Somewhere around fall of 2004 I purchased a bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale vintage 2004 from Swedish Systembolaget. It was an amazing experience to drink, and the text on the bottle that spoke of bottles having matured, developed and kept well for over 25 years inspired and intrigued me.
Come fall 2005 I ordered 25 bottles of the 2005 vintage of Thomas Hardy’s Ale, with a plan to drink one bottle every year for 25 years. Also my plan included to purchase one bottle per year of the vintage release to compare it with, and every five years buy one extra to store for 2031 when sampling the last of my 2005 bottles.
Now this didn't work out as planned, O’Hanlon’s brewery stopped brewing the beer with 2008 as the last vintage, but at least I still am on track with my 25 year plan for the 2005 bottles!
Every year since 2006 I've taken detailed notes of what I find when sensory evaluating the beer or beers tried, I strive to do this around May or June each year to get some sort of schedule for when to do this.
I've kept all my notes, as well as entering them all to ratebeer. I hadn't started to review beers in 2004 though, so that very first sample of the 2004 vintage lives only in my memory of greatness in the past.
Today when about to enter my latest notes I reached the maximum character limit allowed for rating one beer on ratebeer, alas I can not continue to use that site for my yearly notes, so I'll make an attempt to keep them here as well as on paper. Who knows, it might even be of interest to someone else reading my notes from this experience?
Some friends have been generous enough to come by with other vintages from time to time, some of these I have rerated as well. I also purchased 10 extra bottles a few years ago when released as a vintage small release from an importer to Systembolaget, hence I get to drink the beer a little bit more than “just” my yearly one. I have not taken notes of all of these occasions though.
Below follows my ratings as copied from ratebeer, then also this year's notes as well as a 2006 vintage I discovered in my fridge and shared with Alex when I thought I brought one of my extra 2005 vintages.
The numbers might seem confusing to a non ratebeer member. The first is for Aroma (Ar) on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest/best. The second is for Appearance (Ap) on a scale from 1 to 5. The middle is for Taste (Ta), again 1 to 10. The second to last is for Palate with a range of 1 to 5. The last is for Overall (Ov) on a scale from 1 to 20. Add those numbers up and divide by 10 and you get the rating score from 0.5 as the worst possible beer to 5.0 as the best possible beer.
On ratebeer I generally rate as per personal preference, how I like and perceive the beer, I do not factor in style in these personal ratings.
So, as per my ratings and other notes up to August 23, 2014 -
2005 bottle 04482.
Tried on May 28, 2006
250 ml bottle, 11.7% ABV.
Fairly normal CO2 level.
When poured it builds a big beige head.
Clear mid brown to red brown color.
Almost a bit like wine in the scent, a touch of Belgian ale in the scent as well, but not much. Alcohol to some extent, also dried fruit and some burnt character.
The head falls back into a finger thick creamy foam.
Extremely thick body, it fills the entire mouth and leaves a lean oily feeling in the aftertaste.
Very sweet taste like of syrup, not much bitterness, also some raisin flavor.
When the beer reach room temperature and goes a bit flat towards the end of the glass the beer has so much taste that my eyes almost gets filled with tears.
2004 number 00380, from bottle.
Almost no CO2 left, but amazing and fantastic flavours. Nice dark color to it.
Ar: 8 Ap: 4 Fl: 9 Pa: 4 Ov: 16 = 4.1
Tried at Bishops Arms, Västra Hamngatan, Gothenburg on August 25, 2006.
Clear light brown color, no head. Very sweet scent of raisin Extreme sweet taste of raisin and a bit alcohol. Very smooth mouth feel.
Ar 8, Ap 3, Fl 8, Pa 4, Ov 12 = 3.5
On May 26, 2007 I compared vintage 2005 to vintage 2006, both from 250 ml bottles and marked 11.7% ABV.
Vintage 2005, bottle no 0457.
Clear red color, small tan head. Sweet, raisin and alcohol mixed with fudge scent. Some chocolate and grains as well. Taste is sweet and grains mixed with sirup. Also raisins and alcohol, with some spices like clove. A touch of smoke as well. Harsh bitterness. Smooth mouthfeel, huge sediment.
Vintage 2006, bottle no 12215.
Shady brown color, small white to tan head. Alcohol, sweet scent with some grains. Taste is sweet and alcohol. Smooth mouthfeel, medium bitterness.
On May 10, 2008. Sampled vintage 2005, against 2006, against 2 different 2007 bottled stored in different temperatures.
Edition 2005, black cap. Bottle no 04552.
Clear cranberry red color, white head. Turns light particle with sediment added. Raisins, prunes, roasted, chocolate, malty scent, really nice! Raisin, sweet, sugary, malty, chocolate taste. Warming alcohol. Smooth round mouthfeel, medium bitterness. It’s like a very nice dessert.
Edition 2006, golden cap with text. Bottle no 11781.
A bit shady copper reddish color, white head. Goes murky dark brown with sediment. Malty, sticky, alcohol, grainy scent. Big smooth, sweet and phenolic taste. Round, raisin, malty with a quite warming alcohol sensation. Smooth mouthfeel, medium bitterness.
Edition 2007, blue cap. Bottle no 41979.
Stored last 6 months in room temp.
Murky shady orange color, cream colored head. A bit more grey and dark compared to the one stored in a fridge. Cellar, heavy, alcohol, roasted, acidic scent. Round, roasted, bitter, malty taste. Warming alcohol, dry finish. Smooth mouthfeel, medium long bitterness.
Edition 2007, blue cap. Bottle no 41984.
Stored last 6 months in a fridge.
Same as above except for added notes. Alcohol, sweet, acidic, malty, lactic, raisin scent. Alcohol, malty, spicy, wood, raisin, licorice, coffee taste. Warming alcohol, dry papery aftertaste. Smooth a bit spritzy mouthfeel, somewhat hard and edgy bitterness.
On May 5, 2009 I tried vintage 2005 against vintage 2008. Both in 250 ml bottle, both marked at 11.7% ABV.
2005 vintage, no 04563.
Black cap, has a medal on the bottle.
Clear reddish brown color, smallish tan head. Chocolate, roasted, sweet, raisin, vinous, lactic, alcohol scent. Sweet, raisin, madeira, malty taste. Raisin aftertaste, sweet and tasty. Smooth mouthfeel, medium bitterness.
Vintage 2008, bottle no 35247.
BB 31/12/1016. Black cap, no medal on the bottle.
Hazy reddish copper color, very small tan head. Alcohol, malty, milky, sweet, spicy scent; also solvents and some citrus. Very salty, wooden, alcohol, licorice taste. Smooth mouthfeel, a bit acidic and mouth puckering. Medium bitterness.
On June 1, 2010, I sampled vintage 2005 against 2007 against a 2008 that had been stored in room temperature a while. All were from 250 ml bottles marked 11.7% ABV.
Vintage 2005, bottle no 04561.
Black cap, medal on bottle.
Clear dark red color, smallish tan head. Sweet, sugary, plums, raisins, alcohol, vinous, some solvents and a bit of resin scent. Full, sweet, bitter, sirup like, raisin taste. Roasted, burnt pop-corn aftertaste. Warming alcohol. Full, smooth, thick mouthfeel. Low bitterness, or rather masked by the very high sweetness.
Vintage 2007, bottle no 41986.
Thanks to Micke (non ratebeer)!
Hazy light brown color, medium sized cream colored head. Sweet, smooth, fresh scent. Some alcohol and solvents. Somewhat harsh, bitter, a bit sweet taste. Alcohol and solvents aftertaste, then turns sweet and spicy. Some warming alcohol. Smooth mouthfeel, medium bitterness.
Vintage 2008, bottle no 35071.
Black cap, no medal. Bottle thanks to deft!
A bit shady, brownish color with hints of red, lighter color than the 2005 vintage. Rather small tan head. Bitter, solvents, alcohol scent, some dried fruits. Alcohol, solvents, bitter taste. Some sweetness, a bit sugary. Also a bit of salty licorice. Light burnt aftertaste. Warmin alcohol. Smooth mouthfeel. Medium bitterness. After bitterness more dry and pronounced.
On May 28, 2011 I sampled vintage 2005 against vintage 2008, both in 250 ml bottles marked 11.7% ABV.
Vintage 2005, bottle no 04569.
Clear dark brown color with red streaks, small tan head. Milky, acidic, smooth, alcohol, vinous, grainy, raisin scent. Smooth, salty, soy sauce, raisins, alcohol, some ash taste. Oily, raisin, salty aftertaste. Full, smooth, velvet mouthfeel. Warming alcohol. Medium bitterness.
Vintage 2008, bottle no 33859.
Thanks to Micke (non ratebeer)! BB date 31/12/2016.
Hazy reddish brown color, very small bubble tan head. Harsh, resin, alcohol, wood scent. Salty, alcohol, vinous, red wine, wood taste. Full smooth mouthfeel, medium high bitterness. Salty aftertaste. Warming alcohol.
2006 vintage thanks to thomat, bottle No 11807
250 ml bottle sampled on January 13, 2012
Clear reddish brown color, very small head. Sweet, malty, alcohol, raisin scent. sweet, harsh, resin, bitter taste. Warming alcohol. Smooth mouthfeel, harsh high bitterness. A bit salty taste, minerals.
Had 2006 vintage quite a few times, this year was one of worst for my taste, as 2004 and especially 2005 were great.
2005 vintage, bottle no 04548.
250 ml bottle marked 11.7% vol. Sampled on May 6, 2012.
Clear deep dark red color, small tan head, looks amazing. Sweet, malty, raisins, vinous, sugary, sirup, some alcohol scent. Sweet,malty, fudge, raisins, grainy, superb taste. Grainy, fudge, sweet aftertaste. Smooth mouthfeel, sort of salty, medium high bitterness. Very close to perfect to me! Warming glowing feeling from the alcohol. Thick yeast cake in the bottom. Got some cream, dark fruits, fruit cake, lingering molasses. It keeps very well for the age. Drinks very well, so complex and nice. Puts me in a poetic romantic mood, this if for sure a beer to share with the one you love. I’m sort of biased this year for the tasting I feel. A little bit too salty in the taste, some burnt notes too.
Deducted one from taste in the end, 9 instead of 10.
Rerate - 8th annual tasting of my 25 year quest
2005 vintage, bottle no 04549.
250 ml bottle marked 11.7% vol. Black cap and medal around the bottle neck.
Sampled on May 11, 2013.
Pours clear dark reddish brown color, displays a tan bubbly head.
Scent comes out lovely and intense, leads out with raisins, dried prunes, malty, sweet, sugar, molasses, fruit cake, alcohol, dark chocolate, port wine, madeira, then after a while also comes a note of wet tobacco as well. Lovely lovely stuff, can smell this forever.
Taste then is powerful and intense as well, it is sweet, smooth, tobacco, sugary, muscovado, raisins in cognac, port wine, fresh raisins, it just won’t stop, beautiful, intense and lovely, also very complex.
Tobacco and raisin aftertaste.
Warming alcohol, but in a glowing good way.
Big, smooth, velvet like mouthfeel.
Medium low bitterness.
My first comment on the beer to my mate after some sighs was "why don’t they make this beer any more?".
2005 is one of the best vintages I’ve had from this beer, and I feel lucky this is the vintage I chose for my 25 years of "try one per year" journey.
This rerate is my second 5.0 beer so far after more than 7 years on ratebeer to this date.
Lovely and awesome, I am in awe as to how this beer has developed until now. I can’t see how the beer will improve even more to my taste, and the coming yearly event for the next 17 years will be interesting indeed.
Rerate - 9th annual tasting of my 25 year quest
2005 vintage, bottle no 04550.
250 ml bottle marked 11.7% vol. Black cap, gold foil and medal around the bottle neck.
Sampled on May 03, 2014.
Clear dark deep ruby red color, fairly small teal to tan head. Decent fizz/hizz when the bottle was opened, so still CO2 hanging in there. Sweet, sugary, alcohol, raisins in Cognac, Romerska Bågar (chocolate mixed with oranges), dark chocolate, plums, figs, fruit cake, cocoa, fresh, inviting, intoxicating scent. Sweet, raisins, sugary, malty, plums, dates, figs, raisins in Cognac or some sort of alcohol, dessert, sugary, delight, perfection taste. Warm, full, smooth, rich, velvet like mouthfeel. Warming, sweet, raisins, malty, light sugary aftertaste. Medium to low bitterness.
This vintage age very, very well! I love my life this second, listening to Amon Amarth, have just brewed a beer, enjoying my yearly Thomas Hardy's 2005, perfection.
2006 vintage found in my fridge, 250 ml bottle at 11.7%. No. 12188.
Clear, dark reddish brown color, no head. Small hizz when opened. Oily inside of the glass, no real legs. Sweet, chocolate, alcohol, romerska bågar/orange flavored chocolate scent. Also raisins and grainy. Sweet, ash, malty, alcohol, spicy, toasty taste. Salty, ash, mineral aftertaste. Rather dry harsh bitterness. Fairly smooth mouthfeel.
Once again the 2006 vintage proves to not be that much to my liking and strikingly different from the 2005 vintage.
Already looking forward to May/June of 2015!