Thomas Hardy’s Ale, considered by some to be among the world’s greatest beers and not brewed since 2008 may return to production.
Established in 1968 by the now-shuttered Eldridge Pope Brewery in Dorchester, the brand and its recipe now are in the hands of Brew Invest Spa, an Italian holding company owned brothers Sandro and Michele Vecchiato, who have various beer import, export and distribution interests.
Thomas Hardy’s was created by Eldridge Pope to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of writer Thomas Hardy, author of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and other important novels. In his “The Trumpet Major,” Hardy wrote of a strong Dorchester beer, defining it as ““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.”
Roger Prost, a dean among British beer writers, described it in a 2004 column as among the “30 English Ales You Must Have Before You Die.”
High in alcohol and full-bodied with lingering flavors, Thomas Hardy’s Ale proved that could improve with age and be kept for up to 25 years. Brewed only once a year and left to mature in oak casks, the ale was bottled in individually numbered bottles with gold foil tops and labeled according to vintage.
Eldridge Pope continued production of the brew until 1999, when the company got out of the brewing business. Subsequently, American importer George Saxon, of Phoenix Imports, bought the brand and licensed production to the UK’s O’Hanlon Brewing, of Devon. O’Hanlon, citing time and costs, stopped production in 2008. Brew Invest acquired the brand earlier this year. Saxon, who also created the Belgian beer brand Corsendonk, sold that brand in 2010 to St. Killian Importing.
Brew Invest recently launched a new Thomas Hardy’s web site, but apparently hasn’t found a brewery to make the beer. According to the web site: “The march towards production proceeds apace, and the brewers are currently looking into the optimum location for this special product.”
Matteo Zamboni of Brew Invest said in an email, “We are close to find [sic] the English brewery for producing Thomas Hardy’s again in the UK.” As for a U.S. distributor, he added, “We are looking for the world’s best importgers, but nothing is yet official.”