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

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

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

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

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Reviews: 861 | Ratings: 1,513
Photo of VoxRationis
4.01/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2001 vintage decanted into a tulip pint glass. Pours a cloudy brown color with minimal head but decent lacing. Nose: initially a cognac fragrance that evolves over time to more of a port/sherry. Tastes remarkable like sherry with a slight licorice note. Interestingly full mouthfeel (almost to the point of grittiness) and only the mildest hint of effervescence. A very different, but very enjoyable experience.

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Photo of tigg924
4.26/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Autumn 2012 edition. Pours hazy, orange-brown in color with minimal head. Taste is cognac, beachwood, cedar, and big toasted malts. Very sweet, heavy bodied, with low carbonation. Overall makes for a tasty malty sipper. Similar to other JW Lee's barleywines. I will get this again and see how this tastes with more age.

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Photo of vinicole
4.58/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2007 bottle direct from the brewery.
Deep auburn with a thin wispy head. Yeast floaters apparent.
Rich aroma. Multitude of rum infused fruit. Alcohol is noticeable. Slightly oxidised sherry notes. Toffee. A mellifluous concoction.
The taste reflects the bouquet and more so. Very sweet.
Unctuous in nature but nevertheless has high drinkability.
A very enjoyable experience and 2008 - 2015 yet to drink from my cellar.

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Photo of FBarber
4.02/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2001 Vintage drunk in 2017.

Pours a ruddy brown color. Completely opaque. Has lots of yeast floaters visible in the beer. No head whatsoever. Beer does have some visible carbonation like coca cola - you can see the big bubbles in the beer at first, but then they disappear.

Smell is very sweet. Figs, raisins, plums, and dark fruits on the nose. Lots of leather and sherry like notes also come through.

Taste follows the nose with lots of sweet fig, plums, raisins, and dark fruits. Sherry like notes. Beer is surprisingly sweet, almost too sweet - tastes like there is actual molasses in the beer. Touch of apple and cardboard on the finish. The oxidation is not bad in the beer, and it actually works well with the flavors, but I can't help but think that this beer is well past its prime.

Feel is full bodied. Mild to almost no carbonation. Pretty smooth.

Overall a really interesting beer - I think I need to get a more recent vintage to try because this one is past its prime. Still, even this is a phenomenal beer. An absolute must try.

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Photo of bowzer4birdie
4.16/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 2014 bottle poired into a snifter at Hopcat Chicago. Minimal head/retention, cloyingly sweet even for me but still a very satisfying experience and quite representative of the style.

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Photo of DeFaz
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2001 bottle (15 years old)

Appearance: Appealing reddish brown color with no head

Smell: Figs, raisins, burnt toast.

Taste: Really complex. Raisins, figs, toast, and so much malt goodness. Reminds me of a stronger and slightly better version of the Dogfish raisin beer (can't recall the name). Really good, but as I'm drinking, I can't help but still feel that it may not be quite special enough for the $11.99 pricetag.

Mouthfeel: Alcohol is fairly well concealed given the abv. A little sticky. Carbonation level is quite low.

Overall: Glad I tried it, and it's a great beer, but I can't justify paying $11.99 for 9.5 ounces of this in the future. Worth trying once and sipping on that special occasion.

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Photo of Gatch
4.93/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2002 bottle.

Finally got around to buying one and thought it appropriate to sip on NYE going into 2017.

A gorgeous mahogany brown with no head. This pours like a Port. Aroma is all dark dried fruits, wood, caramelized sugar, and some booze. Flavor is the same. Like I'm sucking on a piece of the barrel. So fruity and earthy. A lighter Port is what I keep coming back to. Feel and finish are obviously as smooth as it gets. So mellow and thick...this can't be beer! Amazing that a beer can end up this way with patience and craft.

Fuck you, 2016.

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Photo of dertyd
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

HARVEST ALE 2001 VINTAGE....this beer is over 15 years old and is AMAZING.... The aroma is of burnt brown sugar, dark fruits like raisins, dried plums dried Cherry's... The taste is is sweet molasses, sweet Carmel, dried dark fruits....so smooth and easy drinking for a 11.5 alc%....this beer is phenomenal... 100 out of 100 Grade A beer.

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Photo of GOBLIN
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2013

Although I can certainly appreciate the high scores and accolades this beer gathers, I must say I am more than just slightly underwhelmed with my first experience with J.W.
Maybe I do prefer the over the top American examples of the barrel aged English barleywine because this one is too sweet for my tastes.

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Photo of LAp
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Sampled as a vertical in tasters at a barleywine tasting event. 2014 tried alongside 2001.
The 2014 barleywine was delicious - a bright, young barleywine that was not overly saccharine despite having the classic robust malt presence. Trace hints of hop, and a less heavy mouthfeel contributed to an autumnal palate. Excellent.
The 2001 extraordinary. An incredible window into what can happen within the confines of a bottle over a decade and a half. Gone were the light, youthful notes of trace hop and sugars. They were instead replaced with a toffee, caramel syrup. Notes of dates and figs more prominent than in almost any bottle I've tried before. A true treat to try 15 years aged.

This is absolutely a standout barleywine. One of my favorite instantiations of one of my favorite styles.

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Photo of jeffdr123
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Fascinating. As complex as it gets. Sweet fruit, malt, and the right amount of bitter after taste. Warm going down, like Scotch. Sip by sip at the Hay Merchant in Houston.

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Photo of SD-Alefan
4.95/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2001 vintage. Pours a very dark brown. Still a bit of carbonation on this 15-year-old beer. A minimal skiff of tan head.
Aroma is a dream of malt. Fine leather, tobacco, toffee, dark fruit, peanut butter and vanilla. Crazy.
The taste starts off rich, sweet caramel and plum. As it flows over the tongue, I pick up leather, tobacco, peanut butter, chocolate and chocolate cake. Each sip seems to bring new tastes. Sweet and rich throughout.
Mouthfeel is medium and sticky.
This bottle aged beautifully!

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Photo of rypkr
4.36/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Preface by I'm fairly inexperienced in barleywines.

2001 vintage.

A - 9.3oz poured into a snifter. Very faint pop on the bottle cap. Poured dirty brown bathwater brown. Zero head on first half of the poured so it aggressive finishing the pour and still couldn't manage any. Leaves no lacing, only a thick mineral oil residue.

S - sweet candy corn and ripe, ripe plums. Brown sugar, toffee, and welches purple grape juice. Alcohol heat and phenolic yeast.

T - wow. This is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I'm honestly not even sure how to describe what I'm tasting. It's sweet, very sweet but in no way as sweet as the nose indicates. All your standard dark fruitiness is there but it's different. Yellow raisens come to mind with each sip. There is a unique bitterness I would almost describe as leather, perhaps its somewhat oxidized, though it's not like the cardboard I've tasted in other beers. There's a roastiness as it finishes, or smokiness even.

M - low, low carbonation. But thick viscous and oily with alcohol and sugar.

Overall quite an experience. Eager to put beer advocate down and sip through the rest of this. At $10 for 9oz this is among one of the most expensive beers I've purchased. However I likely will again on occasion.

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Photo of erk0607
4.81/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2001 bottle opened up 9/16/2016.
Look: Maroon brown, no head left, with sediment blobs maybe 1cm across.
Smell: Sugary, caramelly, rasin, port and dark wine, oak, vanilla, cinnamon, sugary syrup, plum, some alcohol
Taste: Sugary sweet rasins and aged port wine flavors, super, super rich and complex, like a freshly caramelized flambe or banana fosters with rum and brown sugar
Mouthfeel: Thick, syrupy, no carbonation left outside of a bubble that formed on the pour, somewhat thick, and incredibly full feeling.
Overall: Epic, would absolutely do again. Bought it to celebrate closing on a house, would buy another house to get another one (just kidding, but it is really good)

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Photo of shleepy
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage:
Small head. A murky light brown color. Caramel, plum/prune in smell. Quite pleasant. Taste is completely different - extremely toasty, with a burnt sunflower seed kind of taste. Quite intense, all around.

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Photo of PDXAmbassador
4.81/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had a 2001 vintage in 2016, and it was unreal. Sweet, mellow, toasted malty, Madeira, caramel. Literally everything I had hoped and imagined an English Barleywine could be. We were blown away, and hadn't expected much for something that sits on shelves for years. But to our taste a far superior beer to BCBW and almost any other Barleywine I've tried.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.56/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle with the 2002 vintage. Sampled on July 31, 2016.,

The color is am mildly heady brown with red hues. Some cloudiness.

The aroma is more toasted malt forward than anything for a 14 year beer. Crackers, bread, and molasses too. Low to no hop profile.

The body is smooth and around medium.

Even though this is 14 years old it is Jolly British with cracker malts, low hops, and sweetness. This has not faded after so much time.

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Photo of ccg
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, opened June, 2016.

Look: Deep orangey-brown. Minimal amount of head, some bubbles around the edge. It somehow still manages to leave a hint of lacing around the glass. It looks like a good English-style barleywine. 4.0

Smell: Cloyingly sweet dark fruit, raisins, figs, toffee, candle wax, green tea. I give it a lot of credit for uniqueness. It has a lot going on. 4.0

Taste: Much smoother and less cloying than the Sherry cask Lees Harvest Ale I had yesterday. Toffee and orange peel. A little bit of cloves and all spice. 4.0

Feel: Minimal carbonation, but not flat. Smooth and soft. 4.0

Overall: Clearly a well-made and unique English barleywine. I think how much you like it is going to depend on much you like the Lees style in general. Each one I've had so far has this interesting flavor that's sort of a combination of orange marmalade and tobacco. I could see it being polarizing. 4.0

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Photo of bylerteck
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2002 Vintage I think I bought somewhere in the U.S.

Poured nearly black with lot's of sediment and a very loose head. Super rich aroma with date squares, sugar, molasses, dark fruits, and rye bread. Very sweet in the mouth with a flavour that resembles those old school molasses Haloween candies as well as licorice, leather, and tawny port. Viscous mouthfeel with very low carbonation.

This was pretty lovely and showed some flavours that suggest the ageing was spot on. A wonderful treat that cements this beer as a classic.

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Photo of thebigredone
3.66/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2008 vintage. Great sweet toffee and caramel upfront, but then a weird plasticy (perhaps slightly oxidized) taste dominates the back end. Wish the beer would have finished better.

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Photo of ClavisAurea
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage served at cellar Temps in a snifter

Appearance: wonderful bottle design although I think it's a bit small. Beer poured out a thin but dark caramel color with a small head. Some sediment in the bottle

Nose: caramel, toffee, raisins, prunes, dark fruits, port wine, no booz, classic English Barleywine

Taste: follows the nose. Fairly sweet but with a nice fruitiness like raisins, dried apricots, fruit cake, toffee, caramel, very smooth, some age showing, port wine

Overall: classic. Let's see how is does with time

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Photo of jrsaffert
3.97/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2004 vintage (12 years old)

Pours a murky brown with no head.
Aroma is very sweet. Toffee and dark fruit are dominant. Some sherry aromas also. Quite pleasant.
Taste is also very sweet. I think it has crossed over from sweet to cloying. Raisins and figs. Maybe some overripe cherries. Caramel and toffee.
Mouthfeel is interesting because it has zero carbonation. Slick and slightly syrupy but if call it medium-full body.

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Photo of Beginner2
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2/27/17 Had 2009 vintage. Seven years was too long with the way the store kept this. But, oh well.
Far more murky sediment than the others I've Had in vintages past and since.
Aromas are still there of sherry-like sweetness, but the smells seem off.
The second Taste is much better than the first... but clearly, I cellared this one too long.
Rating? I'll stick to my original because keeping this too long was my mistake. I'll update my rating and review as soon as I Have another one in my cellar. 2013, I believe.

2/28/17 Worried that my stash of Lees was deteriorating fast, I went to my cellar the very next evening and pulled the next oldest, 2013. Relieved that 2013 was still quite good, my lesson is learned: never drink a beer after its time. The first Smell and Taste of 2013 was as good as the last. This ale was ready. So was I.

Reviewed in Roger Protz' CAMRA classic "300 Beers To Try Before You Die!"
MJ's 1999 "Guide" gave it 3.5 stars of 4 and said it has a "warm, fruity (lemony?) aroma; a smooth palate; and a lot of hoppy dryness in the finish."

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Photo of teromous
3.85/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This bottle is marked as a 11-2012 cellar release.

Appearance: Light murky muddy brown with hints of orange. The head is very short and eggshell white which fades out instantly.

Aroma: Light sweet caramel aroma. No alcohol at all which is very impressive.

Taste: It has a fantastic array of flavors here. There is this sweet caramel flavor up front and then there is this light smokey woody flavor along with a fairly good amount of tobacco flavor. No alcohol at all. I really like the light char flavor that is in there. It adds an edge to the sweetness and cuts into the caramel.

Mouthfeel: It's very smooth and easy to drink with a slightly off-dry finish. Very drinkable, especially for 11.5% ABV.

Overall: it's a very decadent English Barleywine. I really enjoyed the flavors and the nice sweet flavor of the beer married with that rich earthy and toasty wood and tobacco flavor. I would recommend it.

On a side note I want to mention that the bottle is only 9.3oz/275mL which is disappointing. I didn't figure this into my rating of the beer but I wish they stuck with a standard bottle size.

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Photo of CoreyC
4.18/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage
A - very nice orange color with nice carbonation
S - subtle sweet
T - light sweetness with fruity flavor - maybe apricot?
M - nice, a bit light
O - very good, definitely not a s sweet as the as fresher cask aged versions I've had

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,513 ratings.
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