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

BA SCORE
94
outstanding
859 Reviews
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
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
Reviews:
859
Ratings:
1,509
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
13.88%
 
 
Wants:
266
Gots:
226
For Trade:
14
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Reviews: 859 | Ratings: 1,509
Photo of warnerry
4.43/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 vintage into a tulip

A - Pours clear amber with a thin cap of tan head.

S - Brown sugar, rum, raisins. Definite sweetness in the aroma, but very nice. Also get quite a bit of vanilla and a faint touch of chocolate.

T - Similar to the aroma. Flavors blend together very well. Definitely a touch sweet with lots of honey, caramelized brown sugar and dark fruits, but it works. A faint amount of bitterness keeps the sweetness from being too much.

M - Mouthfeel is pretty full and somewhat sticky. Very smooth.

O - It would be interesting to try a fresher bottle to see how the hops integrate with the other flavors, but this was a very tasty brew.

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Photo of rodkin
4.09/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 2 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2008 vintage.

Pours a slightly dirty copper rust color, with little floating gunk. Small, soapy head that fades away pretty quickly.

Smell is brown sugar, figs, slight alcohol warmth, raisins, caramel. Nicely integrated and quite smooth.

Taste is burnt brown sugar sweetness upfront, followed by alcohol warmth, and dark fruits. Fig, prune, raisin. Bit of vanilla. Slight breadiness as well. Quite a bit going on.

Mouthfeel is smooth and lightly carbonated. A little lighter than I'd like.

This is a very nice barleywine. Although I haven't had it fresh, this definitely seems like a beer that ages gracefully. Would be curious to see how older bottles are doing.

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Photo of notchucknorris
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2001 Vintage, purchased at Toronados

A: Deep, murky brown color with no head whatsoever. Leaves some faint tracks of lace when swirled in the glass.

S: Holy schnikes! Loads of dark fruit here. Rich raisin aroma with lots of concord grapes, figs, fruitcake and some fermented barley notes. So rich and smooth. Really fantastic.

T: Tons of honey right off the bat. A lot of dark fruit mixed in with the honey flavor that reminds me of fig jam and grape jelly. Mouthfeel is honey-like as well. Super thick without really feeling heavy. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's the best I can put it. This is one of the better beers I've ever had.

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Photo of Sludgeman
4.44/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A fourth review - this one a 2009 (drinking on 8/27/16) limited edition. This beer ages wells. I pushed up all the ratings. A very smooth Manhattan cocktail. Brown sugars balanced by the hefty ABV.

A third review - This the 2015 Harvest Ale on CASK at Rustico, Arlington. Poured into a stemmed tulip.

Still probably a bit sweet for my tastes, but the cask version really shined compared to the bottle. Have this beer instead of your after dinner port. 4

A - In a dark bar so it was a bit difficult to judge this, but low carbonation, a frothy wide head upon the pour which quickly dissipated. Poured a reddish slightly hazy brown. 4

S - 4

T - Malty sweet with caramel, molasses & honey but expertly balanced by the alcohol. A bit of spice hiding behind all that malt. 4

MF - Medium heavy bodied with a smooth semi dry finish. Almost no carbonation but not flat tasting. 4

Re-reviewed with a 2011 vintage on June 1, 2015.

Had 2009, 2011 and 2015 vintages.

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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 His_Royal_Hoppiness
4/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage.

A: Dark copper colour with lots of sediment - no head whatsoever.

S: Malt, molasses, caramel.

T: Honey, raisins, apples, molasses, marmite - very complex and very sweet - almost resembles a liqueur.

M: Outstanding - lovely thick, syrupy body with gentle carbonation.

This was my first proper barleywine and I found it fairly overwhelming. Absolutely delicious at first, but for me the sweetness was just too much - it was a real struggle to get through. I've got a couple more bottles laid-down, so I'll definitely return to this when I've had a bit more exposure to the style - right now I'm just too much of a lightweight to get the most out of this!

* Have just had a 2001 bottle that was a very different experience to the 2006 - gloriously well-balanced, with a wonderful prune and plum taste - the marmite flavour was barely present and generally it was much less cloyingly sweet. Just shows what wonders age does for this beer! Originally rated this as a 4, but the 2001 was a worthy 4.75.

**Downgrading this to a 4 after some bad experiences with overly sweet, unbalanced younger vintages.

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Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap at the Birch.

My first barleywine, and it didn't disappoint.

A - Honey color, huge head, great first impression.

S - Smells of sugar, cider.

T - Smokey taste, honey, brown sugar. Can't taste the alcohol at all. For 11.5 %, this can be dangerous.

M - Very rich mouth, medium body, works well with the style.

O - Really good. This (style) could be the start of a beautiful freindship.

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Photo of Mess
4.52/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage. Cellar temp, poured into a snifter on a clear chilly night.

A - pours ruby and brown whiskey, frothy white head. light sparkles through beautifully.

S - First thought smelled a waft of soy, but was mistaken. Rum soaked raisins, brown sugar, vanilla. Alcohol.

T - sweet Rumcake. vanilla, shortbread, un-lit swisher sweet cigar flashback to freshman year of highschool

M - smooth as velvet, thin layer sweet syrup on the tongue.

O - Really pleasantly surprised, was half expecting soy sauce given first whiff and 13 years and 3 moves over the years. Wonderful gentle slow slipper. Will look to cellar these again in the future.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.71/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2008 vintage. not sure what the big deal is here. this is just a really sweet, yeasty, alcoholic monster. pouring a glittery golden color with a ton of coagulated yeast sediment and a minimal white head. the nose is very sugary, honey sweet, sticky, and yeasty. some fruit notes up front in the taste. alcohol wipes out any other potential subtleties, all i taste is booze and sugar, maybe a hint of vanilla from mid sip onwards. really syrupy in feel, not much carbonation, and more residual sugar that i can handle without turning diabetic. long teeth coating finish. overall not my favorite stuff here, not worth the price or the hype, maybe another decade would make this a star, but im just not feeling it here.

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

2000 vintage, reviewed 12/29/12

Poured into a snifter

Appearance is dark caramel brown, like the color of dried dates (kind of an obscure reference, but it's honestly the best comparison I can think of). Pours a two finger head, even at 12 years old, but dissipates quickly to some whispy foam on top. Beer looks great, the almost opaque brown shows some golden brown on the edge when tilted against the light.

S - vanilla, caramel and earthy notes dominate when the beer is cold, as it warms up it some dark fruit, ripe apples and pears start to come out. It's crazy complex, smells phenomenal.

T - follows right along the nose. Tons of rich and thick caramel dominates at first, vanilla notes come in on the back end. Again, as it warms up the dark fruit come in, ripe red apple. Brown sugar. Like the smell, just amazingly deep and complex. Finish is silly smooth, some honey notes. It's freaky how tasty this beer is.

M - low low carb. Medium thickness. Perfect vehicle for the flavors going on. Can't find any fault.

O - I'm trying to figure out how not to give 5 across the board here. I cant think of a single improvement that needs to be made. This is a special occasion sipper that I can easily spend an hour enjoying. Just absolutely crazy good.

This is my first venture into JW Lees, I got this as part of a sweet BIF box from nlmartin (thanks again buddy). I will definitely be looking out for other vintages, but I don't know how any other year could be any better. 12 years of age set the bar very high.

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Photo of FeDUBBELFIST
4.4/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2004 Vintage, 275mL bottle to tulip
Sampled 16SEP12

[A] A pour down the middle doesn't produce more than a quarter finger's worth of head - and it disappears immediately. The color is light tan. Bubbly foam is the texture. The body is extremely dark brown. Ruby highlights can be seen when backlit - which also shows decent clarity and flecks of sediment clinging to the glass. No film, collar or lacing. The body is completely still.

[S] Dark fruit aromatics lead the way. Particularly prune, but complimented by sun soaked raisin. Caramel pokes through to a small degree but it's more than less masked by the fruity aromas. Light tea leaf. Very little alcohol noticeable.

[T] Dark fruit absolutely dominates. Fig is particularly strong. Light caramel on the back end only. Flavors of red raisin and prune linger long. Very long.

[M] At this age, the mouthfeel is nothing short of absolutely remarkable. Very smooth, very full, soft, velvety. Residual sweetness glides over the tongue, leaves a light coat but avoids being cloying entirely. Carbonation is extremely gentle.

[O] One helluva beer. I prefer less dark fruit and more caramel personally, but damn this works so well as it is. An obvious classic.

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Photo of heygeebee
4.86/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2008 vintage. BB end of world?

Pours a flat copper. No real head, slight film. Sediment abounds.

Aromas are immediately complex and integrated. Honey, a little vegemite, hint of marmalade, sherry, booze.

Taste to die for. Smooth, complex, no one element stands out. Sherry or port flavours to the fore, less vegemite than nose. More honey, butter, apricot, the list goes on. Dates, figs, prunes... Hop-free zone.

Mouthfeel smooth and non existent carbonation. Full bodied but not cloying. Alcohol is well hidden for ABV.

Best beer I have had in ages. Wonderful. To be savoured.

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Photo of jaasen64
4.51/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz bottle poured into oversized wine glass. Special bottle from 1988 pulled out of the Lord Hobo cellar for Zwanze Day 2012!! Bottled a year before I was born over 23 years ago!

A- Pours a fairly still dark slightly brown cherry that is mostly opaque. Not much carbonation or head.

S- Fairly sweet and very aromatic with scents of maple syrup, dark fruits, figs, prunes, and some mustiness from age. This smelled like a fine port and has held up amazing with age. Definitely some oxidation but nothing that subtracts from the aroma.

T- Dark fruits, some figs, a tiny bit of prunes, maple syrup, some light mustiness, definite oxidation but if anything adds a little bit to the taste, tastes more like a fine port then a beer.

M- Not much carbonation, smooth, easy drinking.

O- This was definitely a treat that held up amazingly well with time. There was some oxidation and not much carbonation, but neither of those took away from the overall taste. There were a lot of great dark fruit tastes going on that balanced very well with a sweet maple syrup quality. I definitely enjoyed drinking this beer and it's one of the best English barleywines I've had. I definitely recommend laying one down in your cellar and trying it again in a decade.

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Photo of BeRanger
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a glass at biermkt in Cleveland.

A: hard to tell from bar light but a copper color, decent amount of floating sediment and a white rim.

Smells and tastes of sweet caramel, coffee, honey, malts. An enjoyable barley wine but certainly a little sweeter than I typically prefer.

Overall it's a good one, sweet but not harsh after taste. Has a nice finish

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Photo of martyl1000
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap (actually a bottle, but I had to review this again) at Amsterdam Cafe, SF. A beautiful pour into a goblet, with a barely discernible white head. The delicate lacing is wiped clean from the glass by the high abv. The aroma is all sweetness, with a shag carpet of roasty malt.

The most feel is what's most immediately remarkable in the mouth. A slippery, syrupy viscosity hugs the tongue like that of an ice wine. Creamy, God! And a light fizzy carbonation.

The full body is a precursor to the port wine sweetness. Mild molasses. Cotton candy. Ripe Fuji apple. Toffee. Surprisingly floral hop flavor keeps the package from sickening territory. Expanded by the baked-bread toastiness.

I haven't enjoyed a sweetness like this since the last Sauterne I had with a Danish blue cheese and white grapes.

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Photo of abraxel
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed blind as part of Blind BIF 7, courtesy of ShogoKawada.

A - Murky, slightly reddish brown, with a thick, creamy, off-white head that drops very slowly. I accidentally got some glumpy sediment in there... hopefully that won't be a problem. Looks quite appealing, but that sediment or whatever is uuugly.

S - Mmmm, the aroma hit me as soon as I cracked the cap. Super strong, smooth, and decadent -- lots of peanut butter, with maybe some molasses and sweet fruits. I think this is an English barleywine, and perhaps an aged one.

T - Extremely sweet, but it stops short of cloying. The malt is dominant and delicious and somewhat complex. Strong notes of peanut butter, molasses, some caramel and dark fruits. A slight, almost ashy, burnt-caramel flavor lingers afterward. Very tasty.

M - Pretty full mouthfeel. Practically no carbonation, nor a hint of alcohol burn -- this is just silky smooth all the way.

Overall, I like this beer a whole lot. It's just delicious.

Non-blind comment: This was '08 vintage, by the way.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
2.99/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

poured into tulip glass.

Vintage 2008.

Appearance: reddish light brown bodied beer with large floaties. a cap of white head with large bubbles that drops to a ring.

Smell: Malty and fruity. Rubbing alcohol is strong and it almost burns the nostrils with a deep breath.

Taste: Sweet honey mixes with smokey malts. Fairely fruity also. Finishes with a clovingly sweet taste of more honey almost mead like. As a matter of fact, this beer almost tastes like a smokey mead.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with low carbonation. Booze is farily mellow compared to what the nose leads you to think.

Overall: Not a huge fan of this one. Its just too sweet for me to enjoy and i love malt forward beers just as much as anyone.

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Photo of vandemonian
2.9/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 2006 is a sweet barleywine with some odd flavours. In particular, I don't like the Vegemite flavour resulting from yeast autolysis.

A: Red brown colour and almost no head. I guess that's to be expected after sitting in the bottle for 6 years. 3.5

S: Sweet toffee and alcohol. Some definite Vegemite aroma from the yeast autolysis. 3.5

T: Sweet malt and umami from yeast autolysis. Bleh. I don't like the flavour at all. Very grainy. 2.5

M: Flat. 2.5

O: 3

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Photo of sukwonee
4.02/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 vintage - purchased on 10/4/2012 at a local bottle shop. Pretty cool find I guess.

A: looks ugly - reminds me a bit of BB4D but lighter in color. No head.

S: Smells like apple juice, brown sugar, booze, some dark fruits. Mostly, apple juice.

T: Apple, raisin, dark fruits. Very boozy still. Quite good, but very sweet. Edit: I cheated and read other's reviews and they mention honey and maple syrup and I totally agree.

M: Thick, chewy, and hot from the alcohol.

O: I think this could have used even more years in the cellar. It was quite good but too sweet, imo.

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Photo of rinhaak
4.84/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage.

Nose is musty with loads of sherry, oak, wood notes, alcohol. Amazing mouth with prunes, raisins, brown sugar, brandy, and a maple finish. Smooth as velvet in the mouth, and despite drinking like a dessert beer, there isn't a cloying sweetness.

This would be perfect with a creme boule or fine dessert. Amazing beer through and through.

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Photo of ummswimmin
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had this at the Ginger Man. The review is taken from notes.

This beer had a pretty brown color with minimal head. The head was just scum when it got to my table. They poured this in a small snifter glass which worked perfectly for a stong, fragrant beer.

There was minimal smell here. I picked up brown suger and general sweetness. You can pick up the alcohol when you provide movement to the glass.

The flavor is incredibly rich and very complex. The taste is strong, but the balance works really well. There is a ton of alcohol notes.

This is an awesome barleywine. I recommend it to sip by the fire while narrorating a classic english novel. Just be careful because this beer is still very smoothe.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.42/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a perfect pint. 1999 vintage. The older beer I've had.

4.0 A: Deep amber color with good clarity. Maybe a 1/8 inch head forms, but that's not too bad given the elderly status of this.

4.5 S: This smells absolutely wonderful! Big aggressive caramel and toffee. Minerally earthiness. Lots of honey and a light sherry. This is oxidized surprisingly little. Plum, prune, and date fruitiness with a slight grape and raisin combo. Moderately sweet and quite clean. Very well rounded.

4.5 T: Taste is even bolder than the nose. Big syruppy sweetness to kick things off. Loads of caramel, toffee, and brown sugar. Even more honey in the taste. I don't know if they even used honey in this. Again just a slight sherry. Plum galore with nearly as much prune and date. Fig, raisin, and tobacco underneath. Earthy mineral. Still has a mild alcoholic tinge. Quite pleasant and shockingly bold after all these years.

4.0 M: Heavy body. Very good carbonation for the age. A little overly syruppy, but otherwise creamy and smooth.

4.5 D: Really enjoyed this. I'm going to have to pick up a few to age.

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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.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

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

On tap at Ginger Man in NYC. 2011 Vintage.

Beer is a deep copper/caramel colour. Small white head. The head that does exist stays a long time.

Smell is big. Lots of caramel malt, quite boozy. Wood.

Taste is malty, lots of caramel. Bready and heavy. Very rich. Caramel is pretty dominant, but a bit of fruit is there as well. Surprisingly simple, but huge and good.

Full bodied, moderate carbonation. Bready and thick.

Overall, good but a disappointment. Perhaps tap is not the way to have this beer, but I found it was all power and no subtlety.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,509 ratings.
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