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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.
BA SCORE
87
very good

46 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 46
Hads: 243
rAvg: 3.89
pDev: 3.08%
Wants: 4
Gots: 42 | FT: 6
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.
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 46 | Hads: 243
Photo of levineju
3.04/5  rDev -21.9%
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. (797 characters)

Photo of hail_seitan
3.37/5  rDev -13.4%
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. (802 characters)

Photo of Hopswagger
3.49/5  rDev -10.3%
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. (844 characters)

Photo of baakabak
3.49/5  rDev -10.3%
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. (540 characters)

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.5/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Best before 8/1/16.

Pours an opaque brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to a partial film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace slowly drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of malt, dark fruit, yeast, must, and spice aromas. Taste is much the same with dark fruit and spice flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer that is drinkable but there is nothing really memorable about it. (592 characters)

Photo of johnnnniee
3.57/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle provided by Santa.
Pours a solid dark brown with the faintest of ruby highlights at the edges when held to light. Fluffy creamy off white head shows moderate retention and lace. Aromas of pepper and clove with bits of brown sugar, toffee, and caramel. Light dark fruit aromas round out the nose. The flavor is a dark sugary spicy affair. Dark sugary maltiness that gets assaulted by peppery clove and other spices. Light prune and molasses round out the flavor. Medium to thick body with a spirited level of carbonation and a sweet bubbly spritzy mouthfeel. Glad I got to try this, but I felt this a bit too spicy for my tastes. (635 characters)

Photo of Beejay
3.6/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A: Very dark brown/black in the glass. Some tan head, with very fine bubbles.

S: Some light fruitiness, definite yeast character as well as a little bit of tartness in the finish. Perhaps maybe a little funkiness in there as well. Some lovely dark fruit notes, as well as brown bread, and caramel.

T: Nice dark fruit, with some light tartness. Fruit and caramel come through as well as some toffee notes. The finish is raisins and spices.

M: Medium light on body, carbonation is fine and plentiful. The finish is dry.

O: Overall quite a decent beer, perhaps a little watery in the finish but overall fairly good. Pretty good spice notes, and fairly interesting. (669 characters)

Photo of Nugganooch
3.68/5  rDev -5.4%
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. (1,224 characters)

Photo of rangerred
3.68/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a goblet out of a 750ml bottle.

Pours a very dark, deep ruby with a one finger light tan head. Not really much lacing but the head retention is downright incredible.

The aroma contains a huge metallic note which really detracts from the entire beer. I can tell there are some spices lingering underneath but they are completely drowned out by the metal. There is a little bit of dark fruit in there that does begin to come through after awhile.

Fortunately, the flavor leaves the metal behind but is a bit overspiced. Lots of orange and anise lending a licorice note along with cherries and figs. I think I can detect some cinnamon in there too. As the beer warms, more traditional Belgian yeast esters begin to take hold and the spice eases up somewhat. Mouthfeel is full and silky with just the slightest bit of warmth along with a mildly sweet finish.

Overall, a good beer but a bit unrefined. I think some age would help tone down the spice and balance everything out. The price is right so i might need to pick up another one of these to age. (1,063 characters)

Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a dark cola brown, nearly opaque, with a small amount of tan head. Some surface film retains along with a ring around the edge of the glass, leaving pretty good lacing.

S: Sweet and full, with a light note of yeast.

T: Medium yeasty sweetness with notes of dark fruit. Finishes slightly dry, with a lingering and almost mouthwatering note of fruit.

M: Medium body, medium carbonation.

Overall, very nice, and not surprising that it's a Unibroue beer. Certainly a great value, and a pretty good beer regardless of price. (532 characters)

Photo of elNopalero
3.69/5  rDev -5.1%
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. (516 characters)

Photo of Eisen
3.72/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Trois Pistoles goblet: An initially thick coffee-colored, over-foamy head that faded medium quickly into a thin layer with no lacing. Smells mostly of light booze, dark fruit, chocolate, coffee....Sweetness of high alcohol malty beer is well balanced by toast and hops. Very drinkable and great for the price, and thus great for anything. (352 characters)

Photo of DuffDaddy
3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
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!). (232 characters)

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.76/5  rDev -3.3%
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. (561 characters)

Photo of KYGunner
3.78/5  rDev -2.8%
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. (910 characters)

Photo of ghostwalker
3.8/5  rDev -2.3%
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. (380 characters)

Photo of avwrite
3.81/5  rDev -2.1%

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. (332 characters)

Photo of RaulMondesi
3.84/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Hi, my peeps.

Just chillin' on the low with a '13 Vintage and feeling it like a hummingbird in the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. Dark fruits, rum, raisins...and smooth. Woo! Now, this isn't the best Belgium Dark Ale; it wasn't when Raul was at his zenith after ingesting a certain substance while in said gardens... but it's still quite nice.

Verdict? For $4.99, this should be the new "value meal." (415 characters)

Photo of Badger6
3.84/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

750mL bottle, bottled on 1 Aug 13 (label imprint reads 02131837, with an expiration of 1 Aug 16). Poured into a Chimay goblet. Labeled a Belgian dark ale, but strikes as a Belgian strong ale, brewed by Unibroue and consistent with their well-known dark, strong Belgians.

A - First pour was about 300mL. The head was light tan in color and fizzy rapidly diminished with no lacing. The body of the beer was a dark-brown to black, and almost no light passed through.

S - The aroma is slightly boozy, no surprise at 9% abv. Very spicy aroma with pronounced notes of clove, allspice and cinnamon. Smell of molasses and coffee is slight, but clear.

T - The flavor profile is complex. Starts with a malty sweetness, layered with clear, almost overwhelming, spice notes and a pronounced molasses note to the malt, coffee flavor doesn't come through. Finishes with a light acidity as the sweetness fades. The strong spice notes remain throughout.

M - The carbonation is mellow and consistent. The beer has a light to medium body with a clear boozy character that is not overpowering or that interferes with the flavor.

O- A very enjoyable beer. At 9% abv it is surprisingly not difficult to drink, and as the stronger Belgian style beers go is smooth, but could stand to age for another few months. If you plan to pick any up, do it quick, TJs will soon be out, and I recommend you save a bottle or two for next year to compare. (1,424 characters)

Photo of cosmicevan
3.84/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

bottle picked up locally at trader joe's. proclaimed unibroue fanboy (one of the breweries that got me into craft). enjoyed from a unibroue taster tulip (coolest glass i've ever seen...a mini tulip!!!!)

a - so glad this year is a BSDA...one of my fav styles...and no one does it like unibroue! poured perfect...dark purple with a monster head and lacing to rule the world. coated the glass like a milkshake.

s - what can i say? smells like a unibroue BSDA. has that signature yeast strain with some soft spicing for the holiday. a vast improvement fresh from the previous few years. can't wait to dig in.

t - much more spicy than the nose suggested. a bit heavy handed on the spicing actually. looking forward to sitting on my other bottle to let that zing chill out. classic unibroue wondeful BSDA base, but just so much spice added to it to make it a holiday beer...too much so, but i guess if they didn't do that, it would just be trois pistoles or maudite (more like trois that maudite).

m - zingy. crisp, but fizzy. almost a bit heavy handed on the carb.

o - overall, a step in the right direction from previous years, but still an overspiced belgian like the others. i should just stop getting these and just pick up a bottle of trois pistoles since that's what i love from unibrou (one of my all time favs). these vintage ales really just seem to be unibroue classics with a ton of holiday spice added. at $5 a pop, a deal to be had, but i'd rather pony up the extra $4 or $5 to get a version without all the spice. the nose is the star of the show and in a few years, i'm sure the taste will catch up. it is kind of funny that every year i save these with the hope that the spicing will fade and they will eventually just taste like the base beer without the spice. (1,778 characters)

Photo of Cubatobaco
3.84/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Cola-like, opaque brown, with a khaki lacing that sticks to the side of the glass. When poured, the head recedes to a 1/4".

S - All spice, barley, malt. bread-like, cinnamon, cola-like aroma, nutmeg

T - Nutmeg, very cola-like, a lot of the aroma is coming through on the flavor, an assortment of dried fruits come through on the mid-palate.

M - Thin, very carbonated, medium-bodied, light alcohol feel.

O - A great beer for the price point, would buy again, wonderful holiday beer (491 characters)

Photo of calebkeen
3.86/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Purchased at Brookline, MA Trader Joe's on 11/16.

Poured 40 cl. into a Hill Farmstead Belgian-style glass

Three fingers of caramel-colored head from a moderately fast pour. Head retention is acceptable for the style. First taste registers burnt sugar, a nice amount of yeasty spice, molasses, "dark fruit" and just a bit of alcohol heat on the end of the sip. Everything is balanced quite nicely. My experience with the TJ Vintage Ales over the last five years is that the flavors might all be acceptable in their own right but are out of balance with each other / a hot mess on the tongue. This beer is tasting surprisingly solid for a Belgian strong ale from the first taste.

At $4.95 this is an incredible value, and I'll be drinking at least one bottle a week until it's gone. (783 characters)

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. (296 characters)

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. (583 characters)

Photo of damndirtyape
3.9/5  rDev +0.3%
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. (1,145 characters)

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Trader Joe's 2013 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 46 ratings.