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Trader Joe's 2013 Vintage Ale - Trader Joe's Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Trader Joe's 2013 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2013 Vintage Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

47 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 47
Hads: 250
Avg: 3.87
pDev: 26.1%
Wants: 4
Gots: 43 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
Trader Joe's Brewing Company
California, United States

Style | ABV
Belgian Strong Dark Ale |  9.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: djaeon on 11-16-2013

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Contract brewed by Unibroue.
View: Beers (21) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 47 | Hads: 250
Photo of secondtooth
4.07/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Poured from well-stored 2+ year-old bomber an almost black, with a thick head of suds yet almost no lacing.

Aroma: Deep, dark fruity malts and yeast. Grapes, dark berries, candied fruit — very Belgian and impressive.

Taste: Wow! Raisins, tart candied fruits, spices, and a slight amount of heat at the finish…a very complex and enjoyable ale, and one meant for sipping with so much richness. A beautiful ale and I’m sorry to have missed the 2015 edition!

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Photo of ghostwalker
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Dark brown body. Big carbonation on pour, but head falls off moderately fast.

Smell is sweet and spicy with a medicinal note.

Flavor is rich smoothness, dark fruits and sweet candi sugar. A bit reminiscent of Pannepot. Very tasty!

Mouthfeel is highly carbed and active on the palate.

Overall, a solid sipper. Unibroue continues to compete with many of the best Belgian brews.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.25/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle into snifter.

A: Pours a dark beer bottle brown with a couple fingers of fizzy but dense brown head. Head slowly faded to a lasting collar.
s: Much fruitier and sweeter than I was expecting. Tons of fruit esters, banana, tropical fruits, and candied fruits. I'm getting a lot of root beer notes as well. There's a fair amount of balancing spice including cinnamon, nutmeg and clove and vanilla.
T: Taste has all the root beer notes from the nose but isn't quite as fruity. Yeast pokes through with some doughy flavors. I get hints of caramel, cola, and very slight chocolate as well. The finish is sweet and tingly, and the aftertaste is doughy, fruity and spicy.
M: Medium-full body, tingly ample fuzzy carbonation that froths up a bit on my palate. Smooth and nicely drying for being so sweet.
O: I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I thought it would be much maltier and heavier, but I was pleasantly surprised by how fruity and sweet this was.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

One year old bottle; a bit of a gusher on opening. Pours a very dark mahogany brown that is nearly opaque in the glass (much darker than previous years) and a massive four finger light khaki head with good retention and thick lacing. Aroma of light bready malt, Belgian yeast, very spicy; coriander and clove, but hints of other aromatic spices like cinnamon, dark stone fruit. Flavor follows aroma with dark stone fruit, Belgian yeast, caramel malt, very spicy, almost to the point of a winter warmer. Medium bodied with peppery, active carbonation. As always, a very pleasant strong Belgian ale with classic fruit and yeast flavors. This year's seem to lay on the spicing quite a bit, but the ale is rich enough to handle it. I'm enjoying the complex spice mixture this year. One of my end-of-the-year traditions that never disappoints. Always a bit different annually, this one darker and spicier. Hope I put another one of these away. This ale seems to improve for a couple of years and a great, inexpensive short term cellaring ale.

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Photo of garymuchow
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

1 year old when giving it a first run. Huge dense tan head that took its damn time in settling down. Nearly a black body. Not sure I've every seen this style this dark before.
Spicy malt aroma with what seems to be the proprietary Unibroue yeast - a mix of spice (the usual but seems like some cinnamon later in the drink) and fruitiness. Dries out quite a bit and leaves a malty dryness laying on the tongue. Nice complex flavors with yeast character more foreground than balanced. Alcohol noticed most in gut warmth and is balanced more on the flavor - in the aroma it shows as perfume. Richer malt flavors than many and most apparent as warms. Body is bigger and fuller than most for style, even beyond the high level of carbonation.
You know, for the price, this is a solid Belgian ale.

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Photo of Damian
4.28/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Drank from a 750ml/1pt. 9.4fl.oz. corked and caged bottle purchased at Trader Joe's, Cambridge, MA
Best before 08-01-2016
Served in a tulip

The transparent, mahogany colored liquid was topped by a frothy, three-finger tall, cappuccino colored crown. The crackling, fizzy head slowly dropped to a thin film. Blocky lacing trickled along the glass. The lacing was surprisingly minimal.

Signature Unibrou Belgian yeast notes immediately came through in the nose. Spicy and slightly phenolic with loads of coriander and clove. Good dose of ginger as well. Somewhat cola-like. Semi-sweet yet also slightly dry. As the head dropped, the nose became much more potent and the spices really intensified. A slight tartness also appeared.

The flavor profile was deep, dark and complex. Belgian yeast notes were apparent. Malty with a dark bread-like quality. Loads of dark fruits (raisins, plums and figs) came through as well. Super spicy with strong clove, allspice and ginger notes. Some dark candi sugar was also noticeable. Sweet yet not overly so. A touch of bubblegum came through as the liquid warmed. The beer turned slightly sour on the back end and the finish. All in all, really interesting and dynamic.

The beer was highly effervescent. A crisp, sprightly carbonation gave the liquid an almost Champagne-like quality. With time, the carbonation settled and the mouthfeel became smoother and softer.

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale never ceases to disappoint. Many reviewers complained that the spices were too strong when this beer was fresh, but a year of age seemed to balance out the flavor profile. Always priced at $6 a bottle, this is undoubtedly one of the best deals out there and something I seek out around the holidays every year.

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Photo of mevett89
4.5/5  rDev +16.3%

Appearance: black with a striking white head. Pours with hight head, dissipates after a few minutes to a persistent creamy foam. Minimal lacing.

Aroma: Belgian spicy phenols and fruit with a caramel malt sweetness

Taste: good spicy and some fruit notes from the yeast. Background of warm alcohol, but not overbearing. Some caramel sweetness, and just a hint of chocolate in the back. Just the slightest hint of cardboard from oxidation. As it warms, dark fruit and burnt sugar are detectable, with a background of low hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: carbonation on the high end presents a nice tingle to the palet. Medium body leaves a smooth coating on the tongue which lingers a short while.

Overall: a good example of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Granted, not the best I've had, but certainly enjoyable, and one of the better brews I've had from Unibroue. Well balanced, and it aged well (I aged it one year).

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Photo of Boto
4/5  rDev +3.4%

750ml bottle: This one pours a somewhat dark ruby color. There was quite a bit of a tan head on it. It lingers and left some lacing. This one has a nice nose. Spicy, yeasty, fair amount of sweet malts. Some fruity notes also, as well as some clove. The taste is very good. Bready, sweet Belgian malts, some spices, fruit notes. Another solid Belgian style beer form Unibroue.

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Photo of avwrite
3.81/5  rDev -1.6%

Was skeptical of an ale brewed from Trader Joe's (though I'm not really sure if it's them anyway), but found this to be pleasant. A bit bitter going down, but then kicks you with sweetness, and finishes it with a spicy aftertaste. Dark brown color, and a bit foamy. Relatively cheap, and I'll be sure to get next year's addition.

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Photo of KYGunner
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Called a Dark Ale for a reason , this poured a deep dark ruby with a course of bubbling. These bubbles built an inch of single file of horizontal brown lines that was capped by a dense khaki froth.

Peppercorns, cloves, carriage and anise meet the nose as this hints towards the "Brewed with Spices." There's some light fruit sweetness like prunes and plums.

The flavors are spicy as well but the malt is more substantial. There seems to be some caramel malt, dried dark fruit and more of a black licorice flavor. There is clove spice, and carraway, but the cloves seems to dominate the last of the palate.

This drinks with a slight alcohol warmth and a bit of dark fruit twang, but it's full enough to satisfy.

The cork read Unibroue and my guess is that it's contracted brewed through the Canadian brewery. That makes complete sense as the yeast characteristics seem to be close to many of their products.

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Photo of TruePerception
3.91/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've heard a bunch of people say this is really good, especially for the price ($5 for a 750mL)!

Trader Joe's 2013 Vintage Ale, dark ale (brewed by Unibroue). 9% ABV.

Good pop, with a nice haze! Didn't even need the cork screw to pop the cork!

A: Pours a distinct tamarind color. Very dark brown, almost black, in the glass. Half a finger of head. No lacing.

S: Sticky sweet aromas take over, at first. Deep molasses, dark caramel, slight toffee. Prune. Slight herbal coolness (peppermint?). Raisin smell comes out as it warms.

T/MF: Ooh! It has a coolness on the palate. Notes of spearmint and menthol. Very dark molasses. Slight sweet char. Very slight raisin/prune backing. Just the slightest hint of rosemary. Slight ginger as it warms. Very interesting flavor going on in this one. Not typically what I would look for, but pretty good!

Seems like it would go well with holiday food, but I'm not sure which food.

Poured from a 750mL bottle, into a Belgian tulip glass.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.76/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle: Poured a deep dark brown color ale with a medium brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of sweet Belgian malt notes with some candi sugar notes with light spices and typical Unibroue yeast notes. Taste is a well balanced mix between some candi sugar notes with some light spices, some fruity notes and some Unibroue yeast. Body is relatively full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Very enjoyable but I think I preferred the two previous years vintage which were less fruity and a bit more pronounced on the spicy notes.

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Photo of Ohmmygawd
4.25/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Good quality beer! I'm pleasantly surprised about this beer. Nose is bright and fresh and the body isn't heavy and full of flavor. It finishes with a nice feeling of spice and cloves and leaves a little tingle on the very tip of your tongue.

A- pours black with a thick head.

S- bananas and

T- Bananas with cloves and cinnamon

M- Clean and light and finishes with a nice tingle on the tongue.

O- Not an overly complicated beer and really does well what it brings to the table.

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Photo of elNopalero
3.69/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This pours a cola color with lots of foam.
I don’t get much aroma. Some light root beer notes. (Not artificial root beer.)
The flavor has something similar, with a root beer/sarsaparilla/cream soda character, followed by some sherry and eucalyptus . I find a taste akin to tree bark and orange peel rounding it out. Thinly bodied with a drying finish. For the price it’s a steal. I’ve found I tend to appreciate these TJ Vintage beers with some age on them, so revisiting this might be in order down the road.

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Photo of hail_seitan
3.37/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into brandy snifter.

A - A dark opaque brown body.

S - Plum, burnt sugar, cinnamon, banana, and clove.

T - A funky yeasty flavor typical of Belgian brews, but this one is not as refined as most. The taste of the malt is a bit cloyingly sweet, too. The spices do add a nice touch, and I get hints of cinnamon, anise, and all-spice. The finish is a little too sharp and boozy, especially since Belgians usually excel at hiding high alcohol.

M - Viscous, but almost a little too syrupy. The carbonation is nice, though.

O - Not a bad beer and at $4 a bottle quite a good deal. However, it certainly is not as refined as most other Belgian-style brews out there. I would be curious to see if some of the overly-aggressive or off flavors settle down with a year or two of cellaring.

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Photo of keenberg87
4.21/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 750ml into a large snifter. Maintained a finger-and-a-half of head which slowly dissipated to leave thorough lacing. Smell… can't find much except alcohol. Taste blew me away: pepper, caramel, coffee, fruitiness (strawberries and citrus! could the "natural flavors" have something to do with this?) low tannins, low-to-moderate yeast. Silky smooth and light on the palate with adequate carbonation.

I might be late to jump on the ball, but I think I'll head back to Trader J's to see if I can a couple to shelf.

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Photo of burntoutphilosopher
4.49/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This beer is dark, cream colored head,
Large bubbles (sometimes too large, like force carbonation).
Head doesn’t last

Earthy, woody, reminds me of bourbon

Smokey malts, very little hops. “flat” in flavor. The flavor doesn’t change as you drink it.
It has a very earthy mushroomy taste. This is classic of dark Belgium ale’s. this beer does it almost as well as any high end ommegang, or Trappist. It’s slightly over carbonated and I’ve been through almost 20 bottles of these and that’s a classic trend.
It’s a bit more mild than other dark ales … and I like that. I can get a good buzz with this beer, which is why I buy it by the 12 pack.
It’s 9% alcohol, and drinks like a 6 or 7%.

Perfect in my opinion. It has a great lingering after taste. It’s thicker than any filtered beer, without having the overly bitter residuals of most autalized bottles.

First off, this is my standard drink lately. I bought two cases from Trader Joes, and it’s going to be deeply missed when it’s gone.
Bottle conditioned beer varies. It’s a tough balance. And the guys and UniBroue got it right on here. It’s drinkable enough to not feel heavy and let you get a nice buzz, it’s earthy and deep, and has enough alcohol to get you to your proper level, without making you feel bloated or full.
But it’s also subtle. This beer is excellent chugging or sipping.
Slight critique, after 20 bottles of this, the carbonation is inconsistent. Some bottles pour three inches of head, some a half inch. all stored on the same cellar rack and poured without any turbulence.

FINALLY: There’s no a single beer for the price I’d recommend more than this… if you can find it.

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Photo of DuffDaddy
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Opened a bottle I've been cellaring since December 2013. Mellowed a lot in the intervening year and a half. Very subtle fruit tones...more of an after dinner drink (although I drank the whole 750 before, during and after supper!).

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Photo of Hopswagger
3.49/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

P: Dark brown almost black with flashes of ruby highlights. A thick rootbeer head crowns the top and leaves behind an intricate chain of lacing.

S: Aroma is pleasant with loads of doughy bread, dark malts, cardamom, figs, plums, nectarine pits, roasted toffee, amaretto, syrupy rootbeer and cloves.

T/M: Taste is prominently spiced and accompanied by doughy dark fruit breads, cherry cola, burnt toffee, amaretto, grain alcohol, and finishes with bitter persimmons. A vivacious, relatively thin body accentuates the spice profile. Scorched grains cover the palate in a chalky film.

O: I have to say for a $5 bottle BSDA it's a surprise. I'm really missing some good Belgian candy sugar and more dark fruit sweetness. The spice and carbonation seem to hinder the cohesiveness of the ale. Overall a good beer but not one of Unibroue's best.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.11/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

From the corked, caged 750 ml. bottle best before 08-01-2016. Sampled on March 9, 2014 and served at about 55 degrees.

The pour is about as attractive as a Belgian Strong Ale can look with its dark brown to nearly black tone and soft, tan head lingering to the end and leaving lacing with each sip.

The nose is colorful with the dark Belgian malts, Belgian candied sugar, black licorice, plums, coriander, and pepper. There is an earthy hop note that enhances the slightly boozy quality.

Medium body.

The taste is something to remember with the black licorice, dark malts, and vibrant spicy or pepper bite with each sip. Dry finish. Trader Joe's Vintage brews are a Unibroue "knock-off" that have all the same qualities but is a couple dollars cheaper. How can one go wrong?

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Photo of damndirtyape
3.9/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

750mL corked and caged bottle, split between two people, served in Tulip glasses.

Appearance: Dark cola brown to black. Light tan thin head with plenty of carbonation coming up through the beer. Minimal lacing - a few strands and tiny islands.

Smell: Roasted malts, fresh cooked pasta, hint of noble hops.

Taste: Fruity, spicy, candi sugar sweetness all mixed together. Robust flavors. The finish was leafy, part noble hops, and part wintergreen. Definite wintergreen finish as the beer warmed up.

Mouthfeel: Airy & lively carbonation, but not fizzy. Tiny bit sticky on the teeth under all that carbonation.

Overall / drinkability: Good, but not great. Did not pair well with Salmon. Didn't clash, but wasn't a good pairing as suggested by the bottle. I think it would be better with grilled meats. Interesting and flavorful, with notable noble hops and an good use of wintergreen as a flavor note. I think however, I could not finish a whole bottle by myself. Alcohol is well hidden and will sneak up on you. I'll have to see how the other bottle I bought shakes out - I'll let it age another 6-9 months and we'll see how it holds up.

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Photo of levineju
3.04/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Opened one of two for this review, cellaring the other for a few years. Poured from a corked bomber (750ml) into a tulip pint glass.

A - Shows a dark cola brown with red-orange highlights. A little muddy to the eye. Lots of head, about three fingers and sandy-beige in color. Carbonation is moderate. A little bit of lacing on the glass, agitation does not yield back much head.

S - bread-y; lots of banana; malt; a little medicinal; fermented, like wine; grape; red fruit. A little dank in the glass.

T - a little coppery; malt; getting grape/red wine again; no discernible hops; metallic on the exhale, coppery, almost like blood. Anise/root beer as it develops.

M - sharp, acidic

O - it's ok. I have another for cellaring, so we'll see if there is a noticeable difference in a few years.

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Photo of Mavigo
3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Served in a chalice.

A: Pours a murky, dark brown color, has a 1/4 beige head that lasts for a few minutes before dissipating to a thing ring.

S: Smells of plums, cherries, malts, barley, brown sugar, licorice

T: Quite sweet, tasting of plums, brown sugars, malts, yeast

M: Full bodied beer with ample amounts of carbonation. A bit too carbonated, takes away from the flavor profile, which could be more pronounced.

O: I've been getting a bottle of the Trader Joe's Vintage ale for the past 3 years, I think I liked last years better, but none the less, it's worth the price.

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Photo of Nugganooch
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

350ml C&C bottle split two ways – FW snifter glass for me.
Notes taken on 01/25/14

A: Pours a very dark cola brown. Mostly unclear. Thick and dense collection of khaki suds on top. Nice hang time with some soapy cling to the glass.

S: Smells of dark malts and burnt caramel sugars with some light Belgian spice. Not incredibly potent on the spicing. A bit of dark dried fruits start to emerge as well. Nice overall but fairly mellow.

T: Tastes of charred malts and dried fruits with some Belgian candi syrup there although it’s not very sweet at all. Reminds me of raisin bread toast and a I am getting a strong red grape juice flavor actually. There is some soft banana peel and a dash of nutmeg with clove spice mixed in. Alcohol is well masked all throughout. A slight dusty mineral note at the finish. Nice balance to it and mostly tasty. Grapey.

M: Medium full body with a very light feel from a frothy amount of carb. Gushy on the palate with a popping feel. Very dry finish.

D: Interesting brew. It’s tasty and pretty well balanced overall but I am getting a lot of grape flavor here. Says brewed with spices and natural flavors added so not sure what that’s all about. Would check this one out again.

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Photo of baakabak
3.49/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Agreed. Poured into a tulip it looks just like coca cola.Dark brown with frothy tan head that settles to a thin sliver of tiny clinging bubbles

Smell is cherries,almond,shortbread, and yeasty rum

Tastes of the same. Little chocolate and rum raisin ice cream . 9% abv shows on the finish.

Carbonation is good but feels a little thin.

Overall this beer is a bargain. For a $4.99 bomber I don't know that you could find a better buy. Especially for the style. Aging might do some good but I can't seem to hold on to them for long enough.

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Trader Joe's 2013 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 47 ratings.