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)

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.

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Reviews: 564 | Ratings: 734
Photo of goethean
5/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2004 vintage, served in 2008.

Surpringly well-carbonated for a four year-old beer. Very dark copper.

Aroma is of candied oranges.

Big flavor profile, big bodied, syrupy consistency. Flavor of candied oranges, an intense wininess, and a stiff alcohol flavor. A slight hop bitterness is still (amazingly) present. The hops flavor is well-integrated into the sweetness.

Dark, bitter prune/raisin/fig fruitiness. No oxidization. Lots of residual sweetness.

My wife says it tastes like cough syrup. (Philistine!)

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Photo of mattcrill
5/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle inspection: 02107 Edition. 2005 vintage. 8.5 fl. oz.

Aroma: Fruity esters pop on the nose. Plums, dried cherries, candied carmel notes, and a whiff of alcohol in the background.

Appearance: Brilliant garnet colored pour with a tan and sudsy white head. A beautiful still body.

Flavor: A burst of dried fruits! Raisins, dried cherries, and maple syrup that is followed up quickly with an alcohol drying finish. This is an amazing brewing feat and keeps the beer from becoming cloying.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, full bodied, viscous, and chewy with a dry, warming finish.

Overall impression: A big, malty, complex, and wonderful beer. Like a fine port. Close to perfection. My first "all 5's" beer. World class and untouchable.

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Photo of Suds
4.97/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thomas Hardy had been a favorite of mine since way back when. I couldn’t wait to try this when I heard that O’Hanlon’s was taking up the beer. So, I bought a number of bottles when they hit the shelves and just waited for the right time to finally open one.
2003 Edition, Bottle No. 09905.
The beer pours a clear, deep, orange-tinged mahogany color. The head is initially thin, off-white/tan, and blanketing, but quickly disappears…the beer becomes notably still.
The aroma is spectacular. Alcohol provides a backdrop to a marvelous mix of meaty fruit and buckets of malt richness. Roasted and grainy smells mix with hops and molasses-like sweetness.
The taste is mouth-coating (mouth-enveloping?)…the intenseness of the smell transfers into the taste. Forceful sweetness and maltiness with a restrained bitterness for balance. Caramel and spice and port. The warming is instant and pleasing, with no misplaced alcohol hotness. The flavors really form a terrific harmony. The taste lingers in your mouth for several minutes (not moments) after each sip. Thick and oily. It’s amazing.
This beer is a masterpiece, and worth the wait. I’m anxious to see how it ages.

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Photo of Pencible
4.97/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2005 vintage. This was aged a year more than the 2006 vintage (drunk in the same evening). It poured a hazy brown with slight tan head. It smelled similar, mostly of rye, but with citrus hops mixed with the alcohol scent. It tasted fairly different, like sweet molasses and peach, along with sugary lemon hops. It was thick with no carbonation and a very smooth, slightly bitter aftertaste. Overall this had a much more balanced and refined flavor than the newer vintage. It had a great flavor, texture, and finish.

2006 vintage. This is another limited-run annual brew, although not nearly as rare as the Utopias. It poured a dark, hazy crimson with no head. It smelled distinctly of rye and crackers with molasses and slight alcohol notes. It tasted like succulent sour cherry, rye, some citrus hops, and slight molasses flavoring. It was thick with no carbonation and had a dry, short aftertaste. The flavor became more sour as I drank, making it less palatable. Overall this was a very interesting and delicate beer. It was really great at first, but needs aging.

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Photo of morayeel
4.95/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

8.5 0z bottle vintage 2007 P29415

A- vary nice dark amber color

S- smell is sweet and the 11.7% ALC hits your nose at the end.

T- taste is sweet ALC hits you in the back of your throught but I had this beverage at 55 degrees or celler temperature. I loved the taste of this ale. I thought this ale was very well balanced between the sweeetness and the carmel taste at the end and the ALC was not over wellming.

M- a little thicker then most ales

D- I savered this ale a took my time with it. This is a one a night beverave.

It s like the bottle reads " bottles this rare mature in flavor like fine wine".

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Photo of abriggs1
4.94/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I'm seriously considering selling a kidney to buy more of this beer. Just about finished with a 2004, and I'm wish I had picked up more. Tomorrow I will return and buy them out of this miracle of a brew.

Appears as a cloudy, sludgy, brown old ale. No head.

The smell is like carrot cake soaked in rum

The taste is like North Coast 2009 Old Stock Ale on steroids. There is plenty of sweetness left, but it has an equal amount of dryness that lingers on the palate. This tastes to me to be right in the sweet spot aging wise, but I could be wrong. It may be just getting started as it says it will age for at least 25 years. The taste is like most stock ales, but much more intense. This is the smokiest beer I've ever had in my life. The intensity of the dried fruits and esters are off the charts on this one.

Simply one of the best beers ever brewed. It's a shame it's no longer brewed. I'll be sure to pick it up wherever I see it in the future, starting tomorrow morning.

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Photo of Sephiroth
4.92/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Vintage 1996: My jaw dropped when I saw this tonight at the local shop. There was a slight hiss as I opened this legendary brew. I poured it into a tulip. It is totally still, and is a deep ruby color. The smell is of port, sherry, tobacco, and wood. This is extremely complex.

The taste is good. It is of port and sherry first. There is a woody bite at the finish. Methinks this has yet to turn that corner from sugary to malty sweet. Do not misunderstand, this tastes great, but I think the best is yet to come. The mouthfeel is heavy, yet this flows down my gullet much more easily than a CA Cabernet, but not quite like a J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. Harvest Ale is the only beer that I have had that could possibly compare with this one. Otherwise, substitute this for a fine port or cognac. I will age my other specimens from this vintage a little longer. Or a lot longer. This is superb with my Romeo Y Julieta cigar. My new review reflects a more recent tasting, and it was paired with the mentioned cigar.

2003 Edition: If anyone has ever had the privilege of viewing a Les Paul with a tobacco sunburst finish, this is pretty close to that in terms of looks. It smells more of ripe fruit than the 96.

The taste is of port and sherry, as usual, but it is definitely young. This will be superb in about ten years. It is superb now, IMO. The mouthfeel is medium, but coating. I give the drinkability a 5, as I appreciate this beer more with every bottle that I imbibe.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.89/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

8.5 ounce bottle from 2004, # P68178. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a copper/brown color with not much of a head at all. Not much lacing either. The aroma is amazing, it smells like brown sugar, caramel, dark fruit (raisins, prunes, cherries), molasses and brandy. It's a very sweet, malty aroma. Taste is similar to the aroma. It tastes like dark fruit, caramel, brown sugar, nuts, buckwheat honey, toffee, and brandy. Just like the aroma, it's very sweet and malty, which is a plus for me! Mouthfeel/body is full, it's rich, syrupy and slick, and has good carbonation. Drinkabililty is awesome, it was very easy for me to drink this one. It should be a sipping beer, but the flavor made me come back and drink this one quicker than I planned to. It's very enjoyable. Aging definitely didn't hurt this beer at all. I thought this brew was excellent, I'll have to buy some of the other vintages of this brew and see how they hold up. I can say the 2004 is drinking pretty good right now!

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Photo of noclue
4.89/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Serving Type: 8.5oz bottle served in tulip/snifter. Nifty year bottle # on label. Mine was 2004 No. P 09477

Appearance: Hazy brown. Small weak head. Leaves oily lacing on glass.

Smell: Fig. Raisin. Enticing. NICE!

Taste: Sweet ripe fruit. Raisin. Fig. Strong alcoholic bite in the end.

Mouthfeel: Smooth. Tingles palate.

Drinkability/Overall: Pleasure to drink. This is one of the best beers i've reviewed.

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.88/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2005 Vintage. This brew pours a murky deep ruby color. The head is a massive two inches in height and recedes slowly into thick lacing. The aroma is enormous: malt and hops are everywhere balanced. Dark fruits, caramel, and butter, with an herbal/piney finish. The taste is also well balanced. The sip begins with caramel and dark fruit, then finishes with a nice hop bite. The mouthfeel is one of the smoothest I have encountered in a bottled beer. It is full bodied, and has low carbonation. Overall, this is the best Old Ale I have ever had. I couldn't drink this everyday, or even more than one or maybe two in a single sitting. However, I would never turn one down.

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Photo of wesbray
4.88/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Seems like a great beer for my first BA review.

2008 vintage, bottle #T47891.
A - Dark, burgundy, caramel brown with minimal head that leaves a light ring of lacing.
S - Surprised by sweet caramel, lots of alcohol. Dark sugary fruit.
T - Unbelievable. Immediately you are hit with the very sweet (but importantly, not too sweet) caramel flavours. The aftertaste is dark fruit and brown sugar with the alcohol and caramel still lingering.
M - Zero carbonation (possibly because of its age) gives it a silky smooth and thin mouthfeel.

Overall - smooth and complex, no wonder this ale is the stuff of legend. I was unfortunate enough to never try the Eldridge Pope version, but this is fantastic. If only they still made it.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
4.88/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2005 #27295

Pours a clear, but dark ruby hued brown with a nice, thick, frothy crème head. Nose is figs, fruits, chalky malts, wood tones. Absolutely magnificent flavor. Sweet port tones. Figs are there. Cherry like fruit edges. Feel is smooth on liquid and carbonation. This is a magnificent beer. I wish I had 10 cases of this to age, sip, and savor over time.

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Photo of DrewShal9
4.87/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A: amber to light brown. Looks like cognac. No head, liquor like
S: dark fruits, raisins, plums, caramel, butterscotch, hint of booze at the end. Smells delicious
T: omg, so good. The noise dictates the flavors but as it warms up there are vanilla tones and hints of butter. Why did they have to stop brewing this?
M: velvety and very smooth with tiny bubbles. Almost syrupy
O: such an amazing brew. Don't buy this beer! Jk, I don't want you to buy it so I can cellar more of them haha. Definitely experience this brew before it's gone.

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Photo of jim102864
4.87/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thoroughly enjoyed this 2005 vintage 8.5 oz bottle. Poured thick into my Leffe Goblet. No head whatsoever. Nearly opaque. Only the thinnest sliver of light can penetrate this beauty. Brimming with a sweet fruity bouquet. Candi sugar, dates, prunes, figs, toffee and caramel all rolled into this brew. Pronounced nose which is the way a world class beer should be. Raisens and prunes in the taste with expectedly, no hop bitterness at all. Toffee and caramel notes...a perfect blend. Alcohol is veiled. The mouthfeel is soothing and the brew envelopes the tongue. Cramy and diacetyl from whispers of butterscotch candy. Best savored cool to warm near a roarding fire. Definitely a world class brew.

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Photo of objectivemonkey
4.87/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2003 vintage, 26813, a medallion-like badge hanging around its neck wrapped in gold foil. Just looks like a winner. Into a smaller sized tulip glass, pours a dark russet brown, an almost amber hue around the bottom. The head starts off at about a half finger, creamy smooth, settling down to a thick film bubbling about the edges. A slight swirl brings it back, with lacing falling in sheets and breaking up into bubbles, occasionally sticking in arcs and bubbles.

The aroma is simply phenomenal. Dark fruits gather into each other for a complex, cohesive front, raisin, plum, the alcohol sweet and luscious, not harsh in the least.

And then it gets even better. Simply outstanding. Soft, sweet fruits envelop the senses, the sweetness caressing my soul, a smooth and beautiful concoction. I could sit here naming the fruits, cataloging what I'm sensing and whatnot, (plums, anise, raisin, sweet malt, burnt caramels, warm alcohol, bla bla bla), but I won't. Instead I will say that its full, warm, succulent, the mouth is full, solid, juicy, utterly fantastic.

So now that I've had one aged a little bit, I'm going to go out and grab a half dozen of these, sit on them for the next decade, and enjoy the fruits of my un-labor.

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Photo of mattbing
4.87/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A bottle from 2003, beautiful dark brown and amber with almost no head. Smells exactly like it tastes - lots of plum, raisin, and prune with a sweet, caramel base . Virtually no carbonation, which makes it thick like madeira or cognac. Amazingly complex with just a hint of alcohol warmth.

This is my first experience with aged beer. Unfortunately I'll probably never see another bottle of this.

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Photo of jrb1001
4.87/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2005 No. P 01451

I drank this beer this past summer and it was the first time I have even heard of it. The bottle is a sight to see in its self. The tiny little bottle is disciveing, because it is a big beer inside. The beer is dark in color and very strong. It has a sweet smell to it and it is easy to drink. I think this is a great beer or should be considered one of the best beers of the current time.

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Photo of jpiper
4.87/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2004 No P64339.

Opened the bottle, and the beer couldn't wait to get out. So there was plenty of foam to start with, but it quickly dissipated over the caramal-amber brown pour. Plenty of carbonation seems to be appearing at the top of the beer, but there is no lace.

Wow, the aroma... it fills the room with raisons and roasted malts. Smells like a fine port. Plenty of dried and ripe fruits and sweetness in the aroma.

The flavor seems to be a concentration of the smells. Raisons, and figs, and caramel, and burnt sugars. This one is sweet and complex, definitely a dessert beer. There is a a little of balancing bitterness in this as well.

The mouthfeel is perfect for a beer like this. The beer coats your mouth - very smooth and thick. But there is the perfect amount of carbonation to cut the sweetness and thickness.

This is a sipper, but very drinkable. As a dessert beer, which I'm having a hard time not thinking of as a fine port, I can't imagine drinking too much of this.

Extremely enjoyable. I don't know if this is best beer I've reviewed to date, but it's hitting me perfectly today. Definitely a beer which has its time and place.

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Photo of Hammarby
4.86/5  rDev +18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: Cloudy orange/dark amber with brownish tones. Tiny, kind of foamy, head with some lacing.
S: Sweet red port, melon, caramell, dark berries, dried fruit, apricot, sweetness, pleasant presence of alcohol, chocolate, hops. Like a rich very sweet desert.
T: Figs, apricot, dried fruits, caramelly sweetness, significant bitterness, very well balanced but significant presence of alcohol, sweet sherry, bitter almonds, madeira, alcoholic heat. Aftertaste of sweet sherry, light fudge and hops.
M: Full body. Depth of taste. Not much carboration.

Really lovely. Almost more like a wine than a beer. Something to sip rather than gulp. I had expectations for this beer and they were all met. Very pricy, but that's good in a way. You couldn't drink a lot of this. But with some beers in between, certainly a few.

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Photo of eberkman
4.85/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2006 vintage. No. P 12239. Consumed yesterday. Reviewed today. But I have a good memory -- and since it was a celebration beer for my new baby daughter once I was home with my son and he was safely off to bed, I wasn't about to log onto this site or take notes so soon after her birth.

Pours a luscious, translucent light caramel color that shades to deep red toward the bottom of the glass. Small off-white film of a head that reduces very quickly to a ring with some surface foam. Large bubbles forming on the side of the glass with a few moving toward the surface.

A deep inhalation captures gorgeous aromas of caramel, butterscotch, nutty aged cheese and dark fruit with a tinge of alcohol.

A rich, melange of butterscotch up front, moving into ripe figgy fruits, dark cherries and perhaps molasses (?) with a slightly bitter tinge in the finish and a lingering aftertaste. Nice spiciness remaining at the back of the throat. Fascinating palate. Warms as it goes down with a bigger gulp, though this is a sipper. Unbelievably complex -- almost something to be studied.

The mouthfeel is thick and satiny-smooth, slippery almost like a thick oil as it slides around. but in a nice way. Very substantial.

In terms of drinkability, very enjoyable as a slow sipper on a cold evening. I personally savored this one as a celebration -- I bought a 4-pack in anticipation of a new baby and put away one bottle a few hours after my new baby daughter arrived.

Overall, it has the feel and flavor of a really nice barleywine. An incredibly relaxing brew.

Excellent almost brand new -- I plan to cellar the rest (if I have the patience). I am really glad I tried this.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.85/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle Inspection: 2004 vintage, 11.7% abv. No. P 05790.

Aroma: Strong raisins, dark rich malt, notes of soy sauce, cognac, dark fruit, very nice and inviting.

Appearance: Very hazy (with a gentle pour) wooden brown with lots of carbonation streams. Small head gave a little lace.

Flavor: Soaks the chops with raisins and plums, gentle spices, invisible alcohol, soy sauce, dark fruit, it reminds me strongly of Sam Adams Triple Bock, which I enjoy, but less intense than that.

Mouthfeel: Velvety soft texture, just a hint of chew and a low carbonation level that seems quite appropriate given the heft of this beer.

Overall Impression: Rich full flavor, but so drinkable. The alcohol is just noticeable when you go looking for it, but given all the malt and fruit flavors, it just serves to lighten things up a bit. Strongly recommended

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Photo of cubsfan2004
4.85/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2004 Vintage

A - A cloudy brown with a tan head.

S - Raisin, fig and alcohol in the nose.

T - Very sweet with a raisin and fig taste. A slight bit of warming alcohol in the aftertaste. Extremely delicious!

M - Full bodied and creamy.

D - Definitely a sipping beer due to the sweetness and alcohol content.

I have not had many old ales but this one was delicious. I think I will stock up on a few for cellaring.

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Photo of tewaris
4.85/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003 - 2008)
English Barleywine
O'Hanlon's Brewing Co. Ltd.
11.7 % ABV
2005 vintage poured from a 8.5 oz bottle into a snifter. Note that this is not the original Thomas Hardy's ale that was brewed until 1999 by Eldridge Pope & Co.

Poured the darkest copper color, like turpentine oil with brilliant clarity. Most vigorous of pours couldn't force much bubbles but whatever formed stuck around.

The aroma was dried fruit and toasted coconut, caramel, toffee, and some sweet alcohol at the back. Very delicious, rounded and complex. I am giving it a 4.5/5 but I might bump it to 5/5 once I test it against J.W.Lees in a side by side comparison.

This ale tastes of decadence and I am thinking that no one makes a beer that suits my tastes better than the British. Sweet and flavorfuly so, with a lot of dried fruit character of dates and figs, and a nice bitterness towards the end. Very very very delicious.

Just some CO2 "oomph" on the perfect body... a perfect sipper!

Scores: Appearance 4.5/5; Aroma 4.5/5; Taste 5/5; Mouthfeel 5/5; Drinkability 5/5

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Photo of JAA
4.84/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2005 no. P 24451

Hi, my name is Joe and i'm a Thomas Hardy addict. It only took one sip and i needed it again. I wake up in cold sweats most nights when i don't get my fix.

With the first sniff, i could taste caramel on my tongue. Along with a vague meatiness that is also present when tasting. Tastes spectacular. So smooth and rich, sweet and nutty, with an ever present meaty undertone.

mouthfeel is unparalleled, making the high alcohol content easy to handle. Aging this beer has apparently mellowed out the alcohol quite a bit. A true joy to drink.

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Photo of Daniellobo
4.83/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

An extraordinary English barleywine, full of subtleties, with an astonishing range of flavors and deep experience.

Presentation: 8.5 oz bottle. Iconic classic bottle design with golden foil top and neck medal.Simple and somewhat modern design. The label quotes Hardy, notes the celebration of 40 years of the brew (pity since this might be the last batch), and on the back includes a narrative a about aging, preserving, and serving the ale. Shows date of bottling and edition number (2008 # T 11717). Notes Alc. by Vol. (11.7 %) Poured into a snifter.

A - Amber brown color with a rich crimson hue. Large creamy and toasted head with surprising retention. It's a total work of beauty, shrinking slowly as it leaves a subtle cap and a very rich lace.

S - Very rich dark fruit sweetness. There is a sense of caramel woven with prunes-figs, and a wooded spiced hint.

T - Intensely rich flavors. Picks up with the dark fruits, a tangy hint embraces the caramel sweetness. There is a hoppy presence that gives a nice bitterness to a chocolate final note, and an alcohol backdrop held with great dexterity. Very complex and subtle, it does grow as one enjoys slowly the brew.

M - It is a medium to full body with medium carbonation supporting the ale very well. Great creamy smooth texture.

D - Unfortunately too drinkable... It makes cellaring it a challenge, and finishing the bottle a pity.

Notes: Truly magnificent. I had tried a couple of Hardy's from previous years, unfortunately before I took any beer notes, and the memories were extraordinary if not too detailed. I have had a few bottles of this 2008 brew and while I really look forward to see how it ages over the years it is a fantastic be+er as it is. I'm cellaring quite a few in particular as a nod to the year my first kid was born, and sure hope that other brewery can pick up the recipe and license after O'Hanlon's announced that this would be their last year in production. Itd be a great loss to see this one disappears entirely.

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
4.12 out of 5 based on 734 ratings.
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