Friday, January 1, 2010

Thomas Hardy's Ale 2004 Vintage

Brewer: O'Hanlon's Brewing Company Ltd
Style: Barleywine
Location: England
Brewer website
Rating: A+

What better way to bring in the new year than with an old beer? Tonight I'm dipping into my secret stash and cracking into a bottle of 2004 Thomas Hardy's Ale. It is with great sadness that I recently learned that the Thomas Hardy Ale will no longer be produced. This is truly a one-of-a-kind beer, and I hope a new brewery decides to pick up production of this ale in the near future. Tonight I am tasting bottle No. P49102.

The Thomas Hardy Ale is a deep molasses brown. With no head to speak of, it looks remarkably similar to black coffee. The nose brings scents of bread and raisins, with a caramelized sweetness. It has the aroma of a fine sherry.

Sweetness, acidity and bitter notes are all present on the palate in delicate balance. There are flavors of raisins, caramel, honey and bread. There are both bitter and fruity hops notes as well. Despite 5+ years in the bottle, the Thomas Hardy still has a ever-so-slight bit of carbonation. This faint hint of a fizz quickly gives way to a light syrupy mouthfeel that clings to the tongue pleasantly. The finish is reminiscent of dark wheat toast covered with honey and jam.

This is truly a classic beer that will be sorely missed. While this isn't a beer for everyone, it's proof that a well-crafted beer can stand the test of time and age as well as a vintage port. If this beer interests you, I strongly suggest you snap up a few bottles if you can still find them. I am already eagerly awaiting 2014 to open my next bottle and celebrate its 10th anniversary.

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