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Thomas Hardy's Ale making another comeback

Discussion in 'Beer News' started by Bitterbill, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Member

    Location:
    Wyoming
    "First produced in 1968, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is barley wine produced just once yearly, with annual vintages in limited quantities. It quickly became an icon among beer and took on legendary status due to its sudden disappearance. Now, the legend is back…

    “At the moment, all rights are in the hands of the American importer George Saxon, who – we hope – won’t take long putting Thomas Hardy’s back on the market”, as stated by Adrian Tierney-Jones to conclude his comment on Thomas Hardy’s Ale in the book “1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die”. In the words of one of the most famous Anglo-Saxon beer writers, we can clearly perceive a bit of melancholy for the disappearance of Thomas Hardy’s Ale from the global market.

    Why such melancholy? Each day, worldwide, tens or even hundreds of thousands of bottles of various beers are produced, yet Thomas Hardy’s was unique. A real, proper icon of beer drinking, almost a cult object.

    The beer was created way back in 1968 with one clear intention: to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the dead of the brilliant writer Thomas Hardy, author of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and other important novels. In an equally famous tale, “The Trumpet Major”, Hardy spoke of a strong Dorchester beer, defining it “the most beautiful colour an artist could possibly desire, as bright as an autumn sunset”…

    The Eldridge Pope brewery decided to try and create that beer Hardy mentioned in his writing. It had to be a special beer, with a high alcohol content, a consistent and sensuous body and long lasting and resilient aroma, or rather, capable of lasting over time (25 years, according to the brewery). Beer created for big occasions and therefore only produced once a year, left at length to mature in wood and lastly, brought to light in numbered bottles, with the year of production, the batch and the quantity produced clearly visible.

    Thomas Hardy’s Ale quickly became hugely famous. The quality of the product combined with its exclusivity was an explosive mix. The individual years soon became the object of vertical tastings, like those held for important Langhe or Bordeaux wines and prices went sky high. However, producing Thomas Hardy’s was very expensive and making it meant sacrificing time and means for beer intentionally produced in limited quantities. In 1999 Eldridge Pope ceased production and, for the first time, Thomas Hardy’s appeared to have been confined to memory or auctions. Its disappearance, however, further reinforced its fame and lovers of this stylish leader of barley wines called for its return. And Thomas Hardy’s was back.

    This time, starting in 2003, the O’Hanlon brewery created it. The same recipe, same immense work and the same exclusivity. Another six, prestigious years followed for a beer by now renowned around the world. Yet, for a second time, this excellent beer disappeared. And this time…

    Forever? No, the good news is that Thomas Hardy’s Ale is to be revived in all its greatness, while maintaining all its extraordinary and unique peculiarities: vintage production is on English soil with limited quantities produced, its slight hints of dark fruit, turf and roast malt and its flavour that at times recalls a fine port or quality brandy.

    And the second piece of big news is that its renewed destiny lies in the hands of two Italians: Sandro and Michele Vecchiato, owners of Brew Invest, a leading group in the special beers sector who have come forward to bring this beer-myth back to life, a beer that risked becoming just a nostalgic memory. As “beer hunters” with thirty years experience, they decided to gamble on the old, universal charm of Thomas Hardy’s Ale and its colour, “bright as an autumn sunset”.

    So, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is back. And naturally, it’s as English as ever.

    The legend is not dead.

    Moreover, real legends are those that live forever…

    Brew Invest is a brewery holding, founded in 2009, and through its own companies deals with the entire production line of the division: from raw materials to production and distribution, working both in the import-export field and in that of B2B and B2C.

    http://www2.beerguild.co.uk/?p=2512
    Psykhe, Chaz, Rfunk and 1 other person like this.
  2. vurt

    vurt Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    Thank you, Bitterbill. This is wonderful news.
  3. jesskidden

    jesskidden Member

    Location:
    New Jersey
    Near as I can figure from their website http://www.thomashardysale.com/wordpress/ (which is kinda squirrely- the other day, every time I tried to go to a different page the age check box popped up again) they've yet to find a brewery in the UK to brew it for them.
  4. eatabagofbooger

    eatabagofbooger Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    Oh man, this is the best news I've heard in a while. Way more stoked about this than any of the overhyped aquavit barrel aged sour peanut butter stouts or whatever other novelty releases most breweries are putting out. As long as they do this classic justice, I know what I'm stocking my cellar with from here on out.


    'First produced in 1968, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is barley wine produced just once yearly, with annual vintages in limited quantities. It quickly became an icon among beer and took on legendary status due to its sudden disappearance. Now, the legend is back…
    “At the moment, all rights are in the hands of the American importer George Saxon, who – we hope – won’t take long putting Thomas Hardy’s back on the market”, as stated by Adrian Tierney-Jones to conclude his comment on Thomas Hardy’s Ale in the book “1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die”. In the words of one of the most famous Anglo-Saxon beer writers, we can clearly perceive a bit of melancholy for the disappearance of Thomas Hardy’s Ale from the global market.'

    Full story here: http://www2.beerguild.co.uk/?p=2512
    Rollzroyce21 likes this.
  5. wesbray

    wesbray Member

    Location:
    Alberta (Canada)
    Incredible news! Very strange too as I was considering popping open my 2008 bottle today. Now i'm deciding whether to save it to compare with the new version or drink it in celebration!
  6. BedetheVenerable

    BedetheVenerable Member

    Location:
    Missouri
    This would be amazing! Sadly, I'm a bit wary, as supposedly Old Peculier is back as well, but I can't find it anywhere or get any answers from the distributors who could get it all those years here and in IL both...
    vurt likes this.
  7. davey101

    davey101 Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I adored even the '08 batch and drank my last one a few days ago. Can't wait!
  8. Vav

    Vav Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    YES YES YES YES!

    I should crack a 1982 in celebration.
    Jwale73, MarcatGSB and davey101 like this.
  9. vurt

    vurt Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    Old Peculier returned to shelves here in Southern California last year, in 6-packs and in 500 mL bottles. Delicious stuff.
  10. jmgrub

    jmgrub Member

    Location:
    California
    Hurrah!!!
  11. trbergman

    trbergman Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    I thought you drank that for your birthday?

    I feel stupid for never drinking this when it was easily available. I just wasn't into barleywines/old ales then. Glad that I may have a chance for redemption...
  12. Thehuntmaster

    Thehuntmaster Member

    Location:
    South Africa
    Fantastic news :D
  13. jesskidden

    jesskidden Member

    Location:
    New Jersey
    There's no connection between Old Peculier/Theakston and this new Italian company, Brew Invest, that I've read.

    Theakston's Old Peculier (along with their XB) is imported into the US by Latis Imports of CT. Unfortunately, they don't list their regional distributors (what's the point of having a website for a consumer product that they can't sell direct to the public, if that info isn't made available on it?)

    But they do have a Contact Us page - and they will (hopefully) tell you if there's local wholesalers in those areas. Previously OP was imported by the now-defunct Scottish & Newcastle Imports (even after they became indie again), so it's likely Latis is not dealing with the same local distributors as S&NI did.
  14. rangerred

    rangerred Member

    Location:
    Tennessee
    There's still quite a few bottle of Thomas Hardy on the shelf at the local liquor store. I didn't realize it was that great of a beer or that it wasn't still being produced. I may have to pick one up now.
  15. thstevens12

    thstevens12 Member

    Location:
    Washington
    I am cautiously optimistic. The O'Hanlons version was a pale imitation of the Eldridge Pope beer. So, hoping for the latter!
  16. wesbray

    wesbray Member

    Location:
    Alberta (Canada)
    What's the availability like in the US? I've heard a few people say they still find it in stores.
  17. jesskidden

    jesskidden Member

    Location:
    New Jersey
    At this point, who knows? The new owner of the brand, Brew Invest, (not a particularly "geek-y" name) still has not even found a UK brewery to contract brew the beer. Formerly, the brand was last owned by George Saxon, the owner of Phoenix Imports which imported it (and other beers, like the Hurlimann version of Samichlaus) and apparently he sold the name to this Italian start-up. On their "Gallery page" that is apparently him signing the papers over to the new company. Not having a brewery is a sorta big deal, especially since Saxon apparently shopped around for a few years after O'Hanlon dropped out, but couldn't do a deal.

    Phoenix Imports no longer has a website and in 2010 sold the import rights of two of it's brands to L. Knife's St. Killian Imports (Corsendonk among them) so who knows if they still exist or the new deal includes importing it into the US.

    Yeah, 15-20 years ago the stuff sat around for a long time- both at the retail level and apparently at Phoenix. They even put together "mixed sixes" one year, that contained different years and even different bottle sizes. I suppose back then part of it was "price" - and pricing only got worse with inflation and the move to O-Hanlon. I seem to recall paying around $75 for the case of the mixed sixes of the Pope/Hardy, and I think the O'Hanlon stuff was around $16 a 4 pack of nips.

    [​IMG]
    Chaz and muchloveforhops3 like this.
  18. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Member

    Location:
    Massachusetts
    jesskidden: do you happen to know or have any clue as to the financial numbers for the last couple years at o'hanlon? and/or the sales numbers in the US? was it really so bad?
  19. jesskidden

    jesskidden Member

    Location:
    New Jersey
    No figures, but O'Hanlon apparently ended the contract because the beer was too expensive, very time consuming and took up too much of their capacity to make it worth their while. That would suggest not that it didn't sell well necessarily, just that O'Hanlon was too small (or, perhaps, their remuneration was?) and/or their own beers were selling well enough and they needed the brewing time/space for them.
  20. MrKennedy

    MrKennedy Member

    Location:
    Australia
  21. FosterJM

    FosterJM Member

    Location:
    California
    Im in. Need a 2012 if they release the vintage to hold for my sons 21st Bday.

    Cheers!
  22. benjaminahudson

    benjaminahudson Member

    Location:
    North Carolina
  23. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Member

    Location:
    Massachusetts
    sadly, as jesskidden's investigation shows, it's likely still not determined yet who will be brewing it from now on. 2013 at the earliest.
    Bitterbill likes this.
  24. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Member

    Location:
    Wyoming
    Yep, I posted a new thread in the UK forum to see who they thought would best do the deed.
    Seanvino likes this.
  25. FosterJM

    FosterJM Member

    Location:
    California
    Well I guess I have to go with a couple option in my head. Same as what I have for my daughter.

    1. Bigfoot
    2. Anchor our special ale
    3. JW Lees
    4. Fullers Vintage
    5. Some sort of Cantillon.

    I think 5 beers for them on their 21st can work?

    Cheers!
    MarcatGSB likes this.
  26. 7ate9

    7ate9 Member

    Location:
    Virginia
    Great! one of my favorites!
    Now I can feel better about opening some of my 2008s
  27. woemad

    woemad Member

    Location:
    Washington
    Good news.
    I had an ''03 a number of years ago and it was delicious! I've another '03 that I've been cellaring for quite some time, and came across some '07s the other day. Hopefully, the right brewer will be found to put this classic back into production.
  28. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Member

    Location:
    California
    You can still find bottles around from time to time. I got a 2005 bottle a while back.

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