• Thomas Hardy’s Ale is back home

     

    Thomas Hardy’s Ale is back home in the UK: the Barley Wine par excellence is finally available on the English market, exactly in the year of the 50th anniversary… celebrated with a special vintage, the “Golden Edition”, available on www.laithwaites.co.uk.

     

     

    In 1968, the fortieth anniversary of the death of the famous British writer and poet Thomas Hardy, some prominent members of the Dorchester society founded a cultural association, the Thomas Hardy Society, to promote his works. Among these there was also the Pope family, owner of the Eldridge Pope brewery, who decided to celebrate the event giving life to the historical Strong Ale described by the artist in his novel The Trumpet Major:

     

    “It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine…”

     

    Numbered and vintage-dated bottles, given the predisposition of this Barley Wine to age in the cellar for decades, the 1968 Thomas Hardy’s Ale was meant to be a “one shot”. But, as we all know, the story went differently…

    Fifty years later, the reborn Thomas Hardy’s Ale, produced by the brewmaster Derek Prentice at the Meantime’s London facility, is finally available on the English market thanks to the collaboration with Laithwaite’s Wine. And it happens precisely with the “Golden Edition”.

    Black label with golden details, the Thomas Hardy’s Ale vintage 2018 keeps its characteristics unaltered: limited edition, numbered labels and predisposition to aging in the cellar for many, many years. Only the alcohol content varies slightly and reaches an impressive 13% by volume.

     

  • 50th Anniversary for Thomas Hardy’s Ale

    The Italian exhibition “Beer Attraction 2018” was the right opportunity to reveal the vintage 2018 of the Thomas Hardy’s Ale: brewed for the first time in 1968, the English barley wine celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special edition.

     

    Black label and golden details: the vintage 2018, a special version dedicated to the golden anniversary of the Thomas Hardy’s Ale, slightly break with tradition. The world première of the brand new packaging has been presented last days at Beer Attraction in Rimini (Italy).

    As a matter of fact, the story of the quintessential barley wine began in 1968, when the English Eldridge Pope Brewery released the first bottles of Thomas Hardy’s Ale, inspired by the strong beer of Dorchester described by Hardy in 1880.

    Fifty years later, Thomas Hardy’s Ale celebrates its half-century with a special label, which preserves its characteristic icons: the writer’s effigy, the quote, the serial number on each bottle and – obviously – the vintage date, in order to stock some bottles in cellar for a decade.

    Alcohol degree is slightly higher: 13% of the volume, thank to a better fermentation.

    In conclusion, the reasons to collect some bottles of Thomas Hardy’s Ale vintage 2018 Golden Edition are numerous: it only remains to wait the beginning of the sale of this new vintage, which will be available next Spring.

  • Introducing the new “The Historical”, matured in Tennessee Whiskey barrels

    The 2017 vintage of Thomas Hardy’s Ale “The Historical”, matured in Tennessee Whiskey barrels, is being introduced at the international HoReCa Expo trade fair hosted in Ghent, Belgium. An opportunity to taste this year’s vintage directly from the barrel.                                                

     

    Participants at the international HoReCa Expo in Ghent, Belgium, can stop at the Thomas Hardy’s Ale booth and taste the new vintage of “The Historical” from the barrel prior to the launch on the market of the traditional 25 cl bottles.

    The HoReCa Expo is one of the most prestigious international Food & Beverage events in the world. Last year it hosted the introduction of the 2016 vintage of “The Historical” which had been matured in Hine Cognac barrels. This particular beer was a sensational triumph and the few thousand bottles produced in a limited edition literally flew of the shelves.

    The 2017 vintage of Thomas Hardy’s Ale “The Historical” was developed with the same production method as last year’s. It matured in barrels for six months. The difference being that this year, instead of maturing in Cognac barrels, “The Historical” was matured in Tennessee Whiskey barrels. In twenty-five 250 litre barrels, to be exact.

    Doing the math is pretty easy here: a few thousand bottles were produced this year as well. As always, they have been numbered and vintage-dated and released in a single edition. They will most definitely be a sell-out as well and will enhance the cellars of Barley Wine aficionados who will have to wait patiently as they let the bottles refine – as dictated by tradition.

    Any description runs the risk of being too trivial: the complexity of the bouquet resulting from the American Whiskey is impactful and makes one want to hold the beverage in a balloon glass for a few minutes and relish its woody, toasted and refined aroma before tasting it. The warm and full-bodied taste is endowed with a palate in constant evolution and a decidedly persistent aftertaste. The alcohol content is altogether distinguishable; there are no other alternatives since its ABV is almost at 13% and yet its drinkability is in no way hindered.

    The appointment for those working in the industry is from 19 to 23 November at the International HoReCa Expo in Ghent at Hall 6 – Booth # 6105.

    Bottles will be placed on the market at a later date so keep your eyes open and make some room in your cellar.

  • Thomas Hardy’s Ale confirms its title of UK’s best Barley Wine and is now ready to travel across the Atlantic

    New York State is the first to welcome Thomas Hardy’s Ale back to the US: the famous English Barley Wine, the finest in the UK according to the jury of the World Beer Awards, is being introduced in America with its Vintage 2017 for a special world preview.

     

    If there is any truth to the saying that winning is difficult but winning again is even more difficult, then the medal Thomas Hardy’s Ale won at the 2017 World Beer Awards is even more prestigious as it takes its place on the international brewer master scene.

    First of all, because winning the title of “Country Winner” (the UK’s best Barley Wine) two years in a row is no easy feat. A traditional style founded and confirmed right in England makes competition in this category of the highest level.

    This recognition is also a significant validation of the new work team led by the renowned English brew master Derek Prentice who has been capable of interpreting the recipe in the best way possible and re-establishing an authentic icon in the world of beers.

    An icon that American aficionados can finally enjoy after almost a decade: the American distribution network is still in its start-up stage but the very first bottles of Thomas Hardy’s Ale are already on sale in New York and Maryland, while experts in the industry in other American states will have an opportunity to meet Thomas Hardy’s Ale staff members during the upcoming NBWA Annual Convention in Las Vegas at the MHW Ltd. Booth Number 841.

    The product’s launching in the States also coincides with the world preview of the Vintage 2017, which won’t be released in Europe for another few weeks. We are all awaiting 2018 and Thomas Hardy’s Ale’s 50th anniversary which will doubtlessly deserve a very special edition…

     

    In the meantime, discover what Massive Beer Reviews thinks about the new Thomas Hardy’s Ale:

  • Thomas Hardy’s Ale wins another gold medal

    The World Beer Challenge awards the fourth gold medal to the re-born Thomas Hardy’s Ale, back in production since 2015 after 7 years. In Estoril, Portugal, it is actually a double win thanks to the silver medal awarded to The Historical Ale matured in Hine Cognac barrels.

     

    There is undoubtedly a big risk involved whenever a piece of history that could even be considered legendary is revived. The Vecchiato brothers were well aware of this when, in the summer of 2012, they finalised the acquisition of the brand and the recipe of the legendary Thomas Hardy’s Ale, produced from 1968 to 1999 by the Eldridge Pope Brewery and later from 2003 to 2008 by O’Hanlon’s.
    Three years to carefully study its history, locate a brewery that could reproduce it, fine-tune the recipe and finally Thomas Hardy’s Ale was ready to be produced and, in 2016, it was officially launched on the market.
    The difficult comparison with the vintages of the past is amplified by the fact that this Barley Wine par excellence improves over the years, making a “direct comparison” with more mature vintages misleading.

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    Nevertheless, the palates of the international judges immediately recognized the same mark as the original, awarding the “new” Thomas Hardy’s Ale three gold medals over the course of 2016, to which a fourth has now been added: that of the World Beer Challenge 2017, which awarded this prestigious award thanks to a score of 95.3/100.
    The same characteristics narrated by the English writer Thomas Hardy in his novel are what strike you the most and are also mentioned on the label of the Thomas Hardy’s Ale:

     

    “It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire;
    full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset;
    free from streakiness of taste, but, finally, rather heady.”

     

    A result that is echoed in the fact that The Historical Vintage Ale 2016 won its first medal ever, a silver in the category Wood and Barrel Aged, for its limited edition, matured for over six months in barrels that had previously contained French Hine Cognac.

     

  • The best Barley Wine in the UK

    The prestigious World Beer Awards welcomed back Thomas Hardy’s Ale: the title of “Country Winner” in the Barley Wine style is proof that the 7-year interruption has not diminished this beer’s singularity – it’s “English” by vocation.

    Thomas Hardy’s Ale is finally back in production and it has already added another seal to its rich, tormented and illustrious history. After the recent gold medal at the International Beer Challenge, the title of “United Kingdom Country Winner” awarded by the competition’s international jury to the Barley Wine as the best in the country is the confirmation that Thomas Hardy’s Ale is ready to pick up from where it left off.

    After all, the label changed ownership in 2003 (and with that, a change of location for its team of workers and production) when the American importer George Saxon and O’Hanlon’s Brewery decided to resurrect the beer dedicated to the English poet and novelist produced by the Eldridge Pope Brewery from 1968 to 1999. Unfortunately, Saxon also was forced to throw in the towel in 2008 due to the high production costs of a beer that requires supervision, production time and the quality of prime materials that are far superior to those needed for the classic Lager beers.

    But today there is a growing awareness on the part of public which is always on the lookout for quality, authentic stories and a flavour that goes beyond conventions. In this regard, Thomas Hardy’s Ale has admirers and collectors throughout the world thanks to its smooth yet complex body. The beer’s many subtle flavours make it difficult to describe in just a few words: notes of candied and brandied fruit, dried figs, fresh tobacco, chocolate, bitter orange marmalade, dried fruit and chestnut honey.

    Another reason why it’s so well loved is because it ages very well. 25 years in the cellar perfects its structure and refines its aroma.

  • Voices from the web

    Ever since the rumour got out that Thomas Hardy’s Ale was coming back, we have started to notice a kind of positive vibration, a mixture of happiness and apprehension coming from every part of the world. When, in autumn 2012, the previous version of Thomas Hardy’s Ale website was launched (www.thomashardysale.com) messages began to arrive from fans. These messages are the most tangible indication of what Thomas Hardy’s Ale means to the world beer community. And they have amazed and thrilled those who have read them.
    This is why we wanted to share again the voices of the most important people. That is, the people who have loved this beer and who love it still, people who treasure the old vintages in their cellars, people who were keeping the last precious bottle without knowing when to open it, simply because they thought it was really the last…
    Below you will find a selection of messages from these passionate and enthusiastic people.

     

    Stuart says:
    December 27, 2012 at 10:05 pm
    When & where will we be able to purchase the beautiful elixir please?

     

    Stefaan says:
    January 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm
    Congratulations. I am looking forward to it. Please keep a few bottles for a poor Belgian home brewer ;-).
    But will it be with that same yeast strain giving it the “pineapple” taste?

     

    Håkan says:
    January 26, 2013 at 2:43 am
    Greetings from Sweden!
    Thank you for trying to bring Thomas Hardy’s back from the dead. This was my favourite beer and I still have 5 bottles of the old brew but they won’t last forever.
    I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing it on the shelves again.
    Good luck!

     

    Adam says:
    February 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm
    I just wanted to say thank you so very much for the resurrection of this wonderful Ale. This was literally the first beer that I had ever tried and enjoyed.

     

    Robert says:
    March 17, 2013 at 4:39 pm
    I just opened one of the 25-30 bottles that I have hoarded for the past 5 years, then decided to see if there was any new news. I am so happy to see that I won’t have to spread these bottles out over the rest of my life, I may go pop another!!!! Can’t wait to try the new batch.

     

    Josh says:
    March 28, 2013 at 6:28 pm
    It’s exciting to see that this beer may come back into production. I’m glad that it’s being done for the right reason: love of quality beer.
    I hope this makes it to Canada when the first batches roll off the line. Looking forward to it, and wishing you the best of luck!

     

    Kevin says:
    November 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm
    How is the progress coming? I saw the “Raw Materials” post in October. It got me excited. Is there any talk of a brew date or a release date yet?
    Respectfully,
    + Kevin

     

    Alan says:
    December 7, 2013 at 10:11 pm
    Having just found your website I look forward to tasting what I consider the nectar of the gods again. I hope it will be produced and sold in bottles, not in tins. I hope it will be produced in nips, 180ml bottles.

     

    Jim says:
    December 23, 2013 at 8:16 am
    The best beer in the world, ever!
    Believe me this ale is awesome…
    Even the astonishing and excellent Brewdog’s and DeMolen’s ones are not so great than the Thomas Hardy’s Ale! I’ve only one 1999 bottle left and live only for the day I will drink a Thomas Hardy again 🙂

     

    Andrew says:
    March 9, 2014 at 10:57 pm
    I have been nursing a set of bottles of the 1994 and 1995 vintages. Today I opened one of the 1994s and find it an extraordinary experience. I would not describe it as sherry- or even port-like. It’s like one of those dark chocolates filled with liquid toffee, infusing my entire head with its flavor. I am so fortunate to have held on to these. Why, I must have been gifted with great foresight! I can only hope I’ve retained as much perspicacity as this ale has retained virtue.

     

    Glen says:
    August 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm
    What great news, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is my most favourite of all time. Do not rush, it will last years, when you finally open it, slowly pour into a jug in one slow pour avoiding the sediment, then leave it to stand for an hour or two before pouring into glass, it will improve the flavour.
    Last year 2013 I had my oldest bottle 1988, it had a slight ‘cellar must’ initially but drunk the afore mentioned way was fine.

  • How to enjoy a Thomas Hardy’s Ale

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    STORAGE

    Thomas Hardy’s Ale gets better with time.

    By interpreting the original recipes of the pioneer Barley Wines of the English aristocratic cellars at the end of the 18th century, the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle gives the Ale a fine condition as it matures. The loss of sugars results in a dryness of taste, just as with a red wine. The back label of Thomas Hardy’s Ale makes clear its potential to be laid down like a fine wine.

    The balance between sweetness and dryness is clearly each beer drinker’s choice. One may find it at five years, another at 12, and yet another at 25 or more. Some people who had the opportunity to try it say that it reaches the best aroma and taste after 25 years of maturation in bottle.

    Most vintages of Thomas Hardy’s Ale are sealed with crown corks. Keep bottles with crown corks in an upright position to minimize the liquid surface area exposed to infiltration of air. If one is fortunate enough to have an extremely rare vintage with a driven cork, these bottles should be laid on their side to keep the cork moist as with a fine wine.

    Store bottles in cellar at 13°C / 55°F, away from light, for at least 12 months.

     

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    TASTING

    Before drinking, stand the bottle for 24 hours to allow natural yeast sediment to settle. The suggested serving temperature is from 13°C to 18°C / 55°F to 64°F.

    Pour the Ale in a broad balloon glass and wait some minutes to allow its settling before drinking. In the meantime, you can take delight by the deep amber color with dark golden highlights and by the succession of aromas.

     

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    COMBINATIONS

    Thomas Hardy’s Ale is a versatile brew that can be enjoyed with meals ranging from red meat to pasta, and is equally enjoyable at home with after dinner cheese or sweets. It’s in grand harmony with hearty stews and soups, and perfect with plum pudding or fruitcake, especially when young.

    Pairings with blue cheese, dark chocolate or, why not, a good Cuban cigar are highly recommended. It’s a relaxing “nightcap” and a warming friend in winter. In short, the time to enjoy it is limited only by one’s imagination.

    Thanks to its complexity in flavor and fragrance, in our opinion Thomas Hardy’s Ale is best enjoyed by itself.

     

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    VINTAGES

    Sampling each vintage year after year gives the joy to compare the changing subtleties of taste.

    What’s more, just as with wine, no one is quite sure what happens inside the bottle.

     

    Differences may exist from brew to brew, and even bottle to bottle.

  • One beer, two styles?

    A barley wine, or an old ale? This is not as pedantic a question as it may appear. Thomas Hardy’s Ale is such an important beer that it can actually be classified in two different categories.

    If the barley wine definition is perhaps the more common and widely-acknowledged, quite a few English experts put this beer in the old ale class. Foremost among these is celebrated beer writer Michael Jackson.

    The distinction is one for the specialists, because the two categories do in fact have many points in common: neither, for example, could be described as a “mass” beer; moreover, both are characterised by a fairly high alcohol content, higher in barley wine than in old ale, and both have a pronounced malty flavour.

    Both types, again, are of British origin and both have long histories. In fact, although the first recorded mention of barley wine dates to the early 20th century, we know for certain that this type of beer had already been produced in Great Britain for centuries. Old ales have an equally long story.

    Both types, finally, are beers which develop and mature for years in the bottle, and so they can be aged in the cellar after purchase. This is why, with a beer like Thomas Hardy’s Ale, we can enjoy amazing “vertical” tasting of various vintages, discovering the differences in the beer’s flavour and aroma in each individual year.

    A feature which has added to the reputation of the beers in question: buying barley wine or old ale is seen as an investment whose only reward is pleasure. On your own or shared with friends.

    On condition, of course, that they know how to appreciate a Thomas Hardy’s Ale.

  • The historic vintages

    When talking of a beer so extraordinary as Thomas Hardy’s Ale the reference to memorable vintages is never an exaggeration. Each vintage, every year if you prefer, is actually characterised by different shades. In addition, the fascinating “miracle” of ageing in the cellar allows to enjoy, as long as you succeed in leaving a Thomas Hardy’s “helpless” for long, the evolution of the aromas and taste that gradually becomes more complex, structured, deep.
    However, authoritative experts have identified, in a number of occasions, some really legendary vintages, the result of exclusive and much envied tastings. If you happen to have any bottle of these legendary vintages in your cellar, well, be aware that you are guarding a treasure. And if you happen to taste an “old” bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale … well, please share with us your feelings. We would love it!

    1993
    The silver anniversary year, that is twenty-five years from first production, a beer not impossible to find and even at the peak of its potential. Deep amber coloured, with complex and structured aromas that reveal the sweet notes of fruit, almonds and caramel. The palate again reveals sweet notes of caramel that, combined with toasted hints, give rise to an alcoholic accent that is at the same time warm, pleasant and persistent.

    1990
    A beer that seems to improve from year to year, according to those who had the good fortune to taste it several times and on different occasions over time. It results darker than that dated 1993, with a greater aromatic complexity that even includes spicy notes. The nose offers hints of smoke, vanilla, apple and cinnamon. The palate is well balanced, rich in malt sweetness but not cloying. The finish leaves aromatic hints of coffee, roasted malt and creamy toffee.

    1987
    Despite the many years passed, the taste of the vintage 1987 revealed a beer still extremely enjoyable. The amber colour turns to brown, the bouquet offers notes reminiscent of brandy, chocolate and caramel impressions, hints of dried flowers. The palate is simply sumptuous and complex with clear notes of figs and dates, up to a soft finish that leaves flavours of chocolate and caramel.

    1968
    The first vintage ever of Thomas Hardy’s is a kind of Holy Grail. Idealized and highly sought after. Those who have had the good fortune to taste it report, with understandable emotion, notes of crème brûlée, an articulated fruity flavour ranging from nuances of apples, apricots and currants, the vinous finish hint reminiscent of a good quality Port. The first sip is able to amaze with its silkiness, as well as with the warm notes of toffee, apricot liqueur and, again, Porto. A beer yet elegant, complex but balanced and able to ensure a truly memorable taste experience.

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