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

Your Rating: None
Want it   Got it 
Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)
BA SCORE
4.24/5
Exceptional
1,545 Ratings
Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)
BEER INFO

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

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

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#899
Reviews:
873
Ratings:
1,545
pDev:
13.68%
Bros Score:
4.6
 
 
Wants:
271
Gots:
225
Trade:
15
HISTOGRAM
 
View: Beers
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,545 |  Reviews: 873
Photo of Bouleboubier
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pretty stunning - first time having this - very interested now to try some other vintages. Delighted to find this, unadvertised, by chance, on cask at a Shelton Bros event. 2009 vintage.

Served in a small wine glass - half serving. Chill haze adds cloudy tan highlights to the eventual weathered (less hazy) mahogany color that emerges. Visual carbonation is absent. A still liqueur stance, though lacking legs.

Stale, oxidized worty aromas (which could be a wooden cask derived element, really) prove not, to me, flaws when put up against some of the most wonderfully complex, deep, rich, dried/dark fruit essences I've experienced. I mean, you could present a believable argument that they mashed as much if not more pulpy, stringy dried fruit as malt to come up with this. But I know better. I suppose it falls short of perfection due to the balance of those old, stale smells snuffing out some of the technicolor potential of the dark fruity malt...

Absolutely floored at how stealthily the alcohol slinks into the depths below its thankfully not-anywhere-near-somewhat-sweet, stewy-fruity malt, 5/7ths thick-bodied lusciousness. Port can't help coming to mind, but it's not quite...

This drinks like something that's been sitting around - the dregs, the leavings, a fortunate hodgepodge - very pleased. It's inspiring. I'll say again that I'm super curious to see what older versions offer.

 1,399 characters

Photo of scottfrie
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle into AVBC snifter. 2001 vintage.

A: Pours a very dark mahogany red with a thin, eighth-inch light tan head that quickly faded into a collar. No lacing.
S: Big notes of oatmeal-raisin cookies, sweet almost syrupy raisins, honey, vanilla, caramel, orange peel, fermented dark fruits, cinnamon, and a hint of soy sauce.
T: Syrupy sweet and very rich almost meaty flavors. I get big dominate notes of sweet raisins, caramel, brown sugar and honey. The flavors remind me of kettle corn or some kind of sugary meat glaze. The finish contains notes of orange peel, tobacco, barbeque, and candied brown sugar. The flavor coats your mouth and the aftertaste definitely lingers for a while. There is an alcohol presence at the end of the swallow, but it is only slight warm and is non-intrusive.
M: Thick bodied with a heavy, syrupy mouthfeel. Carbonation is low but I find it perfect. Extremely smooth.
O: Wonderful brew that is definitely meant to be sat on for years and years. Most barleywines would not be be this drinkable after 10 years. This is definitely quality.

 1,080 characters

Photo of Mebuzzard
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a 1999 vintage, bought and drank on the same day (today). With a medium chestnut brown body this beer looks perty darn good. The semi-soapy head does have some density to it, yet it vanishes in a couple minutes never to return. No colar lacing or anything. Too bad...but still the taste is great. A bit of an alcohol nose on it. Caramel and toffee.
A nice calm caramel sweetness surrounds the malt in the taste. Some mocha and faint vanilla as well. Rich, but not thick. I get a hint of smokiness on the end, with a peppering of spices. This is a darn fine beer. At $10 a bottle it's a good beer to enjoy over a celebration or special occasion. Which is what I did.

 673 characters

Photo of ColForbinBC
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle, poured into a snifter

I had the 1998 and 1999 side by side. They were practically identical, with the 1998 being a little bolder.

The body sits a rather clear, mahogany color, with some darker brown in the depths of the glass. No head or lacing, just a thin collar of white foam around the edges.

Broad and deep nose. Sherry, lemon, honey, cabernet, sweet toffee, cocoa powder, and a huge layer of booze. Crazy levels of complexity.

Sweet, and not as boozy as the nose let on. I kept coming back to describing this as similar to a Luden's Golden Honey cough drop dipped in sherry, and then mixed with cocoa and toffee.

The feel was syrupy, lending even more credence to the cough syrup/drop comparison. Full, rich body and flavors. The finish is sweet and boozy, but no real warming getting in the way.

These were two of the most complex beers I have come across. Equally delicious, with the 1998 edging the 1999 by a thin margin. Smooth, complex, rich, sweet....simply incredible. Seek out the older vintages.

 1,024 characters

Photo of sholland119
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage, reviewed July 2008

A-Pours a clear deep amber color with honey brown highlights. Nice lacing.

S-Sweet dark fruits, toffee and caramel. Hint of alcohol but not overwhelming. Wonderful.

T-Following the nose, a creamy caramel, maple and raisin taste with a moderate alcohol warmth in the finish. Very complex and delicious.

M-Rather thick and syrupy, in a good way.

D-Very nice, but I rarely want more than one barleywine.

An excellent beer, holding up very well at 9 years.

HV

 495 characters

Photo of rudzud
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled various vintages at a Julio's weekly tasting.

A - They all poured nice copper hues with various amounts of head. Considering the ABV this was quite impressive that even after years there was still SOMETHING there.

S - Each one smelled delicious. Good carmelly malts and various amounts of dark fruits. There was some nice alcohol on the nose.

T - Excellent flavours throughout. More sweet, tasty malts (carmel, toffee). There were more nice dark fruits (especially figs) along with a slight alcohol finish.

M - Surprisingly smooth mouthfeel. Not too thin, not too syruppy.

O - Overall I really enjoyed this beer. It is a bit out of my price range, but very glad I got to try it.

 692 characters

Photo of pjs234
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage. Poured into my DFH Signature glass. The beer is a very murky brownish/red color. There was little to no head, but there was a fair amount of sediment suspended virtually motionless in the glass. The smell is good and very sweet, with an overall molasses aroma with hints of raisins, toffee and caramel.

The taste is very sweet. The molasses flavors are very noticeable. There is also a slight bitterness. Hard to place the exact flavor, but it keeps it from being way too sweet. Honestly, this is a real nice barleywine, it is almost like a very nice dessert wine. Please let this one warm up before your first sip. When a little too cold, there is a very odd flavor to it, almost a cardboard taste. This goes away as the beer warms. Also, regardless of temp, there is no hint of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is good, although the carbonation is almost gone. I guess this is to be expected with a 5 year old barelywine.

Overall, this is very good. I am glad i tried it. From a personal standpoint, I think I prefer fresh barelywines, as I like the alcohol bite of them. Also, I would love to try this one fresh, just to see how it changed over the past five years.

 1,176 characters

Photo of saintwarrick
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 vintage.
Pour is a light honey brown with a foamy white head that build quickly but gradually disappears as it warms. Aroma is distinctly a British barley wine, somewhat boozy, but very malty with some grapefruit and a touch of bourbon and whiskey giving it a sharp edge. Almost cloying in its sweetness. Taste is surprisingly sweet, honey is very distinct, syrupy; lots of butter rum and brandy with a distinct alcohol warming; a very big brew, but very drinkable for a sipper of this strength. Bitter aftertaste is noticeable at the very end keeping this brew from being too sweet.

A very unique brew not to be missed, though I would like it to be a little less sweet.

2008 vintage
Appearance is same as the 2007 except a billowy white head resembling an IPA is constant throughout. Aroma has a lot more sweetness to it, like bourbon-soaked bread dipped in brown sugar. This version has less bitterness at the end as the sweetness is front, center and all other directions. A sipper to be sure, but the cloying sweetness makes this a little too big. I have a 2001 stashed away and am hoping this brew gets better over time.

 1,132 characters

Photo of atsprings
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 edition 275mL bottle into a DFH Signature glass pours a crisp deep copper almost brown with a thin light tan head that diminishes to a ring. Aroma is very sweet and almost Sherry-like with some noticeable booze. The taste is a very sweet blend of ripe fruits and syrupy caramel, this has a load of complexity that reminds me of some of the best Belgian quads that I've had. This beer is certainly a sipper, very sweet with a decent amount of booze but not enough to be overbearing. This is certainly a great beer for any special occasion.

 543 characters

Photo of captaincoffee
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Doing three reviews on the 2015, 2011, and 2008 vintages over the next three days, and I'll be updating my scores with each.

Starting with the 2015, it pours a very pretty mahogany with a dense half-inch head, tiny packed bubbles, and ultimately leaves a ring around the beer glass but only spotting lacing. Nose is boozy, rich malt, and some earthiness from the EKG that makes it past the malt overtones. Not very complex, but this vintage is very young (just released last month). Taste is sweet, malty, boozy. A bit more bitterness on the finish than anticipated helps it from being too cloying. Brown bread and honey. Mouthfeel is full and thick...about what you'd expect from an 11.5% barleywine, but the higher-than-expected carbonation also helps keep it from being cloying. Overall, a good beer that should improve with time. Fingers crossed on the next one. Look 4.25, Smell 3.75, Taste 4, Feel 4.25, Overall 4. Total 3.98 at this point.

Next is the 2011. The appearance seems lighter in color with some orange. In fact, the JW Lees website notes the 2015 is darker than most previous years. The nose is still malty and earthy, but less boozy. I'm not going to change my scores for either of these categories. The taste has evolved, however. Richer caramelized sugars. Still lots of brown bread and honey. Worth an extra .25 in my opinion in both the taste and overall scores. Look 4.25, Smell 3.75, Taste 4.25, Feel 4.25, Overall 4.25. Total 4.13 at this point.

Finally, the 2008. Pour is darker again, more like the 2015, but there is very little head anymore. Some bits of stuff in the bottom. Nose has really changed; it is very raisin/prune and sweet. Taste is also like liquid raisins. Port/sherry comparisons now obvious. Worth an extra .5 on the nose and .25 taste, with a minus .5 on look. If this beer was a little less over-the-top sweet, I could give even higher scores. Look 3.75, Smell 4.25, Taste 4.5, Feel 4.25, Overall 4.25. Total 4.32.

 1,994 characters

Photo of jpiper
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997 into a snifter at cellar temperature.

Dark brown with a light tan head. Dissipates to just a 1cm ring around the edge of the glass.

Immediately the aroma fills the air: raisins and prunes everywhere. Like a wonderful sweet port.

The flavor is much less ripe fruity and more overripe fruity: old prunes. Extreme complexity here - the fruit is very good. Caramel, some smokiness almost. A little mineral in the burp. Still pretty hot. Just a touch of bitterness to round out the flavor. Super sweet, very rich, deep flavor. You can tell this one is more than 10 years old.

The mouthfeel is very smooth. A very small amount of carbonation remaining.

This is a dessert sipper. Drinkable, but not one you'd drink too much of.

Very good overall.

 750 characters

Photo of billab914
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 vintage picked up at Premier Gourmet in Buffalo during my trip back there for the holidays. Poured from a 275 ml bottle into my Dogfish snifter. Pours dark brown with a very thin white ring around the outside edge of the glass. There was a moderate amount of carbonation bubbles and sediment visible from the outside of the glass.

Aroma has some brown sugar sweetness to it as well as some dark rich fruit flavors and a hint of alcohol. There are notes of figs, raisins, and cherries in the complex fruitiness of the nose. Taste is very sweet with some malt, raisins, and figs. There is a lot of dark fruit flavors that make it very complex. it's also a lot sweeter then I expected.

Mouthfeel is on the thicker side with low carbonation. Drinkability is pretty good for the abv%. it's a little too sweet for me to want to drink any more then 1 bottle in a sitting though. It's very good though for a 9 year old beer, and very complex. I'd love to try other vintages.

 974 characters

Photo of jeffdr123
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

 172 characters

Photo of TMoney2591
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served in a Lexington Bourbon Barrel Ale snifter.

2012 edition. The first stop of our trip through the Lees Harvest horizontal. This stuff pours a clear sunshine tawny topped by a finger or so (at best) of khaki foam. The nose comprises sweet caramel and toffee, white grapes, light stonefruits, mild vanilla, and a bit of booze tossed in for good measure. The taste brings in more of the same, the robust sweetness shining through, not unlike a sherry or even a tokaji. The body is a hefty medium, with a rather light moderate carbonation and a full feel. Overall, a damn fine beer, straight up. I remember thoroughly enjoying the 1999 vintage I had in 2010, and even this much fresher this stuff comes charging through. It's definitely sweet, but never comes across as cloying. I wish it were cheaper, just so I could drink and age as many as possible (and I don't age many beers, mind you).

 903 characters

Photo of Warren2621
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of kwjd
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of akk14
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Johnct
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of FlaviusG
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Vertical tasting of 2001, 2007, and 2013. Rating is for the 2001, which was the best. Strong smell of raisin, sweet taste, smooth, little taste of alcohol. 2001 poured much darker, brown/red with some sediment. No oxidation present. Very good.

 248 characters

Photo of Beejay
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Harvest Ale 2002 Limited Edition

A: A very murky deep brown with a little bit of ruby in the edges. Not a lot of head, but what is there is tan with large bubbles.

S: Huge caramel sweetness. A bit cloying with a syrupy malty scent. There is a bit of roasting in this, as well as a very strong caramelized aroma.

T: Holy cloying barleywine batman! Sweet with notes of caramel, oak, toffee, and burnt sugar. This walks up to the line of 'too sweet' but only puts a toe across the border. Very enjoyable, though in small sips.

M: Thick and oily. Very little carbonation at all. Almost a pillowy feel after you have swallowed. One hell of a sipper.

D: Overall a very enjoyable beer. Rich caramelized flavors, and a wonderful boldness that hides the considerable amount of booze.

 782 characters

Photo of VirginiaBeerMan
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle aged 3 years, cloudy pour, excellent flavor, shared 9 oz bottle with three others, an enjoyable tasting, wish I had more.

133 characters

Photo of mjc410
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage

My pour into a snifter leaves a half inch of beer in the bottle, to save the dregs for last. There are a few sparse bubbles forming a ring around the glass, which are a middling tan. The beer's body is a hazy copper, with vivid crimson highlights at the glass's stem. The nose runs the myriad of peppery alcohol, strong molasses, sweet cherries, and wheat toast. There's also a lot of caramel about, and caramel notes too. Very nice. Taste is very sweet, cloying if taken too quickly, with a very distinct coffee flavor. Very sweet like honey, with a slight ending bitterness that is over almost before I notice. Very fruity from the alcoholic esters, and incredibly malty, like sweet bread. Mouth is thick and syrupy, with no carbonation. This is a very drinkable BW, because the alcohol burn is hidden so well. It paired marvelously with my girlfriend's apple strudel!

 886 characters

Photo of neonbrown82
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I had been eyeing this at my local grocers for quite some time now. They (John's Grocery) have a vertical progression from 1997-2003, several from each year. I chose the 1997 for myself. It seems to have aged quite nicely, though I have never had a "fresher" one to compare.

It pours to a very thick dark brown color with a plum/amber colored hue. Leaves no head, though none was expected. I've only had the oportunity to try very few barleywines due to the 5% ABV laws in Iowa, but even though I am somewhat naive about them, I would say this is what a barley wine should be like, and what I will judge other beers of the style upon.

There is a heavy smell and taste of plum, raisin, barley malt, and alcohol. Definitely not for the weak spirited drinker of BMC. The alcohol level seems slightly subdued, though, most likely from the aging. I can taste the wood from cask conditioning. It has developed a very interesting flavor. Leaves a very dry finish with a surprisingly subtle aftertaste. What little aftertaste remains tastes like a smokey/woody casked wine.

The mouthfeel is very thick. I can do little more than sip this intense beverage, nor would I want to simply chug down a vintage ale I paid nearly six bucks for. I will not be buying more, but it was a worthwhile experience until I move to a state with a more abundant supply of less high-end vintage barley wine. I still prefer a nice pale ale, though, or something equally quaffable as opposed to a sipper.

 1,484 characters

Photo of DerekMorgan
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of dpnelson1978
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

9.3 oz. bottle into Duvel tulip.
2000 Vintage

$7.99 / ea.

55°F

S: Maple syrup. Extremely sweet caramel, and a bit of roasted barley. Hints of oak peek through.

A: Opaque dark brown body, tight medium head, with nice retention, and good lacing leading to a light creamy cover.

T: Very sweet. Strong maple character, with a hint of caramel and malt, with a smooth booze finish, and low bitterness. Well balanced, but perhaps a little too sweet.

M: Smooth heavy body with low carbonation.

D: Strong tasting beer that should be savored rather than sessioned. Excellent beer and this score should not be interpreted as a weakness. Sweetness is a bit cloying.

O: My first J.W. Lees Harvest Ale was delicious. Would be a great after dinner drink due to its massive sweet maple flavor.

 786 characters

Harvest Ale (Limited Edition) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 4.24 out of 5 with 1,545 ratings