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: 510   WEIGHTED AVG: 3.75/5   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 brewers’ art. Harvest Ale can be enjoyed now or laid down like a fine wine for enjoyment to come.

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IMtheOptimator (1170) - Brookfield, Connecticut, USA - OCT 27, 2005
Poured an almost still clear (clear? this is filtered?) amber with a small semi-creamy off-white head. Aroma of caramel, cherries, brown sugar, red wine, whiskey, peppery alcohol. Flavor is sweet and strong with intense notes of smokey maple syrup, grapes, apples with a sweet alcoholic finish. The sweetness and smoke are almost too much, which is saying something for me, because I prefer sweeter barley wines. Maybe because the alcohol is still hot, the sweetness just seems slightly unbalanced. Of course, I’m not sitting here saying I don’t enjoy the beer, because I do. Just not as smooth as the 1997 regular Harvest Ale I enjoyed some time ago.

ehhdayton (1188) - USA - OCT 20, 2005
A sweet winelike aroma is present in Lagavulin. The color is a deep golden with no head. The flavor of alcohol is clearly present along with a winelike sweetness.

dwyerpg (6413) - Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - OCT 18, 2005
UPDATED: MAR 30, 2006 Hopefully the one I bought to age turns out better. A fine smelling barley wine, like they all are, and full of alcohol. Pretty headless, but a good cloudy color. First taste is very very sweet. Sugar and molasses, with the wood obvious and maybe the whiskey. A good brew, but too sugary to be truly great.

duff (5486) - Copenhagen, DENMARK - OCT 18, 2005
Bottle. Very sweet aroma/flavour. Theres a fair bit going on here, but silks right, it does come across as a bit stale and sticky. Fairly straight forward sticky raisin, and smoky malt characters. Hints of sweaty socks, rubber and even some garbage juice in the finish. I actually prefer the regulat Harvest Ale to this one, which is a surprise, coz i’m partial to a bit of Lagavulin every now and then. This was dissapointing.

SilkTork (5855) - Southampton, United Kingdom, Hampshire, ENGLAND - OCT 3, 2005
Duff kept me waiting for this one. Bastard. He’d 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 Dupont’s 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 don’t 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. God’s 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!). It’s 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. Didn’t get any whiskey notes at all, but I did think it was smoother than the regular harvest ale. Very, very nice.

harrisoni (19338) - 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 there’s also the sweet alcohol bite of a good bourbon as well. Finally there’s a note of fine cognac -- warm and sweetly fruity -- that makes a great barleywine.

MIBRomeo (2579) - 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 I’d 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 (15369) - 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.

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