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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

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1,219 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,219
Reviews: 793
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 14.08%
Wants: 204
Gots: 172 | 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)
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,219 | Reviews: 793 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of marcobrau


3.93/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This review is for the 1998 limited edition.

This J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale pours with a medium brown color with good amount of carbonation that creates a brief flourish of foam that settles to a nice collar. The aroma of this beer reminds me of what the bowl of mixed nuts my grandmother used to put out during the holidays smelled like, mixed with fruitcakiness and a hint of leather. (Wow.) I swirl the glass and the aroma changes to that of a frosted vanilla bundt cake laced with rum.

This ale starts out with sugary sweetness that mixes with some extremely wonderful caramel notes, some bitter molasses and then finishes alcoholic and rather sweet. A nutty taste lingers on the palate for a really long finish.

The mouthfeel is a bit viscous, but not cloying, and very, very smooth. The bitter molasses flavor towards the finish is just a touch off-putting, but doesn't undermine the overall enjoyment of this fine ale.

This isn't the most drinkable beer, due to its strength, but more than one could be had. A slightly drier finish could make this beer a bit more pleasant for me, but this is a darn good vintage brew.

Serving type: bottle

09-07-2006 02:10:35 | More by marcobrau
Photo of ManekiNeko


4.5/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served at the closest I could get to cellar temperature in a Trois Pistoles goblet.

Appearance: Dark ruby brown liquid, clear, with a short-lived khaki head. A small ring of foam remains at the edge of the glass throughout. The appearance of the bottled version is clear and redder than the casked version.

Smell: Sour molasses aroma with cherry, tawny port, and prune overtones. The fruity aromas are much more prominent in bottle than on cask and without the woodiness.

Taste: Tart, sugary-sweet caramel taste that gives way to intense fruit flavors of raisins, prunes, plums, and cherries. Lightly peppery. Again, the fruitiness is more prominent in bottle than on cask.

Mouthfeel: Precious little carbonation makes this oh-so thick in body, almost syrupy... but that's how barleywine be. Besides, it lets the intense flavors have their way with your taste buds. The flavors are ones that need time to process.

Drinkability: Too bad I only have 2 more bottles if this vintage. So glad there's plenty of 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 at the store. Until Thomas Hardy's hits the market again and is given time to age, I suspect this will be the exemplar barleywine to have.

Serving type: bottle

10-28-2003 04:14:41 | More by ManekiNeko
Photo of Luk13

Quebec (Canada)

4.25/5  rDev -0.2%

01-22-2013 00:13:33 | More by Luk13
Photo of Murph


4.9/5  rDev +15%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999. Pours a clear bright amber with a thick creamy tan head that refuses to go away. Intense sweet chocolate and caramel malts dominate with some raisins tossed in and some very slight alcohol. Intense maltiness right away. Chocolate and caramel. Some fruitiness; raisins, faint cherries, and some other dark fruits. Extremely chewy mouthfeel and nicely drinkable. Not quite up to par with its older brothers yet, but still an awesome brew. A couple of years of cellaring would do this brew very nicely.

1998. Pours a clear dark amber/brown with a thick, rocky, tan head that retains very well. Smells are of cherries, raisins, toffee, chocolate, and some barely noticeable warming alcohol. Tastes start off with some sweet, chewy malt then fade to chocolate before going fruity. Cherries, raisins, and apples are the big ones. Woody and slightly smokey. The chocolatey malty flaovrs stay pretty much throughout. Great creamy smoothness in the mouth and very drinkable for the style. Damn do they ever know how to make a barley wine at this brewery. The best I have had of the style. Some might like it aged some more but I like the somewhat raw characters of the fruits.

1997. Beautiful light brownish/amber with a nice tannish head. Smells of malty sweetness, apples, smokey/wood, light alcohol, and a touch of honey. Taste is unbelievably complex. Tart fruits, smokey character, big maltiness, some earthy hops, honey, chocolate, and more maltiness. Those are just a few of the flavors that I am pulling off of this one. I can't even identify some of them. Incredibly smooth and creamy and pretty damn drinkable for a BW. This was an absolutely awesome brew, if you love barley wines like I do then you have to get some of these. A great special occasion beer.

Serving type: bottle

05-20-2002 18:36:21 | More by Murph
Photo of assurbanipaul


4.75/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark mahogany with a small head that settles easily into a ring. Aroma is very strong: deep, rich malts, flush with sweet raisins and figs. The nose is almost syrupy.

Taste mirrors a lot of the smell but that's like saying an object mirrors the photograph of it. Very rich malts, thoroughly caramelized, peat, brown sugar, hints of faraway smoke and a sad tale of melancholy. A whiskey fruitiness, maple syrup, something akin to that gained from whatever lives on the inside surface of oak barrels. Alcohol is barely noticeable but it's there, with the sweetness doing a lot to keep it in check. This is deep.

Mouthfeel is heavy, slick and velvety smooth. This beverage really pushes the envelope between beer and a distilled spirit. Built to age and I imagine that the years may take down a bit of the sweetness, only improving this beer.

1999 Vintage. Heaviest bottle I've ever held.

Serving type: bottle

08-25-2006 03:07:37 | More by assurbanipaul
Photo of EStreet20

New Jersey

4/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1998 vintage poured into an oversized wine glass.

A - pours a very dark brown, approacching black with a one finger off white head.

S - A big toffee aroma with some brown sugar smells in there too. Perhaps some raisins/dates and a bit of spice.

T - A ton of sweetness up front. Some caramel and molasses as well as a toasted flavor. A bit of alcohol and some huge fruit flavors meld with with a honey like finish.

M - A very smooth and creamy feel.

D- Interesting to say the least. Not my favorite style but for someone who likes a ton of malt sweetness this is the way to go.

Serving type: bottle

12-25-2005 03:12:58 | More by EStreet20
Photo of cvfish


3.98/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Poured a dark amber color with some floating extras, but produced no head or lacing around the glass

S - Strong alcohol and dates and raisins, barley action going on as well

T - Alcohol tastes, but refined, not hard, some dark fruits, like the scents, and some earthy nature tastes

M - Smooth, medium bodied with slight carbonation

D - Very drinkable and smooth drink, like refined liquor, but with a beer taste

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2008 04:49:43 | More by cvfish
Photo of dgallina


3.25/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Vintage 2003. Sampled 1/2005.

Pours a translucent copper with an insignificant head and light lacing. Smells quite strong; sweet and port-like with loads of oak, a touch of vanilla, and lots of spicy alcohol. Flavors begin somewhat sour and acidic, gradually developing very sweet sherry tones and finishing with alcohol spice and huge alcohol warming. Body is quite rich (nearly syrupy really) and somewhat oily. Surprisingly well carbonated for a barley wine, however.

An interesting, if very uneven brew in my opinion. The smell is enticing, but the sweet / sour dichotomy and the cloying syrupy flavor and body make it somewhat difficult to finish. I'll try the other years and styles, but I won't be in a rush to revisit this one.

Serving type: bottle

01-14-2005 03:14:26 | More by dgallina
Photo of Kaydogg


3/5  rDev -29.6%

11-30-2011 14:02:14 | More by Kaydogg
Photo of mrcraft


4.5/5  rDev +5.6%

08-13-2013 01:45:46 | More by mrcraft
Photo of jgasparine


4.7/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled a 1998 Vintage from the "cellar" on 4/24/2010.

A- Poured from the bottle with a thin tan head, which quickly receded to a haze layer and collar. The body was a heavily sedimented dark garnet color, with no visible carbonation. This beer also exhibits syrupy legs on the sides of the glass, like a liqueur.

S- An incredibly rich and complex, malt-dominant nose. Impressions of stewed malts, leather, dried dark fruit, and heavy sweet madiera and sherry-like aromas.

T- An amazing replicate of the nose with rich stewed malts, treacle, ripe black cherries, and heavy madiera notes. Finishes with some mild ethanol heat and a very faint hop bitterness. The madiera flavor seems to echo on the tongue forever.

M- Medium-plus to full body, with a syrupy viscosity to it; broken-up by a very delicate and soft carbonation. Coats the mouth wonderfully.

D- Incredibly drinkable, particularly for the high ABV. This beer gets better and better with age.

Serving type: bottle

04-25-2010 14:18:31 | More by jgasparine
Photo of kayrex


3/5  rDev -29.6%

03-23-2012 21:28:07 | More by kayrex
Photo of BarrelO


4.1/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle poured into a goblet.

2009 vintage, reviewed on 1/3/11.

A: Ruby red body. Head recedes to a thin film and leaves no lacing.

S: Tons of caramel, a hint of alcohol.

T: Big time caramel with plenty of earthy hoppiness. Some smoky notes. No alcohol. Impressively complex and balanced.

M: Thick and syrupy.

D: I liked this much more than the older bottle. I guess I like my barleywines young.


1999 vintage, reviewed on 6/25/09.

A: Dark mahogany body. Suprisingly robust head for a beer nearly a decade old. Also good lacing.

S: Huge malt bomb. Also some alcohol.

T: Overpowering cloying sweetness. No trace of hops or any other balancing flavor. It's like drinking sugar syrup. On the plus side, the alcohol is undetectable.

M: Acceptably rich and smooth.

D: This was a chore to slog through. The fact that it was less than 10 ounces was the only thing keeping it from being a drain pour. Was the beer past its prime? Did I pick up a bad bottle? Or do I just not like this beer? It'll be a while before I know for sure, because I'm not spending 7+$ on another vintage anytime soon.


Serving type: bottle

06-25-2009 06:19:02 | More by BarrelO
Photo of slowdaddy


5/5  rDev +17.4%

08-21-2012 16:52:50 | More by slowdaddy
Photo of azorie


3.75/5  rDev -12%

10-31-2013 15:42:09 | More by azorie
Photo of Joecaddie


5/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1999 vintage bottle served in Weyerbacher tulip.

A - Reddish brown with very little head when poured out of the bottle.

S - Sweetness with caramel and alcohol tones.

T - Very well balanced, malt, caramel with hidden alcohol taste.

M - Perfect carbonation for this style, thick and malty but extremely smooth.

D - This is a very easy beer to drink and must hold back to take small sips of it. Truly one of the best barleywines that I have ever had.

Serving type: bottle

08-14-2010 02:17:08 | More by Joecaddie
Photo of badbeer


4.25/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 Vintage.

Poured a nice brown/red color with a white head that left some lacing. Smell was heavenly, super sweet, slightly burnt caramel, raison, cherry, plum, hard to fully describe. Taste was almost as good as the smell, but was a bit overly sweet, not as balanced as the nose was, became a bit cloying even. Sticky on the tongue, low carbonation, full bodied. A sipper for sure, damn glad I got to try this, hopefully some of the other vintages are even better. This one was holding up like a champ, even after 8 years.

Serving type: bottle

12-05-2006 07:22:08 | More by badbeer
Photo of necoadam


4.05/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

On my 20th review, I decided to review the J.W. Lees Harvest Vintage Ale.

This was a 1997 Vintage ale

This brew poured out almost like motor oil. Nice chesnut/reddish color with very little carbonation.

Smell consists of caramel and hints of brown sugar come into mind.

Taste was huge. Big thick body and mouthfeel on this bad boy. Big taste on caramel, figs, plums, Finishes with some toffee. Call me crazy but the finish almost tastes like drinking tea. Mouthfeel is nice and smooth. Love it.

Serving type: bottle

02-03-2004 01:18:32 | More by necoadam
Photo of Pete27lax

New York

4.25/5  rDev -0.2%

10-24-2013 22:11:25 | More by Pete27lax
Photo of bmoney


5/5  rDev +17.4%

12-16-2011 16:25:27 | More by bmoney
Photo of theghost3


4.7/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2007 Vintage, poured into a snifter.

The appearance is cloudy copper, iced tea-like with lots of sediment. The head is very minimal, white. Little lacing.

The smell is strongly brandy, scotch, dark dried fruits & alcohol esters. Taste is brandy, whiskey, oaky wood with plums, vanilla, & caramel malts. The mouthfeel is acidic & there's a fair amount of alcohol warmth.

This is a drinkable beer, although it is more like a liquor than beer in a lot of ways. I would recommend cellaring this for a few years to bring out the varied qualities.

Serving type: bottle

05-26-2009 03:07:48 | More by theghost3
Photo of mythaeus


4.5/5  rDev +5.6%

12-15-2013 12:55:46 | More by mythaeus
Photo of Erdinger2003


4.75/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1990 vintage--made when I was in 1at grade!!

Pours a little head but nothing that stays very long at all, it soon turns into a headless beer. This one is a little less syrupy then the '98 and the flavors have mellowed and come together to make a burnt caramel flavor. Feels great on the palate and is something I would like to try a few more of in my lifetime.

Serving type: bottle

12-28-2006 11:00:35 | More by Erdinger2003
Photo of ShadesOfGray


4.4/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2000. Poured from a 9.3oz bottle into my Koningshoeven snifter. Pours a creamy caramel color, but fills the glass on the darker side...mostly brown. Very murky, hazy, and a wonderful looking creamy tan head with very nice retention. Leaves sticky, but patchy lacing all over the glass.

Aroma is sweet, sharp, fruits, booze, smokey, caramel, roasted malts, and yeasts.

Yum! Creamy and smooth! Lots of caramel and roasted malts. Dark and overripe fruits. Seems like the booze has really mellowed by now, it's not very warming for 11.5%. The sweetness is perfect, with just a semi thick mouthfeel. Surprising enough, this big heavy barleywine is more drinkable than I figured it would be, and definitely more than JW Lee's barrel aged versions of this beer. A very nice drinker!

Serving type: bottle

05-31-2010 02:22:03 | More by ShadesOfGray
Photo of cubedbee


4.45/5  rDev +4.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

07-10-2005 20:34:37 | More by cubedbee
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,219 ratings.