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

BA SCORE
94
outstanding
1,523 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:
1,523
Reviews:
864
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
13.65%
 
 
Wants:
268
Gots:
225
For Trade:
14
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Ratings: 1,523 |  Reviews: 864
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 metter98
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: It poured dark reddish brown with no head or evidence of carbonation in rising bubbles. There are lots of visible yeast particles floating near the bottom.
S: There is an intense aroma of raisins, caramel, sugars and boozy liqueur in the nose.
T: The taste has lots of very rich flavors similar to the aroma, although not quite as prominent, and is reminiscent of brandy. There is a moderate amount of sweetness.
M: It feels full-bodied on the palate, extremely smooth, somewhat sticky and very boozy.
D: This is a perfect beer for a nightcap, especially if it is aged. Alcohol is definitely evident, yet it is relatively well hidden for the strength.

Note: 1988 vintage (aged 22 years)

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Photo of Brent
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
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 FtownThrowDown
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001 Vintage
Pours a ruby brown in color with absolutely no head to be found. Some sediment "chunkies" floating in the beer. Smell is dark fruits, figs, very port-like. Taste is very much the same. Very smooth and creamy. Some leather tannins coming through as well. This is over seven years old and has aged gracefully. Have some more left, so I'll check back with those at a later point.

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

Bottled 1st December 1998

Pours a mahogany color witha medium sized tan head that falls to ringed bubbles and leaves some lace behind.

Aroma is big fruity malt prunes, raisins, plums, and brown sugar/molasses some earthy spicey yeast also.

Taste is sweet fruity some carbonation felt in the begining fruity malt is tasted thru out very nice very smooth hardly any alcohol noticed in this brew. Some very light hops tingle the tounge towards the end, or it could be spicey yeasts, but thats it. This beer is very smooth very tasty hard to believe its going on 7 years old, this Dec.

Mouthfeel is big nice full smooth easy to drink, more a pleasure to drink really.

Drinkability is well wonderful comes to mind wish I had a few more to save but do have 2 1999's and a 2004 which I might try to see what its like fresh. But don't you wait to try it, buy this if you see it. Only complaint I have is its only 9.6oz instead of 12.

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

2002 Vintage

First JW Lees Harvest Ale, with just over 7 years in the bottle.

Nice pop of carbonation from this well aged bottle, poured into a Brooklyn brewery Snifter. Deep amber to reddish brown hues. No head forms whatsoever.

Aromas are incredibly rich maple, honey, faint woody oak like characteristics, but not at all like beer aged in oak, think more of when you cut wood. There are no hops left in this beer, it is all malt. Very reminiscent of port wine character. Faint alcohol, well masked in the nose.

The flavor profile is equally rich, very nuanced with layers of maple, vanilla, faint hints of tobacco. Again very similar to quality ports with an obvious differenc being the lack of grape characteristic. But very similar sweetness and texture.

The mouthfeel is full bodied, with very faint carbonation and absolutely a bare minimum remaingin bitterness which is slightly detectable before a bit, very small bit of dryign from the alcohol. The latter is beyond well masked at this point. Very sweet from start to finish.

A beer worth gathering vintages, cellaring and sampling over the years. Drinkable but it is a night cap, not a beer that is going to mix in with a night of others by any stretch.

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

Vintage year: 1999

A- Thick, dark amber body with minimal cream color head and almost no lacing

S- Malt and apples, like if you were home brewing & baking a pie at the same time.

T- Molassas right up front with malt, dates & apples. Slight booze finish.

M- Thick & syrupy. This one coats the mouth and each sip stays with you for a while.

D- Nice & slow. It may not be a big bottle, but its still a good one to share. Pleased to have more in the cellar.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pretty stunning - first time having this - very interested now to try some other vintages. Delighted to find this, unadvertised, by chance, on cask at a Shelton Bros event. 2009 vintage.

Served in a small wine glass - half serving. Chill haze adds cloudy tan highlights to the eventual weathered (less hazy) mahogany color that emerges. Visual carbonation is absent. A still liqueur stance, though lacking legs.

Stale, oxidized worty aromas (which could be a wooden cask derived element, really) prove not, to me, flaws when put up against some of the most wonderfully complex, deep, rich, dried/dark fruit essences I've experienced. I mean, you could present a believable argument that they mashed as much if not more pulpy, stringy dried fruit as malt to come up with this. But I know better. I suppose it falls short of perfection due to the balance of those old, stale smells snuffing out some of the technicolor potential of the dark fruity malt...

Absolutely floored at how stealthily the alcohol slinks into the depths below its thankfully not-anywhere-near-somewhat-sweet, stewy-fruity malt, 5/7ths thick-bodied lusciousness. Port can't help coming to mind, but it's not quite...

This drinks like something that's been sitting around - the dregs, the leavings, a fortunate hodgepodge - very pleased. It's inspiring. I'll say again that I'm super curious to see what older versions offer.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

275ml bottle into AVBC snifter. 2001 vintage.

A: Pours a very dark mahogany red with a thin, eighth-inch light tan head that quickly faded into a collar. No lacing.
S: Big notes of oatmeal-raisin cookies, sweet almost syrupy raisins, honey, vanilla, caramel, orange peel, fermented dark fruits, cinnamon, and a hint of soy sauce.
T: Syrupy sweet and very rich almost meaty flavors. I get big dominate notes of sweet raisins, caramel, brown sugar and honey. The flavors remind me of kettle corn or some kind of sugary meat glaze. The finish contains notes of orange peel, tobacco, barbeque, and candied brown sugar. The flavor coats your mouth and the aftertaste definitely lingers for a while. There is an alcohol presence at the end of the swallow, but it is only slight warm and is non-intrusive.
M: Thick bodied with a heavy, syrupy mouthfeel. Carbonation is low but I find it perfect. Extremely smooth.
O: Wonderful brew that is definitely meant to be sat on for years and years. Most barleywines would not be be this drinkable after 10 years. This is definitely quality.

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

This is a 1999 vintage, bought and drank on the same day (today). With a medium chestnut brown body this beer looks perty darn good. The semi-soapy head does have some density to it, yet it vanishes in a couple minutes never to return. No colar lacing or anything. Too bad...but still the taste is great. A bit of an alcohol nose on it. Caramel and toffee.
A nice calm caramel sweetness surrounds the malt in the taste. Some mocha and faint vanilla as well. Rich, but not thick. I get a hint of smokiness on the end, with a peppering of spices. This is a darn fine beer. At $10 a bottle it's a good beer to enjoy over a celebration or special occasion. Which is what I did.

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

Bottle, poured into a snifter

I had the 1998 and 1999 side by side. They were practically identical, with the 1998 being a little bolder.

The body sits a rather clear, mahogany color, with some darker brown in the depths of the glass. No head or lacing, just a thin collar of white foam around the edges.

Broad and deep nose. Sherry, lemon, honey, cabernet, sweet toffee, cocoa powder, and a huge layer of booze. Crazy levels of complexity.

Sweet, and not as boozy as the nose let on. I kept coming back to describing this as similar to a Luden's Golden Honey cough drop dipped in sherry, and then mixed with cocoa and toffee.

The feel was syrupy, lending even more credence to the cough syrup/drop comparison. Full, rich body and flavors. The finish is sweet and boozy, but no real warming getting in the way.

These were two of the most complex beers I have come across. Equally delicious, with the 1998 edging the 1999 by a thin margin. Smooth, complex, rich, sweet....simply incredible. Seek out the older vintages.

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Photo of sholland119
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage, reviewed July 2008

A-Pours a clear deep amber color with honey brown highlights. Nice lacing.

S-Sweet dark fruits, toffee and caramel. Hint of alcohol but not overwhelming. Wonderful.

T-Following the nose, a creamy caramel, maple and raisin taste with a moderate alcohol warmth in the finish. Very complex and delicious.

M-Rather thick and syrupy, in a good way.

D-Very nice, but I rarely want more than one barleywine.

An excellent beer, holding up very well at 9 years.

HV

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

Sampled various vintages at a Julio's weekly tasting.

A - They all poured nice copper hues with various amounts of head. Considering the ABV this was quite impressive that even after years there was still SOMETHING there.

S - Each one smelled delicious. Good carmelly malts and various amounts of dark fruits. There was some nice alcohol on the nose.

T - Excellent flavours throughout. More sweet, tasty malts (carmel, toffee). There were more nice dark fruits (especially figs) along with a slight alcohol finish.

M - Surprisingly smooth mouthfeel. Not too thin, not too syruppy.

O - Overall I really enjoyed this beer. It is a bit out of my price range, but very glad I got to try it.

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Photo of pjs234
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage. Poured into my DFH Signature glass. The beer is a very murky brownish/red color. There was little to no head, but there was a fair amount of sediment suspended virtually motionless in the glass. The smell is good and very sweet, with an overall molasses aroma with hints of raisins, toffee and caramel.

The taste is very sweet. The molasses flavors are very noticeable. There is also a slight bitterness. Hard to place the exact flavor, but it keeps it from being way too sweet. Honestly, this is a real nice barleywine, it is almost like a very nice dessert wine. Please let this one warm up before your first sip. When a little too cold, there is a very odd flavor to it, almost a cardboard taste. This goes away as the beer warms. Also, regardless of temp, there is no hint of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is good, although the carbonation is almost gone. I guess this is to be expected with a 5 year old barelywine.

Overall, this is very good. I am glad i tried it. From a personal standpoint, I think I prefer fresh barelywines, as I like the alcohol bite of them. Also, I would love to try this one fresh, just to see how it changed over the past five years.

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

2007 vintage.
Pour is a light honey brown with a foamy white head that build quickly but gradually disappears as it warms. Aroma is distinctly a British barley wine, somewhat boozy, but very malty with some grapefruit and a touch of bourbon and whiskey giving it a sharp edge. Almost cloying in its sweetness. Taste is surprisingly sweet, honey is very distinct, syrupy; lots of butter rum and brandy with a distinct alcohol warming; a very big brew, but very drinkable for a sipper of this strength. Bitter aftertaste is noticeable at the very end keeping this brew from being too sweet.

A very unique brew not to be missed, though I would like it to be a little less sweet.

2008 vintage
Appearance is same as the 2007 except a billowy white head resembling an IPA is constant throughout. Aroma has a lot more sweetness to it, like bourbon-soaked bread dipped in brown sugar. This version has less bitterness at the end as the sweetness is front, center and all other directions. A sipper to be sure, but the cloying sweetness makes this a little too big. I have a 2001 stashed away and am hoping this brew gets better over time.

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

1999 edition 275mL bottle into a DFH Signature glass pours a crisp deep copper almost brown with a thin light tan head that diminishes to a ring. Aroma is very sweet and almost Sherry-like with some noticeable booze. The taste is a very sweet blend of ripe fruits and syrupy caramel, this has a load of complexity that reminds me of some of the best Belgian quads that I've had. This beer is certainly a sipper, very sweet with a decent amount of booze but not enough to be overbearing. This is certainly a great beer for any special occasion.

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Photo of captaincoffee
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Doing three reviews on the 2015, 2011, and 2008 vintages over the next three days, and I'll be updating my scores with each.

Starting with the 2015, it pours a very pretty mahogany with a dense half-inch head, tiny packed bubbles, and ultimately leaves a ring around the beer glass but only spotting lacing. Nose is boozy, rich malt, and some earthiness from the EKG that makes it past the malt overtones. Not very complex, but this vintage is very young (just released last month). Taste is sweet, malty, boozy. A bit more bitterness on the finish than anticipated helps it from being too cloying. Brown bread and honey. Mouthfeel is full and thick...about what you'd expect from an 11.5% barleywine, but the higher-than-expected carbonation also helps keep it from being cloying. Overall, a good beer that should improve with time. Fingers crossed on the next one. Look 4.25, Smell 3.75, Taste 4, Feel 4.25, Overall 4. Total 3.98 at this point.

Next is the 2011. The appearance seems lighter in color with some orange. In fact, the JW Lees website notes the 2015 is darker than most previous years. The nose is still malty and earthy, but less boozy. I'm not going to change my scores for either of these categories. The taste has evolved, however. Richer caramelized sugars. Still lots of brown bread and honey. Worth an extra .25 in my opinion in both the taste and overall scores. Look 4.25, Smell 3.75, Taste 4.25, Feel 4.25, Overall 4.25. Total 4.13 at this point.

Finally, the 2008. Pour is darker again, more like the 2015, but there is very little head anymore. Some bits of stuff in the bottom. Nose has really changed; it is very raisin/prune and sweet. Taste is also like liquid raisins. Port/sherry comparisons now obvious. Worth an extra .5 on the nose and .25 taste, with a minus .5 on look. If this beer was a little less over-the-top sweet, I could give even higher scores. Look 3.75, Smell 4.25, Taste 4.5, Feel 4.25, Overall 4.25. Total 4.32.

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

1997 into a snifter at cellar temperature.

Dark brown with a light tan head. Dissipates to just a 1cm ring around the edge of the glass.

Immediately the aroma fills the air: raisins and prunes everywhere. Like a wonderful sweet port.

The flavor is much less ripe fruity and more overripe fruity: old prunes. Extreme complexity here - the fruit is very good. Caramel, some smokiness almost. A little mineral in the burp. Still pretty hot. Just a touch of bitterness to round out the flavor. Super sweet, very rich, deep flavor. You can tell this one is more than 10 years old.

The mouthfeel is very smooth. A very small amount of carbonation remaining.

This is a dessert sipper. Drinkable, but not one you'd drink too much of.

Very good overall.

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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 jeffdr123
4.32/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Fascinating. As complex as it gets. Sweet fruit, malt, and the right amount of bitter after taste. Warm going down, like Scotch. Sip by sip at the Hay Merchant in Houston.

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Photo of mondegreen
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1999 Vintage into a Samichlaus Tulip.

A: Deep copper with ruby hues. Even after 11 years, this beer puts up a thick 1 finger head. It recedes after a minute leaving a ring of foam around the glass. No lacing.

S: Dense sweet malts. The layers of sweet malt are enticing and complex. This beer isn't a one trick pony.

T: Much like the nose, there is a deep sweetness. There is nothing fake or artificial about this brew. The sweetness grows into a slighty spicy aftertaste, making this the epitome of English Barleywines.

M: Very thick, borderline creamy. The heaviness helps to carry the complex sweet character of the beer. Superb.

D: Again, the epitome of an English Barleywine. After 11 years, this beer begs to be sipped and explored for hours on end. Thourghly impressive.

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Photo of CanuckRover
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a murky brown. It's not pretty, but it's on style, so can't be too hard on it. Thin film, showing some carbonation, which is promising.

Sweet nose. Aroma of apple pie, honey.

As expected from the nose. Calvados flavours, dates, and just a bit of spice, cinnamon-like. Slightly woody. Alcohol is nowhere to be seen, just a tingle in the finish.

A classic for a reason.

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Photo of beerogre
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2001 Vintage sampled Nov 2006.

Another very special sipping beer, which I purchased along with a Thomas Hardy Ale last weekend. Visually both are really quite ghastly, in my opinion!

For me, this had the beating of the Thomas Hardy. Both were excellent little treats, but the Harvest Ale just seemed to have that extra touch of class, which is the difference between finishing in the last 8 of the World Cup like England, or going all the way to the final like Italy or France. Sad but true!

Again, not too hard to believe if someone offered you a glass and told you it was a sherry and when I offered my wife a taste, (as I often do when I believe I'm sampling an exceptional beer) she was reluctant to return it and wanted to down the whole thing. That's usually the sign of a really good beer, as she's normally content with just a little sip.

A rare treat, and worth sampling as a one off, but I'll take my value for money Ommegangs anyday thank you very much.

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Photo of emyers
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2002 edition poured into Founders snifter.

Appearance: pours a deep amber-brown with a thin off-white lacing.

Smell: a potent bouquet of raisin covered in molasses. Tons of caramel malt. Maybe a bit of vanilla, but the raisin-molasses thing really overpowers everything else. Very, very potent aroma.

Taste: just as the nose advertised. Tons of raisin with quite a bit of caramel, mocha, just a touch of oak. Very, very sweet. Extreme richness and depth of flavor.

Mouthfeel: thick, sweet, fairly low carbonation barely keeps it from getting unpleasantly syrupy.

Overall: this is a slow sipping beer in its most pure form. The sweetness can get overbearing in a hurry if you drink this too quickly, but damn it has a lot of flavor.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.33/5  rDev +1.9%
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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Harvest Ale (Limited Edition) from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,523 ratings.
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