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Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale - Trader Joe's Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

128 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 128
Reviews: 96
rAvg: 3.84
pDev: 15.63%
Wants: 3
Gots: 20 | FT: 2
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: bsp77 on 12-12-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 128 | Reviews: 96
Reviews by Overlord:
Photo of Overlord
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Considering the reviews, surprisingly pleasant!

Pours a murky, turbid brown with some brown highlights. Brown. Maybe a quarter inch of tan foam.

Smells like some dark fruits, some candied, yeasty bread malts, and a hint of spices.

Taste is interesting. Definitely some dark fruits, but also some lighter fruit esters and a bit of a candi spiced flavor to it. Almost like a mulled, sweetened caramel background.

Pleasant. Nice, thick enough mouthfeel.

More User Reviews:
Photo of mrquartetman
4.88/5  rDev +27.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is simply a wonderful holiday beer, far better than last year's TJ Vintage Ale, which was very good. What a beer! And what a price! $4.99 for a 750ml bottle? What a deal.

It's a dark Belgian-style ale, clearly made, along with its spices, with candy sugar in the mix.

A: Pours with a dark, persistent head and is very dark in the glass. Looks like a stout.

S: The aroma is one of malt and spice, and gets even stronger as the beer warms. Excellent.

T: This a complex beer that seems to be playing on the tongue. It starts sweet, then the combination of spices starts its joyride, with a lemony hint, then ginger, but it's difficult to identify the ginger at first because in combination with the other spices, one gets a sort of mint flavor for a bit. This flavor hint pretty quickly merges into a subtle ginger. It is big in malt across the palate and never loses its sweetness.

M: This is a dense brew that uses the entire palate and is like eating a meal all by itself. One reviewer called it "not chewy," but I can't say that - it is chewy to this taster.

D: All I can say is that I will buy 2 to lay down, 5 for friends, and 3 to have here this holiday season. Unless it's all gone tomorrow.

Photo of MisterDeeds
3.46/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark dark brown, with an impressive head like the dude from Kid N' Play.

Smells like a sour, a fruity almost lemony aroma.

Taste is all over the map. I almost feel like there is too much going on for a bottle that only cost $5. A slightly lemony sour twist, and the malty aftertaste has an almost ginger-like kick. A weird almost antiseptic like taste, but somehow, it is working for me.

Feels like a nice Belgian, with a good bit of carbonation, which I guess explains the awesome afro that sits atop this brew.

Drinkability is decent, though it is quite strong and bubbly. I think you can get through the bomber if you are determined.

This beer is legit, you just have to look past where you got it and what it says on the label. Don't judge this book by it's cover.

Photo of goatxpower
4.07/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Hmmmm that's funny. 3 out of 5 reviews are from people who are highly recomending the beer with very little analysis of the beer to support their reccomendation, AND what do you know, this is also the ONLY BEER THAT THEY HAVE REVIEWED. This beer JUST came out, keep in mind. Could this be some sort of viral meme marketing bs? well, it is the internet...

The thing is, this actually IS a good beer. Reminds me of Delirium Nocturnum. This beer should be rated on it's own merit, not hyped up by marketing trolls.

This is a good beer to buy a case of and sit on until the next release. The ginger and other spices (I'm guessing GoP and/or corriander) are very pronounced and could use time to mellow. At $5, it is very affordable, and is at least as good as the other beers in the unibroue line-up.

I'm not trying to be a shit-stirrer, but I was a little offset this marketing technique.

Photo of bsp77
2.75/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Brewed by Unibroue and described as a (Belgian) Dark Ale Brewed on Lees, and certainly not a Dubbel.

Serving glass: Poured from bomber into Snifter.

Appearance: Extremely dark opaque brown with a billowing cappuccino head that quickly disappears, leaving nothing behind.

Smell: Dry musty malts, wood, cocoa, Belgian yeast, lemon and ginger.

Taste: Earthy, musty and woody with cloves, lemon and cocoa. Way too musty for my liking, like sucking the liquid from the wooden walls of a dank cellar.

Feel: Moderate carbonation, medium body, dry but still seems cloying.

Drinkability: While not a bad beer, I don't particularly like it.

Photo of skberke
4.35/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer is brewed for Trader Joe's by Unibroue, one of my favorite breweries, and it did not disappoint. Poured into a goblet, the dark raisin-colored beer gave rise to a cream-colored head at least 1.5 inches high, which persisted for quite a while before subsiding with very little lacing.

This is the beer version of a christmas fruit cake. Not the horrible fruit cakes people joke about, but a really excellent, decadent, moist and rich homemade fruit cake. Flavors are of raisins, apricots, currants, candied citrus peel, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and brandy.

Something in the aftertaste makes me think of hot cross buns--it must be the combination of yeast, currant, and cinnamon flavors, with a subtle sweetness like a little touch of confectioners sugar icing.

For all the candied fruit presence, this beer is not at all cloying, with a clean, yeasty aftertaste. The citrus notes are surprisingly bright, and I would not be surprised if this beer mellows and improves with age, but I am thoroughly enjoying it right now.

Photo of brewerburgundy
3.57/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Opaque brown. The highlights are slightly red but this beer is hazy, matte brown. 2'' of very light brown head on the first pour. It recedes to half/quarter, then a normal film. No lacing to speak of. On the second glass I was able to conjure a much more impressive and lasting head.

Lemon, spice, cloves, mint bread, a smidge of must, gingerbread sans ginger strangely. White pepper. A lightly white pepper alcohol.

Stuffy bread, lingering of dark fruit, all the aspects from the nose. Wet leaves perhaps.

Lots of bubbles, bubbly prickly, though it's not off putting.

I said not more than half a glass at the time. About a week after this initial tasting I shared another bottle with a friend and I felt similarly. I'm glad that I was able to try something that is a departure from what I have been exploring.

Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottled with a best before date of 9/12/12 into a Chimay chalice.

A: Moderate pour yields a 2 finger semi-fine light brown head with great retention. Beer is opaque black, darker than any other BSDA that I've had. Lacing is just an extension of the head, frothy, ample.

S: Belgian spice is strong in the nose, along with a signature clove character. All these unibroue creations smell alike... good... but alike. Also some ripe and fresh dark plums and grape. As it warms, there's a bit of coffee also.

T: Clove character is strong throughout along with the Belgian yeast flavor. Tastes like it smells. A bit of coffee sourness is present which is out of the ordinary but appreciated. Purple grapes and plums are there along with a creaminess towards the end. No real aftertaste as this one kinda just ends.

M: Light to medium bodied and highly carbonated. Not a whole lot of substance as this is relatively watery. Easy to drink though and goes down quickly. Aftertaste is non-existent. It comes and goes with no real fanfare.

D: A continuation in a long line of Unibroues that all taste similar. Not bad by any means but this one doesn't really stand out except for the unique dark color. Quite enjoyable though nonetheless and for $4.99, its a huge bargain in my opinion!

Photo of prototypic
3.56/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage Ale 2009 pours a dark, cola brown color. It's not opaque. Burgundy highlights are noted throughout with backlighting. A light tan head tops it off. It's substantial, standing over two and a half fingers tall. Retention was very good, and lacing was sticky and thick. Good stuff.

The nose is a little on the weak side, but isn't bad. It features a nice cocoa-like scent from the chocolate malt presence. Spices are rather light. I'm getting a little, but not enough to identify anything. Light citrus lemon is noted. One downside is the lack of Belgian yeast. I'm not getting any. That's a negative here. Its presence would really improve this overall. Alcohol is blended well and is barely noticeable. It's alright. Not great.

The flavor is alright, but falls a few steps shy of being good. It does have a nice chocolate malt base that imparts a cocoa-like flavor. Fruit flavors are more pronounced in flavor. Light lemon and berry flavors are noted. There's even a touch of raisin. Spices are also stronger. Pepper and ginger are present and accounted for. Again, I'm not getting much Belgian yeast. That's too bad. It's crying out for it. Alcohol is noted, but isn't strong. I wouldn't guess 9%. Overall, not bad, but could've been better.

Vintage Ale 2009 has a light-medium body that feels too thin. Carbonation is also active and a little buzzy. It's not quite smooth. Drinkability is above average. The flavor's okay, and I'm semi-enjoying it. It's deceptively strong. The 9% abv creeps up on you. Nonetheless, a 750 is more than enough.

Unibroue did a credible job with Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2009. It's alright, but is a bit of a missed opportunity. The missing piece of the puzzle here is glaring...Belgian yeast. Where is it? A strong presence would substantially improve this beer. No question. It's alright as it is. Far from a bad beer. But, could've been appreciably better rather easily. It's definitely worth picking up, especially given the $4.99 price tag. What a value! But, it's not going to win any awards.

Photo of Hatshep18
5/5  rDev +30.2%

Photo of HalfFull
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From a corked 750 ml. bottle and poured into a large red wine glass. This 2009 vintage pours nearly black, with just a hint of deep garnet highlights and only then in strong light. Rather opaque and with just enough clarity to witness a steady stream of tiny bubbles emanating from the bottom of the glass. An inch of so of soapy mocha foam settles into a somewhat creamy consistency and offers great retention and lacing.

Ginger spice penetrates the foam, along with some light belgian yeast notes and a relatively subdued malt density. Ginger becomes overwhelmed in short order however. Some cocoa and cinnamon and a hint of cherry liqueur accompany, though not as fruity as many a Dark Ale. Said fruit does arrive later as the beer gets some exposure, along with a good but somewhat varying yeastiness.

The champagne like carbonation, when initially uncorked, cloaks some subtleties of flavor at first. Primarily cocoa and light cherry and apple early on. Some spice revealing itself later, most notably on the finish. Truly comes across as a porter of sorts at first given the strong cocoa and malt flavors, warming to reveal a smoother, fruitier flavor. Sweetness becomes evident as the beer warms but remains in a welcome balance, revealing itself as a cherry/chocolate vs. an earlier cocoa/spice. Alcohol is well hidden throughout, lending a solid drinkability.

Mouthfeel varies given the carbonation and the warmth, as I let the bottle sit at room temperature during the two hours I savored the drink. Initially offering a somewhat bready texture with a slight coarseness from the cocoa, this does segue to a more silky smooth feel as the fruit comes forth. All along, quite nice.

Viewed more as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale than a Dubbel, though existing somewhere in between. Expect variations in bottle conditioning.

Value: A+

Photo of RandyV
3.78/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Beautiful cedar swamp brown color on the pour with lots of carbonation (interestingly, the cork had a red wine smell). The smell announces the beer as a Unibroue production; yeasty, slightly farmhouse with malt sweet overtones. I got banana and clove more than anything with a nice alcohol warming to follow. The finish just mellows to an almost cloying sweetness, but certainly not unpleasant. This is a very drinkable brew, and great for the season. Wonder what the 2010 Vintage will bring in a year when I open it?

Photo of Maction
3.95/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep dark blackish mahogany brown. Thick and dense mocha head.

S: Spicy raisins and mincemeat pie filling, cinnamon, nutmeg -definitely xmas.

T: Follows aroma, dark dried fruits and spice, a little sweet apple and bitter spicy cocoa on the finish.

M: Light carbonation, silky, medium weight, just a little cling at the end.

D: It's easy to kill a bomber on a cozy winter's night.

Notes: This is probably the best beer value of the year, $4 a bomber.

Photo of PhotoMattT
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

3.75/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Black coffee color with a huge frothy tan head. Some foamy cloudy of tanned lace.

Sweet candied dates and currants. Candied ginger. Spiced apple pie. toasty caramel and candi sugar. some roastiness.

Dark chocolate cover cherries and caramel candied dates. A gingery toastiness and clovey roastiness. a medium bitterness grounds it.

Medium body. semi-smooth. high carbonation. Touch of astringency.

Good drinkable interesting brew. Glad I tried a bottle.

Consumed 10/2010

Photo of Phyl21ca
4.32/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a dark brown color ale with a large light brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma consists of candi sugar and coriander with the typical Unibroue yeast profile. Taste is a very nice mix between some sweet Belgian malt with light notes of candi sugar and quite a bit of coriander. The Unibroue yeast strain profile can also be easily detected but I find the light fruity ester it provides very enjoyable. Body is full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Well brewed with some complexity and easily drinkable characteristics.

Photo of Rukasu
3.98/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Continuing a tradition of opening these 3 years aged, perhaps waited a little long on this one. Stored in a dark area, refrigerated a day before opening.

A - Dark cola color with a light tan one finger head that diminishes to a thin lace on the surface.

S - Sweet candied fruits (pineapple, apricot, passion fruit, mango), caramel, pine, yeast.

T - A little musky with aging, but still a pretty good tasting brew. Sweet candied fruit tastes come through in the taste as well. Lots of pineapple and other tropical fruits. A bit of traditional holiday spices, orange, pine, cloves. Roasted malty aftertaste.

M - High alcohol leaves mouth a bit dry, but balances well with the sweetness of the beer.

O - Not bad despite the overaging. Unibroue rarely makes a bad beer and this one certainly stands up to the years, pleasant end of the year drink.

Photo of LiquidAmber
3.86/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review from 8/2010 notes. Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a dark, dark red amber. Very nice heavy tan head and tons of lacing. Looks very nice. Malt and dark fruit up front with spices an fruit in the middle and light malty finish with a bit of bitterness. Somewhat of a dry, abrupt finish. Not very heavy bodied, but the flavors are well integrated. These Trader Joe's Vintage ales seem to do nicely with about a year or so of aging.

Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

brown with a huge frothy head. Smell was very spicey, grassy and earthy tones with a hint of sweetness. The taste was classic belgian and very nicely done. Fruitness and spices predominate, no hint of alcohol, which at 9%abv is incredible. Really smooth and effortless in drinkability. This is a fantastic brew, way too easy to drink, honestly the easiest 9% I have ever had

Photo of jeffjeff1
4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a gift from my fiance's sister.

Appearance- dark brown color, thick creamy head, nice lacing

Smell- yeast, spices

Taste- sweet, spices, really good

Mouthfeel- medium bodied

Drinkability- Thus was really good. I really enjoyed it. I intend on drinking it again sometime.

Photo of JTahoe
3.58/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Deep dark brown color, nearly opaque, cola-like at edges. Minimal tan head reduces quickly to a thin cap with decent sticky, chunky lace.

S - Yeasty with candy sugar, spice, and traces of fruit. A distinct mustiness in the background.

T - Sweet and spicey with notes of clove, ginger, raisin, fig, plum, citrus, and herbs. Decidedly yeasty with a slight smokiness.

M - Medium-full body with high carbonation

D - Not too shabby, but the flavors begin to overwhelm at a certain point which dings the drinkability. Overall, a nice Belgian style dark which is especially impressive given the price.

Photo of FreshmanPour77
4/5  rDev +4.2%

Photo of campfirebrew
3.75/5  rDev -2.3%

Photo of blackie
3.86/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a: into the Unibroue snifter-tulip, huge tan with heavy retention and lots of sticky lace that eventually settles down

s: plummy with spicy notes of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon bark, and ginger, very subtle roast, hops give papery pulp aroma, the fruit and spice is nice, interesting set but they seem to kinda float on their own without much of a solid foundation

m: lively, high carbonation prickly on the tongue, body light to moderate

t: vivid flavors of dried plum with a solid spicing of clove and and nutmeg, a bit of cola and ginger, some lurking roast, papery hops add a nice balancing flavor and mild bitterness, just a glance of boozy sweetness, same issue as with the aroma - needs a better structure for the spice

d: no problems here, carries the 9 percent well

4/16/2013: A little overaged at this point. On the nose we have ginger, orange, and sweet tobacco. Touches of clove and cocoa. Palate is similar but muted. A little musty. Didn't age poorly for the years - just aged too long, as it's still got some good stuff going for it.

Photo of devilben02
3.7/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep, muddy, mahogany brown, with a thick foamy head. In contrast with the darkness in color, the aroma and taste are surprisingly light. It has a dryly sweet fragrance that seems to contain a blend of rich fruits, mellow spices that add interest more than mere spiciness, and a bit of yeast. The flavor contains this same blend, with the dry fruitiness making me think of berries for some reason, not in a syrupy or fruit-juice kind of way, but in the way that you appreciate a different character of the fruit when aged balsamic vinegar is poured over them. There is a bit of alcohol that is discernible, but it is almost entirely washed away by the prickly carbonation that, when combined with the medium body of this ale, creates a kind of tingly silkiness in the mouth. Overall, I appreciated this one more for the texture than for the aroma and flavor, but the entire experience was enjoyable.

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Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 128 ratings.