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.
BA SCORE
86
very good

128 Ratings
THE BROS
-
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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Ratings: 128 | Reviews: 96
Photo of Arbitrator
1.48/5  rDev -61.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Chilled 750mL into a glass. Curiosity got the better of me, after re-trying Trois Pistoles recently and seeing this beer compared to it.

A: Pours a dark brown body with substantial clarity in the glass when held up to the light. The head is a beige color with slight grayish tint, perhaps due to its juxtaposition with a seemingly pitch-black body. Retention is outstanding, though lacing is a bit weak.

S: Dark fruits (plums, figs), cinnamon, nutmeg, yeast. A lightly herbal quality of juniper berries. Some medicinal quality to it.

T: Starts off with dark fruits (plums and figs). The mid-taste is yeasty with a cinnamon character. The finish sees caramel and a mild hint of nutmeg, juniper, and some herb or root I can't place (I want to say anise but it doesn't seem sweet enough, more medicinal actually). The flavors don't quite jump out the way they do in Unibroue's other beers. The finish is lightly dry. The aftertaste is toasty and herbally bitter, with an exhalation that reminds me strongly of s'mores (including chocolate, but I don't pick up cocoa in the main taste). For the style it strikes me as a pretty subpar flavor, and I personally find the aftertaste a bit off-putting. Toward the end of the bottle it even becomes a chore. It's not strong in flavor, and what flavor there is, clashes. Ick.

M: Medium-full bodied and chewy, but it suffers from the usual Unibroue problem (overcarbonation). Very foamy in the mouth. I wound up swirling a lot of the bubbles out, so there is a workaround. It's very prickly otherwise, even for a BSDA.

D: I definitely regret picking up 4 bottles of this. I liked previous vintages, but this one winds up being a drainpour just over halfway through the bottle (and, as befitting my policy on drainpours, doesn't merit above a D). Pretty obvious that Unibroue just phoned this one in.

Photo of TheNapkin
1.56/5  rDev -59.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

I've like all the other Trader Joe's Unibroue Vintage Ales, but this one was not my favorite. It's possible I got a bad bottle (if this is the case, I have a second bottle that I'll try and if things improve, I'll post a second review and amend this one)

Appearance - dark brown, mahogany

Smell/Taste Medicinal, mentholated, really old Coca Cola, birch beer, not gingery at all like the bottle said. Traditional Unibroue yeast smell, which is pleasant, but as soon as it hits your tongue you wish it hadn't

Drinkability - between two people, we couldn't finish the bottle.

Moutfheel - not too thick for it being as dark as it is. Nice carbonation. But carbonation and good viscosity only go so far to mask the taste of this brewer's mistake.

(P.S. The second bottle of this vintage I purchased suffered from all the same flaws as the first bottle. I opened this bottle at a New Year's Eve party. On the one day of the year where people will drink anything and everything, this beer was the only bottle in the house with beer left in it at the end of the night.)

Photo of mklinger
1.95/5  rDev -49.2%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

My father-in-law picked up a bottle of this for me. After seeing that it was brewed by Unibroue, I was prepared to be impressed, but boy, I found this to be quite the trainwreck.

Poor head development -- rather than looking like beer at all, it looked like fizzy Coca-Cola. Same color, same large bubbles and quickly dispersing head. Fine appearance for soda, pretty poor for beer.

Smell and taste both had some weird complexities going on (which is generally good). There was some spice, some dark roasted malt flavors, surprisingly little caramel sweetness or plum/raisin sweetness for this style of beer. The problem here was balance -- there are a bunch of individual smells & tastes but none of them seem to go together. There's just no balance here. Folks are comparing this in places to some of Unibroue's beers like Trois Pistoles -- for me, nothing could be further from my tasting. Certainly the poorest beer I've had in a year.

Photo of blackdog1101
2.01/5  rDev -47.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

I bought 6 bottles of Trader Joe's Vintage 2009 when it came out, and this is the third bottle I've drank from over the past several months. I've enjoyed some other Unibroue beers and hoped this would be similar, but at a better price point. Sadly, this beer has completely disappointed me.

Poured into a generic tulip.

A - The most promising part of this beer. Dark but not totally opaque. Forms a nice tan head, but it fades to a ring rather quickly. Looks very much like a cola.

S - Smells of dried plums and alcohol. There's something about the aroma that makes me think of Nyquil - phenolic and medicinal.

T - To begin, this beer has a very sour taste. As it warms up it gains some sweetness. But all the time it seems hot. There is this raisin/plum thing going on, and also a lemon/citrus thing going on, and I'm not sure that I like those two tastes together. Seems rather unbalanced.

M - The worst aspect of this beer. It seems over-carbonated, fizzy like a soda pop rather than properly carbonated like a Belgian-style ale. Very thin in the mouth. Not pleasant in the mouth whatsoever. Fizzy and hot.

D - I really can't find any reason to want to drink the other half of the bottle, except that I hate to drain-pour beer. If I do drink the rest of the bottle it will be only due to my miserliness, and not because I enjoy it. Avoid this beer if you haven't already bought some.

Photo of nelson4
2.14/5  rDev -44.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1

A - 3.5 Pretty excited when i first poured. Pours very dark brown and thick head. The head quickly dissipates to a somewhat soapy looking mess. I gave it 3.5 for color and what the head started out as, but I think this might be a little generous.

S - I get a slightly medicinal plastic smell. It's not pleasing. I also get a slightly sweet and sour smell. As it sits it opens up the sweetness slightly.

T - A little sour with a faint toasted flavor. It doesn't wow me, and the medicinal plastic notes are coming through. Maybe this yeast got a little wild.

M - Initially very carbonated and watery. As it sits it seems to mellow out a bit and become better. I tend to like a little more thicker chewier beer. This one might just be personal preference.

D - Not sure I would want more than one glass of this. It is just interesting enough for one glass and then it gets kind of old. It also has a very noticeable warming to it that makes me want to slow down.

Overall, I think this beer got a little wild and maybe needs some age. My initial tasting had this near an F, but as I let it sit it opened up and got slightly better. (As most beers do) I might buy this again just to see how it ages.

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 SpittinRivers
2.77/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Very dark color with nice straight carbonation. spicy orange with deep raw sweet (cocoa). slight sour aftertaste. feels like a wheat or dark hefe. clove says another. Dark Ale on Lees. Looking forward to see what some years will do to it. drinking out of a chimay glass and it's too foamy. try regular pint instead.

Photo of fastsrt
3.02/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

poured the 750 ml bottle into a chalice deep brown almost black raised a nice dirty head that the carbonation keeps alive to a perfect lace. smells srong distinctive of unibroue yeasts, cherry booze and monster cinnamon. tastes too spicy which throws this brew out of balance the mouth feel was great prickly carbonation lifting the sweetness, but not the spice, while creating a light mouth feel. the spice is over powering and i laid a another bottle down which i will revisit next year, but i ended up dumping the last glass down the drain due to too much spice, hopefully this mellows out over the next 12 months or so.

Photo of mightyj
3.03/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

poured into my tulip glass.

a - dark like a trois pistole. good amount of head...about a finger or 2 that was slightly brown

s - smelled spicy. cloves. cinammon.

t - i didn't mind the taste, but as i drank more of it it kinda fell off for me. spicy taste that follows the smell.

m - i felt that it had a little too much carbonation. it kinda stayed near the top of my stomach and left this full feeling.

d - i had about a tulip and a half and then i had to pour the rest. first beer i couldn't/didn't want to finish.

i like unibroue's other beers a lot more. might try trader joe's vintage again in the future but def not 2009 nemore

Photo of icetraxx
3.06/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: Brown/black, difficult to see any light through this beer. Pours a one finger head that hangs around for awhile but eventually dissipated into a tiny cap. Some lacing is noticeable.

S: A whiff of ethanol, molasses, ginger, spice, dried fruit, and medicinal astringency. No hop, malt, or roast aromas.

T: Spiced and roasted malt, chocolate, and a hint of ginger/citrus dominate. There are some fruit and tannin flavors that I find similar to Pinot Noir red wine, as well as some oxidized flavors suggesting port, marsala, or sherry wine. Some stale coca-cola undertones on the aftertaste. Low hop bitterness for the style. The flavor is good at first but can become unpleasant as you drink, possibly due to the aftertaste.

M: Good body, but way overly carbonated. This isn't champagne.

D: I can only stand about half a serving before the alcohol, aftertaste, or carbonation get to me.

O: I would like to pick up another bottle of this to see if it will improve with age.

Photo of notchucknorris
3.28/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Almost black in color with a huge sandy colored head that lasts nicely.

S: Ginger, brown sugar, saffron and nutmeg. A strange array of spices thrown in. It smells a bit better than it did a year ago.

T: Mostly malt with some hints of spice and a touch of the ginger. For me, the mouthfeel is way too thin and kind of kills this one. The finish just dies into a watery flavor.

Photo of enemyisyou
3.29/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased at Trader Joe's near Union Square, Manhattan, $5 - cheaper than other Unis. I was really excited for this one...

A - Poured and a thick head with large carbonation bubbles immediately fizzed up and came back down again shortly leaving a thin, denser lace on top.

S - The smell was not pleasant... not if this was just a bad bottle, but the glass was clean! Faint notes of cinnamon and dried fruit. GF says "smells like Chinese medicine."

T - There's something funky in this bottle... not sure what it is, but there's nothing really going on here. There's a tiny bit of coffee and orange at the end, but it's surprisingly insipid. Kind of like a gym sock lambic.

M - This suffers from the same issue as other Unibroues IMO - the carbonation, and this contributes to the mouthfeel somehow. An authentic Belgian wouldn't drink like Pellegrino. After half a tulip glass I was ready for a glass of water.

D - Not as inspiring as Unibroue's other efforts, which one can find oneself at the bottom of a bottle with no trouble at all.

Overall - I'll finish this 750 (just don't like to waste even potentially bad beer) but I'll have to come back to it. I suspect something is wrong with it.... If it's really as good as others are saying then it may be worth another $5 to try it out, even if I can stick with something safer for a few more dollars.

Photo of AnswerInQuestion
3.31/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Very dark chocolate brown with 1/8 inch head that sticks to the glass on the way down.

S: Cocoa nibs, a hint of black pepper and lemon/orange zest. Refreshing malt.

T: Chocolate with a cola aftertaste (perhaps due in part to carbonation), black licorice and very lightly alcoholic finish.

M: Very bubbly, almost to the point of distracting from the taste. Smooth moving across the palate but practically foamy when sitting on the tongue. East going down.

D: Tasty, but a bit too bitter with the bubbles and not a strong enough flavor through them. Also leaving a lingering slight iron/metallic taste as I get through the glass.

Photo of argock
3.35/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from 750mL brown bottle into a Duvel tulip. Best by 9/12/12 on back of bottle. Purchased at Trader Joe's (Short Pump, VA) for $4.99.

A: Murky brown with 3-finger cola-like, huge bubbled tan head which has good retention and leaves spotty lace.

S: Heavily spiced nose with elements of nutmeg, clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Malt component isn't as strong as it could be with some dark fruit and grape. Hops are herbal. Yeast is lightly nutty.

T: Flavor is also spiced like a winter warmer with nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger with date and raisin as the biggest malt players. Substantial yeastiness through the middle. Hops are light and herbal. Too spiced for me but others might like it (a lot).

M: Highly carbonated but still feels pretty smooth. Alcohol is well-hidden. Aftertaste is mostly spiced and accumulates not in a good way.

D: The spices are too much and detract from the flavor. Malts and hops are lost in all the spicing. Not my kind of beer. Hopefully the spices will fade and the malt will get a chance to assert itself with some cellaring.

Photo of FatCaster
3.43/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I was a big fan of last year's Ale, so this has got some big shoes to fill.

A-Opaque black with a thick, lingering tan colored head. Bubbly but not foamy.

S-Yeast, brown sugar, dried apples.

T-Not really sure how to describe this...dark fruit or berry flavors with a slight bitter coffee taste. Perhaps a bit of citrus. You get a touch of the alcohol that lingers in your mouth. Pretty good, but not as good as last year's.

M-Not as thick as you'd think, burns a bit in the back of the throat.

D-Not super drinkable, but I'll still work my way through this bottle. Flavors are a bit too conflicting to be a volume drinker. Probably more of a sipping beer.

I'd pick it up and try it if you liked last year's, and I might get a bottle or two to age. It's still a hell of a deal. But it's not as good as 2008.

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 wknight167
3.48/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Apearance - Pours an opaque near black with a three finger tan head that doesn't stay too long.

Nose- Big allspice and clove notes, Dark fruits and cocoa also present.

Palate- Figs and raisins are accented by clove, cinnamon, ginger and quite a bit of yeast. Alcohol is hidden well.

Mouthfeel- Highly carbonated, medium smooth body.

Overall- I do with out so much spice and with more body to this one.

Photo of atsprings
3.49/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This one is an annual Christmas gift from my older sister, 750mL corked and caged bottle into a Duvel snifter pours an almost opaque black with a decent frothy off-white head. Aroma is slight sweet malts, but not much there. The taste is sweet malts and slight spice with just a hint of roastiness. The beer is medium bodied with heavy carbonation and well hidden alcohol. This one is a decent beer, but not what I would expect from a beer brewed by Unibroue.

Photo of 1759Girl
3.51/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Appearance> Poured with a thick tan head, gorgeous color that I was expecting from Uni. The lacing was a disappointment, but more disturbing was the discovery of bits of sediment. I poured this in a tulip glass and there were white-ish chunks towards the bottom.

Smell>alcohol, maple syrup... tiny notes of copper.

Taste> Tart start that quickly defers to a rush of malty goodness with a strong, sweet alcohol hang.

Mouf>overly carbonated and full. A friend sharing the 22 with me said "but, beers don't have mouthfeel." And then he had a sip and said, "You're right. The mouthfeel sucks."

Drinkability>We finished the bottle because it still tasted good, but it was not as good as the 2008.

Photo of ugaterrapin
3.55/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep dark brown that lets a slight bit of light through. Had about 1.5 fingers of fizzy tan head. Has a very sweet unmistakably Belgian smell. It has sweet caramel malt flavor. There were slight coffee notes in the finish but not as much as I was expecting from the label. It seemed a slight bit over carbonated which detracted from the taste slightly. The flavors I can taste are good, but I wish they were stronger.

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 4000qtrap
3.56/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Source/Serving: 750mL Bottle

Smell: Very spicy with cloves and cinnamon prominent. Molasses, some sour apple, bananas and raisins. Yeasty. A LOT going on.

Taste: Very Spicy! Ginger and cloves and a rush of sweet molasses. A little citrus shines through after a while. Finish is very bready and yeasty. Moderate carbonation and suprisingly moderate mouthfeel. Not much roastiness of coffee-like character.

Notes: I got quite a few of these to age. At this point, it's a little too spicy for meat this point but its complexity is intriguing. The ginger and citrus are quite unusual and I am looking forward to seeing how this ages.

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 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 ommegoose
3.58/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Very dark plum color, nearly opaque. Head consists of wispy foam of even beige bubbles, for about two inches. Laced a bit.

Unmistakable Unibroue house character in the aroma. Dry musty grain. Earthy yeast, nutty. Wisps of dark fruit.

Dry earthy flavor, with spicy and fruity notes. Clove and light peppery yeast. Anise. Plum, prune, raisin flavors, but not much sweetness. Not as bold as a typical Unibroue beer. Really dominated by the yeasty flavors. A bit of heat going down. Flavor does not pop the way beers at about 9% often do. Finishes sticky and with the musty yeasty spice flavors lingering. I wish there was a bit more depth to the malt. Not really any hops to speak of. Too musty and spice-driven for me.

Very effervescent. A little too bubbly for me. Even after a hearty swirling in the glass, feels very airy. Alcohol is present going down, warming in the stomach. Starts to feel slightly oily when it flattens out a bit.

I was expecting this to be like Trois Pistoles, but it's not nearly as fruity. More like Maudite, I guess. After a third of it, I don't feel super compelled to get through the whole thing, but being by myself, I'll do it. This is cheap, but I'd probably be more inclined to spend a little more to get a nicer beer in the future. This has been a slow drinker. Belgian Strong Dark Ale is a style with high standards. I'm guessing that almost all of the ones you find will be better.

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