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Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008) | O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008)Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008)
BA SCORE
4.13/5
Exceptional
739 Ratings
Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008)Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008)
BEER INFO

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

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.90%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
O'Hanlon's took over the brand and revived it in 2003, but discontinued it after the 2008 batch.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 03-05-2004

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

BEER STATS
Ranking:
-
Reviews:
565
Ratings:
739
pDev:
12.83%
Bros Score:
3.6
 
 
Wants:
84
Gots:
150
Trade:
10
HISTOGRAM
 
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 739 |  Reviews: 565
Photo of Jacobob10
3.69/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

8.5 oz bottle, 2003 Vintage, Bottle No. O 03418.

This bottle was given to me around 2015 by a friend who stopped drinking and gave away some bottles he had been cellaring. It immediately became a prized addition to my cellar.

Pours ruby-brown with various shades of both colors as you hold it up to the light. Zero head on this one and the body looks murky. Resembles more of a cognac or Port wine in the glass, and the aromas do nothing to distinguish it from such.

Raisin, fig, sherry, and brown sugar in the nose. You know this is going to be a bracingly sweet tasting beer just from smelling it. Its rich malt flavor is evident from the first sip. Very fruity and sweet with a strong vinous or wine-like quality to it.

Full bodied and sticky mouthfeel with a long lasting finish. There are clear signs of age on this 14 year old bottle, but it's not undrinkable. I do think there are better examples of the style, like the 2014 J.W. Lees I had recently, but I don't know if the comparison is fair based on the age of this bottle. Perhaps a younger bottle than this one would make a nice digestif that could replace Port wine at the table.

 1,148 characters

Photo of PhineasMcClintock
4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of jzeilinger
4.01/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

In review is a 2004 Vintage.

A - Deep burgundy/raisin colored with no lacing or carbonation.

S - Raisins, prunes, figs, dates, toffee roast, and some alcohol.

T - Raisins, prunes, figs, dates, oak, dark roasted toffee, some alcohol on the back end, and a mild lingering date and prune flavor with light pine bitterness.

M - Rich and full bodied, velvety mouthfeel, no carbonation, lip smacking sticky, thick.

O - So glad to have finally tried one of these but also so sad to see my one and only bottle go.

 510 characters

Photo of mattmarka1
4.75/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of Sk8sean86
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of pauldig
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of smi69
4.58/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of MykeJ
4.04/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Photo of Erik-P
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Casey3236
4.39/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003, bottle 01877. Says 11.7 abv but tasted like you could have stuck a wick in it and used it as a camping lantern. Sweet and malty with no hop presence. Very little to no carbonation. Liked it overall but REALLY boozy. I've had 18-20% abv that wasn't as boozy.

 267 characters

Photo of DeFaz
4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

It's so hard to rate this. There's a nice candied fruit aroma and smell, and some, but certainly not earthshattering complexity, and it goes down so easy for a beer where you only get less than 9 ounces for a huge pricetag. And there is the problem--this, while certainly a good beer, does not warrant the pricetag, and even though my 2008 bottle is the oldest beer I've had yet, it doesn't compete with the high cost/sought-after beers of today. In other words, it's a good, and even great beer, and it was probably an exceptional, world-class beer 10 years ago, but too many beers have beat it for less money. I'm glad I tried it and have another to age a couple more years, but for 2016 it's just a good-tasting but overpriced beer.

 735 characters

Photo of Ciocanelu
4.7/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Slightly hazy dark amber color with just a bit of tan foam. Aroma is really complex with caramel, dried figs and raisins, slight menthol, a bit of rum and a touch of walnut. Taste starts with dried raising, figs, date, continues with earthy flavors, slightly nutty and some brown sugar. Sticky, syrupy mouthfeel. Extremely complex beer, a true masterpiece.

 356 characters

Photo of spinrsx
3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage shared by Stephen. Holding up pretty well all things considered.

78 characters

Photo of suckaj
3/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Photo of MickeyHops
2.78/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.75

Photo of mfnmbvp
4.44/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

8.5 fl oz bottle, 2004 vintage. Bottle No. P 39580 Edition. ' Brewed & Bottled By O'Hanlon's Brewing Co. LTD., Whimple, Devon, England'. 11.7% abv. "In 'The Trumpet Major' Hardy wrote: "It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset." 12 years in the bottle; this will be the oldest beer I've yet drank.

Poured to a Big Eddy snifter glass.

A - Pours a caramelized brown body, semi-transparent, with hues of ruby red. Minor conjuration of bubbles dies out quick, leaving a still uncarbonated thick appearance more akin to certain whiskies, sherry, or port. For twelve years old beer, it looks pretty nice. No overt or obvious yeast chunks / sediment / separation. Appears to have held up well.

S - Huge huge huge aromatics on this. Blows just about every imperial stout I've ever had away (in terms of smell) - huge notes of oak wood, whiskey, caramel, toffee, brown sugar, burnt caramelized sugars, must, smoke, chocolate, molasses, dark dried fruit (raisins, figs, dates, prunes), and some alcohol fumes. Smells truly epic.

T - The taste follows in wake of the nose; any apparent carbonation has been lost to time, and the beer has turned extremely thick, viscous, sticky, sugary, & sweet. Huge huge huge notes of caramel, toffee, burnt brown sugar, vanilla, oak wood, alcohol fumes, mustiness & huge authentic notes of dark dried fruit (raisins, raisin stems, twigs, prunes, dates, figs). A bit of a residual spicy / warmingalcohol note on the end.

M - Feel is extremely smooth, sticky, sugary, & creamy. Twiggy, earthy, & caramelized. Hugely complex stuff. Still a fair amount of heat left in the finish. I would be interested to see how this would mature further, and also to see how younger vintages fare. A very unique and interesting Old Ale, truly a masterful piece of beer art and history. Truly amazing and recommended stuff if you can acquire a bottle.

Thomas Hardy's Ale (2004) -----4.5/5

 2,052 characters

Photo of Beginner2
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Listed in the "1001 Beers To Taste Before You Die", no longer brewed. I kept it for years and no deterioration. Sweet, but not cloying. Balanced

144 characters

Photo of Rizzy17
4.24/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Yellolab2010
4.04/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of biegaman
4.68/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thomas Hardy's Ale debuted in 1968 to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the writer's death. The Eldridge Pope brewery released it on an annual basis from 1974 until 1999 (with the exception of 1976), when new ownership deemed its production too small and expensive to continue.

U.S. importer George Saxon acquired the rights and hired O'Hanlon's to resume production in 2003. By 2009, however, they too deemed the energy and costs too great to continue production. This review is a 2006 vintage, bottle #8256, lab tested at 13.3% alcohol, sampled in April 2016.

Thomas Hardy wrote in 'The Trumpet Major' of an ale that was “the most beautiful colour an artist could possibly desire..." and it's quite possible this was what he saw. This is the colour of dark maple syrup and looks every bit as rich and viscous despite its clear tawny and pomegranate molasses highlights.

When I got into craft beer, aging and building up a beer cellar was all the rage. At least in part, I think this stemmed from insecurity; craft beer drinkers wanted to distinguish themselves from "normal" consumers and were also anxious to prove that beer could and should be taken as seriously as wine.

Part of it was also inexperience. I've been cellaring beers for over a decade now - in fact, a 2004 vintage of Thomas Hardy Ale (bought at age 18) was the very first inductee - and my experiments have foremost taught me one valuable, probably self-evident in hindsight lesson: beer is best enjoyed fresh.

But if you're going to release a beer intended to be aged, there are ways to do it right. This recipe was adapted from the original 18th century "barley wines" of English aristocrats. The wort is boiled for over 3 hours, ferments in primary for 3 months, is dry-hopped and then left to mature in Sherry oak casks for another 6-9 months (accounts vary). Finally, it is conditioned to re-ferment in the bottle.

So the resulting beer is like wine not only insofar as it varies vintage to vintage and even bottle to bottle, but that it will legitimately evolve and, assuming proper conditions, mature and improve. It is one of the rare beers that not only *can* be aged but *should* be aged. Why you ask? Finally, the tasting notes...

My instinct is to slurp and swish it as one does with wine, perhaps because it drinks something like a Madeira Port. Ever so slightly oxidized (though surprisingly not much so) with flavours of raisin, fig, dates and other stewed fruits, treacle, chocolate, molasses, oak, vanilla bean, apricot, walnut, burnt brown sugar, and hoisin sauce. It could also pass for brandy, possessing both the strength and nuances.

Micheal Jackson called it "the ultimate book-at-bedtime beer", Garret Oliver said it was "...so beautiful it makes me want to cry" and more than one author has referred to it as "the beer enthusiast’s equivalent of rare cognac". What was brash and unfocused ten years ago is now one of the most complex beers I've tasted. It rewards patience like no other. Thomas Hardy's Ale is indeed a beer for big occasions.

 3,064 characters

Photo of bluehende
3.55/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of dtm426
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of atrocity
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Sabtos
3.42/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2008 bottle--pours a clear mahogany, with hardly any sediment, if any at all, despite the notice on the label.

Smooth as silk, like a fine red wine. No head or carbonation to speak of.

Raisin and prune beat you over the head up front, then some leather and even cherry come out in the finish.

A complex brew that builds more as it warms. I'm glad I got this off my checklist, but there are some local breweries near me that are hitting these flavor profiles quite consistently at a much lower price point, with much younger Barleywines.

Good but not worth the money. Not at all.

 582 characters

Photo of MathiasO
4.64/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
Beer rating: 4.13 out of 5 with 739 ratings
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