J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin)

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


on tap

Regional Distribution

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RATINGS: 507   WEIGHTED AVG: 3.74/5   SEASONAL: Special   EST. CALORIES: 345   ABV: 11.5%
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.

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SilkTork (5724) - Southampton, United Kingdom, Hampshire, 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.

maeib (8749) - Wootton, Northampton, Northamptonshire, ENGLAND - OCT 3, 2005
Bottled - St Albans BF - Again huge thanks to Duff for this offering which although brewed here is not for us Britishers as probably we cannot take the extremity (now where have I heard that before?). A mid brwon coloured beer with hops and big thick buttery alcohol in the aroma. The taste is wonderfully malty and alcolholic. Very sweet and strong. Didnít get any whiskey notes at all, but I did think it was smoother than the regular harvest ale. Very, very nice.

harrisoni (18399) - Ashford, Kent, ENGLAND - OCT 3, 2005
Bottle, St Albans Beer Festival 2005. The last of the 4 offerings from Duff for the festival. Sherry flavours with smokey, whiskey sweetness. Goodish sweet whiskey style barley wine

noelcb (271) - Toledo, Ohio, USA - SEP 29, 2005
2004 bottle. Nice dark copper color with little head. Aromas of malt, whisky, peat, smoke, wet grass, toffee, butterscotch, alcohol, leather and maple syrup. Flavor was exqusite sweet caramelly malt, island scotch, chocolate, sweet wine, ripe dark fruits, candy corn, butterscotch, toast, and a hint of yeast. No hops to be found, save in the slightly bitter finish. Mouthfeel was syrupy thick and velvety smooth. This barleywine is sweet but not cloyingly so. The whisky barrel aging adds a marvelous peaty/smoky character. To me thereís also the sweet alcohol bite of a good bourbon as well. Finally thereís a note of fine cognac -- warm and sweetly fruity -- that makes a great barleywine.

MIBRomeo (2570) - Wisconsin, USA - SEP 26, 2005
UPDATED: MAR 28, 2006 2004 edition pours a dark copper brown color w/ nice visible carbonation and a great thick creamy tan head. Aroma of molasses, oak, maple syrup, and even a bit smokey. Palate is rich full and creamy. The flavor is a very sweet barley wine. Lots of warm carmel and molasis in a syruppy fashion. Hints of oak and even a touch of a aged whiskey/tobacco piece in the finish the 11.5% is completly hidden in the flavor and Iíd alos add a bit of abutter component as the beer warms. This is some good beer. Adjusted rating on another 04 aged a bit longer. Bumped appearance to a 5.

Ratman197 (14660) - Arvada, Colorado, USA - SEP 22, 2005
Bottle 2004 vintage poured a hazy copper with a small but lasting amber head. Aromas of bacon bits,sweet fruit, and a bit of toffee. Palate was heavy and oily. Flavors of bacon bits,oak, molasses, and butter with a sweet warming finish.

1FastSTi (3360) - Glendale, Wisconsin, USA - SEP 19, 2005
UPDATED: MAR 28, 2006 275 ml 2003 bottle. The beer pours to glowing copper body with a thin oily looking white head, visible carbonation and spotty lacing. I like the shiny color. The aroma is a nice strong barleywine aroma with a huge peaty scotch. This smells awesome. I love Lagavulin scotch. Smoked oak. Clover. The flavor is sweet nougat candy, smoked peat, sweet but not cloying. Molasses, butter, anise, tobacco. Sweet and dry (if thatís possible). Full bodied, lively carbonation. Very warming but one doesnít taste the alcohol. Very delicious. 9, 4, 9, 5, 19 = 4.6
275 ml 2004 bottle. I really got into scotch, this is great. 10, 4, 8, 4, 17 = 4.3

Philip (436) - Illinois, USA - SEP 13, 2005
2004 bottle. Iím generally adhere to the principle that one needs no more than 2-3 ounces to rate a beer (how would professionals rate Scotch otherwise?), but in the case of this particular ale, oneís experience heightens with continued consumption. Defying economic theory, there are no diminishing marginal returns here. The combination of barleywine sweetness meets Lagavulin smokiness is rather surprising initiatlly, but as the shock decays and oneís senses grow accustom, one is treated to a hedonistic experience. Notes of cedar, smoke, toffee, butter, and what I like to think of as Italian mortadella embody all that is good in life (and beer). I enjoyed this immensely and eagerly anticipate its ageing virtues.

21iceman40 (1735) - Grafton, Wisconsin, USA - SEP 8, 2005
Ah, the whiskey one. A slightly dark amber color to it. I get the aroma of a bbq house out of it as i definetely get some smoked hickory in the aroma. I get some cowboy beef jerkey in the body and also some brown sugar and maybe even some bacon cooked up in that brown sugar.

LilKem (1213) - Marietta, Ohio, USA - SEP 7, 2005
This was interesting. had some seriosu funk to it, like the cheese funk from a geuze or something. had a big well water, metallic taste too. definitely get the alcohol, and for some reason pizza?? like bacon or pepperoni/ smoked. weird.

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