Thomas Hardy lives
Famous vintage beer expected to return to America in July
Feb 17, 2003 - Thomas Hardy's Ale, arguably the world's most famous vintage beer, has risen from the ashes and will be brought back to the United States, appropriately enough, by Phoenix Imports.
"We were devastated, as were legions of Hardy's fans, when the brewery ceased production of this one-of-a-kind beer in 1999" said George Saxon, President of Phoenix Imports. "After much discussion with Eldridge Pope on options to resurrect the brand, we reached an agreement with them last September to purchase it, along with Royal Oak Pale Ale and Thomas Hardy Country Bitter."
Saxon began working on plans to save the beer shortly after the Thomas Hardy Brewery, formerly Eldridge Pope & Co., discontinued production. The brewery's origins date back to the 1830s and it was run by the Pope family for more than 100 years before they sold it to focus on their growing pub chain.
The former Pope beers will be brewed by O'Hanlon's Brewing Co. in Devon, not far from Dorchester (home of both Hardy and the former Pope Brewery) in the south of England.
Reintroduction plans for Phoenix's brands have not yet been finalized for all countries, but Hardy's will be the first to return to the U.S., probably in August. Royal Oak and Thomas Hardy Country Bitter will follow. Initial brews of Hardy's are underway at O'Hanlon's, true to the original recipe and ingredients.
"Fortunately, finding a top-notch brewer to brew the beers for us proved much easier than purchasing the brands," Saxon said. Coincidentally, we had just signed an agreement to import three award-winning, bottle conditioned beers from O'Hanlon's."
Packaging will vary by country, but plans for America are focused on a 25cl (8.5 oz.) bottles. Labeling will hark back to the traditional style originally introduced to America by Phoenix in 1986, updated for the 21st century.
Hardy's Ale was first brewed in 1968 at the request of the Thomas Hardy Society to mark the 40th anniversary of the author's death. Each vintage was blended from as many as six different brews and underwent three fermentations. Collector's have been known to pay outrageous amounts for bottles from the 1960s and in the hundreds of dollars for those from the 1980s.
The O'Hanlon's beers are expected to be available to U.S. drinkers in the spring. They are Original Ruby Stout, Double Champion Wheat Beer and Original Rye Beer.
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