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)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
97
world-class

111 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 111
Hads: 185
rAvg: 4.45
pDev: 6.52%
Wants: 160
Gots: 38 | 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:
Beer added by: Todd on 11-27-2001

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 
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Reviews: 111 | Hads: 185
Photo of metter98
4.47/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

A: The beer is relatively clear reddish amber in color and has no visible carbonation. It poured with a thin off white head that consistently left a thin head covering the surface.
S: There are moderate to strong aromas of sherry in the nose along with sweet notes of caramel malts.
T: The taste is very similar to the smell and is dominated by flavors of sherry and port wine. Notes of malty sweetness are also present.
M: It feels medium-bodied, a little thin and slightly syrupy on the palate with a very low amount of carbonation.
O: Aging this beer definitely intensifies its smell and taste. It is a pleasant and interesting beer to sip and surprisingly the alcohol is very well hidden from the taste.

Note: 1998 vintage (aged 14 years) (743 characters)

Photo of Thorpe429
4.17/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Huge, huge thanks to bmanning for breaking out the 1994 vintage of this beauty at a recent tasting. Served in a SAVOR snifter because that's how I do tastings in my own house. Right, Paul?

Pours a murky tawny-red color with a small, nearly non-existent head without and head or lacing. So what, it's over 15 years old. Moving on. THe nose brings forward a very heavy malt presence with a good dosing of brown sugar and caramel. Quite a bit of toffee there as well, along with some dark fruits and grape. Really, mostly just a port bomb. Loving the nose. The flavor kicks back a bit with some light fruits and brown sugar combined with the port flavors. Mouthfeel has moderate sweetness on a medium body. Almost no carbonation, but the sweetness is really well integrated. Beautiful beer. (788 characters)

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.35/5  rDev -2.2%
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. (1,684 characters)

Photo of Jason
4.67/5  rDev +4.9%
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. (1,084 characters)

Photo of kojevergas
3.3/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

1999 vintage. Acquired at a certain bottle shop in Southern California. Cost was $30.00. ABV is marked as 11.70%, but it's probably gone up over the years. 330ml brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap and understated appealing label served into a pilsner glass in me friend's gaff in high altitude Fort Collins, Colorado. Reviewed live. Expectations are extremely high given its current ratings.

Served after a brief period of rest following its removal from the refrigerator. Side-poured as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Paired with tortilla crisps.

A: Pours a quarter finger light khaki colour head of nice cream and thickness, but merely average strength. No eat particles are visible. No bubble show. Body colour is a very dark caramel amber. Doesn't look fantastic, but it's par for the style.

Sm: A downright pungent aroma of sweet rich malts, heavy scotch, nice sweet caramel, biscuit malt, and buried dark fruit. As powerful as an aroma can usually get. Alcohol is notable. No yeast character is detectable. It kind of turns me away, but I want to tame the beast.

T: Rich malt, caramel, caramalt, rich scotch notes, biscuit malt, and heavy malty sweetness Heavy on the malt, if that wasn't clear. It certainly doesn't taste 13 years old. It's a rich malty flavour profile. Prunes. Tobacco. No real yeasty character. Some alcohol does come through. I think I like it; it's just so rich and refined. The rich scotch notes are delightful: caramel, hints of vanilla, some booze, refined malt, and awesomely subtle toasted character. Well put together, but it's not quite balanced. Aftertaste of malty molasses syrup.

Mf: A bit syrupy - especially on the finish. Otherwise, it's nicely smooth and wet. Good carbonation, even after all these years. Complements the flavour somewhat, but it has its flaws.

Dr: Even after 13 years, it's still a tasty beer. The refined scotch notes are a plus, but the syrupy finish is a turn off. It's not without its weaknesses, but I do like it overall. The cost isn't justified, but it's certainly a tasty brew. I do think its peak was hit years ago. I wouldn't bother trading for it. Hides its high ABV well. One tasty, complex, and uniquely rewarding beer.

Low B- (2,234 characters)

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.82/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Mine is a 6.33 ounce bottle, made in, let's clear the dust...cough, cough!...1995, heck, that's years before I ever heard of it, and lands on my lips courtesy of the remarkable BA called steorn...all hail steorn!
Ohmigod!!! Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!
The nose on first sniff, once cracking this cap, is gorgeous! Right away, port wine, cherries...time to pour...dark russet brown color, ruby edges, no head to speak of...Aroma, though, is extravagant, emergent from the start, ...plums, raisins, thick and syrupy, it occupies a dichotomous realm, it straddles different realities, for it appears dank, yet fresh, deep, and supple, swift and viscous, ...it's amazing that a brew sat in a bottle so well for for nearly a decade...I've barely tasted it yet, so let's get to...oh, it's murky and sweet, thick...wow!, more like a tawny port...very mellow, with the alcoholic strength, which would have slain me in it's youth is kind and smooth, no barks and bites from this seasoned pup...now, it's just the thing..but only 6 ounces? A cheat!
My 2003, I'm not touching for 5 or 10 years!
If ever I knew what I was talking about, when talking about a brew, I fail here...damn, I need a pitcher of this perfection...I'm going to lustily slurp every luscious sip left...there's a short supply, going quick...oh, my...almost gone...where do I go from here? ...gone, sad, ...ah...
thanks, steorn...a great beer experience, hardly rivaled! (1,433 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
4.15/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From 07/23/11 notes. Big thanks to JamnesCameron for sending this one my way in the Birthday BIF; thanks man! 1995 vintage, poured from a 6.33 oz. bottle into my Duvel tulip.

a - Pours a dark mahogany brown color with a few light tan bubbles and light carbonation evident. Looks good and like it's held onto its carbonation a little bit.

s - Smells of caramel malts, sugar, sweet dark fruits, molasses, and peat. Pretty nice, and a little bit sweet, which I enjoyed.

t - Tastes of caramel malts, sugar, molasses, dark fruits, sweet bread, light peat. Again, sweet but not too much, which is nice.

m - Medium to full body and low carbonation. Very easy to drink considering the ABV.

o - Overall this one has held up great for 16 years old; I really enjoyed it. A sweet barleywine that is relatively easy to drink, would love to get some older vintages of this one. (868 characters)

Photo of drabmuh
4.25/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1994? Seriously? Thanks bmanning for popping open this rarity at a recent tasting. I got the dregs and was still thrilled.

Beer is brown and murky with no real head, low carbonation and no lacing. It was bottled in 1994 and even fresh this thing has a lazy head, looks fine to me.

Aroma is filled with treacle and sweetness, caramel and toffee, smells great.

Beer is thick and sweet with a nice finish, not as dry as I was expecting, mild bitterness at the back but mostly it is everything you'd expect from a big old old ale. Old repeated for grammatical emphasis and accuracy. Very special beer. I should hold onto the case of this stuff I have from a few years ago for another decade and see what happens. I'd have it again or other vintages for sure. (757 characters)

Photo of orangesol
4.16/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Kramer for sharing this one with us. Bottle is from 1992.

A - Pours caramel orange with a thin film of white head leaving little to no lace down the glass. It appears to be mostly dead at this point.

S - Smells of rum raisin ice cream, brown sugar, toffee, caramel, dark fruits, and some port wine. Some oxidation and some light soy sauce creeps in as it warms up. Absolutely intoxicating stuff.

T - Flavors are very similar to the nose. Starts off with a quick brown sugar rush quickly giving way to a mix of toffee, caramel, dark fruits, and some port wine. Some mild oxidation and booze creeps in as it warms to room temperature.

M - Medium-Heavy body and flavor with moderately low carbonation. Full, slightly syrupy feel that clings to the pallet long after consumption.

O - I will never turn one of these down but they can be a chore to drink sometimes. The rich flavors are great but I can see why some people might not like this one. Still one of my favorites none the less. (997 characters)

Photo of Mora2000
3.83/5  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. (644 characters)

Photo of stakem
4.25/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

'96 vintage 330ml bottle poured into a matching Thomas Hardy's snifter. The cap pries off with a slight hiss and vigorously poured down the center of my glass releases a few large bubbles that collect around the perimeter of the glass and fade to nothing in a short amount of time. The brew is a dark cherry to mahogany color when resting in my glass but when held to the light appears as a brilliant clear ruby color that fades to orange and then almost yellow at its outer most edges. When the glass is swirled and tilted, some leggings of alcohol slowly droop down the wall of the glass.

The aroma is like sherry with plenty of alcohol esters slightly driven by fruity qualities. Raisins, prunes and dates give way to toffee and a slight medicinal feel and faint herbal hop edge. Some earthiness is present along with a mild musty touch of cardboard-like oxidation. Notes of chocolate blend with almost a hint of dried grassiness. I hate to compare this 16 year old brew to itself in other vintages without actually having those other vintages open at the time of this review but lets just say that while this does smell good overall, there are other vintages both younger and older that have a bit more depth of character without showing their age.

The taste is earthen with an alcohol kick that leads the way tasting minorly medicinal. The flavors of dark fruits remind me of apple skins, pears and over-ripe cherry or the pits of cherries. As the brew warms up, more of a raisin flavor comes into play with a hint of seedy dates or prunes. The oxidation shows up not only in the aromatics but also the flavor towards the finish. There are suggestions of wet paper to cardboard present into the aftertaste with a hint of herbal hops. When focusing on the residual maltiness, a hint of chocolate emerges and a touch of dusty grain. Like I mentioned in the tail end of my aroma notes, other vintages of Thomas Hardy might showcase this brew's real potential moreso than what I am writing here.

This is a full bodied brew with a very soft, light amount of carbonation that visually is completely lacking but in the feel is present enough to keep the flavors of the brew moving across the palate. It is felt in an accenting way to the alcohol that glides across the tongue keeping it almost lighter in the feel. I enjoy Thomas Hardy's Ale quite a bit. I have enjoyed many different years of this brew from freshly released yeas ago to excess of 20 years old. I selected this random vintage to write my review tonight and admittedly will need to revisit. Even though all of my bottles have been stored exactly the same way, I think this bottle shows more oxidation than any of the other vintages I have opened to date. Still good, just not as good as some of the others both younger and older. Regardless, Thomas Hardy's Ale remains a classic and a brew I wish I had more of nearly every time I partake in a bottle. (2,918 characters)

Photo of Huhzubendah
4.12/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by bmanning. Thanks Ben!

1994 vintage

The beer is a rusty, dark orange, bordering on brown. There is very little head remaining in this elderly brew.

The nose brings sweet dark fruits and raisins soaked in alcohol, tobacco, caramels, malt, brown sugar, toffee, candies. Alrighty then.

Great flavor, with a fine port character. Very small pour, so I have to make it last. Everything in the aroma has a presence in the flavor. The beer is still quite sweet. A couple ounces is perfect. Sniff, sip, enjoy.

Not surprisingly, the beer has little carbonation. The feel is thick and coats the palate with a barrage of bold flavors. Alcohol presence is still there after 17 years.

Overall, a wonderful treat to try a vintage beer like this. A great example of the style. Recommended. (797 characters)

Photo of Stinkypuss
4.42/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1994 Edition

Pours a dark brown color, much darker than later vintages of this ale. There were a few spots of carbonation but fairly tame, the beer is 20 years old. The smell is an amazing bouquet of cocoa, aged malts, musty book, brown sugar, caramel, toffee and vanilla. The taste matches the nose but far less sweet than later years. Prune, cocoa, vanilla, brown sugar, molasses, scotch and even a hint of smoke. The beer drinks fine and is a testament to the original brew house and recipe. Outstanding. (514 characters)

Photo of BillRoth
4.94/5  rDev +11%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Have had Thomas Hardy Ale a number of times within 5-10 years of bottling. Each bottle has been a rich treat indicating superb brewing of an English Old/Strong Ale.
Previously best experience had been 1989 after 15 years. A remarkably special beer that I would have rated 4.5 to 4.75.
Recently shared a bottle of 1993 ( 20 years in) with beer companero, Travis of Ocean Odyssey...that was flat out one of the best beers I have ever had. The bottle opened with a noticeable breath of carbonation. Wow...20 years???...wow! The beer poured with a rich dark ruby pour and a slight head that quickly dissipated. What remained was a madeira like brew that caught the light in our snifters and gleamed out rays of garnet and ruby red reflections. It was a beautiful looking beer. The nose was subdued...but my 60 year old nose isn't the best to pick up subtleties. Regardless, there was dried fruit...rich like dates, figs and to a lesser extent golden raisins, not a hint of bitterness. The taste mirrored the aroma. There was no sticky sweetness. Rather there was port and dates accented by an attractive soft touch of toffee and pecan like nuttiness. Absolutely no oxidation. How this came from grain and not fruit is just amazing. Clearly a big alcohol backbone, but no burn... like a Hennessy XO. The mouth feel was outstanding. Full and again madeira like, but not sticky or syrupy. It was flat out decadent.

I sometimes slightly dismiss beers that mirror fine aged sherries, ports, etc. I mean I sometimes wonder what's the point of brewing a beer...just to create something that I can get easily at the liquor store...and usually just as delicious, stores better and at less expense.
But this was clearly special. It was so worth the wait, and a unique wonderful experience.
If you can...go out, buy a few and lay them down...for a long time. Good luck waiting...but you will be happy if you can stay patient, (1,912 characters)

Photo of John_M
4.51/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintages 93 and 99 were poured at the Rare Beer Tastings at Max's during Baltimore Beer Week.

Both beers poured a nearly opaque brownish black color with little to no head retention or lacing. Both beers were essetially still. On the nose these beers were just nectar. Although undeniably sweet, there were wonderful aromas of butterscotch, milk chocolate, coffee and light brown sugar.... maybe even a touch of sweet orange citrus. Flavors replicated the nose pretty closely, with the 93 a bit less sweet then the 99. The 99 was dominated by something of a soy sauce, chocolate flavor, while the 93 seemed to be dominated by milk chocolate and butterscotch. Regardless, both beers were absolutely superb. Mouthfeel was soft, smooth and creamy with a long, drawn out finish. With the sweetness anad high alcohol, drinking more then one small glass would always be a problem. However, neither beer was heavy or tiring on the palate, and in fact these beers, at 11.7%, were entirely too drinkable.

1994 vintage. Tasted on 4/1/10. Like the 93 and 99, this beer is completely still, with virtually no head retention and lacing. Slightly dusty on the nose, yet still with plenty of milk chocolate, brown sugar, slight peat, dry sherry and milk duds. Flavors replicate the nose on this fairly sweet beer, but I'm lovig the chocolate, butterscotch, golden raisans, vanilla and wood. Mouthfeel is smooth, somewhat creamy and oh so smooth (did I already mention that). Drinkability is pointless to discuss. A little bit goes a long way I suppose, but this beer is so yummy... I'd still drink it to excess. Delicious.

Fabulous stuff. (1,626 characters)

Photo of vfgccp
4.52/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1995 bottle given to me by an incredibly gracious friend. Drank in spring of 2011.

A - Milk chocolate with caramel-red highlights. Almost no head to speak of.

S - Sherry, oak, lightly medicinal. Maple syrup and soy sauce.

T - Touch of tart immediately into silky chocolate. ~70% dark cocoa. Candied sour cherries. Molasses. Warming booze. Pumpernickel bread. Some Vietnamese cinnamon. The flavors are smooth, well pronounced, and well integrated.

M - Great mouthfeel. Liquid Silk. Medium-full body. Light syrup coating. Zero carbonation.

O - Beautiful texture and flavor. A fantastic treat to sip and enjoy. (612 characters)

Photo of Bitterbill
4.84/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle no. 04367 180ml, 1991 Edition, 12%abv.

No sound at all when I popped the cap, it pours a murky root beer colour with no foam, no carbonation.

The smell is marvelous. Lots of caramel malt sweetness, dark fruitiness, chocolate and toffee, but the caramel seals the deal for me. It's like sticking your nose in the middle of a milky way bar.

The taste equals the smell in every way. That candy like caramel just grabs me and shakes me around...yeah, the alcohol is there but that's not the culprit. It's that damn love I have for caramel. ;^) I'm tasting a little bit of plum now, very little, but it's there. Now some chcocolate that is almost hot cocoa like brings ever the tiniest suggestion of bitterness and *that* actually grows some during this session. Wow. 18+ years old and I'm floored by this brew.

Totally full bodied, luscious and smooth at the same time. Last bit in the glass and I see a tiny bit of sediment. It's going down as well!

Drinkability? I wish I had a case of this stuff! Strong but clever, tasty and bold but refined. A magnificent brew in every way and one of the most pleasurable beers I've ever had.

A: 4 S: 5.0 T: 5 M: 5 D: 4.5
___

On to the 1988 Edition, bottle no. D21160 with no abv listed, 5.3oz.

A small hiss when I pop the cap, it pours the exact same colour as the 91 with the exception of a few small bubbles that don't quite form any sort of foam.

The smell has big caramel malt notes but also has more than some hints of a Port like nose. I'm smelling more alcohol here than I did with the younger bottle.

The taste is caramelly sweet, a bit earthy, port like flavours, dark chocolate bitterness, and in the finish, some milk chocolate sweetness. The flavours here are not, how should I say this, as lively and, for me, as vibrant as the 91. Still good but a bit flat on my palate and I'm not meaning the lack of carbonation.

The mouthfeel is also not as robust and at times feels quite thin.

Drinkability? The 91 literally flew down to my gullet, this one isn't in the same league. I feel a lot more warming as well. Scores for me on this:
A: 4 S: 4 T: 4 M: 3.5 D: 3.5
3.9 B+ (2,135 characters)

Photo of DefenCorps
4.17/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I feel tremendously pleased to have gotten to try the 1993 and 1999 vintages at Max's this past Sunday. Thanks, Casey!

Dark brown with reddish brown highlights, there is no head and no lacing, just a thin ring. That's rather immaterial because the nose and flavor pack a punch.
Nose:
(1999) Rich and smoky and quite oxidized with plenty of soy sauce. Rich dark fruit with wet leather and wet tobacco, I am reminded of caramelized raisins, prunes and pears. Very deep (4)
(1993)Less oxidized, more fruity, less smoky with more plums and caramelized raisins, this is the version I prefer (4.5)

Taste:
(1999)Big smoky soy sauce flavors, this tastes past its prime and the soy is a little bothersome to me. Earthy tobacco with prune juice, this is mildly tart. Some dark fruit character is present early, but the finish is mildly tannic and fruity with some soy (3.5)
(1993) Smooth sweetness, a little simple almost, with honey, brown sugar, burnt caramel with a smooth rich fruit character. This beer is wonderful, I came back to it several times over the course on a couple of hours, and it just kept evolving. I got flavors I've never gotten in a beer before - a mild vanilla custard like character. With less tobacco and leather than the 1999, and a touch of cranberry juice, this is great stuff. (4)

Medium in body, low carbonation and a long lasting finish ( both vintages), I'm quite digging this. While I sipped it over the afternoon, I decided that I liked the 1993 a lot more.
1999: 4,3.5
1993: 4.5,4 (1,510 characters)

Photo of Jwale73
4.37/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Dave Guay for sharing. Poured the color and clarity of unpasteurized cider - no head and no lacing. Nose reveals raisins, prunes, a little bready and some booze. Taste is amazing - Follows nose, but buttery, butterscotch, and sugar plums come out in the flavor profile. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and semi-viscous with virtually no carbonation and a residual sugary quality at the finish. This is incredible - so sugary sweet, but not cloying. It's delicious. Glad I picked up several later vintages to age. (517 characters)

Photo of thagr81us
4.32/5  rDev -2.9%
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 (2,003 characters)

Photo of tavernjef
4.6/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1998 Vintage thin neck brown bottle - Color is of a dark caramel amber-like brown, cloudy and deep, thin loose bone white head appears briefly from a vigorous pour out of the thin necked 11.15oz bottle into my goblet. A very thin and small haze whisks across the top and a thin ring around the edge. Minimal spotty lace.

Aroma is a mix of caramel, toffee, plum, and lots of ethanol warming; lots! It flys right into your nose and clears ya right up. Quite a burst of booze in the nose with this. Whoa Nelly this could've perhaps aged longer, wow! Hello alcohol!

Aged longer, no way! The taste is quite powerful with beastly aggresive malts, super hefty and thick, heavenly smooth of deep, thick caramel, solid amounts sticking in every corner of the mouth. Wow, its carameltastic! Terrific sweet tang of candied caramel, notes of toffee underlay some of the sweetness, hops hide out til the finish where a creepingly dark and pine sappy bitterness grabs some of the malts away from the palate for a moment then the malts fade back in with a tangy dulled orange-like sweetness and has some touches of tobacco and wet wood in the lingering areas of the finish.

A powerful full mouthfeel, hefty, belligerent, and brutish, you know your drinking something with gusto with this one. As soon as it hits your lips you get pummeled into submission with mega malts and jabs of warming alcohol in each sip, my goodness this sucker is thick! That said, its amazingly fine to drink, quite smooth and creamy. A wonderuosly big beer to apprehend. Wonderfully wonderful! In a word - Scrumptiouslyheftedbigyummyness. (1,611 characters)

Photo of cbutova
4.08/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.15oz bottle shared by Chico1985.

A- Opens with a surprising hiss for a 12 year old beer. Dark red ale into the glass with a small head which retains pretty well. Good bubbles rising and some legs on the glass.

S- Dark fruit bomb with an accent of musty, oxidized caramel. Stale bread, raisins and even cheese at first.

T- Sugary sweet fruit. Dark fruit like cherry, raspberry and raisin come to mind. Other things are stale caramel, oak, vanilla, fig and prune.

MF- Syrupy body with light carbonation and an oily feel. Somewhat silky and slight alcohol warmth.

Very interesting 12 year old ale. Dark fruit parfait comes to mind considering the sweetness level. Has held up well. (686 characters)

Photo of francisweizen
4.7/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1994: First, off a big thanks to Beerluvr for this bottle of divine nectar! This is my first Thomas Hardy's Ale and I must admit, it was quite an experience. This beer opened with a barely audible 'pfft' and glugged into my Chimay chalice with absolutely no head. This ale was a dark blood-red, muddy-brown colour. This ale exuded aromas of leather, molasses, raisins, dark fruits, figs, chocolate, butterscotch, toffee bits, and more! It tasted like more of the same. Sweet, fruity, chocolaty, and boozy. The alcohol precense was pretty minimal, considering this brews potent ABV! The mouthfeel on this brew was amazingly thick and rich. Like a meal in a glass! The drinkability was very good but this is a very special type of ale that should only be drunk on special ocassions!
Cheers!,
F

1998: This brew pours out a dark amber/red colour with a minimalistic white head of foam, which only lasts for a short while. The aromas are all across the board and consist of leather, rawhide, chocolate, caramel, alcohol, faint hops and malts, spices, and yeast. The taste is quite fruity, boozy, english-barleywine like and complex. The mouthfeel is quite thick and rich, but never too sweet, thick, or rich to be considered cloying. The drinkability is great for an ale of this size as well! What can I say....it's a Hardy's!

1997: A dark brownish liquid with a minimilistic, but lasting white head of foam. Aromas are all over the place. Leather/rawhide, chocolate, caramel, sugar, spices, dark fruits, rum, brandy, deeply malty, and slightly dry and hoppy. The taste is truly an exceptional thing of beauty. Deep malts, dark fruits, alcohol, sugar, various spices and dark belgian chocolates. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy, but not over the top for a barleywine and the drinkability is, as always, excellent for an 11.7%abv brew!

1982: sampled at the Kulminator in Antwerpen, Belgium. A dark ruby red (port like) liquid with a small cap of fizzy brown foam. Aromas are unreal. Sugar, spice, caramel, dark fruits, booze (brandy or cognac), sugar, deep malts and more. Taste is herbal, medicinal, leathery, chocolatey, caramelly, fruity...and simply awesome! Mouthfeel is thick and rich and drinkability is surreal. Almost a perfect 5 in my book. Wow, this brew certainly benefits from some serious down time! (2,319 characters)

Photo of Pencible
4.7/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

150th Anniversary version, sampled on March 13, 2010. (One out of 2500 bottles ever produced; brewed in 1987.

This poured a hazy mahogany with no head. It smelled like strong prunes and sour apple and malt vinegar and alcohol, with some dark molasses and toffee and a bit of nutty malt. It tasted like roasted cocoa and caramel and honey wheat, with port and sour prunes and raisins, and a bit of oak and leather and alcohol. It was thick with no carbonation, and had a lasting sour and bittersweet aftertaste. Overall this was a decadent, rich, and complex beer. It had nice body too, with pretty well hidden alcohol, so it was a delight to sip. Oxidization seems to have begun, adding some sour notes to an otherwise sweet beer. But this still has great characteristics. Unfortunately, the effects of the barrel aging seem to have worn off for the most part, by now.

(Honestly, this probably didn't taste much better or worse than a standard 23 year old Thomas Hardy's ale. But the rarity makes this one much more valuable and appreciated.) (1,044 characters)

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
5/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Presentation: A small, classic looking, 6.33 fl.oz. brown glass bottle. The obverse label has the Bottle No. E 169956 in red, with the year 1990 in a smaller black font. The reverse label states that this is the rarest ale in Britain, it maybe now. The crown cap & top inch of the bottle neck are deliciously sealed in a lovely thick gold foil that seals a wrap of scarlet red string, which in turn holds a gold colored metal disc with a Hitchcock-like profile of Thomas Hardy. A grandiose presentation.

Appearance: A dark lucid chestnut color, little inherent carbonation results in no head formation. A thin ring of tan colored bubbles cling to edge of the beers meniscus. A gentle swirl of this majestic ale results in a wave-shaped viscous ethanol coating that slowly creeps, Cognac like, back down into the glass. Regal.

Nose: Pungent malts, strong dark exotic fruits in an emulsion of high alcohols. Years of captivity & maturation are slowly released, the sheer marvel of the dark odors are enough to induce salivation. Terrific.

Taste: Smooth, oh soo very smooth. A seraglio of flavors start with sweet malts soaked in a rich Dundee fruit-cake in the entrance. Hints of Madeira, sweet sherry, caramelized brown sugar & a prune-like fruitiness in the middle. Rich toffee tastes lightly cloy in the back of the throat, reminiscent of the finest English Devonian Toffee. Later these develop into a more astringent fino sherry like finish, dry & heated. A low strength spiciness breaks through in the latter parts of the swallow. Solvent-like, the alcohol convokes all these tastes, & is ever present, like a Gas, it fills all available spaces. Ultimately this helps to warm the epiglottis & stomach, rather than the mouth. Quite amazing, the last 13 years have eroded the rough edges & polished the raw surface of this Masterful English Barleywine, into a mature, yet serene, Grand Master. Awesome.

Mouthfeel: Immense but never over-powering. The smooth ale enters the mouth like a SuperModel gliding effortlessly down the catwalk. Smooth & Silky, it coats the mouth & warms the stomach. Incredible.

Drinkability: I so wish I had a Case, or even just one more bottle.

Overall: Alongside a 1987 Courage Imperial Russian Stout that I had a few years ago before leaving England, this is probably one of the very best bottle-conditioned Strong English Ales that I have ever had the privilege to try.

Astounding, Marvelous, Stunning, Breath-Taking - PERFECT!

THE Quintessential Classic English Barleywine. (2,530 characters)

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
97 out of 100 based on 111 ratings.