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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 seand
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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Photo of Beejay
3.6/5  rDev -7%
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.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.57/5  rDev -7.8%
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.

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Photo of rangerred
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
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.

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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 UCLABrewN84
3.5/5  rDev -9.6%
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.

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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 Badger6
3.84/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

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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 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 Eisen
3.72/5  rDev -3.9%
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.

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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 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 cosmicevan
3.84/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

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Photo of RaulMondesi
3.84/5  rDev -0.8%
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."

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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 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 Cubatobaco
3.84/5  rDev -0.8%
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

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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 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 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 calebkeen
3.86/5  rDev -0.3%
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.

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