Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) | Hanlons Brewery

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)
Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999)

Brewed by:
Hanlons Brewery
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.70%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
This entry is for vintages brewed by Eldridge Pope & Co. PLC. / Thomas Hardy Brewery from 1968 to 1999. O'Hanlon's took over the brand and revived it in 2003:

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 125 | Ratings: 221
Photo of Walnut
4.52/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I had the 1986 vintage; I had bought if for my oldest son's first birthday (yeah, that's the kind of dad I am). It had no carbonation at all. It was dark and thick...sort of like prune juice or soy sauce. It had a port-like taste, deep, fruity and complex. In short, it was outstanding. I had some Taiwanese Kavalan Soloist sherry barrel-aged whiskey last night, and they are really similar in a lot of ways. I have 2 more bottles of Hardy's, a 1990 vintage for my second son's birthday, and a 2005 vintage that I didn't even remember I had. Really a beer experience to remember!

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Photo of stevoj
4.65/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

1987 vintage bottle from Douglas88. Brown, clear, pours flat (understandable). Smoky, peaty aroma, leather , tobacco. Taste too is the old ale sweetness, mellowed by age, more peat. Mellow sweetness. Aged perfectly.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.38/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

rating #: 2,750.

6oz "nip" bottle that is so old that the label is no longer readable. The bottle is sealed with Golden foil with black lettering that reads: "Huntsmen" and a pressure cap. A red string comes out from the bottom of the golden foil and a medallion hangs from this red string which shows a man's head silhouetted on the front of the medallion. On the back of the medallion it says: "Thomas Hardy's Ale Brewed and bottled by ELDRIDGE POPE Dorchester Dorset"

Vintage 1986.

poured into unbranded snifter.

Appearance: A dark black bodied beer. The head pours out to almost a thin uneven cap, but is mostly a bunch of uniform medium to large sized bubbles. Booze legs on the side of the glass after each sip.

Smell: Rich dried tobacco. Dark Fruits. Caramel. Soy sauce. Bakers cocoa. Flour-less chocolate cake. Black truffles. Hint of black licorice. Truly unique nose, I have never smelled an old ale like this before.

Taste: This beer is rich and sweet. Dark fruits are the first thing that you taste. Lots of plums and also black currants. Raisins & plums too, but they are more subtle. The unmistakable flavors of leather and tobacco with lots of it to be had. Port wine. Molasses. Light meaty smoke flavor. Dark chocolates. Finishing with a hint of caramel and vanilla sweetness and balanced by a hint of bittersweet tobacco / leather...then more prunes to round out the finish. This beer is very flavorful and complex. Very "English" if that makes any sense to anyone...

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with low carbonation level. Not a hint of booze in this beer; its a very smooth drink. Still a sipper, but because it has such big flavors.

Overall: At 31 years old...this is the oldest beer that I have ever drank. Prior to this beer, it was a 10 year old Gueuze. I have always been a huge fan of old ales, so this is without a doubt a true treat to get to try since Thomas Hardy's is the holy grail of Old Ales. Word on the streets is Thomas Hardy Ales have done well with proper cellar conditions for a long time. I can confirm this fact now. Flavors are so big here that 6oz is all that I wanted to drink. The brewer knew what he was doing putting this beer into a 6oz nip bottle. I am pretty impressed with this Old Ale. It is about as authentic as it gets for an Old Ale!

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Photo of Beersnake1
4.3/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

1986 vintage poured from fridge temp and allowed to warm over an hour. No carbonation at all. Just a slight pop but no hiss when the cap came off. No carbonation on the pour. It's a syrupy black - beautiful. Smell is so amazing. Sweet, thick, creamy caramel. Super strong dark fruit - cherries, raspberries, and a blackberries. Black currant. Taste is much different from the nose. Not as sweet. A slight metallic. No bitterness. Lots of dark fruit, but not sweet. A bit of a licorice flavor as well. Overall, this was a crazy experience. Lucky to have tried it. Mouthfeel is really nice a creamy.

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Photo of Lone_Freighter
4.32/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

BitterBill sent me this. 1975 vintage, pictures posted on untapped and talkbeer. I poured into a snifter. The appearance was a ruddy burnt red almost brown color with no head nor lacing, (me, given the brew year, I get it, I’m not worried). The aroma starts off with sweet figs, plums, light spice (blend of cinnamon to orange zest to allspice). Sweet earthy almost leathery stickiness. Warms into some prunes. The flavor leans to the prune side so much with a tingle of vanilla and some leathery sort of tobacco to bready sweetness. The aftertaste is somewhat a sweet to wet pruniness running on into a quick finish. On the palate, this one sat about a medium on the body (this really kept it’s weight, what in the what? Yeah, it really did). Carbonation, haha, well, look at the date, and I’m pretty sure most rational beer drinkers will realize, that there’s no carbonation left to this. Overall, despite no carbonation left, this amazingly held up so well. I never would have thought that a beer older than me would have held all of those aromas and flavor and just blend so well. Amazing, just doesn’t seem like a word remotely close to describe my true feelings for this beer.

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Photo of Lamar
4.92/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Bottle from 1991 No F07844
An amazing sipping beer. The look is dark brown in the glass with no head at all. There is an amazing complexity on the nose with notes of clove, butterscotch, spice and sherry that I was able to detect. Rich in taste with a strong chocolate finish. Paired perfectly with my Fettuccine and Black Truffle Oil ; as good a beer as I have ever had.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
4.09/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

6.33 oz. bottle. 1991 bottle. Deep amber with a couple of floaty bits. No head. Smells of raisins, oxidations, and something like charred wood. Tastes of rich sweet caramel. Brown sugar. Raisins. A little cardboard and sherry oxidation. Mild bitterness the cut the flavors. Tingly alcohol. Medium heavy and flat, but never sluggish. Remarkable. I expected this to be terrible, having had a 2007 bottle that was unpleasant, but this is delicious.

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Photo of Hoppsbabo
3.36/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

17 years old.

A: Cola coloured, darn near black. Not much of a head.
S: All the usual barley wine flavours.
T: Medicinal with dried fruit, still sweet, – all the usual barley wine flavours. However, it's gone a bit flat and sour.
O: Probably nice when fresh. I fear I have a bad bottle, but I'm not going to spend hundreds of pounds on the rest of the stock to be sure. For what it's worth, a home brewed version of this is one of the best beers I've ever had.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.5/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1987 Vintage
Half-pint bottle poured into a snifter glass

A- prying of the cap produces just a faint hiss. Pours a deep brown color with zero head or carbonation in the appearance

S- intense dark fruit aroma up front with notes of bold prune, fig & raisin. Wet cardboard (oxidization) follows the fruit aromas, along with caramel, wet leather, tobacco, beef broth & a hint of smoke, very interesting

T- Wow, this is quite possibly the most intensely flavored beer I've ever had. Sweet, savory, salty umami up front that opens up to flavors of prune juice, dried figs & raisins. Mid-palate adds a meaty element, reminiscent of salty beef broth or pot roast. As it nears the finish, I find notes of soy sauce, caramel, port & that wet cardboard oxidation. The linger gives flavors of more dark fruit and more of that savory saltines that almost makes you salivate

M- thick bodied with virtually zero carbonation, silky mouthfeel that stays viscous throughout into the finish, alcohol is hidden quite well

O- wow, this was an experience, like anything I've ever tasted. I can see what these are only 6oz, as it has taken me over an hour to drink it. Glad to have had the opportunity to taste this one, a 29 year old beer the night before my 30th birthday.

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Photo of WTKeene
4.51/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A 1993 vintage I bought for my brother's 21st two years ago, we finally cracked it tonight. Spent the last two years in the back of a fridge. Poured into a 2015 Jester King Funk and Sour fluted tulip glass.

Appearance: A translucent burnt caramel color, it looks more like a dark brown liquor than anything else. Pours almost entirely flat but with a few small bubbles of coffee-milk colored head upon the first pour.

Smell: Wow. Bright, brandied raisins, hints of cognac. Little bits of burnt toffee and fruity dark chocolate, this is seriously something to behold.

Taste: Mostly follows the nose, the chocolate isn't quite so prominent but the bright, fruity raisins certainly are. Caramel and burnt toffee is here too. Vanilla and fragrant toasted coconut on the finish. This is easily among the most complex barleywines I've had and quite a difference from the 04 and 06 vintages I've had. It's also clearly better than the 04 and 06 vintages.

Mouthfeel: Really thick and luscious, much more so than the relatively thin 06. Sticks to the palate and has quite a long linger. More carb than I was expecting, which is to say it's nearly flat but not entirely so. This is truly something.

Overall: Wow, everything I was hoping it would be. I'm not super familiar with ports and cognacs and brandies, but this does remind me of a truly complex tawny port. The Thomas hardy vintages have earned their reputation as among the best aged barleywines and they are absolutely worth seeking out. I'm going to need my own birth year vintage in the future, for sure.

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Photo of PDXAmbassador
3.62/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1987 vintage, shared with cellar partner in 2016.
Now I've never had a TH Ale of any vintage, so it was a very interesting experience jumping right into a 30 year old bottle.
Poured pitch black with no head, but some viscosity was evident. Smell was meaty, Madeira, leather, booze. Very savory and umami. Taste followed suit -- much less sweet than the JW Lees we tried side by side with it. It was strangely quite puckeringly salty, and rather tart. I wondered if there might've been a slight infection. Fairly bitter as well, not sure from hops or tannins or what-have-you.
Overall this was the most INTENSE tasting beer I've ever had in my life. To be honest I couldn't finish my pour, but I understand the allure of old bottles like this. A fascinating and complex ale quite unlike any other I've ever tried. Glad for the the opportunity.

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Photo of Franziskaner
4.25/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep brown in color and extremely murky. No head whatsoever is present. That aroma reminds me vaguely of Sam Adam's Triple Bock! Lots of plum, a bit of fig, a hint of cabernet. The taste is plenty more plum and dates with loads of malt and barley. The body is very thick and yet viscous. It's oddly smooth for something so thick. I wonder if it should be entirely uncarbonated or if the fact that it sat through a couple of power outages in summer and winter over the many years I've had it? Still, very unique and interesting.

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Photo of Justin8mypants
4.64/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Incredible. Lots of dark fruit, chocolate and carmel/toffee flavor. Low carbonation as you would expect for a 16 yr old beer. Very sticky and a nice syrupy mouthfeel. Really something special.

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Photo of ivegot3Dvision
4.59/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Last night I had a 1987 Thomas Hardy's ale... opened with a little tiny hiss, poured a nice brown color with a ruby hue. Flavors, oh man that thing was complex... leather, soy sauce, meaty, sweet, slight tartness. It was definitely a sipper and something you can really only have a small amount of, but I'm very glad I got to taste it.

Still have a 1986 and a 1988 to drink at a later time.

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Photo of Imacopyouidiot
4.71/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

May 30, 2015
1987 & 1988 vintages.
The '87 was infected (lacto?), but still very drinkable, comparable to a modern dark sour.
The '88 was great.
Almost zero carbonation, oxidized, intense flavors (sherry, figs), slightly salty and bitter.
Overall, a very interesting beer, reminded me of Sam Adams Utopias.

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Photo of mctizzz
4.55/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1989 bottle drank on my 26th birthday. Bottle states it will age for up to 25 years, well ladies and gentleman I am here to tell you that it is still drinking great after 26. No carbonation and much darker than 07 I had a few years back. Tastes more like a fortified wine with figs, dates, molasses, and other sweet dark things than your typical beer. Also super cool to sip a beer as old as myself.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4.42/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1994 Edition

Pours a dark brown color, much darker than later vintages of this ale. There were a few spots of carbonation but fairly tame, the beer is 20 years old. The smell is an amazing bouquet of cocoa, aged malts, musty book, brown sugar, caramel, toffee and vanilla. The taste matches the nose but far less sweet than later years. Prune, cocoa, vanilla, brown sugar, molasses, scotch and even a hint of smoke. The beer drinks fine and is a testament to the original brew house and recipe. Outstanding.

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Photo of JLeet
4.66/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

1994 Vintage opened 7/11/2014

Appearance: No head with some sediment floating at the bottom of the glass.

Smell: WOW!! This is a handful. Oxidation in the best way possible, Sherry, Maderia, tootsie roll, black tea leaf and maple syrup.

Taste: Touch sweet with dried raisins, black tea, and more oxidation ... great stuff. Reminds me of a Port in someways.

Mouthfeel: Rich with zero carbonation

Overall: This is an outstanding brew even at 20 years old. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try it.

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Photo of bkbru
4.38/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1994 bottle – From Hollinghead’s ($2.30 back then)

Appearance - Deep mahogany, no head, crystal clear

Smell - Maple syrup, brown sugar, lots of malt, toffee, raisin, figs, very slight oxidation

Taste – Dried fruit, toffee, chocolate, brown sugar, maple syrup, brown and dark malt

Mouth feel – smooth, no carbonation, thick body

Overall – Very good. This beer sipped like malty Port wine. Glad I kept this in the fridge.

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Photo of spartan1979
3.86/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

1995 Vintage

I've had this since 1995 or '96. I don't know why I've saved it this long but it got to a point where I was waiting for a special occasion and one never came along. Today I just decided to drink it.

It's still and very viscous. Very chocolately with definite alcohol bite. A hint of sherry and raisin notes but chocolate is the dominant flavor. It was clear in the bottle but a little bit of the sediment got into the glass.

Actually for a 19 year old beer it has held up very well. But it's well past it's prime. It was a great beer back in the nineties.

I should have drank this 10 years ago. I'll have to open my 1990 bottle soon.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.94/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Have had Thomas Hardy Ale a number of times within 5-10 years of bottling. Each bottle has been a rich treat indicating superb brewing of an English Old/Strong Ale.
Previously best experience had been 1989 after 15 years. A remarkably special beer that I would have rated 4.5 to 4.75.
Recently shared a bottle of 1993 ( 20 years in) with beer companero, Travis of Ocean Odyssey...that was flat out one of the best beers I have ever had. The bottle opened with a noticeable breath of carbonation. Wow...20 years???! The beer poured with a rich dark ruby pour and a slight head that quickly dissipated. What remained was a madeira like brew that caught the light in our snifters and gleamed out rays of garnet and ruby red reflections. It was a beautiful looking beer. The nose was subdued...but my 60 year old nose isn't the best to pick up subtleties. Regardless, there was dried like dates, figs and to a lesser extent golden raisins, not a hint of bitterness. The taste mirrored the aroma. There was no sticky sweetness. Rather there was port and dates accented by an attractive soft touch of toffee and pecan like nuttiness. Absolutely no oxidation. How this came from grain and not fruit is just amazing. Clearly a big alcohol backbone, but no burn... like a Hennessy XO. The mouth feel was outstanding. Full and again madeira like, but not sticky or syrupy. It was flat out decadent.

I sometimes slightly dismiss beers that mirror fine aged sherries, ports, etc. I mean I sometimes wonder what's the point of brewing a beer...just to create something that I can get easily at the liquor store...and usually just as delicious, stores better and at less expense.
But this was clearly special. It was so worth the wait, and a unique wonderful experience.
If you can...go out, buy a few and lay them down...for a long time. Good luck waiting...but you will be happy if you can stay patient,

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Photo of HBBJ
4.68/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

1987 vintage, saved for a special occasion.

Appearance: Deep, dark brown with just a tinge of orange. Clear as a beer this dark could be. No carbonation, but what would one expect with a 26 year old beer.

Smell: Rich, sweet aroma, filled with raisins, figs, molasses, toffee, and oak. Very much like a Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Taste: An explosion of flavor. Sweet, with dark fruits, malt and oak intertwined. Some acidity and hop bitterness keep it from being cloying. Alcohol perceptible, but not overwhelming. Sweetness fades in the aftertaste, leaving a pleasant, warm, dry sensation.

Mouthfeel: Medium to heavy body. Coats the tongue, and doesn't want to let go.

Overall: Still crazy (good) after all these years. I didn't have much expectation with a beer this old, but it delivered. A beer for lightly sipping and savoring.

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Photo of stakem
4.25/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

'96 vintage 330ml bottle poured into a matching Thomas Hardy's snifter. The cap pries off with a slight hiss and vigorously poured down the center of my glass releases a few large bubbles that collect around the perimeter of the glass and fade to nothing in a short amount of time. The brew is a dark cherry to mahogany color when resting in my glass but when held to the light appears as a brilliant clear ruby color that fades to orange and then almost yellow at its outer most edges. When the glass is swirled and tilted, some leggings of alcohol slowly droop down the wall of the glass.

The aroma is like sherry with plenty of alcohol esters slightly driven by fruity qualities. Raisins, prunes and dates give way to toffee and a slight medicinal feel and faint herbal hop edge. Some earthiness is present along with a mild musty touch of cardboard-like oxidation. Notes of chocolate blend with almost a hint of dried grassiness. I hate to compare this 16 year old brew to itself in other vintages without actually having those other vintages open at the time of this review but lets just say that while this does smell good overall, there are other vintages both younger and older that have a bit more depth of character without showing their age.

The taste is earthen with an alcohol kick that leads the way tasting minorly medicinal. The flavors of dark fruits remind me of apple skins, pears and over-ripe cherry or the pits of cherries. As the brew warms up, more of a raisin flavor comes into play with a hint of seedy dates or prunes. The oxidation shows up not only in the aromatics but also the flavor towards the finish. There are suggestions of wet paper to cardboard present into the aftertaste with a hint of herbal hops. When focusing on the residual maltiness, a hint of chocolate emerges and a touch of dusty grain. Like I mentioned in the tail end of my aroma notes, other vintages of Thomas Hardy might showcase this brew's real potential moreso than what I am writing here.

This is a full bodied brew with a very soft, light amount of carbonation that visually is completely lacking but in the feel is present enough to keep the flavors of the brew moving across the palate. It is felt in an accenting way to the alcohol that glides across the tongue keeping it almost lighter in the feel. I enjoy Thomas Hardy's Ale quite a bit. I have enjoyed many different years of this brew from freshly released yeas ago to excess of 20 years old. I selected this random vintage to write my review tonight and admittedly will need to revisit. Even though all of my bottles have been stored exactly the same way, I think this bottle shows more oxidation than any of the other vintages I have opened to date. Still good, just not as good as some of the others both younger and older. Regardless, Thomas Hardy's Ale remains a classic and a brew I wish I had more of nearly every time I partake in a bottle.

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Photo of nebula1999
4.73/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75


Dusted off this 17 year old from the cool winter cellar and poured it at cellar temp (55F) into oversized snifter glass. No refrigeration required. Deep ruby/brown color. Very bright in the glass when held up to the light. Small ring of tan foam with medium sized bubbles settles around edge of glass fading quickly. Some floaters, but nothing to worry about.

Aroma is detectible within seconds of popping the cap even before pouring it. A proper slow pour so as not to disturb too much sediment unleashes a torrent of dark fruit, dank aromas. Raisin right off the bat with molasses, fig, prune, burnt toast, smoke(?) and alcohol. Extremely inviting.

The taste brings all those aromatics to the forefront with a moderate to somewhat intense sweetness on the mid tongue. No hop or bitterness whatsoever. No oxidation in this vintage either. All malt, sweet & decadent dark fruit and booze. Continual swirling brings back a fleeting head.

Mouthfeel is somewhat oily, yet lean. Definitely not as brothy as young editions. Aging brings out that liquor/vinous essence whereas younger versions are thicker, beefier and even chewy. A real shame that 2008 was the last vintage produced. Might never experience that youngness again. Young or aged, they are almost like different beers altogether.

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Photo of pmarlowe
4.39/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to seeswo for this. One of my favorite authors and favorite styles. 1999 vintage. Tulip glass.

A: Pours a dark cola color, all the way to clear around the rim, with a few bubbles but otherwise flat.

S: Caramel, candied dark plum and raisin, and mild to moderate oxidation and sherry flavors. The nose reminds me of a vintage port.

T: Rich, decadent caramel, raisin, sherry, on a long finish. Wow, this is delicious. Fairly sweet, this is again reminiscent of port for me.

M: Light carbonation and full bodied, a tad syrupy. Alcohol is completely hidden.

O: This is a superb dessert beer. Definitely a sipper, something to enjoy a nip of. Showcases how good a non-BA english barley wine can be.

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from Hanlons Brewery
Beer rating: 4.43 out of 5 with 221 ratings