I might travel back in time to a truly important event. The bottling of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 1997. You see then I would be able to tell what it tasted like fresh. I say that because I received a true gift from a friend at Finewine.com. Today, on the last day of 2006, he gave me a bottle which he had aged for 9 years.
This strong ale came from the 1997 harvest of barley and hops by this Manchester brewer. To celebrate the first harvest, J.W. Lees uses the finest of their crops of barley and hops with choice yeast to brew this Vintage Limited Edition beer.
At 11.5% Alcohol and in a 9.6 oz bottle this little delight had an overwhelming barleywine (high alcohol) smell and port like finish. Full aroma like a warm apple cinnamon crisp. Balistic taste. So many flavors at once. With my simple meal of bread, cheese and honey baked ham it is both overpowering and a welcome compliment to the meal. No, it overpowers the meal, but isn’t out of place. Sipping it from a wine glass it is harmonious. That’s it. It doesn’t fight the taste of the food. Caramel and fruit and wood in a beer…what a way to ring in the new year and finish out 2006…and 1997.
What am I doing blogging at 10pm New Year’s Eve?!? Parties be damned, it’s my new years resolution to be more creative, and entering this blog is the first step to following my path to creativity.
As one of the only (or the only) commercial producers of cigars who ages his cigars from the year of production (each year going back to 1990) I marvel at the complexity and character this aged beer. My cigars (produced to my specifications at a Dominican factory) mellow and the natural flavors of the tobacco marry and blend together over time. The same has happened with this perfectly conditioned bottle of J.W. Lees 1997 Harvest.
The last sip was a complex swirl of fig, plum and biting brown sugar. This was a rare and amazing treat that began with diligence and hard work and continued through the aging process with a beer aficionado’s steadfast patience. 2006 and many years in the past I worked hard in my field to produce an exceptional product, then age it to perfection. Now I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of an aged super premium product.
Thank you Nick for the beer and good times. Thank you Andy for the forum and friendship. Happy New Year beer lovers!