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: 733
Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.34/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer poured a hazy medium brown amber with a head that was barely there and only thought about lacing the glass.

The aroma was intensely malty with sherry, fruits, floral, and caramel all complexly intermingled.

The flavor was sherry with a slight chocolate caramel and a very complex flavor that included fruits and a well accomplished bittering that kept the entire flavor from becoming cloying.

The finish was malty and lasting with a complexity of sherry. The body was full and viscous and the beer had a pleasant alcohol warming.

8.5 ounce bottle. 2004 vintage. 11.7% ABV. This was nice as a late vintage, I would think in a few years it will truly shine...

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Photo of DaddyDan
2.38/5  rDev -42.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

The beer pours a nice orange copperish hue with a pillowy head. From what I can smell, it is quite nice. But that is where it ends. The beer has an extremely sweet syrupy taste with minimal amount of carbonation. There are hints or nuts and fruit, but it is overpowered by the sweetness. I don't think that I will be buying any more bottles.

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Photo of JohnnyDuvel
4.52/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2004 vintage. I wish I could get this type of beer (along with the JW Lees) on a regular basis. I waited three whole months to drink this (aging!). I was feeling a little sick, and decided that this would be my medicine. No head or lacing (to be expected). Deep ruby color, strong fruity fragrance. Deep and dark, warming and smooth. Good for anything that ails you! I followed this with the terrific Old Crustacean, and the Rogue absolutely paled in comparison. Worls class, all the way.

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Photo of Jason
3.49/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 8.5 oz bottle with a vintage date and bottle # on the label.

Appearance: Poor head retention, nearly burgundy with brown hues.

Smell: Ripe fruit, raisins come to mind for the most part. Big whiff of alcohol seems a tad mellow after a year of aging.

Taste & Mouth Feel: Virtually no carbonation yet the mouth feel is very creamy, lots of sweet malt with a touch of hops in the back. Ripe fruit all over with a yeasty back. Tropical fruit with a lazy alcoholic character in the finish.

Drinkability & Notes: Basically reminds me of a fresh JW Lees Harvest with out the hops yet not as complex. This is not the TH I remember …

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Photo of Billolick
4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Standard mini bottle, low carbonation, pours without any head, bubbles or lacing evident. Full throtle nose of oak, cloves,smoke, old cheesy feet. Full bodied and strong brew, nice soft mouthfeel, with notes of rum, vanilla, orange, over ripe fruits. Smooth and warming. Finishes with a nice malty sweatness. Classic winter sipper. Perfect for after thanksgiving meal.

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Photo of HochFliegen
4.49/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured this beer into my Thomas Hardy's Ale glass and was amazed by the deep ruby red hue. The smell just blew my senses away. It was sweet with a fruity, raisny and plum like scent. A slight hint of the 11% alcohol hit my nose as well. There seemed to be a touch of spice in the end. Im sure theres more that I just couldnt detect.
The first taste hit my taste buds with a sweet sherry/wine like flavor. Very full bodied, almost chewey. In the middle of the sip there was the presence of the 11% alcohol again but it was closely covered up by the sweet and slight bitter and spicy sensation. This beer was balanced so fine. I now know why I paid so much for this beer. It was a pleasure to sip.

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Photo of tjd25
4.43/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2003 # 02856

Quite excited to taste this brew on this anniversary day.
Half-an-inch head, fading slowly as tiny bubbles disappear like scintillating stars. The body shows a nice ruby to mahogany color, with a high yet peaceful level of carbonation. The flow of bubbles seems somehow slow motioned, as if they were getting glued in the brew.

The smell is a great representation of the style, with an appropriate level of winy or porto-like notes conjugated with hints of wood. A ripe fruitiness gets noticeable with light hints of citrus and a distinct yeast presence. Maybe some liquorice or some anise reach the nose too, completing this harmonious bouquet with a fresh chocolaty character.

The first sip of the brew was like a kiss on the lips, with the delicate softness of the everlasting head. The next sips are just intents to recreate this already out-of-reach tender and harmonious moment. This is the first time I fully understand Philippe Delerm’s “La première gorgée de bière”, in which is point is just that. Now I’m trapped trying to describe this first impression that I can’t experience again. The first aspect that comes to mind is the slightly sweet fruitiness that appeared, showing a hint of citrus and otherwise overripe peaches or apples, with a light feeling of pear on the tongue. This fruitiness is immediately associated with an intense yet appeasing alcohol presence that is reminiscent of a porto with character and that inspires respect. Dare I say I felt a little bit of grapefruit on the sides of my tongue? I do. Some spicy notes add a new facet to the initial fruitiness, pepper and salt stimulating the tip of the tongue. The finish puts the emphasis on the chocolaty aspect, dark choclate with roasted nuts.

The feeling in the mouth offered by this brew is all the more interesting as it is multi-faceted. The first encounter with the brew can be either seen as a kiss on the lips or as a fall in an ocean of silk that would overwhelm you for a second but bring you back on the surface and caress you. The next feeling I got was of some type of jam that would retain my attention and make me really patient in my enjoying this ale. Like successive waves of silk that reduce your pace and force you to look around, to really think about where you are. And then, finally, a strong and deep chocolate thickness, with a slightly oily hoppiness, chewy and pronounced, that let you know you’ve reached the end of the journey, and that it’s already time to look back for one more instant or to think about the future already.

Talking about drinkability seems somehow not adapted to this brew. The little bottle was just fine, and even reinforced me in my certainty that the brew deserved patience, contemplation and respect. I wouldn’t need to have another one now, but I feel like I need to experience this first sip impression again. I want to.

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Photo of fingolfin72
4.57/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is 2003 vintage, bottle #O04971. It was a birthday gift from my brother-in-law, trbeer.

Coppery roan color, a bit cloudy. Almost no head to speak of.
Rich, enveloping, malty, brown sugary, slightly alcoholic, faintly cinnamon nose.

Huge flavor. Maple syrup, brown sugar, cotton candy. The sugariness bursts on the palate in a manner that reminds me of seafoam candy (aka Violet Crumble). Just a hint of bitterness, reminiscent of Campari, peeks out at the end. It is just barely effervescent.

This is a memorable beer.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.35/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep looking stained burgandy tone. A light and airy beige/light brown foam sits on top and is well retained. Lacing is moderately spotty. Nose is splendid. Cherry, fig, nuts, alcohol and malts. Richly malty and sweet in its flavor profile, this beer is balanced only by a bit of stinging alcohol and some alpha acid goodness. Not cloying, but very sweet. Sweet maple and brown sugar. Melons and cherries soaked in alcohol. Almonds and dates. The heat from the alcohol remains long after the swallow. But as a whole, it is integrated nicely into the flavor profile. Nice tasting indeed. The feel in the mouth is light and easy. Light-medium body. And just the slightest bit of prickliness from carbonation.

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Photo of meathookjones
4.05/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2003 #15078

This poured out a reddish brown color with not much of a head only a random scattering of tan bubbles that quickly disappear. Aroma is hugely sweet with ripe dark fruits and malts with a touch of alcohol. The alcohol in the nose becomes more apparent the longer this one sits out. Keeping in line with the smell the taste is big in sweet fruity maltiness a little too much so. There was a molasses like flavor as well and light caramel notes that went nicely and a nice warming alcohol aftertaste. Mouthfeel is full and creamy but hurts a little in the carbonation department. The only thing I have against the drinkability is that if it were a 12 oz bottle the sweetness might become too much by the end of the bottle. I am interested to see how the new 2003 edition will age and hopefully mellow the sweetness out a bit. Overall a great beer that I look forward to trying again in the future.

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Photo of sitbooboosit
3.75/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 2.5

beautiful auburn colour, slight head that disappears quickly. strong cherry/dark fruit aroma, almost pineapples? this beer is quite sweet and very malty, shockingly sweet. the mouthfeel is heavy and very syrupy which is not cut by any carbonation to balance it off. this beer was not what i expected. while i can see its appeal i found it far to sweet for my liking. perhaps a well aged example might be more enjoyable

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Photo of Rastacouere
3.17/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Orange to almond brown hue. Light off-white ring. Ridiculously sweet aroma. Very fruity at first sniff, cherry-like, woody currants, hot almond skin. Big malt base is almost agressively nutty on the palate. Extremely bold, samichlaus-like in its burnt almonds and grapey aspects combined with overpowered heat. Cloying harsh and fat finish. Huge syrupy body is not helped by very low carbonation. I don’t think I would like it yet 5 years from now and I think I’d have more interesting beers to bother keeping for 10yr or above.

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Photo of bigbeerdrinka
4.23/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2003 Bottle # 11800
Pours a light brown with strong ruby hues. A head about an 1/8 inch thick appears and leaves a decent lace. Notes are of dark fruits, fig, grapes, and plums mostly with some alcohol also noticeable. Intially this beer hits up front very smooth and creamy with a nice light carbonation. Malts start things off showing some light caramel and toffee, but are quickly followed by the dark fruit of figs, grapes, and almost a slight vanilla. This beer follows very sweet with yet more dark fruit flavors and more sugary sweetness, also some raisin notes in there. A strong warm bourbony alcohol finishes the beer leaving this to be a kicking old ale. Overall this beer is a smooth explosion on the pallate that makes it a classic of the style.

1974 Vintage Bottle D #7915 March

Pours a deep chestnut color with amber hues. There is absolutely no head present in this beer as it looks to be completely flat. Aromas are overwhelmingly powerful for this beer being over 30 years old. Tones of toffee, plum, figs, caramels, a hint of vanilla, some oak, and a warming alcohol presence show off why this brew is a classic. The initial flavors to this brew depict strong tones of toffee and caramels that intermingle in the most beautiful way. Unlike the harshness that comes from a fresh bottle of this brew the flavors are much more rounded out and really work perfectly together. Following the toffee notes there are hints of roast in the profile along with a mix of dark fruits such as figs, plums, and an almost prune like quality. Along with these vast flavors there are also tones of deep roasty expresso, and just a slight hint of chocolate. The finish of this beer brings up yet more roasty flavors that are mixed with black sambuca flavored expresso beans.
The mouthfeel for this beer is absolutely splendid with a nice creamy texture to it and a medium body. If I was able to review this brew under the retired reviews this would easily be my number one beer on my list.. Simply Fantastic

Appearance: 4.0
Aromas: 4.5
Flavor: 5.0
Mouthfeel: 5.0
Drinkability: 4.5

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Photo of taez555
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 #014892

This beer poured a tiny tan head that died almost immediately. But at 11.7% not surprised. The body was a translucently hazy dark tan/light brown.

The nose was wonderful. Sweet, cookie dough type malt smell, raisins, alcohol, sugar, bread, chocolate, plums, juice and some more cook dough. Simply put, it was an ambrosial strong ale smell.

The taste was very thick and heavy. A mix of molasses, brown sugar, a dark burnt caramel, raisins and plums. It tasted like homemade caramel, toffee or other candy. Also there’s a firm port wine taste. Simply beautiful.

Simply a fantastic strong ale. Huge, malty, sweet and oh so yummy.

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Photo of WesWes
4.62/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a cloudy rub red color with a thin off-white head. The aroma is awesome. It has a very sweet malt scent with a warm alcohol aroma. It is very rich with crystal malts. The taste is very good. It has a rich malt flavor that is very sweet to the lips and warms on the finish. It has a fruity taste with a tart aftertaste. The mouthfeel is good. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a damn good beer. I love the flavor and the aroma; a masterpiece.

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Photo of Gusler
4.27/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle #14936 Release 2003
The beer as it’s retrieval from the 8.5 ounce brown bottle pours a beclouded rusty brown color, the head is almost non-existent, as is the lace. Nose is that of very, very ripe fruit, plums and apples comes to mind, a hint of yeast and fusel alcohol also reside in this nose, as for the start it is cotton candy sweet, the malt pleasant and the top light to middling in its feel to the palate. Finish is benign in its carbonation; the hops along with the alcohol produce a nice bitter sweet ending and dry ending to this much anticipated beer. I’m sure it won’t be everybody’s bottle of beer, so if you don’t want yours, sent it to “Old Gusler”, as you know he will drink anything once, as in malted beverages.

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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 cbl2
3.96/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Capped in gold foil with a medal depicting Thomas Hardy's profile. Pours fairly still, an opaque orange brown with the faintest white head that settles rapidly.

Diacetyl, muscat grapes. Not too distinctive.

Absolutely sublime. Too smooth for words, very viscous in the mouth, with a vinous sweetness that nicely masks the alcohol content. Can't wait to see how this improves with age (can cellar for 26 years!)

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Photo of genaro
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thomas Hardy Ale 2003 was well presented in a numbered 8.5 ounce bottle. There was a plastic medallion suspended from the neck bearing the silhouette of TH himself. This was the first Thomas Hardy I've had in several years that wasn't cellared and I was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed.
It poured a cloudy brown color with traces of gold in the light. It had a large bubbled head that slowly disappeared. There was no lace.
The fruity aroma contained elements of figs, apples, and toffee. The full, smooth taste was brandy-like and fruity (figs and apples). Toffee, yeastiness, and alcohol were well represented. There was also a decent bite to it. The chewy finish was fruity with a dry sweetness.
This is an excellent, very drinkable, well-crafted beer. It's worth looking for and paying the price. Great to have it back.

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Photo of granger10
4.82/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2003 edition:
I finally had this after eyeing it in my cellar for the past few months and I was not let down in the least! This is simply a tremendous beer that rivals any other beer I have ever tried. The nose hits me instantly after I open it. Strong flavors attack my sense of port wine, raisins, figs, cherries (increasingly becoming tartier) peppery spices hit me and a roasted hops precense along with a woody hop precense comes through. Man oh man that was intense. This beer has an opaque dark copper color with burgundy highlights and a small fizzy tan head that fads quickly. The taste is quite intense as well. I do notice the alcohol but it doesnt seem to be the 11.9% it says it is on the bottle. Very sweet malty sensations overload my tongue. There's a syrupy quality to this along with a grapelike touch. Honey comes through towards the end. Peppery spices combine with alcohol show more in the finish. The hops are there and offset the sweetness a bit and add a great deal of flavor as well in a woody, earthy element. The finish is bourbon like and stays in my mouth, i continue to breathe the bourbon intensity. The mouthfeel is very thick and oily which coats my mouth and causes the bourbon sensation to last. This beer is simply amazing and in a category by itself. I could see this aging however and becoming quite remarkeable. The depth of flavors and blending of taste characteristics could improve, which is a scary thought considering how amazing it is now. I need to age some of this, but I don't know if I could have the patience. Plus the price is a little much for me to buy too many of these. But I for sure will get this again.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.72/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

8.5oz brown bottle. 2003 No. 001484 Poured at 52F into a Gouden Carolus D'or glass.
It pours an orange-hued dark teaky amber with a small off-white head along with small bubbles, which cling to the bottom of the glass..
Smells of toffee, oak, malt and rum dominate. A light whiff of hops follow.
As immature as the brew is, it displays an aged and mature character of flavors. Caramel malt, honey and taste of milk chocolate are quite upfront. A hint of sherry-soaked oak rolls forward.
Sweet lemon bitterness and orange zest tartness add a near perfect balance to the malty sweetness. Now if I can only find 25 or so more of these!
Thanks Genaro!

Edit 5/22/05 - 2004 No P 07973 This beer improves in both flavor and mouthfeel! WOW!

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Photo of krberg
4.29/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2k3 bottle

Deep copper with a very brief cream colored head. It fizzed a bit at first and a steady stream of CO2 rises from the center of my glass.

Smells strongly of sherry and raisins, maybe some brown sugar.

Sweet and warming. Light table sugar notes. There is an alcohol rush to the nose and a slight bitterness. Very few people would guess this is beer. The plum and raisin flavor dominates the palette. Lots of residual sugars, but not enough to make it cloying. To me it tastes like relaxation.

Thomas Hardy's coats the inside of a mouth like no other beer I've ever had.

Considering the price and the alcohol content, this beer is way too drinkable. Not a pounder, but you could sit and sip one after another all night.

I have never had the original Hardy's so I can't compare, but this is one of my favorite brews. In fact it is the only beer I've had that actually lives up to the hype. If you have friends that like real beer grab them and a few TH's, sit, talk and relax for awhile.


I have to preface my review with feelings of guilt. Due to a clerk error I just purchased an entire 4 pack of TH 2004 for $4.99.

Hmm, no head this year. I even poured into the same glass as last year's. Looks like very little CO2 as well.

Smells right. Fruits and sherry.

Very close to last year's but I don't get the warming rush in my sinuses. It is there but in my chest.

It also doesn't seem to be so mouth-coating. Its still thick and chewy. Perhaps the lack of CO2 is to blame here.

Yet again, way too drinkable.

Another great beer in 2K4. Not quite as good as last year's but still top-notch.

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Photo of Sammy
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2003 8.5 oz. bottle. A spicy barleywine bitter opaque brown brew with bourbon residue. Best at its residue last. Carmel syrup. Figs, pepper. Was light on tongue, still there was carbonation that Froze the tongue. A sipper.
2007 repeat experience. It was young, it was plumb. It looked like a great barleywine and tasted the same. Still froze me tongue, a sipper, alcohol fumes. Better taste than I give it credit.

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Photo of DESTRO
4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

this pours out an lovely deep copper with a bubbly quarter inch tan head. leaves sticky lacing. hugely sweet malt aroma along with caramels, light green apple skins and a sizable alcohol presence. full in the mouth, buttery, heavy, slick and coating. the flavor, like the nose is one of huge sweetness. sugary (brown), syrupy, molasses like. some fruitiness is evident and there is a slight bittering in the finish from the hops. once again a good sized alcohol smack finishes it off, warming the chest and flaring ones nostrils. a huge beer, extremely sweet and highly alcoholic. a nice sipper for special occasions. would def. like to try and older bottle to compare.

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Photo of HappyHourHero
4.42/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


Small creamy tan head formed after the pour and faded just as quickly as it arose leaving no lace. Dark ruby cola colored beer. Aromas of caramel, light alcohol, and dark red wine. Big malty, vineous flavor, with a tangy bitter finish. Smooth slick mouthfeel, nice thick body, slightly alcoholic. A big beer with lots of malt and dark fruit flavors, definitely looking forward to a few of these down the road.

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
4.12 out of 5 based on 733 ratings.
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