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

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Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)
BA SCORE
4.24/5
Exceptional
1,540 Ratings
Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)Harvest Ale (Limited Edition)
BEER INFO

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

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 12-18-2000

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#869
Reviews:
872
Ratings:
1,540
pDev:
13.68%
Bros Score:
4.6
 
 
Wants:
271
Gots:
226
Trade:
15
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Ratings: 1,540 |  Reviews: 872
Photo of RoyalT
4.65/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – Very thick and cloudy orange with a good head that left little pools of foam on top of the body.

Smell – This carries an aroma similar to a strong/old ale. There’s a malt base to it, but also a significant amount of white wine. The fruitiness is light and mellow, but the alcholol undertones indicate otherwise.

Taste – The sweet wine flavor comes out bigtime. This is more like a fine port or apertiff than a Barley Wine. There’s some huge orange and cherry in here. Not the cheap, candy syrup kind that you get with a lot of ales, but refined, high-quality flavors.

The alcohol is strong but mellow, if that makes any sense. A fine 20% port will go down like Courtney Love at a rock concert, and this one does the same.

Beyond that, the malt backbone comes through qutie nicely, reminding the drinker that this is indeed an ale and not a tawny Australian port. The woody character enhances the other sweets such as rich maple, honey, and pure cane sugar (loads of it). This is a fine ale for sure.

Mouthfeel – This full-bodied ale is extremely rich and chewy. It will actually get your jaws working and have you looking for a spoon.

Drinkability – Before or after dinner would be my suggestion. I had this after a nice Claim Jumper meal with leftover Halloween chocolate, and it was the perfect match.

Comments – This was the 2002 vintage, and I happened on it purely by chance. If you like a fine tawny port you’ll love this ale.

Update – 1997 Vintage: Much darker in color, actually a dark brown, with a deeper malt taste. The sweets are especially different. Here we have dark, overripe fruits with big maple and molasses. Less of a port and more like a strong, malty ale is how I’d describe it.

Probably a half a point higher at the nose since it is so much more blended. Definitely a good keeper at six years old (tasted 11/10/03).

Update – I was fortunate enough to participate in a rack of 2002 – 1998 over at weefishhead’s and here are some abrreviated notes.

2002 – Raisin juice w/hvy port flavors. Needs aging.
2001 – Fruits more complex & mellow but still needs aging.
2000 – Fruits & sugars lighten up & ABV pulls back. Can start to drink at this age (4 y/o).
1999 – Flavors are even & ready to drink (5 y/o), although sugars still dominate.
1998 – Malts now dominate; best drinker of the bunch (6 y/o). Same age as the ’97 I had (see above Update) in 2003.

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Photo of ManekiNeko
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served at the closest I could get to cellar temperature in a Trois Pistoles goblet.

Appearance: Dark ruby brown liquid, clear, with a short-lived khaki head. A small ring of foam remains at the edge of the glass throughout. The appearance of the bottled version is clear and redder than the casked version.

Smell: Sour molasses aroma with cherry, tawny port, and prune overtones. The fruity aromas are much more prominent in bottle than on cask and without the woodiness.

Taste: Tart, sugary-sweet caramel taste that gives way to intense fruit flavors of raisins, prunes, plums, and cherries. Lightly peppery. Again, the fruitiness is more prominent in bottle than on cask.

Mouthfeel: Precious little carbonation makes this oh-so thick in body, almost syrupy... but that's how barleywine be. Besides, it lets the intense flavors have their way with your taste buds. The flavors are ones that need time to process.

Drinkability: Too bad I only have 2 more bottles if this vintage. So glad there's plenty of 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 at the store. Until Thomas Hardy's hits the market again and is given time to age, I suspect this will be the exemplar barleywine to have.

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Photo of dedalus
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1997 vintage bottle.

nearly no head on a deep reddish, garnet colored brew. minimal lacing down the bulb of the snifter.

aromas of intensely concentrated malt and lots of alcohol. heavily sugared dates and raisins.

thick, syrupy mouthfeel. clingy and stringy.

massive flavors of sugared dates, raisins, sweet rum, and sugary cherries in their own syrup. no hop presence whatsoever, no balance at all. but then again, this is a traditional english barleywine, and balance would be inappropriate for the style. this is just pure, concentrated malt in all its glory, what i imagine straight malt wort would taste like. tons of alcohol bite in the finish, which is long and intensely sweet.

i had to conclude that i was just not man enough for this beer. with every sip i could feel the alcohol seeping into every cell of my body. by the time i finished the bottle i was ready for bed, completely glowing with alcohol warmth. luckily, bed was only a room away. this beer put me in my place, and quickly.

i wouldn't recommend this beer for anything but a very special occasion. as the glass becomes emptier, the malt sweetness goes far past cloying, and the beer approaches undrinkability. this one was six years old and probably could have standed about five more years of aging. it was smooth, but probably could have been much more so had i given it another half-decade to mellow out.

if you get a chance to try one, do so, but only if you're close to your bed, or if you have a designated driver, or a tolerance that would put gambrinus himself to shame. and if you're a hophead, dive behind the couch and hope this beer didn't see you.

cheers,

s.d.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.33/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2000 Limited Edition.
Poured into a slim bodied Lindeman's Lambic glass to create a head.
It pours an orange-tinged deep amber with a substantial beige head and solid strips of horizontal lace. A big upfront vintage port aroma along with fresh bread dough, hops, sweet malt, alcohol and mild woody notes comprise a complex array of sweet smells. A full and sweet caramel Maris Otter malt house an amazing variety of flavors. Rich toffee, butterscotch, prunes, coffee, candy sugar and honey. A mild lime-like bitterness and beautifully balanced warming alcohol add just the right amount of contrast to this exceptionally well-crafted brew. Add a touch of creamy sherry and you get the picture. Bring on the winter!

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Photo of mickeymac
4.67/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1998 vintage enjoyed at the October 2003 BA gathering at Lucky Baldwin's. The head was almost non-existent. What did appear on pouring disappeared almost immediately. What remains is sort of a swampy brown. Its appearance does not do justice to what follows. The smell is a wonderful mix of ripe fruit: raisins, dates, hints of cherry, and a nice molasses smell. Hops are barely detectable. The taste is reminiscent of a vintage port and provides the same warming experience found in a fine port. Although some alcohol smell and taste is present, it blends very well and doesn't hint at 11.5%. I'm glad I tried this one early in the evening before my taste buds were shot. It's truly a classic.

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Photo of rastaman
3.94/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 Vintage (quite young):Beautiful stuff. Really dessert wine-ish, lots of raisins and marmalade, with a long sweet finish. NOt cloying at all like i was expecting, really well balannced, and would really go well with some sort of sweet dessert, delicious. I'm looking forward to trying an older vintage.

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Photo of Cizauskas
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Ah! Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you...

J. W. Lees Harvest Ale: vintage 2001, rich, full-bodied, potent, racked into a wooden pin whose prior resident had been Lagavulin's peaty, salty whisky, and allowed to slumber since then.

All the longing, striving, seeking, waiting, yearning...

The folks at Sean Bolan's Pub in Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD purchased a wooden pin (5.4 gallon cask) of this elixir in 2002. They aged it undisturbed in their cellar for one year. They tapped it for us unworthy ruck last evening, Thursday, 6 March 2003.

The burning hopes, the joys and idle tears that fall!...

Here was a worthy successor to the late lamented Eldridge Pope Brewery's Thomas Hardy barley wine: a lusty 11.5% alcohol level yet still a beer, nearly still but with a whisper of spritzig, revealing itself with peel after peel of complexity.

In appearance, J. W. was burnished brown and copper, the age in wood having contributed several degrees of shade to that of the bottled version. No sparkler was used so the beer tumbled nearly headless from the wood. The carbonation was mere points over nil, but that seemed appropriate for quiet sipping and contemplation.

The aroma, in order of appearance: a quick whiff of pencil graphite, then waves of dark rum, raisins, dried plums, peat, sea air, Scotch whisky, vanilla, shortbread biscuits, malted milk candy, and the pungent aroma of a roaring fireplace. The body was all soft shoulders and dangerous curves, the aromas reappearing as flavors in teasing combinations, different with each sip.

Smokiness of the Lagavulin-soaked wood lounged blissfully in the finish, a counterweight to J.W.'s voluptuous maltiness and potency.

Sean Bolan's served the ale at a temperature of 55 or so degrees. One's afterglow was several degrees more ardent.

'Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all...

Early in the evening, a gentlemen walked into Sean Bolan's looking for a mainstream 'lite' beer. Failing that, he settled for a Sam Adams Light.
Looking around, he noticed several of us sniffing our goblets. "Why do you keep smelling your beer," he asked? "Try one," we suggested. He did. And Mikey, he liked it! "Never had anything like this before!" He grinned broadly as he drank the glass empty.

I believe that cask beer shines best for lower alcohol bitters and milds. J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale is a wonderful exception.

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Photo of bditty187
4.44/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997 Edition.

Hazed, pale burgundy hue, modest beige head that fades leisurely to a collar of soapy residue. No lace was produced. The nose is tremendously potent. Oh, the invitation is shouted… caramelized fruit (raisin, apples), spicy alcohol, toffee… and a host of other subtleties. The palate has plenty going on… its buttery and malty… alcohol, apples, and caramelized sugar dominates… very sweet (borderline cloying), the finish is toffee & dark fruit. The hops are noticeable in the aftertaste. Lovely palate, savor & sip! Low carbonation. Full body, it is so chewie I though I was drinking a wookiee. This is a pleasant drink, enjoyable to quaff. The abv is (obviously) noticeable and the effects are felt… you’ll want to lick your lips to savor it all… recommended.

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Photo of beerguy101
3.88/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2000 vintage. Medium brown color, small head. Very deep malt flavor, rich and robust, toffeeish. There is a nice hoppyness to this beer as well. Intense malts are balanced by a sharp, subtle and spicy hoppyness. Mouthfeel is very full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is malty. Interesting beer. High alcohol content 11.5% is evident, as a slightly oiliness, not much of an alcohol bite.

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Photo of scottum
4.85/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle of the 1997 vintage.

Pours out a hazy brown with a very small quick fading head. Wow! wow! wow! This is not an overrated brew. So damn good on so many levels. Huge malts are so complex. If only all six year old beers were to be this good! I wish I could drink this liquid gold every day. Certainly one of the best barleywines I've ever sampled. Gots to try me some other years.

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Photo of roguetester
4.77/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I recieved two bottles of the '99 vintage in a barleywine sample case.

I had never had it before, but when I poured the first bottle out, I new I was in for a treat...

A small amount of head formed in the glass, but this dissapeared rather quickly. For a beer that had been in the bottle for ~4 years I was surprised that almost no residue was left in the bottle.

The aroma was not unlike that of a fine brandy. Alcohol was quite obvious as were other deep aromas.

The taste was exceptional. Very rich in flavor. All sorts of complex notes going on. You know the alcohol was there, but it ducked in and out of the other flavors the whole time.

This stuff is wicked expensive. There are very few cases that are north of $100 that I'll even entertain. This is one of them. This is a brew that I'd be proud to share with people the same way some share a fine cognac. If you decide to try this, get your hads on a few bottles so that you can enjoy it over a few years.

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Photo of Indybeer
3.23/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Part of Vintage beer Tasting
Vintage 1998 & 1999. Both poured a deep dark amber, with a moderate head that didn't stick around very long, and left no lacing on the glass. Aroma is caramel malt and alcohol. Taste is thick, chewy, and very sweet. After a couple of minutes, I got really tired of it. I gave it a low drinkability score because it was like drinking a glass of syrup, laced with alcohol.

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Photo of ADR
4.64/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 edition...

Dark copper-tinted brown with shiny red highlights. Head is thinnish, vaguely yellow/tan and laces simple in a couple of rings. Big nose, alcohol, cask bourbon, sherry and woody musk. Whew. Rolling and coating mouthfeel, senses of of very sharp and hot nutmeg and a triple shot of fortified wine, diacetyl, and candied fruit (very candyish profile overall) in a solidly consistent statement. Less hop sizzle than most American Barleywines, lays back more like a Fuller's Vintage but with stronger fruit. Masterful finish -- some fruitcake with rum and a bit of unsurprisingly and not-that-subtle alcoholic heat. Great drinkability per style. Simply an outstanding example of a big beer and one well worth stocking in the closet for over a year.

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Photo of TheDM
1.78/5  rDev -58%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

This was a bottle Harvest ale 2001 sample. This brew poured a small head of fine to medium sized light brown bubbles that as it receded left very little lacing. Its body was a cloudy dark brown color. It has an aroma of cinnamon and spice with some fruity notes. It had a burnt taste that was awful. Yuck what a drain pour. Was this sample bad? Maybe I'll have to sample another one if I can brave myself to try it again.

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Photo of UncleJimbo
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled at The Moan and Dove in Amherst, MA. This was 1996 vintage, aged in a 100 year old wooden port wine barrel.

This ale poured a clear, golden amber color with no foam or carbonation apparent. The smell was wonderful: smooth caramel, figs, raisins, alcohol. The taste was moderately sweet malt with figs, raisin, molasses, alcohol and a hint of butter. A very complex and exquisite flavor. The mouthfeel was warming. It was light on the tongue but left a residual thick, sweet taste. The body was medium and the carbonation was nonexistent. This was an incredibly awesome barley wine, but due to the strength and fullness, I really cannot say that I want to drink many at one sitting.

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Photo of brakspear
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage.

Appearance is a brownish amber, no head to speak of, but I would not expect much of one for the style. The aroma contains an immediate blast of alcohol, followed by a malty caramel and toasted sweetness, little hop bite of smells. The taste....wow! Thick chewy sweetness, caramels, port or brandy qualities in finish...exceptional. This beer is deceptively easy to drink given the high alcohol content. Sublime joy in the glass.

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Photo of jcalabre
3.5/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1988 Vintage. Originally rated on 22 November 2002. I'm writing this review from my notes.
Poured a deep brown/red with a small head, that lasted quite a long time. Aroma was sweet with raisin and caramel.
The flavor was definitely sweet, perhaps a bit too sweet for me.

This beer is a bit different, but I could see why many like it. It's a must-try for any serious beer drinker.

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Photo of faernt
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I tried some of the 1980's vintages and was disappointed. This is 2000 and it's wonderful. It smells good from two feet away. It's huge! Al K Hall (we all know him) aroma is attractive. I get raisins and caramel ( again from two feet away) The mouthfeel is velvet. This is the nightcap beer! Stock up.

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

1989 Vintage.

After 13+ years of aging, almost all carbonation has gone. Pours a tea brown with no head and no bubbles rising from the beer - almost still, with only a slight tingling of the tongue disclosing any carbonation.

Aroma is sugary, over the top with maple syrup. Flavor is also sweet, almost candy-like. Maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar - the malt has surrendered and the hops are nowhere to be found. Borders on cloying, but holds back, just barely. The 11.5% alcohol is also surpisingly absent from the flavor profile (or was it the alcohol that caused my tongue to tingle, and not carbonation?).

The final pour of the last few oz. is a murky prune juice with a few sediment chunks. Bolstering my courage, I down this and find it to be a good finish to the beer, a bit softer than the rest.

I think this beer has reached the end of the road and wonder if further aging will be beneficial. If it gets any sweeter it will be undrinkable, but perhaps the malt has broken down as far as it will. I plan to hang on to another bottle and try it in a few years, just out of curiosity.

2000 Vintage, sampled 2004

In comparison with the 13 year old vintage, this relatively younger vintage is much brighter in carbonation and flavor profile. As with the older version, tons of sweet maple syrup, prunes, dates and overripe orchard fruit dominate the flavor profile. More hops are evident, not yet having faded away. The alcohol seems a bit more prominent. At 3-4 years old, this beer still seems a bit young, and would benefit from a couple of years of mellowing. Hmm - 13 years seemed a bit too long, 4 years not quite enough. I'll just have to keep sampling to determine the magic number.

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Photo of 86MonteSS
3.9/5  rDev -8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

1998 vintage. By the sip, not the gulp. Heavy molasses and heavy alcohol. Definitely a dessert drink. The taste is quite overwhelming. Drinkability is saved only by the sweetness. Flavorful, but I could probably drink a worldwide stout (23% abv) twice as fast. Thick, sweet, very alcoholic. Tastey, but it's kind of like putting a little too much sugar in the Kool Aid.

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Photo of Dogbrick
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

December 2001 Bottle (Sampled 5/1/03 - 4.15): Pours a dark copper color with a medium and dense beige head. Aroma is very sweet malt and caramel, and the alcohol is well masked. Full-bodied and chewy with flavors of caramel and rum, along with some malt. As with the aroma, you don't really get a sense of the alcohol level in the flavor. Finish is long and sweet (borderline cloying). $4 for a 9.6oz seems a little high but it was worth it.

1999 Bottle (Sampled 9/23/03 - 4.35): This vintage is a ruddy dark amber color with a medium beige head. Thin lacing. Aroma is very sweet, mostly caramel with some malt as well. The richness of body is similar to the 2001 vintage. Very rich and chewy. The flavor is very sweet caramel and malt along with some plum. Alcohol is well hidden. The finish is full and sweet. I am giving this vintage a slightly higher score.

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Photo of fattyre
4.27/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This was a 1997 vintage 275ml 9.6 fluid oz. bottle that was enjoyed on 10-9-02.
This beer pours a slightly hazy very slightly brownish red color with a smallish creamy brownish tan clingy head. The mouthfeel is resiny/oily. The smell is of port wine and RAISINS. The taste is plumlike, portlike , raisiny and alcohol with a mild hoppy finish. Portlike barleywine that is not for beginers-quite tasty.

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Photo of cokes
4.92/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1 December 1999.

A fuzzy ambered fluid underneath a pale yellow cap.
A nostril enlarging, mind boggling aroma of figs and pineapples, covered in butter toffee, carried within a supple leather basket. I'd like to pour this over my head just to savor the aroma for awhile.

The mouth is raided with candied figs looting tobacco stores. Mangoes toss earthy clumps of sod through the windows. Raisins and plums look on in awe. The Butter police arrives, sirens blaring. A sugary toffee ruffian flips the bird to the Pigs, and steals a leathery baseball mitt and a few bottles of white wine.
This is an immensely intense fracas, of which I only caught a snapshot.

Luxuriously ample and silken within the mouth. World class, without a doubt.
Smooth criminal.

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Photo of Bunnyhop
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 1997 (1st December 1997). A slightly hazy, very slightly brownish red Barley Wine with a smallish, creamy, brownish-tan, clingy head. The smell is nutty, oaky, and raisin-like. The smell continues when the alcohol kicks in, ironically reminding me of Worcestershire sauce. The taste is a mix of raisin and plum, along with an oakness. The sweetness remains on the back of my tongue, and a pepperiness lingers in the middle. The body is resiny and oily in my mouth. Overall, a very tasty Barley Wine, but not for the faint of heart.

(source: PremierGourmet; Buffalo, NY)

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Photo of Wildman
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1999 Bottling: This version has many of the same qualities I listed in the previous 2001 review. I do believe the alcohol presence is more apparent in both the aroma and the taste. A very good beer that obviously ages quite well, but definately a sipping beer.

2001 Bottling: I realize I may be reviewing this one too soon, but I couldn't wait. This beer poured a dark reddish amber color and formed a small off white head that left some circular lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. A heavy aroma of malt, caramel, raisins and other dark fruit. A slight hint of the alcohol is also present. A flavor of malt, caramel and raisins/plums with a slight vinous quality, but without leaning too much into wine or hard liquor as some others do. A slightly syrupy finish, but not enough to damage it, just push it into more of a sipping style, with at this alcohol level, it should be. Would make a fine after dinner beer and will no likely improve with age.

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Harvest Ale (Limited Edition) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
Beer rating: 4.24 out of 5 with 1,540 ratings