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Time to open the 1968 Hardy’s Ale

Thomas Hardy's ale

Doesn’t look the message to wait until July of 1969 is going to be a problem . . .

Thomas Hardy's aleThe time has come to open the 1968 bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale.

Daria gave me this bottle for Christmas more than six years ago, and the immediate question was what to do with it. It’s not like there was any reason to expect to be anything other than an experience. Check out Tomme Arthur’s notes from a 2004 tasting:

1968- Was the first year that they bottled Hardy’s. There were three separate bottlings and the series begins with the A Bottle.

1968 A (The Pint Bottle)- A cork finished bottle with noticeable signs of evaporation. Perhaps they trapped a few thirsty angel’s in the bottle when it was packaged? The beer reveals a large Soy Sauce nose with Cidery, Vinegar and Lactic qualities all duking it out in a battle Royale. It finishes smokier than a bar in Chicago with flacid carbonation at best. Color wise, this one leans towards the dark to medium dark spectrum.

1968 “B” Bottling- Upon inspection, this one holds little promise. An incredible (ridiculous) amount of beer is missing. The cork crumbles upon insertion of the cork screw. Not a good sign! The beer embraces this cork situation to the max and I’m soon wondering if can send back a beer I haven’t even paid for? For some reason, this vintage has a Tobasco(tm) like flavors. It’s beyond bizarre. How do you do that in beer? Without a doubt not as good as the “A” bottle.

1968 “C” Bottling Capped Bottle- Now this is classic Hardy’s! We’re greeted by Vinegar, Oxidation and winey notes that wreak of musty cellars in wine country. It’s quite dry and light bodied. Tawny and Orangey in a way that the other two 68’s aren’t. The beer finishes with a clarity of purpose that exudes world class and demands that we hand the tag of red headed step child to its lesser brother- bottling “B.” The 1968 Hardy’s Capped bottle was an all timer for me this afternoon.

Thomas Hardy's aleAnd when Daria bought it in an eBay auction the chap in the UK stated up front that he hadn’t treated the beer with the care stated on the back label (which sits on the bottle just as crooked as it looks in the photo above). But it didn’t seem right to set it out on shelf — because I want to look at it, that’s why — with the beer still inside. You’ll notice up top that the beer no longer reaches into the neck.

So I stored it on its side at about 55 F and we talked about what to do next. Daria hit on the idea it would be good to open in 2008, since the beer turns 40 and I turn 60. That was before we planned to be in Belgium on my birthday. And hauling a 40-year-old bottle of beer that’s likely going to suck didn’t seem so appealing.

Thus we’re planning on opening it tomorrow along with six other vintages (we’re expecting help drinking these). Just a few questions to answer first. What order should we drink the beers in? One possibility is to start with the 1968 (figuring it’s beyond hope), then drink the youngest and work our way toward the oldest (1992, and the previous one was excellent).

And how the heck do we safely get the cork out of the bottle?

13 Responses to Time to open the 1968 Hardy’s Ale

  1. Peter F May 7, 2008 at 5:06 pm #

    Pliers. Good luck.

  2. Alan May 7, 2008 at 5:14 pm #

    I use the grip of tin snips to grasp pesky corks. But is it squidgy or stiff?

  3. Andy May 7, 2008 at 5:47 pm #

    Port tongs. Heat the tongs to red hot, place on bottle neck below cork for two minutes, and then place a cold wet towel on the neck to crack it open. If you don’t have port tongs, which makes sense, you could try juryrigging something with fire place tongs.

  4. Stan Hieronymus May 7, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    But is it squidgy or stiff?

    Kind of a personal question.

    The part poking its head out seems pretty firm. I’m optimistic it will come out easily.

    Andy, when you say “crack it open” that doesn’t mean injuring the bottle, right? Having the bottle intact, goofy as it may be, is important.

  5. SteveH May 8, 2008 at 5:16 am #

    Don’t lie to us — you ain’t 60, I seen your pi’ture.

  6. Stan Hieronymus May 8, 2008 at 5:36 am #

    Thanks Steve, unless you’re thinking I look even older ;>)

    As well as not hauling the Hardy’s to Belgium in September I also won’t be taking candles.

  7. Stephen Beaumont May 8, 2008 at 6:01 am #

    Two suggestions for opening, Stan: 1) A hinged corkscrew with a teflon worm, used very slowly; and 2) An ah-so — the twin-pronged style of corkscrew — also used with great care and no undo speed.

    I’d be inclined to try the latter first.

    As for order, you’ve got to save the oldest for last, no matter what ordinary tasting logic might otherwise dictate. Even if it does suck, at least you’ll be working towards a crescendo.

    And y’know, you could have given a fellow a little notice. For this I might have finally made that trip to New Mexico…

  8. Todd May 8, 2008 at 6:24 am #

    Happy Birthday Stan!
    Start the celebration early for this one and keep it rollin’!!

  9. Andy Holmes May 8, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    I suggest leaving it in the bottle and saving yourself the chore of drinking a knackered beer.

    My father has a similar dilema with a bottle of 1965 Chateau d’Yquem. I know that’s not beer but I assume you know what it is.

  10. Andy Holmes May 8, 2008 at 9:11 am #

    I’ve just read your side bar and noticed the wine sites so I see you do know what I’m talking about, I’ll shut up now.

  11. Andy May 8, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    Yes, I do mean crack the neck off. Properly done it is a clean break and there are two pieces the bottle and the neck portion with the cork still intact. I do understand wanting the bottle intact but I do not know of any other way to open a bottle with a possibly crumbling cork. If the cork is mostly firm I would suggest the two prong cork extracter. If the cork is overly dry it may have shrank and anything that puts pressure on the top may send it straight into the bottle.

  12. HBTolllllo May 8, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    At this point in the beer’s lifecycle, might not the cork be considered an organic part of the beer?

    I also find it amusing, and hope you will too, that you are concerned about the beer’s vessel after it has passed into the beyond.

    “In Search of the Soul of Beer”

    I’m no theologian, but I can tell you that it won’t be found in the empty bottle.

    –I’d keep the bottle too. 😉


  13. Jeff Alworth May 9, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    I turned 40 in January. I wouldn’t be a damn bit surprised if that beer’s aging better than I.

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