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

862 Reviews
Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)

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: 862 | Ratings: 1,515
Photo of jeffthecheff
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Edit: I tried the 1999 vintage, and found it to be much better and likely stored in better conditions. I'm changing the numerical scores to my ranking of the 1999, but leaving the original review in.

1999 Vintage.

I found this bottle at a store in a cool area, so I figured it could have been kept well. The bottle was split with others.

The pour had a rich, reddish brown color. The head had a decent white formation, but you could tell the 10 years and 11.5% affected it.

The aroma had a small amount of oxidation present. There was a nice, rich, alcoholic, and dark dried fruit aroma to it. Some spice came through as well, reminding me of poptori.

The flavor of this vintage was a lot better than the 2000 vintage. I'm guessing this had to do with storing conditions, because with only a year difference, the beer tasted entirley different. Deep, nutty butterscotch flavor. It's impressive how this strong beer has the nutty aspect to it. Some toffee is also there. Slight, rusty oxidation flavor. The beer is sweet, mouth coating, and very rich. Alcohol is slightly present.

Mouthfeel is thick, syrupy, and with more carbonation than I would think. The beer is assaulting on the palate, a sure night cap beer.

This vintage was much easier drinking because of the improved flavor. Still a sipper, and still a very aggressive beer.

2000 vintage.

Bought at the store, probably not stored in optimal cellaring conditions but also not bad conditions. Split the 10 oz bottle with a friend.

Pours amber and clear in a white wine glass with some nice ruby highlights. Head is minimal, it just forms a thin lacing around the perimeter of the glass. 4

Aroma is very complex, I've never had a beer aged even close to this long so I was just getting used to the characteristics. It has a strong, liqueur type or aroma but without much burning on the nose. Aromas of dark fruits, figs, prunes and currants. 4

Taste is also of dark fruits, figs, prunes, raisins are all definitley detectable. Burning alcohol flavor with a bit of vinegar. Also a hint of honey. Bitterness is there but taking on a syrupy sweetness to go with it, very dulled down from age but interesting. Some sips are pleasant, some are not, but they are all interesting, deep, and filled with character. 3.5

Mouthfeel is thick, sugary, syrupy, and a little hard to choke down after a while. Carbonation is very low, fits good with warmer serving temp. 3.5

Drinkability is limited to small sips. I'm glad I split this bottle because I don't know if I could finish the whole thing myself. As a matter of fact, I fell asleep with maybe an ounce left in my glass. This beer did a good job of knocking me out for a good night sleep, and I remember thinking it might pair well with ice cream, or a strong dessert. It's kind of tough on its own. I look forward to trying some different vintages of this beer. I could see myself liking this one a lot more in the right time and place with added experience of aged barleywines. 2

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Photo of jwinship83
3.95/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

bottled dec 1 1999. just over 9 years old.

A- very dark and murky brown colored body with some visible carbonation along the sides of the glass. small beige colored head rests on top.

S- lots of sweet malts. some fruits like raisins and figs. slight hint of alcohol.

T- incredibly sweet. no trace of oxidation. very little alcohol in this one. lots of raisins.

M- medium to heavy bodied with alot more carbonation than i would expect on something this old.

D- definitely a beer that lasted a long time. once of these in an evening would be great, i dont think id want more than that. the alcohol is well hidden, i think that 9 years did wonders for this one. check it out if given the chance.

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Photo of rastaman
3.94/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 Vintage (quite young):Beautiful stuff. Really dessert wine-ish, lots of raisins and marmalade, with a long sweet finish. NOt cloying at all like i was expecting, really well balannced, and would really go well with some sort of sweet dessert, delicious. I'm looking forward to trying an older vintage.

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Photo of MadScientist
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: A medium copper colored beer with good clarity and a few chunky yeast blobs floating. There isn't much of a head probably from the high abv but what is there is a tan ring of soapy bubbles.

S: A malty, earth smelling beer with a fair amount of raisin-like fruit esters. There was some chewable-vitamin sort of aroma that calms down into a light anise quality. Some tobacco and light oak aromas as well.

T: Sort of malt concentrate with a lot of sweetness. There is a medium amount of raisin and dried fruit and some orange flavors with a light bit of pipe tobacco. A Medium-strong malt sweetness bring toffee, caramel and a moderately-light cocoa flavor. With a light hops bitterness and the alcohol give a half hearted effort to counter malt the balance ends up being pretty sweet . The finish is sweet and the aftertaste is of malt sweetness, oranges and a a touch of cocoa again.

M: A medium-full bodied beer with a low level of carbonation and a medium amount of alcohol warmth.

O: An elegant and balanced beer if you're looking for a dessert beer. Keep in mind it's a bit sweet even for an English Barleywine. There is a nice complexity to the malt profile.

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Photo of n2185
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2000 bottle

A: Pours a slightly hazy brown with half a finger of tan head that pretty much vanishes with no lacing.

S: Caramel malts dominate with molasses, raisins, wet cardboard, musty fruit, and Port-like notes.

T: Caramel here as well with vanilla, raisins, sticky syrup, honey, and Port flavors. Light alcohol burn towards the finish.

M: Thick body with low carbonation, this beer is super sticky sweet and coats the mouth.

O: An interesting and mostly enjoyable beer overall. I'm not completely used to the style, so it's pretty different for my palate. I've had a couple of Ports lately, which this reminds me of a lot. There is a lot going on and it's difficult to nail down specific flavors.

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Photo of BIll_Currie
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

had a hard time finding this one. great smell when the cap came off. English barleywines are a bit different that us barelywines in my opinion. takes a little getting used to. great taste. also found some barrel aged versions.

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Photo of dedalus
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
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.



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Photo of hgrong
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
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.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle (2004 vintage – drank in 2006): Poured a deep amber color ale with a small off-white bubbly head with minimal retention. Aroma of sweet figs with some very sweet caramel malt. Noticeable trace of dry figs and raisins are discernable in the taste but the overall sweetness is personally just too much for my liking. Body is full but could be fuller. Would definitely improved with a lower level of sweetness.

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Photo of barefootbrewer
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2004 Version - This beer poured a hazy brown with a very thin head. The aroma is malty and syrup like. The taste is very sweet – molasses! It almost tastes like it would go great on a biscuit. The mouthfeel is full and a bet chewy. This is a delicious brew, but it might be a bit much to have more than one – would make a great dessert beer.

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This will be my first side-by-side vertical tasting, and with a beer that I’ve been desperately wanting to try: J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. I’ll be tasting a 2004 bottle alongside a 2008 bottle, separating out experiences by vintage, then averaging the scores for the final grade.

A (2004): Pours a thick, translucent caramel color with a ton of bubbles clinging to the side of the glass – looks like the carbonation is more in the body than in the head. What’s left above is a small crescent of shining bubbles on a thin strip around the glass. Slight bubbly lacing with a bit of sediment floating in the body.

A (2008): Pours the same color, but this one has much less sediment in the body – it’s not hazy at all. Plus, this vintage actually has a head, showing a moment stark white foaminess before quickly subsiding. Similar lacing, but this one actually sticks around instead of sliding back.

S (2004): Phenomenally rich, with big scents of buttered raisin bread, thick caramel, butterscotch, and black cherry. A solid base of thick malt, of course, but with alcohol constantly peeking from beneath to show a peppery, slightly oaky underbelly. A nose of sweet and buttery malt in strong, boozy fashion.

S (2008): Oh damn, that is much different. It has a vegetal character – dark caramel is strong, thick, and so cloying that it seems to come out with a moderate vegetable aroma. Other than that, it’s all malt; very caramelly, very buttery (even more so than the 2004). Much less alcohol.

T (2004): Damn sweet: covers every inch of the tongue with thick cherry syrup, caramel, maple syrup, and raisin tastes. Imagine Dr. Pepper syrup that hasn’t been mixed with the soda water yet – yeah, it’s thick. Not cloying, though, which is surprising. Plum, buttered pumpernickel, and honey have a slight moment to shine, as well as a touch of baked apple. Finishes with cedar wood tastes, toasted caramel malts, and sweet, mead-like alcohol.

T (2008): Upon first sip, it’s all dust, cardboard, and corn tastes: nearly unbearable. What the hell? A few more sips and the caramel notes come out, but it’s not enough to overshadow the off-flavors. Underneath, it’s just like the 2004 bottle with more peppery flavors – raisin and toffee are big and beautiful – but nothing is getting over those initial setbacks.

M (2004): Thick – unbelievably syrupy. Feels like what I’d imagine pure wort would be like. Funny thing is, I like it for this style; the beer becomes more of a liqueur. It works well for a traditional barleywine, which is often missing a certain fullness in the body.

M (2008): Identical to the 2004, only with a bit more fizzing carbonation to it.

O: Something’s wrong here. A quick look at the bottles shows that the yeast in the 2008 bottle was chunky, muddy-looking...and with those DMS and oxidation tastes, it’s pretty clear that this bottle was infected. Fortunately, though, the 2004 was damn good – a model barleywine. And even with that bad experience with the 2008 bottle, I’ll definitely try another vintage in the near future.

Note: since the 2004 seemed to be more of what this beer is really about, I weighted the final score based on that experience more than the 2008.

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Photo of Gavage
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Harvest Ale 2003 version.

Appearance: pours a cloudy amber orange color with a thin 1/2" head that falls to a surface foam quickly. No lacing develops.

Smell: loads of alcohol with malt and fruit sweetness.

Taste: huge bready maltiness here. Loads of raisins, plums, honey, and red grapes. Alcohol is quite noticeable and very warming. Nice bitterness helps hold down any over-sweetness that may develop.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Smooth at the start, more syrupy towards the finish. Aftertaste is long on the sweetness and alcohol tones as they seem to be glued to your tongue.

Drinkability: I feel this needed another year or two of mellowing, as the alcohol was a bit too strong which knocks down the drinkability. Interesting offering, and I am looking forward to trying some older vintages.

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Photo of surlytheduff
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 bottle. Drank from a snifter. The barleywine poured a dark tawny brown, with just a thin film of a head. The liquid clung like a viscous oil to the sides of the glass after swishing it around. The smell was focused sweetness. Brown sugar, molasses, little bit of cola, plum, raisen, fig.

The taste was a very slight letdown. It was good, but my points of reference are a 2000 and 2001 that I've had recently. The sweetness just was just a bit much. There was caramel, vanilla, some leather, a little astringency from the alcohol and the dark fruit flavors. The mothfeel was thick and syrupy. The liquid coated my mouth - very much a sipper.

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Photo of Satchboogie
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

275ml bottle (2001 vintage) poured into a snifter.

A: Pours dark brown with mahogany highlights, mostly opaque. No real head when poured down the middle. No lacing.

S: Big sherry notes, lots of dark fruits (prune, fig, raisins), molasses and a little brown sugar. Definitely smells like a cordial.

T: First thing I notice is the alcohol is extreme mellow for 11.5%. Very sweet dark vinous notes with dark fruits, molasses, and the sherry/oxidation notes. Unfortunately I feel like the oxidation replaced a lot of the chewy maltiness with somewhat hollow sherry qualities. Pretty intense flavors with a great complexity, but it does fail to have the "umph" from a big malt base. Extremely sweet finish, almost cloyingly.

M: Full body, low carbonation. Thick, slick, syrupy consistency with great smoothness, but cloyingly sweet at times.

O: I wasn't sure what to make of a 10 year old bottle (easily the oldest beer I've had) and while I like the flavors oxidation/aging has likely added, I feel like the maltyness is missing. Still a pretty good brew, but not as epic as I was hoping.

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Photo of kiddynamite920
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage into a big ol' snifter.

A: Poured aggressively, head never really developed. Big soapy bubbles that lead to a thin white ring around the edge of the glass. Color is spot on, dark brown with some wonderful red highlights. Swirling the glass makes it a bit more presentable.

S: Sweet, biscuity aroma with an unexpected alcohol hit. Most overwhelming aromas are of raisin, fig and plum. Some stale bread, yeast character is actually quite nice. Good malt presence. Hints of vanilla and caramel are very nice. Nice malt backbone here, great English BW aroma.

T: A bit oxidized, strange metallic taste. Has an onion/celery like flavor. Behind all of that lies quite a beer though. Syrupy, rich malts. Good sweetness, but too cloying. A hit of alcohol. Just too sweet. Giving the beer a better score because previous times I've had it, it was absolutely divine. Possibly was stored improperly. Not the brewers fault.

M: Slick, syrup, molasses. Lacks carbonation for sure. No crisp quality to balance the cloying and syrupy sweetness.

D: Maybe it was handled improperly, not going to fault it for that. The beer is drinking much better as it warms. Absolutely fantastic English Barleywine for sure, and I will pick more of this up for sure.

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Photo of glid02
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Cask at the Brick Store.

Pours a hazy honey-golden color with a one-finger slightly off-white head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of sweet medium and dark fruits with large amounts of sticky sweet caramel malts. Also present are slight amounts of toffee and even slighter amounts of oxidation (the cask was about six hours old).

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Very sweet caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by good amounts of sugar-coated pear flavors. Midway through the sip faint amounts of darker fruit flavors - plums mostly - make a brief appearance before giving way to caramel malts and hints of toffee that carry through to a decidedly sweet ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is OK. I finished my glass without too much of a problem however I'm not sure about another.

Overall I found this beer to be on the sweet side from the bottle and the cask version - even though it's the 2009 version and doesn't have much age on it - is overly sweet. It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the British guy tells Lisa and Bart that "our sweets are different than those across the pond" and then they proceed to go into an LSD-like trip after eating the candy. Very sweet, but if you're a malt-head this may be right up your alley.

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Photo of daftafne
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2003 vintage

Poured with great force into my tulip and yielded a scant, transient head. The color reminds me of a dark mahogany. Most obviously to me, smells sweet and bread-like. Also smells of raisins, caramel, oak, and plums.

Wow, this beer has a unique flavor profile. There is quite a bit going on and it is hard to place my finger (tongue more precisely) on each taste. It begins with sweet raisens, rum and plum, then some spice (clove and perhaps a little cinnamon) and then a minor pop of hops and finishes a little smokey. Each sip gives me a different iteration of the same story. Sticky on the tongue and very low carbonation. Overall, a great aged-beer.

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Photo of rfgetz
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage. Pours a lightly hazed copper tinted brown, small cap of tan head, gone quickly. Scent leads with sweet malt, underneath one finds prune and dried fig, a splash of booze and earth. Taste leads with rich sweetness, light molasses and brown sugar, strong notes of dark dried fruit, hints of cherry. Not quite full bodied, carbonation at a minimum, some chalkiness to it. Possibly too early in its life to enjoy its subtle complexities, quite sweet still. Will revisit a true vintage.

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Photo of RedHaze
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2002 vintage.

Pours a very hazy caramel/brown with a dense one finger had that fades slowly to a nice layer of foam, leaving behind a really good webbing of lace.

Smell; lots of caramel malts, backed up by a little bit of chocolate. There's lots of dark fruits, with some hints of rum soaked wood, and in the background there's a little bit of hops peeking through.

Taste; this one is really sweet, almost to sweet at first. Caramel and brown sugar start things off, and then the fruits come out with raisins and apples.There's a bit of an earthiness to this that in the aroma came of as woody, but now I'm having a bit of a hard time nailing it down. The finish has a definite alcohol presence, but it actually seems to help offset the sweetness.

Mouthfeel is very full, almost syrupy, and with the sweetness and the very high alcohol content it can be a little hard to put this one down. It's definitely a one beer a night kind of beer.

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Photo of 86MonteSS
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

1998 vintage. By the sip, not the gulp. Heavy molasses and heavy alcohol. Definitely a dessert drink. The taste is quite overwhelming. Drinkability is saved only by the sweetness. Flavorful, but I could probably drink a worldwide stout (23% abv) twice as fast. Thick, sweet, very alcoholic. Tastey, but it's kind of like putting a little too much sugar in the Kool Aid.

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Photo of Winter
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2000 Vintage

9.3 oz bottle. Pours an unfiltered tawny red with a thin light brown head. Aroma of malt, raisins, dark rum ascend from my snifter. Full-bodied mouthfeel. Strong carbonation attacks the tongue upfront then disappears quickly. Flavors of dark fruit, malt and oak are noticed first. Then a feint cherry sweetness emerges for a second and is gone. There's a light punch of alcohol right before just before flavors of caramel and toffee round out the finish. Very smooth for a 11.5% abv.

Even sitting at three years old this barley wine seems young. Not quite raw, but just seems to still be blending its flavors together. I'd let this one sit and continue to mature for a few more years and see what amazing complexities continue to develop. I'd like to shelve some more of these and seek out an older vintage to sample.

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Photo of kennyo
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2002 Vintage

Pours a murky brown, no head, no carbonation.

Aroma - nice sherry smell, french toast

Taste - malt and lots of it, sweet, alcohol, a sweet style sherry, dried fruits.

long lasting flavor in the mouth.

mouth feel - coats the mouth with flavor

I liked it, a little to much sweetness but a very good beer.

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Photo of mothman
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 Vintage.

Poured into a taster pint glass.

Pours a small off white head. Decent retention thought. Leaves some splattered lace. Color is a very hazed dark caramel brown.

Aroma: Brown sugar, toffee, caramel, grassy hops, and a slight amount of hops.

Taste: Liquid brown sugar, toffee, and caramel. Tons of malt flavors. Some cookies. It has a very sweet taste to it.

Mouthfeel: A little hot, sweet, and smooth. Medium to full bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends full of sweet malts.

Overall, this is a very good for an English B-wine. Very sweet, but still holding up well. Not something I would want a lot of though.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

9oz bottle 1999 vintage $4.99. Dark, red, chestnut, whatever. Smells like syrupy barleywine, nuts, cardboard, oddly good. Taste is syrupy, malty raisins, reminds me of aged Old Stock. Only problem with this beer is the ABV, too high but its a good English barleywine. I ate some Oregonzola and Blue Stilton and preferred the Oregonzola.

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Photo of ThreeWiseMen
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2002 bottle poured into a New Belgium globe. Most of the yeast sediment was kept in the bottle for the most part.

Appearance: Deep mahogany body turns bright crimson when held to light. Great clarity! A nice column of carbonation can be seen within. Not much head to speak of: just a small, khaki ring.

Smell: Molasses, brown sugar, and other sugary notes. Moist pine, rum, and rust lurk in the background. Very sweet on the whole; smells like candy.

Taste: This tastes like candy, and not in a necessarily good way. The overall flavor - comprised mainly of brown sugar, molasses, and overripe green grapes (much like a dessert wine) - is very sweet and syrupy, with very light toastiness and bitterness coming through on the back end. Alcohol is hidden very well, but it comes at a price.

Mouthfeel: Thick, syrupy, sugary, and a little gritty. Hardly any warmth or dryness for such a high ABV beer. Nice mouth coating. Low bitterness.

Drinkability: The sweetness of this beer is far too high for me to call it drinkable. I suggest splitting a 12oz. bottle amongst two people.

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Harvest Ale (Limited Edition) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,515 ratings.
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