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Beer Review: JW Lee’s Harvest Ale

   May 10, 2011
JW Lee's Harvest Ale 2007

photo courtesy Lancastrian
(via flickr)

This beer, JW Lee’s Harvest Ale 2007, a fully fermented old ale, was provided to me by Aleksey’s Imports for reviewing purposes.  I’ve already previously reviewed a version of this that had been aged in Lagavulin Whisky casks.  I’ve seen this called a barleywine on some websites, but I think it’s more appropriately referred to as an old ale, as was mentioned on the bottle.

The Pour
There was less than a finger of head to speak of on the pour, which did not surprise me, given the nature of the beer.  The very light tan head dissipated somewhat quickly.   This old ale pours to an orange-tinged brown color with a great deal of sediment floating around in the bottle.  I know some people leave a little of the beer in the bottle, hoping to hold back that sediment, but if it’s there, I like to see it and experience it. 

The Nose
This smelled of oak and cedar, somewhat remniscent of whiskey, but with slightly peppery and buttery notes.  Butterscotch and yeast also made themselves known, making for a creamy, yet slightly spicy nose.  There was also a chewy raisin-y quality to the nose.

The Taste
Some dusty cedar woodiness was definitely on display here.  Boasting a pretty clean finish with a slightly spicy edge, this beer is a thick, full-bodied sipping beer, best in front of a wood fire.  The higher alcohol is warming but not overpowering.  There is a sweet buttery sense to it as well, with only slight hints at the raisin I noticed on the nose.  As the beer warms, more spice and cedar are awakened, yet it also sweetens up more.  A musty cedar and oak presence lingers well after the finish.

Scoring Breakdown

Appearance: Color is decent, minimal head.
7 points out of 10.

Nose: Nice nose, representative and complex.
13 points out of 15.

Taste: Sweet without being cloying, oaky without it being too much…this beer strikes a lot of notes without crossing the line of too much.
45 points out of 55.

Style: This displays the old ale style perfectly, with the flavors, nose and body being just what they should be.
20 points out of 20.

Total rating: 85 points out of 100

In a nutshell: Good sipping beer for enjoying in front of a wood fire or perhaps, if cigars are your thing, with a nice cigar.  This beer is tasty enough that aging it in Lagavulin Whisky casks resulted in a less enjoyable beer than this original beer.

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