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

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

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

1,191 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1191
Reviews: 788
rAvg: 4.26
pDev: 14.08%


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)
View: Beers (18) |  Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,191 | Reviews: 788 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of HopHobo
HopHobo

Michigan

4.47/5  rDev +4.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-07-2009 04:03:01 | More by HopHobo
Photo of altctrlsdelete
altctrlsdelete

North Carolina

4.95/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2002 vintage consumed on 9.7.04.

Very high expectations for this beer after hearing lots and lots of hype (and paying a pretty penny for the bottle).

Decanted slowly into a snifter, resulting in a very slight white head that fades to just the sides of the glass in a few moments. Very deep bronze color with ample carbonation.

Very smooth and subtle aromas -- easily the most delicious smell I've encountered emanating from a glass. Buttery toffee is the first thing that comes to my mind. A very light hop aroma underlies the dominant aromas. I almost want to inhale this.

The taste of this beer is out of this world. I've not had anything approaching this in the relatively short time (~1 year) that I've experienced craft beers. The "buttery toffee" that was present in the nose is definitely here, but with a very agreeable burnt flavor. As a fan of hoppier beers, subtlety in the hop department is something that I didn't think I'd really appreciate. Wrong. The balance here is absolute perfection, like drinking a Bach concierto. The earthy malt flavors leave a perfect sweet but subtle flavor on the tongue in the finish.

This is a "wow" beer among "wow" beers. If you haven't tried this, you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can to obtain some. Nearly flawless.

Serving type: bottle

09-08-2004 01:04:10 | More by altctrlsdelete
Photo of AleDrinkToThat
AleDrinkToThat

Tennessee

4.88/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1998 Vintage.

A: As soon as I cracked into it (catching the alcohol presence right off the bat), I poured it with care into my DFH snifter. Deep mahogany hue which could only be seen on the sides and bottom in the evening sunlight, and about one finger of creamy smooth head.

S: Again, the alcohol made itself known immediately upon opening the bottle after 10 years of waiting in the darkness. While it was present, it was not utterly dominant. Caramel malt, molasses and raisins permeated and nearly overwhelmed my olfactory senses. I swear I could almost smell how sweet it was.

T: The aroma is great, but the taste is divine. The caramel malt & molasses burst forth immediately with a slightly cloying sweetness, opening up into strong raisin notes and the warming alcohol presence. It finishes beautifully on a warm note and the aftertaste is full of sweet raisins.

M: Again, it is just a little cloyingly sweet. One of the sweetest beers I've had and without the tartness of wild yeast that balances out a lambic. Very low, but not entirely absent, carbonation. But the intense thickness and warming alcohol presence make it a different and wholly fantastic experience altogether.

D: Alas, I cannot recommend more than one a week. It's just too sweet and complex. (English barleywines are right up my alley, so take all this with a grain of salt.) It's best to enjoy this flavor on occasion so one doesn't get to the point that it tastes somewhat pedestrian, which is certainly far from the case. Also, there's just no sessioning an 11.5% monster like this.

I'm not sure if all the vintages are this sweet (I've heard the 2000 is less so), but it was time to drink the '98. I don't think it could have gained much more by sitting longer. Excellent!

Serving type: bottle

03-23-2009 04:40:23 | More by AleDrinkToThat
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Hachiman

Japan

4.97/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2002 vintage

Had a great odor of bread and raisins straight out of the 'fridge. After it warmed up a molasses-like volatility was evident.

A 3/8 inch, long-lasting beige head. Dark red-brown body was quite attractive.

Wonderful raisin bread taste, with a yeasty aftertaste. Very assertive flavor, meant to be savored.

Substantial mouth feel, giving some meaning to that old saw, "liquid bread". Left sticky feeling on the lips.

Serving type: bottle

08-19-2011 23:54:42 | More by Hachiman
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beerogre

New York

4.4/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2001 Vintage sampled Nov 2006.

Another very special sipping beer, which I purchased along with a Thomas Hardy Ale last weekend. Visually both are really quite ghastly, in my opinion!

For me, this had the beating of the Thomas Hardy. Both were excellent little treats, but the Harvest Ale just seemed to have that extra touch of class, which is the difference between finishing in the last 8 of the World Cup like England, or going all the way to the final like Italy or France. Sad but true!

Again, not too hard to believe if someone offered you a glass and told you it was a sherry and when I offered my wife a taste, (as I often do when I believe I'm sampling an exceptional beer) she was reluctant to return it and wanted to down the whole thing. That's usually the sign of a really good beer, as she's normally content with just a little sip.

A rare treat, and worth sampling as a one off, but I'll take my value for money Ommegangs anyday thank you very much.

Serving type: bottle

11-12-2006 04:42:44 | More by beerogre
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DIPAbrewer

Delaware

4.55/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1997 on tap at Max's taphouse in Baltimore! I was stunned when I saw it on the beer list and even more pleased after tasting.

Brilliant deep dark golden brown, with a slight head.

Aroma of sweet malt faint earthy hops and butterscotch.

Flavor was full of sweet, sweet malt. Mild bitterness with lots of butterscotch. Probably diacetyl but it somehow worked very well in this beer.

Dangerously drinkable for the ABV. I was amazed and ecstatic to be able to try this vintage brew on tap at one of my favorite bars.

Serving type: on-tap

02-05-2009 04:45:24 | More by DIPAbrewer
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eatabagofbooger

Oregon

4.53/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2001 vintage. Poured from a 275ml bottle to a snifter. My pre-birthday beer.

A: No surprises here-deep caramel color with a very small head that dissipates quickly. Leaves a very thin lacing and if you swirl it, it even has legs.

S: Holy crap that's strong! In a good way, though. Toasted nuts, alcohol, toffee, caramel, figs, dates. In the past two days, I've had two of the most wonderful smelling beers of my life. This is definitely one of them.

T: Follows the nose, but with a bit of oxidation. Kinda like a cross between a fine tawny port and a barleywine. Toffee and caramel are the most prominent flavors. Nuttiness is far more subdued than in the nose. The dates and figs are there, but there is a slightly more tart fruitiness there too, like cherries and raisins.

M: Could have used some carbonation, but I can't say the lack thereof is a surprise from a nearly 10 year old beer. Very thick and viscous.

D: The prominence of the alcohol, the viscosity, the lack of carbonation, and the rich sweetness create a beer that is best sampled in small doses. Even this 9.3 oz bottle might be a bit much for me. But hey, it's not meant to be a session beer, and for what it is, it does it's job well. This is definitely a special occasion beer, and I'd probably be inclined to share my next bottle, but I'm planning to pick up a couple more while the shop has 'em in stock! Overall a wonderful beer and very unique. The only thing I've had that comes even close to it in character is Cherry Adam on the Wood.

Serving type: bottle

11-07-2010 00:13:39 | More by eatabagofbooger
Photo of RichardMNixon
RichardMNixon

Pennsylvania

1.86/5  rDev -56.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Second one of these I had from the 2011 vintage, and the second was worse than the first.

Looks fine in the glass, light carbonation. Has a pleasant smell of malt I'd expect from a barleywine. The taste starts there, with nice notes of sherry and fig. From there it goes to smokey and leathery notes and finally leaves you with what I imagine licking an ash tray must taste like. Couldn't finish the bottle.

Serving type: bottle

11-26-2013 03:00:57 | More by RichardMNixon
Photo of dedalus
dedalus

Kansas

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

1997 vintage bottle.

nearly no head on a deep reddish, garnet colored brew. minimal lacing down the bulb of the snifter.

aromas of intensely concentrated malt and lots of alcohol. heavily sugared dates and raisins.

thick, syrupy mouthfeel. clingy and stringy.

massive flavors of sugared dates, raisins, sweet rum, and sugary cherries in their own syrup. no hop presence whatsoever, no balance at all. but then again, this is a traditional english barleywine, and balance would be inappropriate for the style. this is just pure, concentrated malt in all its glory, what i imagine straight malt wort would taste like. tons of alcohol bite in the finish, which is long and intensely sweet.

i had to conclude that i was just not man enough for this beer. with every sip i could feel the alcohol seeping into every cell of my body. by the time i finished the bottle i was ready for bed, completely glowing with alcohol warmth. luckily, bed was only a room away. this beer put me in my place, and quickly.

i wouldn't recommend this beer for anything but a very special occasion. as the glass becomes emptier, the malt sweetness goes far past cloying, and the beer approaches undrinkability. this one was six years old and probably could have standed about five more years of aging. it was smooth, but probably could have been much more so had i given it another half-decade to mellow out.

if you get a chance to try one, do so, but only if you're close to your bed, or if you have a designated driver, or a tolerance that would put gambrinus himself to shame. and if you're a hophead, dive behind the couch and hope this beer didn't see you.

cheers,

s.d.

Serving type: bottle

10-23-2003 21:11:08 | More by dedalus
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Budinetz

Pennsylvania

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

Vintage 2007 poured into a Teku glass.

A- amazing color on this brew. Very uncharacteristic of the style, but definitely a beautiful straw colored hue with a tight cream colored head that stays for quite a while after pouring. It almost looks as if it was nitrogen infused. Minimal lacing present but some does stick to the glass and due to the active yeast in the bottle it has some fizziness after pouring, much like a sparkling wine/cider. Some sediment present, so be careful when pouring vintages 5 years and beyond.

S- smells of grain, malt, cane sugar, and bread. Has a nice bouquet of malty tones, some yeast, and straw. Almost detect a funkiness like brettanomyces, but not quite.

T- flavors of molasses, caramel, barley, and very biscuity. Refreshing carbonation, not too overbearing. Very smooth on the palate. No boozy alcohol aftertaste at all, which is quite impressive for an 11.5% abv beer. Quite possibly one of the best beers I've had the pleasure of consuming.

M- very smooth on the tongue. Very light, refreshing carbonation that drinks through the head and does not leave any slickness on the tongue or unpleasant feeling in the mouth. Very little to no burn from the high abv, which is yet again impressive.

O- overall, a very well rounded brew with an awesome flavor, a warming abv, but none of the unpleasant after effects of many other brews. Definitely worth aging for years to come! I have two...one I will crack open in another 5 years or so. Enjoy!

Serving type: bottle

01-13-2014 07:28:46 | More by Budinetz
Photo of jamespub
jamespub

Missouri

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

Drinking a 2000 vintage in celebration of my daughter's birth. poured into a Duvel Tulip.

A- Much darker than i recall the 2007 and 2008 bottles I had last fall. Dark brown with low carbonation, but what is there lingers around the edge. A beautiful dark brew....was it particular to the year, or did age somehow do this? I'm not sure.

S- ah....amazing. malt, malt, malty sweetness. it has the distinct smell of an aged brew. toffee, caramel.

T- simply stunning. toffee, grain, caramel. it has the incredible grain flavor that the 07 and 08 years had, but it is so much more refined. the yeast has settled well and leaves a clear brew that tastes absolutely stunning. i could drink this all day, every day.

M- sticks to the tongue. smooth, velvety with a feel that lingers. a faint hint of carbonation. mildly sticky finish due to the sugars.

O-Easily one of the best beers I have ever had. I had one and this was the best occasion to open it on. I wish I had a case more. I will be aging the rest of them as long.

Serving type: bottle

07-13-2012 02:16:08 | More by jamespub
Photo of pjs234
pjs234

Connecticut

4.33/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage. Poured into my DFH Signature glass. The beer is a very murky brownish/red color. There was little to no head, but there was a fair amount of sediment suspended virtually motionless in the glass. The smell is good and very sweet, with an overall molasses aroma with hints of raisins, toffee and caramel.

The taste is very sweet. The molasses flavors are very noticeable. There is also a slight bitterness. Hard to place the exact flavor, but it keeps it from being way too sweet. Honestly, this is a real nice barleywine, it is almost like a very nice dessert wine. Please let this one warm up before your first sip. When a little too cold, there is a very odd flavor to it, almost a cardboard taste. This goes away as the beer warms. Also, regardless of temp, there is no hint of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is good, although the carbonation is almost gone. I guess this is to be expected with a 5 year old barelywine.

Overall, this is very good. I am glad i tried it. From a personal standpoint, I think I prefer fresh barelywines, as I like the alcohol bite of them. Also, I would love to try this one fresh, just to see how it changed over the past five years.

Serving type: bottle

01-15-2012 22:37:55 | More by pjs234
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His_Royal_Hoppiness

United Kingdom (England)

4.75/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2006 vintage.

A: Dark copper colour with lots of sediment - no head whatsoever.

S: Malt, molasses, caramel.

T: Honey, raisins, apples, molasses, marmite - very complex and very sweet - almost resembles a liqueur.

M: Outstanding - lovely thick, syrupy body with gentle carbonation.

This was my first proper barleywine and I found it fairly overwhelming. Absolutely delcious at first, but for me the sweetness was just too much - it was a real struggle to get through. I've got a couple more bottles laid-down, so I'll definitely return to this when I've had a bit more exposure to the style - right now I'm just too much of a lightweight to get the most out of this!

* Have just had a 2001 bottle that was a very different experience to the 2006 - gloriously well-balanced, with a wonderful prune and plum taste - the marmite flavour was barely present and generally it was much less cloyingly sweet. Just shows what wonders age does for this beer! Originally rated this as a 4, but the 2001 was a worthy 4.75.

Serving type: bottle

02-09-2013 20:42:09 | More by His_Royal_Hoppiness
Photo of Lakes
Lakes

Idaho

4.9/5  rDev +15%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: There is (for obvious reasons) painfully little head on the 2002. I expect none so perhaps I'm being too critical but I've had other beers (not this style) that were aged longer and retained a nice head. Otherwise; the color is deep dark brown to the point of black with lovely ruby hues as it pours

Aroma: Fantastic. Huge rich malt and fruit. Raisin, Date, Figs. Carmel and heady alcohol. Simply wonderful. The depth is amazing.

Taste: As the nose, the taste is huge and complex. Fig and light leather. Dates and caramel. Warm alcohol adds balance more than hops. The tawny hints are spellbinding.

Feel: Spot on. Full, rich and satisfying.

Drink: I wish I has a science fiction refrigerator so I could grab an 8 year old J.W. Lee's at will. I can't find any 2003, 2004 or 2005. I guess I'll have to stock up on the 2006 which seems to be readily available and hope my stock of the 2002 lasts till 2014.

Serving type: bottle

01-06-2011 19:25:54 | More by Lakes
Photo of corporatejim
corporatejim

Minnesota

4.15/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2000 Vintage
Pours thick and strupy into the glass. No discernable head. A hazy Caramel color with little to no lacing. A faintly sweet bouqout greets the nose. First taste comes on a little tart with a smooth syrupy full mouth feel that gives way to combating tart and sweet aftertastes. Hints of licorice and what seems like pear taste. I will let it warm a bit.

After warming for 20 to 30 thirty minutes the big roasty malt taste is paramount with smoky woodsy undertones. A very big beer. Excellent for the style.

Serving type: bottle

04-28-2005 21:03:38 | More by corporatejim
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Andbrew

Texas

3.98/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

1999 vintage

Poured strong head and nutty brown color
Strong alcohol aroma right off the bat, rasin, plum,

No carbonation to speak of. Tasted light of alcohol, but syrupy, what I would expect from this type of barleywine.

As the beer warms it gets more of a bite and you can taste more plum and esters.

Fantastic sipping beer, but share with a friend as it will overwhelm your palate after a quarter of a bottle. Pair with a strong caramel dessert or vanilla ice cream.

Serving type: bottle

08-16-2008 04:52:00 | More by Andbrew
Photo of Mess
Mess

Massachusetts

4.51/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage. Cellar temp, poured into a snifter on a clear chilly night.

A - pours ruby and brown whiskey, frothy white head. light sparkles through beautifully.

S - First thought smelled a waft of soy, but was mistaken. Rum soaked raisins, brown sugar, vanilla. Alcohol.

T - sweet Rumcake. vanilla, shortbread, un-lit swisher sweet cigar flashback to freshman year of highschool

M - smooth as velvet, thin layer sweet syrup on the tongue.

O - Really pleasantly surprised, was half expecting soy sauce given first whiff and 13 years and 3 moves over the years. Wonderful gentle slow slipper. Will look to cellar these again in the future.

Serving type: bottle

01-21-2013 04:05:41 | More by Mess
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mikehblack

California

2.65/5  rDev -37.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2008 bottle. 275ml

A- Slightly hazy orange. Fluffy white head dissipating quickly to a few big bubbles and a ring. Thick alcohol legs.

S- Massive sweet malt aroma and alcohol. Bready, sticky, caramel, toffee, marshmallow.

T- Smoky, fruity, sickly sweet, some burnt aspect I can't put a finger on, bready, toffee, boozy. Middle of the mouth is like drinking honey, molasses and malt extract. The finish is cloying and slight burn from the alcohol.

M- Full bodied, low carbonation. Coats the mouth with sugary syrup.

O- This is not a beer for me. At least not now. Way too sweet and malty for my tastes. I'll finish the bottle because it is small and was expensive.

Serving type: bottle

03-22-2012 04:49:55 | More by mikehblack
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BigTomZ

Virginia

1.65/5  rDev -61.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

2006 vintage.

A - Pours a nice copper color with a thin head that leaves a ring around the glass.

S: The aroma is pretty much what I expect from the style. Raisins, caramel, molasses.I detect a bit of an earthy aroma hidden away also.

T: This is where I was totally disappointed. The raisins, caramel, and molasses from the nose were in the taste. There was also a bit of toffee and brown sugar. The problem was this underlying taste of an uncooked potato. It was like biting into a raw potato. I found it unpleasant and it had enough of a presence that I couldn't finish this beer. This was a drain pour after only a few sips.

M: This was thick, sticky, and sweet, more so than I expect even for this style.

D: Obviously the underlying taste of a spud was off-putting for me. The thickness and sweetness definitely didn't help. In order to ensure it wasn't a bad bottle, I later picked up 2007 and 2009 vintages from different locations. It seems that something in this beer isn't sitting well on my palate.

Serving type: bottle

02-13-2011 10:47:12 | More by BigTomZ
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HamFon

Florida

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

I organized a vertical tasting of JW Lees Harvest Ale for 1998 through 2008 (missing 2003) on 11 July 2009. We also tasted a few of the wood aged JW Lees Harvest Ale (not listed here). One participant also brought a 1986 bottle. All bottles (except the 1986) were purchased from the same location, and so presumably had been treated and stored in similar conditions. Overall, the 1986, 1999, and 2001 stood out as exceptional. Recent years, particularly 2006 and newer, were somewhat disappointing (maybe a different brewer, crop issues?) and lacking complexity. All were listed as 11.5% abv, except the 1986, which did not list an alcohol level on the label. All tasters were BJCP, including two national level. Although other tasters had different notes, we pretty much agreed as to overall ratings.

My rating system (which I use on my personal BuildABeer.org) is a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Each year has ratings, as well as tasting notes. Ratings are Overall (subjective), followed by objective levels of Malt, Hops, Sweetness, Bitter, and Body. Note that the objective levels are not necessarily better as they get higher; it's just a measure of the level.

1986: 5- (overall rating), 4 (malt level), 1 (hops level), 2 (sweetness level), 1 (bitterness level), 4 (body) : slight roast; burnt notes as it warms up; sherry; smooth; caramel; toffee

1998: 4+,5,2,3,2,4 : molasses; treacle; pipe tobacco; some roast; caramel

1999: 5-,4,3,2,3,4 : caramel; floral hops; bittering balances nicely

2000: 4-,4,3,2,2,3 : slight DMS; floral; slight cheesy; prickly

2001: 5-,4,2,4,2,4 : slight bready; port wine; figs; honey; dark raisins; slight floral

2002: 4+,4,3,2,2,4 : bready; honey; floral

2004: 4, 4,2,2,1,3 : caramel; honey; floral; slight metallic; orange; dirt

2005: 4+,3,3,2,2,3 : big floral; slight orange; tabacco

2006: 4-,3,2,2,2,3 : cedar; tabacco; slight burnt; vanilla; slight sherry

2007: 4, 3,3,2,2,3 : salty clams; slight wood; tabacco

2008: 4, 3,3,2,3,3 : bread dough; slight metallic; floral

Serving type: bottle

07-12-2009 22:44:03 | More by HamFon
Photo of fff
fff

Virginia

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

Cracked open a 1999 today.

A- Deep amber, more ruby tones when held against the light. No head to speak of.

S- Vanilla, malt, honey, toffee, caramel.

T- Roasted caramel. Molasses. Liqud God. Best malty beer I've ever had.

M- Syrupy, sticky. Lingering taste in my mouth. Delicious.

D- It's too sweet to drink a lot of, and the high ABV makes it hard to drink much of it and be coherent. It's a pretty good end to a malty beer tasting session.

All in all, I am well satisfied with this beer.

Serving type: bottle

08-03-2009 00:12:40 | More by fff
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Firkin-Bunghole

New York

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

This is the "beer" that both inspired my user name and converted me into the world of craft beer. Here's my story if anyone cares to read. Time to spread the Karma around.
Back in May 2009 an ignorant 33 year old man (ME) thought craft beer was buying Guinness, Harp & Heineken. His friend "the Enlightened One" told him of a Craft Beer Fest. Fortunately, the ignorant one was smart enough to purchase a ticket and despite his ignorance was allowed entry through the door.

During the week before, the ignorant one started to read Beer Advocate and learned this event would have a firkin of a 12 year old JW Lees (1999). The ignorance permeated my brain: Beer that is 12 years old would be bad. Only when I started to read the reviews of BA here did I start to understand my ignorance.

On the day of 10 tasting tickets were provided to sample and luckily for me the "Enlightened One" guided me and I went to the firkin first. At this time the epiphany happened. I had 3 samples from the Firkin and my eyes started to open to the amazing world of craft beer.

This beer was perfect in every way. From the hammering of the wooden firkin to the cask pour to the smell of dark fruits/caramelized sugars to the syrupy full mouthfeel without any unnecessary head or carbonation. My words can't even begin to describe the depth of my experience. Heck I'm not a writer and only starting to learn how to be a BeerAdvocate.

Lastly, I can't even begin to thank JW Lees enough. Maybe 1 person will read this or the other reviews here and pick up a bottle of this. This beer is special! At $9.99 bottle its bargain priced. If ever in my life a firkin comes near Albany, NY again I'll be there. Cheers to all.

Serving type: cask

04-11-2012 02:27:46 | More by Firkin-Bunghole
Photo of nihiloexnihil
nihiloexnihil

Maryland

3/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle 2008 vintage poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: brilliant golden/deep amber, with a significant amount of stirred up yeast sediment even after a careful pour. Minimal head. The yeast clumps are a bit distracting.

Smell: apples. I'm sort of blown away by the almost cider-like scent, with a light yeasty component.

Taste: Hm. Initially I'm hit with cinnamon, apple- but not fresh apples, almost like what I imagine rotten apples taste like, a sweet necrotic taste- which then transforms to an almost fungal, mushroom-like non-fruit sensation which is hard to place. Someone mentioned "vegetal" which I think is accurate. A bit unexpected.

Mouthfeel- good carbonation but feels much like a cider.

Overall- I'm honestly not sure what to say about this beer. I'm a fan of barleywines but this seemed more like a strong, sweet cider on the initial attack with an unusual, fibrous, rotten-apple, yeasty finish that didn't quite jive. Just not for me, I guess.

Serving type: bottle

01-06-2012 01:18:27 | More by nihiloexnihil
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braugon

Connecticut

4.11/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Brewed 2011

A - Caramel hue, not as brown as some barleywines, small white head, stayed around as a thin rim

S - Awesome, sweet barleywine scents of rum, raisin, oak, phenol, caramel, slightly musty

T - Lively, sweet, oak, caramel, raisin, port wine,

M - Medium to full, with a present carbonation

O - Really great, if you like barleywines, you will probably like this, 11.5% abv is always a plus when it's this good.

Serving type: bottle

12-20-2013 01:22:23 | More by braugon
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hgrong

Minnesota

3.95/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

2002 Vintage

Pours a beautiful copper color with an active head that dissipates quickly. Not surprising considering the ABV. The nose is raisins, molasses, maple, and some vinous alcohol. On the palate it resembles a liquer rather than a beer. Sweet notes of maple, nuts, and brown sugar. The alcohol is very well hidden in the palate. Good mouthfeel. Crisp and defined, not syrupy or loose. My only problem with this beer is that I could never drink more than one. It is just too sweet. A fantastic brew for sitting in front of a fire in the dead of winter.

Serving type: bottle

06-27-2006 13:52:04 | More by hgrong
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
95 out of 100 based on 1,191 ratings.