Ciao, Tomaso! Legendary English strong beer is on the way back...from Italy
Added: Tuesday, February 19th 2013
The legendary Thomas Hardy's Ale continues its journey towards production. The brand, acquired by the Vecchiato brothers' Brew Invest, is finally online, with the new website www.thomashardysale.com.
Little by little Thomas Hardy's Ale is coming back to life, thanks to the decision of brothers Sandro and Michele Vecchiato, owners of brewery Brew Invest, to buy the brand and the recipes for this historic barley wine.
The brew quickly became a true legend among real ale fans when it was first produced by brewers Eldridge Pope in 1968 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Thomas Hardy. In his well-known story "The Trumpet Major", the English writer tells of a Dorchester strong beer, describing it as "of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire....luminous as an autumn sunset".
This is a truly special beer, high in alcohol, voluptuous and full-bodied with lasting flavours, but also and especially, one which improves with age, and can be kept up to 25 years. Brewed only once a year and left to mature in oak casks, the ale is bottled and labelled according to vintage.
But high costs, combined with the limited quantities produced, forced first Eldridge Pope and subsequently O’Hanlon to abandon production.
Today Brew Invest, strengthened by 30 years' experience of brewing real ales, have thrown themselves headlong into the re-launch of Thomas Hardy's Ale.
The march towards production proceeds apace, and the brewers are currently looking into the optimum location for this special product.
Meanwhile the new website is online and can be found at www.thomashardysale.com, where it will tell the story of Thomas Hardy's Ale and give regular updates of the work in progress to renew production of this historic English barley wine.
In the form of a blog, it will recount the most interesting aspects and important moments in the process of bringing Thomas Hardy's Ale back to life, from the beginning to future projects.
A site not to be missed by all true beer-lovers, and a useful interactive communication tool between Brew Invest and the site's users, with the common dream of allowing future generations the pleasure of drinking a Thomas Hardy's Ale.
Editorial note: Sarah Eldridge started a brewery in Dorchester in the 1830s and was joined in 1870 by Alfred and Edwin Pope. Thomas Hardy's Ale was first brewed in 1968 for a literary festival in honour of Thomas Hardy who had lived in Dorchester and had prasied the ales of "Casterbridge" in his Wessex novels. In 1999 Eldridge Pope said it was brewing the final batch of Thomas Hardy's Ale and followed this by a decision to stop brewing all its beers.
Some of the brands were bought by John O'Hanlon at his brewery in Whimple in Devon. He added Thomas Hardy's Ale when the American company Pheonix Imports said it was keen to sell the beer in the U.S. But O'Hanlon stopped production on the grounds that the small runs of the beer, with long fermentation and conditioning followed by hand-bottling and labelling, was holding up his other beers.
At Eldridge Pope, the 12% beer was brewed only with pale malt: its colour came from caramelisation of the brewing sugars during a long boil with hops in the copper. The hops were East Kent Goldings and Worcestershire Fuggles. By the time it was brewed at O'Hanlon's, the recipe changed and the beer was made with pale and crystal malts and hopped with Challenger, Northdown,and Styrian Goldings. It had 75 units of bitterness. Primary fermentation lasted for two and a half weeks and maturation and conditioning for a further three months, followed by a month of cold conditioning to allow the yeast to settle. The beer was then released with the recommendation that it should be aged for a further nine months. While the Italians call the beer a barley wine, it was considered in Britain to be an old ale.