A word of warning: this version is not identical to the full production one. Hardy Ale was initially brewed as a one-off to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Thomas Hardy's death. When it went into regular production, the recipe was changed. Most notably the gravity was increased from 1110º to 1125º.
The initial brew looks very much like a tweaked version of Eldridge Pope's Barley Wine, Goldie. But with the gravity bumped up a fair bit, from 1085º to 1110º.
This is how the brewery described the beer in their in-house magazine:
"HARDY ALEA quid a pint was a lot of money in 1968. Usefully, the Whitbread Gravity Book tells me that Eldridge Pope's Mild (OG 1030º) was 1s 6d that year. Their IPA (OG 1041.5º) was 2s. So a single pint bottle of Hardy Ale was the same price as 10 pints of Best Bitter. Or effing expensive.
'An ample barrel of Dorchester "Strong beer" . . . It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a tang; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine . . '
Thus wrote Thomas Hardy of Dorchester beer in The Trumpet Major 80 years ago. What then could be more appropriate than that the brewery in the year of the Thomas Hardy Festival, which is to be held in Dorchester from 7th-20th July, should commemorate Dorset's great novelist and poet by brewing a beer to fulfil the conditions quoted above and name it 'Hardy Ale'.
The beer was brewed in November 1967 and was racked on the 28th of that month under the spotlights and cameras of both the B.B.C. and I.T.V. with the Mayor of Dorchester, Mr. W.H. Christopher, filling the first barrel.
The beer, which is almost as high a gravity as it is possible to ferment was brewed from malt made with the best Dorset barley with only the choicest Kent and Worcester hops being used.
The entire brew was racked into wooden barrels, which are rolled daily in the cellar, and extra yeast has been added to ensure a further two or three fermentations, while it matures in the wood for some six months.
It will be bottled by hand into old fashioned cork mouthed bottles, corked and sealed with wax.
The beer will continue to mature in bottle and will probably not reach its best for another three years, but it should stand up for at least 25 years.
In character it will have the flavour of a bitter beer but it will be of the fullness and strength of a fortified wine or as Thomas Hardy put it 'finally rather heady'.
Hardy Ale in the old fashioned corked bottles will be available on quota or to specific orders only at £1 a bottle for pints or 10s. a bottle for half-pints.
Crown corked nips decorated with silver foil will be available for normal bar sales as 5s a nip or £3 a dozen."
The Huntsman, Spring 1968, page 18.
A couple of details of the brewing are left out. Like the Styrian Golding hops. And the fact that it was parti-gyled with BPA and BAK. That's right, it was parti-gyled with AK. How sweet is that? In a way that confirms the brewery's claim that it was like a super-strong Bitter. Is parti-gyling why Eldridge Pope could afford to brew Hardy Ale but O'Hanlon's couldn't? It's definitely a more economical way to brew very strong beers.
It's interesting that it was given a secondary fermentation in wood. I thought no-one had ever thought to age beer in wooden barrels before innovative US craft brewers came up with the idea a decade or two ago.
Time to pass you over to Kristen . . . . .
If you know anything about beer, you should know that you should make this…
Malt: ELP like to use a combination of pale malts. Sticking with a single one here wouldn’t hurt. Maris or Optic. Something nice and tasty. The lager malt is specified as particularly English so if you can’t find it, give some continental a try. Just stay away from pilsner specific malt. The flaked wheat is listed for your benefit. They actually used wheat flour…so pick your poison. I’ve not seen a difference other than massively easier to use the flaked stuff.
Hops: Tons of different hops here but the base were Goldings. The end they had some Hallertauer and some Styrian Goldings. Feel free to blend them or use one or the other. I wanted to keep away from the ‘orange’ of the Styrians so when with the Halls.
Yeast: Same for the other ELP beers. If you want to use the Eldridge Pope/Hardy’s yeast, use the WLP099 Super High Gravity. This is one that the high gravity can really help. This is a beast of a beer that finishes pretty damn sweet even though its still over 8%ABV! Please note the fermentation temp…this baby got over 76 degrees as she was finishing up!
Did I say make this beer? Yeah, you should do that…