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

118 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: 118 | Ratings: 206
Photo of rastaman
3.26/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Vintage 1986- Really potent nose, warming spirity aroma. The colour from memory was exactly the same as in the picture. Main flavours of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, with a salted licricey, very warming alcohol finish, i couldn't help but feel the bottle was slight past its prime however.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.3/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

1999 vintage. Acquired at a certain bottle shop in Southern California. Cost was $30.00. ABV is marked as 11.70%, but it's probably gone up over the years. 330ml brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap and understated appealing label served into a pilsner glass in me friend's gaff in high altitude Fort Collins, Colorado. Reviewed live. Expectations are extremely high given its current ratings.

Served after a brief period of rest following its removal from the refrigerator. Side-poured as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Paired with tortilla crisps.

A: Pours a quarter finger light khaki colour head of nice cream and thickness, but merely average strength. No eat particles are visible. No bubble show. Body colour is a very dark caramel amber. Doesn't look fantastic, but it's par for the style.

Sm: A downright pungent aroma of sweet rich malts, heavy scotch, nice sweet caramel, biscuit malt, and buried dark fruit. As powerful as an aroma can usually get. Alcohol is notable. No yeast character is detectable. It kind of turns me away, but I want to tame the beast.

T: Rich malt, caramel, caramalt, rich scotch notes, biscuit malt, and heavy malty sweetness Heavy on the malt, if that wasn't clear. It certainly doesn't taste 13 years old. It's a rich malty flavour profile. Prunes. Tobacco. No real yeasty character. Some alcohol does come through. I think I like it; it's just so rich and refined. The rich scotch notes are delightful: caramel, hints of vanilla, some booze, refined malt, and awesomely subtle toasted character. Well put together, but it's not quite balanced. Aftertaste of malty molasses syrup.

Mf: A bit syrupy - especially on the finish. Otherwise, it's nicely smooth and wet. Good carbonation, even after all these years. Complements the flavour somewhat, but it has its flaws.

Dr: Even after 13 years, it's still a tasty beer. The refined scotch notes are a plus, but the syrupy finish is a turn off. It's not without its weaknesses, but I do like it overall. The cost isn't justified, but it's certainly a tasty brew. I do think its peak was hit years ago. I wouldn't bother trading for it. Hides its high ABV well. One tasty, complex, and uniquely rewarding beer.

Low B-

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Photo of Hoppsbabo
3.36/5  rDev -24.3%
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 hopjack13
3.5/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

wow... not really in to barlywines but this one was not extreme nor offensive.
appearence was cloudy, hazy date color.
taste.. smooth, but strong alcohol finish and after taste.
nothing extraordinary but by no means unpalatable.
this was my first sample from the hardy line,
i was not disappointed.

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Photo of Jdiddy
3.62/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Well, I was so excited to try my first Thomas Hardy Ale. I must say that it was a bit of a letdown. While it is smooth, it also does not hide the alcohol taste. Slight burn going down. Taste was that of raisins, dates, and chocolate. I actually liked it best a bit chilled. As it warmed, it became unpleasant. Maybe it is just not my cup of tea. I will definitely let the other bottle I have age for many years. Maybe it will make a difference. All in all, not a bad beer but not as great as I expected.

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Photo of PDXAmbassador
3.62/5  rDev -18.5%
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 Doppelbockulus
3.7/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I am so happy I found these.

1991 Vintage purchased from the Charleston Beer Exchange.

I have wanted this beer, any of the vintages, for at least 6 months and the time finally came.

This old chap pours a very deep ruby color with a few flakes of yeast. Amazingly there was a light spattering of bubbles on the surface that merely lingered as a thin thread around the perimeter of the glass.

Nose is sweet with fruits like raisins, similar to some wines and very characteristic of other beers with a good reputation of being able to survive while being forgotten about in a cellar or closet.

Flavor isn't as sweet as the smell suggested. There is more tartness than sweetness, a common effect of the age and other more mysterious things. This one is one that you hear about that turned sour, but still valuable none the less. In some cases this beer can be sweet and syrupy like a 7 to 10 year old J.W. Lees Harvest Ale or a 6 year old Le Baladin Xyauyu. Still good, and surprisingly light on the alcohol presence, I was expecting a little more heat but it is very smooth. Way in the background there is a lingering sweetness. Probably better several years ago.

Very light tingle from the remnants of carbonation. Drinks almost like wine. And the more I think about it the more it reminds me of tea.

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Photo of ColdPoncho
3.7/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1998 vintage. Cameron Harris. Thank you

A - clear deep red body. Medium white head.

S - like a pOrt. Malty and nice. Fruits Of all sorts.

T - sweet malts. Some fruits. Medium goodness.

M - medium body and a bit dry.

O - better than the new stuff. Pretty nice beer.

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Photo of aracauna
3.73/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A brandy comparison is probably accurate (wouldn't really know since I've never tried brandy) as there are definite alcohol notes with some fruitiness. I was really looking forward to trying the stuff, it being my first dip into the barley wine style. It was good, but the alcohol and mediciney tastes were just a bit much for me. It would be good with a little drinking to get used to it and in smaller quantities (I polished off the entire bottle in one sitting). It's possible that a younger vintage might be more to my taste since my 1996 was 6 years old.

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Photo of Chico1985
3.81/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1999 vintage, 11.15 oz bottle. I've been holding onto this for a while, stoked to try it.

Pours dark brownish red, surprisingly a small off-white head retains through most of the beer.

Smells like a giant pile of dark fruit and oxidation, raisins, stale caramel and lots of sugar.

Huge and crazy sweet, loaded with caramel, dark fruit, molasses, toffee, some roasted malt. Nice tobacco-y finish that lingers.

Slick, oily mouthfeel, carbonation is low but there. A bit boozy.

Similar to JW Lees for me, good complex flavor but really, really sweet, too sweet in my opinion. Even with a small bottle splitting this is the way to go.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.83/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is the 1994 vintage, which was drank in May 2011 in honor of hudsonphotog's college graduation after all these years (he graduated high school in 1994).

The beer pours a clear, dark brown color with a few white bubbles but no real head. The aroma has a lot of chocolate and raisins, as well as a little bit of soy sauce character and some alcohol. The flavor is a lot more complex. I get a lot of chocolate and oak notes, as well as some rum, raisins and very little alcohol. The beer is very port like. Low carbonation and medium mouthfeel.

I am very happy I got to try this and very happy that it was drank on such a special occasion.

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Photo of spartan1979
3.86/5  rDev -13.1%
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 mikeys01
3.97/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My Thomas Hardy's '96 poured out of the bottle a slightly murky brown color, witha fair amount of sediment left in the bottom of the bottle. No head at all and very slight carbonation. Aroma is sweet and fairly alcoholic, with a bit of raisin or fermenting fruit, but not overly distinctive otherwise. Taste brings out a little bit of fruit at first along with a strong oakey character, then tends towards a more malty and sweet finish, closing off with a nice lingering bitterness. Warms nicely on the way down, a pretty smooth barleywine.

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Photo of crookedhalo
3.99/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

C'mere. Take a long whiff into this snifter. I've experienced Thomas Hardy's before so I can appreciate what a great beer this actually is. Not much carbonation, but I expect that in this "young" bottle. Maybe I just a sucker for English noble hops, but my god, the aroma to this ale is outstanding! I could walk around with this snifter duct taped on my face for the rest of my life. This beer has the same salty mineral background as the Stone's barley wine, Old Guardian [which leads me to wonder whether Stone Brewing adjusts their water in order to reproduce English high gravities?]. Maris Otter malty goodness with that alcohol punch. I bought this beer cold and had moved it a couple times so I felt it was time to share it with a friend. I'm looking forward to trying some of the vintages that I can get from my boss [86, 87, 92, 93, 95-99].

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Photo of gentlebubbles
4/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On rattling around my cluttered kitchen, I found three bottles of Thomas Hardy's, dated 1990. I have no idea what I'm saving them for, or even if they're still drinkable.

So I pour one to find no head on a reddish amber body, slightly cloudy, from the yeast perhaps. It has a pleasantly piercing scent, like a strong sherry and a caramel taste. I usually don't like sweet drinks, but there's enough of a sparkle and bite to lighten it. Even now as I sit here trying to describe it, the scent rises, more caramel with a hint of vanilla behind it. I can sip this for a while.

And as I do, I find the flavor seems to open up, revealing hazelnut tones. This gets better and better. I'm feeling very mellow now.

Very pleasant surprise.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
4.07/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - It pours a bizarre syrupy and viscous brew, cloudy with a small patch of bubbles and ancient-looking yeast floaties. Intriguing.

S - The aroma is hugely malty, with vinous notes and impressions of sherry, toffee, malt vinegar, prune, cherry, almond-amaretto and plum. It is astoundingly complex.

T - It tastes like a better-than-average Barleywine, but not by much. Especially considering the hype. The notes of oxidation are fairly evident, and the malt is almost a tangy sweet-sour. The complexity found in the nose is not readily apparent in the gustatory sense. The beer was disgustingly cloying when it was first brewed, and somehow 19 years is not enough to really chill out the malty sweetness? I think it is more of a curiosity, taste-wise, than a serious brew. In other words, while good, I find this beer to be a bit of a gimmick... 'How old can a beer get?' But I am definitely glad to try this nineteen-year old brew. It is the oldest brew I've had, I think.

M - This beer was still somewhat carbonated, surprisingly. The feel is slick and thick and viscous.

D - A mixed bag; full of lore and hype, looks intriguing, smells wildly complex, tastes like an old abused Barleywine.

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Photo of beerman599
4.07/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

this was truely a treat! i had a chance six years ago to try this ale ands it slipped throw my fingers, not this time . recently we sat down with a list of vintage ales and this was the best. fuller bodied than you would think and just wonderful on the toung with undecribable cherry like flavor and maltly finish at 16 years old i guss there right when thay say it improves for 25 years! thanks

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Photo of Rudgers73
4.08/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A 6.33 oz bottle of 1994 vintage...

I popped the top and there was no depressurization sound whatsoever. Poured into a wine glass, the color is dark brown/reddish, crystal clear and no carbonation. The smell is very potent. Vanilla, cocoa, brown sugar, port wine. Taste was different than I had expected. Old ale type of molasses, nutty, creaminess, but since it has been sitting around for so long there is a sour fruity taste that comes through at the end. Rich, sweet vanilla mixed with tart flavor that almost resembles a lambic (kinda like Ommegang's Three Philosophers 2% cherry lambic effects the overall pallet of that beer). Lots going on with each sip of this beer. Layers of flavor coat the mouth as each small sip goes down. Swish it around and you taste nothing but oxidized, tangy flavor. Take a larger sip and you taste the sticky sweet front, then the thin tart finish. Interesting to say the least.

So this is what a beer tastes like that was brewed when I was 10 years old...

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Photo of cbutova
4.08/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.15oz bottle shared by Chico1985.

A- Opens with a surprising hiss for a 12 year old beer. Dark red ale into the glass with a small head which retains pretty well. Good bubbles rising and some legs on the glass.

S- Dark fruit bomb with an accent of musty, oxidized caramel. Stale bread, raisins and even cheese at first.

T- Sugary sweet fruit. Dark fruit like cherry, raspberry and raisin come to mind. Other things are stale caramel, oak, vanilla, fig and prune.

MF- Syrupy body with light carbonation and an oily feel. Somewhat silky and slight alcohol warmth.

Very interesting 12 year old ale. Dark fruit parfait comes to mind considering the sweetness level. Has held up well.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.12/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by bmanning. Thanks Ben!

1994 vintage

The beer is a rusty, dark orange, bordering on brown. There is very little head remaining in this elderly brew.

The nose brings sweet dark fruits and raisins soaked in alcohol, tobacco, caramels, malt, brown sugar, toffee, candies. Alrighty then.

Great flavor, with a fine port character. Very small pour, so I have to make it last. Everything in the aroma has a presence in the flavor. The beer is still quite sweet. A couple ounces is perfect. Sniff, sip, enjoy.

Not surprisingly, the beer has little carbonation. The feel is thick and coats the palate with a barrage of bold flavors. Alcohol presence is still there after 17 years.

Overall, a wonderful treat to try a vintage beer like this. A great example of the style. Recommended.

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Photo of Ave
4.14/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 1

I picked up this bottle years ago on a whim. I had only recently gotten out of the macro beer hell of youth & was experimenting wildly picking up bottles of anything at random to try. I had never seen a beer with a year on the label before. That & just the overall quirkyness of the bottle I think made me pick it up. I honestly had no idea what was inside. This was in early ’94.

Only in the last few years have I reached any kind of educated level about beer, & so thought I would host a beer tasting for a few friends. It was researching the beer tasting that led me to our happy home here at BA. So anyway, what better time to bust out this mystery bottle that had been collecting dust in my closet for 9 years than with a bunch of friends at a beer party eh?

Well, as soon as we saw the actual goods, we knew we were in for something way beyond anybody’s expectation. Everything about this beer is so complex in its sensation, so overwhelming of the senses, it’s almost a waste of time to try to explain it. The BA number system works great for normal beer, but really dosnt aply to this stuff. But lets give it a try.

Soak a basket of dark red plums in a mixture of cabernet & milk for about 3 months, strain, settle out, & strain again. Run a porter house, a ¼ pound of sweet basil, & a bottle of Vicks vapor rub through a blender & dredge that in the runoff of the plums for another three months. Strain again.

God damn…what can you say? Fermented raisins, plums, chocolate, beef, apples, & cranberries. Heavily laden with clover, nutmeg, & fennel. Such an aromatic assault of yeast & fermented wilderness I have never beheld before. It smells like everything at once, & of course, like nothing else.

Yeah…I guess you could call it that. The sensation in your mouth is not like actual “flavor”, its more like getting injected with rotten fruit. It invades you & you become totally involved at once. It overpowers all outside sensation. You can’t taste anything but Thomas Hardy, you can’t imagine tasting anything but Thomas Hardy, and you can’t BE anything but at the mercy of Thomas Hardy!

Mouth feel:
Like drowning in fermented fruit soaked floating in an ocean of Grand Mariner.

No…’s not.

This...stuff, is beyond anything I have ever experienced in the way of a food product. It is literally as intense a physical sensation as low dose LSD. It just takes hold of you & bends you to its will. An amazing ride, one I hope to take again some day.


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Photo of mdfb79
4.15/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From 07/23/11 notes. Big thanks to JamnesCameron for sending this one my way in the Birthday BIF; thanks man! 1995 vintage, poured from a 6.33 oz. bottle into my Duvel tulip.

a - Pours a dark mahogany brown color with a few light tan bubbles and light carbonation evident. Looks good and like it's held onto its carbonation a little bit.

s - Smells of caramel malts, sugar, sweet dark fruits, molasses, and peat. Pretty nice, and a little bit sweet, which I enjoyed.

t - Tastes of caramel malts, sugar, molasses, dark fruits, sweet bread, light peat. Again, sweet but not too much, which is nice.

m - Medium to full body and low carbonation. Very easy to drink considering the ABV.

o - Overall this one has held up great for 16 years old; I really enjoyed it. A sweet barleywine that is relatively easy to drink, would love to get some older vintages of this one.

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Photo of orangesol
4.16/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Kramer for sharing this one with us. Bottle is from 1992.

A - Pours caramel orange with a thin film of white head leaving little to no lace down the glass. It appears to be mostly dead at this point.

S - Smells of rum raisin ice cream, brown sugar, toffee, caramel, dark fruits, and some port wine. Some oxidation and some light soy sauce creeps in as it warms up. Absolutely intoxicating stuff.

T - Flavors are very similar to the nose. Starts off with a quick brown sugar rush quickly giving way to a mix of toffee, caramel, dark fruits, and some port wine. Some mild oxidation and booze creeps in as it warms to room temperature.

M - Medium-Heavy body and flavor with moderately low carbonation. Full, slightly syrupy feel that clings to the pallet long after consumption.

O - I will never turn one of these down but they can be a chore to drink sometimes. The rich flavors are great but I can see why some people might not like this one. Still one of my favorites none the less.

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Photo of budgood1
4.16/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

pours out black and produced a huge tan head without having to pour it vigorously. aroma of dark roasted malt and fruitcake type flavors come through just slightly. medium body and a hop bitterness pulls through in the taste and mouthfeel. your typical ripe fruit flavors along with some chocolate roasted malt are somewhat muted but delicious none the less. bitterness lingers on afterwards which is welcome. yummy!

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.17/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Huge, huge thanks to bmanning for breaking out the 1994 vintage of this beauty at a recent tasting. Served in a SAVOR snifter because that's how I do tastings in my own house. Right, Paul?

Pours a murky tawny-red color with a small, nearly non-existent head without and head or lacing. So what, it's over 15 years old. Moving on. THe nose brings forward a very heavy malt presence with a good dosing of brown sugar and caramel. Quite a bit of toffee there as well, along with some dark fruits and grape. Really, mostly just a port bomb. Loving the nose. The flavor kicks back a bit with some light fruits and brown sugar combined with the port flavors. Mouthfeel has moderate sweetness on a medium body. Almost no carbonation, but the sweetness is really well integrated. Beautiful beer.

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Thomas Hardy's Ale (1968-1999) from O'Hanlon Brewing Co. Ltd.
4.44 out of 5 based on 206 ratings.
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