J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) | J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)
442 Ratings
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)

Brewed by:
J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Dantes on 05-07-2004

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 442 |  Reviews: 230
Photo of Daniellobo
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A very rich and enjoyable sipper, maybe not as profound as some of the other vintage offerings from J.W. Lees but remarkable nevertheless.

Presentation: 275 ml brown capped bottle. Simple and classic design with a light cream background, and green and gold fonts. Notes limited edition, one line description, and ability to be enjoyed now or being cellared for future enjoyment. Shows Alc. by Vol. (11.5%) and brewing date (2009). Poured into a snifter.

A - Medium amber copper pour with minimal head that fades instantly, leaving the faintest of surface rings.

S - Nice caramel with a boozy sense, hint of port and wood.

T - Nice rich range of flavors, dominated by caramel, small fruity notes over a malty sense, raisins, touch of wood, a bit earthy. Hefty and rich alcohol/brandy sense coating it.

M - Medium-full body, very smooth, with little carbonation, and a sweet syrupy finish.

O - Nice sipper with an stimulating range although the port range seems very nuanced.

Notes: This was the last pending Harvest casks to try, and it maintains the quality and overall extraordinary sense. The port side is rather subtle, and maybe a bit shy compared to the others, in particular the Lagavulin, which stands on a category of its own for me. But this is a great brew in any case.

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Photo of Beejay
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in 2005

A: Deep amber with a bit of tan head from an aggressive pour. The head fades away almost immediately. Very large chunks of yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass.

S: Very malty sweet. Caramel, maple syrup and molasses dominate the aroma. Hints of wood and dark fruit come out in the finish.

T: Caramel and syrup some right out. There is a nice toffee flavor as well as a touch of biscuit in the finish. Some lovely roasty flavors balance the notes of sweet fruit.

M: Thick and oily. This thing coats your mouth in a wonderful layer of sweet toffee glaze. Carbonation is extremely low.

O: Perhaps a little oxidized, but for a beer brewed 6 years ago, this thing is really holding up. Dynamite stuff.

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Photo of bobhits
4.84/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Bottle.

Classic color and body for this beer. Just enough carbonation so I know it’s there (have to say the non port aged version does have better head). A lot of sediment in the glass, merky, beige head and a nice deep dark amber orange color.

Dark fruits, dates, raisins, figs, brown sugar, not a spice or hop to be noticed in this nose. Some grapes and a smell that I just think of as English barley wine.

Amazingly smooth, just wow. I don’t know what port tastes like, but it has done wonders with this beer. A creamy, fruity, vanilla numbed master piece. The fruity flavors mix with a subtle alcohol and buttery note that just blow my mind. A bit of a hop kiss at the end, earthy and bitter to balance things out. The port has mellowed some of the harsh notes in the regular version of this beer, and perhaps cut years of aging out of the need. I think a bit of nutty flavors has been added her as well.

Creamy thick syrup is the best way to describe this beer. Carbonation is very lacking and who cares? This is an English barely wine and it just works.

I’m not sure where this ranks with different ages and all, but this is about as great a beer drinking experience as I can recall. I just want more in my bottle. 9.99 gone in 30 minutes, I need a raise to keep this pace up!

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Photo of sweemzander
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

9.3oz. bottle poured into a snifter. 2006 Vintage.

(A)- Pours a fairly thick deep roasted caramel color. Produced some transparent to white froth and bubbles.

(S)- A rich caramel, toffee, honey, and brown sugar profile. Bits of dry oak, vanilla, and very subtle bits of dark fruits; sherry-like.

(T)- Similar to the smell in every way. Sweet and rich with a complex malt profile.

(M)- A mellow carbonation level. A nice balance of rich yet sweet malts without being too sweet or sugary. An excellent ABV integration; in no way does this feel like 11.5%. So very smooth overall.

(D)- A solid Barleywine. Easily my most favorite thus far from the JW Lees variations. The port cask smoothes this out while adding subtle complexities and richness. Good stuff right here.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy orange-ish to brown-ish color, with a tan head. In the aroma, oaky, wine like, I assume port. In the taste, sweet oak, vanilla, and big port/ wine flavor. A smooth and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small dry oak with wine undertones in the aftertaste. Nice wine presence, a bit hot from alcohol, but a nice sipper.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.65/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From 03/25/11 notes.

a - Pours a clear amber color with less than one inch of off white head and low carbonation evident.

s - Smells of sweet fruit, grain, bready malts, oak, and wine.

t - Tastes of sweet fruit, molasses, light wine, and alcohol.

m - Medium body and low carbonation.

o - A pretty good variation of JW Lees, but not my favorite. A sipper for sure and one to share with some friends.

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Photo of Jdmpolk
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- a thick looking apple cider brew pours from the bottle. A brief amount of head forms, but then dissipates leaving a ring around the glass and a small patch in the middle. A moderate amount of sediment speckles the brew.

S- Very sweet, slightly cheesy aroma. A slight fruity aroma of dried fruit or over ripe grapes in present. Hints of wood and spice.

T- explosive. First you get a sweet grape taste finishing with slight bitterness from hops. In between is spice, clove, wood, and a surprising roast quality. Slight hint of caramel at the corners.

M- Very thick, this beer hangs around on the tongue. An almost syrupy quality. The back end is slightly dry and almost gives the impression of eating char on roasted meat.

D- This is a ale you should sip and savor over time. Each sip brings a different experience. There is a lot going on here. Enjoy!

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Photo of OneDropSoup
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a wine glass: Thick, cloudy orange-brown, like unfiltered cider. No head really, just a swirl on the surface. Some visible bits of sediment that are suspended in place.

Strong vinous smell at first, that gives way to a thick caramel & cooked apple aroma. A little boozy.

Thicker caramel & toffee taste at first, maple-like sugar, some baked apple & pear notes. In the finish & aftertaste is a rich kind of charred sugar & smokiness that curls around on the palate, reminiscent of barbecue sauce - I really love that. It fades a little with subsequent sips, but damn that's good! Nice long, malty, subtly smoked aftertaste. Very impressive. A little booze creeps in after a while, & a mild spiciness, like hot cinnamon but really restrained.

Full-bodied, rich feel, plenty of sugars coating the palate. Ends syrupy & a little sticky. Not much carbonation, very smooth.

That's a tasty brew! I was very surprised to get that smoky flavor at the end, & a quickly fading wine character. Surprisingly easy to drink given its strength & sweetness. If I had more than one available, I might go back for more!

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Photo of sitarist
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 vintage...thanks to richbrew for throwing this one in.

Pours a murky, ruddy brown. No head, just a few bubbles, lots of chunky sediment. The sediment stays suspended and refuses to settle to the bottom of the glass.

It is sweet, and slightly boozy, with hints of brown sugar, toffee, toasted pecans, caramel, dates, and red wine. Balanced with nothing overpowering.

This is the sweetest beer that Ive ever tasted. The taste of brown sugar jumps out of the glass and coats my tongue. Reminds me of a Panera caramel roll. Flavors of brown sugar, burnt caramel, toasted pecans, and port wine. There is a slight nutty bitterness at the end.

Full boddied, thick, and chewy. No carbonation, sticky, and warm. It coats my mouth.

A fine sipper.

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Photo of Kendo
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage, consumed on 2/5/11.

A: Poured from the bottle into a Stone Double Bastard snifter. Body is dark amber with no head and no visible carbonation.

S: Booze. Sweet malt (caramel and fruity). But mostly booze.

T: First impression, I wrote "smooth, but boozy." Loads of sweet malt - brown sugar, toffee and butterscotch, but also some nuttiness and a touch of toasted coconut. Oakiness shows up as a muted tannic bitterness near the end of the sip, but it finishes hot and boozy.

M: Again - smooth. Body is heavy, heft-wise, and oily/slick in feel, but silky-smooth. Carbonation is non-existent, which is probably a good thing (too much carbonation sharpness would make the booze even harder to drink).

D: Good. It's a sipper, no doubt, and pretty hot and boozy all-around, but still pretty smooth.

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Photo of Urbancaver
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours orange with some reddish tint. Minimal head. Very sweet on the nose. Lots of malts with some slight hoppiness. Sweet malt backbone with definite barrel characteristics.
Barrel characteristics are prominent. Sweet wine characteristics with some bitterness. Its a very unique sweetness that is coming off the port. Overall, more similar to the caldavos than I was expecting

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Photo of Hojaminbag
3.2/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2009 vintage

J.W. Lees Harvest aged in Port casks has a brownish orange body with a bunch of sediment floating around in it. The head is a thing color of light tan foam that fades quickly.

Lots of dark fruits like prunes and figs. Hints of caramel, toffee and cocoa

Up front is a bunch of caramel and toffee, once again with a touch of cocoa. After that comes all kinds of Port flavor. Grapes, raisins, figs and prunes all make appearances. A solid amount of wood in the background. A little bit of a burnt, rubbery flavor in the background. The aftertaste is very fruity. A little bit of heat from the alcohol lingers throughout.

Surprisingly light bodied with a lot of carbonation.

This one is definitely for sipping.

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Photo of Janderson91
3.39/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

2005 vintage. Poured the 9.3 oz bottle into a DFH signature glass.

A- Murky amber color. Absolutely no head whatsoever. All kinds of yeast floating around.

S - Smell is the highlight for me. Very sweet with some dark fruits, very little hop presence at all. The port has made its presence known.

T - In the taste, the port cask is extremely evident. Very very sweet with some fruity, grapelike taste. A lot of alcohol present. No hops.

M - Very thick with no carbonation.

D - Sweetness and thickness make this beer a sipper.

A pretty good beer but it's just too expensive for me to revisit again.

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Photo of MrDanno96
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 Vintage from 275 ml bottle into my Great Lakes Snifter. This is right around four years old.

A: Pours an opaque copper color with a thin white head. Lots of yeast particles floating around. So much so that I had to wait several minutes before taking a sip in order to let them settle.

S: The port really shines through - dark grapes drenched in alcohol with a nice warm butteriness that I associate with dark red wines. Notes of dark fruit and sweet malt lie underneath the port aromas, reminding me that this is a beer I'm drinking.

T: The maltiness comes out much more in the taste than the aroma, but the port still plays a prominent role. Notes of fresh bread and grain come through right up front. Notes of port and oak come through in the mid palate and last for the rest of the sip. Dark fruits (plums and grapes) soaked in alcohol, similar to the nose. Just a touch of earthy bitterness comes through in the finish.

M: Full bodied, boarding on syrupy, with almost zero carbonation. Surprisingly hot as well for almost four years in the bottle.

D: Very, very good, but only in small doses. The 275 ml bottle is definitely the right size for this brew. Too bad they're so expensive. Even at almost four years out, I think this one still hadn't reached its peak yet either.

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Photo of jwinship83
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 bottle drank from my la fin du monde tulip. this is the youngest is have ever tried vintage harvest ale, barrel aged or not.

A- this one pours out of the bottle a very murky amber colored body with tons of floaters in it. i wasnt expecting that. there is a minuscule off white head on top that quickly becomes no more than a crown. little to no lacing gets left behind.

S- the first thing i notice about the nose is sweet brown sugar. the fruits i typically expect from an english barleywine seem very subdued here. lots of caramel also. the port sneaks through softly, as does the barrel (notes of vanilla). the alcohol isnt as strong as i would expect from this fresh 11.5% beer.

T- the taste starts off with sweet brown sugar and caramel malts. lots of honey and raisin also. man, this is sweet. the tiny bit of port i pick up adds to the sweetness. there is a little evidence of the barrel in this one (vanilla). the alcohol is pretty well hidden for something this hefty.

M- sticky and syrupy. this is a pretty thick beer. palate coating. moderate warming from the alcohol.

D- this was alot better than i was expecting. the base beer is amazing, but the last one of these i had was more than 4 times older. port barrels were a great choice to age these in. id try it again anytime. too strong to session. check it out.

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Photo of electrobunny
3.74/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Five Years old at time of tasting.

A - Pours a murky amber/tawny color with a thin white lace.

S - Chalky yeast in the nose along with a sweet confectionery sugar note, port (which has more of a spiced rum quality IMO) and honey. Port smells sweeter and more peppery compared to the whiskey treatment of the same year.

T - Very sweet and mild. Caramel and maple syrup up front with honey and some earth. Some alcohol esters on the end give it a cherry vibe and are accompanied by some nutty yeast notes. Has the same smoked maple ham note I got out of the whiskey version but feels more subtle.

M - Thin and syrupy mouthfeel with a pinch of heat on the end. Light bodied with no carbonation.

D - At times I couldn't tell the difference between this and the whiskey version in a side-by-side. Very sweet with lots of maple and smoked deli meat notes. Has an added spicy quality (albeit subtle) with similar wood flavors but that's about it. Pulled some oak and vanilla as it warmed but overall its too sweet for me. Alcohol is almost invisible which is dangerous.

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Photo of sprucetip
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage, from notes.

Active, hazy amber/orange in color. No head, really, just some film and a little foam on the edge. Looks inviting, but I'm biased by its reputation.

Sour vinegar scents come first. Apple cider vinegar, more precisely. Malty sweetness and fruity notes emerge later. ...Vinegar dissipates much later... Boozy and fruity come on strong late.

Malty sweet, prunes, raisins, with mild bitterness balancing. Hop flavor adds to the fruity character (I think). Very sweet, pushing cloying, but very tasty and smooth.

Smooth, rich, and full. Not overcarbonated, and no alcoholic bite. Finishes clean.

Super sweet sipper, but very complex and balanced. A special treat if you are in the right mood.

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Photo of eatabagofbooger
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007. Poured from a 275ml bottle to a tulip glass.

A: Very odd color. Clear copper with red hues. Very small head which dissipates quickly. I can see a small bit of lacing whenever I tip the glass to my lips, but it's gone by the time I put my glass down.

S: The port is dominant on the nose. Very fruity, with heavy emphasis on the grapes. Some typical aged barleywine flavors are layered underneath, but only reveal themselves at second whiff (bready malts, caramel, toffee, brown sugar). Well layered and very pleasant.

T: The same flavors as the nose, but inverted; the beer flavors play a dominant role while the port flavors take a back seat. The doughy, bready flavors are particularly pronounced. There is an odd, but not unpleasant, peppery spice near the finish. Surprisingly, there is almost no aftertaste; this beer goes down clean despite the viscosity and the cloying sweetness.

M: Exactly what I expect from a beer like this: very thick and syrupy with almost no carbonation (just barely enough to be noticeable).

D: This is a solid beer, but I like the regular version better. Alcohol is very well hidden, but the thickness and the cloying sweetness make this a sipper and a perfect beer for the 275ml format; I don't think my palate could handle any more.

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Photo of metter98
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is cloudy amber in color and lots of yeast particles are visible floating in suspension. It poured with a thin layer of bubbles floating on the surface.
S: There are aromas of brown sugar, figs and raisins in the nose along with some notes of port.
T: The taste generally follows the smell, but flavors of port are stronger, but not overpowering. The finish is rather sweet and fruity with some hints of oak and bitterness.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate with a light amount of carbonation.
D: This is a good beer to sip with dessert; there's no way that I could have more than one of these at a time due to the alcohol content and amount of sweetness.

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Photo of titosupertramp
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks be to Dim for this 2008 vintage.

A: Murky with yeast floaters. No lacing, light carbonation.

S: Toffee, dark fruit, brown sugar. Pretty sweet smelling.

T: Very sweet with toffee, grape, raisins...a little apple. A very minerally, peaty aftertaste. Love it.

M: Thick, smooth

D: The 11.50% ABV is extremely well hidden, but the sweet, thickness keeps this a sipper.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.85/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Chilled bottle into a glass. 2006 vintage.

A: Before I pour the slug, it's a clear, dark amber that tends toward maroon. After I pour in the yeast (it's good for you!), it turns into a murky maroon body. Carbonation is low at best; it comes out of solution momentarily, never materializes into a cap, and has no collar or lace.

S: Less port-rich than I had expected. It smells remarkably like the base beer, with caramel, toffee, chocolate, figs, dates, and nuts. The port materializes in a subdued fashion. Soft oak that doesn't impart many harsh tannins.

T: Like the nose, the port accentuates the flavor but doesn't obliterate it. The base beer shines through; traditional English barleywine flavors of caramel and toffee are present, as is a touch of chocolate. Dark fruits are present in figs, dates and raisins, though the latter is probably just a contribution of the port flavors. Nuts and a small flavor of oak and vanilla, with an exhalation of maple. The lack of strong oxidation is a bit disappointing. Typically, aged JW Lees oxidizes in a beautiful sherry fashion, and here that's either not fully developed, or it's hidden by the cask aging.

M: The finish is sweet and port-like. The beer in general is on the sweet, but not cloying, side. Again, I feel that oxidation really enhances this beer; it gives it the impression of dryness, and it adds much more complexity to the flavor.

D: If I had to choose between a relatively young cask-aged version of this beer and an older version of the base beer, I'd go with the latter, every time. This is nice, but it's not in the same league. I've also had a 2005 Port vintage, and it failed to develop the same oxidation that makes the base beer so sublime. Good stuff, but not the best of the style. Probably on the level of Gratitude.

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Photo of ratedz
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2006 vintage

Pours a dark amber with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves no lacing.

The first thing I notice on the nose is a sweet toffee-like smell. This is followed by the smell of grapes, oak, and some other dark fruits.

Taste is heavy on the dark fruits and port grapes. Some oak, a lot of sweetness, and a hint of alcohol on the finish.

The mouth feel is thick and creamy. Fairly drinkable given the high ABV. A great sipping beer on a cool fall evening.

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Photo of jdhilt
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2008 Port Cask Vintage. Pours a one finger cream head that fades quickly leaving no lace. Cloudy amber/brown color. Light-medium carbonation and heavy bodied. Sweet dark fruit nose. Flavor is sweet raisins and port. Not overly sweet like some of the other harvest ales. The high ABV is almost hidden. Pricey at $9.60 for a 275ml bottle from Tully's Beer and Wine Wells, ME.

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Photo of champ103
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A 2008 bottle.

A: Pours a hazy amber/orange color. Lots of yeast floaters that are suspended. At first a two finger white head forms with good retention considering the alcohol and age, and the lace has some legs.
S: Toasted malt, and sweet toffee up front. Some chocolate and vanilla. All fine, but at first the aroma was very reserved. though this opens up almost immediately once this warms up. Grapes and apple cider aromas explode on the nose. Dry wood as well. Just awesome.
T: Again, very reserved before this warmed up. Though once it got to room temp, the flavor is huge. A great toasted malt, toffee, and vanilla flavor. Tons of fruity flavor that are going on. Grapes, apples, chocolate covered raisins. The dry oaky/wood flavor was to much at first, but once the other flavors came out everything melded perfectly.
M/D: A medium to full body. Low on the carbonation, but not under carbonated at all. Velvety smooth and decadent. Easy to drink for the high alcohol. A great sipping beer.

Just a wonderful beer with tons of nuance and complexities. I am glad I waited for this to warm, because my review would have been completely different at a cooler temp. I still like the original version better, but this is a very close second. Highly recommended.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.46/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2006 vintage, 9.3oz bottle at Delaney's into a nonic half-pint.

A: Muddy orange body with some sediment and a fleeting hint of white foam. Pretty much as flat and boring-looking as I'd expect from a vintage English Barleywine.

S: Whoa, mama. Tons of ultra-rich, ultra-sweet toffee malt, port grapes, chocolate, raisins, vanilla, and European oak. So rich, so sweet, so amazing.

T: Follows the nose in all its intensely sweet complexity - incredibly, there's practically no discernible alcohol. The port influence just makes the malt sweetness all the more pronounced, and that's a good thing.

M: Thick, viscous body with very low (but present) carbonation. Not bad at all.

D: 9.3oz is the perfect size, and the sweetness is just crazy enough for the style while the booze is incredibly understated. While I couldn't drink more than a couple bottles at a sitting, I can hardly imagine a beer that does a better job combining such high strength and such ridiculous sweetness in such a drinkable package.

Notes: I had this alongside the Lagavulin version from the same year, and both were incredible. While I personally preferred the balance brought by the other beer's dry, smoky, peaty characteristics, I couldn't get over how well this one integrated its base beer with the notes from the barrel. Truly a delectable beverage, and one that I hope to have again.


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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 4.14 out of 5 with 442 ratings