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J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin)

Formerly brewed at J.W. Lees
Style: Barley Wine
Middleton, England
Serve in Snifter


on tap

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RATINGS: 475   WEIGHTED AVG: 3.74   SEASONAL: Special   EST. CALORIES: 345   ABV: 11.5%
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Only available filtered and pasteurised in bottles.
Matured in wooden casks of Lagavulin Malt Whiskey, one of the most distinctive malt whisky from the island of Islay, characterized by the strong peaty notes which should blend with the Harvest Ale to give an explosion of flavors.
This fully fermented ale has been brewed by JW Lees as a celebration of the brewersí art. Harvest Ale can be enjoyed now or laid down like a fine wine for enjoyment to come.

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 2/5   OVERALL 10/20
SilkTork (5278) - Rochester, Kent, United Kingdom, Kent, ENGLAND - OCT 3, 2005
Duff kept me waiting for this one. Bastard. Heíd shown it to me earlier in the day and was dismayed by my lack of enthusiasm for a pasteurised beer which had been left to go stale in a cask washed out with a few bottles of whiskey. But he knew I had to try it. I had fussed and moaned about this beer so much in the past that I was actually very curious to try it. The history is that the American importer B. United tried selling batches of Lees Harvest Ale infused with Port back in 2001. This is occasionally done with some strong British winter ales. The experiment was not popular. In 2003, B. United shipped a large quantity of pasteurised Harvest Ale to Dupontís facility in Normandy where Dupont stored them for 6 months in wooden casks which had previously held whiskey, or port or sherry. When they were released in the spring of 2004 they came out at the height of the oak-aged fashion. People fell over themselves to get hold of the bottles. And people fell over themselves in praising the beers. B. United have commissioned more. This time J.W. Lees have made up the storage barrels themselves, seasoning the wood with a few bottles of port or whiskey swirled around for a few weeks. My unhappiness with the beers stems from the obvious falseness of the approach. A pasteurised beer will not "mature". The casks are not Lagavulin casks, but casks in which a few bottles of Langavulin have been poured to season the oak. I donít mind the experiment, but I do mind the deceit that has accompanied it. Expressions such as "fully fermented" to conceal the fact that this is a filtered and pasteurised beer makes me angry. And a 11.5% beer does not need filtering! It is one of the daftest things a brewery can do. Godís teeth - it makes me mad that brewers are allowed to get away with such behaviour - and WORSE - that supposedly knowledgeable drinkers fall over themselves to buy the beer, thus encouraging brewers to filter and boil other strong beers rather than leave them to mature and develop naturally. Just imagine what these beers would have tasted had they not been killed. So, we have pasteurised beers slowly going stale in oak barrels. Big deal. And the taste of this one? Well, the strength of the alcohol provides most of the flavour - ugly burnt rubber from the fusel alcohol; and smokey bacon and a dead quality. A lifelessness in the mouthfeel. It tastes like stale beer. (What a surprise!). Itís a heavy unpleasant beer. I had found the standard Harvest Ale to have provided sufficient interest in its very strength and clarity of malt to overcome some of the obvious faults from its crude, undeveloped strength (let the bloody beer develop on the yeast!) - but this stuff just offends me.

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 5/20
crossovert (7961) - Illinois, USA - AUG 11, 2012
Nice smoky smell, big peatiness and almost burnt rubber. The flavor is smoky but also vegetal with a sweet pea flavor.

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 7/20
BenH (2513) - Edinburgh, SCOTLAND - APR 25, 2014
Bottle, 2012. Amber with pretty much no head. Aroma is full on whisky, tcp. Taste of smokey tcp. A tough drink

   AROMA 5/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 3/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 7/20
Crosling (1863) - Loveland, Colorado, USA - JUN 22, 2005
Light copper, much lighter in color than regular Harvest. The aroma, though multi-dimensional, is pretty gentle and wimpy overall with light oak, peaty hints, saffron, cigarette ashtray, caramel and scotch hints. Engaging, but unrefined barrel contribution. Smoky and alcoholic with caramel and scotch flavors. Heavy feel with a lightly creamy texture. Not enjoyable at all and an honest drainpour for me. Harvest and Lagavulin is not a good idea.

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 2/5   OVERALL 8/20
bigrond (1499) - factoryville, Pennsylvania, USA - NOV 13, 2005
this was a shot of whiskey - wasnít like a beer at all. It wasnít good at all. To bitter and to strong

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 3/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 7/20
TheEnemy (562) - Chicago, USA - JAN 30, 2006
9.3oz bottle, 2004 vintage.
Pours a clear deep ruby-auburn with modest white head. Aroma of malt, some alcohol and lots of peaty smoky scotch. Flavor an even more intense version of the aroma -- VERY scotch-like with a strange medicinal taste. Nice full mouthfeel with thick, slighly oily palate but that scotch lingers on in the aftertaste forever. This stuff is alarmingly gross. It probably doesnít help that I donít like scotch much, but even so, the scotch aspects are extremely prominent, almost overwhelming any beer characteristics. The Lagavulin flavor profile integrates poorly with beer. Basically a 23-proof scotch. Blech. As one previous reveiwer put it, "a very expensive drainpour."

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 2/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 1/5   OVERALL 9/20
jaymobrown (1697) - Chicago, Illinois, USA - JUN 20, 2004
UGH!!! Pure alcohol nose. Overwhelming alcohol in taste. Some sweet maltish flavors and sugars, but címon this alcohol thickness is way out of control. Perhaps laid down it would mellow out, but as of now it is just unbearable.

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 3/10   PALATE 2/5   OVERALL 8/20
Thorpe429 (5011) - , Illinois, USA - SEP 1, 2011
2010 vintage courtesy of starrdogg at last nightís barrel-aged barleywine tasting. Served in a SAVOR snifter. Pours a bright, clear copper color with a bit of an orange tint to it. Slight head and a few bubbles before falling into a thin collar. The nose carries quite a bit of whiskey character that is quite divergent from the typical American bourbon. I donít know too much about spirits, but the difference is noticeable, especially when contrasted with all the bourbon-barrel beers we had. Nothing too complex, and the barrel brings quite a bit of peat character without the caramel malt that is standard for the style and for the base beer. Very woody. Flavor is similarly quite peaty and harsh with much of anything from the underlying beer coming through. Bitter and slightly astringent in the finish. Overall, not very impressed with this; I enjoy the regular version much, much more.

   AROMA 3/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 3/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 6/20
Vac (2445) - San Diego, California, USA - FEB 2, 2006
Pours with an amber body topped by a medium thick head with little lacing. It tastes and smells like steak sauce mixed with cough syrup...yuck. Medium bodied, smooth and warming.

   AROMA 5/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 2/10   PALATE 2/5   OVERALL 5/20
Dough77 (821) - Aurora, Illinois, USA - OCT 31, 2005
Up til this one, this JW Lees harves ale collection has been quite pleasent, then comes this junk. Aroma not so bad to start out, caramel, malts, pretty sweet. Taste is too sweet, with a funky wine like flavor. This was a very expensive drainpour.

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