The Beer: Thomas Hardy's Ale
The Brewery: O'Hanlons of Whimple, Devon, England
English Barley Wine
ABV: 11.7%Brewer's Description: Scarce, subtle and complex, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is the beer enthusiast’s equivalent of rare cognac. Bottle-conditioned to mature in the bottle like fine wine, this old ale/barley wine will improve with age for at least 26 years (and we’re still counting!). Not for the faint of palate, especially when young and brash, maturity brings an elegance of flavors unmatched by any other beer—if you have the patience to cellar it for at least a decade.
Color: Pours a rusty brown with almost no head.
Aroma: Some fruit: tangerines, currants. Spices are present as well: cinnamon notes and a touch of anise.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Very big, thick sweet malts. Some earthy spices are present. Woody and earthy hops balance out the sweetness of the malt beautifully.
Finish: Very coarse and bitter finish. Notes of toasted oak as well. Dry, woody lingering bitterness on the palate.
Notes: English barley wines tend to have less hop emphasis compared to their American brethren. They tend to use less finishing hops and and are usually not dry-hopped. Additionally English hop varieties are used rather than American Pac NW strains. This results in ales that have more emphasis on earthy, woody, and fruity tones rather than the bold citrus notes common in American versions.
Very interesting bottle donning an ornamental medallion. This was an enjoyable beer. The sweetness was strong, but not cloying. The alcohol made an appearance, but it didn't stay too long. For a beer that starts so sweet, the finish is surprisingly dry.