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

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

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BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,284 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,284
Reviews: 798
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 221
Gots: 184 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Todd on 12-18-2000)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,284 | Reviews: 798 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of kojevergas
2.25/5  rDev -47.1%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2010 vintage 275 ml brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap served into a nonical Guinness pint glass in me gaff in low altitude Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live, because it fell out of me fridge and foam started building so I knew I had to open it.

Bottle acquired at Hi Time Liquor in Costa Mesa, California.

Served refrigerator cold and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured lightly given extra caronbation was expected.

A: Pours a half finger head of bad thickness, no real cream, and bad retention (maybe 20 seconds). Murky copper-brown colour. Floating yeast particles are certainly visible, with strange white floaters present. Not at all appealing.

Sm: Malty and yeasty. Malt dominates - a mixture of mildly dark malt and bright barley methinks. No roasting or toasting comes through. A mild strength aroma.

T: Heavy on the lees - sweet jaysus. Toffee is also a big element here. A sort of raisiny grapey fruit tone dominates the finish, with a hint of apple. I don't like the third act at all as a result; it feels really awkward and off. The remainder of the beer is merely clean malts. Lees were a bad call for this beer; even after two years of aging they're still quite dominant. It's a lot like drinking pure malt syrup to a degree. No alcohol comes through, which is impressive given the ABV. Overall, it's horribly balanced and badly built for the style.

Mf: Smooth and wet, suiting the flavours of the body nicely I suppose. Adequately carbonated. Thick enough but not quite ideal. It dries on the finish due to the lees, which is pretty nasty.

Dr: Very drinkable for the high ABV - perhaps its best trait. It was nowhere near as good as expected, and I wouldn't have it again unless a friend recommended it and it had a few years on it. The malts make it feel like a base for a better beer. A bastardization of barleywines as a style. Incredibly disappointing.

Overpriced, at least in the U.S.A.

I'll try the cask aged versions in the hope that they're better than this. I don't recommend this for aging or food pairing. A poor example of the style.

D

Photo of InspectorBob
4.25/5  rDev 0%

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.85/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2003 vintage edition, sampled March 2005
Pours a orange copper color that is brilliantly clear and topped by a thin pale tan head. The aroma is richly malty with notes of sugar, toffee, alcohol, and already a bit of oxidation notes that add a richness to the aroma. The taste is sweet up front, with a candied toffee-like concentrated maltiness. This beer is fairly simplistic, with a hint of hoppiness that rounds out this beer a bit. Despite its simple nature this beer is still enjoyable on this night.

Photo of wrightst
4/5  rDev -5.9%

Photo of GClarkage
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12/5/08- Purchased at Weimax Liquors in Burlingame, CA. $4.99 price tag.

Presentation- 2001 Vintage from a 11.2oz bottle. Poured into my JW Lees Harvest Ale snifter type glass.

Appearance- Pureed raisin color. Slightly murky with a small layer of sediment on the bottom of the glass. Poured with a 1/4 inch head which fades to the slightest of rims. Leaves some light watery lace streaks behind.

Smell- Deep sweet caramel nose...roasted marshmallow malt. Light nose of alcohol at the end of the scent. Soaked dark fruits of raisins, dates and plums. Wonderful.

Taste- To the smell to a "T". Caramel sweetness is pushing the boundry of almost too much. Mild taste of butterscotch at the back of the tongue seems like the only drawback...and it's minimal. Lots of booze soaked raisins and dates. Maybe even a slight bite of hops in the finish.

Mouthfeel- Sticky and ultra sweet. Lips are sticking together. Keeps the mouth nice and moist. Just the perfect amount of minimal carbonation.

Drinkability- I have a 11 year vertical going of this and I will be really happy the day I decide to have them. Excellent beer.

Photo of Halcyondays
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
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.

Photo of Gavage
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Harvest Ale 2003 version.

Appearance: pours a cloudy amber orange color with a thin 1/2" head that falls to a surface foam quickly. No lacing develops.

Smell: loads of alcohol with malt and fruit sweetness.

Taste: huge bready maltiness here. Loads of raisins, plums, honey, and red grapes. Alcohol is quite noticeable and very warming. Nice bitterness helps hold down any over-sweetness that may develop.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Smooth at the start, more syrupy towards the finish. Aftertaste is long on the sweetness and alcohol tones as they seem to be glued to your tongue.

Drinkability: I feel this needed another year or two of mellowing, as the alcohol was a bit too strong which knocks down the drinkability. Interesting offering, and I am looking forward to trying some older vintages.

Photo of orangesol
4.25/5  rDev 0%

Photo of dbrauneis
4.19/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2008

A: Pours a hazy medium reddish brown in color with light amounts of visible carbonation and some significant amounts of dark yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass and some faint apricot + orange highlights. The beer has a thin (less than 1/4 finger tall) light beige head that quickly reduces to a medium sized patch of very thin film and a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Strong aromas of dark fruits (raisin), toffee, caramel, brown sugar, and a brandy-like liquor smell.

T: Upfront there is a strong flavor of sweet malts with dark fruit (raisin), toffee, caramel, and brown sugar all present. There is also a moderate amount of alcohol that is reminiscent of brandy/cognac. Moderate to strong amounts of sweetness are present and linger through the finish.

M: Full bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with some sticky sweetness and moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol warming.

O: This is a very sweet and intense English Barleywine and is definitely one that needs to be sipped slowly considering the high ABV and the not all that well hidden alcohol.

Photo of yourefragile
4.25/5  rDev 0%

Photo of duceswild
3/5  rDev -29.4%

Photo of stakem
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes taken 4/8/10

Vintage 1998

Poured into a goblet, it appears a very dark amber brown color with some redish hues. A finger of yellowish tan foam for a head appears quite silky in appearance and receeds to just a thin film across the top of the beer. Spotty amounts of lace cling all around the glass. Aroma of this beer opens up big and boozy like sherry but eventually gives way to notes of molasses, brown sugar, oak-like woodsyness and some raisins soaked in alcohol. Taste is an impressive display of how a beer can fight the ages. For nearly 12 years old this beer has really held it's own. A slight touch of oxidation is present but adds to the complex monster of malt characteristics. My mouth is on sensory overload with this beer. Flavors of oak and smoke showcase the toasty side of the malt profile whereas flavors of prunes and raisins balance out the sweeter side before the hops bring in the bitterness. Feel of this beer boarderlines being syrupy but still very smooth and lightly carbonated. The aftertaste includes some flavors similar to coffee, chocolate, spice like cinamon and toffee. Masterfully done, this is a must-try for anyone serious about barleywine.

Photo of woodychandler
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage.

This will mark the occasion of my 2,200th review on this site and I figured that it should be something worthy of the milestone. I was at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Altoona following the Pints for Pets fest when I spotted this beauty in the cooler. I was pulling beers out left and right when I noticed a small sign on the right-hand side of the cooler advising me to ask my server/bartender/waitstaff for assistance in gathering beers from said cooler. Whoops! In my defense, although I am right-handed, I like to work from left to right and simply glossed over their note. It did not matter to them as I was summarily dragged into the courtyard, pilloried and accordingly whipped by a buxom central-PA beauty while still wearing my infamous monk's robe. Admission was charged for the sight and I was comped the beer, so it all worked out. Except for the fact that I am still unable to sit down comfortably. Ah well, c'est la guerre.

From the bottle: "This fully fermented strong ale has been brewed as a celebration of the brewer's art. It can be enjoyed now or laid down like a vintage wine for enjoyment in years to come. [undersigned] Head Brewer".

I initially employed a gentle pour so as not to disturb the (potential) lees, but to no avail. I was still getting a murkiness with floaties so I went back to the drawing board and used a heavier hand, resulting in a quickly disappearing finger of light-tan head and a LOT of floaties. It really depends on how much such things bother you as far as which style of pour to utilize, I suppose. Color was a murky, deep-amber with loads of evident floaties. Nose was enough to make me want to pay homage to my sinuses for finally clearing up. Holy dried dark fruit, Batman! This smelled of raisins, prunes, worn leather, tobacco, a newspaper mustiness and alcohol heat. Jeezus. My first sip was thick and viscous and sat on my tongue like a big glob of something that I might not want to swallow. The taste was sweet and smoky and my first thought was "S. Clyde Weaver's Sweet Lebanon Bologna". Finish was still sweet and smoky, but now with a tobacco-like smokiness, like I had partaken of a stogie. Double Jeezus. I almost wish that I had purchased more than one, but how many of these types of beers do I have left in me?

Photo of superspak
4.85/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

700th review! 275 ml bottle into tulip glass, 2002 vintage(12/1/2002). Pours a murky dark brown color with a small dark khaki head with decent retention that reduces to a ring of lace as expected. Some slight bits of lacing on the glass. Aromas of huge caramel, molasses, biscuit, wood, toffee, raisin, earth, whiskey, chocolate, and light herbal. Damn nice aromas with good strength and complexity. Taste of HUGE caramel, toffee, molasses, brown sugar, wood, raisin, butterscotch, chocolate, biscuit, honey, and slight herbal hops. Lingering notes of molasses, caramel, toffee, raisin, honey, and butterscotch on the finish for a good while. Insane complexity, balance, and smoothness; with no cloying sweetness at all; despite this being a 100% malty beer. Light carbonation and full bodied; with an absolutely beautiful creamy, slick, and thick mouthfeel. Alcohol is insanely well hidden with no warming noticed at all. Definitely a sipper, but I can’t even consider drinking this fast at all. Overall this is an absolutely mind blowing barely wine that was pushing 10 years old. I will not turn down purchasing older vintages of this in the future. Absolutely fantastic.

Photo of weeare138
4.38/5  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 Billolick
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997 edition, small bottle, with best before date of Nov. '02, oh well....This tasty nectar pours dark auburn, with minimal head, tan and tiny bubbles. Leaves very fine and light lacing. Nose is strong and well developed, heavy mustyness, malt, caramel, oak. Full bodied and flavors galore. Oak, smoke, vanilla,leather, warming alcohol. Fine creation in brewing, wonderful complexity. a treat for the tongue. High quality sipper, seek,age and enjoy!

Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.68/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Vintage, purchased in the USA and brought back to Australia to drink with @LaitueGonflable and @thescotdownunder. Served alongside the 2005 Vintage Calvados Cask version to compare.

Pours a hazed deep orange-gold colour, with a fine-bubbled if filmy head of slightly tenuous yellow-white. Lacing is suprisingly good for the gravity of the brew, and it has some crackling large bubbles to it. The colour is divine, however, and the haziness makes it glow. It's a lovely looking brew.

Nose is pungent with booze and a ripe mandarin orange acidity, which underpins a profound and syrupy sweetness. It's very deep and extremely rich, but surprisingly stays away from the huge malt backbone I expected. Instead, the phenolic notes and the acidity drag it into an unusual lightness, which is welcome, and very appealing.

Taste is ripe with an amazing blend of light citrus on the front - the mandarin makes its presence felt - before delving into this amazing almond nuttiness that gives off all the malt sweetness without the heaviness. Indeed, it balances extremely well between these flavours, lending light grain organics, crushed tea tannins and candied citrus to the syrupy body. The feel, from the syrupy body to the bite of light acidity, is divine, and it makes an absolutely impeccable companion to the flavour.

This is a bloody amazing beer - one which both refines and expands the brewer's art. Such fantastic flavours, such a depth of character, and so well balanced. It's an artisanal item; something to be cherished. Truly remarkable, and one of the very best beer experiences it has been my pleasure to have.

Photo of Georgiabeer
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
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 mothman
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 Vintage.

Poured into a taster pint glass.

Pours a small off white head. Decent retention thought. Leaves some splattered lace. Color is a very hazed dark caramel brown.

Aroma: Brown sugar, toffee, caramel, grassy hops, and a slight amount of hops.

Taste: Liquid brown sugar, toffee, and caramel. Tons of malt flavors. Some cookies. It has a very sweet taste to it.

Mouthfeel: A little hot, sweet, and smooth. Medium to full bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends full of sweet malts.

Overall, this is a very good for an English B-wine. Very sweet, but still holding up well. Not something I would want a lot of though.

Photo of Gonzoillini
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

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

1999 vintage sampled on January 21, 2010.
Poured a hazy deep orangish brown color with good carbonation and a dirty white head. Nose is tons of honey and brown sugar, caramel and maybe some dark fruits. Very complex.
Taste was a punch of sweetness,burnt brown sugar, molasses, alcohol, sweet malts, wood, raisin, prune. Motuhfeel is sweet.
///

1998 vintage sampled on August 5 2008. Heavy oxidation,dried fruits,malts and subdued hops. Ten years is to much for me. Bigger dried fruits here, caramel, molasses burnt brown sugar.

Photo of mdaschaf
4.25/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage.

A: Pours an orange/red/ruby color with a small white head that has very little retention and no lacing. A little bit of sediment.

A: A little bit of alcohol right off the bat, some candied dark fruit - raisins and a bit of prunes, some white grapes. It almost has a liquor/sherry aroma to it.

T: Rather sweet, with some raisins, grape, caramel, and honey, there is almost a mead like character to this beer. Again, reminds me of sherry.

M: Rather syrupy, medium bodied, with low to medium carbonation. Extremely drinkable.

O: Quite good, a very nice sipper that was a perfect end to the evening. I can see why people like to sit on these, I can see this beer mellowing a bit over time, not that the alcohol was a problem on the flavor profile.

Photo of wl0307
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

* 2007 Vintage
Served cool in Gulden Draak's tulip-shaped bowl sniffer; the ingredients for this vintage include Maris Otter malts and East Kent Goldings hops.
A: slightly cloudy dark amber in colour, coming with very soft carbonation, lots of cottony yeast sediments, and a thin sheet of off-white foamy cap settling to a rim.
S: densely sweet, like honey-drink infused with Chinese pale prunes, sour pears, figs and Aiyu herbal jelly; a swirl brings up a more pronounced theme of stale-sourness as of a well-aged ale.
T: a lubricating, semi-oily swallow of honey-ish and toffee-ish pale malts, estery elements of pale dates and prunes, lightly phenolic yeastiness and semi-sweet longan-fruit tea leads towards a most exciting aftertaste of green asparagus juice with a touch of mashed green beans that concludes the whole palate effortlessly with so much aroma to savour... Also lingering in the end is a chewy palate of hop bitterness that helps result in a harmonious balance with the slightly nutty edge of lingering maltiness.
M&D: it's hard to believe that simple ingredients could result in such a heavenly-tasted ale, an art in a glass, with melting beauty and a slightly down-to-earth approach on the palate. Yeasts and ageing have contributed lots of nice complications to the overall drinking experience, which is different from the Belgian way but all the same enticing. A must-try English Barley Wine for any beer lover, regardless of the vintage!

* 2000 Vintage - Tasting Date: 28/08/07
Served cool in a large tulip-shaped wine glass.
4 A: black-tea-ish dark brown hue, with a light beige head that settles fast to a rim of foam, on top of light and gentle carbonation.
3.5 S: perfumy fruit-esters (full of pineapples and bananas) lie on top of dried plums, prune-ish honey, and mead, while the overall aroma is mainly astringently fruity, thickly malty (hints of caramelised sugar), laced with a touch of smoked wood-chips.
4.5 T: thick longan-flower honey, light roast coffee beans, black prunes, over-ripe pineapples come upfront; gradually brown sugar, a soothingly bitter-sweet taste of tea-smoked longan-fruits (on shells) and toffee develop, backed by a delicate touch of herbal bitterness of hops, roasted malts, quietly spicy hints of yeastiness and phenol. Almost in parallel and more subtly, the mildly coffee-ish and nutty aftertaste also lends some complexity, leading to a sherry-like finish.
5 M&5 D: creamy in fizziness, lubricating (not syrupy at all), full-bodied yet still mellow; this ale shows a lovely contrast b/w the sweet nose and superbly-balanced flavour full of 3-D hop bitterness to balance out the heavily malty body, while the finishing dryish palate makes the beer lighter than it actually tastes. All in all, this vintage ages simply too well; a truly sensational nectar to savour, IMO.

Photo of Huhzubendah
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2000.

A: The beer pours a reddish brown with a nice head and lingering lace. It appears to be going strong after ten years.

S: Sweet malt, raisins, alcohol, buttery toffee

T: A splendid example of English Barleywine. This beer is still sweet, but ten years has mellowed this beer out quite nicely. There is a buttery, caramel sweetness that could become cloying, but for now it's delicious. There is definitely an alcohol presence that I'm guessing will not go away regardless of how long the beer is aged.

M: Low carbonation, sweet, sticky, alcohol finish. Pleasant lingering aftertaste of caramels, dark fruit, toffee.

D: A small serving is plenty for me. If I'm in the mood for an English Barleywine, this is the first beer that comes to mind.

Photo of DoubleJ
4.63/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2006 Vintage from a 275 ml bottle. That says it all. On to the beer:

No head on the pour. The glow of orange is a nice sight though. But don't base your first thoughts on the look, take in its aroma. The nose is loaded with all sorts of flavors. There is apricot, sherry, vanilla, and oak. And if the aroma isn't for you, taste it! Amazing and full flavored at first impression. And smooth as well. Sweet, sherry, apricots, grapes, butterscotch, cherries, a touch of oak. There is a very light touch of bitterness at the very end, but overall this is very sweet. The alcohol is nowhere is be found despite the listed 11.5% ABV. Thre's very little carbonation in this beer. but it's so smooth, and it's medium-heavy malty feel keeps the beer being sipped on.

I expected some very good things from this beer. Not only did this beer do that, it went beyond very good and become of the most tastiest, thought provoking beers that have crossed my palate. An outstanding example of the barleyewine style, and one that everyone should have the opportunity to taste.

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,284 ratings.