English brewery O'Hanlon's last week announced it would no longer be brewing Thomas Hardy's Ale, a rich, vintage-dated barley wine widely regarded by beer aficionados as a world classic. While another brewery could decide to buy the rights, the beer's future is up in the air – those bottles of 2008 on [liquor store] shelves could well be a collector's item.
The decision to stop brewing one of the world's greatest beers was a painful one, but became necessary because of the time and money it took to produce, said O'Hanlon's sales manager Liz O'Hanlon.
"It really wasn't an easy decision. But in the end, it just wasn't worth it," said O'Hanlon.
Since 2003, O'Hanlon's had been brewing Thomas Hardy's under license for U.S. importer George Saxon [of Phoenix Imports, based in Columbia and formerly in Ellicott City], who had bought the rights to the beer from original brewer Eldridge Pope. Thomas Hardy was created by Pope in 1968 as a tribute to the English author and continued production until 1999, when the company got out of the brewing business. Saxon eventually bought the rights and hired O'Hanlon's to brew it to the original recipe.
Late news, I guess, but I wasn't paying attention at the right moments, apparently. Does anyone have any updates, or should I head out to that northern Wisconsin liquor store and bait and tackle shop where I scored a case of 1998 and 1999 Hardy's for $2 a bottle and see what they're selling it for now?
UPDATE: Quoting George Saxon of Phoenix Imports at another beer blog from Indiana:
"We are in the process of interviewing other brewers to brew Hardy's and Royal Oak Pale Ale but, given the time involved in that process and in brewing Hardy's, it's quite likely that there will not be a 2009 vintage. And, obviously, no more 2008."