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

BA SCORE
94
outstanding
860 Reviews
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest AleJ.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale
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
Reviews:
860
Ratings:
1,510
Avg:
4.25
pDev:
13.88%
 
 
Wants:
265
Gots:
226
For Trade:
14
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User Reviews
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Reviews: 860 | Ratings: 1,510
Photo of Dizzy
4.52/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2000 bottle

A-Pours a slightly hazy brown. Ring of foam. I'm surprised I don't see any chunks floating in it.

S-Dark fruits, carmel and alcohol is noticeable.

T-Complex taste matching aroma. The dark fruits and carmel flavors are there, a little bitter in the finish. I'm pleasantly surprised that I don't notice oxidation.

M- Very thick, full bodied. Light carbonation left.

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Photo of bigone4
4.35/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2004 vintage offered up from a friend. This is a great tasting Barley wine. Very different in its flavor compared to most I have had. Many do not have the same protruding sweetness. Poured a amber brownish hue with a thin off-white head. Subtle lace not much left behind in the glass. Smells of sweetness and malt. Almost like a grade A amber maple syrup. Tastes like maple butter. Smooth, sweet and creamy in the mouth. It really did remind me of maple sugar candy. Very easy to drink and it certainly packed a punch. This is a great barley wine that stands up to aging extremely well. I was quite glad to be given a chance to sample such a delectable treat. Thanks Steve!

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Photo of hombrepalo
3.3/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Tried many vintages a few up to 15 years aged. Nice mahogany color with beige head. Smells of toffee and malts. Taste is silky toffee and caramel. Finish thin and sweet.

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Photo of vince4953529
4.17/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750 cc bottle bought from Vendome Wines here in S. Cali4nya, 2011 vintage.

Poured orange golden with healthy carbonation. Taste is sweet with a strong brown sugar undertone. It's malty, good dense mouthfeel without being overbearing. A very slow-sipping for sure.
Overall it is a great-tasting brew. I finished the whole 750 cc by myself in 2 hours but it's really a dessert beer. A finely crafted English barleywine and despite its intimidating 11.5% abv it's comparable easy to drink.

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Photo of mikeys01
4.42/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had the privilege to drink some cask '96 J.W. Lees Harvest this weekend at the Moan & Dove in Amherst, MA. Poured directly from the cask, there is no visible head or carbonation, it's a serious cask barleywine. Color is a gemlike clear mahogany, and it appears to be fairly thick from the way it clings to the glass. Aroma is a mixture of whiskey and brandy and a little bit of sweet vanilla. Mouthfeel is fairly thick, without being syrupy however. My cask Lees was served appropriately at room temperature, which allowed the flavors to fully blossom immediately upon sipping. Taste is very oakey and reminiscent of a fine brandy at first, then is rounded out with ample sweetness and notes of coffee in the finish. Alcohol presence is certainly noticeable in the before, during, and after sipping, but it does not overcome any of the complex flavor and the Lees is actually quite smooth. A rare treat to say the least....

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Photo of Vierenner
4.11/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2000 Vintage, poured into a snifter
A: beautiful copper color, foam sustained around edges
S: strong, sweet smell, like golden raiisans
T; quite un-beer like
M: smooth
D: too swet for more than a glass
The bottle says "Ale" but it's significantly different from any other ale I've had.

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Photo of mattmaples
4.76/5  rDev +12%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1998. OK, I love this just as much as the 97. Both are great beers. I was fortunate enough to have this beer on tap this summer and baby was it good.

1997. EEEXcelent! I like Todds rum rasin comment, malty smooth nice alcohol presence. Complex, asertive flavors but easy to drink (unlike some barley wines). This is what an aging beer should taste like. Lucky for us B United (the US Importer) ages these beers for us and periodically releases some of them. Rumor is that they are still sitting on some 88. I currently have 97 and 98 on the shelf due to these wonderful people. It's still out there to be had, go hunt some down.

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Photo of PopeJonPaul
2.81/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Normally I love barleywines, but this stuff rubbed me the wrong way. Cloudy red-brown and syrupy with no head to speak of, even on tap. Looked good in the glass but smelled incredibly sweet (Danger Will Robinson!) Powerfully sweet taste, with a strong heavy malt, brown sugar and tootsie-roll flavor. It's one thing to make a good sweet barleywine, but this stuff tasted like pancake syrup gone over to the dark side. And you'll keep tasting it ten minutes later. The finish was almost cloying, and beware if you're on a date: CheeseWheel (who used to work in a hospital) says it makes your breath "smell like decomposing flesh."

This was on tap though, I will have to give the bottle a shot just because all the positive reviews here are (surely aged) bottles, and I'll bet it gets better with age. We shall see...

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Photo of Tolnik
4.47/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured this dark muddy brown beer into a pint glass. Little to no head came when poured. Faint wisps of lacing remain on the top as it sits awaiting to be drank. The aroma of ripe fruit greet the nose. The taste of this beer is that of light molasses, fruit, and slight caramel aftertaste. Overall a great beer.

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

Bottle dated 1999, tasted February 2005. Poured a deep caramel hue, slightly cloudy in appearance. The aromas of alcohol, Scotch and fresh baked bread were all present. A variety of flavors come through, including sweet honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, rye whiskey, all with a hint of mild bitterness while remaining sweet throughout. Very complex, and different flavors come forward the more you drink. The mouthfeel was thick and syrupy with a very mild carbonation.

Altogether, an exceptional barleywine to sip and enjoy and linger over... the experience of a 12 oz bottle should last longer than two or three pints of just about anything else.

As for pairing, I've tried it with stilton as some have suggested, and it just doesn't work for me personally. Too many strong flavors competing there. I say enjoy this one all by itself.

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Photo of beersgud
1.98/5  rDev -53.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 1

2010 vintage poured into a tulip.

The beer looks nice aside from a bunch of unfiltered crap at the bottom of the glass. Smells really nice as well, but that's about the end things to say about this beer. The faint tobacco aroma that was appealing on the nose becomes offensive when tasting. Tasted like old cigarette butts mixed with other garbage. Probably due to poor storage of a 5 year old beer ( I just bought it about a month ago ), nevertheless, one of my few drain pours.

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Photo of timbro81
4.2/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2003 vintage:
Pours a soft caramel color with a slight amount of haziness (avoided pouring in the sediment). The head is not really all there, it resembles an iced tea. However, with some agitation a fine film can be produced. There doesn't appear to be much carbonation. I understand that most of these observations could be due in large part to being aged for five years. The nose is very strong and can be picked up from a few feet away. Smells of candied/carameled dried fruit, figs, apricots, prunes. Some alcohol is detectable in the nose as well. Mouth feel is smooth and slightly viscous. The taste is very similar to the nose except that there is a brief and subtle amount of earthy hops in the begining and near the end. The finish is nice, not too long and not too short.

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Photo of Flashsp2
4.37/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

JW Lees 2007 (served May '10) into snifter

Pours a very lightly hazed orange with a short lived bone white head
that thins down to a solid ring. Slight touches of lace. Looks like a
fine fine cognac with seltzer.

Toffee, raisin, intense caramels, dark fruits, spicy alcohol, earth,
vinous port notes, cognac.

Deep dark dried fruity stewed in sweet rum, prickly alcohol,
earthy/vegetal hops, medium caramels, light citrus. So boozy, but so
delicious. A very faint oxidation note reveals toward the end as it
warms, that brings the port qualities to the forefront. Leans toward
the sweeter side, but only teeters toward cloying sweetness without
ever stepping over.

Heavy slick mouthfeel that has a low level carbonation that is
comprised of exceptionally small bubbles.

An exquisite beverage that begs contemplation. A sipper for certain,
even in such a small quantity it takes a good hour to conquer this
beer.

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Photo of beesy
4.17/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 edition poured from a bottle into a standard pint glass

a - pours a medium copper with a half finger off white head that dissipates quickly.
Tons of yeast trub in the bottle and I poured it with a little too much vigor and
some ended up in my glass - no biggie just extra protein today! By the pour, it seems a little thin.

s - lots of sweet caramel notes. Wheat. Slight stale taste. Some oxidation type aromas typical of aged beers.

t - caramel sweetness mixed with TONS of toffee and ULTRA malty with a very strong wheat flavor on the end.
No hops or bitteness to speak of. A slight yeast profile in the latter palate. Alcohol detected.

m - full bodied, but not as thick as I was expecting.

d - low for me, a tad too sweet.

Overall, an interesting beer that has held up well over the past four years. A malt and wheat bomb
with caramels present. I typically like to consume withintwo years, but reviews of
09 and 10 coming up soon, so we'll see how they stack up.

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Photo of fattyre
4.27/5  rDev +0.5%
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 kennyo
3.9/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2002 Vintage

Pours a murky brown, no head, no carbonation.

Aroma - nice sherry smell, french toast

Taste - malt and lots of it, sweet, alcohol, a sweet style sherry, dried fruits.

long lasting flavor in the mouth.

mouth feel - coats the mouth with flavor

I liked it, a little to much sweetness but a very good beer.

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Photo of Freethyhops
4.58/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

first ever JW's harvest? why not start with 11yrs old? I hear it only gets better with age, so makes sense to me. 1999 vintage split between 2. my portion in a snifter.

a- the color range when held to light is great on this one. ranges from deep ruby to nearing light amber with nice bright orange tones. produced a nice off-white head that shows an expected low persistence. really spot on.

s- though the aroma is filled with rich caramel sweetness, dried-fruit, molasses, and a bit of toffee, the booze really is a bit overwhelming. it fits well with the profile, but dare I say, this could use some more time to cool down, if it ever will. it still excels with great complexity and a big alcohol driven bouquet.

t- well, I shouldn't have be so quick to judge. the alcohol settles so well into the flavor profile once it hits the palate. the caramel sweetness is so rich and decadent it really masks that huge alcohol presence exceptionally well. the nose mirrors the taste very well. the dried-fruits, toffee and molasses are still very much evident. a bit of leathery oxidation has developed but isn't displeasing. sweet and rich throughout makes for a nice english barleywine.

m- Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety texture. A smooth warmth from aged alcohol is strong but not harsh. Carbonation is low and certainly fits this beer nicely.

t- this one drinks slowly but after having this first one, I can see why there are so many life long fans of this ale with many of those drinkers keeping it in large numbers for years to come to enjoy the journey that this beer takes. I return to this one for years to come and not bat an eye at the slightly intimidating price tag again. buy it and enjoy. then buy some more and enjoy even more at a later date.

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Photo of Lldeegan
4.2/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had at dba in NY. Pours a copper, amber in color.
This beer has a nose of raisins, and sweet dark fruit. Mostly fig.
sweet and vinous on the palate. and was a very good drink. warming boozy feel, great to have in the wintertime. Enjoyable to have and sip after dinner.

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Photo of badboyrsl84
4.7/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1999 bottle

Pours reddish brown with a small fizzy head

Smell - caramel, alcohol, wine barrels, figs. Overall its smell is appealing.

Taste - its sooo smooth and very tasty. Caramel, figs, cocoa, sugar sweetness and some alcohol.

Overall - its now one of my favorites in the barleywine line up

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Photo of LiquidCucumber
4.03/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 1999 shared with Bonis

A - Purple brown with nearly no head.

S - Strong earthy malts, sweet figs and some booze.

T - So many fruity malts, sweet figs, plums and grapes. The earthy aspects of this brew include quite a bit of oxidation. Comes off as sherry like.

M - Fairly heavy and uncarbonated, kind of cloying.

O - Very good stuff, but too expensive and probably better with less than 10 years on it.

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Photo of association330
4.02/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

275 ml bottle, 2006 vintage. $1.99 gamble off my favorite store's bargain shelf (I guess they couldn't move it and just wanted to get rid of it).

A - Murky, iced tea-like brown, with yeast in suspension and absolutely no head or lace. With this much age, I can't say I'm surprised.

S - Rich and fudgy. Bread, butter toffee, caramel, toasted nuts, dark fruit. Faint alcohol.

T - Follows the nose. Complex malt flavor is the focus, with great bread, caramel, and dark fruit flavors.

M - Very little carbonation with the age. Still manages to be only medium-bodied, which I understand is another factor of the aging process. Just vaguely boozy, and very much under control after four years of sitting around.

D - With its richness and alcohol content, this is not really a summer beer. I would be quite willing to sip on some of this after a big wintertime supper though.

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Photo of tbrown4
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Split this bottle with my buddy Greg to celebrate a special occasion

1999 Vintage. Duvel tulip.

A - Ruby red, murky, light tan head, thin lacing

S - Peppermint, mild earthy, menthol/alcohol, black licorice

T - Tastes of rooty mint, mild chewy fruit juicy goodness, malty fruit, black licorice

M - Medium bodied, no alcohol warmth (due to 12 year nap).

O - Very enjoyable and unique. This vintage is quite different than the others I've had. Peppermint and menthol feel sets it apart.

2002 vintage bottle -> snifter

Split this bottle with a buddy of mine last night. We've built up a nice collection of these between the two of us dating back to some '99 vintage bottles.

Pours deep bronze, thin scanting head. Immediate aroma is of caramelized brown sugar and dark fruits. Secondary aromas (I guess that's how you'd describe it) are of fresh baked bread.

Taste is expectedly sweet. Notes of dark cherries and complex maltiness. Very smooth. This is a great sipping beer, perfect for the recent freezing temperatures. I only wish I had a fire going.

We'll be tapping into a '99 bottle and an '04 in the coming weeks.

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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 cooler4life
3.81/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

'10 Edition given by a wonderful brother.

A: Poured a syrupy zero finger head that disperses what little foam present as a thin ring around the edges of my NB chalice. Lots of floaties. Fallen soldiers of the yeast brigade.

S: Sun kissed raisons, prune juice, burnt sugar, caramel. Fairly one dimensional, but after 5 years the aromas have settled.

T: This is where it shines. Dark fruits up front mixed with maple syrup and fresh tobacco. Sweet like a port wine but different in the fact you get some grassy notes (faded hops?). Finishes with a surge of grassy moss funk and smoke.

F: Limited. Carbonation is very fine, to the point of almost being non-existent.

O: This was a real treat, lots of different dimensions. Age has masked the ABV well- you don't see it coming until you start barking orders to family members like General Lee. Salute!

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

1997 vintage

A: rusty brown with thin white bubbly head.

S: Very aromatic. Brandy and cherries with some mustiness. Fig as well with some grape jelly notes.

T/M: Very very smooth. Velvety. Tastes of tawny port with notes of tobacco and raisins. Sherry as well. Grapes and brandy soaked figs. Finish is long and has a butterscotch note and the lightest perception of hops. Really complex.

D: Obviously a sipper but little alcohol perceived.

Ovr: This is the oldest beer I've had, though I've had an Old Crustacean that was a year younger. Both had the same tawny port/sherry notes, but this beer was really fantastic. Very mellow. Velvety smooth, everything melting together in harmony. I can't say it was worth sitting on for 10 years, but very very good.

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J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale from J.W. Lees & Co (Brewers) Ltd
4.25 out of 5 based on 1,510 ratings.
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