Thunder Hole Ale | Bar Harbor Brewing Company

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Thunder Hole AleThunder Hole Ale

Brewed by:
Bar Harbor Brewing Company
Maine, United States

Style: English Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.80%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Delicious. Full-bodied. Complex. Sure, you can say all those things. Wouldn't it be a lot more fun to take a sip of this handcrafted brown ale and come up with your own superlatives? This is the brown ale that beat Newcastle, Sam Adams and more, at the World Beer Championships in Chicago.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 04-10-2002

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Ratings: 245 |  Reviews: 125
Photo of weizenbob
3.83/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thunder Hole sounds like the name of a bad porno, but it turns out that it's actually the name of an underwater cavern in Arcadia National Park. Who says you can't learn anything drinking beer? This bomber was received in trade with umfskibum. Thanks Josh. I saw no bottling date. I poured this into a tulip-shaped imperial pint. A moderate pour gave two fingers of foamy head, which dissolved rapidly at first but never disappeared completely. Lacing hangs neatly from the glass. The beer is a nice dark walnut shade. Carbonation appears to be active. Other than better head retention I don't think you could ask a brown ale to look nicer.

The nose is full of caramel and roasted malt. There is a hint of cooked veggie. Alcohol is quite noticeable as well. It's pretty straight forward, but simple can be good.

The taste follows the nose pretty closely. This is definitely more of an English inspired brown ale than a contemporary American take on the style. That is to say that it is fairly subtle in flavor though still sweet in construction. Nutty caramel malts comprise the backbone of this brew. There are mild toffee notes. It seems a little watery, which is consistent with many English Browns. So it is quite mild; but the lack of overblown flavors allows a nice bitter hop finish to ring through. It tastes good and it is a carefully constructed brew but when all is said and done, the flavor doesn't really wow me, which I guess is the point.

Thunder Hole is on the light end of medium bodied. The carbonation level is medium. It feels a little watery, but it goes down really easily. At a supposed 4.8% ABV it is refreshingly light and near sessionable. I often find it to be a chore to finish off an entire bomber in one sitting, but in this case it will be easy and actually pleasant.

I've now sampled two of the four brews in the Bar Harbor lineup. It appears as though the name of their game is to create sturdy traditional takes on well-established styles. In that respect, their beers are a rousing success. This is perfectly to style. If you want a beer education, seek out Bar Harbor. Just don't expect the extremes that have become the norm in contemporary American craft brewing.


The Two Schlitz Scale: (see my profile for an explanation)
I give a Schlitz about this more than solid brown ale.

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Photo of jsanford
2.98/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bomber poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a clear, dark amber-brown with a fluffy, khaki-colored head that never fully dissipates.
S - Pretty mellow and subdued aromas of toasted caramel malt, baked brown bread, and brown sugar.
T - More slightly roasted toffee and caramel flavors from the malt, along with a bit of brown sugar and roasted nuts. No real noticeable hop flavors, but there is a slight copper-penny oxidized flavor that's making me think this is an old bottle.
M - Medium-thin bodied with a slightly watery consistency and sharp carbonation.
O - This could be a nice, sessionable English Brown Ale if it was a fresh bottle. As is it's a bit bland and watery, with a oxidized flavor that ruins it. If only more breweries dated their bottles, this might not have happened. Sigh.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
3.65/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours dark brown/amber with an off-white foamy head that ended up as a skim. Some light lacing.

Brown bread, some caramel, and carbonated water(?) in the nose. It works in strength and character.

Toasted malt, browned bread, some caramel, leading to some hop bitterness. A decent balance between toffee sweet and overbrowned bread bitter. Nothing mind blowing, but well better than average here.

Carbonated brew, with medium body that feels lighter because of this.

So glad that this brewer is appearing down near me. A solid, drinkable beer, that will not offend nor wow you. Worth a try.

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Photo of soccerman7
3.65/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a SA Perfect Pint glass. Thanks Baconsausage.

A - A really nice garnet color. Very quick disappearing head. Fine carbonation beads.

S - Toasty sweet malts. Almost dark brown sugar nose. Faint hop aroma.

T - Sweet malt and baked bread. A nice sweetness that is balanced. The hops add a spicy sharpness. Shortbread biscuits.

M - A little thin on the body with the carbonation adding a bit of bite.

D - A really nice session ale. Something that wasn't a stunner but a very pleasant, easy brew. Nice for sitting around and enjoying an ale.

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Photo of claspada
3.89/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Initial aromas of sweet toffee and lesser amounts of roasted malts, vanilla and milk chocolate.
The taste begins with toasted caramel maltiness that becomes increasingly more complex as it warms. Some light bitterness from either the roasted malts or some faint hops.
Mouthfeel is a little thin for my taste but at less than 5% ABV it is to be expected. Could use a little more carbonation as well. Overall this is still a great session beer full of flavor which is no small feat. Very impressed with this brew. Probably the most complex session beer I've had in a while; it's no Maduro from Cigar City but still very good.

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Photo of Dotcubed
4.6/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Got hooked by the name, sold on the medal they claim to have won at the world beer championship.

Tawny color. Looks like it needs to be in a British pub
Chestnut brown, some fuzz of foam.

Toffee smell. Reminds me of a cask ale. Smooth, malt, heavy toast. Really pleased I warmed it up on the coffee table for 30 min before I opened it.

This is what I'd want for a session beer. Except there is more sweetness than I'd want. The mouthfeel is good for the style, but a little watery finish. Still better than most.

Very drinkable. Well made. But no telling how old the bottle is.

Needs label date codes.

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Photo of rsgcwhite
3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance is deep amber-brown with a significant head that lingers.

Lemon peel and browned malts highlight the aroma, with some brown sugar sweetness added in for good measure.

The caramel and brown malt taste is undistinguished. The flavor combination is a good, solid, but uninteresting mix. Everything to make you drink it, but nothing to make you think.

This has a light mouthfeel with good drinkability - you can drink a lot of these without thinking about it. But that's not very exciting - take this in your backpack on your next hike up Cadillac Mountain, drink at a picnic, or during a TV dinner, you won't notice your drinking beer. You won't even think about it. Nothing about this will surprise you - this is the beer equivalent of John Q. Public, doing his job, going about town, with nothing to help or hinder you to remember his name.

Still, this beer is a complement because it is so drinkable - I wouldn't mind if everyone in the country had one of these. This is a ratchet up (albeit a conservative one) from the standard-issue Macro fare, and for that, the Brewery succeeds.

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Photo of gueuzeonhigh
3.31/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours and looks like a light brown ale.
Creates an enduring head
Light nose of mild malt and some fruity wisps.

The flavor is rather light-- lighter than I'd expect
from an ale. I'd almost be tempted to claim that
this beer isn't an ale.

Given the look of the pour, I found the initial flavor is
somewhat of a let down-- I expected a more
aggressive more prominent ale flavor. More hops
more of everything.

Regardless this is a fine but not remarkable beer
that's likely another in the "thirst quencher"

I've tasted less admirable brews-- still I wouldn't
go out of my way to acquire this beer.

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Photo of canucklehead
3.55/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Had this right after the Real Ale from Atlantic Brewing also from Bar Harbor. Both are Brown Ales but this is most definetely in the lighter mouthfeel category almost to its loss. I liked the drinkability and the nice caramel notes but missed the bigger mouthfeel and the bigger finish that I favour in Brown Ales. Decent beer but not memorable

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Photo of mdfb79
3.58/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a tulip.

a - Pours a dark brown color with one inch white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of roasted malts and chocolate. Not very strong.

t - Tastes of caramel malts, roasted malts, and chocolate.

m - Medium body and moderate carbonation.

d - A good brown ale. Some nice roasted malts and chocolate. Would give another shot.

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Photo of steve8robin
3.33/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Heard from a friend that this brew was good. I will judge for myself. 12 oz bottle best enjoyed by November 2010...

A: Ruby red with dark brown highlights. Crystal clear with a 1 inch white head that quicly fades to a lace atop the brew. Good.

S: I get malty banana with some sugary breadiness and some some dark fruit on the backend. Ok.

T: Very watery maltiness with a very faint hint of breadiness and dark fruit. Ok.

M: Medium body with a decent carbonation. Decent.

D: This one goes down very easy, like water. Like a flavored water. Ok to try if you have nothing better to drink. Not worth hunting at all

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Photo of malthegal
3.56/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a very rich dark brown color. Not much head, dissipates rather quickly.

S - Lots of nut and caramel notes.

T - A very nice and subtle caramel flavor, roasted malt presence.

M - Moderate carbonation, very smooth.

D - Very drinkable, low ABV, a good brown ale that I will have again.

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Photo of mavbrew
3.71/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 22oz bottle into my Otter Creek Stein.

A: Pours a deep brown color with a finger thick off-white head that quickly dissipates leaving no lacing.

S: The scent of caramel and roasted malts is most prominent with a hint of nuttiness and toffee are also present.

T: The taste up front has some roasted malts and a spicy note to it as well. Following is a caramel flavor and a bit of a nutty presence.

M: Has a light medium body with average carbonation. Has a smooth finish.

D: This would be a good session beer, being that it is low in ABV. Overall it is a decent brown but this will probably be a one and done beer for me since their are a plethora of very good brown ales out there.

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Photo of mgbickel
3.83/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a Perfect Pint glass. The semi-aggressive pour formed a 1 ½ finger almond head that slowly faded down to a thin layer, leaving lots of lace and clung to the glass nicely. The body is a clear brown, almost the same color as the bottle it came from.

The nose has lots of roasted malts, caramel, toasted nuts and grains.

The taste is right in line with the nose. A nutty, bready flavor starts things off. The middle has a little sweet caramel and malts. The finish turns a little roasted and grainy.

The mouth feel is thin (toward medium), a little slick and well carbonated.

Overall, this is an easy drinking beer. Nothing jumps out and grabs you, but this is tasty and refreshing. Worth a try...especially for the brown ale lovers!

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Photo of puboflyons
3.82/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From the 22 fl. oz. bottle with no expiration date or lot code. Sampled on July 27, 2010. The pour is a nice looking brown tone with good clarity but little in the way of head and lacing. The aroma tends to be on the malty side with the kind of bitterness more frequently associated with brown ales. The taste has a bit of nuttiness but mainly malts with a back-up shaker of hops. The malts are key. Still a nice enough beer.

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Photo of hangh
3.58/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Dark black colored beer with a thick 2" brown head that dissapates slowly leaving a small trace that lingers throughout the drink.

S - Rich coffee and toffee smells rise from the glass. Subtle malty smells, not overpowering.

T - Coffee and toffee rich with some caramel finish. It's a quick and tasty beer that is pretty satisfying.

MF - Light to medium body with light carbonation. Crisp quick finish

D - Very good for an English Brown Ale, a little different but good.

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Photo of WhiteOak
3.53/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Dark cola brown in color, with a dark tan head with some lace rings.

S- Smells of roast hazelnut, toffee, sour apple cider.

T- Sweet rich caramel malt, brown sugar, nuts, dark fruits. The finish is half sour but not unpleasant. This is an English brown ale interpretation to the 2nd or 3rd power.

M, D- Creamy feel, good drinkability. No problem finishing the bomber.

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Photo of donkeyrunner
4.05/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

T'were my beer I call it Brown Thunder Hole...

Anyway, dark chestnut color with a pillowy beige head. Decent retention leaves a few lacey smudges. Looks like a brown ale.

Aroma is hickory and nuts--but sweet like nut toffee. Dry leaf earthiness and light cocoa powder.

Nutty with a toffee sweet compliment. Dark chocolate depth that doesn't really manifest until the end. Hops give an otherwise watery mouthfeel (not terrible considering the style) a prickly liveliness.

While Allagash seems to be slipping and Shipyard was never appealing, Mainers keep me intrigued with their lesser known breweries like Bar Harbor, Freeport, and now Marshall Wharf. Cheers to Maine.

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Photo of kingcrowing
2.48/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

22oz bomber poured into a schlitz mug.

Pours a slighty ruby deep brown color with not much head at all, totally acceptable for the style. Nose is like vomit! It's gross!

Taste luckily is nothng like vomit which is good, but it's still not too great. Lots of nutty malt, caramel and sweet molases dominate. Light carbonation and a thin body lead to a dull mouthfeel. Ok beer but not fantastic.

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Photo of beerthulhu
3.95/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured a dark coppery-chocolate with a fizzy tan head that dissipated quickly. Toffee highlights glisten around the glass edges from the light while a good sense of carbonation can be seen within. No visible lacing was left behind.

S: Some fruity notes, apple skins mix well with a soft nuttiness of cashews and brazilian nuts. The strength was medium with a bit of toasty caramel appearing on the finish.

T: A sweet fruitiness, almost dopple bock like, meets a nuttiness of cashews and brazilian nuttiness. The hopping is assertive and spicy, almost what you expect from a Belgian (im guessing styrian golding or fuggels) while the malting is residious and malty well suited per style with toasty caramel and soft smoky amber notes. I love how everything just blends togther, the spicy hops, the warm toasty caramel and dried toffee sweetness with a crisp, dry fruitiness compliments of the yeast making this a triple threat. As an English brown this is bold and as good, if not better then most offerings across the pond. Leaves a big help of residual malt covering the tongue with some dry bakers chocolate for a close.

M: The mouthful is medium with a good maltiness and a very smooth and silky texture. Small traces of effervesce is detected while things finish out with a dry nuttiness and soft residual malt coating.

D: Very drinkable aided by a low 4.8% abv which increases the chance of session material but never gives an inch flavor wise. Big, bold and spicy with some fairly unique traits per style makes this a standout and definite go to for fans of the style while making some in the process.

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Photo of koopa
3.98/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber purchased at Ramsey Liquors....nice to see something from these guys available in my local store besides Cadillac Mtn. Stout.

Appearance: Pours a handsome chestnut brown with a slight red tinge. the crown is 1 finger, off white to slightly brown, showing little retention or lace.

Smell: Chestnuts, chestnut honey jam, deeply toasted (but not quite roasted) malt, and a nice bready backbone.

Taste: Same as nose.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, fairly crisp, good carbonation.

Drinkability: Session beer all the way. I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

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Photo of Seanibus
3.85/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A rich and creamy beer, more like a mild milk stout than any brown ale or porter I have tried.

Pours a rich, opaque brown with a slightly cream colored head, like the froth on a cappuccino. The aroma is rich and dark, roasted and woody, with dark bread and dried dark fruit notes. The flavor is milder than I had expected from the aroma, with a bready, nutty, smooth taste without a significant hop bite. The finish is mild, with a coffee-like bitterness that develops late on the high back of the mouth. The standout characteristic is the mouthfeel - it is thick and creamy, even a bit chewy.

This is a good beer, though not precisely what I would predict from a brown ale.

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Photo of jwc215
4.17/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours rubyish brown with a thin off-white creamy head that lasts. Trailing lacing sticks.

The smell is of roasted nuts, toffee/nougat, with earthy notes.

The taste with sweet chocolate, hazelnuts/ walnuts, roast, and earthy tones balance the sweetness. Finishes with fruity tones - mild, but could be milder. Sour touch in the finish, especially as it warms/progresses.

It is medium-to-full bodied. Velvety, Nice roasty character lingers.

Complex - nutty, roasty, toffeeish - a tad too fruity as it progresses. Still-in-all a great brown with a sour touch.

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Photo of jlindros
3.87/5  rDev +4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Received in a fun trade with rheisler. Thanks Ryan.

A: Poured a pretty light frothy head that fades quickly. A semi dark raisin brown color with a slight reddish hue that is surprisingly clear for how dark colored it is. Perhaps this isn't a beer that should be filtered.

N: Some light toasty malts, sweet sugar, almost a light brown sugar, some light crisp ale aromas (perhaps this wasn't filtered but they did a good job of dropping the yeast out and giving a good crisp aroma). A slight earthy aroma, and that's about it.

T: Starts semi sweet and wants to be creamy, but not really. I get some nice roasted malt flavor and some darker caramel malts, as well as some light flavors of dark fruit, semi reminiscent of a light porter. Some light brown sugar comes through as well with hints of toasted malt flavor. A slight bitterness and touch of spicy hops, but not really that hoppy. A touch of chocolate malt too towards the end.

M: Medium body with a touch of spicy tingly feeling, and lower carbonation.

F: Finishes a pretty dry and slightly bitter. It's still somewhat crisp and refreshing, but has more of those lingering porter like tastes and slight brown sugar. Otherwise the tastes seem to disappear pretty well, so they did a pretty good job to finish crisp and ready for more drinkin. A good session beer.

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Photo of smcolw
2.88/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours like Coca Cola in every way--Large bubbles that die to a flat surface. There's even soda-like bubbles on the side of the glass. The only thing missing is the ice. Color looks like water with caramel coloring.

Darker malt aroma. Some metallic elements

Very spritzy. The body, in a word, is thin. This is distracting. The flavor cannot make up the difference. Darker malt (perhaps darker crystal). Mid-taste the metal shows up. Nearly no hop...the aftertaste dies quickly.

The bottle features a World Beer Championship Gold Medal. I don't see it.

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Thunder Hole Ale from Bar Harbor Brewing Company
3.72 out of 5 based on 245 ratings.
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