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

220 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 220 | Ratings: 418
Photo of Cyberkedi
4.15/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark, slightly hazy cola brown with a decent light tan head. Aroma has a strong overtone of miso plus a firm note of port and hints of malt and caramel. Malty, fruity flavor has an overtone of miso and an underpinning of wood - plus quite a bite from the alcohol and some woody bitterness. Texture is thick and smooth, not quite syrupy, a little lacking in fizz.

 370 characters

Photo of harrymel
3.88/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2010

Pours a near still appearing copper ale with some floaties that I saw come out of the bottle. I can smell the port from two feet away, really pleasant nose with figs, caramels, rich warm malts and the smell of something aged on lees with just an accent of alcohol. One of the better noses I've smelled. Only opens and gets better with temp. Flavor is a bit smoky with a little vegetal tone and some of the classic JW maltiness. The cask really didn't do the beer too much benefit flavor wise, there is a cheap, ruby porto quality to the finish. The body is syrupy with low carb and a long finish - spot on for the beer with just slightly too much viscosity.

Really a pleasant beer, but the flavor is not up to par with what I expect from this brewery.

 767 characters

Photo of beerman240
4.54/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 batch..

A. Roughly same color as.bottle..molasses,a strong sweet tea.

Smell. Smells great..vanilla,grapey,maybe some earthy mushrooms.

Taste.. I really enjoy the sweetness with the alcohol. Reminds me of strong Bourbon or whiskey with big splash of Pepsi. Grilled plums.maybe over baked sweet potato with brown sugar.Would go great with cigar.

Mouthfeel.. not alot of fizz. Thick,juicey..enjoy!

Overall.. bought one in Birmingham Alabama..my home town..tomorrow I'm going back to buy all they have and ask them to buy more.. will take this punkin next hunting trip with cigar.. Cheers!

 596 characters

Photo of claspada
3.67/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of brystmar, 2008 bottle

Pours a hazy amber color with a small off-white head that coats the glass with lace. Nice yeast "floaties" despite an extremely careful pour.

Aromas begin with a ton of caramel maltiness backed with copious amount of dried golden raisins and dried cherry tones with a touch of wood. A great deal of cardboard oxidation and sherry notes continue to emerge as it warms.

The tastes begin with a toffee flavor that builds into rich, rich butterscotch, coupled with lighter vinous grape and cherry tones; after the swallow the wood and port flavors kick in to mellow out the sweet flavors. There are wet cardboard and iodine flavors that I get with these J.W. Lees aged beers that is always slightly off-putting but is manageable here.

The mouthfeel is super bodied with low carbonation and some warmth down the gullet. Cloying in the finish to be honest and becomes less drinkable as it warms.

Overall I love quality Old Ales and English Barleywines but I am fed up with these J.W. Lees expensive syrupy disasters. They are all too sweet and just too much in the malt department. More like a cordial than a beer. I have tried several examples, but never again.

 1,202 characters

Photo of Thorpe429
3.08/5  rDev -26%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On cask at Pizza Paradiso in Dupont Circle. Served in a snifter.

Pours an insanely cloudy light turdish color. This seriously looked like dirty dishwater. It was really disgusting looking. After I got past that, it was decent, but not all that good. The nose had some nice port notes along with plenty of oak and a bit of oxidation. The flavor was more port and some sweetness with a bit too much oxidation, leading to a bit of cardboard. Medium body and close to flat. Sweetness and a bit of cardboard dryness. Really disgusting to look at, and an okay beer after that.

 571 characters

Photo of mdvatab
4.5/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brewed in '05.
Took 11.2oz bottle from cellar, and placed in the fridge for ~10 min., then poured into large red wine glass.

A: Sweet caramel, freshly-squeezed apple juice (not cidery, though), and a flash of booze. Lip-smackingly sweet.

A: Pours a clear light brown, between weak iced tea and apple juice. A slightly-over zealous pour sends chunks of yeast into the glass. I simply waited for the yeast to settle to the bottom of the glass. Next time, I'll be more careful when decanting, though. No head, but thick, clear legs drip down the inside of the glass.

F: Fruity, sugary sweetness with a touch of booze. Delicious caramel and vanilla through the middle, and an interesting candied yam note on the finish, with a touch of smoke. (I believe this is the port.) More than one bottle would become cloying quickly, but that initial glass is heavenly.

M: Medium-full, syrupy body. Low carbonation, but does not fall flat.

Overall: Again-- delicious! I will definitely be keeping a bottle of this on-hand for when I have the taste for a sure-fire winner. Highly-recommended for someone who likes their barleywines on the sweeter side! Cheers!

 1,150 characters

Photo of beesy
4.17/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 edition. Poured from a 11.2oz bottle into a pint glass.

a - pours a medium copper with a half finger off white head that dissipates quickly.
Learned my lesson on the amount of yeast trub in these and poured it easy and left enough in the bottle to avoid the yeast mishap with the 08 standard I reviewed a few weeks ago.

s - lots sweetness but not as sweet as the 08 standard. Malt. A noticeable sweet grape/wine aroma. Some oxidation type aromas typical of aged beers - not as stale smelling as the 2008 standard recently reviewed.

t - caramel sweetness mixed with lots of toffee and ULTRA malty with a very strong wheat flavor on the end. The port taste is fairly subtle, leaving some red wine flavors on your lips and showing up in the late palate. No hops or bitteness to speak of. A slight yeast profile in the latter palate. Alcohol detected but very subdued.

m - full bodied, but not as thick as I was expecting.

d - low for me, a tad too sweet but doesn't seem as sweet as the 2008 recently reviewed.

Overall, an interesting beer that has held up well - its seems 3 years might be the peak before it starts to fall off as compared to the 08, this was significantly less oxidized. A malt and wheat bomb with small amounts of the aging barrels present.

 1,272 characters

Photo of cindyjeffsmith
4.02/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: hazy amber.
Smell: oaky and sweet. Picking up something else, maybe imparted by the port. I'm a big port fan but this reminds without being obvious.
Taste: complex, full and much like the nose. Something a little odd in the finish I can't out my finger on.
Mouthfell: full and creamy.
Overall: have a few things I'm aging. Just had a 2002 harvest that was just awesome. I imagine some age will do the same for this.

 429 characters

Photo of Reason2B
3.9/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A – Opaque bronze in color, with sediment. Very thin white head, with nice white lacing.

S – Strong port smell dominates, with a complex sweet fruit smell that I can’t make out.

T – Sweet, a little too sweet for my liking. Very complex in flavor. Caramel, plum and infusions from the port barrel are prevalent.

M – Nearly no carbonation. Heavy in body. This is very much a sipping drink.

O – I was a little disappointed. I really wanted this to be my benchmark, but it is just too sweet. I do find that I am enjoying it a lot more has it warms up. I think I’m going to try some of the other varsities. The sherry, or even better, the whisky may cut the edge a little better than the port adding to the sweetness.

 730 characters

Photo of Scrumtralecent
4.12/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2008. Poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A - Very hazy copper with a white head. Some little yeast chunks, but nothing disheartening.

S - Caramel, dark fruit, plum, and they do a good job of getting the aroma out of whatever barrel they put this beer in to. And this is no different, plenty of port aroma coming through, adding a candied sweetness.

T - Blast of candied sweetness, with an oak and peat coming through behind that. The port imparts plenty of sweetness into that Harvest ale, making it very good. I really enjoy that aftertaste, letting the barrel itself get into this beer and not just allowing the port take over.

M - Quite a bit of carbonation to this one, not terribly distracting, but I would want it down a smidge. Otherwise this is a little bit of a sipper, plenty of bold and sweet flavors.

O - I enjoyed this beer. The taste is a little different than what I expected from the smell, but it was good. I've been impressed with JW Lees' barrel aging, I can tell they take their time with it and get it right. I'll be seeking out the other variations.

 1,088 characters

Photo of laituegonflable
2.51/5  rDev -39.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a burnished amber colour with unfortunate yeast floaties at the bottom. Head is off-white, kind of a swirl on the top more than anything else. Lace is disappointing. Yeah, a bit odd-looking.

Smells pungent and a bit weird. Leathery, with some strong molasses and an odd, nostril chewing menthol hint on the top. Quite boozey and yeah, a little bit chemical. Not a big fan.

Taste is also fairly bizarre. Sticky sweetness upfront with huge caramel malt that develops some really insane flavours - dirt, wet dog and sweaty gym towel among them. Nuts and honey and oats on there as well. It's... look, it's an experience. But it's way too off-the-wall for me and just too sweet. Definitely needs more balance in there.

Sticky, thick and leaves thick and gooey. Decent for the style.

Not my cup of beer. Way sweet, heavy and just some distinctly bizarre characters that I find a bit too much to handle. I can see someone else really enjoying this beer, but it's not for me.

 978 characters

Photo of fx20736
3.11/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into a pint glass,served at cellar temp.

Clementine Orange, no head or lacing. Beer originally had prodigious sediment which I used a cloth to strain out.

Aroma of of mellow alcohol, plums, burnt toast, walnuts.

mouthfeel: soft and syrupy

taste: port wine, burnt toast, walnuts.

Notes: Interesting but hard to say alot else. Tons of sediment, which I strained out. This is the 1st of 4 of these cask aged JWL Harvests.

 451 characters

Photo of ficknish
4.39/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


A - A beautiful copper color. Weak head.

S - Figs. Musky wood. Faint grapes. Molasses. Cookies.

T - Sweet dark fruit. Fig newton cookies. Some Alcohol. Raisins.

M - Thick. Sweet. Slight alcohol.

O - I like the port version much more than the Lagavulin. The fig cookie flavors went great with the alcohol and muskiness. Would drink again.

 347 characters

Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.8/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a very fine orange colour, with a filmy, but incredibly fine head of pure white. Bubbles form on the top, giving a limpid appearance to the very thick body. Powdery fine carbonation through the body, along with some disturbed floating sediment.

Nose is sweet and rich, cut with pleasant bright characters of peach and oak. The barrels give it a lovely decadence—a refined quality to go along with the heavy sweetness. Hints of greenness, dust and a touch of pepper work really nicely too. It's very complex, and rich but very refined and sophisticated.

Taste is gorgeous and very different. Instead of the bold sweetness, it has a bright acidity through the centre, giving more of those peachskin characters, and a brightness much like a really nice dessert wine. On the back, however, comes through a slightly brassy, almost vegetative character like fresh celery. This mingles pleasantly with the oak and the sweet, fruity dried apricot flavours and cleanses the palate ready for the next sip. Wow, what a great beer.

So smooth, so sweet, and so perfectly cut with freshness to balance. It's gooey, luscious, exciting and dangerously drinkable. Lovely brew.

 1,170 characters

Photo of scottyshades
5/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2005 Vintage

A: Pours a semi-opaque toffee/mahogany color with a tiny white cap. Much lighter than I expected. Floaties in the snifter

S: Heavy and rich port wine right off the bat. Plums, cherry, white grape juice, toffee, caramel, leather. Overall very dark fruity and sweet. Unfathomably complex. Impossible to summarize.

T: "Wow" was the first thing that I said. Much richer and sweeter than expected. The beer obviously soaked up that port in the casks. Toffee, butter, honey, tons of candy caramel. To sum it up: port wine, sweetness, delicious

MF/O: Thick, velvety, flat carbonation. Plummy/port wine finish. A masterpiece.

 635 characters

Photo of drpimento
4.44/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very good beer. Courtesy of Pat n Karen. Poured with a tiny bit of off white head, no lace. Color is a brown amber. Aroma is figs, dates, malt, caramel, wine, sherry, yeast. Flavor is like nose, quite sweet, with just a little carbonic tang to cut it all. Body is excellent; ditto carbonation. Finish is like flavor, longish and a bit of alcohol warmth at the very end. Excellent stuff!

 386 characters

Photo of DaveHS
4.2/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2010

A-Pours rusty orange/amber with a few suspended chunks of yeast and a bubbly, eggshell white head. Traces of spotty lacing.

S-Pale malts,stale fruitcake,a light vegetal note, like broccoli water, tawny port. Interesting. I've found some of the best English barleywines have unusual vegetal aromas. Not sure why.

T/M-Really earthy and vegetal. Dirt, broccoli, stony minerality. The port sweetness is subtle but significant. A very different barleywine, with a flavor profile unlike anything I've had before. Tastes very strongly of freshly tilled earth, but somehow it works. Medium to full bodied with low carbonation.

O-Another fascinating barleywine from England's top producer.

 698 characters

Photo of Draughtsman
4.5/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 Harvest in port casks. A good beer all around. Pours a maple syrup/dark honey color, cloudy and fairly flat. Dried dark fruit, licorice and banana on the nose. I tasted heavy sweetness in the front: port (obviously) with other nuances, perhaps caramel, toffee and vanilla, but a bitter middle to end. Oak throughout. Good, heavy mouthfeel, what I look forward to in the bigger beers, without too much of an alcohol burn. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable beer.

Thank you, J.W. Lees, for a job well done.

 507 characters

Photo of olympuszymurgus
4.18/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Smells of deep fruits, sweet tropical sugar, herbs, dirt, banana. Pours a slightly cloudy amber honey, white head that drops fast and leaves a nearly still looking glass. Taste is light and sweet, some oxidation and sherry notes, a bit of vanilla and a cinnamon spice. The port and oak are coming across as a light vinous flavor and a bright sweetness. Over all a sprightly but low carbonation in the thick body, damn fine.

I dig it. A fine brew from the fine folks of Manchester.

 482 characters

Photo of birderbeerer
4.32/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 2009.

Looks like cider, solid head that rings with a cloud in the center.

Interesting note about the aroma: smell while in the bottle is heavy port, but in the glass it's much more like a typical big barleywine. Very sweet.

Taste is a super sweet barleywine. Not cloying but I wonder how it would be fresh. Good body to it and still good carbonation too. Oak, rich flavor. Good complexity. Apples, caramel, toffee. Very good.

 436 characters

Photo of FanofHefe
4.22/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 version poured into a Duvel tulip. Deep orange/amber body, cloudy with lots of sediment. One-finger dark tan head that dissipates rather quickly leaving a small amount of lacing.

Very sweet aroma and heavy on the caramel malt. In fact, the caramel malt overpowers almost any other aroma, save a bit of the port.

The flavor is very similar in first presentation to the aroma - very sweet caramel malt. However, in the flavor, more of the port and a very slight hint of bitterness comes through.

Heavy thickness in the mouthfeel, but surprisingly low presentation of alcohol, even with the high abv. Classic, of course, and one most all BA's should give a try.

 667 characters

Photo of cjacobsen
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2008 Vintage poured into a snifter.

(A) Pours a deep orange with some dark red hues toward the middle. Like a blood orange. Not much of a head. Huge chunks of shit floating around, I'm talking car sized yeast cakes here. Not pleasant. Asteroid field.

(S) I could smell this one coming out of the bottle. Smells super sweet. Candi sugar. Regular sugar. Yeast. A decent amount of Port, which is quite nice. Alcohol.

(T) You can REALLY taste the Port. It's big and upfront in the flavor. Super sweet light malts and unfermented sugars help boost the sweetness of this beer. Does taste a bit yeasty, not gonna lie.

(M) The term chewy comes to mind. There's definitely some substance here, and I'm not just talking the clumps of land floating around in there.

(O) Really turned off by the fact that I had to strain this brew. I was really looking forward to it as I had never had a JW Lees before and I love Port, which I will say that it had a great Port characteristic to it. It had some really good flavor, just a bit sweet.

 1,027 characters

Photo of Knapp85
3.8/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This pours out as a copperish orange color with a very minimal head on top that fades quickly. The smell of the beer is sweet, malty, a little smokey and has some light wooden aromas coming off of it. The taste of the beer had a faint tart flavor in there with a big syrupy sweetness overlapping the tongue. The mouthfeel is slick and creamy feeling. Overall this beer is pretty good, Much like the others it's something that needs to be enjoyed over a period of time and probably best split with a friend.

 506 characters

Photo of Pahn
4.7/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 vintage. 275ml bottle into Duvel tulip.

Appearance: Free pour yields a 3/4 inch fluffy and fizzy white head that dissipates quickly leaving no lacing. Pours the characteristic chestnut-y red of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, hazy and full of sediment.

Smell: Preeminently sweet, mostly grapes, raisin, and caramel. Faint orange in the background. Deep malt aroma characteristic of the base beer. A little restrained in the nose, over all.

Taste: First sip is surprisingly smokey and nutty; pecan-like. Lots of caramel and raisin as well. Loving this smokiness... where is this coming from? It's remarkably complimentary to the base beer. Not at all as sweet as expected, but the finish brings out a large honey note that's accentuated by the thick, sticky feel. Mild heat threads the long, complexly malty aftertaste.

I don't know if it's the port, the wood, or what, but this version of J.W. Lees has an excellent balance to it. Further sips bring out chocolate covered raisins, a distinct port note, some underlying vanilla, all beautifully in harmony. The sticky sweet finish has just enough hop bitterness to hold it back, and plays off the lingering smokiness perfectly. That long, rewarding aftertaste exemplifies what you should receive from a high alcohol sipper.

The flavor of this beer is outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Full side of medium bodied. Low but noticeable carbonation. Sticky finish leading to a long, full bodied but mildly hot aftertaste that resolves into lingering dryness. Just right for these flavors.

Overall: Just beautiful. This is the second barrel treatment of J.W. Lees I've tried. While the Lagavulin was a worthy and interesting experiment that vacillated between soaring greatness and garish travesty, the port version is amazing and delicious balance from start to finish. Every sip is just about as good as beer gets.

It doesn't seem to make sense that one could improve upon perfection, but the brewers at J.W. Lees do just that with this beer. It's scoring lower than I did the usual version via technicality; the smell is a little worse (just in magnitude, not in quality), but I'd give the Taste and Overall sections higher than a 5.0 if I could.

Also of note, while I love a nice 10 year old Vintage Harvest Ale, I think the base beer is just old enough for this treatment at around 3~4 years as it is now. The alcohol is a little tamed, the complexities are starting to come out, but oxidation really hasn't set in too much and the flavor is punchy and vibrant enough to elevate the sweet and nutty nuances of the port casks.


I will definitely be buying this beer again. This is the kind of beer that validates the whole "beer hobby". I sat down an hour ago to begin tasting and reviewing this beer, and thought (as usual) about what kind of activity I'd engage in while I drink--and just found myself sitting and sipping the entire time. The beer commanded my full attention, gracefully and endlessly rewarding me for the entirety of the glass (which still is not finished). I am in love with this beer.

 3,057 characters

Photo of CoalPorter
4.44/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled in 2007, drunk Aug 14, 2011. Poured carefully from bottle into Harpoon tulip glass.

A - Light brown yeast sediment swirls and settles slowly in pretty large chunks. Just a wisp of head, not much carbonation evident, small bubbles rise fitfully from the depths. Color is a lovely tawny burnt orange base with reddish overtones. Drops quite clear and inviting.

S - Here is where this beer really excells. Alcohol esters and honey sweetness hit first followed by notes of resiny tar and black cherry. The port undertone is fruity and magnificent.

T - Again we find the black cherry and fruit flavors with the alcohol kick. The "beeriness" reasserts itself in the back end as the hops suddenly show up in a lingering bitter finish.

M - Medium feel, made a little slick by the port sweetness. Not much carbonation left.

O - Quite impressive in appearance and aroma, and the first few sips were intensely enjoyable. However as I worked my way through the glass the complexity diminished somewhat I was left with only the impression of sweetness and fruit. I love port and beer so this was a great combination for a special occasion, but will only be a one time sipper.

Side tasting note: One favorite pairing for port is chocolate. A good dark chocolate and a tawny port both compliment and enhance each other's flavors. This experiment did not work very well for this beer. The chocolate overwhelmed the port character and left a muddled impression.

 1,458 characters

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.16 out of 5 based on 418 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.