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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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
95
world-class

1,246 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,246
Reviews: 794
rAvg: 4.25
pDev: 14.12%
Wants: 214
Gots: 182 | 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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,246 | Reviews: 794 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of geuze_gone_wild
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

geuze_gone_wild, Aug 25, 2013
Photo of Atron67
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A 2001 bottle thats been aging for awhile

A- poured a dark reddish amber with a thin tan head that lasted a little while and didn't leave much head. Foggy with little bit of particulate visible
S- Very malty, little syrupy notes, dark fruits, some figs not much notes of hops, interesting and complex smelling
T- this is dangerous for its alcohol, smooth malty layers with the dark fruits providing complements to the malty character, low hops. a little syrupy but still exceptional
M- a little syruppy, heavy body, light carbonation
D- its very good, its smoothness and body provide a really nice barelywine which goes down really smoothly

Atron67, Jul 23, 2007
Photo of Beerandboards
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2000 vintage, reviewed 12/29/12

Poured into a snifter

Appearance is dark caramel brown, like the color of dried dates (kind of an obscure reference, but it's honestly the best comparison I can think of). Pours a two finger head, even at 12 years old, but dissipates quickly to some whispy foam on top. Beer looks great, the almost opaque brown shows some golden brown on the edge when tilted against the light.

S - vanilla, caramel and earthy notes dominate when the beer is cold, as it warms up it some dark fruit, ripe apples and pears start to come out. It's crazy complex, smells phenomenal.

T - follows right along the nose. Tons of rich and thick caramel dominates at first, vanilla notes come in on the back end. Again, as it warms up the dark fruit come in, ripe red apple. Brown sugar. Like the smell, just amazingly deep and complex. Finish is silly smooth, some honey notes. It's freaky how tasty this beer is.

M - low low carb. Medium thickness. Perfect vehicle for the flavors going on. Can't find any fault.

O - I'm trying to figure out how not to give 5 across the board here. I cant think of a single improvement that needs to be made. This is a special occasion sipper that I can easily spend an hour enjoying. Just absolutely crazy good.

This is my first venture into JW Lees, I got this as part of a sweet BIF box from nlmartin (thanks again buddy). I will definitely be looking out for other vintages, but I don't know how any other year could be any better. 12 years of age set the bar very high.

Beerandboards, Dec 30, 2012
Photo of marcobrau
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
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.

marcobrau, Sep 07, 2006
Photo of thekanna
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

9.3 oz. bottle, 2006 vintage.

A: Pours a radiant dark amber that glows the color of clear apple cider when held up to light. No head to speak of.

S: Strong, dark, warming yeasts that bequeath notes of caramel, dates, dark fruits, raisins, and molasses. Gorgeous.

T: Bitter-y hop note underscores an extremely complex and earthy taste. A cigar or tobacco pipe-like smokiness is mixed with chocolate, large amounts of dark fruits (figs, dates, raisins come to mind), dried fruits, molasses, vanilla, and maple syrup. There is somewhat of a fruity creaminess at the end, as if someone added fruit flavoring to Bailey's irish cream.

M: Not much carbonation to speak of. Overall, the brew is oily and slick and covers the mouth, with a general creaminess to round out the end. Strong warming effect as one continues to sip.

D: Improves more and more by the sip. I was really impressed by this brew. I have a 1999 bottle that's cellaring right now, but I think I'll wait for a while before I crack that open.

thekanna, Mar 21, 2009
Photo of saintwarrick
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage.
Pour is a light honey brown with a foamy white head that build quickly but gradually disappears as it warms. Aroma is distinctly a British barley wine, somewhat boozy, but very malty with some grapefruit and a touch of bourbon and whiskey giving it a sharp edge. Almost cloying in its sweetness. Taste is surprisingly sweet, honey is very distinct, syrupy; lots of butter rum and brandy with a distinct alcohol warming; a very big brew, but very drinkable for a sipper of this strength. Bitter aftertaste is noticeable at the very end keeping this brew from being too sweet.

A very unique brew not to be missed, though I would like it to be a little less sweet.

2008 vintage
Appearance is same as the 2007 except a billowy white head resembling an IPA is constant throughout. Aroma has a lot more sweetness to it, like bourbon-soaked bread dipped in brown sugar. This version has less bitterness at the end as the sweetness is front, center and all other directions. A sipper to be sure, but the cloying sweetness makes this a little too big. I have a 2001 stashed away and am hoping this brew gets better over time.

saintwarrick, Jun 12, 2009
Photo of ManekiNeko
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
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.

ManekiNeko, Oct 28, 2003
Photo of azorie
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

azorie, Oct 31, 2013
Photo of Luk13
4.25/5  rDev 0%

Luk13, Jan 22, 2013
Photo of Murph
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
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.

Murph, May 20, 2002
Photo of assurbanipaul
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
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.

assurbanipaul, Aug 25, 2006
Photo of EStreet20
4/5  rDev -5.9%
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.

EStreet20, Dec 25, 2005
Photo of cvfish
3.98/5  rDev -6.4%
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

cvfish, Dec 31, 2008
Photo of dgallina
3.25/5  rDev -23.5%
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.

dgallina, Jan 14, 2005
Photo of Kaydogg
3/5  rDev -29.4%

Kaydogg, Nov 30, 2011
Photo of jeffwright
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

jeffwright, Feb 13, 2014
Photo of jgasparine
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
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.

jgasparine, Apr 25, 2010
Photo of BarrelO
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
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.

4/4/4/4/4.5=4.05

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.

4/3/2.5/4/2.5=3.05

BarrelO, Jun 25, 2009
Photo of mtrog313
4/5  rDev -5.9%

mtrog313, Nov 21, 2013
Photo of tviz33
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%

tviz33, Sep 14, 2014
Photo of slowdaddy
5/5  rDev +17.6%

slowdaddy, Aug 21, 2012
Photo of badbeer
4.25/5  rDev 0%
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.

badbeer, Dec 05, 2006
Photo of Zaximus
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%

Zaximus, Sep 12, 2014
Photo of RyanGoodman
4/5  rDev -5.9%

RyanGoodman, Jul 11, 2012
Photo of bbrown12
4.25/5  rDev 0%

bbrown12, Nov 18, 2013
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,246 ratings.