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

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

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

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

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Reviews: 851 | Ratings: 1,492
Photo of braugon
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Brewed 2011

A - Caramel hue, not as brown as some barleywines, small white head, stayed around as a thin rim

S - Awesome, sweet barleywine scents of rum, raisin, oak, phenol, caramel, slightly musty

T - Lively, sweet, oak, caramel, raisin, port wine,

M - Medium to full, with a present carbonation

O - Really great, if you like barleywines, you will probably like this, 11.5% abv is always a plus when it's this good.

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Photo of Scotchboy
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap @ Bittercreek Boise ID. 25th Anniversary blend, unsure of vintage.

A: Opaque, dull gold with no visible carbonation and nonexistent head/lacing.

S: Dark fruit, raisin, rum, caramel, apple, spices, and bready, sweet malt.

T: Malty, with faint booze, notes of red wine and rum, spicy and fruity. Plenty of apple, raisin, toffee, brown sugar, wet oak, tobacco, with a warm finish.

MF: Full, sticky body, viscous with low carbonation.

O: Reminiscent of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, without the Belgian yeast; plenty of dark fruit and malt, with an oaky, rummy undertone. Pretty nice sipper overall.

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Photo of RichardMNixon
2/5  rDev -52.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Second one of these I had from the 2011 vintage, and the second was worse than the first.

Looks fine in the glass, light carbonation. Has a pleasant smell of malt I'd expect from a barleywine. The taste starts there, with nice notes of sherry and fig. From there it goes to smokey and leathery notes and finally leaves you with what I imagine licking an ash tray must taste like. Couldn't finish the bottle.

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Photo of Danny1217
4.21/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2010 vintage.

Pours light brown. Very little foam or lacing.
Smells of toffee, caramel, dark fruits, maple, and honey. A touch boozy, but that is expected by the strength.
Tastes of maple, caramel, toffee, honey, dark fruits, slightly smokey, bread-like. Slightly musty. Very sweet, slightly vinous. Almost like a port wine. Very low carbonation, medium-full body. Great sipping beer.

An astonishingly complex beer, though perhaps a touch sweet for my tastes. Would work well as an after dinner drink, perhaps even splitting the small bottle between two people. I had the last few ounces with a cigar, which worked very well and I highly recommend.

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Photo of maketheheartglad
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My wife surprised me with this incredible beer when I came home from work one day. But, the special thing is the greatness of my wife.

This beer looks like dark honey. I would like to say it smells like a scotch, but I'm not really familiar with scotch (unfortunately). It smells malty and manifold. I can taste pear and other fruits, but I wish I could pick them out. The alcohol is definitely perceived, but gracefully so.

This beer is is so different than any other beers I've had. I've only had an american barleywine, and it didn't really impress me. I prefer malty ales, so I figured that I would prefer English Barleywines. This was my first, and it will be hard to beat.

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Photo of vince4953529
4.17/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750 cc bottle bought from Vendome Wines here in S. Cali4nya, 2011 vintage.

Poured orange golden with healthy carbonation. Taste is sweet with a strong brown sugar undertone. It's malty, good dense mouthfeel without being overbearing. A very slow-sipping for sure.
Overall it is a great-tasting brew. I finished the whole 750 cc by myself in 2 hours but it's really a dessert beer. A finely crafted English barleywine and despite its intimidating 11.5% abv it's comparable easy to drink.

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

Bottled 2002. Intense, dessert ale. Aromas of toffee and caramel. Slight musky funkiness. Flavor of dried fruit and caramel. Still sweet and syrupy. Could only drink about 5 oz at a sitting. It became rather cloying near the end of the glass. Reminded me of a good sherry and tawny port combined.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Brewed in 2008

A: Pours a hazy medium reddish brown in color with light amounts of visible carbonation and some significant amounts of dark yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass and some faint apricot + orange highlights. The beer has a thin (less than 1/4 finger tall) light beige head that quickly reduces to a medium sized patch of very thin film and a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Strong aromas of dark fruits (raisin), toffee, caramel, brown sugar, and a brandy-like liquor smell.

T: Upfront there is a strong flavor of sweet malts with dark fruit (raisin), toffee, caramel, and brown sugar all present. There is also a moderate amount of alcohol that is reminiscent of brandy/cognac. Moderate to strong amounts of sweetness are present and linger through the finish.

M: Full bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with some sticky sweetness and moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol warming.

O: This is a very sweet and intense English Barleywine and is definitely one that needs to be sipped slowly considering the high ABV and the not all that well hidden alcohol.

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Photo of Samp01
3.74/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

9.3oz bottle. Pours a dark reddish brown with a small quickly fading cream colored head. Aroma is sweet caramel malt, very fruity esters, a bit of banana note up front, yeast and dark fruit notes. Taste is of sweet caramel and toffee, mild chocolate malt, very fruity with some dark dried fruit, a kind of fermented grapes flavor, yeast, almost brandy like with some cask and wood flavor. Palate is a medium to full body, smooth and creamy, slightly sweet cloying mouth feel. Finish is same as Taste no need to repeat it all, with a lingering sweet caramel and mild sweet alcohol flavors. Overall a good yet complex nose and flavored brew, has a nice after taste, good after dinner brew with a sweet dessert

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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 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.

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Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.2/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from tap into goblet at pizza plant in buffalo ny. Not sure of the vintage...i tuink its rather young. Great orangey brown murky color with no head but ever so slight lacing. Aroma of caramel and toffee with slight vanilla and hops. Taste is sweet fruity caramel vanilla. Its pretty well hopped for an English barleywine. Some citrus notes shine in the finish.
Pretty boozey...you notice it right away. Its deff very sweet...which is a big comment about this brew and its true. Not bad but it can weigh on you. I now understand why these come in small bottles...strong sweet brews shouldn't be consumed in large quantities.
Lucky to have this on tap.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.77/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 1.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

9.3 oz bottle into a snifter. 2009 vintage.

A: Pours a rather murky dark brown color. Very little head is featured here, just a thin collar that's white with big bubbles. Not to mention, further examination reveals some huge white-colored chunks of sediment. This is what we in the business call "ass-ugly".

S: Wow. This is hugely sweet - almost like a barleywine that's been distilled even further. Huge dark fruit and caramel sweetness abounds, with plenty of underlying chocolate. I also detect some toffee and some mellow earthiness. Fascinatingly rich, if perhaps a touch too sweet.

T: Indeed, this is one sweet bitch. It opens with plenty of caramel maltiness and dark fruit esters. After the midpoint, the focus switches more to toffee, vanilla, tobacco, and chocolate. Alcohol is mildly prevalent on the back end, but takes on an excellent character, more similar to rum than vodka. After about 3 oz, it does transcend into the realm of "too sweet", with its strong toffee notes ultimately becoming the dominant flavor. There's good depth and complexity to compensate somewhat.

M: The body does a decent job of keeping the sugary sweetness in check by slightly drying out on the finish, which has a side effect of intruding on the softness of the texture somewhat. Even with that, it's a heavy, smack-your-lips sweet brew, with almost no carbonation.

O: Well, it's everything a dessert barleywine should be - big, rich, complex, and decadent. However, even at 9.3 oz, this is best split between two people due to how cloying it is. Compare that to, say, Sucaba, which I can finish a 750ml bottle of with little trouble. Absolutely worth trying...just don't drink it before dinner.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.34/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2006 bottling

A: murky brown ale with no head at all in a stout flute glass

S: toffee, molasses, caramel, suggestions of booze-soaked orchard fruits

T: following nose, a very sweet drink - lots of fruity, sugary treats, no trace of the alcohol; vague allusions to spices common to fall/winter holiday meals, and dark, wet fruits soaked in bourbon

M: no palpable carbonation, very smooth and slick, touch of stickiness, light-to-medium body- feel

O: perhaps just as good as the cask-aged editions, but I have only had this (and them) after some aging - not sure how this would taste fresh - I enjoyed it as much as the aforementioned versions (having sampled the Lagavulin cask 2011 and 2007, Calvados cask version 2006, and Sherry edition 2011 and 2007) - perhaps I expected less, or perhaps the aging wore away the casks' flavorings. This was a very elegant drink.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage.

This will mark the occasion of my 2,200th review on this site and I figured that it should be something worthy of the milestone. I was at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Altoona following the Pints for Pets fest when I spotted this beauty in the cooler. I was pulling beers out left and right when I noticed a small sign on the right-hand side of the cooler advising me to ask my server/bartender/waitstaff for assistance in gathering beers from said cooler. Whoops! In my defense, although I am right-handed, I like to work from left to right and simply glossed over their note. It did not matter to them as I was summarily dragged into the courtyard, pilloried and accordingly whipped by a buxom central-PA beauty while still wearing my infamous monk's robe. Admission was charged for the sight and I was comped the beer, so it all worked out. Except for the fact that I am still unable to sit down comfortably. Ah well, c'est la guerre.

From the bottle: "This fully fermented strong ale has been brewed as a celebration of the brewer's art. It can be enjoyed now or laid down like a vintage wine for enjoyment in years to come. [undersigned] Head Brewer".

I initially employed a gentle pour so as not to disturb the (potential) lees, but to no avail. I was still getting a murkiness with floaties so I went back to the drawing board and used a heavier hand, resulting in a quickly disappearing finger of light-tan head and a LOT of floaties. It really depends on how much such things bother you as far as which style of pour to utilize, I suppose. Color was a murky, deep-amber with loads of evident floaties. Nose was enough to make me want to pay homage to my sinuses for finally clearing up. Holy dried dark fruit, Batman! This smelled of raisins, prunes, worn leather, tobacco, a newspaper mustiness and alcohol heat. Jeezus. My first sip was thick and viscous and sat on my tongue like a big glob of something that I might not want to swallow. The taste was sweet and smoky and my first thought was "S. Clyde Weaver's Sweet Lebanon Bologna". Finish was still sweet and smoky, but now with a tobacco-like smokiness, like I had partaken of a stogie. Double Jeezus. I almost wish that I had purchased more than one, but how many of these types of beers do I have left in me?

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Photo of nbaeteer
4.66/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2010 poured into a wide bottom wine glass.

Appearance: Striking, flat light brown color with almost no variation from light. Very little if any head that completely dissapears very quickly.

Smell: Wow. Can they make scented candles that smell like this? Brown sugar, raisin, malt.

Taste: Complex sweetness up front with the alchohol showing up late. The kind of taste so powerfull you want to swirl it in your mouth as long as possible to hold onto it. So complex I might have to drink another one and revise this post.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, smooth, smooth. Perfect weight.

Overall: This feels like a beer I should be sharing with friends to celebrate a special ocassion. Now I understand the JW Lees following and price tag. This is in my personal beer HOF.

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Photo of mctizzz
3.41/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2006 Vintage.
This great brew has diminished into a flat sweet syrup with almost no hint of booze. I would like to try it after 2 years but this makes me question whether cellaring a brew for 7 years is even worth it. I have only had 3 beers now that have been cellared for over 5 years and this is the only one I know was far over the hill, live and learn...

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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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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,492 ratings.
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