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

BA SCORE
94
outstanding
1,522 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
Ratings:
1,522
Reviews:
864
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
13.65%
 
 
Wants:
266
Gots:
225
For Trade:
14
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Ratings: 1,522 |  Reviews: 864
Photo of Firkin-Bunghole
5/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is the "beer" that both inspired my user name and converted me into the world of craft beer. Here's my story if anyone cares to read. Time to spread the Karma around.
Back in May 2009 an ignorant 33 year old man (ME) thought craft beer was buying Guinness, Harp & Heineken. His friend "the Enlightened One" told him of a Craft Beer Fest. Fortunately, the ignorant one was smart enough to purchase a ticket and despite his ignorance was allowed entry through the door.

During the week before, the ignorant one started to read Beer Advocate and learned this event would have a firkin of a 12 year old JW Lees (1999). The ignorance permeated my brain: Beer that is 12 years old would be bad. Only when I started to read the reviews of BA here did I start to understand my ignorance.

On the day of 10 tasting tickets were provided to sample and luckily for me the "Enlightened One" guided me and I went to the firkin first. At this time the epiphany happened. I had 3 samples from the Firkin and my eyes started to open to the amazing world of craft beer.

This beer was perfect in every way. From the hammering of the wooden firkin to the cask pour to the smell of dark fruits/caramelized sugars to the syrupy full mouthfeel without any unnecessary head or carbonation. My words can't even begin to describe the depth of my experience. Heck I'm not a writer and only starting to learn how to be a BeerAdvocate.

Lastly, I can't even begin to thank JW Lees enough. Maybe 1 person will read this or the other reviews here and pick up a bottle of this. This beer is special! At $9.99 bottle its bargain priced. If ever in my life a firkin comes near Albany, NY again I'll be there. Cheers to all.

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Photo of DaPan
5/5  rDev +17.6%

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

Photo of MudHobbit
5/5  rDev +17.6%

Photo of GrindFatherBob
5/5  rDev +17.6%

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

Photo of wburch1967
5/5  rDev +17.6%

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

Photo of twperman
4.99/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Photo of Dj1931
4.98/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

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

This is an amazing beer. Cloudy, rich orange-brown in appearance with an aroma of deep and smoky sweetness. Perhaps the best, cool-and-pearly-caramel-smooth mouthfeel of any beer I've ever had. Literally, a stunning beer -- you sip it, and stop, and regard it and your response to it, marveling that something this good can be had so relatively cheaply (over $8 a bottle in my city, but my God, who cares). If you have an affection for barleywines, this cannot be allowed to pass you by. To me, the alcohol was wonderfully hidden, and I could have sipped it for hours.

NOTE: 1998 Vintage.

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

Poured from a 9.6oz bottle into a Caracole tulip. Extra special thanks to Killer for giving this to me after laying it down for 10 years!

1997 Vintage

A: Pours a dark and opaque, burnt-orange highlighted brown with a tiny hint of a khaki-colored head which quickly disappears to a faint, swirly skim and unbreakable ring.

S: Huge aromas of tobacco, caramel, rum soaked raisins, plums, molassas, oak, chocolate, bourbon, and cherry. As it warms, a slightly boozy alcohol aroma emerges. It only adds another layer of complexity to this wonderful beer.

T: Sweet oaky caramel and tobacco hit my tongue right off the bat. After this I'm greeted by a rush of dark fruit, sherry, chocolate covered cherry, pear, tart apple, coconut, dark chocolate, and finally, spicy hops.

M: Smooth, slick, and oily, but not syrupy. Very sweet and coating with a spicy hop bite towards the finish.

D: Absolutely incredible! This a perfect example of a beer that's completely inoffensive to the palate yet hugely interesting and compelling. I loved the tobacco aroma and flavor. Once again, hats off to Killer. Thanks brother!

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

Vintage 2008

A-Pours an attractive hazy chestnut amber with a thin, bubbly creamy white head that reduces in a matter of moments, leaving a few soapy streaks of lacing.

S-Strong aromas of mulled cider dominate the nose. On closer inspection there's an unrefined brown sugar sweetness, along with the evocative aromas of freshly tilled dirt, fruitcake and blackstrap molasses. I've rarely ever smelled a barley wine as cohesive and beautifully composed as this.

T/M-The first sip washes over the tongue with stony, mineral rich flavors of dirt and molasses. A few swirls across the palate reveal more of this beer's remarkable complexity. Dried fruit and maple candy flavors intermingle with a delicate smokiness reminiscent of peated malt. Dense molasses sweetness runs from beginning to end, culminating in a thin, lingering finish that leaves you wanting more.

O-A unique and special barley wine worthy of revisiting on special occasions.

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

Re-review. Original posted below.

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into oversized snifter. 1999 Vingate.

A - Dark, molasses-like brown, almost completely opaque with the tiniest bit of light coming through. Large 2 finger, light tan head rises. Retention is moderate, moderate lacing as well. Good looking for a 10 year old brew.

S - Literally this stuff smells like a cross between a gingerbread and chocolate chip cookie. Lots of dark bread with massively sweet overtones. Bananas, vanilla, and almonds are all prevelant with moderate doses of brown sugar and spice. Slight sourish aroma of prunes/plums hiding in the background, but much lower levels of dark fruit aromas than expected.

T - Starts off like a scoop of ridiculously vanilla vanilla ice-cream. Brown sugar and bread hit next. Sweet dark bread covered with caramel; residual vanilla and hints of chocolate pull through. Slight nuttiness. Sweet bread leads into slight fruitiness, though indistinct. The beer dries out by about half late palate with low to moderate levels of oxidation and a slight bitterness. Finish is slightly peppery (from the masked alcohol I presume) with hints of cinnamon and wood.

M - Full-bodied and syrupy with just a touch of carbonation. Smooth as can be and the perfect vehicle for this liquid desert.

D - All around amazing stuff. What I found most interesting between this brew and the 2 year old beer I previously reviewed is the relative lack of dark fruit flavors. The dessert qualities of vanilla and brown sugar override the ciderish, apple, and overripe dark fruits found in the younger brew. Alcohol is also much more masked and mellowed in the senior beer, hence a total lack of rum/brandy flavors mentioned in the original review. All things said, I'm convinced the more age on this beer the better; at least up to 10 years because this is fantastic stuff.

---

Original Review from 06.23.08

Poured from a 9.3 oz bottle into oversized snifter; 2006 Vintage.

My first thought: wow, this is beer??!!

A - 4.0 - Murky brown with big chunks floating around. No head or lacing, expected with the ABV and the age.

S - 5.0 - Rich dark rum, somewhat brandy-like. Apple cider comes to mind as well with other over-ripe stone fruit. Cola and darker fruits make their way in as well. Wonderful.

T - 5.0 - Rum like flavors abound, with a very molasses/brown sugar sweetness. Vanilla and rotten apples work their way in mid palate and begin mingling with oak and charred wood. A subtle but obvious charred flavor wraps up the taste with huge residual sweetness. Very slight bitterness and a smokey BBQ flavor make for the long, sweet aftertaste. It's really hard to believe this came from barley.

M - 4.5 - Smooth, and rich, with only the tiniest suggestion of carbonation.

D - 4.5 - For such a huge beer, it drinks very well. I wouldn't pound these down in an evening with friends, but I could probably make it through quite a few just sipping it away. The alcohol is very well hidden, even moreso than a lot of average session beers. A delicious beer and something that should be experienced by all. To hell with the price tag though!

Overall: 4.7, A+

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

2001 Vintage

Poured dark mahogany into a Chimay glass. There is quite a bit of visible yeast and sediment, along with some visible carbonation. There is nearly no head at all, except for some very fine lacings.

This is simply one of the most aromatic brews that I've had the pleasure of enjoying. In fact, I can make out the delightful fragrance of this beer while the glass is still on the table before me. The heavenly scents include ridiculous amounts of sweet malt, honey, caramel, doughy yeast esters, raisin, grape, plum, clove and a spicy, alcohol bite.

If I have come close to tasting the nectar of the gods, it was while drinking this beer. All of the complexities of the aroma are noted in the smooth, divinely balanced flavor. You could easily lose yourself in the multitude of delicious tastes. Sweet malt, brown sugar, molasses, honey, caramel, vanilla, dark fruit esters, sweet raisin, tart cherry, clove, spices and some wood notes. The alcohol flavor is extremely well masked.

The viscous, light syrup consistency is balanced on the palate by just enough carbonation for a gratifying mouthfeel.

This is simply the most drinkable beer over ten percent alcohol that I've yet to imbibe.

This is by far my favorite barley wine and one of my favorite brews period. I've begun filling my cellar with as many bottles of this wondrous liquid that I can get my greedy hands on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had originally rated this when there was sorting for each vintage. I think it was a 1998 that produced this note:
sweet. Tawny port. Dates, figs, cola, caramel, raisins, rum, nutmeg...sweet. swirling, creamy head. port reduction. chewy currants. tangy taffey. scorched honey. custard. graham-cracker crust. bumble-bees. wax. tar. asphalt. rain. bird seed. wild rice. charred, sappy tree bark. charcoal. medium brown in color.
___

Today I opened a 1988 with the Neil Young Harvest Moon label with reca and Mike. A good hiss was heard upon uncapping the rusted cap. The pour produced a surprising amount of fizz, though no real mass of foam -- rather a spiral streak of tiny bubbles. Lots and lots of chunks.
Aromas of French processed prunes, blond tobacco, Madiera, ...ancient, profound.
The texture is light and transparent. It reaveals bitter sugars, stone fruits and cough medicine. The sweetness seems totally dissolved. No sense of fat, syrupy youth is here at all. Only transparencies of flavors: sweet, fresh and aged. It warms the tummy, as "e" pointed out. And that's a good thing.
I'm bumping up the drinkability 0.5 points.

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

A beautiful beer. At least the 1999 guy I had this year. I might get some more recent guys and save them for a while if I don't get too tempted.
The smell was almost like being in a alcohol candy shop.
The beer had so much toffee, cream, malt, a slight hint of chocolate and the best taste of barley I could imagine and so well blended.
It's sweet, so don't expect anything else. Drink it as a desert to finish a meal or as a night cap. Or a celebration beer at a picnic with kids playing soccer around you.

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

Polled some BA's on what I should review for my 200th review. J.W. Lees won a close race over several other stellar beers. It was suggested I do a vertical, but now is not the time. Instead, I will try one of my oldest vintages, a 1999.

1999 Vintage. Cracked open with a hiss. Good to know that it was sealed properly. After ten years, you never know. Served just above room temperature. Poured a small amount into a tulip, leaving most in the bottle. Pours a deep ruby, mahogany color. It looks mahogany-brown until you hold it into the light, which reveals it's ruby hues. A very small layer of foam is produced, but dissipates quickly to a small ring around the outside of the glass. A small column of carbonation is rising from the middle of the tulip. Another good sign, it's still carbonated. There is some nice lacing, but nothing excellent.

The first whiff I get is intense. I get dried dark fruit, sweet malts and liqueurs, pollen and toffee. This might be the sweetest smelling beer I've ever had the pleasure of smelling. I also get a slight vanilla scent that reminds me of Bourbon, but it's more of a liqueur than a Bourbon smell.

Liquid gold touches lips, dances on tough and opens eyes to entirely different world. I honestly didn't know a beer could taste like this. If this doesn't define complexity, than I don't know what does. The other night I had a GI BCS, and I thought that was the most complex beer I've ever had. J.W. Lees just left BCS in the dust, turned around and flicked it off. I get vanilla, toffee, sweet malts, dark fruits, liqueur and caramel. How could I forget about the caramel. So intense and sweet is the caramel aftertaste that it begs you to drink more. Did I forget to mention the alcohol? Oh, yes. Thats because it is non existent.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth. No carbonation bite, no hop bitterness. Just pure malt sweetness. Thick and creamy, it coats your mouth. No sign of the 11.5% ABV anywhere. Drinkability is perfect. I could imagine downing way to many of these. Dangerous drinkability.

I had my doubts. How well could a beer 10 years old hold up? Apparently better than I had ever imagined. I know of the benefits of a cellar, and how brews change, but I had no idea what it could do. I had a fresher bottle (2006 I believe) maybe 7 months ago, and I didn't like it. Granted, my palate has changed quite a bit, but I can definitely see how this has changed for the better.

Needless to say I am infinitely impressed. If this wasn't so damned expensive I would do verticals of this every single night! Couldn't have asked for a better brew to do my 200th review on!

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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 Wonka
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1st December 1997
275 ML
11.5% VOL
Best before end Nov 2002

Gentle puff of air at opening; pours to a dazzling array of carbonation in the body that literally vaporizes within moments

Appearance – carbonation quickly backs off to form an early ½ inch cream-colored head; it backs away to expose the opaque and dominant brown/slightly red body below; no lace, but that’s excused

Smell – the smell honestly does make my mouth water; molasses; caramel; toffee; prunes; raisins; I smell it and ponder the taste and smoothness

Taste – sweetness predominates but its certainly not too sweet; prunes and molasses that coat the top lip; a touch of bitterness closes; the alcohol is amazingly cloaked

Mouthfeel – so smooth with a light oily base and moderate body; there’s an elegant early burst of carbonation that clears the way for the army of flavor; the light tinge at the end is reminiscent of the aftertaste much after chewing a piece of Big Red bubble gum – there’s a very light cinnamon-like pop on the tongue; the smoothness has marathon quality

Drinkability – subtly warming; as drinkable as a barley wine gets; 8 years has created an impossibly smooth ale

This is what a beer experience should be.

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

Oh my. This is absolutely incredible. In fact, I have never before tasted its equal. I went into this not knowing what to expect. I will, however, most assuredly be purchasing more of this.
The pour was a slightly cloudy dark red amber colour with a bit of debris floating about. It had a sand coloured head about 15mm thick that remained for several minutes. It was beautiful. The smell was delicious, consisting of sweet grasses such as sugar cane, sorghum syrum, brown sugar, faint spices. Oh my, this just heavenly. The taste is much, much more of the same with sweet malts dominating. The decadent tastes wash gently over your tongue with each sip. Its mouthfeel is smooth and there is nothing about it I can find that needs adjusting. If I were to taste this blindly, I would guess it to be around 7,5% or so. Certainly not 11,5%. I am stunned by the inconceivable greatness of this ale. I will definately buy this again. A far, far cry different than its U.S. counterparts, which don't even come close to this.
*Note: This was the 2002 vintage. For some strange reason, the cap was exceptionally difficult to remove.

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

Poured with little to no head. Rich, dark amber in color. Smelled of figs and dates. Tastes of figs and dates. Flavor really matches the noise. Minimal carbonation with makes it very drinkable. Unbelievably long finish. The flavor just goes on and on. Feels like syrup in your mouth. Almost no heat from the alcohol. Just a fantastic beer. To equate this beer to wine; if the various styles of beer could be compared to the various varieties of wine, this beer would be port. Just a great after dinner drink

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

2002 vintage

Had a great odor of bread and raisins straight out of the 'fridge. After it warmed up a molasses-like volatility was evident.

A 3/8 inch, long-lasting beige head. Dark red-brown body was quite attractive.

Wonderful raisin bread taste, with a yeasty aftertaste. Very assertive flavor, meant to be savored.

Substantial mouth feel, giving some meaning to that old saw, "liquid bread". Left sticky feeling on the lips.

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Harvest Ale (Limited Edition) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,522 ratings.
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