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

BA SCORE
94
outstanding
1,523 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
Ratings:
1,523
Reviews:
864
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
13.65%
 
 
Wants:
268
Gots:
225
For Trade:
14
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,523 |  Reviews: 864
Photo of Dope
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001 vintage, my first time drinking a JW Lees...

A: A very dark ruby red pour. Thick and syrupy pour. Tiny little offwhite head that fades almost instantly, leaving just a scant little ring around the glass. No lacing.

S: Can smell this before I even bring the glass near my face. Big, sweet caramel with little bit of toffee and maybe molasses? Super strong, sweet and boozy dark fruits. Raisin, cherries, fig primarily I would say. Maybe even some honey? There's a lot going on here.

T: Super sweet and cloying. Like drinking watered down caramel (almost the same consistency too). Molasses, toffee and honey from the nose join in. Dark fruits are there a bit as well, figs mainly but I'm getting a touch of cherry in the aftertaste. Almost no alcohol except for the warming sensation in your belly.

M: Wow, thick and syrupy. It's 75% of the way to maple syrup, no joke. Low carbonation.

O: Wow (I've used this word twice in a review), this is a sipper for sure. Sweet and decadent syrup. It's got to be the top of the style for me. If you like ridiculously syrupy and sweet beers this one is for you.

 1,109 characters

Photo of Goliath
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2004 vintage

Pours a rather hazy dark brown color. A very thin light tan head forms and quickly dissipates.

Aroma is ok, very familiar to the other harvest ales by J.W. Lees. Raisins, plums, figs, caramel, syrup, oak, and just a bit boozy.

Taste is pretty good. Raisins and figs, caramel, and a bit of chocolate. Molases and brown sugar as well. Really quite delicious once it opens up. Little alcohol warmth as well.

Mouthfeel is thick, syrupy, and full bodied. Very lightly carbonated. Really my ideal mouthfeel for such a beer.

Drinkability is moderate. The flavor is great, but the high alcohol will get to you. not to mention, it is a bit cloying. Really a phenomenal brew any way you look at it though.

 713 characters

Photo of Jwale73
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage served in my Old Stock snifter. Pours a semi-hazy mahogany with a slick of a head that quickly dissipates into broken spots and a thin, bubbly band around the edges. Some light, spots and strands of lacing revealed during the tasting. Nose is sweet - maple syrup, toffee, prunes, figs and a slightly boozy quality on a malty/bready backbone. Taste consistent with nose - wow this is amazing. Sweet and fruity and the alcohol all but disappears; dangerous for an 11.5% brew. The distinctive aromas in the nose really coalesce nicely in the flavor profile. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with a light carbonation and a slightly oily quality to the texture. What an amazing barelywine. The price is a little steep at $8.00 a bottle but what an exceptional treat. I will need to pick up some more of these over time and stagger their openings.

 848 characters

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."

 1,069 characters

Photo of MasterSki
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I meant to drink this on December 1st to celebrate the bottle's 10th anniversary, but my wife was on a 5-day cleanse and I had to wait until she was done. 1998 Vintage obviously, poured into a tumbler.

A - Pours a murky orange-brown, with no head and sparse spiral lace. There's a little bit of carbonation coming to the surface. It's a barleywine, and it's ten years old - what were you expecting?

S - Very sweet malt, with strong presence of dried fruits (raisins, prunes, dates, etc.). There's also a nutty quality and it almost has a bit of a port flavor to it. It's a little boozy, but not as much as you'd think.

T - The strongest taste is raisins, with some of the other dark fruits present in the nose. However it appears that these dried fruits have been doused in caramel, maple syrup, toffee, and candy coating. This is one sweet brew - reminds me of rumcake. I think the high alcohol content implies an oak taste even though I don't think this is barrel-aged (now there's an idea...). The flavor really comes out as this warms up, so don't serve it too cold.

M - Viscous, but not too thick. It has a fresh melt-in-your-mouth bread quality to it that complements the density of flavor. Very smooth - not much burn for something so strong.

D - Uhhh...who would consider having more than one? That's just crazy talk. It's delicious but not something I'd have more than once in a while. On the other hand it goes down easy when I'm drinking it.

Did a side-by-side with a 2004 Old Stock at Thanksgiving dinner and this one came out on top. Great beer for fancy dinners and special occasions.

 1,604 characters

Photo of wd40
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Vintage sampled in 2012.

Opaque orange/brown appearance with absolutely no head. The smell is reminiscent of raisins, hints of coffee and chocolate. The taste is quite fruity with a bit of coffee in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is the only thing lacking in this beer since it has nearly zero carbonation right out of the bottle. Doesn't bother me too much since it should only have a little to begin with. Overall a great beer. I'll be getting a few more of these to age.

 478 characters

Photo of pmarlowe
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2002 vintage. Tulip glass.

Pours light mahogany with a cap of off-white foam. Pretty good lacing. Aroma is toast and honey, sherry with dark fruit like black currant and fig. Smells good with nice complexity. Taste is... wow, blast of sweetness which hits you up front and then fades into a nice, long honey finish. Honey and sherry are dominant flavors. Full bodied, a minimal carbonation which is fitting for the style, slight acidity which provides some nice structure. Overall, this is a very nice slow sipper for those with a sweet tooth.

 544 characters

Photo of BKotch
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of goochpunch
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

2004 Vintage

Pours out a viscous maple syrup with just a touch of haze (although I poured very carefully). Head is pretty non-existent but makes a thin ring of bubbles around the sides of the glass. Aroma is very worty with a wealth of plums, sherry, and alcohol. Taste has some of that wortiness up front, but it really works as it smoothly morphs into loads of caramel, toffee, honey, maple syrup, oranges, almonds, plums, raisins, dates, and crusty, rustic bread. Finishes extremely sweet with a return of the grainy wort flavor, a touch of tartness and some roasted malt, which continues to linger on. There is really no hop bitterness here, rather just a slight hint of tea-like hops in the middle to end. Mouthfeel is full, thick, viscous, sticky, and hardly carbonated. This is absolutely delicious, but the sweetness really gets to be a bit much. Really glad that they don't bottle this in larger sizes as the 9.something ouncer will be more than enough.

 963 characters

Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2009, on cask at Blind Tiger, New York, on June 15 2011. Outrageously priced at $12 per mug (about 12 ounces, so you do the math). $11 at happy hour, but still... I foresee this beer lasting on the line for a long while.

Appearance: Totally differet from any J.W. ale I have ever had before. Almost a whole finger of foamy bubbly head, good retention, some thick lacing... yeah! Color is a murky orange, like diseased horse piss and expired warm orange juice. Love it!

Smell: Funk, a bit of sour, also clear hops, which I would have never expected in this beer. Lactic acid, wet grass. Very rural! A tad of caramel sweetness/crystallized sugar at the end. Citrus, orange juice, and a whole lot of fruit-flavored soft drink (Fanta, mostly)!

Taste: In the mouth it is much more sweet and less balanced than in the nose, but still delicious. Very flat, again- like a soft drink, Sunkist or the likes. Very bright and citrusy. Barnyard all over! Dirty cow pen, and I suspect even the mythical and elusive horse blanket is present. Funk for sure! A tad of tangy hops at the very end of the sip. Mushroom, umami, earth. "Live cultures". Real ale, baby!

Mouthfeel: Well balanced and beautiful, with full body, flavor and low-but-perfect carbonation. This is a pretty perfect, ideal cask, wet and funky.

Overall: Top rating, because it is so drinkable it is ridiculous. Chuggable, actually! Absolutely no trace of that 11.5% ABV! Wow. Were it not for the nasty price, I would gladly have a TON of this. Much, much more enjoyable than the bottled version.

 1,577 characters

Photo of CharlesK
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of MSchae1017
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998: Very fruity with raisins in the aroma. The taste is also very sweet with just enough bitterness to keep this from being unbalanced. The mouthfeel is incredibly creamy and it is amazing that the subtle carbonation has held up this well over the years.

1999: Decidedly hotter and more bitter than the 1998. The mouthfeel is also not quite as smooth and the carbonation is more prevalent.

2000: Smoother like the 1998, but in addition to the hotness of the 1999, there is a spicy and minty character present in the finish.

2001: Very mellow like the 1998, but not quite as creamy of a mouthfeel. The second best of the bunch.

2002: Significantly hotter and more bitter than the any of the previous. The fruity characteristics just have not quite developed.

2003: The color on this one is not quite the amber hue that the rest exhibit. It is more pale and hazy for some reason. The complexity on these newer ones just have not developed to the level of the older ones.

2004: Smoother than the previous ones but still hot and bitter in comparison. It is surprisingly drinkable given its relatively young age.

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale is a classic example of the difference between an American and English Barleywine. You will not find any intense citrusy hop profiles in this beer, but rather an enjoyable balance between fruity malts and Golding hops that exhibits new dimensions of flavor as the beer ages.

 1,421 characters

Photo of egajdzis
4.28/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999... Poured a bubbly ruby red color with a thick and creamy off white head that left nice lacing. Sweet (caramel) and spicy (clove, cardamom). Sweet taste, some chocolate, fruits (raisins, plums) and a nice alcohol finish. Sweet and sticky. A nice vintage.

 259 characters

Photo of badbeer
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998 Vintage.

Poured a nice brown/red color with a white head that left some lacing. Smell was heavenly, super sweet, slightly burnt caramel, raison, cherry, plum, hard to fully describe. Taste was almost as good as the smell, but was a bit overly sweet, not as balanced as the nose was, became a bit cloying even. Sticky on the tongue, low carbonation, full bodied. A sipper for sure, damn glad I got to try this, hopefully some of the other vintages are even better. This one was holding up like a champ, even after 8 years.

 529 characters

Photo of Rutager
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

'11 bottle, thanks rodkin!!

Appearance. Pours a very hazy, dark amber-gold with half a finger of (nearly) white head.

Smell. Wow! Caramel, candied cherries and raisins, oaky red wine, bready yeast. Complex for sure.

Taste. Raisins, tobacco, caramel, a drop of sherry, some fresh wood, even a little orange rind. Again, very complex (and quite sweet but it works well). Alcohol is dangerously well hidden.

Mouthfeel. Fairly full body, low+ carbonation.

Overall. I haven't had anything like this before. A really nice and unique barleywine. Thanks again rodkin, I've been wanting to try this one for a while now.

 615 characters

Photo of flexabull
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 bottle courtesy of leftmindedrighty, thanks again!

Pours a dark gold color, hazy and cloudy, with a pretty nice white head.

Aromas are cider like, there is a very strong apple aroma. A bit boozy, and some oak as well.

Taste is very cider like as well. Some very boozy apple flavors. Creamy and sweet malts, very well balanced tasting beer. Finish is crisp, with a nice brandy like bite from the alcohol. This is holding up quite well even at 5 years old.

Mouthfeel is very full, and is quite nice.

Drinkability is very good. A very unique tasting beer to me that is quite easy to drink, and very enjoyable to sip.

Side note : I really like that this is put in a 275 ml bottle. It's a perfect size for one person.

 725 characters

Photo of strohme2
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of HappyBivouac
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage. 9.3oz bottle into an Ommegang Chalice.

a- pours an amber orange with a minimal off-white head that goes away fast. very little lacing on the glass.

s- deep, rich caramel, a heavy done of bready, sweet malts, prunes, figs, tart cherries, and honey all fill the nose. A very sweet, caramelly, bright, and fruity aroma.

t- The first impression is an extremely sweet beer, very much like this was actually brewed with thick caramel. It's almost hard to get past this sweetness as it really dominates, but it's so damn delicious. Whole wheat bread comes though, and a faint tartness like cherries enters in late along with the unexpected but distinct taste of florida oranges, lingering on in the finish. Heat is there to a perfect level; I suspect being masked by the intense sweetness. There is but a faint grapefruit bitterness throughout that intensifies long after the beer goes down. Will the sweetness of this beer be tamed in several years? I have no idea, but I'd like to grab a couple more bottles and find out.

m- Thick, syrupy, chewy. Carbonation is just a faint tickle on the center of the tongue.

d- My overall impression is this is a great, complex beer. There are a lot of flavors in there, but it can be hard to find them underneath the cloying, overpowering caramel sweetness. I have to sip this one really slowly, which is I guess what was intended. Very high quality stuff, and this fresh bottle just screams that it was meant to be aged a long time.

 1,484 characters

Photo of jale
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle.

A: Pours a cloudy amber with bits of stuff in it. Spotty lacing

S: Sweet, slightly burnt raisins and smoky malt.

T: Quite sweet to start followed by some earthiness and some alcohol heat. A little burnt sugar, raisins, leather and maybe some tea. Tobacco finish. Very complex beer.

M: A little grainy with medium body. Sweet yet not cloying.

O: I really enjoyed this and will have more.

 404 characters

Photo of dmamiano
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Really excited to drink this one..2002 vintage shared by fellow BA aherberger...thanks.
This beer looked good, dark and tawney with a small head and lacing to beat the band.
Smell was one that made the eyes roll back in my head. Heavy malt sweetness, very fruity and deep.
Taste was big, no, make that huge on malt sweetness, thick and heavy with a very big mouthfeel. This was a real sipper, reminding me of almost drinking liquid candy.
I cant believe that body from this beer.
A real enjoyable treat to have during a "brew" session.

 538 characters

Photo of pkalix
4.29/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

no head whatsoever, in contradiction to others' reviews.... looks like a pear cider but contains a lovely sweet, malty base aroma ....
sweet caramel. brown sugar. raisin. smooth, no abv discernible.
a little thin. English barleywine vs American barleywine? so far the winner is American.... but this is okay. they could have used a 12 oz bottle, though.... and a little overpriced.

 381 characters

Photo of Beejay
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
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 +1.2%
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 +1.2%
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 +1.2%
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

Harvest Ale (Limited Edition) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,523 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.