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

Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008)Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008)
Liked This Beer
4.13 w/ 736 ratings
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.

View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 736 |  Reviews: 563
Photo of kaimcm
4.5/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

fancy little bottled poured into a chalice. 2005 bottle, 35535 edition.

A: rich dark ruby body, almost brown, soft beige head. head comes back with agitation easily, light lacing.

S: Rum, butter, raisons, alcohol, caramel, even some apple

T/M: Super soft creamy body. crazy rich malt, molasses, dark fruit, raisons, plums. soggy grains, reminiscent of graham crackers or cheerios in milk. moist rum cake, hints of vanilla. finishes oily slick and drying. filling.

D: high octane brew, nice digestif. hefty price tag but worth the treat from time to time. a heavenly but formidable beer.

reminds me a lot of North Coasts Old Stock, both rare, both expensive (though this much more so), both serious commitments. the Hardy's has a creaminess that Old Stock doesnt quite achieve and slightly more complexity. but for half the price, Old Stock is more than an adequate substitution.

 894 characters

Photo of cypressbob
4.46/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

8.5oz bottle, has a little gold medallion around its neck, 2005 Vintage

Pours with a rich deep copper hue, some ruby hints. Almost zero head, just a little whisper of foam around the edges even with an aggressive pour.

Smell, strong whiff of prunes, sultanas and dates, thick sweet syrupy notes, a sweet nose, reminds me of a cake baking. Some lingering alcohol

Taste, smooth and syrupy. Thick estery sweetness, very ripe fruit, some dried fruit once again. Caramel and toffee also, burnt sugar on the finish with a lingering alcoholic finish

A pretty spectacular ale, i'm sure this would benefit further from time aging

 633 characters

Photo of bruachan
4.52/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

got the last one at winking lizard (not a tour beer). 2004 vintage

served in a wee bottle with a fun medallion. deep red with a burnt orange tint. crystal clear with no chance of a head. the aroma is rich and malty. very complex malt aromas, with dark fruit

the flavor is incredibly complex as well. butterscotch, nut, caramel, chocolate, dark fruit, maple syrup. a friend says "kahlua plus cranberry"—she's not far off. syrupy sweet with a slight alcohol spice in the finish

i bet this would be quite something aged

 526 characters

Photo of JasonCoop
3.42/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

gift from my boss. perhaps aged too long. brewed in 1995. wow 11 years. i'm curious...

poured into a snifter. pours an opaque brown. no head at all.

smells very grapey/raisiny. alcoholic. intense.

taste - not carbonated at all. very slick, sweet and malty. full bodied. tastes like a big bad brown ale. a bit of burnt malt on the finish. it's an intense flavor.

mouthfeel is ok. creamy and full i'd say. not the most drinkable brew, intense flavor and high abv. i'd be curious to revisit this style with a different sample.

 535 characters

Photo of klewis
4.67/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2004 edition No. P81775

A: Pours a hazy brown with ruby highlights, but with no head - just a few bubbles.

S: Huge agressive aromas of molasses, toffee, and dark fruits with a moderate amount of alcohol in the back of the bouquet

T: Very sweet, cloying taste. Flavors of fine port, molasses, and alcohol and a hint of espresso much later after it has already left the tongue.

M: Thick, syrupy, and sticky. Carbonation is minimal, giving this brew a super smooth texture.

D: Wow. This is my first experience with an old ale, and I'm loving it. I've been going back and forth for a while on whether this little puny 8.5 oz bottle was worth the $5 price tag, but this little brew packs a punch much greater than its larger volume brethren. HIghly recommended.

 771 characters

Photo of doubleipa
4.52/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this at a beer and cheese tasting. It was paired with the mother of all British cheeses - Colston Basset Stilton. WOW. I have several of these in my cellar, but just can't bring myself to break one out. I really hope to age these for at least 10 years. This was a 2004 vintage. Almost had a dark marron appearance, no head, no lacing. It looked a bit cloudy, as well. The aromas - my oh my. Where does one start. Cherry, wine, malt, swwet, floral, sheery, port. Taste was quite sweet and was very up front. This classic combined with the classic Stilton really provided a great ending to a great evening.

 608 characters

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

The classic of all classics. Newest vintage. Dark ruby chestnut with a small head of fiery white. Aromas of figs, toffee, sweet jams, caramel, nuts, berries, and more with a bit of a boozy port/sherry edge. Taste is sweet, a bit harsh at this young stage, but unmistakably TH ale. figs, berries, toffee, and all. Mouthfeel is slick and a bit hot, drinkability is good, but this needs like 10-20 years in the dark place before it becomes the all 5's masterpiece that we have all come to know and love...

 502 characters

Photo of Px2GrafX
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

room temperature 2004 vintage pours a very deep reddish-brown with bright red highlights. head is a thin grey-tan and drops to a ring around the glass after a minute or so. bubbles rise charismatically from the center of the glass. very aromatic. strong vinous grapes, raisins and alcohol aromas. first sip tingles with alcohol, but surprisingly, the alcohol flavors are well masked. you definitely get alcohol, but not as much as you might think. very malty and sweet with dominating syrupy raisin and date flavors. some anise as well. black cherry also resonates on the extreme edges of my tongue. melted brown sugar over caramel and toasted bread. a mild earthy bitterness along with a light yeasty bitterness at the back of the sip tries to balance, but not even close. this old ale is very complex. i can't begin to describe all the flavors i'm getting. mouthfeel is a very smooth and creamy medium body with good carbonation, some alcohol burn and a surprisingly smooth swallow. the drinkability, however, is slow going. a definite sipper here. alcohol flavor, burn and a nice warming effect along with super complex flavors keep this one in your hand a while despite the 8.5oz. serving. overall, this is a delicious old ale. the flavors are very complimentary and reminiscent of a good underhopped barleywine. highly recommended and i will be shelving a few of these as they're known to get even better with age.

 1,419 characters

Photo of texashammer
3.67/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thomas Hardy 2004 -- sampled summer of 2005 (these are old notes)
looks like honey. red/orange and hazy with no head.
smell is sweet like honey and very obviously alcoholic; if I stick my nose too far into the glass I get burned. Also rather sour like a flemish. Very boozy.
Tastes sweet and alcoholic like a quadrupel. sweet on my lips. very, very much like a port wine; no carbonation, all alcoholic and sweetness, and tastes like a port. similar sweetness if you will. I feel that it is quite boozy for 11.7%, which is what the label says. I'd feel better with a little more age.

 588 characters

Photo of geexploitation
4.64/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow. I've heard tales of this beer for a long time before today, and now that I've finally tried it I can understand why.

Pours a dark, jewel-like amber with no head whatsoever. No carbonation in the liquid either. The nose is incredible. I can't imagine how complex and deep and amazing the nose on this beer would be with some aging (this is the 2004 vintage). Upon the base aroma of fresh molasses is overlaid raisins, dark chocolate, and oranges. The palate is quite sweet, with dark chocolate, molasses, and dried dark fruit. Mouthfeel is thick and viscous, and quite still.

What an incredible beer. My eyes have been opened to good English barleywine.

 663 characters

Photo of jaluria
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled in 2003.
Poured a burnt copper color with various hues intermixed in my pint. A nice head developed and left behind some lacing. Aromas of rum, molasses, caramel, and alcohol were detectable; very appealing. The taste was thick and creamy with an almost chewy texture. Quite full-bodied with various fruit flavors coming out such as figs and plums. Intense juicy fruit flavors blended easily with the roasted malt flavors. Malty like a barleywine. The alcohol was well hidden.

 485 characters

Photo of HardTarget
4.85/5  rDev +17.4%
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

 852 characters

Photo of johnniemarg
4.51/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is the 2004 vintage tasted on 2/19/06. 8.5 oz bottle poured into a tulip.

A muddy brown/amber that looks a lot like aple cider. Zero head. very little carbonation. No lacing.

Smell is awesome. A ton of fruit. Raisin and sweeter fruit aromas, maybe orange and apple, maybe some molasses too. The alcohol is noticable but not overbearing.

Taste is awesome as well. The sweet fruit aromas come through in the flavor but there is also a surprising burnt caramel malt flavor as well in the finish. The alcohol also comes through in the finish, but in a very pleasant way.

Mouthfeel is medium-bodied and oily.

I love this stuff. Definitely a great, smooth vintage ale. I've been able to get beer-hating early-20's girls I know to like beer by starting them with this stuff despite the 12% ABV, and then moving them into other strong brews such as barleywines. This is a great brew.

 897 characters

Photo of PorterLambic
4.44/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

At a listed 11.7% ABV, i was glad this came in such a wee bottle. 2004 edition, drank in January 2006. Let it warm a bit before drinking it.

Pours an opaque dark brown. Very little head that disappears quickly and left no trace of lace behind.
Smell is rich and malty, oak, maple, vanilla, hint of alcohol.
Taste is WOW!! Oak, malt, vanilla, caramel, a touch of something spice but not sure what, like a spiced apple or orange, obviously a fruit taste as well, maybe some raisins or cherries.
A beautiful full bodied brew, smooth with a creamy, chewy texture, very rich, like luscious dark chocolate from Belgium. More flavors become apparent as it warms so drink this slowly, savor it.

 692 characters

Photo of timtheenchanta
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Little head that doesn't walk you to the door. Gone before the girl has the chance to shut her own door. No lacing. On to the fun... huge nose. Tons of light fruity tones. Raisins, grapejuice like smell... maybe more like communion wine than grapejuice. Maybe that's just the alcohol and fruit smell throwing me off. Boy this beer has a huge alcohol smell. There's a hint of some sort of spice but I can't put a finger on it. The taste is amazing as well. Light sweet fruits (plums, raisins, maybe some apples) come up before the alochol flavor takes over. I really wasn't expecting that much alcohol taste on my first sip and afterward I thought I'd just taken a shot of hard liquor. The palate is akin to a sweet wine twang. Nice warming sensation on the way down. Good smooth feel though. There's no doubt I had this brew too early. It's the 2004 edition but I'm just not sure a year is enough time with this beer. At least not enough for me. I'm glad I have another to sit down for a decade or so. This brew really does need some age on it. The alcohol could really use some mellowing. Interesting either way.

 1,113 characters

Photo of GreenWBush
4.81/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Along with JW Lee's Vintages, Thomas Hardy's Ale has always been right out of my reach. I finally found some in Indianapolis for roughly ten dollars a single unrefrigerated and held off, but once it came to my town I knew I had to give it a whirl. This was a shockingly low $2.50 a single. One goes to the gut and one goes to the cellar with no plans to consume it for at least 5 years.

The appearance doesn't seem to hold true to Hardy's poetic description on the label: the carbonation frightened me a little bit, thinking that it was spoiled as this looked akin to a beer left open in the fridge for a day or two. Perilously deep in color, mysteriously burgundish brown. A rare clear bubble appeared from time to time but that's about it. It did manage to leave a few sandy lace lines on the glass, though.

The nose of this beer might just be the most complex I've ever experienced. The aroma was so strong and pungent I could smell it a full foot away, amazing for something so restrained in the hop-department. I whiffed on this baby a good five minutes before even taking a sip it was that heavenly. Just the most deep, complex malt characteristics: raisins dipped in confectioner's sugar, stewed in port wine and molasses. Brown sugar seems a cheap metaphor, but I keep coming back to it.

The flavor is super-sweet and redolent of ripe plums, figs, and raisins again. Faint kiss of alcohol heat. The 'braised raisin' comparison continues to the flavor, just such a syrupy elixir. Liquefied butterscotch and toffee blended with apertif alcohols. Insane sweetness pushes just into the realm of annoyance, docking this ever so slightly.

Mouthfeel is pure bliss now, and I can't even imagine where this will head after a few years. Drinkability is limited obviously by the syrupy hedonism and 'special' feel of this ale. This is one of those 'holy grail' beers I can't wait to sit on for another special occasion, ten years or so down the road.

 1,962 characters

Photo of rustymoore
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

This amber ale starts with a reddish, brownish, amber color and pours extra flat. Aromas of honey, caramel, and cloves come to mind. The taste is very sweet...the sweetest beer I have ever had to date. The honey is the most powerful flavor and one can barely taste the 11.7% alcohol in this brew. I taste a hint of berries and fruit (possibly dates). It's something that I couldn't drink in excess for sure but it is definitely very drinkable.

 443 characters

Photo of tgbljb
3.38/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

poured a deep burgundy color with minimal head. Smell is very fruity, with dark fruits predominating. Has somewhat of a wine scent. Taste is very striong on the alcohol, and masks most of the other flavors. Can taste some fruitiness, but not anough to overpower the alcohol. Finish is very strong on the alcohol. A bit dissapointing.

 333 characters

Photo of Iguana
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 P 29198

Appearence - Poured an opaque brown, almost looked like apple cider.

Smell - Smells of caramel and alcohol, fairly strong alcohol smell.

Taste - Tastes of roasted toffee, extremely malty. Nice alcohol finish in it.

Mouthfeel - Fairly smooth, very thick. Almost like syrup in thickness it seems.

Drinkability - If these didnt cost so much theyd be more drinkable, but overall its a really nice brew, i'd like to have some more.

 454 characters

Photo of waldowin
4.24/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

In a foil-sealed bottle, with a plastic trinket suspended around the neck with some information about the style and company. Bottle labeled as "2004 No. P 54194 Edition"

Only 8.5oz? Drat.

Pours a very hazy gold, fading to a ruddy red at the center. Nearly opaque.

Smells of caramel, raisins, candy sugar, and of course alcohol.

Tastes of caramel, raisins, and oak. Fairly sour, and strong. This could definitely stand a few years to mellow out, and I'd easily believe it'd hold up to 25 years.

Mouthfeel is thick, and syrupy, with very little carbonation. Slighty mouth-puckering. Being so sour and high in ABV, one 8.5oz bottle is actually enough for me for now. I'd love to see where it's at in a few years though (good thing I have four).

Note: I usually pour a beer and leave the last 10% or so in the bottle, to avoid getting yeast in the drink. Tasting the bottle contents lead me to decide to pour the rest into the drink in my glass. With the yeast in it, this beer is worlds smoother, and the sour flavor fades back. Definitely an excellent Old Ale, but drink yours *with* the yeast! :)

 1,113 characters

Photo of plaztikjezuz
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a deep mohoginy with a light off white head that falls into a lace around the rim of the glass.
the aroma is sweet, malty, dried figs, alcohol; but i can not believe how much like figs it smells.
the flavor is rich, complex, i get malt, slight cherry, figs, raisons, apricots, alcohol, hopsack spice, bitterness, one complex brew.
the mouthfeel is thick suryp like, leaves a residue in your mouth.
this beer is best enjoyed on a cold night fireside in a brandy glass.

 477 characters

Photo of WanderingFool
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

This 2004 bottle of Thomas Hardy's Ale (No. P17657) poured a hazy, dark caramel color with a creamy light tan head on top. The foam dissolved slowly to a thick ring around the surface, leaving a few spots of lace behind. A strong caramel malt aroma with notes of alcohol and brandy hovers above the beer.

Each sip of this thick bodied brew is smooth and syrupy. The flavor is mainly caramel malt. There's some notes of fruit (cherry, apple) and alcohol mixed in. It reminded me of a brandy. It finishes a bit sour leaving behind some caramel and alcohol notes. I found the aftertaste lasted a lot longer than the average beer.

Thomas Hardy's Ale is a great full flavored brew. However, with 11% alcohol it's definitely a sipping beer. Aging this bad boy would benefit the flavor by smoothing out some of the alcohol.

 822 characters

Photo of karst
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 vintage, No. P66228

This Old Ale pours clear dark ruby amber with minute head. Lacing the sides of my 0.4 L Rastal sniffer glass when tilted.

Aroma of sstrong vinous and molasses. Mouthfeel is slick. It coats the palate as is expected by a full bodied strong old ale.

Taste of malt and rum soaked toffee and cognac. The 11.7 % abv alcohol and youthful esters (white wine and tart apples) offset the sweet molasses and malts.

This was begging to be left in the bottle a few years. Do youself a favor and don't hurry Hardy's Ale

 548 characters

Photo of yelterdow
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2003 Edition: Bottle #05683.

Served after dinner in an oversize brandy snifter at between cellar and room temperature.

Appearance- An amazing fiery, sunset red that puts any other old ale to shame... it glows with a fantastic concentration of color. The small rim that results after the pour fades almost completely, consistent with the style. Beefy as all hell, this looks too big for one person to handle... and I'm not sharing tonight.

Smell- Dark cocoa, prunes, alcohol, old books, really old shoes... and hints of bacon. This one is really tough to get your nose out of, it's so damn complex. The combination of leather, basted meat, and sweet dark fruit is so unique and intriguing that I could just stop here. Wow.

Taste- A fully concentrated, no-holds-barred flood of flavor and alcohol. First we have the sweet dark, soaked fruit at the front of the tongue. Next, the huge candied malt and leather notes come forward, not without a mouth-tingling envelopment of boozy alcohol. This tastes like something that could be a hundred years old, no kidding... this is the ultimate in sipping beers.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Mellow, easy carbonation paired with the big weight of this beer strikes a great balance. Effortless to drink, yet impossible to grasp. If "After Dinner Beer" were a category unto itself, this would certainly be the Holy Grail.

 1,369 characters

Photo of BeerBuilder
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 No. P76156

Pours to a ruby-brown color with just whisps of tan spread across the top. The aromas are sweet and sugary...molassas, brown sugar, honey, and dark fruits. Also a warm, alcohol burn in the nose.

The flavor is sweet, candy, molassas, honey, and sherry-like. There are also notes of raisins in the finish. The body is full and sweet, a bit syrupy with a bit of alcohol. The alcohol is more present in the nose. An interesting beer that will be great with age.

 480 characters

Thomas Hardy's Ale (2003-2008) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
Beer rating: 81.8% out of 100 with 736 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.