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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)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
98
world-class

181 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 181
Reviews: 109
rAvg: 4.46
pDev: 10.54%
Wants: 156
Gots: 35 | 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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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 181 | Reviews: 109 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Starchild
4.94/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

01/02/04 Somewhat Vertical Tasting.

I just realized this beer is named after the author Thomas Hardy, after reading the label. I actually enjoyed his Far from the Madding Crowds, but lets get real, that book is a clear-cut pastoral Utopia. Thomas Hardy ale is the soma of my brewtopia. Liquid misery I think not.

“Show myself a man of spirit?… Ah well, let me take the name of drunkard humbly – let me be a man of contrite knees – let it be!” – Thomas Hardy (Far from the Madding Crowd).

1995 Vintage
The pour produces no head and little evidence of carbonation. For a new beer I’d be utterly disgusted by the appearance, but I’ll cut this nine-year-old beer some slack. I’m not about to bitch and whine over that. Damm, this is one of the oldest beer’s I’ve ever had. The beer doesn’t give off much of a strong smell. I smell mostly port with hints of apple, almost like a cider. The beer tastes much different then the 96, it tastes like spiced apples infused with flowers. Man is this a ripe bouquet. The alcohol backbones of this old ale disappeared and sweetened up. High alcohol content no longer dominates the aftertaste as in the 1996 vintage. The mouthful busts with sweetness and then immediately extinguishes. By my pints end I realize the pints port note has truly emerged and a much-muted sourness returns. Ambrosia. Overall: 5

1996 Vintage.
After a proper pour the beer didn’t produce the any head. The beer’s has a deep tan amber hue with low viability through the pint. Smells of prunes, pears, alcohol, and oak. The beer tastes like a ripe fruit, it’s just gushing with sweetness. It’s tastes like a caramel apple that’s been spiked by sherry. Ironically, after the beer fills your mouth with sweetness, the aftertaste is tart forcing your mouth to take another sip. The aftertaste leaves a warm burn in the back of my throat reminding me of European pear liquor with a drop of honey. The alcohol is still present, but it delivers small baby sized kicks. Overall: 4.85 Godly.

1999 Vintage.
Wow, this beer is carbonated. All right! Two millimeters of foam top off my pint. The beer shows distinct prunes and pears, yet is overpowered by the sweet alcohol. It doesn’t taste quite like port yet, but maybe pear flavored rum. The alcohol has quite a bark and subtracted from the quaffibility of the last two vintages. The ’99 needs to age for another 2-3 years. Still, the 1999 is refreshing. It’s got some flavor and pronounced bite. The key element to this brew compared to the last two is the carbonation. Man, this stuff tastes like a beer again and not opposed to the raw quality of an old ale…for me its alcohol and oak.
Overall: 4.45 . Ye Gods.

Photo of genaro
4.47/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I hadn't drank one of these for several years and I was surprised to find a restaurant nearby had a case or more of 99's. It poured a cloudy, root beer color with not much of a head. The complex aroma was a bit yeasty and citrusy as well as sweet with a strong suggestion of alcohol. The taste was equally complex - caramel, honey, apples and butterscotch...and the alcohol. A very nice, mellow sipping beer which makes the drinker very mellow as well.

Photo of tavernjef
4.6/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

Photo of mikeys01
3.97/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My Thomas Hardy's '96 poured out of the bottle a slightly murky brown color, witha fair amount of sediment left in the bottom of the bottle. No head at all and very slight carbonation. Aroma is sweet and fairly alcoholic, with a bit of raisin or fermenting fruit, but not overly distinctive otherwise. Taste brings out a little bit of fruit at first along with a strong oakey character, then tends towards a more malty and sweet finish, closing off with a nice lingering bitterness. Warms nicely on the way down, a pretty smooth barleywine.

Photo of Popsinc
4.44/5  rDev -0.4%
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.

Photo of Ave
4.14/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 1

I picked up this bottle years ago on a whim. I had only recently gotten out of the macro beer hell of youth & was experimenting wildly picking up bottles of anything at random to try. I had never seen a beer with a year on the label before. That & just the overall quirkyness of the bottle I think made me pick it up. I honestly had no idea what was inside. This was in early ’94.

Only in the last few years have I reached any kind of educated level about beer, & so thought I would host a beer tasting for a few friends. It was researching the beer tasting that led me to our happy home here at BA. So anyway, what better time to bust out this mystery bottle that had been collecting dust in my closet for 9 years than with a bunch of friends at a beer party eh?

Well, as soon as we saw the actual goods, we knew we were in for something way beyond anybody’s expectation. Everything about this beer is so complex in its sensation, so overwhelming of the senses, it’s almost a waste of time to try to explain it. The BA number system works great for normal beer, but really dosnt aply to this stuff. But lets give it a try.

Color:
Soak a basket of dark red plums in a mixture of cabernet & milk for about 3 months, strain, settle out, & strain again. Run a porter house, a ¼ pound of sweet basil, & a bottle of Vicks vapor rub through a blender & dredge that in the runoff of the plums for another three months. Strain again.

Aroma:
God damn…what can you say? Fermented raisins, plums, chocolate, beef, apples, & cranberries. Heavily laden with clover, nutmeg, & fennel. Such an aromatic assault of yeast & fermented wilderness I have never beheld before. It smells like everything at once, & of course, like nothing else.

Taste:
Yeah…I guess you could call it that. The sensation in your mouth is not like actual “flavor”, its more like getting injected with rotten fruit. It invades you & you become totally involved at once. It overpowers all outside sensation. You can’t taste anything but Thomas Hardy, you can’t imagine tasting anything but Thomas Hardy, and you can’t BE anything but at the mercy of Thomas Hardy!

Mouth feel:
Like drowning in fermented fruit soaked floating in an ocean of Grand Mariner.

Drinkabilty:
No…..it’s not.

This...stuff, is beyond anything I have ever experienced in the way of a food product. It is literally as intense a physical sensation as low dose LSD. It just takes hold of you & bends you to its will. An amazing ride, one I hope to take again some day.

Ave.

Photo of ManekiNeko
4.97/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1990 vintage. Served at cellar temperature at the Brickskellar. 12 oz bottle with the serial number 23983.

Appearance: Reddish caramel colored liquid with an ephemeral white head. No lacing, but it's not needed with the style, and at the age of the bottle at comsumption, not expected.

Smell:Nicely complex, but subtle, nose. Prominent caramel and toffee malt aromas, a wee bit of smoke and tobacco and a bit of a metallic tang. I was surprised it was still fragrant after all these years.

Taste: A very intense flavor and quite complex. Initiall caramel malt bittersweetness. A peppery and medicinal hop taste immediately follows. Undergirding this is an alcoholic presence that says in an awfully polite British accent, "Allow me to introduce my chums malt and hops, old bean." The alcohol actually supports the other flavors rather than detracts. I think this is the only time I've had a beer where that has happened. My girlfriend wasn't as much into it as I. She called it, "Maneschevitz's ugly stepsister."

Mouthfeel: Quite heavybodied with longlasting aftertastes.

Drinkability: This could easily be your one beer for the night, maybe in your life. I was amazed at how well it paired with my food (a peppery, garlicy tomato sauce over shrimp and pasta). Probably the first time I truly experienced beer being the IDEAL beverage to pair with food.

Other: Aaaah.. what a beer to enter as #100. I wish I could find a few bottles of this, or any of the Hardy's line, for home consumption. Thankfully, I won't have to wait too long. Take your time with this one folks, curl up in a comfy chair and put on a good recording of Elgar's Enigma Variations or something suitably soothing.

Photo of cerevisiaephilus
4.28/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I had this beer at the Brickskeller in DC. It was really good. It actually had a decent head on it with low but perceptable carbonation in the beer. Really malty nose with very little fruityness or hopiness. The taste was a little winey, but the maltiness dominated the profile. Pretty complex nutty flavors as well. No perceptible bitterness at all. Not much yeast character to the beer.

Honestly, I'm not sure it was worth the 12$ for the 7oz bottle. but I suppose you wouldn't get the same flavors in a beer that wan't aged for 12 years!

--

I was awfully disapointed with this vintage. I also had the '91 during the same sitting and it was worlds away. The '94 had ABSOLUTELY no carbonation. I realize that LOW carbonation is part of the style, but this beer was down right syrupy. Much sweeter than the '91, the '94 just tended to sit its fat ass down on my tongue and fall asleep. However this beer did have a good bit more fruity notes than the '91. Got some plum flavors most predominantly.

All in all, I would recommend the '91.

Photo of crookedhalo
3.99/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

C'mere. Take a long whiff into this snifter. I've experienced Thomas Hardy's before so I can appreciate what a great beer this actually is. Not much carbonation, but I expect that in this "young" bottle. Maybe I just a sucker for English noble hops, but my god, the aroma to this ale is outstanding! I could walk around with this snifter duct taped on my face for the rest of my life. This beer has the same salty mineral background as the Stone's barley wine, Old Guardian [which leads me to wonder whether Stone Brewing adjusts their water in order to reproduce English high gravities?]. Maris Otter malty goodness with that alcohol punch. I bought this beer cold and had moved it a couple times so I felt it was time to share it with a friend. I'm looking forward to trying some of the vintages that I can get from my boss [86, 87, 92, 93, 95-99].

Photo of rastaman
3.26/5  rDev -26.9%
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.

Photo of hopjack13
3.5/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

wow... not really in to barlywines but this one was not extreme nor offensive.
appearence was cloudy, hazy date color.
taste.. smooth, but strong alcohol finish and after taste.
nothing extraordinary but by no means unpalatable.
this was my first sample from the hardy line,
i was not disappointed.

Photo of vitesse
4.9/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1995 vintage

poured a dark ruby and amber brown. barely any carbonation at all. thick and sweet with liquid clininging to side of glass like a liqueur.
smell is very fruity. prunes, oranges, raisins...taste is awesomely complex. huge fruitiness melts into toasty, bready flavor and then alcohol swoops in. alcohol hits your tastebud and nose quickly.
very syrupy, brandy-like mouthfeel. drinkability is only so high because of the complexity and alcohol.

this beer definitely tests the limits of beer-dom. will appeal to cognac and brandy drinkers. obviously a lot of care goes into this product. (this barlywine was about 8 1/2 years old when i tried it.)

Photo of marburg
4.87/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Consumed two nights ago (9/12/03).

Prime nuclear bunker material -- and that's a compliment. And here's why: (1) high abv makes for a great "belly warmer" for medicinal purposes, (2) so rich and big that you could drink this and be satisfied for quite a while, and (3) it would give you something improbably great to contemplate while hunkered down.

Pours with a nutty brown color that shows tiny hints of red in the light. Pretty much a headless brew, as to be expected. Just the tiniest hint of hazing.

Powerful aromas waft up to the nose immediately. Grapes, subdued lemon, apple and fruity esters, maple syrup, sweet cigar smoke. Just an impressive array of strong aromas. The estery apple character carries through to the palate with raisins and an oaky-maple-sap sugar flavor. Intensely sweet with a light plum skin finish. Eminently drinkable for a near 12% brew with such an amazing assortment of flavors.

Powerful. Complex. Big. Awesome.

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
5/5  rDev +12.1%
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.

Photo of UncleJimbo
4.59/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1993 (Anniversary edition). Sampled 8/30/03.

This ale poured a clear to cloudy reddish-amber with no foam (careful first pouring gave a clear liquid). The smell was wonderful: vinous, malty, fruity (figs, currants), mollasses. There was a slight, sharp edge to the aroma. The taste was fruity (figs, currants) and vinous. Slightly sweet with the taste of caramel, and a hint of alcohol. The flavor lingered nicely. The mouthfeel was smooth, creamy, airy, and warming. The body was medium with almost no carbonation. This was a wonderful ale that had aged nicely. Very drinkable, though this was a sipping beverage.

Thanks to Todd and Jason for sharing this.

Photo of beerman599
4.07/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

this was truely a treat! i had a chance six years ago to try this ale ands it slipped throw my fingers, not this time . recently we sat down with a list of vintage ales and this was the best. fuller bodied than you would think and just wonderful on the toung with undecribable cherry like flavor and maltly finish at 16 years old i guss there right when thay say it improves for 25 years! thanks

Photo of BeerResearcher
4.47/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This old legend is the color of my favorite old Docksiders, except Hardy's has a very thin beige head and rapidly sliding lace. The mix of sweet malt, honey, hops and alcohol aroma remain potent almost throughout the entire glass. Butterscotch and blended Scotch whiskey flavors meld together with candy sugar and a light citrusy bitterness and prunes. Earthy and slightly nutty with a yeasty, astringent background. Alcohol rounds out the complex, ever changing flavors. The nearly syrupy malt body is oily and velvety textured like a fine sherry. I hope the new Hardy's lives up to its legendary past.

Photo of beerluvr
4.57/5  rDev +2.5%
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!

Photo of francisweizen
4.7/5  rDev +5.4%
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!

Photo of johnrobe
5/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

'97 edition:
As I sipped this glorious elixir, I reminisced other occassions when I have enjoyed some of life's finer simple pleasures....an intoxicating Cuban cigar, a particularly delicious cup of Yemen Mocha/ Aged Sumatra coffee, etc. And I knew this brew had taken its rightful place on that mantle of hedonistic pinnacles. It pours a somewhat dusky brown with dark orange highlights with an ever so scant ring of bubbles for a head. The aroma....magnificent...worth the price of admission alone. Richly complex, I could sense port, a slight nuttiness, deep caramel, sweet chocolate, and loads of dried fruit; blackberries, plums, dates, currants. Frankly, I was surprised at the level of fruitiness in a 6 yr. old brew. The taste is an amalgam of rich toffee, dates, currants, nuts in the background. Sweet but not cloying and very smooth, I was reminded of a rich, young tawny port. There is a touch of alcohol in the taste, but this brew is so silky smooth it is hardly noticeable. In contrast, many other barleywines seem to have a coarse alcohol bite that is thankfully missing in this brew.
Barleywine perfection!

Photo of Jdiddy
3.62/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Well, I was so excited to try my first Thomas Hardy Ale. I must say that it was a bit of a letdown. While it is smooth, it also does not hide the alcohol taste. Slight burn going down. Taste was that of raisins, dates, and chocolate. I actually liked it best a bit chilled. As it warmed, it became unpleasant. Maybe it is just not my cup of tea. I will definitely let the other bottle I have age for many years. Maybe it will make a difference. All in all, not a bad beer but not as great as I expected.

Photo of purplehops
4.32/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1989 edition
bottle #0528 355ml.
bought in Pensacola Florida in 1992

The 1989 pours a slightly cloudy ruby-orange with no head and no lacing other than a few wondering bubbles. The aroma is sweet ambrosia and dried fruit with background notes of alcohol. The taste is sweet and alcoholic up front and then settles down to a warm fruity mix with plenty of malt flavors starting to surface. There are also some hints of herb like flavors and a wee bit of citrus blending back and forth with the malt, alcohol, fruit, and some spice flavors also. The finish is a bit dryer but still sweet like a sherry with more earthy flavors. The aftertaste is an even balance of alcohol, fruit, and spices. The herbal qualities and citrus flavors have long faded and are not present in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, even after 13+ years.
Overall a most wonderful product. The smile that comes to your face and the warmth and joy that enters your heart upon sipping this most astonishing beer is beyond my ability to put into words. Needless to say I am warm, happy, and full of mirth (and perhaps a few other things).

Photo of bditty187
4.37/5  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.

Photo of putnam
5/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is a personal tragedy. I only had one bottle of this vintage (1997) and several 1999s. I pulled what I thought would be an immature, but more numerous 1999. It was only when I logged on here, looking for a place for this review, that I realized that I had opened my last 1997 (!). Oh well, another 1999 survives to see another year. Bye bye 1997...:-(

I had taken the first whiff and taste before I realized my mistake. "Wow," I thought, "this is richer and drier than I expected." To describe the flavor, think tip top Cuban cigars, Valrhona chocolate, Scottish butter toffee, Hennessey Paradis... there is no justice words can do this beer. It is the culmination of a great brewing legacy. Even better than the 1999. Perhaps the greatest ever.

A notbeer. A world of beer within itself.

Mature, preserved fruit is evident, covered with toasted sugar and rancio, Madiera-like thickness everywhere. Obscenely luxurious...and buttery...and strong.

This is a Top Secret improvement on Port, which costs 10 x as much and delivers the same pleasure.

Photo of proc
4.23/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

While I a not a huge fan of barleywines, this one is good. It has absolutely zero carbonation. Pours out to a reddish, almost pink color. Somewhat thick in appearance. A brandy-like taste, but what is impressive is that the alcohol doesn't overpower the taste. Complex and delicious. I have another bottle of this vintage (99) cellaring. It'll fun to try it at a later date.

Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
98 out of 100 based on 181 ratings.