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

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask)
370 Ratings
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask)J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask)

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

Style: British Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 370 |  Reviews: 205
Reviews by Georgiabeer:
Photo of Georgiabeer
4.47/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2005 vintage. Pours thich and viscous, a bit hazy, but a nice dried apricot color. Little head even with a hard pour and beyond an initial fizzing, it fades completely. I'm not too concerned given the style and abv. The sherry finish on this beer really lends quite a bit to the style. The sweet malt blends beautifully with the slightly nutty, vinous sherry. This isn't surprising considering that sherry casks have become all the rage for finishing Scotch- especially the slightly sweeter, maltier ones. It works. The sweet malt is up front in both the aroma and taste, followed by the nice sherry notes of almonds, light fruit, and salty caramel. Everything blends harmoniously and the finish and mouthfeel are smooth and rich without being unctuous. The vinous flavors really cut through the malt and make this very drinkable. There is no hint of the high abv. A stellar after dinner sipper.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Rutager
4.56/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

'05 bottle from the pimp daddy bruh that is steasy66. Thanks man! Into the prairie 2nd anniversary stem.

Appearance. Pours a lovely clear burnt orange with some slight rooby tonez. There was a faint skim of a bubbly head right after the pour but it immediately disappeared.

Smell. Nice smooth dry sherry, brown sugar, very light notes of cardboard-like oxidation, dry old wood. Very nice. I just keep going back for more.

Taste. Honey and light smooth sherry, brown sugar, soft barrel notes. Unbelievably smooth and integrated. Light oxidation notes that just add to the flavour. Simple and easy on the palate but many subtle complexities.

Mouthfeel. Pretty full body, a bit syrupy and lightly sticky on the lips. Very low carbonation, just a trace but enough. Everything works well with the flavours.

Overall. Insanely good as I was told it would be. As the bruh that gave it to me will point out, I'm very open to suggestion when it come to beer, but this really is great tasting stuff.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This one pours a slightly opaque dark red, with a small head, and no lacing.

This is sweet and decadent, with cherry and plum, toffee and nougat, sherry and wet oak.

This is my first JW Lee's variant, and it's decadent. It's a '13, with lots of dark fruit, super sweet caramel and toffee, sweet vinous sherry, and a thick simple sugar character. There's a little oak, and a slight bitterness on the finish.

This is thick and quite syrupy, but with a normal enough level of carbonation.

#BIL. Enough said, this is a classic.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.62/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a teku pint. Label says Brewed in 2013.

A- Pours a dark amber color with a 1/8 tan head that soon becomes a paper-thin ring around the edge of the glass and a small wisp of sheer surface foam. Minimal lacing with sticky alcohol legs.

S- Lots of dark fruit emanates from the glass along with a noticeable booze fume. Notes of vanilla, coconut and raisin all blanketed by a biscuity malt overtone.

T- Raisin. Pure, sweet, delectable raisin. Also some brown sugar and maple but mainly just raisin oozing forth and I love it. There's some mild oxidation which actually complements the big sweetness and the alcohol is barely noticeable.

M- Slick and syrupy with medium-low carbonation and a body leaning toward the fuller side.

O- A slow sipper just because of how rich the flavor is, but the flavor is so nice. I wouldn't sit on this vintage very much longer though since the oxidation is slowly but surely creeping in. Still, quite divine.

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Photo of Kuaff
4.54/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Cellar temperature in my snifter.

What amounts to no more than a thin, fleeting sheet of fizz soon vanishes almost completely over a rich amber-orange barleywine. Its appearance probably has more in common with wine than the typical ale.

It smells delightful. Like maple, brown sugar, brandy, cherry liqueur, caramel, apples, and a hint of orange zest. And the aroma has a little pleasantly musty earthiness to it, like something that's been buried underground for a long time. I don't mean that to sound bad, haha.

Much more of the maple comes through in the flavor, with booze-soaked rasinins, red apples, leathery vanilla (yes the vanilla is leathery), and a finish of caramel-coated, toasted pecans and more earth. It tastes... cozy. If cozy has a taste, it is this.

I really like the body. The carbonation is totally lax, the feel is thick but slick, and everything is just incredibly smooth for a barleywine of such strength.

This is what you sip in the middle of winter nestled in a huge, cozy chair in front of the hearth... or spazzing out to your favorite metal band at bone-rattling volume. It will serve both purposes equally well.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage. Brassy orange with sunny Sunkist trim. The upper half of the snifter is filled with a lovely looking chunk of manila colored creaminess that is depositing thin sheets of delicate lace as it slowly deflates. This is a wonderful looking English barleywine if you have a crystal snifter and bright sunlight handy.

The aroma is apricot fruity with a little ripe banana thrown in for good measure. On the positive side, very little alcohol is noted. At more than five years of age, that isn't really surprising. On the negative side, sherry is hard to appreciate.

Thankfully, the cask-aging makes an appearance where it matters most... on the palate. I don't love sherry, but it is an integral part (and a delicious part) of The Macallan, one of my three favorite Scotch whiskies. For whatever reason, this offering is tastier than the standard Harvest Ale. Of course, it's nearly impossible to compare two beers that were reviewed so far apart.

The sherry influence probably has a lot to do with what makes this big brew so complex. Sugar syrup sweetened orchard fruit (apricots, peaches, pears) contrasts exceptionally well with the white grape vibe from the wine. There's also a considerable amount of oak present, although the beer doesn't taste the least bit woody.

Given how much aging has already occured, it isn't surprising how beautifully melded the various flavors are. This bottle has another five years on it with no trouble at all. What a glorious, supremely sippable concoction this is.

The mouthfeel is heavenly as well. What could have easily been overly full, sappy and sticky is leavened by a perfect amount of carbonation. A crushed velvet plushness pampers the mouth with each and every sip.

J. W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale was reviewed first because I wanted to have a baseline with which to appreciate the cask-aged versions. These special release Harvest Ales will be reviewed in reverse order of my preference for the wine or liquor: Sherry Cask, Port Cask, Calvados Cask, and Lagavulin Whisky Cask. Is it possible that the other are this amazing?

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Photo of KForlino
4.4/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

'08 vintage

A- Deep apricot / vermillion. Absolutely no head whatsoever, as expected for brew with this abv and aged 5 years. Poured this one about as slow as possible but still wound up with a couple little floaters.

S- Oak and sherry. Very woody, sweet, caramel, alcohol.

T- Oh boy. Just like the nose, but, even sweeter than I expected. Caramel, molasses, brandy. Just wonderful. Heat isn't very strong. Leaves a bit of the barrel taste behind.

M- Heavy, sticky, not much carb to speak of.

O- Excellent barleywine, At 11.5 %, I'm glad I had this 5 year old one instead of fresh. Only aged barley wine I've had and liked more was an '04 Stone Old Guardian tapped at the brewery new years eve 2010.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.52/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - This is a clean orange in color with a couple of soft shades of brown. The head is modest of course.

Smell - The cask aroma is more prominent than in the port or calvados offerings. I have a distinct memory of sherry and it is definitely in the nose here. The barley wine smells are light, although the deeper you drag the sniff the stronger it becomes.

Taste - The barley wine takes over at the taste. The high-quality sherry flavors come over nicely from the nose, but five years of cellaring did not wear on the barley wine flavor at all. It still has plenty of structure and has lost the frustrating tightness one encounters when showing impatience with his JWLs.

The BW hasn't sugared up a whole let yet but there are some juicy fruits peaking out of the cave. It sounds ridiculous to use the word "luscious" to describe a prune, but there isn't a better prune flavor in Mother Nature than the one I'm getting right now. I can get a sense of early-picked figs complete with that green "kick" of bitterness. Overall this is an incredibly fascinating flavor profile that won't quite develop fully for another year, maybe two.

Mouthfeel - This is not a heavy BW and certainly doesn't surpass medium-bodied , but the flavors are so explosive, even when drank early as I'm doing here, that the only way to drink it is by sipping. Again, the greenish fruity bitterness at the very end adds even more complexity to the mouthfeel as if it needed any more. It's probably the most complex mouthfeel of any beer that I've ever had.

Drinkability - The sherry cask seems to always be a year or two behind the others. Here at five years it is just starting to open up whereas JWL's other casked bottled offerings are in their glory at this stage.

It was a real treat though to catch at the beginning of the blossom. It packs a mean punch, has started to fruit up, and still has the structure of a big beer. I am always amazed at the staying power of these beers. At year five it was aged enough to enjoy yet still tight enough to command respect.

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Photo of DanGeo
4.21/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of tbryan5
3.93/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

For me, this one was the closest in taste to the regular version that was not barrel aged. Very sweet and I did not get very much sherry flavor. Good beer but not much barrel character.

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Photo of shapudding
4.56/5  rDev +12%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

No dating, but stamped on the cap is L4082
Clear and dark golden wit not much head, only a dusting with some swirling, itsy bitsy bubbles in a thin ring at the edge. Wonderful scents of whiskey going on, or maybe rum? Makes me think of drinking a rum and coke. Bit of some dark fruits and maple syrup or dark karo syrup, very nice. Wow! This is so thick and creamy, but not heavy, just smooth and lovely! There is a bit of bite from the carbination. I am surprised by the caramelly sweetness that the sherry brings. Tastes of a cream sherry and oakyness. Blackened toast in the aftertaste. After each taste there is a bit of both the dark and the sweet, -NICE! There is so much wonderful flavor in this. Man, I was scared that this would not live up to what I was hoping it would taste like. I love the taste of cream sherry -yeah, so sue me, it is fun chilled with a wedge of lime every once in a while! Pull out the Harveys! Glad that this turned out to be as good as I wanted it to be. Maybe not a session beer, but a wonderful sit down and relax and sipper. Enjoyed this one alot. -Especially after the crappy birds game today, this really took the edge off!

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Photo of Billolick
4.29/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours from the funky old wooden cask, dark and muddy, no head nor lace, seems to have very minimal carbonation. Nose is funky, musty, fruity, wine like. Notes here of figs and raisins, bold and deep, flavorful and complex. World class after dinner or desert sipper. Wine sherry notes present here but team players. Whenever you see a wooden cask on the bar or fest table, get on line and get you sample or two.

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Photo of mctizzz
3.75/5  rDev -7.9%

Photo of tigg924
3.67/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2009 bottle. Pours cloudy with sediment, reddish brown in color, with minimal head. Taste is butterscotch, chocolate, wood, and a touch of sherry. Thought this was very similar to their Calvados cask. Tasty but I prefer other Harvest ales.

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Photo of mjtiernan
2.75/5  rDev -32.4%

Photo of Mantooth
4/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of mondegreen
3.97/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2005 Vintage. 275ml bottle into a tulip.

Part of my 30th Birthday Celebration thanks to longtime friend and newbie BA graphx3d.

A: Beautiful golden with minimal head.

S: Very very sweet. Smell almost like pancake syrup.

T: Taste follows nose. I nearly considered recapping this and saving it to pour over my pancakes in the morning. Don't get me wrong, it tastes very nice, but is a touch one dimensional, especially beside other J.W. Lees Harvet Ales.

M: Nice and thick, lending even more credence to my pancake theory.

D: I shared this bottle with a friend. This beer would be undoubtedly cloying if I tried to drink it all myself.

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Photo of kwkdmk
4.14/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of chinchill
4.58/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Cask pour at the 2017 ACAF.
Clear dark brown with a minimal bubbly head.
Fantastic aroma with toffee, bread and sherry. The flavor follows. Superb creamy smooth mouthfeel.
Perhaps a touch too sweet.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a snifter)

A-This beer pours a hazy brown with a slight orange hue and a very thin tan head that dissipates very quickly. gentle carbonation slowly floats to the surface.

S- Sweet floral aromas combine with caramel and other toasted malt smells. A faint grape note in the finish.

T- Very full malt with caramel and some dried fruit notes. A sugary flavor balances with a note of sherry and a slight hop finish. Very faint hop bitterness.

M-Medium-full mouthfeel with some fullness as it warms. A slight alcohol note on the exhale but not during the tasting.

D- This is a very nice barley wine and the slight sherry notes really add a lot of depth to this beer but it didn't taste overly sweet.

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.37/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 vintage. Poured into a snifter the color of cherry-juice-infused burgundy. Or...sherry! Has that rusty sunset glow you'll see in many Imperial IPAs. Head is insanely creamy, disappearing rather quickly, leaving a soapy ring in its wake.

The aroma is utterly fantastic. Big juicy cherry, orange, alcohol, wood, all coalescing together wonderfully. An unsubtle hybrid of sweetness, warmth and earth. Tends to get a bit too hot upon warming, the alcohol dominating at that point, so take it in while it's still got a slight chill.

If you're not into incredibly sweet beers, stay away. While the fruitiness is nice (grapefruit, orange, fig, cherry), the hoppiness is obvious, and the wood subtle and simple, the sweetness over-reaches just a tad too much. Had there been a more subtle malt balance, and had the milder elements been given more of a chance to breathe, this would rate astoundingly high in flavor. But still, the good outweighs the band here, and I cannot give it anything less than 4.5.

Unsurprisingly syrupy in texture (and taste), it feels absolutely wonderful in the mouth. Only mildly carbonated, it's got a beautifully soft, sensual feel like liquid velvet from Mars. Only the sugary finish makes it feel less like beer and more like something you'd put on pancakes or in fruit salad. Am I complaining? Nope.

Oh, and the sherry flavor comes through nicely...even strongly. If you don't like sherry, you won't like this. Luckily sherry is one of the few stronger liquors that I like, and also being into barleywines, it seemed a winner before even popping the top. It could've still gone very wrong in the hands of a lesser brewer, but no...this is great stuff for slow sipping and quiet contemplation.

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Photo of MuFugga
4.17/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Sammy
2.74/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Disapointing version of something I normally like. Big full mouthfeel, but sourish aroma and only average taste. I cellared with for about 20 months and it has a long shelflife. A bit of sherry, but not too complex. Sorry, not finishable. I guess I am not a sherry fan.

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Photo of augustgarage
4.41/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage. Poured from a 275mL bottle into a snifter.

Rust and dark coral intermingle in the color of the body - relatively clear though numerous globules float throughout the liquid. Light ivory head recedes to a bubbly collar and a faint tattoo on the surface. Glassy legs.

Extremely fruit-fillled aromatics - pungent apple sauce notes lead the way into a more diverse array of stone-fruit esters. Leathery young brandy and light oak notes as well. Caramel, orange-blossom honey, and berry syrup is in there as well. Drosophilia come running (well, flying).

Malt syrup, gingerbread, loam, tobacco, and vanilla flavors on the palate. Fine/delicate sherry flavors come out mid-palate along with toffee and stewed fruit. Faintly vinuous, though this is more of a sherry character than that of oxidation. Lush oaky notes with a touch of bergamot in the finish - complexity grows as the beer warms.

Oily, medium-bodied, with low carbonation.

I'm still impressed that the base beer can be improved upon by soaking up the best characteristics of the barrels it is aged in, but these special editions of Harvest Ale have certainly "matured" more than simply "aged."

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Photo of whatname
4.06/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 4.07 out of 5 with 370 ratings