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

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94
outstanding
846 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:
846
Ratings:
1,475
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
18.35%
 
 
Wants:
262
Gots:
221
For Trade:
14
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Reviews: 846 | Ratings: 1,475
Photo of mcallister
4.59/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Vintage 1998.

Pours a liquid mollasses/liquid caramel color. With a decent half inch head the dissipated very quickly and spotty lacing.

A terrific nose on this beer. Brown sugar, maple syrup, mollasses, caramel, cassis, and rich thick malt. With a syrupy mouthfeel. Tastes of maple syrup especially in the palate, brown sugar, honey, earthy flavors, big RS, candied pear, fig, raisin, and other candied fruit flavors, alcohol is very well hidden.

I love the mouthfeel and the finish does not end. Mouthwatering and really makes you want some more. Drinkability takes a slight hit mainly because of the high level of RS.

Bought this to see if I would like to buy a sample pack of 6 different vintages. I will definitely be getting the smaple pack. Great beer with much more aging potential. I see this only getting better over the next 15 years.

Very big and complex flavors.

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

Aroma is alcohol, caramel malt and a hint of strong wine. Rich amber in color with no head to get in the way of the beer. Fore is honey, caramel, molases and a hint of spice...but that may just be the alcohol tweaking my tastebuds. Rich fruits like fig and prunes come out in the finish. Palate is less syrupy than the versions they aged in different beverage casks and the caramel profile is less pronounced as well.

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

2001 Vintage....Now this is something you can really sink your teeth into. It pours an amber/orange with a nice tight head that quickly dissipates, leaving a light thin foam. Light traces along the glass reminded me of the wonderful nectar that had once been there. This is a thicker brew, nearly syrupy but missing nothing when it comes to palatability and taste. You want to linger over this brew. Savor it, don't quaf it. The taste has amazing complexity. Starting with a fruitiness and blending into an alcohol warmth and finally finishing with a sweet seduction. If this brew was a woman, she'd be certain to get you into serious trouble....but it would be well worth it.

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Photo of kmo1030
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 edition

mostly clear brown with a faint tan head. i couldn't coax much out of the bottle.
the aroma is made up of a lot of dry powery brown sugar, a big aged malt background, and a lot of interesting fruit. the fruit is mostly a soft pear like quality with some caramel/buttery notes and then some fig. cocoa powder comes out with warmth. a whisp of alcohol here and there.
the taste is brown sugar disolved in a pot of caramel, and then liberally drizzled over soft roasted pears and apples. some fig and faint soft unacidic cherry weave in and out. like in all previous incarnation of this beer i've had, there is a really pleasant sort of powdered cocoa aspect towards the back of the mouth.
full bodied and mildly carbonated. again, absolutely silky, and a pleasure to drink.
a real masterpiece. seek this beer out, no matter what vintage. one of the finest crafted beers i've had the opportunity to try.

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

2000 vintage poured into my Stone Old Guardian stemmed barleywine glass.

Pours a deep, dark cherry-wood color topped with a biscuit of light tan head; It leaves thin, reaching lines of lacing. Lots and lots of very excited bubbles are visible rising up to keep that thin head fed.

The scent is extremely strong - my first instinct is to credit the strength to alcohol, but further examination reveals that little to no alcohol is to be found. The strength is built on big, complex packages of scents - It smells like a bakery, like rye bread and hot oil cooking up doughnuts, honey-drizzled almonds - big, huge, mouth-watering scents.

Now this is just an unreal beer. It's an experience. I bsolutely couldn't beleive the flavors packed into this one! It's incredibly malty sweet, but balanced and complex to absolute perfection. For the first time ever in a review, I wish the scale went higher than five, because it's honestly like nothing I've ever sipped before. Describing the flavors is almost an excercise in futility, because they defy description. Fruity - fermented - nutty - oily - sugary - buttery - Waffles, banana pancakes with maple syrup and almonds, hazelnuts - Hazelnuts! That's a big one. Unbelievable.

The mouthfeel is many things at once. Crisp, oily - fluffy, zippy - with the tiniest warming of alcohol, the only place it's present in the drinking experience.

The more I drink this, the more I keep bumping up my review points. I think I'd better just shut up before I ramble myself off into space. I'm afraid to try other vintages of this beer now, because they might not live up to the 2000! An absolute must. The best. WOW.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.92/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle (2004 vintage – drank in 2006): Poured a deep amber color ale with a small off-white bubbly head with minimal retention. Aroma of sweet figs with some very sweet caramel malt. Noticeable trace of dry figs and raisins are discernable in the taste but the overall sweetness is personally just too much for my liking. Body is full but could be fuller. Would definitely improved with a lower level of sweetness.

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

2004 vintage. "Limited Edition"

Appearance- Pours a deep Chevy Caprice rust color with hints of seassoned curly fries. Lots of russet with a spalsh of amber.

Smell- The smell of a fruit garden with lots of attention paid to raisins, plums, and port sweetness.

Taste- Start to finish, sweet, sweet, sweet. This beer was perfect whilst enjoying a campfire and conversation with friends. The Sweet flavors of dark fruits like plums, prunes, candied apples, black cherries, and raisins for a little tartness.

Mouthfeel- The syrupy sweetness I find to be very distinct of all J.W. Lees barley wines. Lots of fruity flavors all over the palate. Very relaxing and a good way to end the evening.

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Photo of grub
4.92/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

(reviewing 1997 vintage)

pours a deep brown colour, with almost no head, that quickly fades into a thin film on the surface of the beer.

aroma is a bit of alcohol, some bubblegum, and a rich sweetness.

taste builds on the aroma. rich, like bittersweet chocolate with a bit of espresso. tastes of dried fruit, sort of like raisins. alcohol is almost non-existent in the flavour, which is good consider it's over 11%.

body is fairly big, which i'd expect. it balances out the alcohol well.

overall a very deep and complex beer. very tasty and definitely a must-try brew.

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Photo of ggaughan
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1988 Vintage. This bottle was compliments of Tom at Union Jack's on the Manatawny, what a treat. This beer poured a port like redish/brown color into a nice miniature brandy snifter with minimal head. The beer had an exceptional aroma similar to a brandy with that strong alcohol smell and some fruit notes, maybe figs or plums. I was a bit apprehensive that the taste would follow along with the brandy like smell but the taste was actually very enjoyable and not burning like a brandy would. The taste was a bit sweet with more plums notes but very enjoyable and complex.

This beer aged very well and would be worth trying again if I can get my hands on it again. What a treat. Thanks Tom!

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Photo of yelterdow
4.3/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

1997 Vintage.

Label says "best before Nov. 2002"... jeez, it's March '06! 250 ml. bottle. Let's see if this $5.99 was well spent or just thrown away.

Served in a grossly oversize brandy snifter at cellar temperature. Paired with Rogue Creamery's Smoky Blue Cheese. Mmmm.

Appearance- Pours a clear dark ruby, garnishing a one finger light tan head... damn impressive for a nine year old barleywine! Island-like lacing clings to the sides of the glass, as the weighty liquid mass beckons me to sip from its royal goodness.

Smell- Holy crap... nine years later, this beer is ready to unfurl. Huger than huge vanilla, old wood, sweet dark figs and dates drenched in aged port wine. Smooth with no alcohol burn in the nose whatsoever.

Taste- Instantly sweet on the tip of the tongue, displaying a gigantic malt character that showcases meat and molasses as the backbone... some vanilla and possibly oak barrels come forth and carry through the finish.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Almost syrupy in the mouth... smooth but thick and viscous. Carbonation levels are tuned down way low, letting the saturation of flavor flow abundantly. Heavy, yet easy drinking. What a fantastic nightcap, paired with a big blue cheese like this one... who needs dinner when you got this to wind down your day?

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Photo of TastyTaste
4.25/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1997 Vintage. 8 years old at time of sampling.

Appearance: Deep scarlet colored on the pour, 3/4" good retention, visible carbonation through the depths of the beer.

Smell: Sweet toffee, figs, raisins, and honey.

Taste: Very sweet, rich, with honey, lots of coffee, and chocolate, also slightly smokey. Rich, with many different flavors that nake this a complex beer. My only complaint is the intensely sweet taste.

Mouthfeel: Slick then sticky, good.

Drinkability: Very interesting, a unique and sippable English barleywine, not my favorite, but very good.

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

This beer was the 2000 vintage. The beer was poured into a wide mouthed wine goblet.

Appearance: The beer poured a very lovely ruby coppery coloration. The head was about a finger thick off honey coloration. The head quickly resolved into a ring of foam. Specks of lacing remained on the glass.

Smell: The beer smelled of fresh doughnuts very fruity and sweet. Honey nutty cloves swam in the smell. There is no trace of the alcohol in the smell.

Taste: This is just a wonderful beer drinking experience. The beer is way malty sweet; however, the beer doesnt even come close to being cloyingly oversweet. The beer taste bready with a malty wheat taste. THe beer taste of nutty honey combinations. There is not trace of the alcohol in the taste.

Mouthfeel: This beer is just simply the master of the palate. The beer is supper full bodied. The beer has a very silky buttery mouthfeel. If I did not know this beer was 11.5% I wouldnt be able to tell in the consumption.

Drinkability: This beer is a very dangerous drinking experience. It is the kind of beer that should be a savor and sip beer. I just couldnt keep my hands off of the beer. I am not a religious man in any since of the word. I think I know at last what a religious experience feels like. I dont believe in God but I believe in the Beer Gods.

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Photo of timtheenchanta
4.6/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2001

Orangish brown color with a slightly off white head. To my surprise, this beer has a thin lacing.

Raisins molasses and alcohol.

Lots of flavor in this one. Slight coffee with some honey. Lots of alcohol and raisins. Very rich flavor. Tons of carbonation and creamy smooth feel. An enjoyable beer. One that I would love to get my hands on again.

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Photo of Sephiroth
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled in 1988: Cap is quite rusty, the foil covering has seemingly melded with the bottle. Cap pops with no sound. Almost no carbonation, but the one I drank with a buddy three days ago actually had a half inch head, which quickly disappeared. Slight oxidation in the nose, maple syrup, molasses.

Again, slight oxidation in the taste. If you've ever had a more recent vintage, say 98 or more recently, you know how sweet this beer can be. That sweetness has dried out completely I think. I won't insult this beer by listing flavors, I'll just say that it is a great lesson in what age can do for this barleywine. Mouthfeel is silky smooth, lusciously thick. Drinkability is unquestionable.

When I had this a few days ago, it was hands down the best beer I've ever had. This bottle obviously didn't age quite as well, but hopefully my other two will have fared better.

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Photo of BillyB
3.85/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2002 Vintage in a 9.3 oz. bottle.

Pours a clear orange/copper color with a slight tan head. A little bit of sediment left in the bottle.

Very sweet dark fruit smell of plums, raisins, black cherry and a woody, port type smell.

Intense malt flavor with strong caramel sweetness. A bit dry after the swallow. Slightly bitter aftertaste and a very strong alcohol warming effect.

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Photo of Manosbeeroffate
1.4/5  rDev -67.1%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

1998 Vintage.

Ok, I'm gonna be the weirdo here. I don't like this. I don't know if it's a bad bottle or if it's because I don't like this style. Pours a dark brown, slight reddish tone. Smell is extremly sweet smell. Taste? Way beyond too sweet, like if I was drinking straight malt syrup with a bit of alcohol. Mouthfeel is syrupy. Drinkability is horrid. Spent $6.99 on a 9.6 oz. bottle so I was not going to drainpour, but I was damn close. It may just be me and I do understand if other people do like it but this was just horrible. It only looked nice and that was it.

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1997 vintage.

The color is a murky, syrupy reddish-hued brown. Somewhat aggressive pour still leaves just a trace layer of paper-thin tan head. Zero lacing on the glass. Aromas are loaded with port and sherry notes, swirling with dark and "estery" fruit notes. Modest tone of a leafy-grassy hop note as well. Flavor is wonderful. Loaded with sweet honey and caramel, sweet port notes, alcohol-soaked fruit flavor. Finish sees a kick of the port aftertaste, with a bit of bitterness from the hops. Thick, thick mouthfeel and so very easy to drink. Nothing out of whack at all. Simply superb.

Best by date of 11/2002. I scoffed. I must get more.

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Photo of Prufrock
3.89/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

9.3 oz. bottle, 2002, poured into a tulip.

clear orange amber with a thin layer of off-white head and a touch of dark sediment.

powerfully sweet smell. molasses, raisins, caramel, and sherry.

syrupy mouthfeel with a medium carbonation. sherry-like sweetness with a strong kick of alcohol in the aftertaste. vinous, malty and honey-sweet. very close to being cloying and overly sweet.

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Photo of silver0rlead
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

99 vintage: Pours a hazy copper color with a thin tan head (looks good for a 6 year old barleywine). The aroma leaps out of the glass, with a huge malt presence of molasses, dark fruits (plum, fig, blackberry, grape), toasted breadm, some floral and citrus hops, fruity esters and a not overwhelming alcohol. The flavor starts out with an intense molasses sweetness, followed by a big malt character, with notes of toasted bread, almonds, dark fruits (fig, plum, grape), some light citrusy hops, fruity esters, and ethanol. The mouthfeel is chewy and thick, with light carbonation and drinkability is good . A nice barleywine for sure, but a bit sweet for my taste (reminded me a bit of eku28).

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Photo of numenor1
3.57/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

'98 bottling

Pours a hazy opaque garnet hued brown. And even a modest head! Shocking for its gravity and age. Smell is malty sweetness incarnate. Molasses, honey, very slight roast, typical old beer smell and a very slight metallic hint. Taste is sweeett. Too sweet for my tastes. Incredible malt depth. Slight alcohol up front, then a wave of molasses, brown sugar, candied currants, dried prunes, and slight chocolate through the finish. Alcohol is unnoticeable..so long as sips are small. A very very very slow sipper. Syrupy. Overly cloying. Reminiscent of port, which is something I still haven't developed a taste for. Body is incredibly full with lush soft carbonation. A very slow sipper. I said it twice. Impressive, but still not what i want in a beer.

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

Brewed in 2004.

The beer poured into the chalice clear deep golden amber with a low and wispy off-white head that formed slowly and never grew.

The aroma was malty with an intense caramel and old ale characteristic of ruby port. The aroma was fruity and contained a sherry presence. The aroma was also strongly sweet like a freshly cut juicy apple.

The flavor was malty with a strong caramel sweetness and an intense caramel presence. The sweetness the attacked the palate at first swallow begins to dry as the beer lingers on the palate. The bittering, while in the background, was strong enough to lend a drying character to the beer.

The finish was even, oh heck, just a bit on the not dry side with lasting caramel and malt long and pleasantly into the aftertaste. The body was full and viscous. The alcohol was mainly present in the warming that occurred after consumption. A very nice beer, but could have used a bit more head retention.

9.3 ounce bottle.

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

2002 Vintage

Pours to a reddish-brown color with a thin off-white head that leaves spotty lacing. The aroma is semi-sweet, malty, toffee, molasass and honey. Very nice.

The flavor is malty, honey-like, with toffee and a bit of chocolate. It is a bit vinous as well. It is full bodied and smooth drinking for it strength. It has a nice creamy texture as well. A very nice brew. Thanks to Jimmy.

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Photo of luvND
4.9/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999

I have had this case for nearly a year now and only break one out on special occasions, have also given a few as gifts to those I deem worthy.

Bottle: Nice fallish label, 1999 gold embossed

Appearance: In a brandy snifter, it can only be described as perfect. Thick, small bubbled head. Swirls beautifully. Deep amber color.

Smell: Sweet, molasses, bready, licorice, candied raisons.

Taste: Beautiful. Sweet, black licorice, very reminiscent of a brandy or port.

Mouthfeel: So creamy and slick, flavors linger pleasantly and your tongue actually feels coated with the stuff for a few minutes after the swallow.

Drinkability: About one an hour I'd say to properly enjoy this through a range of temperatures, it really does change as it warms a bit.

Notes: It is not an exaduration to say that this is the BEST beer that I have ever tasted. I would love to try some of the other vintages as this is the only year that was available at the time.

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Photo of akorsak
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a 1998 vintage, purchased today from Wells Discount Liquors (n.b. they have an impressive selection of vintage JW Lees, 1998 through 2001 at least, as well as the 2004 vintage). I am drinking it from my Devil's Milk snifter, served cold.

Appearance: Dark ruby red in color, lighter colors emerge when held up to light. The ale poured with a decent head (1 finger's worth) that dissapated quickly and left no lace.

Smell: A veritable malt bomb here. The malt aroma make themselves abundantly known. I also see an undercurrent of licorice (albeit slight).

Taste: The ale is seven years old. In that time, the heady malt in the aroma has mellowed dramatically in the taste. Malt is still the predominant flavor, but it does not numb the mouth. Instead, it leaves a light refreshing taste in the mouth that is very well balanced.

Mouthfeel: Exquisite! The ale has aged so well that the alcohol does not overpower, nor do the malts used.

Drinkability: I need to make a return trip to Wells to purchase this vintage as well as those before (and after) that they stock. I'm gonna age a few of these up to 10+ years, they are that drinkable.

In my opinion, this is the standardbearer for vintage/cellared ales.

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

Vintage 1997:
This beer poured a deep ruby red, mostly clear, and was topped by a thin reddish brown head made up of extremely fine bubbles that produced tiny dots of lace throughout. It was intensely malty, with plum and raisin balancing sweet toffee and caramel, all very English in character. Hints of molasses and vanilla crept in as well. The first flavour that hit me was chocolate covered figs, followed by malty sweet toffee and caramel with some nuttiness. Tobacco, plum and raisin character all appeared, creating a very complex flavour. There was even a bit of bitterness left to balance the overall sweet flavour. The very low carbonation was incredibly fine and completely integrated into the body and texture, which was incredibly smooth. Just a bit of stickiness remained. Drinking this beer was an incredible experience. It felt incredibly light on the palate, almost like there was nothing there, and the flavours were amazing.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
94 out of 100 based on 846 ratings.
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