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…
Ferment at 73...Finish at 1.047 ...wow!
that's cool. The 1981 version got up to 85º F.
So save the sugar for a second wort?
Certainly in the early 80's I recall the bottlings as very estery, sherry-like without any oxidative notes in fact. In about 1983 I was given almost a full case by a pub which insisted the beer had gone bad and said they would be happy to have someone take them off their hands. (There was little understanding of this style of beer in North America at the time).
The methods described in '68 sound most traditional. I've had lots of cask-aged beer and lots bottle-conditioned, but I'd guess combining the two processes as was traditional for IPA and some other season brews is less common and some kind of unique character surely results.
it wasn't cask conditioning the beer underwent, but something more akin to vatting.
Kristen, do you have any tips on using Nottingham yeast? Any beer I've made with it finishes extremely dry with very little yeast character. How do you get low attenuation without it being an acetaldehyde bomb? How do you get it to taste interesting in a small beer?
Ron is correct. I've sent the changes to him. Thats what I get for trying to do 'work' during the kids swim classes...
I definitely plan to brew this!
As I mentioned on my Facebook page earlier, most likely it will be my annual strong beer that I brew each Thanksgiving for the one to follow.
I visited the brewery in the mid 80s and they talked about making this beer on the old 100 bbl copper brewhouse and boiling it for many hours to get the required strength.
I think the biggest problem with Nottingham is over pitching. It does such a great job that it chews pretty much everything up. Underpitch by about 1/2 for low gravity beers I've found works excellent. I've never gotten acetaldehyde from Nottingham.
How drinkable was it straight away? Because my experience with the later EP bottled version in the 1970s/1980s was that it was pretty undrinkable under a year old ...
ELP? Emerson, Lake & Palmer? I didn't know they brewed. (har har)
Kinda like JW Lees Harvest ale...needs some definite time. I had lab analysis done on the Thomas Hardy ale from 2000. As such:
Still pretty damn sweet once in the bottle!
On Martyn's observation, the case I had was either 1980 or 1981 because I remember the vintage was not 1970's, it was early 80's. They were very intensely estery, almost a solvent-like smell and taste but very drinkable I thought. I kept them for a few years only and during that time at any rate they always tasted the same.
How is the stability of beers when you cut the attenuation short? I had a mild that I crash cooled at FG, kegged but 2 weeks later I had to clean out the fridge and it sat warm for a few days and continued fermenting the last few pts. I'd be scared to bottle something like this.
And on the subject of poor attenuation, did brewers intentionally aim for the high FGs seen in a lot of these old recipes? What has changed that improved attenuation? Is it a function of modern malts or the evolution of yeast strains?
At what point is the final gravity from? Around the time it was racked to barrels or when it was bottled?
A subject close to my heart as the webmaster of the thomashardysale.org.uk website. The original 1968 dated brew is very different to the later versions. It is paler in colour and has more condition than later brews. The best analogy is it has sherry qualities while the standard brews are more port-like. The 1987 Anniversary edition was also oak aged. I've got plenty of those left. Not long after that a decision was made to change the brew specification to bring about a cleaner and simpler taste. i.e not as distinctive.
I can see that high fermentation temps would lead to a pretty estery and possibly phenolic beer early on, less than 6 months, so that makes sense Ron and Gary. I am thrilled by this recipe, because I was born in 1967 thanks Ron and Kristen ! I promise to brew this up soon and will send you a couple of bottles Ron !, although I tend to procrastinate on sending bottles in the mail, I have a horrible sense of urgency when it comes to beer !
that's the gravity when it was racked into barrels on 28th Noveember 1967.
Good, that means I can lower my eyebrows now.
Hello Ron, Kristen,
If I was going to brew something with the second runnings from this, what are the stats of the BAK and BPA? (gravity, hopping levels). I didn't see a table with the 1967 details.
I'm not quite sure I understand the use of flaked/wheat flour in this recipe. Unmalted wheat is used in lower gravity beers to boost body, what's the use in such a big beer?
on white Labs website, about WLP099 they say:
With low gravity beers, this yeast produces a nice, subtle English ale-like ester profile. As the gravity increases, some phenolic character is evident, followed by the winey-ness of beers over 16% ABV. Most fermentations will stop between 12-16% ABV unless these high gravity tips are performed:
Aerate very heavily, 4 times as much as with a normal gravity beer. Less oxygen dissolves into solution at high gravity.
Pitch 3-4 times as much yeast as normal.
Consider aerating intermittently during the first 5 days of fermentation. This will help yeast cells during a very difficult fermentation. Aerate with oxygen for 30 seconds or air for 5-10 minutes.
Higher nutrient levels can allow yeast to tolerate higher alcohol levels. Use 2 times the normal nutrient level. This is especially important when using WLP099 to make wine and mead, which have almost no nutrient level to begin with.Do not start with the entire wort sugar at once.
Begin fermentation with a wort that would produce a 6-8% beer, and add wort (it can be concentrated) each day during the first 5 days. This can be done together with aeration. This is mandatory if the reported 25% ABV is to be achieved.
For your recipe, did you use any of these techniques ? Especially the "multi" wort thing ?
More general question : what are the nutriments they are talking about ? (I never saw anything wrote about nutriments in recipes...)
No, i used none of them. Frankly, this beer isn't THAT big. As long as you pitch enough yeast you'll be fine. The rub with this beer is the high finishing gravity.
Ok, thank you. About Flaked Wheat, is it used "unaltered" ? Or do you mill, grossly scratch it ?
No hops after 30'? No dry hop?
the hop additions and dry-hopping aren't mentioned in the brewing recors, so there's no way of knowing the exact details. It's just an educated guess.
Ron, a website I follow posted about WLP099 today, which is allegedly the Thomas Hardy strain:
It's pretty interesting. It got me thinking that perhaps all the Edinburgh Ales you post with low attenuation might have similar characteristics to this strain. I posted some ideas in the comments over there.
What'd you think?
Note: 1.047 was what my beer was at after 10 days (WLP 099), but this isn't necessarily where this beer ended up when it was bottled. Mine continues to chug away slowly, eating 9 gravity points over the last month. I highly doubt that 1.047 was the final final gravity.
In the bottle. 1.039 F.G. doesn't taste sweet at all. Dry hopped with 2.25 oz. Hallertau. Lots of apricot and light tangerine. Medium high alcohol impression. Very easy drinking. Looking through it...like you're looking through a pair of very thick glasses. Will have to give this a year or two. I pitched high and shook the CO2 out of it the first 2 days. No nutrients. No multi-wort shenanigans.
I finally got around to brewing this two days ago. From the second runnings I brewed a kind of weak bitter (OG 1.036) single hopped with the first crop of my homegrown Swedish Heritage hops Näs (SWE 54) that I harvested while the mash was resting. Can't wait to see how both beers turn out.
I made this again, with Nottingham this time. Took it down to 1.018 in 5 days. It's a completely different beer. The WLP yeast is all "tangerine and Apricot" while the Nottingham was all "molasses cookie dough" during fermentation.
I brewed this in May 2018 using Nottingham yeast. I let it ferment at 73 F as directed. The fermentation produced very strong estery aroma and I was concerned that there might be some fusel alcohol - this was not the case.
The finished beer, which I bulk aged along with some toasted oak, ended up very nice - great complexity between ester (which settled down quite a bit compared with the fermentation) and malt. Mine finished at 1.030, and it's a fairly sweet beer, but the assertive hopping provided enough bitterness to balance the flavors nicely.
Some tasting notes:
Fruity ester is the most dominant aroma followed by caramel and toasted bread. I get a bit of herbal and tea like hop aroma. I think I pick up a bit of oak. Alcohol comes though as well.
Dark brownish-red. Pours with a 5 finger head (was pretty aggressive with the pour this time). Foam fades down to less than a finger pretty quickly and then lingers through most of the glass. Leaves lacing. The beer is very clear.
Caramel and malt flavor take the lead in the flavor. Has a bit of a graham cracker taste to it. The finish has a lot of fruity ester flavor along with a kick of bitterness. The fruit is raisin like. There is a bit of hop flavor mixed in as well as a bit of alcohol.
Medium to full bodied. Has a bit of sweetness that leaves my mouth a bit sticky. Slight alcohol warming is detected. Smooth with no astringency.
it sounds like it turned out pretty nice. Thanks for the feedback.
Great to find the real facts about this original beer. Any suggestions about the water at the Eldridge pope brewery that they used for this beer? Any more info cropped up since you wrote this piece. Keep up the amazing work.
I'm researching a lot about the Thomas Hardy's recipe to make it myself and for just pure satisfaction to have it as close as possible to the original.
This recipe seems the result of great research and one of the most accurate I found but isn't it too bitter?
At 84IBU it makes this recipe way more bitter than any other I saw online (usually between 40 and 60IBU) and it's also much higher than the BJCP English Barley Wine style that ranges from 35 to 70IBU.
Unfortunately the last bottle I tried was a long time ago and I can't go by memory.
I should hope it's an accurate recipe - it's based on the brewing record of the first ever brew of Hardy Ale. It wasn't exactly the same as the later production version. The level of bitterness is what you get if you use the quantity of hops in the brewing record.
I'm still wondering do you have any idea on the water treatment from the records for this beer. Also Halls is mentioned by Kristen but not in the recipe, which Halls and when?
Wanting to brew this and brew it right. Thank you again. Duncan
Kristen simplified the hops, that's why there are no Hallertau in the recipe. No idea of the water treatment. But probably Burtonised as it was parti-gyled with Bitter.
Thanks Ron, I noticed from the details about Barley wine on another page of yours that had Eldridge pope recipes that for the Thomas Hardy they didn't use the Halls as it was made from first runnings. So I'll just go with EKG and Styrian Goldings. I've gone for a Burton Profile thanks. I'll let you know how it is in about a year. Duncan
Ron and Kristen
Finally got round to brewing this, now " vatting " in a keg with some oak dominoes for the next few months. The WLP099 yeast went crazy and fermented down to 1.034 in 4 days.
We'll see what the gravity is at bottling next year. Parti gyled a 1.037 brought up to 1.041 with invert batch on the runnings, used the same yeast. Cracking it open today.
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