Thomas Hardy's Ale dead?

Brewery ceases production; importer tries to save classic beer

July 5, 2000 - Thomas Hardy's Ale, one of the most sought after strong ales around, may be history.


Phoenix Imports of Ellicott City, Md., which imports the beer, recently learned that the Thomas Hardy Brewery of Dorchester, England, ceased production of all Eldridge Pope brands.

Pope began producing the beer in 1968, and it soon became a cult classic. It was first made at the request of the Thomas Hardy Society to mark the 40th anniversary of the author's death, and for years was the strongest regularly brewed beer in the world.

Each vintage was blended from as many as six different brews and underwent three fermentations.

In 1997, Eldridge Pope & Co. sold the Thomas Hardy Brewery to focus on its pubs and wine imports. In buying the brewery, former Courage Brewing production director Peter Ward said that his prime target was to "acquire business from national brewers looking for spare capacity to cope with peak demand and smaller run length brands..."

Hardy's was one of the small run brands. When Phoenix placed its order for the 2000 vintage, company president George Saxon was told that "because of major changes which have taken place within the Eldridge Pope Management team, Thomas Hardy (Brewery) has ceased production of their major brands. Therefore, Hardy's Ale is no longer available."

Phoenix has initiated talks with Eldridge Pope, which retains ownership of the brand, about finding another brewer to produce the beer. Pope has indicated interest but while talks continue it is obvious there will not be time to brew a 2000 vintage.

"It's rather ironic that The Thomas Hardy Brewery will not longer produce Thomas Hardy's Ale," Saxon said, "but I can assure all Hardy's fans that we are making every effort to save this product from the dustbin of classic English beers."

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