Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) | O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.

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

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

Style: 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:

Added by Todd on 11-27-2001

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 120 | Ratings: 209
Photo of johnrobe
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

'97 edition:
As I sipped this glorious elixir, I reminisced other occassions when I have enjoyed some of life's finer simple intoxicating Cuban cigar, a particularly delicious cup of Yemen Mocha/ Aged Sumatra coffee, etc. And I knew this brew had taken its rightful place on that mantle of hedonistic pinnacles. It pours a somewhat dusky brown with dark orange highlights with an ever so scant ring of bubbles for a head. The aroma....magnificent...worth the price of admission alone. Richly complex, I could sense port, a slight nuttiness, deep caramel, sweet chocolate, and loads of dried fruit; blackberries, plums, dates, currants. Frankly, I was surprised at the level of fruitiness in a 6 yr. old brew. The taste is an amalgam of rich toffee, dates, currants, nuts in the background. Sweet but not cloying and very smooth, I was reminded of a rich, young tawny port. There is a touch of alcohol in the taste, but this brew is so silky smooth it is hardly noticeable. In contrast, many other barleywines seem to have a coarse alcohol bite that is thankfully missing in this brew.
Barleywine perfection!

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Presentation: A small, classic looking, 6.33 fl.oz. brown glass bottle. The obverse label has the Bottle No. E 169956 in red, with the year 1990 in a smaller black font. The reverse label states that this is the rarest ale in Britain, it maybe now. The crown cap & top inch of the bottle neck are deliciously sealed in a lovely thick gold foil that seals a wrap of scarlet red string, which in turn holds a gold colored metal disc with a Hitchcock-like profile of Thomas Hardy. A grandiose presentation.

Appearance: A dark lucid chestnut color, little inherent carbonation results in no head formation. A thin ring of tan colored bubbles cling to edge of the beers meniscus. A gentle swirl of this majestic ale results in a wave-shaped viscous ethanol coating that slowly creeps, Cognac like, back down into the glass. Regal.

Nose: Pungent malts, strong dark exotic fruits in an emulsion of high alcohols. Years of captivity & maturation are slowly released, the sheer marvel of the dark odors are enough to induce salivation. Terrific.

Taste: Smooth, oh soo very smooth. A seraglio of flavors start with sweet malts soaked in a rich Dundee fruit-cake in the entrance. Hints of Madeira, sweet sherry, caramelized brown sugar & a prune-like fruitiness in the middle. Rich toffee tastes lightly cloy in the back of the throat, reminiscent of the finest English Devonian Toffee. Later these develop into a more astringent fino sherry like finish, dry & heated. A low strength spiciness breaks through in the latter parts of the swallow. Solvent-like, the alcohol convokes all these tastes, & is ever present, like a Gas, it fills all available spaces. Ultimately this helps to warm the epiglottis & stomach, rather than the mouth. Quite amazing, the last 13 years have eroded the rough edges & polished the raw surface of this Masterful English Barleywine, into a mature, yet serene, Grand Master. Awesome.

Mouthfeel: Immense but never over-powering. The smooth ale enters the mouth like a SuperModel gliding effortlessly down the catwalk. Smooth & Silky, it coats the mouth & warms the stomach. Incredible.

Drinkability: I so wish I had a Case, or even just one more bottle.

Overall: Alongside a 1987 Courage Imperial Russian Stout that I had a few years ago before leaving England, this is probably one of the very best bottle-conditioned Strong English Ales that I have ever had the privilege to try.

Astounding, Marvelous, Stunning, Breath-Taking - PERFECT!

THE Quintessential Classic English Barleywine.

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Photo of putnam
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is a personal tragedy. I only had one bottle of this vintage (1997) and several 1999s. I pulled what I thought would be an immature, but more numerous 1999. It was only when I logged on here, looking for a place for this review, that I realized that I had opened my last 1997 (!). Oh well, another 1999 survives to see another year. Bye bye 1997...:-(

I had taken the first whiff and taste before I realized my mistake. "Wow," I thought, "this is richer and drier than I expected." To describe the flavor, think tip top Cuban cigars, Valrhona chocolate, Scottish butter toffee, Hennessey Paradis... there is no justice words can do this beer. It is the culmination of a great brewing legacy. Even better than the 1999. Perhaps the greatest ever.

A notbeer. A world of beer within itself.

Mature, preserved fruit is evident, covered with toasted sugar and rancio, Madiera-like thickness everywhere. Obscenely luxurious...and buttery...and strong.

This is a Top Secret improvement on Port, which costs 10 x as much and delivers the same pleasure.

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Photo of DmanGTR
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Updated review (1992 Vintage)
Thanks to TheBigEast (Bob) for bringing this beauty. Body and color was similar to that of 93, simply a beautifully crafted English Old Ale/Barleywine. Lovely sherry, toffee, and fig/date notes all over the bouquet. Please sir, can I have some more? (Reviewed in Jan 2010)

Updated review (1993 Vintage)
Slightly lighter in color and body than the 94 vintage. This is just as delicious as I remembered it, a lovely dark fruit and caramel puree topped with a hint of cream sherry. Not as thick and chewy as the 94, but damn this is an awesome sipper. (Reviewed in November 09)

My 150th beer review. Vintage 1994 opened on the last minute of January 1, 2009. The first beer I've had of 2009.

I bought this bottle a few months back on sale for $9.95. Since this is the most vintage bottle I had, I decided to review this one and let my other TH vintages age a while longer. This is a review from notes. No numbering of any sort on the bottle.

Served at 50°F (to allow for warming) in a chalice.

This baby poured a lovely dark brown with amber-red hues in the light. No sediment, very clear, yet very dark. No carbonation was detected, as expected from a 15 year old beer.

Even as I poured, incredible aromas of dark, ripe fruits: prunes, strong tones of figs, and black currants dominated the air. Toffee, very sweet caramel malts, molasses, and a hint of yeast was also abundant in the bouquet.

A sip yielded sweetness in the forefront with tones of ripe blackberries and black currants. This was followed by a darker, richer taste of molasses, toffee, and cabernet sauvignon. The finish is long and complex. Hints of ripe plums, a touch of smokiness and dark chocolate are present and lasts forever. Despite all the sweetness, none of it was cloying in the least bit. Very little alcohol was perceived at all.

As expected, the TH Vintage '94 was full bodied with no carbonation. Being thick and chewy, it coated my palate nicely like a delicate yet rich dressing for my tongue (obviously I don't mean it to be as thick as salad dressing). Extremely smooth.

This beer is so drinkable, I would give it over a 5 of 5 if possible. Alcohol only warms the throat as it is consumed, barely gracing the palate but accenting every sip. You don't realize how quickly it disappears until you're on your last sip and you want to make it last forever.

Overall - This is an impeccable beer. I can't believe it took me this long to open one up and try it. Its smoothness is unsurpassed by any beer I have yet tasted. With the fullness of a porter, the sweetness of a dark Belgian, the boldness of a red wine, the delicacy of French vanilla, this is a beer fit for any occasion calling for beer, wine, tawny port, whatever! This was the perfect beer to start off the new year of 2009.

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Photo of rye726
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5


Pours a dark woody brown with a thin tan head. Perfect color more than makes up for the small head.

Nose has sweet malts, ripe fruits, sherry, figs, toffee, plums, cherries and caramel.

Taste is equally complex. Hugely rich malts, dark candy, aged sherry and dark pitted fruits.

Thick, creamy body is perfectly carbonated. Amazing stuff.

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Photo of ale1
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

i was fortunate to have several cases of this reserved in my cellar over the years, we have reviewed this wonderfull ale before and seems to have gone missing. I use this ale as the benchmark for all others a 5+++ in it's old style i hate to see the greediness with only 4 small bottles now available and not even quite the same, but close

pours a deep ruby red with natural carbonation and lots of lacing , reminds me of a fine brandy in a large glass , nose of raisins,plums,pear, barleywine

almost gone now my stock of the old ale ,it is for us priveleged few in jupiter Florida that had the foresight to save some so nyaahh nyah nyaah nyaahhh

go pout with your bottled budwizer

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Photo of Svejk
4.97/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

First of all, I really appreciate Derek giving me a chance to try this beer.

This was a 1999 vintage bottle, and I was really interested to see what a ten year old beer would taste like. I had an idea in my head that there may be a little bit of oxidation or other flaws that I could attribute to age that I would need to overlook. As it turns out, there was nothing to apologize for. It is amazing.

A- This is a gorgeous beer, and really deserves a 5, but it is hard to give all 5's. Anyway, it is dark garnet colored and looks great.

S- This beer smells very sweet and almost like a very nice port. No hint of the age in the smell.

T- Wow. I tried this beer with my brother, and he said "Raisins and Rum". I agree. I'm sure there are no raisins or rum in this beer, but the intensity of the flavor is there and it is delicious.

M- Surprisingly dry. I was expecting a much less attenuated beer considering the smell. Instead, this beer is reasonably dry and I wonder what it would have tasted like 8 or 9 years ago. At this point, it is absolutely perfect.

D- Oh, how I wish I had more of this. Any beer that tastes so good that you want to drain the last drop from the glass has perfect drinkability, and this is one of those beers.

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Photo of ManekiNeko
4.97/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1990 vintage. Served at cellar temperature at the Brickskellar. 12 oz bottle with the serial number 23983.

Appearance: Reddish caramel colored liquid with an ephemeral white head. No lacing, but it's not needed with the style, and at the age of the bottle at comsumption, not expected.

Smell:Nicely complex, but subtle, nose. Prominent caramel and toffee malt aromas, a wee bit of smoke and tobacco and a bit of a metallic tang. I was surprised it was still fragrant after all these years.

Taste: A very intense flavor and quite complex. Initiall caramel malt bittersweetness. A peppery and medicinal hop taste immediately follows. Undergirding this is an alcoholic presence that says in an awfully polite British accent, "Allow me to introduce my chums malt and hops, old bean." The alcohol actually supports the other flavors rather than detracts. I think this is the only time I've had a beer where that has happened. My girlfriend wasn't as much into it as I. She called it, "Maneschevitz's ugly stepsister."

Mouthfeel: Quite heavybodied with longlasting aftertastes.

Drinkability: This could easily be your one beer for the night, maybe in your life. I was amazed at how well it paired with my food (a peppery, garlicy tomato sauce over shrimp and pasta). Probably the first time I truly experienced beer being the IDEAL beverage to pair with food.

Other: Aaaah.. what a beer to enter as #100. I wish I could find a few bottles of this, or any of the Hardy's line, for home consumption. Thankfully, I won't have to wait too long. Take your time with this one folks, curl up in a comfy chair and put on a good recording of Elgar's Enigma Variations or something suitably soothing.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.94/5  rDev +11.3%
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 Starchild
4.94/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

01/02/04 Somewhat Vertical Tasting.

I just realized this beer is named after the author Thomas Hardy, after reading the label. I actually enjoyed his Far from the Madding Crowds, but lets get real, that book is a clear-cut pastoral Utopia. Thomas Hardy ale is the soma of my brewtopia. Liquid misery I think not.

“Show myself a man of spirit?… Ah well, let me take the name of drunkard humbly – let me be a man of contrite knees – let it be!” – Thomas Hardy (Far from the Madding Crowd).

1995 Vintage
The pour produces no head and little evidence of carbonation. For a new beer I’d be utterly disgusted by the appearance, but I’ll cut this nine-year-old beer some slack. I’m not about to bitch and whine over that. Damm, this is one of the oldest beer’s I’ve ever had. The beer doesn’t give off much of a strong smell. I smell mostly port with hints of apple, almost like a cider. The beer tastes much different then the 96, it tastes like spiced apples infused with flowers. Man is this a ripe bouquet. The alcohol backbones of this old ale disappeared and sweetened up. High alcohol content no longer dominates the aftertaste as in the 1996 vintage. The mouthful busts with sweetness and then immediately extinguishes. By my pints end I realize the pints port note has truly emerged and a much-muted sourness returns. Ambrosia. Overall: 5

1996 Vintage.
After a proper pour the beer didn’t produce the any head. The beer’s has a deep tan amber hue with low viability through the pint. Smells of prunes, pears, alcohol, and oak. The beer tastes like a ripe fruit, it’s just gushing with sweetness. It’s tastes like a caramel apple that’s been spiked by sherry. Ironically, after the beer fills your mouth with sweetness, the aftertaste is tart forcing your mouth to take another sip. The aftertaste leaves a warm burn in the back of my throat reminding me of European pear liquor with a drop of honey. The alcohol is still present, but it delivers small baby sized kicks. Overall: 4.85 Godly.

1999 Vintage.
Wow, this beer is carbonated. All right! Two millimeters of foam top off my pint. The beer shows distinct prunes and pears, yet is overpowered by the sweet alcohol. It doesn’t taste quite like port yet, but maybe pear flavored rum. The alcohol has quite a bark and subtracted from the quaffibility of the last two vintages. The ’99 needs to age for another 2-3 years. Still, the 1999 is refreshing. It’s got some flavor and pronounced bite. The key element to this brew compared to the last two is the carbonation. Man, this stuff tastes like a beer again and not opposed to the raw quality of an old ale…for me its alcohol and oak.
Overall: 4.45 . Ye Gods.

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Photo of Rayek
4.94/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My brother and I had 1989 and 1992 vintage bottles to compare. Opened on 08/08/09 and poured into snifters.

Up first is 1989. I had two bottles that had been in my possession for the last 16 years. Somehow, I managed to keep them pretty stable through the 14 different houses and two states I've lived in since I bought them. They were very well traveled beers to say the least. What's interesting is that the two bottles came out tasting a bit different from one another.

Both bottles poured a deep and slightly murky copper color. Though neither displayed any head, there was still a touch of carbonation in each. One was ever so slightly more pronounced than the other, however. The beer left no lace in its wake; just a light syrupy film.

The nose on the '89 was beyond amazing. Oak and chocolate are what I noticed first, followed by a ton of dark fruits. Raisins, prunes and currents stuck out the most. A healthy dose of nose tingling alcohol provided an offset to the fruits. I even picked up a bit of pepper and black tea at work.

The aromas then melded perfectly into the flavor. The dark fruits saturated my taste buds, while the warmth of the alcohol saturated the rest of my body. The fruit sweetness, woodsy oak, plus the alcohol and pepper bite balanced perfectly. The beer's flavors lingered long into the night. Truly an oh my God experience if there ever was one. Interestingly, the flavor intensity in the bottle with the higher carbonation seemed to be a tiny bit more pronounced.

Yes there were bubbles, but I couldn't feel them in the mouth. Instead, I was treated to a mouth coating silk that was heavy and similar to a fine cognac.

Overall, the '89 was simply amazing; almost beyond words.

The 1992 was entrusted to my brother. It didn't have quite the storied existence of the 1989, but it still moved around a bit. Sadly, the second bottle was broken by a careless roommate many years ago.

The '92 was quite similar to the '89, but not quite all the way there. Perhaps 20 is the magic age? Although the flavors were similar, the intensity level of the younger beer was lower. This was most prevalent in the woodsy flavors. The '92's flavor was basically 9/10ths if the '89. The 1992 was still an amazing tasting beer, however. It did have more carbonation going on. I still didn't get a head, but there were a few bubbles ringing my glass. The light carbonation made for a lighter mouthfeel compared to the '89.

Overall, I'm thrilled we were able to curb the temptation to try these beers before now. Both vintages came from four-packs that were purchased after the beers were a few years old. We drank two of each right away, but sadly didn't take notes. But apparently we were smart enough to know to save the others for later. I think we have a Michael Jackson beer guide to thank for that. So, thank you Michael for the advice. These beers were more than worth the wait.

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Photo of Lamar
4.92/5  rDev +10.8%
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, 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 Beertracker
4.9/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Originally Brewed & Bottled by Eldridge Pope & Co. PLC, Dorchester, Dorset, England. Owned & Imported by Phoenix Imports, LTD., Baltimore, MD. Commercial Description: THE RAREST ALE IN BRITAIN! Maybe even the world? Vintage dated, limited release, bottle-conditioned Old Ale/Barleywine from the U.K. First brewed in 1968 as a commemorative brew to celebrate the life & writings of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), English Novelist & Poet. The release date coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Bards' death.

Vintage: 1993 (Silver Anniversary Edition) Package: 6.33fl.oz/180ml Bottle Number: No. H25867 ABV: 11.7%

Thomas Hardy's Ale. Just mentioning the legendary name to any true beer aficionado stirs deep emotion. It's reputation is well deserved & documented in the journals of many a fine connoisseur. Previous tasting notes or incantations usually precede the ritualistic pouring. I can honestly admit that I'm one of those. It definitely takes a special breed of beerfan to hold onto a THA until it reaches FULL maturity @ 25 years old! OK. I consider myself a reasonably good 'cellar master', but I think it'll be just fine if we enjoy a "young one" just this once. Come on, let's go to the beer cellar. Now, if I can just find my THA snifter? This "Madeira" of the beer world has to be the ultimate nightcap? If you're a cigar fan, then light up a Cohiba & let's find the bottle opener! It's always a good idea to plan a THA opening. The ideal serving tempature is 55-64F. I might also suggest letting a vintage bottle "breath" then decanting it like a fine wine to avoid disturbing the natural sedimentation. The 93' Vintage opens with hardly a release of pressure. It pours up very softly with only the slightest touch of carbonation. WOW! Is all I can describe as the air becomes intoxicating with wonderfully enviting aromas. Huge vinous (vintage Port), rich molasses, & sweet ripened fruit aromas float out of the glass first. These are followed closely by a hints of Scotch Whisky smokiness. The decadent nose is truly wonderful & a malt lovers dream. This vintage is a much darker (deep garnet-brown) color than some of the latter releases. The "legs" stand nicely as they create Saturn rings around the inside of the glass. The first intoxicating sip is actually quite light on the palate considering. The sherrylike flavor is alive with a sugary caramel & toffee sweetness. Hints of apple brandy, cinnamon bark, chocolate pudding, orange slices, & rum cake mingle as the glass is swirled. There's very little off-setting bitterness to cut through all of the malt richness. The overall spiciness combines with the oxidation to create a unique "leathery goodness" in the finish. The body is full, rich, & creamy as per the norm in the older THA Vintages. It's definitely worth the time & expense of "tracking" some vintage Thomas Hardy's Ale down, but you may need the services of a trusty hound and a deep pocket book. Hopefully, you've enjoyed this 25th Anniversary Edition as much as I have? But then again... probably not? Here's to 'The Trumpet Major' & his namesake Vintage Ale.

CHEERS! Beertracker

*Taster's Note: This is a retro review from 2003.

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Photo of vitesse
4.9/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1995 vintage

poured a dark ruby and amber brown. barely any carbonation at all. thick and sweet with liquid clininging to side of glass like a liqueur.
smell is very fruity. prunes, oranges, raisins...taste is awesomely complex. huge fruitiness melts into toasty, bready flavor and then alcohol swoops in. alcohol hits your tastebud and nose quickly.
very syrupy, brandy-like mouthfeel. drinkability is only so high because of the complexity and alcohol.

this beer definitely tests the limits of beer-dom. will appeal to cognac and brandy drinkers. obviously a lot of care goes into this product. (this barlywine was about 8 1/2 years old when i tried it.)

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Photo of mophie
4.9/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I know, I know, I probably should have waited a few more years... This is an exceptional brew, and IMHO it's just about as good as barleywine gets. The color is exquisite: a deep ruby-brown, with just a trace of lingering head. A huge, sweet, malty taste, with traces of prune, burnt raisin, and pear. Moderate carbonation, with bubbles that seem to linger on the tongue. I know there's a huge amount of alcohol, but it does not overwhelm. Outstanding brew. I hear they won't be brewing this anymore, which is an absolute shame.

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Photo of John
4.87/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber/brown liquid. Rich, dark roasted malt and brandy-like aroma. Alcohol is very pronounced in the aroma as well. No head or carbonation at all. Just the smell of this brew is amazing! There's more incredibly complex flavors going on here than one can put a finger on. Big alcohol warming sensation. Sip this like a fine whiskey.

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Photo of marburg
4.87/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Consumed two nights ago (9/12/03).

Prime nuclear bunker material -- and that's a compliment. And here's why: (1) high abv makes for a great "belly warmer" for medicinal purposes, (2) so rich and big that you could drink this and be satisfied for quite a while, and (3) it would give you something improbably great to contemplate while hunkered down.

Pours with a nutty brown color that shows tiny hints of red in the light. Pretty much a headless brew, as to be expected. Just the tiniest hint of hazing.

Powerful aromas waft up to the nose immediately. Grapes, subdued lemon, apple and fruity esters, maple syrup, sweet cigar smoke. Just an impressive array of strong aromas. The estery apple character carries through to the palate with raisins and an oaky-maple-sap sugar flavor. Intensely sweet with a light plum skin finish. Eminently drinkable for a near 12% brew with such an amazing assortment of flavors.

Powerful. Complex. Big. Awesome.

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Photo of eyncognito
4.87/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1986 vintage Thomas Hardy's Ale No A00971 6.04 fl oz

shared this bottle with some co-workers, big thanks to the owner who generously brought this out of his cellar. this was a real treat.

pours a clear caramel brown, copper highlights, no head. the smell is simply amazing-smells of port, sweet cherries, vanilla. taste is even more complex-port, cherry, vanilla, but with a touch of sweet spiciness, and a sherry-like finish. mouthfeel was slightly chewy and sticky, for such a strong beer no alcohol burn could be felt, truly wonderful.

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Photo of abents
4.85/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

1986 vintage Thomas Hardy's Ale No A00971 6.04 fl oz

Lucky enough to be able to try this from my co-worker who used to sell wine and some beer. He had this in his wine cellar and was gracious enough to let myself and others try.

Pours out a transparent caramel-brown color with no head. Smells like a port wine more than anything else, very distinct caramel nose with touches of red fruit and vanilla. Taste is incredible, the smoothest complex beer I've ever tried. Bombarding the taste buds with caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, cherries, and a nice port-like finish. Very much reminiscent of a port wine in flavor profiles, very light mouthfeel almost slightly oily texture with absolutely no carbonation. Very intricate brew with a smooth tenderness that begs to be drunken. No alcohol detected at all very nice flavors that leave the lips sticky with sweetness. I almost fear that this one is slightly past it's prime, I feel it could have been slightly better at one time, but I will never know the answer to that quandary. Regardless, it is one amazing beer that I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to try.

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Photo of rvdoorn
4.84/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Had this one several times, but will review the 25th anniversary ale (1993).
Look: The beer pours a dark-brown color, with not head or even bubbles.
Smell: Roasted malts, dark fruits (plum, figs, raisins), sweet molasses, vanilla, brown sugar, toffee and some warming alcohol.
Taste: The taste is similar to the nose. Very sweet brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, dark fruits and a sweet boozy finish. Almost no bitterness, but this beer doesn’t need that.
Mouthfeel: Thick and silk, smooth but no carbonation
Overall: What a brew, it drinks like a liquor!!! Please start producing this again

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.84/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle no. 04367 180ml, 1991 Edition, 12%abv.

No sound at all when I popped the cap, it pours a murky root beer colour with no foam, no carbonation.

The smell is marvelous. Lots of caramel malt sweetness, dark fruitiness, chocolate and toffee, but the caramel seals the deal for me. It's like sticking your nose in the middle of a milky way bar.

The taste equals the smell in every way. That candy like caramel just grabs me and shakes me around...yeah, the alcohol is there but that's not the culprit. It's that damn love I have for caramel. ;^) I'm tasting a little bit of plum now, very little, but it's there. Now some chcocolate that is almost hot cocoa like brings ever the tiniest suggestion of bitterness and *that* actually grows some during this session. Wow. 18+ years old and I'm floored by this brew.

Totally full bodied, luscious and smooth at the same time. Last bit in the glass and I see a tiny bit of sediment. It's going down as well!

Drinkability? I wish I had a case of this stuff! Strong but clever, tasty and bold but refined. A magnificent brew in every way and one of the most pleasurable beers I've ever had.

A: 4 S: 5.0 T: 5 M: 5 D: 4.5

On to the 1988 Edition, bottle no. D21160 with no abv listed, 5.3oz.

A small hiss when I pop the cap, it pours the exact same colour as the 91 with the exception of a few small bubbles that don't quite form any sort of foam.

The smell has big caramel malt notes but also has more than some hints of a Port like nose. I'm smelling more alcohol here than I did with the younger bottle.

The taste is caramelly sweet, a bit earthy, port like flavours, dark chocolate bitterness, and in the finish, some milk chocolate sweetness. The flavours here are not, how should I say this, as lively and, for me, as vibrant as the 91. Still good but a bit flat on my palate and I'm not meaning the lack of carbonation.

The mouthfeel is also not as robust and at times feels quite thin.

Drinkability? The 91 literally flew down to my gullet, this one isn't in the same league. I feel a lot more warming as well. Scores for me on this:
A: 4 S: 4 T: 4 M: 3.5 D: 3.5
3.9 B+

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Photo of jgasparine
4.82/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have collected Thomas Hardy's Ale for almost a decade now. It started when a friend and I discovered an old cache of the brew at a random liquor store in Maryland. They had several cases from 1990 through 1999.

Since then I have hunted-down several older vintages, including a few July, 1968s (both capped nips and a corked/waxed pint).

A: A gorgeous clear mahogany with a thin head that quickly dissipates.

S: Candy sugar, dried fruit, vanilla, nuts and leather.

T: Incredibly complex - molasses, candy sugar, madiera, dried dates, all balanced with some faint low-alpha hops.

M: Beautifully oily and creamy. Medium to full-bodied. I can swirl a sip of this in my mouth for several minutes, and it loses nothing. Even after swallowing, it lingers beautifully on the pallet.

D: Very drinkable. None of the attributes are overpowering, although the alcohol (which is virtually undetectable on the pallet) can catch-up to you after a few of these.

I would highly recommend a vertical tasting of these brews. The variation in aroma, taste and mouthfeel is incredible between vintages.

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Photo of bmanning
4.82/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1968 through 2008 decade vertical tasting put on by Traquairlover - thanks for setting this up!
Putting up scores of the 1978 since it was the best imo.

A - All were garnet in color with the 1988 being the darkest and the 2008 the lightest. The haziness was dependent on how much sediment was poured into the glass. All given 4.5

S - 2008: toffee, dark fruits, floral, apricot - 4
1998: much more complex aromas of sherry, plum, pineapple, slight herbalness, vanilla, oak - 4.5
1988: sherry, port, dark fruits, musty, caramel, toffee, bitter herbs, vinegar - 4
1978: brandy, port, madeira, toffee, more vanilla and oakiness than the newer bottles, chocolate, cherry (fruits are a bit less than earlier vintages, but much more complex) - 5
1968: huge sour, funky aroma with spicy, cumin notes, pepper, lots of vanilla and oak - 5

T - 2008: one-dimensional, pear, citrus, peppery spice/alcohol kick - 4
1998: various fruits galore - cherry, orange, lemon, tropical fruits. Also port like qualities, vanilla, tobacco, leather - 4.5
1988: slightly sour, musty, citrus, pumpernickel bread. Very complex and the sourness really works with this beer. Tastes like a cross between barleywine and oude bruin - 4.5
1978: most complex so far with red wine, sherry, oak, raisins, plum, hint of chocolate, cherry, tropical fruits, licorice, slight sourness melds all the flavors together very well - 5
1968: has a very nice base of sherry and almond with layers of complexity on top - oak, plum, paprika, candy corn, vanilla, leather, tobacco, dr pepper. Overall the flavors are a bit subdued compared to the 1978 though - 4.5

M - 2008: finishes very hot, alcohol kick going down - 3.5
1998: a bit thin, but not as hot as the 2008 - 4
1988: acidity gives a very nice mouthfeel and it coats well - 4.5
1978: same as 1988
1968: lost a lot in terms of mouthfeel - very thin - 3.5

D - 2008: overall disjointed flavors and one-dimensional, couldn't drink a lot of this - 3.5
1998: highly drinkable - goes down smooth as butter and would pair perfectly with nutty desserts. You can tell it's not quite at it's peak though and still a bit hot even after more than 10 years - 4
1988: the sourness makes it very drinkable surprisingly - this one really grew on me the more I drank of it - 4
1978: so smooth and drinkable! This is the perfect dessert beer and best of the bunch imho - 4.5
1968: still a very drinkable barleywine although a bit thin - has held up amazingly well after 40 years in the bottle - 4

Rank (best to last): 1978, 1968, 1988, 1998, 2008

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.82/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Mine is a 6.33 ounce bottle, made in, let's clear the dust...cough, cough!...1995, heck, that's years before I ever heard of it, and lands on my lips courtesy of the remarkable BA called steorn...all hail steorn!
Ohmigod!!! Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!
The nose on first sniff, once cracking this cap, is gorgeous! Right away, port wine, cherries...time to pour...dark russet brown color, ruby edges, no head to speak of...Aroma, though, is extravagant, emergent from the start, ...plums, raisins, thick and syrupy, it occupies a dichotomous realm, it straddles different realities, for it appears dank, yet fresh, deep, and supple, swift and viscous,'s amazing that a brew sat in a bottle so well for for nearly a decade...I've barely tasted it yet, so let's get to...oh, it's murky and sweet,!, more like a tawny port...very mellow, with the alcoholic strength, which would have slain me in it's youth is kind and smooth, no barks and bites from this seasoned, it's just the thing..but only 6 ounces? A cheat!
My 2003, I'm not touching for 5 or 10 years!
If ever I knew what I was talking about, when talking about a brew, I fail here...damn, I need a pitcher of this perfection...I'm going to lustily slurp every luscious sip left...there's a short supply, going quick...oh, my...almost gone...where do I go from here? ...gone, sad, ...ah...
thanks, steorn...a great beer experience, hardly rivaled!

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.77/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

1996 vintage.

Ive been waiting to crack this one and a buddy of mine stopped by with some beers from his travels so he wins and gets to share the bottle with me.
This is a chilled sample and I pour it into a snifter.
The brew pours an orange amber color with no head developing whatsoever.
There is light sediment in the brew.
The aroma is complex and rich with plums, molassess, oak, and bourbon scents dominating. The first sip reveals a thick syrupy texture and almost zero carbonation. Flavor is similar to a mild bourbon with perhaps maple syrup sweetness, and some caramel as well.
I get some alcohol warmth on the finish. This is an incredibly smooth beer and I cant believe how easy it is to drink!!

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
4.44 out of 5 based on 209 ratings.
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