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

Not Rated.
Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
85
very good

279 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 279
Reviews: 117
rAvg: 3.79
pDev: 14.25%
Wants: 4
Gots: 71 | FT: 4
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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 279 | Reviews: 117 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by Overlord:
Photo of Overlord
1.75/5  rDev -53.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

May be showing initial signs of infection. Sadly, I have another bottle, so I'll see if that one is any better.

First thing to note is explosively crazy carbonation. Umm....should half a tulip glass result in an overflowing light tan head? Subsequent pours result in crazy amounts of fizz. Ruddy brown color.

Smells like rancid, spoiled raisins, a bit of buttery malt, and a zingy, intrusive yeast.

The taste is all over the place. Orange rum soaked raisins, a weird tangy malt aftertaste, and the belgian yeast has run amuck with medicinal bananas and an irritating herbal aftertaste.

I usually find this beer to a great value in beerdom. This year's version sucks.

Overlord, Nov 30, 2011
More User Reviews:
Photo of wrycon
3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Heavily carbonated on the pour. Quite dark, almost black, but there's light on the edges. Looked more brown when poured. Nice finger of head that stays. Very tight lacing. Smells much lighter than its appearance. Some raisin, some mahogany, a little banana, some currant. Smells light some funk lingers underneath. Many flavors clash in the front - cinnamon, earthy malt, maybe plum, and then the clouds part and a robust sweetness holds court in the middle. Finishes with a spicy, nutmeggy (not a word) slide. There's considerable carbonation throughout, making it a very flavorful, but lighter brew. This is my first Trader Joe's Vintage Ale and I'm pleasantly surprised.

Like It? Yes.

wrycon, Dec 27, 2011
Photo of warnerry
4/5  rDev +5.5%

warnerry, Nov 10, 2013
Photo of Beaver13
2.48/5  rDev -34.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

750ml bottle, best before 07-06-2016. Pours brown with a pillowy light tan head that goes to a thin film that leaves a little lacing.

The aroma is sweet bready chocolate malts with some banana notes from the yeast and some perfumey floral notes. Some spices come out some as it warms (corriander, ginger?).

The flavor is similar - sweet sugary bready chocolate / caramel malts with earthy yeast and some banana. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with sharp spritzy carbonation.

Overall, an OK Belgian. Just didn't mesh well with me.

Beaver13, Feb 15, 2012
Photo of 1Adam12
4/5  rDev +5.5%

1Adam12, Nov 16, 2011
Photo of jondeelee
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
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.

jondeelee, May 24, 2012
Photo of MattyG85
4.33/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into a Duvel tulip glass. 2011 Vintage

Appearance: Pours a dark blackish brown with a little ruby red showing on the bottom of the glass. Big five finger tan head fizzles down to a thin layer. Lacing is moderate on the glass.

Smell: Lots of spicy Belgian yeast upfront with cloves and hints of banana and pepper. Also some hints of raisins and other dark fruits. Has a lingering aroma of cocoa powder giving a cola like smell to the spices. Also picking up some hints of coriander, lemon, and brown sugar. One of the most spice forward beers I've smelled.

Taste: Spicy like the nose suggests but not as much cola in the taste. Big taste of Belgian yeast throughout with some clove. Hints of banana and nutmeg with dark fruit raisins and plum. Some notes of cocoa powder that blend in well with the yeast. Also some light hints of lemon, coriander, brown sugar, and dark malts giving a little hint of chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Body on the lighter side of medium and carbonation is medium to high. Finishes somewhat sweet. Alcohol heat is nowhere to be found which is a bit surprising considering the body isn't heavy. Very smooth.

Overall: A very nice and interesting take on a dark Belgian ale. The spices blend very well in the taste and this is pretty easy to drink.

MattyG85, Nov 24, 2011
Photo of deuce9259
4/5  rDev +5.5%

deuce9259, Jan 21, 2012
Photo of acurtis
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%

acurtis, May 14, 2013
Photo of mmbernie51
4/5  rDev +5.5%

mmbernie51, Dec 15, 2011
Photo of InfernoBoss
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%

InfernoBoss, Nov 30, 2011
Photo of tastybeer
3.55/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Deep, dark, murky brown in color with large foamy beige head. I almost thought it was black initially. Not much lace sticks around once the head fades to a thin layer, though a nice looking beer none-the-less. Aroma matches color in darkness. Fruits like figs, prunes, purple grapes, raisins, and apples, wallowing in sweet chewy malt. A little licorice, some apparent alcohol, and spiciness throughout. Spices are all over...maybe some fresh ginger, perhaps cardamon, possibly coriander? The alcohol is more apparent in the flavor, though not a deterrent. Seems slightly whisky-like. Plenty of dark fruit tastes as in the smell, but a bit sweeter than I expected. Not quite to the level of cloying. There's some balancing tartness through the finish. Body is full and texture is syrup-like. Feels like a heavy beer which in this case seems neither negative or positive. Given the sticky denseness of this I am drinking this down at a faster than expected speed. Overall a pretty interesting beer. Not mind blowing but pretty decent.

tastybeer, Feb 19, 2012
Photo of augustgarage
3.63/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a caged-and-corked 750mL bottle into my Unibroue tulip.

Nearly opaque body is a mix of bistre, bole, and cordovan capped by a fist of wheat colored foam. Creamy, sticky merengue-like lacing. Superior retention.

Yeast and alcohol feature prominently in the aroma suggesting sourdough starter, grapes, and a wave of peppery phenols as well. Wintery and straight-forward.

Mead-like palate entry with hints of tart apple and pear. Pleasing yeast notes tie the flavor profile together. Finishes with a touch of spice and stewed fruit. Fairly sweet but never cloying.

Effervescent, soft, and medium-bodied. Just a touch hot maybe...

This remains a wonderful value - lacks some complexity for an ale you might consider cellaring - but it's worth picking up a few bottles for the price alone.

augustgarage, Dec 16, 2011
Photo of brewerburgundy
3.3/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

25.4oz bottle, Duvel tulip, 2011 vintage.

Enormous head, pinkish light brown, widely spaced bubbles, billowing. This year's Vintage Ale is darker than I recall the last two years, more resistant to light, with more red.

Gimme that old distinctive Unibroue yeast. This super phenolic strain is spicy and funky in a raw herbal way, not like Brett at all, but just a very foreign smell. It's totally dominant, root beer is the only other aroma.

No surprise, the yeast is the dominant flavor too. Sweet malts, root beer, sarsaparilla, cranberries, and candi sugar skulk. I'm just not a huge fan of Unibroue's house strain that they use for their darker beers. Things kind of end up like overripe bananas.

Thin for the size and lack of outrageous alcohol, I find the mouthfeel of this beer really quite dull. The super carbonation that made that enormous head had fled.

Maybe I've tightened up my reviewing closer to a C average since last Christmas, but this years really isn't so much to my liking. It's one-dimensional.

brewerburgundy, Dec 26, 2011
Photo of hreb
4.18/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale. Brewed by unibrou, best before 07-06-2016 (no waiting for me though). Even before pouring into my Chimay chalice there's the distinct grapy/yeasty aroma of champagne from this similarly topped 750mL bottle. Beer itself is dark brown with a thick chestnut head.

Flavor is slightly sweet with nutty malts, a little bit of funk from the lees, and tasty hoppage. Spice flavors are perhaps cinnamon and clove and play well with the sweetness of the beer.

I'm definitely enjoying this more than earlier years' Vintage Ales. The balance is great; the flavors are fresh; and there's enough complexity to keep it interesting. Aging might do it well, but I'm very pleased with my choice even today.

hreb, Nov 13, 2011
Photo of ElGordo
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the 750ml caged and corked bottle into a Maudite snifter. Body is a deep brown color topped by a small amount of creamy tan head that has some decent staying power but doesn't leave any lacing. Nice aroma of dark, sweet malt, some holiday spices, dark fruit, candi sugar, and the tangy notes of the Unibroue house yeast.
Palate is sweet and complex. Lots of dark fruit (raisin, prune, blackberry), a touch of roasted malt, and a little bit of candi sugar are the primary flavors up front. Notes of clove and cinnamon, bready yeast, and a faint touch of hoppy bitterness. Finish is a bit warming from the significant booze content. Body is rich and creamy, a good vehicle for the assertive and complex flavors. I've got a few years of this saved up in the cellar, I need to try doing a vertical tasting sometime soon.

ElGordo, Jan 10, 2012
Photo of zaphodchak
3.93/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Massive, well retaining offwhite head and a dark brown body.

Nose full of Unibroue yeast, slightly funky for being a current vintage.

Judging by the description on the bottle (which is the same as the 2010) and the taste, it is in fact the same beer. My guess is that it's Trois Pistoles (or something very similar). Raisin, ample coriander, a bit of currant and plum round out the fruit profile-- still plenty of yeast. Overall faintly tart. The coriander may be slightly too much, but I'm splitting hairs; Unibroue doesn't make bad beer.

Full and rich, bottle conditioned and pretty bright.

I was hoping for something different from last years, but now at least I have enough to keep for a while. Maybe I'll do a vertical in 2012.

zaphodchak, Jan 28, 2012
Photo of morganhowell
4/5  rDev +5.5%

morganhowell, Dec 30, 2011
Photo of lawlerj
4.18/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from the 750 ml bottle into a tulip glass.

A - pours a dark black/mahogany with a tan head. Looks like Coke and/or root beer. Big tan head that fades, leaving a touch of foam on the top. Not much in the way of lacing. Can't really tell about the carbonation.

S - dark fruit, licorice, a touch of alcohol. Some belgian yeast and malt in the mix as well.

T - the taste follows the nose. Dark fruit and cherries up front with a bit of tartness, and then it opens up into the yeast. Some chocolatey flavors/cocoa hints in the mix. Alcohol is present but not overwhelming or unpleasant. There's a lot going on, and I can't quite pin it all down. But I like it.

M - very well carbonated and medium bodied. The carbonation gives a bit of prickliness to the beer.

O - overall, a steal. A very solid beer and it dirt cheap price. I have another bottle that I'm saving for next year around Thanksgiving - we'll see how it tastes after a year.

lawlerj, Nov 25, 2011
Photo of PaBeerLover
5/5  rDev +31.9%

PaBeerLover, Dec 29, 2011
Photo of IKR
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Very dark Brown with a large beige head.

Smell: Spices and bready yeast notes.

Taste: The spices are upfront along with some faint roast notes. I also pick up some slight fruity notes. Finishes fairly dry with some alcohol in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with a fairly high level of carbonation.

Overall: Good beer for the price.

IKR, Dec 04, 2011
Photo of zonker17
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

zonker17, Jan 15, 2012
Photo of OldIronLungs
3.58/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured into a stemmed tulip a straight cola color with a finger of light tan head that falls to a film and sticks and laces thickly.

The nose is boozy phenols, light berries, plenty of Belgian yeast spice with notes of cinnamon and clove.

Prickly full carbonation (over-carbonated, perhaps) and a thin body uncovers some grainy, lightly spicy malt and some berry tones. Alcohol present but not overwhelming by any means - still a touch numbing on the palate. More of a dry finish. Not terribly complex, but a very reasonable Belgian strong dark.

It's still a Unibroue-contracted beer. It's $4.99 for a 750mL. It warms up well, though I can't say it's really worth cellaring. Wait it's $4.99 a bottle. Cellar away. 2009 was the first year I had it and it hasn't been replicated since.

OldIronLungs, Dec 13, 2011
Photo of PowDay
3/5  rDev -20.8%

PowDay, Jan 01, 2012
Photo of sym3tri
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%

sym3tri, Dec 30, 2011
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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 279 ratings.