JW Lees Harvest Ale (sherry cask aged)

Well this was a wonderful find. The local beer store had a sale on select craft beers this weekend and there just so happened to be a selection of JW Lees‘ various Harvest ales, including one I haven’t had before – the barrel-aged version in sherry casks. The beer (overall) scores a 90 on Beer Advocate, but that encompasses all of the vintages.

A bottle like this deserved to be treated like a wine, essentially, so I paired it with a dinner consisting of tilapia covered with ratatouille, a sweet potato and corn. For the meat eaters out there, I’d highly recommend this beer or its companion versions with a rare/medium rare steak.

The smell of this beer was pretty easy and straight forward – there was the oak of the barrels and almost a wine finish. The star of the show is the flavors.

In order of flavors, I found notes of:

  • Sweetness (malt?)
  • Molasses
  • Oak
  • Fig/date
  • Caramel
  • Chocolate

On a whole, the tasting experience was pretty great. It started sweet, then went to an earthy bitterness, then finished with such an amazing chocolate warmness.

Sediment from the bottle

It was the chocolate at the end that was amazing, which was probably assisted by the amount of sediment that had accrued in the bottle over time. There was a lot and it was chunky. However, the complexity of beer was outstanding. Between the number of flavors and ABV (11.5 percent) it’s one of the most drinkable barleywines I’ve had. It has the same kind of kick on each aftertaste/finish, but nothing that’s going to bowl you over as you sip it. Did on 9.3-ounce bottle get my drunk? No. Did it give me a good kick to the teeth? A bit.

These bottles are a bit pricey but worth the experience. For an easier drink, keep it cold and drink fast. For a full experience, let it warm for 15-20 minutes and then enjoy.

Hit the jump for “Rate That Beer” notes.

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