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
86
very good

242 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 242
Reviews: 45
rAvg: 3.82
pDev: 11.26%
Wants: 4
Gots: 40 | FT: 7
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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 242 | Reviews: 45
Photo of MCain04
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
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.

Photo of Hopswagger
3.49/5  rDev -8.6%
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.

Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -3.7%
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.

Photo of TruePerception
3.91/5  rDev +2.4%
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.

Photo of BeerDocT
3.99/5  rDev +4.5%
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**

Photo of Mavigo
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

Photo of avwrite
3.81/5  rDev -0.3%

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.

Photo of Badger6
3.84/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

Photo of Chiefy770
4.22/5  rDev +10.5%
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.

Photo of hail_seitan
3.37/5  rDev -11.8%
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.

Photo of Ohmmygawd
4.25/5  rDev +11.3%
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.

Photo of Eisen
3.72/5  rDev -2.6%
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.

Photo of mevett89
4.5/5  rDev +17.8%

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).

Photo of levineju
3.04/5  rDev -20.4%
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.

Photo of burntoutphilosopher
4.49/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

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

Smell:
Earthy, woody, reminds me of bourbon

Taste:
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%.

Mouthfeel:
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.

Overall:
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.

Photo of baakabak
3.49/5  rDev -8.6%
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.

Photo of JohnSand
4.25/5  rDev +11.3%

Drank some tonight. Complex, tasty. Aroma is funky, much more than the taste. Very drinkable for 9%.

Photo of keenberg87
4.21/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

Photo of calebkeen
3.86/5  rDev +1%
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 242 ratings.