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

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BA SCORE
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 shleepy
3.75/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage:
Small head. A murky light brown color. Caramel, plum/prune in smell. Quite pleasant. Taste is completely different - extremely toasty, with a burnt sunflower seed kind of taste. Quite intense, all around.

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Photo of PDXAmbassador
4.81/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had a 2001 vintage in 2016, and it was unreal. Sweet, mellow, toasted malty, Madeira, caramel. Literally everything I had hoped and imagined an English Barleywine could be. We were blown away, and hadn't expected much for something that sits on shelves for years. But to our taste a far superior beer to BCBW and almost any other Barleywine I've tried.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.56/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle with the 2002 vintage. Sampled on July 31, 2016.,

The color is am mildly heady brown with red hues. Some cloudiness.

The aroma is more toasted malt forward than anything for a 14 year beer. Crackers, bread, and molasses too. Low to no hop profile.

The body is smooth and around medium.

Even though this is 14 years old it is Jolly British with cracker malts, low hops, and sweetness. This has not faded after so much time.

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

2008 vintage, opened June, 2016.

Look: Deep orangey-brown. Minimal amount of head, some bubbles around the edge. It somehow still manages to leave a hint of lacing around the glass. It looks like a good English-style barleywine. 4.0

Smell: Cloyingly sweet dark fruit, raisins, figs, toffee, candle wax, green tea. I give it a lot of credit for uniqueness. It has a lot going on. 4.0

Taste: Much smoother and less cloying than the Sherry cask Lees Harvest Ale I had yesterday. Toffee and orange peel. A little bit of cloves and all spice. 4.0

Feel: Minimal carbonation, but not flat. Smooth and soft. 4.0

Overall: Clearly a well-made and unique English barleywine. I think how much you like it is going to depend on much you like the Lees style in general. Each one I've had so far has this interesting flavor that's sort of a combination of orange marmalade and tobacco. I could see it being polarizing. 4.0

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Photo of tbeckett
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2002 Vintage I think I bought somewhere in the U.S.

Poured nearly black with lot's of sediment and a very loose head. Super rich aroma with date squares, sugar, molasses, dark fruits, and rye bread. Very sweet in the mouth with a flavour that resembles those old school molasses Haloween candies as well as licorice, leather, and tawny port. Viscous mouthfeel with very low carbonation.

This was pretty lovely and showed some flavours that suggest the ageing was spot on. A wonderful treat that cements this beer as a classic.

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Photo of thebigredone
3.66/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2008 vintage. Great sweet toffee and caramel upfront, but then a weird plasticy (perhaps slightly oxidized) taste dominates the back end. Wish the beer would have finished better.

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Photo of ClavisAurea
4.12/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage served at cellar Temps in a snifter

Appearance: wonderful bottle design although I think it's a bit small. Beer poured out a thin but dark caramel color with a small head. Some sediment in the bottle

Nose: caramel, toffee, raisins, prunes, dark fruits, port wine, no booz, classic English Barleywine

Taste: follows the nose. Fairly sweet but with a nice fruitiness like raisins, dried apricots, fruit cake, toffee, caramel, very smooth, some age showing, port wine

Overall: classic. Let's see how is does with time

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Photo of jrsaffert
3.97/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2004 vintage (12 years old)

Pours a murky brown with no head.
Aroma is very sweet. Toffee and dark fruit are dominant. Some sherry aromas also. Quite pleasant.
Taste is also very sweet. I think it has crossed over from sweet to cloying. Raisins and figs. Maybe some overripe cherries. Caramel and toffee.
Mouthfeel is interesting because it has zero carbonation. Slick and slightly syrupy but if call it medium-full body.

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

This bottle is marked as a 11-2012 cellar release.

Appearance: Light murky muddy brown with hints of orange. The head is very short and eggshell white which fades out instantly.

Aroma: Light sweet caramel aroma. No alcohol at all which is very impressive.

Taste: It has a fantastic array of flavors here. There is this sweet caramel flavor up front and then there is this light smokey woody flavor along with a fairly good amount of tobacco flavor. No alcohol at all. I really like the light char flavor that is in there. It adds an edge to the sweetness and cuts into the caramel.

Mouthfeel: It's very smooth and easy to drink with a slightly off-dry finish. Very drinkable, especially for 11.5% ABV.

Overall: it's a very decadent English Barleywine. I really enjoyed the flavors and the nice sweet flavor of the beer married with that rich earthy and toasty wood and tobacco flavor. I would recommend it.

On a side note I want to mention that the bottle is only 9.3oz/275mL which is disappointing. I didn't figure this into my rating of the beer but I wish they stuck with a standard bottle size.

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Photo of CoreyC
4.18/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage
A - very nice orange color with nice carbonation
S - subtle sweet
T - light sweetness with fruity flavor - maybe apricot?
M - nice, a bit light
O - very good, definitely not a s sweet as the as fresher cask aged versions I've had

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Photo of sjccmd
3.99/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage

Brown sugar, rum, cinnamon, raisin bread. No noticeable hop character. Sweet smelling. Graham cracker, caramel. Warm spicy alcohols. Sweet orange peel, clove, and cardamon. Rich and complex.

Pours a bit murky amber with a thin off-white head that recedes to a small ring and sticks around. A little bit of retention.

Rich and fruity upfront followed with fresh baked bread becoming more vinous towards the finish. Bready malts linger on the finish. Very long and evolving. Brown sugar and oranges. Spiced rum cake. Finishes drier than expected.

Medium heavy body, low carbonation. Somewhat chewy. Sweetness increases with warmth.

Complex but avoids being cloying. Bready and fruity. Impressively long finish.

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Photo of GregBarleycorn13
4.72/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage. Pours a murky mahogany brown with no head. As soon as you bring it to your nose you Know your in for an excellent beer. Taste reminds me of a port. So delicious. For me there was an aftertaste of a bitterness just like Campari. Never had that taste in a beer and enjoyed that , too.

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Photo of stevoj
3.71/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

2015 vintage on tap at Churchkey. Dark copper with small airy head. Malt with tons of brown sugar sweetness, maple, caramel, toffee. Sweetness distracts from the 11.5% ABV, which delivers some latent heat. Like a big alcoholic Sugar Daddy. (I love Sugar Daddies)

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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 Can_has_beer
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2001 Vintage, poured from the bottle into a rinsed glass tulip.

This poured dark brown with no head and a slight murky edge. Not bad looking at all, for a 15 yr old. The aroma is very complex. It is an amalgam of tobacco, toffee, honey and candied almonds. The prominent flavor is honey, lots of sweet honey tones. The mouthfeel is very appropriate, as its viscous and syrupy. Upon a few imbibes, the taste has quite a long finish that keeps radiating flavors of black tea leaves. It's surprising for how sweet the beer tastes, it is not cloying and I think it's because it's supported by those dark tea-like tannins.

This was very interesting. Its quite amazing when you get to drink a perfectly cellared vintage beer. This is definitely a dessert sipper, not a post-workout or shower beer. A nice splurge.

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Photo of chinchill
3.71/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Cask of 2015 vintage.
Sweet and near cloying but acceptable given style and ABV.
High abv is not hidden but the ale is not hot.
Complex aroma is better than the flavor which would probably benefit from some aging.

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

Mine's a 2013 vintage. I have three more bottles that I shall age.

A: Pours out nice and gloopy. Lovely clear bright amber with an off-white bubbly head.
S: Bready yeast and loads of rum. Cannot overstate how rummy it smells.
T: Yup, very rummy indeed. Very sweet, but not as sweet as the cherry/whisky cask aged versions I've tried. Gloopy and almost flat but has a very classy effervescence. Drinks like it's on cask. Very cough-syrup like. The mouthfeel is just perfect. Liquorice makes a late appearance.
O: It's taken a couple of years to hunt down one of these buggers but the wait was worth it.

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Photo of tbryan5
4.04/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

I thought this beer was very sweet and almost bordered on being a dessert beer. But yes, it is an excellent English barleywine that packs a ton of flavor in a small bottle.

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Photo of BIll_Currie
3.93/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

had a hard time finding this one. great smell when the cap came off. English barleywines are a bit different that us barelywines in my opinion. takes a little getting used to. great taste. also found some barrel aged versions.

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Photo of dleigh
3.23/5  rDev -24%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dirty brown red-ish tea color. Fizzy carbonation that quite quickly fades to nothing. Quite nice smell--lots of toffee. Tastes sweet but with an kind of off grassiness to it. Maybe it's me, but I don't love it. Swing and a miss.

This is like a steak that's been aged too long--I want to like it, and I feel like I should like it, but maybe the flavor is just too "challenging" for me. But, on the premise that a beer is supposed to be enjoyable rather than challenging, I am forced to give the taste a (relatively) low rating.

Bottle of the 2012.

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Photo of CaptFrothy
4.6/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sublime, a 2004 vintage that cost me $15 and was worth every penny. Toffee, biscuits, burnt brown sugar, just a spectacular fireworks on the taste buds.

Pulled out a Goose island BBCS with 3 years on it for comparison, the JW lees is just in another class, although sweeter, I can't imagine anything that can measure, a beaut of a tipple, every sip a lip smacking wonder.

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Photo of ajm5108
4.66/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a rich toffee amber with good foam. Lots of fruity esters on the nose, raisin bread, honey and peat. Very enticing. It has a creamy, sticky mouthfeel like caramel, very smooth. Starts out very boozey, almost abrasively so, but opens up fantastically. Started at slighlty below room temp but it's a whole different beast once it sits for 15 minutes or so. Toffee-covered nuts, butter, & butterscotch, vanilla from the oak, a faint hint of peat & caramel malt, rum raisin, sherry Decadent. Lots of flavors battling it out but it works wonderfully.

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Photo of Sti555
3.53/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

2011 vintage consumed 2015. Smells fantastic. Tastes cloyingly sweet, spiced, looks like a glass of apple cider. Not for me. Couldn't finish last third after nursing it a while. Kind of a shame, I wanted to like it.

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Photo of Qbdoo
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Beautiful reddish orange with absolutely no head. Extremely sticky in texture. Scent is fruity, with a bit of citrus and lots of sweet dark fruit and caramel. Taste is similar but there's more of an earthy quality and a slight spicy bite.

Wow! I tried this about 20 years ago when I was first dabbling in craft beer. I remember liking it but not being overpowered by it. I wondered how I'd feel about it. I loved it on first sip and it only got better and better as it warmed.

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

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

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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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