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Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale | Yards Brewing Co.

very good
289 Reviews
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Thomas Jefferson's Tavern AleThomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale

Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States | website

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
This powerful and complex golden ale pays homage to Founding Father and fellow brewer, Thomas Jefferson. Yards Brewmaster, Tom Kehoe, worked closely with Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern to recreate this recipe, employing honey, rye, and wheat, just like the beer Jefferson made at Monticello.

Added by NeroFiddled on 08-01-2002

User Reviews
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Reviews: 289 | Ratings: 826
Photo of KLHBB
4.16/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

We asked at the liquor store, what is local? They pointed us to Yard and we chose a six pack of this. Really good. A nice amber color, the color of iced tea. Lemon, caramel, brown sugar, medium carbonation, an alcohol bite at the end. Yummy.

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Photo of TTen
4.53/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Yards Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale

L: Beautiful clear copper with a cream colored head. Good head retention. Small carbonation bubbles meander upwards. Fantastic! 4.75
S: Grainy, spicy aroma. There must be rye in this. A little noble earthy, floral hop aroma. This rye in the aroma is really nice. I cannot stop smelling this one. 4.75
T: Again, the grainy, spicy rye hits just right. A little hop bitterness in conjuntion to the spice of the rye to balance the hefty malt bill. It's smooth and flavorful with malt sweetness and rye spicyness. The alcohol isn't much of a factor. The finish is on the sweet side and there are floral and rye notes that linger for a while. Incredibly distinctive flavor. 4.5
F: This is medium bodied with low to moderate carbonation. Not quite chewey but still substantial. 4
O: This is a unique beer that is very well crafted. It's clean, it's well balanced, the aroma is wonderful, it looks as good as any beer I've seen and it is delicious. I have passed on this beer many times and am now kicking myself for doing so. 4.5

Bottled on 3/1/2016

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Photo of cjgiant
3.91/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

On tap:
Ok, totally unexpected win here. Maybe right place, right time; maybe a newfound style for me (recent love for Immort Ale), but...

Pretty clear overall and definitely for the burnt orange color. Head is creamy for a lighter beer with earlier lacing. Light filmy head lasts.

Nose is definitely English IPA in nature. Copper and noble hops, essentially, not something that turns me on usually - but right time?

Taste is a clean, cereal-like malt upon which the indications of a ESB are presented. But then the bitterness doesn't grab hold, and neither does the copper notes that can kill an English IPA/ESB for me. A light maybe honey-like balancing sweetness counters these n'er do wells. A light impression of flowery to fruity nature grows in the beer, in the most general of terms.

Balance is key, but in a long-arm way: this is somehow both quite bitter and quite sweet at the same time. Strange and intriguing. Somehow it comes out soft enough, maybe because there's no more strength to this n'er than need be on either side.

Definitely need a revisit of a bottle on this one, but as of this review, I am sold. I gave my overall a notch under considering my impression is this might be situational. Revisit needs to consider this (and freshness).

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Photo of stevoj
3.52/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap ( beer engine) at the Industry. Dark golden with creamy head, nice hoppy aroma and hops in taste , creamy and smooth. No evidence of the elevated ABV.

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Photo of pugbutter
4.35/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Honey. Rye. Those sweetened honey pretzel sticks you can buy in any crummy grocery store...but in a good way. This one hides the alcohol well behind tons and tons of pleasant flavor. At no point is it too cloying; just a great balanced beer.

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Photo of Purerockfury
4.88/5  rDev +29.1%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer shocked the hell out of me. I love Yards so I figured this would be pretty fine. Good label. Thomas Jefferson on the label. Good font. Brown bottle. Then I poured it and it was...ugh....yellow. So I got a little scared. How could something so yellow be good? Not even gold for gods' sake! YELLOW! Instead of launching the glass across the room as the color would normally demand, I took a sniff. Hmmmmm. It smells like beer. Hoppy. Malty. Spicy. Maybe a little citrus in there (but thankfully not grapefruit...NO ONE LIKES GRAPEFRUIT!).

I took a sip and something amazing happened! It takes great! Like world changing great. The spicey rye mixed in with the honey and corn sweetness and made a malt profile i had yet to experience. It almost has an IPA hop bitterness as well. A little grass and a little spice and a little lemon (THE GOOD YELLOW FRUIT) and maybe a touch of flowers On top of that was the viscous mouthfeel. Almost like a single malt scotch body and mouthfeel. Heavy in a good way.

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Photo of Kubishark
4.65/5  rDev +23%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Had on tap at the brewery in Philly. Wow, this beer surprised me with how fantastic it was. It looks and smells good, but pretty normal. Then you taste it and it hits you. Delicious malts and biscuity flavors flood your mouth and excite your taste buds. Frankly, this is one of my favorite beers I've ever had. Jefferson is my favorite founding father and it just so happens that Yards' beer named after him is my favorite of theirs. I really love this beer.

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Photo of PhillyRiver
4.26/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bottle into clean tulip glass. Golden near one lamp, copper near the other. Two fingers of thick fluff head that laces pretty good all the way. Delicious. I am a little too lazy right now to ID all the flavors, but there might be honeysuckle and mild orange. (I don't read other reviews or company descriptions, so that's just my impression.) The mouth feel is among the best I've ever felt, smooth like glycerine(?) and creamy without being thick. It may be too high in alcohol for me to drink it regularly, though - usually stick to sub-6.

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Photo of thepenguin
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Reviewed 6/13/12

L: A deep amber with a hint of copper. A very pretty and enticing color.

S: Deep caramel-like, bready maltiness. Smells of rum and figs and the aroma suggests that this is going to be a heavy beer—kinda like a Scotch ale. Also has some tea-like character. Pretty nice.

T: A fairly sweet mixture of hops and caramel upfront, with a sweet, heavy finish. More hoppy than the aroma would lead one to believe. Bready and somewhat boozy.

F: A medium body with moderate combination. Some warmth post-sip.

O: This was an interesting, nice beer though not too different from many other malty, heavy, boozy beers and I could see this being a really good beer for the colder months. A nice well-balanced sipper.

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Photo of JohnCJr
4.74/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a nonic pint glass. This beer is an dark golden beauty, with a short white head. The smell is divine, with honey and molasses up front. This is one delicious brew, with the same honey and molasses, along with a full maltiness. It's not too sweet, though, and went well with the chicken tikka masala I had for dinner. It had a nice full mouthfeel, especially for a golden ale. I picked this up on a trip to, appropriately, Monticello. I wish I had picked up a case of it. Admittedly, this fits my malty flavor profile. Still, this is one of my top five beers ever.

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Photo of ajilllau
3.86/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was great beer. The abv is high but you would never know it. Yards has a great way of developing their recipes like they used to during the American revolution. This was my favorite Yards, but every one of their beers were above average.

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Photo of cambabeer
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

This is good beer. It's better beer, though, because it has the novelty of being Jefferson's recipe. It's a decent ale, with standard, though accentuated sweet malt profiles and little hops in the background to even in out. The ABV is definitely noticeable.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.15/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased at Homegrown in Newark, DE.

This one pours a dark gold color, with a small head, and a little bit of lacing.

Smells like caramel, brown sugar, molasses, and honey.

This is interesting, it definitely looks lighter than it actually tastes. There's some nice deep maltiness, sweet bread, caramel, and honey, with some dark molasses as well. Really nice.

This is medium bodied, with a bready mouthfeel, and a moderate level of carbonation.

A pretty cool beer here, definitely enjoyed it.

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.51/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

The beer poured a clear golden with white head that is leaving a lace. The scent is non-descript. The taste is slightly Belgian base and alcohol. The Mouthfeel is fuller in body with smooth carbonation. Overall this beer is a big yet decent.

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Photo of mempath
5/5  rDev +32.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

perfectly balanced for what it is....for what it wants to achieve, present, hits on all cylinders...V666th sense

not sure what's going on with the tastebuds of folks finding 'burnt rubber' and such; i guess sampling burnt rubber (and thus knowing what it tastes like) would could and should distort what remains of taste buds ;)

seriously, though, this is comparable to DFHead's own historical/ancient brews...take away the history and this is still an incredible, rich, unique strong 'indigenous' ale from early (colonized) "america"...

it's a beauty to behold with it's deep golden amber and feisty (inital) head...pour into a pewter tankard only after you've enjoyed it in an appropriate clear vessel...nose is deep tangy buttery floral yeasty molasses and such...it goes on...complex....what really helps deliver this nectary spectrum is the rich thick mouthfeel wil roils about and penetrates under the tastebuds...just amazing how this synergetically gels and flows...highly recommended WORLD CLASS masterpiece from YARDS...a rare perfection

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Photo of Antg8989
3.04/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

So this smelled like burnt rubber in one glass and like scream ale in another. Bronze colored. Nothing fantastic here. Inconsistent to say the least. Next please.

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Photo of Gajo74
3.72/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear light copper. Little head disapates quickly and becomes an ultra thin ring like lace.
The fruity aroma hits your nose first. I detect strawberries in particular. Later on, a biscuity aroma takes over along with a hint of floral esters and a tiny bit of booze.
Mostly sweet, very malt forward. Bready. Fruity, like jam. The finish is dry and only then do I detect the hops that somewhat balance the almost cloying sweetness. Overall, a medium bodied feel with a full mouthfeel.
It was an interesting drink, but the sweetness was a bit much for me.

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Photo of JasonR32
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

I could truely see myself drinking this beer our of a tankard in a tavern. The 8% alcohol content is noticeable, but welcomed as it really brings out the taste in the beer. This is one of the best if not the beat ale I've had and the 3.77 rating is in no way high enough.

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Photo of dfconnor
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A full-bodied beer with a strong malt backbone. Full flavor from start to finish. Taste is a bit redolent of the Yards ESA, only a bit more bitter. Tasty!

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Photo of bigdeuce
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

This is quite a strong ale. I can't get a grasp on the style? I guess it is sort of a Belgian golden/pale ale. Great looking pour with a nice two finger head and golden to copper body. Scents of esters of apple and alcohol. Maybe some pears? Medium bodied with again, a Belgian golden mouth feel. Pears, apples, and apricot. The drawback is a huge alcohol kick back that is quite noticeable but not unpleasant. The deist, Thomas Jefferson, who supposedly crafted this beer in the 1700's, must have had quite a high tolerance to consider this one a "tavern ale". But still, worth a shot.

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Photo of fourstringer
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a silly-looking Sam Adams tulip-pint glass. Moderate hand. No date identifiable.

A: Dark, golden yellow with impressive clarity. 1/2 finger off-white head with average retention. Moderate lacing.

S: Cracker, black pepper, brown sugar, bread. Touch of indistinct fruit, light spice. There is the suggestion of Belgian yeast, which I did not expect.

T: Pine-forward, hop bitterness hits up front and carries through to a fairly dry finish. Pale malts attempt to break through with nuts and bread with only partial success. Alcohol is present, but relatively mild for 8% ABV. A bit of piney hops linger in the aftertaste.

M: Moderate carbonation with a light to medium body. Smooth, lightly creamy, effervescence.

O: Looks good. Smells good. I found the taste relatively unbalanced and a tad hollow. Somehow I doubt TJ's brew exhibited this degree of hopping.


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Photo of scootny
4.18/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A 12 oz bottle from a half case box of "Beers of the Revolution". Drinking from a Sam Adams glass. Full two to three fingers of frothy yellowish dark eggshell. Nice lacing and gentle carbonation. A deep golden orange amber color.

Smell is full of sweet light malt, bread, and honey. The oats and rye offer up grains and spicy sharpness. Some pepper punctuates a very faint note of alcohol that is wrapped in a fruity english style ale yeast.

Taste is big full malty sweetness. The combination of light barley and oats push a bready quality forward followed by the rye spicy pepper notes. A bloom of honey that moves to a light sourness flowing into dry hoppiness that squeezes the mouth and tongue. Astringent and slightly oily my mouth feels scrubbed dry while still having a bit of melon juiciness. Alcohol is very well hidden as to be invisible.

Feel is velvety and supple. Light in the mouth, it still has a heartiness that yields a satisfying fullness to each swallow. Carbonation is smooth and mild. A light alcohol vaporous cooling.

Superb drinkability and flavor. Goes down like a session beer and and hits like a velvet hammer. Just excellent and if an accurate recreation Jefferson was at the top of home brewing field along with Washington.

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Photo of hopsputin
4.02/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: a deep, rich amber color with some ruby red notes up top. large 2-3 finger frothy white head that seems to be leaving some good lacing as i'm typing this

s: honey, sweet caramel, wheat, sweet berries, some small hint of something choclatey-like? i'm probably just imagining that…

t: the taste is that of rich caramel and honey for sure that has a backing on a nice wheat-like flavor. that fades to a subtle flavor of biscuits and honey, and ends with a small bitterness that is like putting a little pine needle in your mouth

m: medium mouthfeel, and really smooth almost to the point of bing silky. carbonation is on the lower side

o: i think its cool if this really is based off a recipe that was made and drunk those years ago. its nothing crazy, but has a nice sweetness to it, and a nice smooth mouthfeel that would make this a real nice fireside sipper

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.08/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark golden color, leaning towards amber. The head is a finger high, and eggshell in shade. Retention isn't particularly impressive, but its creamy texture leaves behind some lacing on the glass. (3.5)

Smell: Honey accentuates the powerful, bread-laden malt backbone. A touch of spiciness appears in spurts, helping to balance some of its sweetness. Buttery and toasted hints prove to add to this brew instead of detract. It's well made enough, but it hardly comes close to 'popping'. (3)

Taste: This is a sweet brew - very sweet actually. It starts off with a slightly toasty maltiness, before building into notes of rye spice, butter, and honey near the back end. The aforementioned honey keeps the finish from being cloying, so that's good. Otherwise, this is a pretty insipid beer. (3)

Mouthfeel: It feels fairly rich and sweet, but the back end is also dry. A slight twinge of alcohol appears due to the dryness, too. Carbonation is low, so this beer is quite drinkable for the strength. (3.5)

Overall: I'm disappointed by how uninteresting it is - the beer itself was brewed well, but the recipe itself come across as being rather ho-hum. I'd suggest trying a single of this once, just don't be surprised by its average taste. (3)

3.08/5: It's not a case of "great recipe, blah execution" here...it's the other way around instead

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Photo of biegaman
3.6/5  rDev -4.8%

It's unlikely that any of Thomas Jefferson's recipes would have been anything other than dark and murky; this interpretation is certainly not "golden" like its label states. Tavern Ale is instead deep pumpkin orange in colour and has a dense, icy complexion but still emits light. Contrary to ales of the time this one is evidently filtered and has obvious signs of carbonation.

For a historic, presumably English-influenced ale this smells surprisingly like a modern German lager; I'd confidently guess it a Vienna lager. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself - crunchy, toasty, rich, aromatic amber malt is highly appealing - but it's a disappointment that such an interesting, unique sounding beer actually make such a mundane, familiar first impression.

A little more time and warming up unearths a sizable amount of fruity ale esters and also reveals the honey. It turns out to be sweeter than first assumed but still every bit as well malted. It has the body to support its alcohol content (8%) and hints of spice (likely from the addition of rye) that meld well. And for all the honey and ripe fruit notes there's no lingering sweetness.

Yards wanted everyone to know that they've brewed this one with "authentic ingredients". They also followed an "authentic recipe". What the hell does that mean? Have I been drinking beers made with inauthentic ingredients this whole time? Maybe my homebrews would turn out better if only I followed "authentic" recipes. End of meaningless beer marketing rant.

Yards may have 'followed' Thomas Jefferson's original recipe but they obviously veered from the path at some point. For something that sounds different, even niche on the surface, Tavern Ale is actually quite conventional and entirely approachable for the average beer drinker. There's nothing at all "revolutionary" about it. It seems traditional recipes aren't quite the same thing when brewed with modern technologies and with modern palates in mind.

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Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale from Yards Brewing Co.
85 out of 100 based on 289 ratings.