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

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BA SCORE
94
outstanding
849 Reviews
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
BEER INFO

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

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:
849
Ratings:
1,485
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
13.88%
 
 
Wants:
261
Gots:
223
For Trade:
14
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Reviews: 849 | Ratings: 1,485
Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.7/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-cask 2/17/2012 at Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub in Pawtucket, RI served in a tulip glass.

A: The beer is a deep coppery brown color with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves very little lace on the glass which is expected from a cask beer.

S: The aroma contains brown sugar, bourbon, caramelized malts, alcohol and a touch of hops.

T: The taste starts out with a burnt malt flavor followed by sweet flavors of caramel, brown sugar and bourbon. The hops presence is mild but complementary and the malt character is hearty but there isn’t much balance. The after-taste is slightly smoky and slightly sweet.

M: Smooth and a little crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: A little tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, very strong kick, good representation of style, I can appreciate the smokiness and aging of the beer but the flavors just didn’t seem to come together well for me. There are several less-expensive alternatives in the style that I enjoy a lot more.

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Photo of mikesgroove
2.46/5  rDev -42.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

2003 poured from a bottle

Poured a cloudy brown with no head at all. Smell was total alcohol, really over powered it and the taste was pretty much the same. There was a bit of a caramel, nutty, sugary taste in there but the alcohol far over powered this. I expected this one to be a bit more rounded out then it was, maybe I am just more of a fan of American Barleywines. Overall it was not bad, but I would pass on a second.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.1/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer is a murky amber color with a small off-white head. A bit oxidized, but a really nice caramel and dark fruit aroma. Good brown sugar and maybe a hint of vanilla. The flavor is also slightly oxidized with a hint of alcohol. Great brown sugar, caramel, and toffee flavors. A nice bit of cherry and plum to go with raisins.

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Photo of russpowell
4.46/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1999 vintage pours a reddish caramel with a 1/2" offwhite head. No head retention or lacing

Huge oaky, fruitty boozey nose, beautiful

T: Dryness, raisins, dates, & breadyness with a slight booze presence up front. Caramel & rummy flavors follow. Huge praline profile & little vanilla as it warms. Finishes plummy, dry & sweet, extemely complex

MF: Vinous, syruppy, rich & failry low in carbonation

This is a sipper, the overwhelming sweetness/dryness slows you down a little. A nice, if expensive indulgence that went down smoothly, if not so quick this boxing day

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Photo of Jason
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Alcohol is still a bit boisterous as well as the forceful fruitiness. Jam packed with flavour with a similarity to a port or sherry minus the carbonation. I preferred this year over 1997 due to it being a bit more robust and over the top for a barley wine.

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.31/5  rDev +1.4%
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).

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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 Kurmaraja
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

18 years old and still going strong!! Pour is murky brown, slight reddish orange hints, not much head but still sufficiently carbonated. Looks ... old. Smell is still lively though; leathery, dark fruit, caramel / toffee / golden syrup, musty sherry / nutty notes (pretty slight oxidization, adds depth rather than detracting), savory back note. Flavor delivers. Bursts with plum / raisin / toffee sweetness, leather / smoke and a finish of slight soy that gives a balancing savory impression to keep it from going cloying. Thick without being too coating. Compellingly drinkable ... not so heavy you have to nurse it for days. Really a spectacular beer ... a subtle carboard note in the middle and the murky looks is all that keeps this from perfection of the style.

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Photo of mdaschaf
4.22/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage.

A: Pours an orange/red/ruby color with a small white head that has very little retention and no lacing. A little bit of sediment.

A: A little bit of alcohol right off the bat, some candied dark fruit - raisins and a bit of prunes, some white grapes. It almost has a liquor/sherry aroma to it.

T: Rather sweet, with some raisins, grape, caramel, and honey, there is almost a mead like character to this beer. Again, reminds me of sherry.

M: Rather syrupy, medium bodied, with low to medium carbonation. Extremely drinkable.

O: Quite good, a very nice sipper that was a perfect end to the evening. I can see why people like to sit on these, I can see this beer mellowing a bit over time, not that the alcohol was a problem on the flavor profile.

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Photo of smcolw
4.19/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1997 version of the Harvest Ale. This one pours a muddy, dark brown. Good initial head that dies to a ring of bubbles on the side of the glass. No permanent lace.

Very strong aromas of brown sugar, some raw bread and nearly burnt toffee.

Molasses is the first flavor I taste. This is a very sweet beer up front and in the swallow. Nice hop bitterness in the middle. The aftertaste has strong mocha notes. The alcohol is very strong--it doesn't dominate, but it certainly warms. The body is expectedly thick like heavy cream. Good strong carbonation to balance the body.

This is not a very "drinkable" beer, but it is an excellent single winter warmer for slow sipping. No one will ever accuse this beer of blandness. More than two of them, you might not taste anything.

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Photo of billab914
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

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Photo of mdfb79
4.05/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From 6/6/10 notes. Had on tap at Max's in Baltimore. 2006 vintage.

a - Pours an amber-golden color with light carb and a little biit of white head.

s - Ssmells of sweet sticky dark fruits, sugar, and wheat.

t - Tastes a bit syrupy, and also of sweet fruit and malts, sugar, and dark fruits.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Very smooth and very sweet.

d - A nice barleywine but very very sweet, If you like sweet fruity barelywines this is for you. Would like to try another vintage of this.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.65/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

The 1999 vintage ale, appearance: Ruby tone with a semi hazy coat on, cream head forms rather thin head leaves behind even layers of lacing nice. Aroma: Rich sugary sweetness with nutty toasted caramel malt character, extremely complex layer of hops East Kent Goldings according to the label very piney in nature. Taste: Sugary complex layers of malt and bitter hop finish seems very smooth for 11.5 abv but wow what a barleywine could be the most interesting one to cross my palate yet. Mouthfeel: Full bodied brew syrupy like texture nice and sticky wow even reserved carbonation butterscotch like. Drinkability: A special occasion once in awhile experience not a beer I would buy a case of but it's so damn tasty the one thing is the sugar sweetness can be a bit overbearing. All in all it's incredible I am wowed.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001.

Pours a foggy brown with a very thin creme head. Nose is very sugary sweet. Masked alcohol and caramel tones. Flavor is sweet as well. Lots of sugars. Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much complexity beyond that. It's sweet. It's slightly earthy. But it's still nice. Smooth liquid feel and a smooth lower carbonation as well. Very easy to drink. But oddly enough this still could use a good bit more time on it to even it out. You'd think after 7 years it'd be good to go, but I think at least another 2 or 3 (or more) would do it good.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2000.

A: The beer pours a reddish brown with a nice head and lingering lace. It appears to be going strong after ten years.

S: Sweet malt, raisins, alcohol, buttery toffee

T: A splendid example of English Barleywine. This beer is still sweet, but ten years has mellowed this beer out quite nicely. There is a buttery, caramel sweetness that could become cloying, but for now it's delicious. There is definitely an alcohol presence that I'm guessing will not go away regardless of how long the beer is aged.

M: Low carbonation, sweet, sticky, alcohol finish. Pleasant lingering aftertaste of caramels, dark fruit, toffee.

D: A small serving is plenty for me. If I'm in the mood for an English Barleywine, this is the first beer that comes to mind.

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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 stakem
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes taken 4/8/10

Vintage 1998

Poured into a goblet, it appears a very dark amber brown color with some redish hues. A finger of yellowish tan foam for a head appears quite silky in appearance and receeds to just a thin film across the top of the beer. Spotty amounts of lace cling all around the glass. Aroma of this beer opens up big and boozy like sherry but eventually gives way to notes of molasses, brown sugar, oak-like woodsyness and some raisins soaked in alcohol. Taste is an impressive display of how a beer can fight the ages. For nearly 12 years old this beer has really held it's own. A slight touch of oxidation is present but adds to the complex monster of malt characteristics. My mouth is on sensory overload with this beer. Flavors of oak and smoke showcase the toasty side of the malt profile whereas flavors of prunes and raisins balance out the sweeter side before the hops bring in the bitterness. Feel of this beer boarderlines being syrupy but still very smooth and lightly carbonated. The aftertaste includes some flavors similar to coffee, chocolate, spice like cinamon and toffee. Masterfully done, this is a must-try for anyone serious about barleywine.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

275 mL bottle poured into a CCB snifter. 2008 vintage.

Appearance - Pours with no head and no lacing. Sticky legs down the side, but not much else redeeming. Looks syrupy in the glass. Huge chunks of sediment come out of the bottom. Suspending in my maple-syrup looking beer. Kinda gross.

Smell - Oh wow. Raisiny goodness. Like a dense fruitcake. Definitely booze to it. Some caramel behind all of it, but it's all about the fruits.

Taste - And it's sweet as hell. Like a dense fruitcake. Deep raisin and dark fruit flavors. Quite a nice taste, but golly it's sweet.

Mouthfeel - Did I mention the sweetness? Thick and syrupy. Took me a really long time to finish this bottle. Low carbonation.

Overall - I can only hope some more years of aging will do this nicely. Maybe dry it out a bit. I love the flavors, but they get masked by the sugars.

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Photo of jwc215
3.96/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

275 ml bottle from 2003.

Pours mirky light brown with a small bubbly patch that eventually disappears. Some "floaties" present.

The smell is of strong caramel with vanilla, molasses and alcohol. Some underlying dried fruits are also present.

The taste is very sweet and alcoholic. The flavor is the same as the aroma, except that the caramel dominates, as does the sharp alcohol. Very malty, very sweet, quite boozy.

The body is full, becomes more syrupy as it progresses. Flavors hang on for a long time, as does the heat of the alcohol and the sticky sweetness.

This is a slow-sipper. It's well-made, no doubt, but just too sweet and sharp for me to enjoy as much as I would have liked to.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4.54/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2001
A few months back this bottle mysteriously appeared on the shelf and found its way home with me. Pours a muddy brown color with a minimal tan head that forms a ring on the top. This smells great! Sherry and toffee mixed with some brown sugar and a touch of alcohol to keep it from smelling too sweet. Caramel and dark dried fruit with a slightly earthy aroma round out the nose quite nicely. Taste is sweet up front with brown sugar and dark fruit coming in first. Hints of sherry and earthiness hit before the palette goes almost completely dry. Finish leaves a long lingering molasses prune sweetness that is offset nicely with a touch of alcohol. Big thick body with a surprisingly dry finish. Light level of bubbles, sweet almost syrupy mouthfeel. I am a sucker for an aged barleywine, and this one really impressed me, this is a beautifully aged beer. Now the regret sets in when I realize that I only bought one bottle.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The creamy tan head doesn't stay long in the glass, but the color beneath is a gorgeous deep, dark plum. Aroma is potent and vinous, giving off great reminiscences of port wine, sherry, cognac, even as it sits on the table, before I even bring it to my nose. On closer inspection, we get a full, thick, lush feel of black licorice, a profound winey flavor. Thick texture, like raisinbread, or plum pudding! A slow sippin' beer, with a slightly oily mouthfeel. At 11%, it's a whopper, but the alcohol sits behind the profound, commanding flavors, and only later does it slowly emerge.
Perfect thing to put in your hand and slide down the lips on cold-as-bejeezus days like things..
I was supremely satisfied with this one.
1997 vintage

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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.

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

Poured from the cask into a medium sized snifter at ChurchKey DC. Vintage 2010.

No head presented but filled to the brim nearly, giving off a dull dark slightly opaque red rust color, and maintaining just a faint tan collar. Shaking it up or bumping produces some more carbonation, giving a slight fizzy faint body.

Nose is stupidly butter rich and apple jam. But not of the diacetyl variety. Rich rum soaking spirits seem to come out in abundance. Smells fantastic.

Taste is just soft an luscious on the palate, bringing in that warm apple butter richness. Some faint licorice that is chewy on the aftertaste too.

Great drink right out of the cask just wonderful.

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Photo of BeerForMuscle
4.44/5  rDev +4.5%

Note - Having the 2011 version in November 2014, on tap at UNO in Hamilton NJ.

A - Unfiltered and hazy looking orangey glowing body.

S - Honey coated apricots, marmalade. Candied tropical fruit, light caramel and malt. Fruit jam.

T - Oak barrel aged fruit spread. Sweet, fruit meat and fruit skin, dry wood, farm honey, smooth silky booze. Booze soaked fruit, rum cake, hint of biscuit. I've named mostly sweet flavors but it's never at all cloying.

M - Soft, warming medium body with light carbonation.

O - Amazing. So far this one has trumped all other barley wines that I've had.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2007 - why let it age.

Beer poured into a snifter. Beer is dark yellow to brown and forms no head. Leaves very little lacing on the glass and carbonation is low. Beer is really hazy. I should have checked for sediment.

Sweet sweet caramel. This beer is really sweet smelling. Raisins and plums. Smells like a homebrew I made a while ago.

Beer is sweet with kind of an odd earthy flavor to it. I'm not really feeling this beer. Caramel note with some forward sweetness and no real bitterness. Beer finishes slightly dry. Drinkability not good. I don't think I'll be able to finish the whole thing. Maybe the aged versions are better or with another 10 years on it it will improve. Right now, not my favorite.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,485 ratings.
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