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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 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 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 MattyG85
4.29/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a corked 750 ml bottle into a Duvel tulip glass. Best before date of 08/01/2016.

Appearance: Pours a very deep and dark brownish amber with some ruby. Lots of bubbles and a huge four finger tan head with decent retention. Leaves a decent amount of lacing around the glass.

Smell: A yeasty, spicy, and toasty Belgian style aroma with big hints of fruit and caramel malt. Big upfront scent of Belgian yeast with good hints of funk, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and black peppers. Spices give a cola like scent. Toasted malts with hints of caramel, toffee, toasted bread, biscuit, straw, and grains. Scent of banana and apple. Dark fruit hints of grapes, raisin, fig, cherry, prune, plum, and dates. Hints of candied sugar as well. A pretty solid spicy aroma.

Taste: Like the spicy aroma hints at, a yeast and spice driven Belgian aroma with big notes of fruit and toasty caramel malt. Big taste of Belgian yeast with some funk. Big spice presence giving an old school cola like taste. Notes of clove, black peppers, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Bready toasted malts with notes of caramel, toffee, biscuit, toasted bread, straw, and grains. Fruity taste of banana and apple along with dark fruit notes of grapes, raisin, fig, prune, cherry, dates, and plum. Some candied sugar sweetness as well. A very good taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a fairly high level of carbonation. Spicy, juicy, and fairly drying on the finish. A little alcohol heat is felt.

Overall: Another really solid year for this brew. Good mix of spices and fruity esters with a nice toasty malt presence.

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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 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 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 Chiefy770
4.22/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Pitch black body with an off-white bubbly head. The head collapses and leaves a respectable amount of lacing throughout.

Smell: Sweet notes of fruit. Mild hint of alcohol. Notes of spice stand out, particularly allspice and coriander.

Taste: Many of the nose characteristics transfer to the taste quite well. Sweet fruit up front. The alcohol kicks in and leaves a nice warming touch on this one.

Mouthfeel: The moderate carbonation makes this brew taste very fresh. The fruity flavors hold on well in this low-medium body. Semi-dry finish.

Overall: This is the first Trader Joes Vintage Ale of have tried. You can taste many of Unibroue's signature touches in this beer. I am eager to see how this tastes with a couple of years on it. This is basically a Unibroue beer for 4-5 bucks. It may not be a world-beater but it is certainly a remarkable brew for such an affordable price.

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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 MCain04
4.18/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle for $4.99! Poured into Bourbon County snifter.

Pours a dark red/amber body with a light coco-cola head which is extremely frothy but good retention and lacing.

Nose is of cinnamon, nutmeg, and other various spices overly the dark fruits and belgian yeasts and malts.

Taste is of sweet and spicy malts akin to the style. Cinnamon and nutmeg with heavy dark fruits and sweet dark malts. Very drinkable. Smooth. No alcohol detectable.

Mouthfeel is smooth, medium carbonation, drinkable, mildly dry.

Overall a very drinkable and tasty belgian winter ale which sneaks up on you with dangerous drinkability with 9% ABV.

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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 Chaney
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Boulevard tulip.

A: Huge thud from the cork for sure, with a dark, dark disposition on the brew for sure. Looked like a stout.

S: Much more understated than I was expecting, however, the Belgian yeast strain, as well as Unibroue's signature profile was still there. Nice raison and fig component.

T: Reminded me so, so, SO much of DFH's "Sahtea." Seriously, it was uncanny! Lots of spices that made mince meat of the dark fruit.

M: Truly carbonated to the 10th power, and the lacing was pretty substantial.

O: The best of the Trader Joe's brews!

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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 barczar
4.06/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque deep brown with amber highlights and one of the foamiest heads I've ever seen, which is cappuccino foam in color.

Notes of raisin, peach, green apple, plum, and fig erupt from the glass. Yeast esters are extremely prolific. Hints of banana and clove emerge as it warms. There's an underlying sweet candi sugar base.

Flavor is less complex than the aroma, with green apple character surfacing initially, followed by fairly bready, nutty malt. Further investigation reveals cola notes, pear, and peach esters, which are more restrained than anticipated. Hints of plum, pepper, clove, and banana emerge in the aftertaste. The finish is fairly dry and earthy. Not as sweet as expected from the aroma.

Body is moderate to slightly low, with fairly high carbonation and moderate alcohol warmth.

Phenomenal aroma, just wished the flavor followed as strongly to suit. There's a completeness lacking in the flavor profile. I notice this with a couple other unibroue beers. May need more malt backbone and a touch of sweetness. Still, great brew, excellent value, and can't wait to see this with some age on it.

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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 1000lbgrizzly
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Great dark red/purple hue, monstrous light brown head. Strong carbonation can be seen at the edges of the glass. Capitalized Trader Joe's at the top of the bottle makes for pretty lame art. The Unibroue held within is the only thing that drew me to this beer.

S: Heavy spices, some sweet grape, toffee, and malt in there, too. Middle-of-the-road Unibroue style (that's good).

T: Muscat, heavy blend of heated spices, almost herbacious, that faint toffee is still there too. Semi-sweet. Everything works well together, good balance and depth.

M: Fluid, prickly carbonation. Makes for a refreshing, lively drinker, even if somewhat mouth-drying.

O: Buy one bottle with the official Unibroue art for your collection, buy many discounted bottles of this one for frugal enjoyment. A great BSDA, if you like the style you will not be disappointed.

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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 BeerDocT
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought at the Trader Joe's in Alpharetta, GA, which I hate. I really wish TJ's would open up a new store closer to North Atlanta so I would never have to go that particular location again.

Poured into a chilled La Trappe goblet.

Appearance 3.75: Poured out jet black with a creamy white, 1/2" head. Head quickly dissipated, leaving very little froth behind. Lacing non-existent.

Smell 4.0: Nice bouquet. I smell toasted grains, star anise, cloves, orange rind and spicy Belgian yeast. All of it is well balanced and subdued.

Taste 4.0: Front is slightly sweet, but much more dry than last year's batch. Middle is where the spices come in: cloves, orange, anise...but all very well-balanced and not overwhelming. In the Finish, a certain smoked grains taste seeps in along with a taste of cocoa. Finish is also where I noticed a subtle hop flavor and a very light sweetness. Aftertaste is remarkably (and woefully...I did not want it to end!) short and gives the palate one more kick of spice and subtle malt. Absolutely NO hint of the 9% ABV this baby packs.

Mouthfeel 4.0: Ideal carbonation for this beer. Pleasing on the palate and refreshing.

Overall 4.0: Excellent holiday brew...in fact, this is my favorite holiday brew. The master brewers at Unibroue have stepped up to the plate again and knocked another one out of the park. Light, refreshing and perfectly sessionable. Recommended, even if you have to navigate a horrible TJs like the one in Alpharetta, GA. **shudder**

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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 notchucknorris
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours black with a two finger fizzling light brown head. Nice retention.

S: Subtle spice notes with that sweet, signature Unibroue yeast lingering in the background. Clove, ginger, wheat bread crust, doughy malt, light booze and some molasses.

T: Toasted malt, followed by a lot of sweet Unibroue yeast. Light ginger, molasses, clove. Finish is slightly dry yeast with a touch of toasted grain husk. A pretty big improvement over the last few years. I'm liking this one.

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Nice opaque black beer, with a light tan head that forms up big and tight, and is slow to fade. Not much lacing once the head comes down, though.

S - Sugars and raisins, a sourness suggesting citric acid, perhaps a slight hint of lemon rind.

T - Following the nose, with sweet dark fruits and subtle sour flavors. Earthiness in the close. A slight hint of clay. Some soapy notes, but these are kept in check.

M - Thick and full, but with spritely carbonation that keeps things from becoming cloying or taxing.

O - This a big brew, but it comes across as fairly approachable. Watch it, though, there is enough in a single bottle to knock you on your backside. Not a stellar brew, but good, and a great deal for the price.

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Photo of Fcolle2
3.92/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black in color with a big 2 finger light tan foamy head that retains nicely. There is a very vigorous amount of bubbling all over the glass that is interesting to watch.

Smell is good. Lots of spices, notes of cinnamon and clove forward followed by a Belgian peppercorn phenol and toffee malt on the back end.

Taste has some semi sweet dark syrup like toffee malt that is balanced nicely with some Belgian peppercorn flavors. Very light residual earthy hop bitterness nearly undetectable through more spices in the backend.

Mouthfeel is good medium to thick body is cut with a sharp vigorous carbonation. Slightly dry finish.

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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 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 mikeg67
3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle. Pours reddish brown with huge, long lasting, fluffy, beige head. Aroma is of toasted malt, spices and yeast. Body is full and smooth. Toasted malt, brown sugar, spices, plums and black cherries fill the mouth. Finish is long and spicy, with some alcohol warming. Tasty winter brew.

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