and Bart that "our sweets are different than those across the pond" and then they proceed to go into an LSD-like trip after eating the candy. Very sweet, but if you're a malt-head this may be right up your alley.

Photo of Bitterbill
4.65/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This is the 1998 vintage:

I've had this bottle for about 3 years now so I decided now was the time to try it:

It pours from 275ml bottle a clear very deep brown with lots of red highlights and when I hold my glass up to the light, I see no sediment. The foam whilst pouring looked like it was going to be non existant or at least, very small but when I put my glass down on the table there's a nice 1" layer sitting there all pretty looking. Plenty of sticky lacing on the sides of my glass as well. Btw, the small head of foam stays around for the entire session.

On to the smell and I'm greeted with a very strong nose of caramel malt along with some dark fruit like raisin, plum, and some fig. Nice.

The taste is very sweet because of the huge caramel malt but as in the smell, I can taste some raisin, plum, sherry, molasses, some chocolate. and other flavours that I can't even begin to describe accurately. There's a decent warming during and after the swallow but at 11.50%abv, it comes as no surprise.

The mouthfeel is really chewy and the carbonation is low and it finishes as sweet as it started out. What a sipper! What a Barleywine Style Ale! I *have* to pick up some more of these...any and all vintages I can find...because I'm getting a great drinking experience here and for the price, I think it's a damned good bargain. I highly recommend it!!!

Photo of Brad007
4.6/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1999 Vintage

This has been sitting in my fridge for about a month and a half. Picked up at Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, VT. They recently got in several vintages of this ale and being that 1999 is a year that I hold in relative importance, it only made sense to purchase this, price be damned.

Pours a mild amber color with a very thin head that nearly disappears after about a minute.

Aroma is full of sweet, rich malt with a strong lean towards plums and apples. Very inviting and little alcohol seems to remain on the nose.

Taste is full of sweet malt with grape, plum and raisin being the dominant flavors. What remains of the alcohol has pretty much faded, leaving a friendly, inviting brew. Very tasty and the bouquet obviously shows.

Mouthfeel is full of lingering sweetness and other flavors from this. Nothing funky here. Of course, without the alcohol heat, it's hard to tell if you're drinking a beer or something else altogether.

It seems to have aged quite well. English barleywines aren't known for the use of hops, preferring to rely more on the characteristics of the malt used. This ale is no exception. It just makes me appreciate the style more, especially when fresh.

Worth the price and I'm interested in trying other vintages as well. 1999 was a good year and this beer just seems to preserve that.

Photo of TurdFurgison
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of Gusler
4.54/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

“1997 Vintage”: Been quite sometime since I broke into my stash of J. W. Lees, stash hell I’m down to just a 1988 plus some 4 bottles of 2004, well I guess its what happens, can’t keep them forever. Once liberated from its nine-year incarceration in the 275ml brown bottle, it appears in the glass to be a deep ruby color with a diminutive frothy light tan head that evaporates quickly leaving a velum like coating of lace on the glass. Nose “Woo Hoo”, fusel alcohol dominates with a strong sweet maple sugar sweetness to back it up, a presage of what’s to come at the start, sweet with a modest grain profile, the top fair to middling in feel. Finish is benign in its acidity, the hops present, but totally overwhelmed by the alcohol, vinous, dry and lingering aftertaste, the beer certainly warms the tummy, but after 9 years of setting on a shelf, its still “Magnificent”, damn I love these monsters.

(4.6)
“1988 Vintage”: Decanted before decocting to get all the “dregs” that coated the bottom of the bottle, much to the chagrin of many beer purists, I like all the little “strange particles” that inhabit the bottom of a vintage beer such as this one. The beer decants color a cloudless walnut brown, the decocted color, something akin to a rusty nail. The pour produced little head, and less lace. “Whoa Nellie”, what a nose fusel alcohol, sweet, five star brandies, bubble gum, over ripe pineapple, what a treat for this old schnozzle. Start is maple sugar sweet, top is middling in its feel to the palate. Finish negligible on the carbonation, hops I am sure I taste them, but the big alcohol bite just overwhelms all your olfactory and gustatory senses, and the “tummy warming” sensation quit noticeable, one spectacular beer, but most certainly something that is not meant for those people’s weak of heart and or any other body part and or function, “Whew”!

(4.6)
“1986 Vintage”: The beer appears a deep muddy brown color, No Head and No Lace, the nose, where the "Hell" do I begin, Strong alcohol, brandy, vinous, fresh plowed "Midwest" dirt, (A smell I love). Front is all malt, the middle full, the finish, "Alcohol" dominates, spicy hop bite, under the lingering alcohol dry long lasting aftertaste. "Robust" more like ZAP, ZONK, ZOW, POWIE, Batman, this beer is not for the weak hearted, or anyone who wants to keep their taste buds. “God” I loved it! But then I am quite strange.

(4.4)
“1998 Vintage”: The beer pours a thick cloudy Brownish-Copper, the head profuse, and the lace lavish sheets to coat the glass. Nose is deep roasted malt, caramel, and bittersweet chocolate, somewhat smoky and yes even a bit "Brandy like. Front is sweet, the top "Thick", the finish is mildly acidic with a bounty of hops and the long lasting alcohol bitter aftertaste to end a magnificent beer. I need to find a source for these beers those ships to Arizona, as I must sample more.

Photo of scruffwhor
4.1/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2004 vintage. "Limited Edition"

Appearance- Pours a deep Chevy Caprice rust color with hints of seassoned curly fries. Lots of russet with a spalsh of amber.

Smell- The smell of a fruit garden with lots of attention paid to raisins, plums, and port sweetness.

Taste- Start to finish, sweet, sweet, sweet. This beer was perfect whilst enjoying a campfire and conversation with friends. The Sweet flavors of dark fruits like plums, prunes, candied apples, black cherries, and raisins for a little tartness.

Mouthfeel- The syrupy sweetness I find to be very distinct of all J.W. Lees barley wines. Lots of fruity flavors all over the palate. Very relaxing and a good way to end the evening.

Photo of THECPJ
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes 2/16/2011

A: copper-orange with just a nice layer on top for the head, stuck to the edge of the glass, not exactly lacing, just a stickiness

S: tons of brown sugar and caramel and a hint of booze

T: brown sugar, you could definitely taste the alcohol in it , and a noticable nutty aftertaste

M: very mild carbonation, very smooth, syrupy/sticky

D: typical for the style, it went down easy, very warming

Cheers!
The CPJ

Photo of dirtylou
4.12/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage, no idea who sent this to me, but thanks!

enjoyed on the eve of my summer(winter) journey down under

appearance: murky golden amber body poured into a snifter...very little in the way of head or lace...muddy brown and rather flat

smell: complex nose that resembles a less potent version of some of the aged versions i have tried in the past...big oak/bourbon aromas, vanilla, sweet plum and cherry...very nice!

taste: a well crafted malt masterpiece...bourbon covered dark fruits - heavy on the plum, cherry, raisin, dates, fig. vanilla and brown sugar flavours provide a nice compliment. high sweetness and mild alcohol warming sensation. i like the barrel aged ones a little better but this is nice and smooth

mouthfeel: smooth and coating, nice warming sensation

drinkability: good

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 1,309 ratings.