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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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 111 | Hads: 185
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 mikeyv35
4.42/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Date: 05/19/2010
Type: 6.3oz. Bottle
Vintage: 1995
Glassware: Portsmouth Tulip

Poured a light brown translucent color w/ absolutely no lacing or carbonation as expected. Nose was of dark fruits covering a light oak and basement mustiness. Taste was of dark fruits, cherry cordials, slight oak, and a nice booziness like a fine sherry or port. Mouthfeel was thin and clean. As far as drinkability goes, my tastebuds say I could drink this all night, but my mind says definately not at 11.50%. The bottle size of 6.3oz. is perfect as this drinks very similar to vintage JW Lees and port. This brew was sublime! (609 characters)

Photo of ktrillionaire
4.07/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - It pours a bizarre syrupy and viscous brew, cloudy with a small patch of bubbles and ancient-looking yeast floaties. Intriguing.

S - The aroma is hugely malty, with vinous notes and impressions of sherry, toffee, malt vinegar, prune, cherry, almond-amaretto and plum. It is astoundingly complex.

T - It tastes like a better-than-average Barleywine, but not by much. Especially considering the hype. The notes of oxidation are fairly evident, and the malt is almost a tangy sweet-sour. The complexity found in the nose is not readily apparent in the gustatory sense. The beer was disgustingly cloying when it was first brewed, and somehow 19 years is not enough to really chill out the malty sweetness? I think it is more of a curiosity, taste-wise, than a serious brew. In other words, while good, I find this beer to be a bit of a gimmick... 'How old can a beer get?' But I am definitely glad to try this nineteen-year old brew. It is the oldest brew I've had, I think.

M - This beer was still somewhat carbonated, surprisingly. The feel is slick and thick and viscous.

D - A mixed bag; full of lore and hype, looks intriguing, smells wildly complex, tastes like an old abused Barleywine. (1,197 characters)

Photo of ThreeWiseMen
4.43/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

6.33oz. 1994 vintage bottle acquired in a trade with fogdog (as an extra!). Thanks Kevin!

Poured into a Rémy Martin snifter.

Appearance: Pours out thick, flat and murky. Looks uncarbonated. No head whatsoever. Body is nearly opaque and muddy brown in color. Looks... swampy? This beer is also surprisingly clean, leaving no lacing or oily residue on the walls of the glass. Interesting.

Smell: Strong prunes, molasses, and sherry-like aromas jumped out of the bottle as soon as I cracked it open. Upon further examination (from the snifter), I get brown sugar, figs, dark berries, earth, leather, tobacco, and maybe even vanilla. There's more to it than that though. Dulled floral hops and fruity esters come through at the end of each whiff. What a bouquet! The smell is not only complex, but also exquisitely balanced and absolutely mouth-watering. Wow!

Taste: Prunes, brown sugar, sherry, tobacco, earth, loads of grain, red currants, and even honey. There's a bit of soy sauce in there too, but it doesn't bother me. Nice complexity and balance, though not nearly as enthralling as the smell. Earth, leather, wood, and honey come through the strongest in the aftertaste, which lasts and lasts. Alcohol is hidden extremely well to boot!

Mouthfeel: Very oily and flat; certainly not beer-like. Each sip coats the mouth in a new layer of oily residue, producing a long-lasting, enjoyable aftertaste. For being 11.70% by volume, the alcoholic heat and dryness are very mild. Full in body and flavor, but the lack of carbonation bugs me.

Drinkability: If it weren't for the lack of carbonation, this would be an easy 5.0. The complexity and balance are fantastic, and the alcohol is ridden very, very well. I've never had a high ABV beer as smooth as this one. Excellent! (1,777 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 DmanGTR
5/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Updated review (1992 Vintage)
Thanks to TheBigEast (Bob) for bringing this beauty. Body and color was similar to that of 93, simply a beautifully crafted English Old Ale/Barleywine. Lovely sherry, toffee, and fig/date notes all over the bouquet. Please sir, can I have some more? (Reviewed in Jan 2010)

Updated review (1993 Vintage)
Slightly lighter in color and body than the 94 vintage. This is just as delicious as I remembered it, a lovely dark fruit and caramel puree topped with a hint of cream sherry. Not as thick and chewy as the 94, but damn this is an awesome sipper. (Reviewed in November 09)

My 150th beer review. Vintage 1994 opened on the last minute of January 1, 2009. The first beer I've had of 2009.

I bought this bottle a few months back on sale for $9.95. Since this is the most vintage bottle I had, I decided to review this one and let my other TH vintages age a while longer. This is a review from notes. No numbering of any sort on the bottle.

Served at 50°F (to allow for warming) in a chalice.

This baby poured a lovely dark brown with amber-red hues in the light. No sediment, very clear, yet very dark. No carbonation was detected, as expected from a 15 year old beer.

Even as I poured, incredible aromas of dark, ripe fruits: prunes, strong tones of figs, and black currants dominated the air. Toffee, very sweet caramel malts, molasses, and a hint of yeast was also abundant in the bouquet.

A sip yielded sweetness in the forefront with tones of ripe blackberries and black currants. This was followed by a darker, richer taste of molasses, toffee, and cabernet sauvignon. The finish is long and complex. Hints of ripe plums, a touch of smokiness and dark chocolate are present and lasts forever. Despite all the sweetness, none of it was cloying in the least bit. Very little alcohol was perceived at all.

As expected, the TH Vintage '94 was full bodied with no carbonation. Being thick and chewy, it coated my palate nicely like a delicate yet rich dressing for my tongue (obviously I don't mean it to be as thick as salad dressing). Extremely smooth.

This beer is so drinkable, I would give it over a 5 of 5 if possible. Alcohol only warms the throat as it is consumed, barely gracing the palate but accenting every sip. You don't realize how quickly it disappears until you're on your last sip and you want to make it last forever.

Overall - This is an impeccable beer. I can't believe it took me this long to open one up and try it. Its smoothness is unsurpassed by any beer I have yet tasted. With the fullness of a porter, the sweetness of a dark Belgian, the boldness of a red wine, the delicacy of French vanilla, this is a beer fit for any occasion calling for beer, wine, tawny port, whatever! This was the perfect beer to start off the new year of 2009. (2,808 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 Rudgers73
4.08/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A 6.33 oz bottle of 1994 vintage...

I popped the top and there was no depressurization sound whatsoever. Poured into a wine glass, the color is dark brown/reddish, crystal clear and no carbonation. The smell is very potent. Vanilla, cocoa, brown sugar, port wine. Taste was different than I had expected. Old ale type of molasses, nutty, creaminess, but since it has been sitting around for so long there is a sour fruity taste that comes through at the end. Rich, sweet vanilla mixed with tart flavor that almost resembles a lambic (kinda like Ommegang's Three Philosophers 2% cherry lambic effects the overall pallet of that beer). Lots going on with each sip of this beer. Layers of flavor coat the mouth as each small sip goes down. Swish it around and you taste nothing but oxidized, tangy flavor. Take a larger sip and you taste the sticky sweet front, then the thin tart finish. Interesting to say the least.

So this is what a beer tastes like that was brewed when I was 10 years old... (996 characters)

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

1968 through 2008 decade vertical tasting put on by Traquairlover - thanks for setting this up!
Putting up scores of the 1978 since it was the best imo.

A - All were garnet in color with the 1988 being the darkest and the 2008 the lightest. The haziness was dependent on how much sediment was poured into the glass. All given 4.5

S - 2008: toffee, dark fruits, floral, apricot - 4
1998: much more complex aromas of sherry, plum, pineapple, slight herbalness, vanilla, oak - 4.5
1988: sherry, port, dark fruits, musty, caramel, toffee, bitter herbs, vinegar - 4
1978: brandy, port, madeira, toffee, more vanilla and oakiness than the newer bottles, chocolate, cherry (fruits are a bit less than earlier vintages, but much more complex) - 5
1968: huge sour, funky aroma with spicy, cumin notes, pepper, lots of vanilla and oak - 5

T - 2008: one-dimensional, pear, citrus, peppery spice/alcohol kick - 4
1998: various fruits galore - cherry, orange, lemon, tropical fruits. Also port like qualities, vanilla, tobacco, leather - 4.5
1988: slightly sour, musty, citrus, pumpernickel bread. Very complex and the sourness really works with this beer. Tastes like a cross between barleywine and oude bruin - 4.5
1978: most complex so far with red wine, sherry, oak, raisins, plum, hint of chocolate, cherry, tropical fruits, licorice, slight sourness melds all the flavors together very well - 5
1968: has a very nice base of sherry and almond with layers of complexity on top - oak, plum, paprika, candy corn, vanilla, leather, tobacco, dr pepper. Overall the flavors are a bit subdued compared to the 1978 though - 4.5

M - 2008: finishes very hot, alcohol kick going down - 3.5
1998: a bit thin, but not as hot as the 2008 - 4
1988: acidity gives a very nice mouthfeel and it coats well - 4.5
1978: same as 1988
1968: lost a lot in terms of mouthfeel - very thin - 3.5

D - 2008: overall disjointed flavors and one-dimensional, couldn't drink a lot of this - 3.5
1998: highly drinkable - goes down smooth as butter and would pair perfectly with nutty desserts. You can tell it's not quite at it's peak though and still a bit hot even after more than 10 years - 4
1988: the sourness makes it very drinkable surprisingly - this one really grew on me the more I drank of it - 4
1978: so smooth and drinkable! This is the perfect dessert beer and best of the bunch imho - 4.5
1968: still a very drinkable barleywine although a bit thin - has held up amazingly well after 40 years in the bottle - 4

Rank (best to last): 1978, 1968, 1988, 1998, 2008 (2,542 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 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 alcstradamus
4.62/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

1990 vintage

Didn't expect (and didn't get) any head from this 19 year old, 12% brew...especially considering how soft of a pour I gave it in order to leave the sediment behind. Poured into a 25 oz. snifter for maximum aroma retention, I was greeted by a nice dark caramel brew that is beautifully ominous if you know what is sitting in front of you.

I could smell this non stop after I poured it, haven't even stuck my nose within a foot of it but I already know it is amazing. Getting close I am smacked in the face by a gigantic burst of deep caramel malts, hot alcohol, and what seems to be fresh pine and floral hops (obviously something else is mimicking that smell). Once again, I can only really describe this as "ominous"

The alcohol present on the nose completely disappears once this touches the lips. Breathtaking, really. This beer is everything I hoped it would be. Old ale/english barleywine/port qualities all come together to create a beer that is the definition of a "sipper

Nearly full bodied, I'm not sure if this has thinned out at all during the years but what remains is a low carbonated, heavy beer that feels exactly like it should. Perfect for the style.

As I said, this beer is the definition of a sipper. the 6 oz. bottle is plenty, and I could sip on this for hours and savor every moment. Truly an all-time great beer and I am very excited to drink this in the future since it has such variation between bottles. (1,447 characters)

Photo of rye726
5/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

'94

Pours a dark woody brown with a thin tan head. Perfect color more than makes up for the small head.

Nose has sweet malts, ripe fruits, sherry, figs, toffee, plums, cherries and caramel.

Taste is equally complex. Hugely rich malts, dark candy, aged sherry and dark pitted fruits.

Thick, creamy body is perfectly carbonated. Amazing stuff. (346 characters)

Photo of MrHungryMonkey
4.35/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1982 vintage, from de Kulminator, 08.13.09. L26075

Nose of sweet-smelling malt, slight vinegar and vinous qualities, dark roast with slight caramel, slightly sour. Smells good to very good.

Pours dark brown, cherry hues, no clarity, mild to moderate head with quick dissipation. Looks good.

Amazing moderately strong sourness and tartness quells into a chocolaty maltiness. Mild oxidative wet cardboard flavors work quite well with the alcohol. Notes of hop bitterness and herbal/citric flavor. Mild circus fruit works nicely with the chocolate malt. Sour/tartness dies down giving way to the amazing thickness - smooth and viscous with soft carbonation. Nice citric tartness in finish. Tastes very good. Feels very good. Very good drinkability.

Very nice! Only slight oxidation noticeable in this fine brew for such age. Thick sweet sugary malty. Very impressive. Very cool. (879 characters)

Photo of Patrick999
4.64/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1991 vintage, to date the oldest beer I've had the pleasure of trying.

It pours still, as you would expect, an amber-colored spirit.

Incredible nose of candied dark fruits...prunes, figs, dates, grapes, plums, with chocolate lurking underneath.

I get black licorice and blackstrap molasses up front, with a great chocolate-covered-raisin taste on the back end. Port-like, but not quite as port-like as I would have thought. Exceptional without a doubt.

It is a perfect beer to pour in small portions and share. Clearly, this is great stuff. (548 characters)

Photo of Rayek
4.94/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My brother and I had 1989 and 1992 vintage bottles to compare. Opened on 08/08/09 and poured into snifters.

Up first is 1989. I had two bottles that had been in my possession for the last 16 years. Somehow, I managed to keep them pretty stable through the 14 different houses and two states I've lived in since I bought them. They were very well traveled beers to say the least. What's interesting is that the two bottles came out tasting a bit different from one another.

Both bottles poured a deep and slightly murky copper color. Though neither displayed any head, there was still a touch of carbonation in each. One was ever so slightly more pronounced than the other, however. The beer left no lace in its wake; just a light syrupy film.

The nose on the '89 was beyond amazing. Oak and chocolate are what I noticed first, followed by a ton of dark fruits. Raisins, prunes and currents stuck out the most. A healthy dose of nose tingling alcohol provided an offset to the fruits. I even picked up a bit of pepper and black tea at work.

The aromas then melded perfectly into the flavor. The dark fruits saturated my taste buds, while the warmth of the alcohol saturated the rest of my body. The fruit sweetness, woodsy oak, plus the alcohol and pepper bite balanced perfectly. The beer's flavors lingered long into the night. Truly an oh my God experience if there ever was one. Interestingly, the flavor intensity in the bottle with the higher carbonation seemed to be a tiny bit more pronounced.

Yes there were bubbles, but I couldn't feel them in the mouth. Instead, I was treated to a mouth coating silk that was heavy and similar to a fine cognac.

Overall, the '89 was simply amazing; almost beyond words.

The 1992 was entrusted to my brother. It didn't have quite the storied existence of the 1989, but it still moved around a bit. Sadly, the second bottle was broken by a careless roommate many years ago.

The '92 was quite similar to the '89, but not quite all the way there. Perhaps 20 is the magic age? Although the flavors were similar, the intensity level of the younger beer was lower. This was most prevalent in the woodsy flavors. The '92's flavor was basically 9/10ths if the '89. The 1992 was still an amazing tasting beer, however. It did have more carbonation going on. I still didn't get a head, but there were a few bubbles ringing my glass. The light carbonation made for a lighter mouthfeel compared to the '89.

Overall, I'm thrilled we were able to curb the temptation to try these beers before now. Both vintages came from four-packs that were purchased after the beers were a few years old. We drank two of each right away, but sadly didn't take notes. But apparently we were smart enough to know to save the others for later. I think we have a Michael Jackson beer guide to thank for that. So, thank you Michael for the advice. These beers were more than worth the wait. (2,913 characters)

Photo of Svejk
4.97/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

D- Oh, how I wish I had more of this. Any beer that tastes so good that you want to drain the last drop from the glass has perfect drinkability, and this is one of those beers. (1,241 characters)

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

I have collected Thomas Hardy's Ale for almost a decade now. It started when a friend and I discovered an old cache of the brew at a random liquor store in Maryland. They had several cases from 1990 through 1999.

Since then I have hunted-down several older vintages, including a few July, 1968s (both capped nips and a corked/waxed pint).

A: A gorgeous clear mahogany with a thin head that quickly dissipates.

S: Candy sugar, dried fruit, vanilla, nuts and leather.

T: Incredibly complex - molasses, candy sugar, madiera, dried dates, all balanced with some faint low-alpha hops.

M: Beautifully oily and creamy. Medium to full-bodied. I can swirl a sip of this in my mouth for several minutes, and it loses nothing. Even after swallowing, it lingers beautifully on the pallet.

D: Very drinkable. None of the attributes are overpowering, although the alcohol (which is virtually undetectable on the pallet) can catch-up to you after a few of these.

I would highly recommend a vertical tasting of these brews. The variation in aroma, taste and mouthfeel is incredible between vintages. (1,091 characters)

Photo of BeardedBoffin
4.74/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

The time has finally come for me to drink this bottle. I procured this a few years back with the anticipation of drinking it when the time came. Three weeks back, that time indeed arrived, and tonight the reward: a bottle of Thomas Hardy's Ale, vintage 1992.

The bottle emitted a slight hiss as I pried the cap from the glass. The beer poured into the chalice a beautiful chestnut brown color with no head, but a vestige of carbonation was present from the dissolved bubbles stuck to the side of the glass.

The aroma is quite amazing, taking a different form every time I place my nose over the glass. Plums, prunes, powdery chocolate, an old pile of chopped wood, refined oak barrels, fermented grain, and a slightly boozy backbone all contribute to this bouquet.

On the palate the beer is malty and bitter at once. It's smooth and full on the palate. A malty sweetness is contrasted by a bitterness up front. This rolls into juicy center which gives way to a mild rummy fruit, peaty, but still bitter, character toward the rear. The beer exits strong and slow and bitter and a little boozy.

This aged brew is the epitome of a sipper--like brandy by the fire place. A complex and amazing beer. Something to be savored. If you ever have the chance, don't hesitate, get the bottle. You will not be sorry. (1,310 characters)

Photo of Skidz
4.58/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1986 Vintage, sampled with others in the Madison crew. Mucho thanks to the owner of the bottle, I highly doubt I will ever again be able to taste a beer of this age again, at least one that has aged as well as this has.

Beer is saddlebrown in the glass with no head to speak of; completely still. Color runs from edge to edge, very little fade at the thinnest points in the glass. Sticky as a gecko on the glass.

Candy-like in aroma. Caramel and vanilla are quite prominent, noting musty raisins and dates in the background.

Slushy sweetness from the first sip. Dank wooden hues in the background, with cinnamon spiciness. Figs, raisins and a mélange of dark fruity esters. Little/no perceived bitterness. Alcoholic content unnoticeable.

Crushingly smooth in the mouth; liquid suede, if it ever was. Medium-full body.

It's hard to say if this was past its prime or if it was never quite there at all. Still, very enjoyable and an exemplary treat. (953 characters)

Photo of eyncognito
4.87/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1986 vintage Thomas Hardy's Ale No A00971 6.04 fl oz

shared this bottle with some co-workers, big thanks to the owner who generously brought this out of his cellar. this was a real treat.

pours a clear caramel brown, copper highlights, no head. the smell is simply amazing-smells of port, sweet cherries, vanilla. taste is even more complex-port, cherry, vanilla, but with a touch of sweet spiciness, and a sherry-like finish. mouthfeel was slightly chewy and sticky, for such a strong beer no alcohol burn could be felt, truly wonderful. (540 characters)

Photo of abents
4.85/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1986 vintage Thomas Hardy's Ale No A00971 6.04 fl oz

Lucky enough to be able to try this from my co-worker who used to sell wine and some beer. He had this in his wine cellar and was gracious enough to let myself and others try.

Pours out a transparent caramel-brown color with no head. Smells like a port wine more than anything else, very distinct caramel nose with touches of red fruit and vanilla. Taste is incredible, the smoothest complex beer I've ever tried. Bombarding the taste buds with caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, cherries, and a nice port-like finish. Very much reminiscent of a port wine in flavor profiles, very light mouthfeel almost slightly oily texture with absolutely no carbonation. Very intricate brew with a smooth tenderness that begs to be drunken. No alcohol detected at all very nice flavors that leave the lips sticky with sweetness. I almost fear that this one is slightly past it's prime, I feel it could have been slightly better at one time, but I will never know the answer to that quandary. Regardless, it is one amazing beer that I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to try. (1,119 characters)

Photo of Beertracker
4.9/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

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

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

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

CHEERS! Beertracker

*Taster's Note: This is a retro review from 2003. (3,174 characters)

Photo of Traquairlover
4.55/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1999 Vintage, 330ml bottle poured into a snifter.

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

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

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

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

D = This is a superior drinking beer if you like dessert beers or beers to be enjoyed late at night next to the fire with a good book. Excellent replacement for port or a sweet sherry. (894 characters)

Photo of brewandbbq
4.54/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Original review date 12/30/98

Vintage 1989 nip-sized bottle at 55 degrees.

A lack of any whisp when the cap is cracked leads to a mostly flat pour. The surface holds a decent amount of large bubbles that came out of solution from an exaggerated pour for several minutes before becoming totally placid. The body is perfectly clear and dark mahogany.

Aromatics are heavily laced with dark leather, fresh tobacco, Port wine, dried figs, and boozy malt. Very intense and complex.

The body is thickish and syrupy, with a sticky, oily mouthfeel. Zero carbonation lends quite a wine-like essence.

Ripe dark fruit, cocoa, and toffee-dusted leather lead off the palate. Warming whiskey-like alcohols step forward and wrap around dried figs. Dusty, sweet malt and bitter chocolate follow through. Hints of woody tannins, dark rum, and old suede linger.

Finishes with a lingering warmth, figs and toffee stuffed in an old leather coat, luscious malt, and whiskey overtones.

This vintage was heavy on chocolate, alcohol, and leather. Barely a trace of any dusty cardboard. The lack of carbonation was hardly a detraction.

Revisit 1/15/09:

Vintage 1989 as well, and another flat example. Delicious and complex with plenty of toffee-rubbed leather, tobacco, booze-soaked figs, and oily malt. Minimal oxidation. Too bad this vintage is flat. (1,336 characters)

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