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

114 Reviews
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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)

Brewed by:
O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
United Kingdom (England)

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.70%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
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 

Added by Todd on 11-27-2001

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 114 | Ratings: 192
Photo of orangesol
4.16/5  rDev -6.7%
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.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.59/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle from '95, poured into an Old Engine Oil snifter. Gigantic thanks to JAHMUR for sharing this gem.

A: Pours a still chestnut body. Leaves nice legs. All right.

S: Complex maltiness: sweet caramel, toffee, molasses, marzipan, and general candied awesomeness. Decadent.

T: Positively transcendent. Utterly smooth, utterly delicious melange of malt. Very sweet, but the straight caramel is nicely balanced by some tobacco and earthiness. Sublime.

M: Totally flat, quite sticky, full body. A little much, but fitting for the powerful flavors.

O: This beer is justifiably considered the paragon of English Barleywines. It's not terribly distinctive, but rather delivers the classic sweetness one expects in the smoothest, most delicious, and most luxurious way possible. Oh, and it's probably the best-aged non-Lambic I've ever had. Stunning.


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Photo of claytong
4.42/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1994 bottle thanks a bunch for cracking this open tonight

appearance - a deep mahogany, minor head that dissipates quickly

smell - maple syrup sugar, a range of malts, toffee, raisin, figs

taste - as this airs out a bit it gets fantastic. chocolate milk, brown sugar, maple sugar, brown to dark malts, raisin and toffee

mouthfeel - surprised this is so nice. no cloying, goes down smooth, some carbonation and a good creamy body

would love to get some of these. ages incredibly well.

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Photo of ColdPoncho
3.7/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1998 vintage. Cameron Harris. Thank you

A - clear deep red body. Medium white head.

S - like a pOrt. Malty and nice. Fruits Of all sorts.

T - sweet malts. Some fruits. Medium goodness.

M - medium body and a bit dry.

O - better than the new stuff. Pretty nice beer.

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Photo of Urbancaver
4.45/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Next to the 2004 and 2008

Pours a reddish brown. Nice little white head. Looks darker than the newer vintages. Smells similar but not as sweet. Really really rusty/oxidized on the nose. Tastes dry and raisiny. Malt malt malt...

Dark as shit... No real head. Smells dry and roastier than anything. Tastes great. Oxidized but damn... Wow... Roasted malts, rich, dry, amazing

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Photo of brew3crew
4.32/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1993 bottle for cam's birthday tasting

A-maroon and no head what so ever

S-sweetness and maktiness. Just like all the rest of them

T-less sweet then the other ones and very smooth. Nice

M-nice blend of sweetness and malt. Almost to perfection

I am going to have to put a couple down in my ccellar. This is tastey

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Photo of srandycarter
4.41/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Brown and prune. Small ring head, not much lace. Murky

S - Sweet malt and dark cooked fruits.

T - Molasses, sweet malt, cooked fruits, brown sugar.

M - Rich, thick, creamy, very sweet but comes out pretty close to balanced in the end. Lower carb than I would have liked.

D - Love this brand. Sad this is my only one.

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Photo of ShogoKawada
4.69/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review 700! Awesome present from the birthday BIF... thanks :)

1995 6.33oz into lost abbey tulip. Eldridge, Pope, & Co.

A- Hard pour stirs up a bit of a head but it quickly retreats to an outer ring of large brown bubbles.

S- Toffee, raisin and rye.

T- Lots of mellow nutty malts and deep dark brandy-soaked fruit, mainly figs and raisins. A bit of peat- not expected, very welcome though. Really deep flavors. Malt hits you wave after wave, it doesn't stop...

M- Not really carbonated despite the bubbles on the surface. No matter. Sips like a fine after-dinner spirit. A bit warming, but no sign of the alcohol flavor. Very very mellow on the tongue.

O- I'm impressed. A beer this old is a bit of a dice roll, but it held up fine. I can see why this one is so sought after- I need to find a few more bottles myself. Really a joy to drink- although I must confess 6.33 oz is plenty. Take your time with this one.

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Photo of cbutova
4.08/5  rDev -8.5%
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.

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Photo of Chico1985
3.81/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 vintage, 11.15 oz bottle. I've been holding onto this for a while, stoked to try it.

Pours dark brownish red, surprisingly a small off-white head retains through most of the beer.

Smells like a giant pile of dark fruit and oxidation, raisins, stale caramel and lots of sugar.

Huge and crazy sweet, loaded with caramel, dark fruit, molasses, toffee, some roasted malt. Nice tobacco-y finish that lingers.

Slick, oily mouthfeel, carbonation is low but there. A bit boozy.

Similar to JW Lees for me, good complex flavor but really, really sweet, too sweet in my opinion. Even with a small bottle splitting this is the way to go.

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Photo of mdfb79
4.15/5  rDev -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.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.32/5  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!

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.

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Photo of rvdoorn
4.84/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Had this one several times, but will review the 25th anniversary ale (1993).
Look: The beer pours a dark-brown color, with not head or even bubbles.
Smell: Roasted malts, dark fruits (plum, figs, raisins), sweet molasses, vanilla, brown sugar, toffee and some warming alcohol.
Taste: The taste is similar to the nose. Very sweet brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, dark fruits and a sweet boozy finish. Almost no bitterness, but this beer doesn’t need that.
Mouthfeel: Thick and silk, smooth but no carbonation
Overall: What a brew, it drinks like a liquor!!! Please start producing this again

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Photo of captaincoffee
4.46/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | 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.

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Photo of SFLpunk
4.39/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vertical tasting with 1994, 1999, 2003 & 2008 thanks to forgetfu!

Firstly, I'd like to say these beer smell completely different from one another.

**This rating is for the 1994 & 1999 bottles**

94: Super dark teak with zero suds. Nose is fairly oxidized and really rich on the caramel/chocolate/barley notes. This is how I expected these beers to smell. Figs and dates all day. Palate is very wide and loose. Rich comes to mind, but not cloyingly thick. Flavors come in waves and the dominate one for me is Maduro cigar wrapper. Reminiscent of a chocolate truffle made with tawny port. Very sweet and lush but not sticky. Long, mellow finish.

99: Thinner and paler caramel colored and clear. Nose is super bright and has a funky dried apricot, peach fuzz-like aroma in addition to caramel and malted barley. Baked apples and toasted oats come mind. Much brighter all around. Palate is super aggressive with alco-heat, hop bitterness and some explosive carbonation that is buried. Bright and fruity, nectarine and apricot. Palate is more defined with some remaining bitterness and alcohol prickle. Fairly sweet, but lively!

These two bottles are amazingly different. 94 is oxidized and flat, 99 is bright and structured. Both stellar for their age, the 99 is beautiful right now but still has some years left in it if stored in ideal conditions. The 94 is on the verge of dropping off as there is an odd lack of a midpalate and I think that will worsen with time.

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Photo of Verecund
4.61/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1986 vintage. 180ml (6.34 fl. oz.). Opened on June 27, 2011.

Pours dark burgundy, almost sienna, with only a few straggling bubbles. Flat, but I can't fault a 25 year old beer for that.

Rich and malty, featuring a large bouquet of sweet flavors. Some sherry [oxidation], toffee, and caramel. Equal amounts raisin and sweetened prune juice.

Huge port and brandy notes, burnt sugar, and raisins lead the way. The first few sips are dominated by the dark fruit (raisin, red grape, and prune), but as I ease into the glass, the beer opens up and demonstrates its finesse, expressed in spice, leather, and chocolate. The biggest surprise comes in the form of cocoa: chalky, bittersweet chocolate that combines with the port notes to create a wonderful flavor most resembling chocolate covered raspberries. One of the best singular flavors I've had in a beer, this is oxidation gone terribly right.

I know these can be hit or miss based on how they are stored, but this is a truly superb beer. This aged version is leagues away from the fresh bottles I've had before. I split this with Mrs. Verecund and she was blown away as well. An experience.

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Photo of mulder1010
4.48/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Mr Kennedy for this puppy. 1993 vintage

A-- No head, no carbonation, couple of bubbles but head or film, slightly hazy brownish plumb color. First thought was port, baby, port.

S-- Booze, dark fruits, carmel and sweet as heck. Desert beer being first course for the night. Thick and rich and just an amazing smell.

T-- Very sweet tasting and the fruits have held up extremely well in this. Thought strawberry jam. Almost shiraz like.

M-- No carbonation and sugar sweet heavy. Oh no, this works very well for it. Slight sourness in this but does not take away from how rich this is. Very port like.

O-- Thrilled to have had this. Heavy, rich, sweet and excellent. held up very well for it's age. Desert beer and a sipper. Worth seeking out. Gave the appearance a 3 but the rest is near world class.

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Photo of ptykozoon
4.2/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with no head or visible carbonation, no psst. Blackish purple which eventually reveals a dark brown.

Raisin, grape, dark cherry, plum, cane sugar - lots of dark fruit in this one.

Interesting sweetness, brown sugar mixed with plum. The ageing has definitely transformed this beer into something quite unique.

No carbonation, delicate wine-like mouthfeel. Full bodied and smooth. No alcohol detected really.

This beer is the epitome of dark fruits and sugars. The ageing, I assume, has made this quite exceptionally smooth and delicate. I am glad to have tried this, truly a special beer and vintage.

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Photo of portia99
4.35/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1995 bottle (6.33oz) received as an extra by jlindros and myself from a 3 way trade with jaxson. Thanks! Opened and shared among several BA's at a recent tasting.

A - Dark brown, opaque, murky, still, no head, no collar, no lacing. Not at all surprising given the age of this bottle.

S - Definitely oxidized, heavy caramel, soy, boozy, vanilla.

T - Boozy, caramel, sweet, syrupy, some oxidation, quite smooth overall.

M - Smooth, still, syrupy, boozy...really, really smooth.

O - Pretty nice sipper/dessert beer. Surprisingly smooth. Glad to have the chance to sample this one.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.25/5  rDev -4.7%
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.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.12/5  rDev -7.6%
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.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.17/5  rDev -6.5%
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.

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Photo of vfgccp
4.52/5  rDev +1.3%
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.

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Photo of OregonHopmonster
4.55/5  rDev +2%
look: 1.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

6.33 oz. bottle, 1994

Absolutely no liveliness left when I opened the bottle nor when it was carefully decanted into a snifter. The ale itself was a cloudy reddish brown, with a little bit of sediment that had been kicked up. It even looked little bit like an oil slick on top. This bottle has been in my basement for the last 10 years and based on the appearance I thought I had waited to long to drink it. I was prepared for monumental disappointment.

I could not have been more wrong! Aroma of port, cocoa, burnt sugar and raisins. Flavor almost indescribable with beer related terms, but brandy, port and Cherry Marnier come to mind, in addition to all of the flavors affiliated with the aromas. Most of all though was the shockingly chocolate flavor of this bottle. I have not tasted this in Thomas Hardy's before, but then again this is the oldest example I've had.

The body is almost as great as the flavor- silky, thick and viscous, but with a surprising alcohol warmth considering how I didn't detect this in the flavor at all! The length of the finish is beyond impressive. It coats the back of your throat with a combination of brandy and cocoa.

Extremely impressive, though my overall rating will not seem that way because of how utterly terrible it looked when I poured it. Ignore the appearance is this is close to a 5.0.

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Photo of ToAzwethinkweizm
4.67/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to Warren (Lazerlobe) for opening his home for the Syracuse Area Tasting Appreciation Night (S.A.T.A.N.)!

Date: 18 December 2010
Glass: Sierra Nevada XXX Snifter
Type: 1999 Vintage, 330ml bottle, from Lazerlobe

Warren and I got to talking, and he decided to pull this special brew out of this cellar! Thanks! I bought him two 2008 Thomas Hardy's Ales just for that.

Pours with a thin film -- amazing for 11 years old. Runny lacing, (also amazing for 11 years). Deep translucent copper in color. The first ingredient in the aroma is dark fruit. This term seems to be thrown around a lot (perhaps even I've used it), but this is the embodiment of dark fruits. The booze has settled very well on this brew. The main ingredient on the nose is raisins, big-time. Taste is a very rum-like taste, deep dry grape flavor with dried date fruits. This beer is an all-night sipper, and the alcohol has lessened in hotness greatly.

Extremely awesome. Best cellared beer I've had by far. I suppose I haven't had many, but I will never forget this beer.

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
98 out of 100 based on 114 ratings.