Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale | Yards Brewing Co.

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Thomas Jefferson's Tavern AleThomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale

Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
This powerful and complex golden ale pays homage to Founding Father and fellow brewer, Thomas Jefferson. Yards Brewmaster, Tom Kehoe, worked closely with Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern to recreate this recipe, employing honey, rye, and wheat, just like the beer Jefferson made at Monticello.

Added by NeroFiddled on 08-01-2002

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Reviews: 295 | Ratings: 852
Photo of fourstringer
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a silly-looking Sam Adams tulip-pint glass. Moderate hand. No date identifiable.

A: Dark, golden yellow with impressive clarity. 1/2 finger off-white head with average retention. Moderate lacing.

S: Cracker, black pepper, brown sugar, bread. Touch of indistinct fruit, light spice. There is the suggestion of Belgian yeast, which I did not expect.

T: Pine-forward, hop bitterness hits up front and carries through to a fairly dry finish. Pale malts attempt to break through with nuts and bread with only partial success. Alcohol is present, but relatively mild for 8% ABV. A bit of piney hops linger in the aftertaste.

M: Moderate carbonation with a light to medium body. Smooth, lightly creamy, effervescence.

O: Looks good. Smells good. I found the taste relatively unbalanced and a tad hollow. Somehow I doubt TJ's brew exhibited this degree of hopping.


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Photo of scootny
4.18/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A 12 oz bottle from a half case box of "Beers of the Revolution". Drinking from a Sam Adams glass. Full two to three fingers of frothy yellowish dark eggshell. Nice lacing and gentle carbonation. A deep golden orange amber color.

Smell is full of sweet light malt, bread, and honey. The oats and rye offer up grains and spicy sharpness. Some pepper punctuates a very faint note of alcohol that is wrapped in a fruity english style ale yeast.

Taste is big full malty sweetness. The combination of light barley and oats push a bready quality forward followed by the rye spicy pepper notes. A bloom of honey that moves to a light sourness flowing into dry hoppiness that squeezes the mouth and tongue. Astringent and slightly oily my mouth feels scrubbed dry while still having a bit of melon juiciness. Alcohol is very well hidden as to be invisible.

Feel is velvety and supple. Light in the mouth, it still has a heartiness that yields a satisfying fullness to each swallow. Carbonation is smooth and mild. A light alcohol vaporous cooling.

Superb drinkability and flavor. Goes down like a session beer and and hits like a velvet hammer. Just excellent and if an accurate recreation Jefferson was at the top of home brewing field along with Washington.

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Photo of hopsputin
4.02/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: a deep, rich amber color with some ruby red notes up top. large 2-3 finger frothy white head that seems to be leaving some good lacing as i'm typing this

s: honey, sweet caramel, wheat, sweet berries, some small hint of something choclatey-like? i'm probably just imagining that…

t: the taste is that of rich caramel and honey for sure that has a backing on a nice wheat-like flavor. that fades to a subtle flavor of biscuits and honey, and ends with a small bitterness that is like putting a little pine needle in your mouth

m: medium mouthfeel, and really smooth almost to the point of bing silky. carbonation is on the lower side

o: i think its cool if this really is based off a recipe that was made and drunk those years ago. its nothing crazy, but has a nice sweetness to it, and a nice smooth mouthfeel that would make this a real nice fireside sipper

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Photo of dbl_delta
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Undated bottle into pint glass. Pours a dark amber with a thin, off-white head. Initial impression is bready malts and honey, with a slight spiciness. Mouthfeel is medium thick and smooth. Medium carbonation. Finish is smooth and in keeping with the rest of the experience. Not something that will take the world by storm, but certainly a decent offering.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.08/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark golden color, leaning towards amber. The head is a finger high, and eggshell in shade. Retention isn't particularly impressive, but its creamy texture leaves behind some lacing on the glass. (3.5)

Smell: Honey accentuates the powerful, bread-laden malt backbone. A touch of spiciness appears in spurts, helping to balance some of its sweetness. Buttery and toasted hints prove to add to this brew instead of detract. It's well made enough, but it hardly comes close to 'popping'. (3)

Taste: This is a sweet brew - very sweet actually. It starts off with a slightly toasty maltiness, before building into notes of rye spice, butter, and honey near the back end. The aforementioned honey keeps the finish from being cloying, so that's good. Otherwise, this is a pretty insipid beer. (3)

Mouthfeel: It feels fairly rich and sweet, but the back end is also dry. A slight twinge of alcohol appears due to the dryness, too. Carbonation is low, so this beer is quite drinkable for the strength. (3.5)

Overall: I'm disappointed by how uninteresting it is - the beer itself was brewed well, but the recipe itself come across as being rather ho-hum. I'd suggest trying a single of this once, just don't be surprised by its average taste. (3)

3.08/5: It's not a case of "great recipe, blah execution"'s the other way around instead

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Photo of biegaman
3.6/5  rDev -4.8%

It's unlikely that any of Thomas Jefferson's recipes would have been anything other than dark and murky; this interpretation is certainly not "golden" like its label states. Tavern Ale is instead deep pumpkin orange in colour and has a dense, icy complexion but still emits light. Contrary to ales of the time this one is evidently filtered and has obvious signs of carbonation.

For a historic, presumably English-influenced ale this smells surprisingly like a modern German lager; I'd confidently guess it a Vienna lager. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself - crunchy, toasty, rich, aromatic amber malt is highly appealing - but it's a disappointment that such an interesting, unique sounding beer actually make such a mundane, familiar first impression.

A little more time and warming up unearths a sizable amount of fruity ale esters and also reveals the honey. It turns out to be sweeter than first assumed but still every bit as well malted. It has the body to support its alcohol content (8%) and hints of spice (likely from the addition of rye) that meld well. And for all the honey and ripe fruit notes there's no lingering sweetness.

Yards wanted everyone to know that they've brewed this one with "authentic ingredients". They also followed an "authentic recipe". What the hell does that mean? Have I been drinking beers made with inauthentic ingredients this whole time? Maybe my homebrews would turn out better if only I followed "authentic" recipes. End of meaningless beer marketing rant.

Yards may have 'followed' Thomas Jefferson's original recipe but they obviously veered from the path at some point. For something that sounds different, even niche on the surface, Tavern Ale is actually quite conventional and entirely approachable for the average beer drinker. There's nothing at all "revolutionary" about it. It seems traditional recipes aren't quite the same thing when brewed with modern technologies and with modern palates in mind.

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Photo of slusk
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%

Pours a clear light red with little head. Nice clean caramel malt aroma with little hops. Caramel and a bit of toffee amid a bread crust note. Nice caramel flavor with medium low hop bitterness. Nice bready notes throughout. A nice brown ale.

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Photo of Altrurian
4.75/5  rDev +25.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

It arrives at the table with a tight, topographically variegated foamy cap surmounting a perfect amber body with a perpetual upward swirl of tiny bubbles. The enticing aroma is of toffee, or, perhaps, flan. The beer's flavor brings home the aroma's promise of savory, sophisticated sweetness. It's a soft and smooth taste--almost that of a "comfort food"--yet deeply satisfying as beer. The texture is rich. For all of its 8%, it goes down easily. I'm a little reticent about giving a beer this high of a rating, but this is pretty good stuff.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Undated bottle at 40 degrees into standard pint glass
Aroma very faint piney aroma
Head Large (4.5 cm), off white, frothy,
Lacing good – mostly complete lacy rings of very small bubbles; slowly diminishing to a thick irregular frothy layer
Body medium yellow, slight haze
Flavor very mild, slight hop bitterness rapidly yielding to a faint malt sweetness, fading to a bitter aftertaste. No alcohol, no diacetyl.
Palate light to medium, watery, lively carbonation.

A pleasantly refreshing ale which neatly hides the 8% ABV. This seems like a lawnmower beer until it runs over you.

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Photo of thecheapies
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Medium amber color with a glare. Stocky white head looks good. Sits heavy a-crest the beer. Visible carbonation adds some excitement.

Sweet treacle nose with buttery vanilla, apple pie crust, kettle corn, salt water taffy, and a hint of artificial banana. Strange aromas for a beer, but it's quite balanced and appealing. Malts have a creme pie note that I like. Interesting, so far.

Tangy and metallic. Has that treacle sweetness with a note of creme pie over graham cracker crust. Specifically, banana. Caramelized sugars with light kilning. The roast doesn't do a whole lot. Lots of obvious barley malt flavors going on. The hops are slightly minty. The esters might be coming, yeast-side. They're fruity and juxtaposed with the aforementioned banana dessert notes. Pomme, stone fruits, and pear are reminiscent. I pick up on the honey and the wheat; and if the rye is only imparting some light dry spiciness, I get that, too. More aggression in the finishing bitterness than I could have anticipated. It's almost welcomed, after the sweet opening salvo.

Drinks with a light syrupy feel, but steers clear from being sticky. Has that oiliness, but not in the hoppy way. Carbonation is struck right down the middle of the fairway.

A solid English Strong Ale. Not entirely forgettable. Worthy of a pick-up.

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Photo of farrago
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pleasing finger of eggshell white foam, adequate retention, the lacing sticks for a brief while, more breadth than length to the streaks. Bright zinc orange colored liquid, quite a few visible bubbles and they are super-fat, transparent and clean throughout. There’s a well-cooked bread crust stiffness to the nose, however, at the same time sweet grapefruit to orange citrus, honey and ripe apricot, peach notes, then more peppery, grainy bite, definitely has an earthy funk to it as well, a forest floor covered with pine needles and fallen leaves and branches. Full-bodied, sweet and sticky attack even though the carbonation does punch as hard as possible to get things stirred up. Actually turns appreciably drier through the mid-palate, earthy and herbal. The return of banana and bubblegum seems close to Belgian, loses most of the honey as well as the juiciness in the apricot, peach, apple fruit. The citrus in turn comes off as more sour. The textural fullness extends the finish when most of the primary flavors have begun to trail off. Due to its palate weight can’t say it is sessionable or the like. But it has this unique, just off-center character which ultimately keeps you sipping again and again.

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Photo of Mumps
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a pint glass.

Deep gold, slightly amber with a quarter inch off white head, moderate lacing. Fair amount of bubbles.

My nose has some difficulty picking out a distinct aroma of this brew. Honestly not sure if its my nose, or the beer. What I can smell isn't unpleasant, a faint malty sweetness.

Taste is incredibly balanced. I can clearly taste the honey, with a hint of the rye in the back.

Mouthfeel is a little thin, but I think that works in this brew's favor. Makes it very easy to drink, despite the 8% alcohol.

Overall, I really enjoy this presentation from Yard's. I liked the Tavern Porter, but this beats it hands down.

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Photo of delta490
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours out a deep gold with a shorter-lived creamy white head. Not much lacing left. The aroma is pretty minimalist, with some mild light fruit notes. The taste is a little bit more robust, with some nice balance from the rye and the honey. The body is a little thinner, but it fits with the almost delicate flavors, which doesn't really include alcohol despite the 8% ABV. The third president knew something about brewing.

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Photo of brentk56
3.79/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours a clear amber capped by an inch of foam that leaves some crossing strands of lace

Smell: Treacle sweet with tones of dried fruit

Taste: Sweet treacle, up front, with a developing herbal and dried fruit character; modest bitterness in the mid-palate but the finish reinforces the sweeter tones

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Overall: My second ancient beer of the evening; interesting but in both cases they lack the bitter balance I prefer; hope to return to the 21st century tomorrow

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Photo of gillagorilla
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz. bottle poured into a Burley Oak snifter

A: Deep copper color with some effervescence. Only the slightest head with a tiny collar.

S: Lots of raisin and fruit cake. Quite sweet. It smells quite Belgian actually, like a Tripel or Quad.

T: Just some raisins. It is in that weird limbo of strong ales, old ales, and Belgian strongs. Interesting but pretty mild in taste, comparable to similar ones. The smell is much stronger than the taste.

M: Very smooth, with no bubbles.

O: Decent beer. I would say this is my second favorite in the Ales of the Revolution series, with the Porter being the best and the spruce ale coming in last.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.89/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I had this a couple times lately this time at Wegman's chilled in a tumber from the 12oz.

The color is medium brown with translucent clarity and thin white cap with fine bead thick lace collects in a film. The smell is strong with malt which also brings a light herbal and woody odor perhaps from the hops with mild alcohol in the background. The feel has thick body w/ moderate carbonation and spiced middle with subtle alcohol in the feel and a nice balance between malt with moderate lingering bitterness.

The flavor has a brown malt toasted quality with spiced yeast element that enhances the moderately bitter hop profile and there is a gentle English yeast with mineral quality that comes in near the finish with a slight alcohol warming. Overall a pretty decent strong ale - you get the English influence and it is pretty drinkable for the strength.

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Photo of PA-hunter
4.09/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured bottle into glass. 8% abv.

Appearance- Transparent orange amber. Very clear with a white two finger head.

Smell- Malty with some citrus. Nothing too pronounced as far as aroma goes.

Taste- Great balance of sweetness and a bitter finish. Toasted malts with that classic bready sweetness. The roasted proflie blends nicely into the somewhat spicey finish.

Mouthfeel- Medium, with moderately retained carbonation.

Overall- Enjoyable to drink. I was surprised since the smell was nothing special. The taste was much more memorable. Decent complexity. The fact this was based off of Thomas Jefferson's ale recipe adds intrigue here. A great ale indeed!

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Photo of miaandmae1
4.47/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had this both on tap and in bottle. The latter is more subdued and hop-forward, while the tap version has a sweetness on the front end which was pleasantly surprising. Either way, this is a well-balanced ale which is imminently drinkable and (for better or worse) never belies its high octane nature.

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Photo of Beermaster70
4.11/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

16 oz draft on tap at the Victory Athletic Association. Medium carbonation. Nice lacing. Great appearance in my glass. I could not pick up as much of a smell as I reach middle age and my senses dim. Gotta say I really enjoyed the taste. Enjoyable ale on a Saturday afternoon!

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Photo of scotorum
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

One of my Philly Craft Beer Outlet buys from last month. Gotta love the implied adherence to tradition, and hey, how many beers have the writer of the Declaration of Independence on the label? Good thing HE didn't leave out "endowed by their creator" huh? I'd hate to have my rights - or theirs - determined solely by POTUS, SCOTUS, or a majority of Congress. Oh wait, they pretty much are now, huh. Nevermind.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into an Innis & Gunn stemmed tulip.

a: Clear amber with a huge inch and a half head which retreated nobly to a persistent quarter inch of white foam, then to a fairly even surface film with moderate lacing which lingered to the end.

s: Light mustiness of old paper. Or perhaps parchment, he suggested sheepishly.

t: Malt with some hop bite and balance. Certainly much of what I had hoped for, something you might think you'd be drinking in an old tavern during the Revolution. Except it seems a bit light for an old timey ale, and there is a sharp and disconcerting dark pine or fruit undertone and aftertaste. The unusual flavor grows more interesting towards the finish.

m: Light to moderate, bitterness builds over time.

o: Time travel is interesting but ultimately not quite all that I had hoped it would be. But then I wonder how Jefferson would have reviewed Firestone Walker Double Jack. "When in the course of human drinking affairs,..."

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Photo of Jeffreysan
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Pours a beautiful golden amber color with two fingers of off-white head that lasted for quite a while, leaving a nice crown of foam on top of the beer.

Aroma: Very pungent. Malty yet floral, with some clover and some hay. As the beer warmed up, some dark fruit aromas of raisins and plumbs started to make their presence known. Finally there’s some caramel notes too. Very nice.

Taste: Lots of caramel and malt flavors up front and some very subtle hops at the finish. As the beer warms up, it gets more floral with some clover and honey coming through. Very good.

Mouthfeel: Very creamy with a slight chewiness. There’s some good carbonation to tickle the tastebuds, and because of the 8% ABV, there’s also a nice alcohol warmth at the finish.

Overall: According to Yards, this beer was crafted from Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe, using wheat, honey, and rye. I found it to be a very damn good beer, one that will be on my rotation of usual beers, as will be the General Washington’s Tavern Porter. Another home run from Yards!

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Photo of Why-P-A
3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

A: Light copper in color, dark golden with a slight reddish tint.

S: Subtle malt but no major dominant aroma. These is more alcohol aroma on the nose than there is when drinking the beer.

T: Very unique flavor, the malts are balanced and light. The finish is quite bitter and hangs in the mouth but it does not taste like traditional hop bitterness. Since this is an old style ale recipe there could be other herbs or grains added which may be contributing to these more complex flavors.

M: Very light especially considering the high alcohol content. The bitterness leaves the mouth slightly dry and thirsty.

O: A hard beer to pinpoint, very unique overall. This beer is certainly strong though it does not taste overpowering and there is almost no residual sweetness which suggests it fermented out completely. This is one of a series of 3 traditional ales from Yards so it will be interesting to see how the other two compare.

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Photo of KTCamm
3.46/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.

Pours clearish light copper with ring of foam. Mild malt nose. Hard to flesh out. Taste is a funky, stale malt. Odd bitter close that is a bit persistent. Classic mixture, somehow comes together. Odd, but it works.

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Photo of WissBrauSean
4.76/5  rDev +25.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I poured this beer at about 55 degrees F into a standard pint and it poured a light amber colour with a full one finger ivory head of tiny bubbles that stay as a nice ring and Friar Tuck center cap and sticky balcony-like lacing pattern. Very attractive this beer is!

Right away I notices the darker fruit notes with this beer as well as the pale sweet malts, honey and a bready yeast. The honey aroma is just fantastic! As the beer warms the honey is more pronounced. This beer is approaching room temperature and it is coming alive!

As you sip, your nose takes in the honey and your tongue is greeted with pale malts, honey, green raisin, sweet citrus a bit of tart fruit and not until the very end do you get the earthy hop bitterness with a black peppery numbing feeling on the tongue that I assume is a combination of the carbonation, the alcohol and the hop dryness. This beer is a pleasure to drink and drink her just a tad lower than room temperature. 60 degrees is awesome.

The mouthfeel of this beer is silky smooth, creamy mildly sweet and approaching full bodied. The carbonation is one step above moderate, no where near hot, but she's a lively English tart this lady.

Overall, I am deeming this lovely lady world class. She gets the Cate Blanchett award for being a true beauty! There is absolutely nothing that I don't like about this beer and I feel that it fits Beer Advocates criteria to a T. Although they mention a solvent aroma as part of the class, and I don't get that, OR want that! 5 out of 5 on this baby Yards! I don't think that I have given a score like that yet!

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Photo of thlayli87
3.21/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Reviewed from notes

A - Copper color with 2 fingers of cream colored head. Decent lacing and retention

S - Grainy malt, not much else

T - Somewhat salty taste, earthy hops. Flavors lack complexity.

M - Good carbonation level. Pleasing on the palate.

O - Pretty boring flavors and a mediocre beer overall. I'd pass this one by.

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Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale from Yards Brewing Co.
3.78 out of 5 based on 852 ratings.
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