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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) - O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.

Not Rated.
Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
98
world-class

177 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 177
Reviews: 109
rAvg: 4.47
pDev: 10.74%
Wants: 154
Gots: 32 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
Old Ale |  11.70% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

This entry is for vintages brewed by Eldridge Pope & Co. PLC. / Thomas Hardy Brewery from 1968 to 1999. O'Hanlon's took over the brand and revived it in 2003:  http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profi ... 1533/16858 

(Beer added by: Todd on 11-27-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 177 | Reviews: 109 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by captaincoffee:
Photo of captaincoffee
4.43/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I thought opening the bottle of Thomas Hardy's Ale (1999) today after storing for 10 years was a good enough occasion for my first review on beeradvocate.com. Very little head and low carbonation, which was expected from the last bottle I opened 5 years ago. What was unexpected was the opening of the nose from the last tasting. Initially, I was slightly disappointed with the lack of hops on the nose, but quickly raised my eyebrows (and was pleased) with the strong sweet smell of port and dried fruits. Initial taste was a bit overwhelming with sweetness, but had truly incredible mouthfeel...a bit like syrup coating my palate. Lots of figs and dates. Yes, these terms are quite overused in tasting notes, but with this "beer" you almost feel like you are chewing on them. I prefer the finish to the initial mouthfeel as the sweetness fades a bit and I'm left with the cloying malt and fruit on my palate. Overall, I can't say it is a beer I would drink every day, but is a true experience. It makes me feel good to know that it is possible to do something like this with a beer.

captaincoffee, Jul 11, 2011
More User Reviews:
Photo of Popsinc
4.43/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well i figured my first bottle of Thomas Hardy should be the oldest, and only one, on the menu. 1984 version sampled at the Kulminator in Antwerp, Oct 2003.

I must say, i was so excited to try this beer that i neglected to take thourough notes. A super dark pour with no head. A glass of black magic! I found the nose to be one of the highlights of this beer. A nice sweetness in the air. Hints of some dark fruits like rasin and plum. A pinch of carmelized raw suagrs. Mild spice. The taste of this beer was outstanding! Again a nice dark fruity sweetness. An alcohol warmth that pleased the senses and ...what else....warms you up. Very complex. I found that the barley sweetness faded into a semi-tart, fruit finish.

Sorry about my poor note taking on such an excellent beer. I guess i'll have to have a few more. Great stuff.

Popsinc, Nov 06, 2003
Photo of Svejk
4.97/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

First of all, I really appreciate Derek giving me a chance to try this beer.

This was a 1999 vintage bottle, and I was really interested to see what a ten year old beer would taste like. I had an idea in my head that there may be a little bit of oxidation or other flaws that I could attribute to age that I would need to overlook. As it turns out, there was nothing to apologize for. It is amazing.

A- This is a gorgeous beer, and really deserves a 5, but it is hard to give all 5's. Anyway, it is dark garnet colored and looks great.

S- This beer smells very sweet and almost like a very nice port. No hint of the age in the smell.

T- Wow. I tried this beer with my brother, and he said "Raisins and Rum". I agree. I'm sure there are no raisins or rum in this beer, but the intensity of the flavor is there and it is delicious.

M- Surprisingly dry. I was expecting a much less attenuated beer considering the smell. Instead, this beer is reasonably dry and I wonder what it would have tasted like 8 or 9 years ago. At this point, it is absolutely perfect.

D- Oh, how I wish I had more of this. Any beer that tastes so good that you want to drain the last drop from the glass has perfect drinkability, and this is one of those beers.

Svejk, Apr 30, 2009
Photo of Jason
4.68/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 11.15 oz brown long slender neck bottle with a "Brewed in 1997" on the label.

Appearance: Crystal clear tawny copper with a bubbly off white lace ... retains well also.

Smell: Slight rum raisin, vague fresh cut granny smith apple, hints of cork/wood and malt in the nose.

Taste: Big rounded and smooth body with a light yet pleasing carbonation. Nice dense malty mouth feel, lots of flavour from the malt ... tastes like the malt is marinating in alcohol due to the large presence of fruity esters which are reminiscent of tropical fruit like pineapple and starfruit. Hop bitterness still does well to balance and flexes with some flavour. A little rummy and prune like with a drying malt flavour in the finish. Goes a touch corky perhaps from a touch of oxidation or just a showing of its age.

Notes: After three years it has evolved into a pretty much ripe barley wine ... a good time to drink it is now though one, two or even three more years may turn it into a dreamy brew. Buy two or more, drink one now and lay the others down for a couple more years.

Jason, Mar 31, 2002
Photo of Mora2000
3.85/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is the 1994 vintage, which was drank in May 2011 in honor of hudsonphotog's college graduation after all these years (he graduated high school in 1994).

The beer pours a clear, dark brown color with a few white bubbles but no real head. The aroma has a lot of chocolate and raisins, as well as a little bit of soy sauce character and some alcohol. The flavor is a lot more complex. I get a lot of chocolate and oak notes, as well as some rum, raisins and very little alcohol. The beer is very port like. Low carbonation and medium mouthfeel.

I am very happy I got to try this and very happy that it was drank on such a special occasion.

Mora2000, May 02, 2012
Photo of Zonian1
4.75/5  rDev +6.3%

Zonian1, Jun 08, 2014
Photo of Melonie
3.5/5  rDev -21.7%

Melonie, Nov 11, 2012
Photo of rastaman
3.28/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Vintage 1986- Really potent nose, warming spirity aroma. The colour from memory was exactly the same as in the picture. Main flavours of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, with a salted licricey, very warming alcohol finish, i couldn't help but feel the bottle was slight past its prime however.

rastaman, Sep 25, 2003
Photo of mdaschaf
4.25/5  rDev -4.9%

mdaschaf, Mar 03, 2013
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.35/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1997. Head is limited, almost non-existent. Brownish-copper tint. Astonishingly clear, but this sample has been cellared in one spot for @ 5 years so that's to be expected. Aroma is brimming with light sherry (or port) and candy, and some caramel and malt as well. The flavor starts the same, followed by a short burst of alcohol, and then mellows into more caramel and toffee notes with some soft dark fruit. A little bit higher on the alcohol side than some other 'vintages' I've had; but also a little bit flabbier in the malt.How can that be? Still, it has the standard gently bitter backbone. Although bottles handled in different ways will show different maturities (dryness, roundness, etc.), I feel the '97 is not quite ready. At least another year.

--

1995. Nip bottle. No cork. Cellar temperature. Poured carefully, it's crystal clear. Dark amber/brown with orangeish tints along the rim and soft ruby highlights throughout the body. Completely flat, with just a few large clear bubbles along the inner rim from the pour. The aroma is more subdued than younger versions. Still quite intense with rich, sweet toffee and dark caramel, malted milk, very soft dark fruit, even some tropical fruit. The sherry-like aroma seems reduced compared to younger examples, but is heightened in the flavor... malt and alcohol versus oxidation? The flavor sticks with a fruitiness at the back of the mouth, along with an awareness of the brandy-like alcohol. It's hard to determine whether this vintage is on it's way out, or getting better. Although the "tempest in a teapot" complexity of younger vintages has been reduced, the flavors that remain are refined - elegant - polished.

NeroFiddled, Jul 16, 2002
Photo of MrKennedy
4.8/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

330ml bottle, 1994 vintage, into a Cigar City snifter.

Pours dead still, no carbonation whatsoever. Dark brown colour with a light ruby tinge when held up to the light.

Smell is of port, prune juice, raisins and vegemite. No oxidation, this has held up sublimely well!

Tastes of port, mixed with sherry and with a little bit of soy and toffee. No oxidation or dated taste to it, still retains plenty of punch with its characteristics. So complex, a wonderful mix of port and sherry.

It doesn't need the carbonation. Given the typical flavour profile, a still beer is fitting. Very warming, this hasn't thinned out one bit, decadent, full bodied and a massively long finish.

Brilliant, arguably the best of any of the Eldridge Pope vintages that I've tried. Such fullness of flavour, lack of oxidation and thinning leaves this as a truly world class beer. Here's hoping someone takes over from O'Hanlons in resurrecting this rightly famous beer!

MrKennedy, Jul 15, 2012
Photo of beerluvr
4.6/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle # 085265. A hard pour sends up a brief-lived off white head that falls upon hazy deep red liquid. Nose is chock full of dark fruitiness...you name it, fig, plum, raisin, a cornucopia of delights. A background shroud of alcohol livens things up. Taste is a wave of malt followed by a depth of alcoholic warmth and a massive level of fruitiness, deep and dark, mixed with nuttiness, a little dry leather, smoke and miniscule hop bitterness. It finishes longer then long, juggling between fruitiness, alcohol & latent bitterness...a beer drinking experience that is quite unique.

Vintage # 13439 (Silver Anniversary Edition)
Tasted at cellar temperature, after nearly 10 years of being lovingly cellared. Uncapped with a barely audible "pfffft", and poured with virtually no head, only a brief scant upsurge of fine, slowly rising bubbles over remarkably clear for it's age tawny, dark amber liquid. Nose is heavy on prunes, figs & oxidized Sherry with some malt mixed within. All quite heady and intense! Taste is very smooth, more dark fruits tasted as it washes over the palate...slight hop bitterness appears after the fruitiness fades away, along with throat warming alcohols. Finishes long and tasty, with notes of leather and caramel/molasses that coats the palate and lingers on and on. Truly one memorable beer!

beerluvr, Mar 29, 2003
Photo of jheezee
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

jheezee, Oct 04, 2012
Photo of Doppelbockulus
3.68/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I am so happy I found these.

1991 Vintage purchased from the Charleston Beer Exchange.

I have wanted this beer, any of the vintages, for at least 6 months and the time finally came.

This old chap pours a very deep ruby color with a few flakes of yeast. Amazingly there was a light spattering of bubbles on the surface that merely lingered as a thin thread around the perimeter of the glass.

Nose is sweet with fruits like raisins, similar to some wines and very characteristic of other beers with a good reputation of being able to survive while being forgotten about in a cellar or closet.

Flavor isn't as sweet as the smell suggested. There is more tartness than sweetness, a common effect of the age and other more mysterious things. This one is one that you hear about that turned sour, but still valuable none the less. In some cases this beer can be sweet and syrupy like a 7 to 10 year old J.W. Lees Harvest Ale or a 6 year old Le Baladin Xyauyu. Still good, and surprisingly light on the alcohol presence, I was expecting a little more heat but it is very smooth. Way in the background there is a lingering sweetness. Probably better several years ago.

Very light tingle from the remnants of carbonation. Drinks almost like wine. And the more I think about it the more it reminds me of tea.

Doppelbockulus, Jan 20, 2012
Photo of emalc
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

emalc, Jun 08, 2014
Photo of bditty187
4.38/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1998

Brownish, amber/tawny hue, no head whatsoever, no lace, no amount of carbonation. The nose sets the stage like few beers have; ripe, succulent yet fermentated dark fruit, hints of tropicalness, rum, brandy, candy-like sugar, and, undeniably, alcohol. Immediate warming of the palate upon the first sip, and sip is the optimum word, followed by a brandy-like, raisin, candy, alcohol complexity. It is like an open hand smack to the face, but you can feel every individual finger comprising of the powerful blow. The source and the sum of the complexity is unquestionable. Warming and pleasing mouthfeel, tasty, great throughout, something I will revisit.

bditty187, Jan 26, 2003
Photo of thagr81us
4.33/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1991 Vintage: Shared this one with a few BAs (Lunch, beermeX2, sincereNC, and advent; most notably) during the BASC Release! 1991 Vintage! Served from bottle into a Duck-Rabbit snifter. Poured a deep amber orange with a very minimal off-white head. There was no lacing evident throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, caramel, leather, peat, fruit, and citrus. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, leather, sweet alcohol, and peat. It had a medium feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty good brew. This one has really developed nicely over the years without a doubt. This is my second time sharing this vintage with a group and it has always been a hit with all who have tried it. The flavor profile is really nice and balanced on this one, but I was a little surprised that the alcohol was still hanging around after all these years. Really glad I still have a 1989 Vintage in my cellar to crack open at a special occasion to compare. If you have not had a vintage Thomas Hardy's, you need to do so now!
4/4.5/4.5/4/4

1989 Vintage: Shared this one with beermeX2 the night before ORF '11 as a thanks for letting me crash on his couch that night. Thanks again buddy! 1989 Vintage! Bottle #31446. Served from bottle into a Mikkeller flute. Poured a dark ruby red brown with no head at all. There was also no lacing evident at all. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, caramel, wood, subtle sweet alcohol, dark fruit, and hints of sherry. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, wood, subtle sweet alcohol, dark fruit, port, and sherry. It had a medium feel on the palate with no carbonation. Overall this was truly a great brew. To have been able to have two different vintages of this one in the past month has been quite awesome. I have to say though, that the 1991 Vintage seemed to be drinking a little better than the 1989 in my opinion. Still a very nice brew with lots of complexity that I'm sure will hold up for many years to come.
4/4.5/4/4/4

thagr81us, Jul 20, 2011
Photo of Steve_Oldrati
4.25/5  rDev -4.9%

Steve_Oldrati, Sep 15, 2013
Photo of Beertracker
4.9/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Originally Brewed & Bottled by Eldridge Pope & Co. PLC, Dorchester, Dorset, England. Owned & Imported by Phoenix Imports, LTD., Baltimore, MD. Commercial Description: THE RAREST ALE IN BRITAIN! Maybe even the world? Vintage dated, limited release, bottle-conditioned Old Ale/Barleywine from the U.K. First brewed in 1968 as a commemorative brew to celebrate the life & writings of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), English Novelist & Poet. The release date coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Bards' death.

Vintage: 1993 (Silver Anniversary Edition) Package: 6.33fl.oz/180ml Bottle Number: No. H25867 ABV: 11.7%

Thomas Hardy's Ale. Just mentioning the legendary name to any true beer aficionado stirs deep emotion. It's reputation is well deserved & documented in the journals of many a fine connoisseur. Previous tasting notes or incantations usually precede the ritualistic pouring. I can honestly admit that I'm one of those. It definitely takes a special breed of beerfan to hold onto a THA until it reaches FULL maturity @ 25 years old! OK. I consider myself a reasonably good 'cellar master', but I think it'll be just fine if we enjoy a "young one" just this once. Come on, let's go to the beer cellar. Now, if I can just find my THA snifter? This "Madeira" of the beer world has to be the ultimate nightcap? If you're a cigar fan, then light up a Cohiba & let's find the bottle opener! It's always a good idea to plan a THA opening. The ideal serving tempature is 55-64F. I might also suggest letting a vintage bottle "breath" then decanting it like a fine wine to avoid disturbing the natural sedimentation. The 93' Vintage opens with hardly a release of pressure. It pours up very softly with only the slightest touch of carbonation. WOW! Is all I can describe as the air becomes intoxicating with wonderfully enviting aromas. Huge vinous (vintage Port), rich molasses, & sweet ripened fruit aromas float out of the glass first. These are followed closely by a hints of Scotch Whisky smokiness. The decadent nose is truly wonderful & a malt lovers dream. This vintage is a much darker (deep garnet-brown) color than some of the latter releases. The "legs" stand nicely as they create Saturn rings around the inside of the glass. The first intoxicating sip is actually quite light on the palate considering. The sherrylike flavor is alive with a sugary caramel & toffee sweetness. Hints of apple brandy, cinnamon bark, chocolate pudding, orange slices, & rum cake mingle as the glass is swirled. There's very little off-setting bitterness to cut through all of the malt richness. The overall spiciness combines with the oxidation to create a unique "leathery goodness" in the finish. The body is full, rich, & creamy as per the norm in the older THA Vintages. It's definitely worth the time & expense of "tracking" some vintage Thomas Hardy's Ale down, but you may need the services of a trusty hound and a deep pocket book. Hopefully, you've enjoyed this 25th Anniversary Edition as much as I have? But then again... probably not? Here's to 'The Trumpet Major' & his namesake Vintage Ale.

CHEERS! Beertracker

*Taster's Note: This is a retro review from 2003.

Beertracker, Jan 18, 2009
Photo of GRG1313
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

GRG1313, Jun 11, 2012
Photo of andant
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

andant, Dec 06, 2012
Photo of resistdefy
4.75/5  rDev +6.3%

resistdefy, Nov 16, 2012
Photo of monketeeth
5/5  rDev +11.9%

monketeeth, Jun 13, 2014
Photo of nebula1999
4.73/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

~1996~

Dusted off this 17 year old from the cool winter cellar and poured it at cellar temp (55F) into oversized snifter glass. No refrigeration required. Deep ruby/brown color. Very bright in the glass when held up to the light. Small ring of tan foam with medium sized bubbles settles around edge of glass fading quickly. Some floaters, but nothing to worry about.

Aroma is detectible within seconds of popping the cap even before pouring it. A proper slow pour so as not to disturb too much sediment unleashes a torrent of dark fruit, dank aromas. Raisin right off the bat with molasses, fig, prune, burnt toast, smoke(?) and alcohol. Extremely inviting.

The taste brings all those aromatics to the forefront with a moderate to somewhat intense sweetness on the mid tongue. No hop or bitterness whatsoever. No oxidation in this vintage either. All malt, sweet & decadent dark fruit and booze. Continual swirling brings back a fleeting head.

Mouthfeel is somewhat oily, yet lean. Definitely not as brothy as young editions. Aging brings out that liquor/vinous essence whereas younger versions are thicker, beefier and even chewy. A real shame that 2008 was the last vintage produced. Might never experience that youngness again. Young or aged, they are almost like different beers altogether.

nebula1999, Feb 28, 2013
Photo of Traquairlover
4.55/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage, 330ml bottle poured into a snifter.

A = Clear deep maroon brown, very slight head which quickly resolves to simple bubbles around the edges.

S = Brown sugar, raisins, sharp notes almost like an aged English farm cheese but with a much sweeter backbone. Sweetens and mellows after sitting in the glass a little.

T = Sweet maple syrup and molasses, very light bitterness at midpalate. Very well blended flavors, good balance for such a sweet dessert like beer. Oxidized perfectly. A really fine example of a beer that improves with age (and this is still relatively young compared to most of the ones in my cellar).

M = Heavy body, no carbonation to speak of, very good coating of the mouth.

D = This is a superior drinking beer if you like dessert beers or beers to be enjoyed late at night next to the fire with a good book. Excellent replacement for port or a sweet sherry.

Traquairlover, Jan 10, 2009
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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
98 out of 100 based on 177 ratings.