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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale - Trader Joe's Brewing Company

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

271 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 271
Reviews: 116
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 14.29%

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:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: hreb on 11-13-2011)
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Ratings: 271 | Reviews: 116 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of Rollzroyce21


3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL cork&caged bottle with Best Before date 6-Jul-16.

Cellared on 23-Nov-11. Uncorked on 25-Feb-14 (aged 2 yr 3 mon).

Poured into stemless wine glass.

Looked like really dark coke. Not as translucent as other Belgian darks.

Both aromas and flavors haven't changed much, which is a good thing. The age really smoothed out the edges but maintained the dark fruits and spices of cinnamon, cloves, corriander, and bit of orange peel. It's malty sweet, but not overly sweet like Belgian candy. Again, very smooth from start to finish. No boozy presence either, which I got a bit of when fresh.

Overall, this aged vintage would be able to hold its own against the more infamous of quads in a blind tasting. Wish I put away more.

Serving type: bottle

02-26-2014 14:43:29 | More by Rollzroyce21
Photo of MikeMilanoDesign


3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

aged a bottle for almost 3 years.

totally worth it. mellowed out really nicely. all the sugars mellowed out and it wasnt so super sweet. still had a bit of a funny taste in the finish.

highly recommend aging a bottle. but do keep an eye on the temp you age it at. i think my bottle got exposed to to much heat in the summer time.

Serving type: on-tap

12-26-2013 05:51:41 | More by MikeMilanoDesign
Photo of barnzy78


3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Bottle gushed a bit upon opening. Pour reveals a cola-like ale; bubbly beige head fades to a foam.
S - sweet, fruity aroma, bread, caramel, raisin, plum, yeast
T - sweet, very ripe dark fruits - raisins, plums, dates, cherries, yeast, bread, caramel, toffee, alcohol is warming but not hot
M - medium bodied, moderately carbonated, finishes with a lingering sweetness
O - it was nice to see this one age out a couple of years. I had bought 3 at the time; one to drink fresh, one left a year, and now this one 2 years out. Always a perrenial enjoyment from Unibroue.

Serving type: bottle

12-26-2013 03:05:31 | More by barnzy78
Photo of bluejacket74


4.01/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

750 ml caged and corked bottle, best before 07-06-2016. Had this bottle a couple years, hope it's good now! Served in a Dogfish Head signature glass, the beer pours dark brown with an inch light tan head that sticked around for a while. There's also a decent amount of lacing. Aroma is nice, the brew smells like dark fruit (plums, raisins), cloves, peppery spice, and some molasses. It tastes like dark fruit (plums, raisins), peppery spice, cloves, dark bread, cola, molasses and brown sugar. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a bit coating and creamy with a good amount of carbonation. I liked this brew, it's sweet, spicy and enjoyable to drink.

Serving type: bottle

12-13-2013 23:40:58 | More by bluejacket74
Photo of zeledonia


4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

One that's been sitting in my cellar for a while, finally getting around to drinking it. Tasted 27 October 2013.

Pours a deep rusty brown, though the rust comes through only at the edges, or when my glass is nearly empty. Two fingers of spongy medium-tan head, good retention, not much lacing.

Smell is delightful Belgiany dark fruits, full of plums and figs, brown sugar. In the quad realm, with powerfully sweet and sugary malty aromas, and all sorts of little variants on them. Has great complexity; I'm impressed.

Taste is similar - loads of dark fruit, sweetness, and variety. For malt freaks, this is a treat. It's like dessert, with all those fruits coated in molasses. Has just enough twang in the back-end to balance it out. Excellent.

Feel is nice, and fitting. Medium-bodied, sticky, with medium-low carbonation. Lasting, allowing those sweet flavors to dance and sing and play off each other.

I really like this beer. Shoot, I wish I'd bought more of it when I could. Unibroue is a fantastic brewery. And this is an outstanding beer, a lot like a quad, and just straight-up delicious.

Serving type: bottle

11-03-2013 14:03:34 | More by zeledonia
Photo of Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a deep burgundy color ale with a huge light brown foamy head with good retention and some good lacing. Aroma consists of caramelized Belgian malt with some coriander and the famous Unibroue yeast ester. Taste is also a well balanced mix of caramelized Belgian style malt with some coriander and some light peppery notes with the famous Unibroue yeast ester. Body is full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Doesn’t stray away from the brewer standards which is a good thing knowing how he masters the style.

Serving type: bottle

09-13-2013 17:42:07 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of woemad


3.03/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.75

750mL bottle purchased at the Spokane Trader Joe’s…a while ago, for …some money. I totally forgot about this one, and I need to clear out some room in the beer stash. Fortunately, this one appears to have been built for aging. 9% abv, and a best by date of July 6, 2016 makes me think this will be all right. By the way, Trader Joe’s isn’t trying nearly as hard to make you think they have a brewery somewhere as they do on some of their other beers, and the cage over the cork clearly identifies the brewers of this beer as Unibroue.

A very good looking beer, initially. Pours a super dark brown and yields up virtually nothing when held up to the light. Lots of mocha colored foam, though it receeds somewhat quickly for the style and leaves little lace.

In the nose I get mollasses, rum raisins and … cough syrup? There’s a really raw, robust boozy thing happening that doesn’t seem to meld with the other aromas very well. Maybe it just needs to warm up some.

Unfortunately, that raw, crude flavor doesn’t go away. It dominates the middle and finish of the taste, which starts off promising with Dark fruits and brown sugar notes before it is greatly diminshed by the sour, Robitussin thing that takes over.

Full bodied, with a sticky, coating mouthfeel.

A beer that is great in theory, but in practice virtually undrinkable. Someone else suggested in their review that Unibroue might have taken shortcuts in the malt dept to meet Trader Joe’s pricepoint. Seems plausible to me. I will not be finishing this bottle.

Serving type: bottle

06-22-2013 21:17:24 | More by woemad
Photo of ngeunit1


4.16/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark black with a finger of frothy tan-khaki head. Fades very slowly.

S - Dark caramel malts, raisin, plums, and other dark fruits, Belgian yeast, clove, pepper, other spices, a touch of sourness, and a touch of booze.

T - Dark caramel malts with raisin, plum, dates, and other dark fruits, Belgian yeast, clove, pepper, and other spices, a bit of residual sugars, a touch of sourness, and a bit of booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Smooth with a sweet and warming finish.

D - Nice BSDA. Good Belgian character and spices.

Serving type: bottle

02-24-2013 04:48:51 | More by ngeunit1
Photo of yamar68


3.99/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The most stubborn cork I have ever encountered. After struggling with my hands, then a plain corkscrew, and finally a wine opener, I sliced the print of my right thumb clean off. Lots of blood... we're off to a great start.

Very dark stuff. Muddy brown without much clarity to speak of. A swelling khaki head fills the glass and then some. Lacing is loose but consistent.

Intriguing... loads of soft pale fruits, sour yeast, some cola aromas, smooth and sweet, approachable, tame.

Fresh grape, more cola presence, frothy carbonation makes for an exciting presentation of flavors, sweet grain, it finishes pretty damn clean and rather wet. I can totally dig this.

That said - my thumb is now wrapped in gauze and electric tape... it's stinging pretty good, luckily I've already had a few but this is going to be a treat to wake up to.

Before you buy this, get some good gloves. Maybe chainmail.

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2013 07:00:13 | More by yamar68
Photo of brentk56

North Carolina

3.21/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown color with ruby highlights; an inch of tan does an adequate job of leaving a smattering of lace

Smell: Molasses, prune, charred black bread and cloves

Taste: Burnt brown sugar and prune flavors, up front, but there is an excess of clove and sour off-flavors, in the middle; the sourness dominates the finish, as well

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: In order to make the price point, I suspect Unibroue makes some compromises with the ingredients, particularly the malts; this beer strikes me as not having the body or the robust complexity of even a mid-tier BSDA

Serving type: bottle

01-22-2013 23:12:03 | More by brentk56
Photo of GossageBrewery


3.44/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

I had this stored in my basement for over a year, thought I would take it out and give it a try. Poured from a 750 ml bottle, into a snifter. Poured a amber color, produced a tannish head, decent retention and it left some lacing on the glass. The Aroma consisted of roasted malt, sweet caramel and prunes. Full bodied, this Belgian Strong Dark Ale the base consisted of roasted malt, caramel and some wine like fruitiness, most likely from the yeast. Overall, it was decent, it under preformed my expectations, but maybe my expectations were to high. Unibroue brewed this ale for Trader Joe's and thus far everything i have sampled from Unibroqe has been outstanding.

Serving type: bottle

01-16-2013 18:23:13 | More by GossageBrewery
Photo of kawilliams81

Yukon (Canada)

3.89/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage. Poured from a 750 ml cork n cage bottle into a Pipeworks snifter.

A- pours a dark brown with a 3" tan head. Some small bubbles speckle the glass with a thin ring of lacing.

S- dark fruits, some pepper, some clove and some other spice I can't pick out.

T- amber malts, dark fruits, clove and spices, some bread, and Belgian yeast.

M- medium body and med/high carbonation. Slick at first with a crisp and slightly dry finish.

O- loudest cork for a beer I have ever heard! Pretty good beer, but nothing I would rush to revisit.

Serving type: bottle

01-15-2013 03:41:45 | More by kawilliams81
Photo of Derek

British Columbia (Canada)

4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Reddy-brown-black with a light tan head, thin ring of retention, very little lace.

S: Peppery spice, a bit phenolic, dark fruit, jaggery.

T: Raisins, dates, figs, pepper, jaggery, candied mango, curacao orange rind, cola, good bitterness, slight alcohol warmth.

M: Well-attenuated, moderate body has a crisp finish.

O: Good overall brew, probably a bit better than what the score adds up to...

Serving type: bottle

11-27-2012 02:55:50 | More by Derek
Photo of ndepriest


3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into a snifter.

It's pours pretty dark, but there's some light around the edges. Tons of carbonation.

The smell is dark fruit and yeast with a mild sweetness. The taste is similar to the smell. Lots of dark fruit, and the yeast gives it that distinct Unibroue taste. The carbonation is very present in the mouthfeel. It's a bit distracting and odd that it's still so carbonated after 1+ year of age.

Overall, not bad, especially for the price. I have a couple of others bottle that I'll hang onto for a while longer to see how they turn out. For what a bargain it is, I recommend it.

Serving type: bottle

11-16-2012 16:55:39 | More by ndepriest
Photo of Murrhey


3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle in my house in Orange, Calif. Reviewed from notes.

A- Finger width khaki head. Little retention.

S- Hoppy and sweet. Has nice notes all the way. Dark fruits.

T- Dark fruits and burnt sugar. Crazy tastes. Has alcohol to contend with.

M- Very heavy and almost soda like carbonation.

O- Might want to buy and age again. Not great for me now though.

Serving type: bottle

11-15-2012 02:59:43 | More by Murrhey
Photo of Tinfang


3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a short wide-mouth glass, cooled to 52 degrees. Best by 6 july 2016. Cork came out with a dramatic POP.

A: dark ruby with a creamy half-inch head that dissipated not too quickly. No lacing.

S: a bit of malt and definitely spices. Smell was fairly predictive of taste.

M: substantial but not thick. Left a bit of a coat in the mouth.

T: nice spice profile that lingers. Ginger, coriander, clove. Unmistakeable Unibroue funk. Slight aftertaste of bark, not pleasant.

I bought three cases of this for cellaring. Can't find my tasting notes from the bottles when fresh, but it seems to be aging just about as one would expect i.e. plenty of character with the individual spice notes more unified. Nothing about this ale struck me as an increase in complexity with time.

Very good for the price, and merits a try, but there's no free lunch. I drink a lot of Unibroue products and they are among my favorites. There's a wee something lacking in this recipe (one less spice? No fresh yeast? A step omitted from the brewing process?) that prevents me from having an immediate "Delicious!" reaction. I also found two bad bottles out of the first dozen I've opened, one of which was undrinkable. That's never ever been the case with anything else from that brewery.

Next scheduled sampling in November.

Serving type: bottle

09-30-2012 20:17:14 | More by Tinfang
Photo of korguy123

Ontario (Canada)

4.23/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle into goblet. Purchased at my first Trader Joe's in Ann Arbor MI.

A- Almost completely opaque dark brown pour with red highlights around the edges, Finger width off white head that quickly drops to a thin cap. Lacing is decent.

S- Super typical Unibroue dark aromas. Dark stone fruits, bananas, cloves, slight apple and spicy yeast. This is identical to the other dark Unibroue beers and I like it.

T- Bananas, dark stone fruits, apple juice, slight grape, bananas, cloves, a touch of cinnamon and a nice yeast taste is in all Unibroue beers.

M- Lighter side of medium bodied, great carbonation.

O- I really like Unibroue, they truly do their beers very well. I enjoyed this one equally as much.

Serving type: bottle

05-28-2012 22:40:05 | More by korguy123
Photo of jondeelee


3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Trader Joe’s 2011 Vintage Ale opens with a nose that makes immediately apparent the beer’s Unibroue brewing, containing that special funkiness that comes from Unibroue’s yeast, which lends the beer a part-Belgian, part-near-Flemish overtone, being ripe with bananas and cloves, but also sour notes, like fermented apple cider. Apart from the yeast aromas, which seem to take up the majority of the nose, the beer does feature thick molasses notes, crusty brown breads, and a few fruit esters, such as plum, fig, and white grape. Touches of grapefruit citrus rim the edges, as well as a peppery spice. As a whole, the nose is certainly intriguing, and comes across as very Christmasy in some ways, like alcoholic fruitcake. The strange spice, banana, and clove notes are perhaps a bit overpowering, making other aromas very difficult to locate, and do come across slightly more like fermented apple cider than is necessary, but the beer still manages to be strangely alluring.

On the tongue, the beer opens with a hit of bananas and cloves, followed immediately by an orange, berry, and spice mixture, the latter containing lemon, ginger, and white pepper. The spices are potent enough that they bite at the soft tissues. Some brown bread crust, raisin, and molasses notes add additional complexity, though the beer does come across somewhat like an alcoholic Dr. Pepper because of the spice and malt combo. The flavors last the entirety of the mouthful, and extend easily into the aftertaste, losing their potency very slowly. The 9% ABV becomes a little more apparent here, coming across as a part-bourbon, part-cognac alcoholic vapor that mixes nicely with the spices and fruits. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium to medium-high, fizzing on the tongue.

Overall, this is good beer, and certainly lives up to Unibroue’s high brewing standards. The fruits and spices do come across as slightly overpowering here, but then I admit that’s a problem I have with most of Unibroue’s offerings. I also think the beer bears slightly too much resemblance to alcoholic fruitcake. But the flavors that are present have excellent strength and variance, and blend extremely well to create a taste sensation unlike almost anything else on the market.

Serving type: bottle

05-24-2012 16:33:15 | More by jondeelee
Photo of jjanega08


4.23/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage with a best before 07-06-2016

A= Pours a deep black color with no light passing through and a tall three fingers of deep brown tannish head on it that holds nice retention and nice lacing.

S= Smells like spicy belgian yeast. Cinnamon and coriander. There is a little bit of a lavender or anise aroma coming from it. Decent dark fruit aroma to it as well.

T= The flavor is again deep belgian yeasty spice to it. A almost a classic christmas spice taste if that makes sense. Reminds me of ginger bread and cinnamon with a little bannana to it. The dark fruit character is toned down as it is mostly just a ton of spice and yeast.

M= Very highly carbonated and light on the tongue.

O= This is a pretty nice beer. I imagine it to be a great christmas beer. Maybe not so much suited for mid May. Worth trying however and I actually enjoyed the shit out of it.

Serving type: bottle

05-22-2012 05:04:12 | More by jjanega08
Photo of Etan


3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml into a snifter. 2011 bottle - it's a gusher.

A: Pours a dark purplish brown with a huge off-white head.

S: Big bubbly yeast and vinous esters. Red grape, brown bread, dark candi sugar, nutmeg.

T: Smooth big yeast, dark crushed grape, banana bread malts, oregano, nutmeg, blackberry, subtle cocoa and sweet alcohol.

M: Creamy, big carbonation.

O: Not the most complex BSDA I've had, but it's pretty nice.

Serving type: bottle

05-18-2012 19:40:32 | More by Etan
Photo of kaseydad


3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Broke my favorite snifter so am using a pint glass. Bleh.

Pours a dark flat cola color and a huge amount of beige foam that stays throughout session.

Smells of light booze, floral, dark fruits (plum, pear, apple0, clove and wood. Lots to whiff here.

After the heavy carbonation, the taste consists of fruitiness and a mix of spices on the finish and a dry alchohol finish. Pretty malty as well.

Overall I think I may have drank this a little early. A lot of carbonation going on and the booze is pretty evident. Definitely can't beat the price and still solid after all these years.

Serving type: bottle

05-18-2012 18:49:08 | More by kaseydad
Photo of DaftCaskBC

British Columbia (Canada)

4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: 1/2" tan coloured bubbly head over black liquid.

S: Apples, cloves, pears and figs. Somewhat similar to Trois Pistoles.

T: Cloves, apples, cinnamon, figs, pears and raisins. Complex and spicy. Somewhat sweet.

M: Medium viscosity and carbonation.

O: Very drinkable, and you can't beat the price.

Serving type: bottle

04-27-2012 01:43:04 | More by DaftCaskBC
Photo of Bierguy5


3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 ml bottle, 9% abv. Best before 7/6/16. Deep brown in color, with an airy tan head. Head retention is pretty nice. Ruby edges when held up to the light.

Slight roasted malt aroma combines with some darker fruit in the nose. A bit of a Belgian yeasty, spicy and earthy note. Not overly complex, but nice.

Darker malt, with a bit of a caramel feel, and just a slight roasty feel. Darker fruits, with some raisin and fig notes. Yeasty notes give an earthy feel at the end.

Medium body, but the ample carbonation gives a much lighter feel. Alcohol is very well hidden. Not very complex, but still tasty and a great value.

Serving type: bottle

03-15-2012 00:11:20 | More by Bierguy5
Photo of DCon


3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bought a 750mL 1PT. 9.4fl.oz. bottle of this from Trader Joe's in Creve Coeur, MO for $4.99. Poured from the Corked/Twisted Melt Top bottle w/ a Greenery in Silver on the bottle into a Stemmed Goblet glass. Has BEST BEFORE 07-06-2016 on the back of the bottle.

Aroma- Has a nice amount of richness, malt, and sweetness from the beginning of the aroma. A nice caramel and dark fruit aroma comes in mid smell and then a light amount of spice.

Appearance- Pours a 1 finger head that dies fairly quickly. Has an amber/brown colored body with good clarity? Leaves light suds behind.

Flavor- The flavor includes dark fruits and a light caramel taste. Not as complexed as I would like but has a nice "similar" belgian strong ale profile. Has a medium bitterness level at the finish.

Mouthfeel- Medium Bodied, Medium-High Carbonation, Smooth, Malt strong, and leaves belgian yeast and dark fruits on the palate afterwards.

Overall Impression- For the price, you can't beat this one by Unibroue/Trader Joes! Doesn't even need to be aged. I will be buying another one of these to stick in my cellar and see how it ages for a year or two. Get your hands on this one or past years!

Serving type: bottle

03-10-2012 23:54:26 | More by DCon
Photo of uwmgdman


4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter this ale has a thick, long-lasting khaki head with a black body and faint garnet hue when held to a bright light--very nice. The aroma is dominated by Belgian yeast character, mainly clove and spicy pepper, some banana and a bit of sweet malt. The flavor is a nice mix of fruity esters, spices, peppery, chocolate malt and medium-low hop bitterness. The finish is pleasantly dry and the spicy/fruity esters linger nicely. The carbonation is medium and body medium as well. Overall a flavorful, interesting beer, certainly worth giving a try, if I make a trip to Trader Joe's I'd pick this up again.

Serving type: bottle

03-10-2012 04:00:36 | More by uwmgdman
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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 271 ratings.