Thomas Hardy’s Ale | Vintage 2016
I remember being forced to read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities in high school. To explain the tome’s epic verbosity, I subscribe to the myth that Charlie was paid by the word and have been permanently scarred by the experience. I mention Dickens because he would likely have been an inspiration to the British poet for whom this beer is named – Thomas Hardy. Hardy was a writer of world-renown but unfortunately, thanks to his compatriot’s writing style, there’s zero chance of me putting down Stephen King to pick up Jude the Obscure anytime soon. His namesake brew however, Thomas Hardy’s Ale, that’s a different story.
I’ve been dipping my proverbial toe into the barley wine pool of late. In the past, I found them too richly sweet for my palate. But taste buds change, they say, or put another way – I ain’t 21 no more. Mr. Hardy’s version is a home run in the taste bud department. The beer pours with a thin head and deep ruby color. A deep waft reveals honey and ripe peaches in syrup. Its heavy body and low carbonation give way to flavors of plums and pudding. I daresay figgy pudding (if I had a clue as to what it tasted like). But given the 16th century English origin, it seems apropos. I’m sure this would be frowned upon by a Victorian gentleman such as Thomas Hardy, but a scoop of vanilla ice cream floating atop this brew would be DELIGHTFUL.
This brewery has an interesting history. Originally opened in 1968 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the writer’s death, they brewed a second vintage in 1974 until their first closing near the turn of the second millennium. The ale returned for a five year stretch starting in 2003 but the brewery had to close once more. Over the last five years, a new crew has come on the scene and is doing an admirable job of reviving the brand – as judged by the quality of the glass I enjoyed. These beers are numbered and dated to allow for years or even decades of aging. I’ll be giving this aging process a shot, though not without actually consuming another bottle or three.