Today, I have a very special beer to share with you. It’s a J.W. Lees Limited Edition Harvest Ale. The 2002 version.
Brewed yearly by the J.W. Lees & Co. Ltd. Brewery (Greengate Brewery) in Middleton Junction, Manchester, United Kingdom, the Harvest Ale is considered by many to be the “cream of the crop” when it comes to Barleywines.
Here’s the commercial description from the website, jwlees.co.uk
Released in limited quantities in December, Harvest Ale gives a rich, strong flavour, beloved by beer connoisseurs. It can be laid down like a vintage wine for enjoying in later years.
I reviewed the 2001 edition several months back, so I’m eager to see how this one compares.
This brew has an ABV of 11.5% and was poured from a 9.3 oz. bottle.
It poured a very dark brown, burgundy color with touches of ruby around the edges and a tight, khaki colored head. It was a relatively small sized head from a very easy pour. The retention was good and the foam settled to a fine ring around the top hugging the edge of the glass. It left some adequate lacing and as the brew worked its way down the foam dissipated to reveal a very clear, pristine color that revealed some excellent alcohol “legs” on the glass. Extremely clear for a beer that was 9 years old.
The aroma brought forth some extraordinary and magnificent aromas of booze drenched raisins and prunes. Tons of sweetness enveloped my nostrils in the form of toffee, homemade peanut brittle, syrup, molasses and sorghum. Some toasted biscuits and baked bread complimented the sweetness perfectly. From deep within the smell came a slight “woodiness” that brought forth an “earthiness” that was harmonized superbly with the other aromas. The alcohol is very prevalent, but in no way did it become distracting or off putting. This brew has a world class aroma. Possibly the best I’ve ever smelled.
The flavors explode from the very first sip. Rich and robust savors of sugary, sweet sorghum. Toffee and caramel blend unbelievably well with the dark fruits of raisins, prunes and grapes. The toasty biscuits seemed to have been dipped in alcohol and spread with butter and molasses. I even found it to have a slight taste of pancakes. Outstanding!!!! More of the “woody” tones and a slight tobacco hint come through and only add to an already exceptional taste. This thing is so complex, yet remains so harmonious. Unbelievable really.
The mouthfeel was medium, dry, chewy, sticky and slick. It completely terrorizes the palate on the initial intake, but relaxes ever so delightfully as it glides back. It’s as smooth as silk when swallowed. It exudes perfect warmth when held in the mouth and left to wander the palate. Almost indescribable.
Awesome!!! This was almost a religious experience for me. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a beer with this much character in the aroma and taste. This is a sipper reserved for special occasions. It’s, without a doubt, the best Barleywine that I’ve ever had and it’s totally worth the high praise. It may be a bit much for some. Like I said, it’s very rich, robust, audacious and gargantuan, but that is exactly what I was looking for with this beer. The drinkability in not very high, but one beer is all I needed. It’s a world class brew that needs to be treated with respect. If you happen to see a bottle, regardless of the vintage, don’t pass it up. It’s a bit expensive, but totally worth it in my opinion.
Thanks for reading everyone. I really appreciate it. Stay tuned for more reviews.
Score: 4.8 out of 5