1. Extreme Beer Fest tickets go on sale Sat, Sep 27 @ Noon EDT.
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 279 | Reviews: 117 | Display Reviews Only:
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 JohnnyChicago
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle; split into oversized wine glasses.

A: Pours...yup, like Coke. It has that dark caramel body, that fizzy and foamy, but dropping head. It looks pretty though.

S: Smells like a Wit. It has orange and coriander hints and that subtle funk from the yeast along with crisp citrus hops.

T: Very Wit-like. Same citrus and sour notes along with a tiny bit of sharpness. Bubblegum and clove flavours are nice and insistent and it ends in a subtle, but pronounced mocha blast that reminds you that you're drinking something dark.

D: Alcohol is completely hidden and the balance is perfect. Mouthfeel is a little thin, but it doesn't ruin the experience at all.

Overall: Damn fine beer here! It is complex and intense, but also balanced and smooth. I have to say, this is one of the better BSDAs that I've had. It doesn't come near the complexity of some of the best Quads, but its quality attests to the fact that a company like Unibroue was responsible for its creation.

JohnnyChicago, Nov 24, 2011
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle - $4.99 at Trader Joe's in Roswell, Georgia.

Best Before: 07-06-2016.

Appearance: Pours out a near black body with a airy, lofty head stand, light khaki in color. Plenty of head from a little, light pour; good thing I'm using the Duvel glass here.

Smell: Mixed fruits spritzed with alcohol and mixed with a variety of raw sugars, then, a sniff of wafting ground cloves and orange peel followed by notes of burley tobacco, aniseed, and banana.

Taste: Toasted crusty dark bread dosed with dark brown sugar, dark candi sugars, a shot of cola (potentially with a doctorate degree), and a blend of finely-ground spices. Moderately sweet. Clove and redolent, bitterish citrus peel carrying over from the nose. Hints of star anise, spruce tips, allspice. More spicy and less fruity here in the taste, though the banana is making a good showing. Teeny tiny sliver of hops here simply blending into the spice tastes. Sweetish, spicy, well-carbonated finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Lively, effervescent carbonation -- there will be burps.

Overall: An agreeable brew from the simple, understated packaging to the taste to the price tag. Sadly, I've developed the habit of keeping the Vintage Ale in mind until it's actually released, then, only remembering when it's long gone. Not this year, thankfully!

ChainGangGuy, Jan 29, 2012
Photo of DaftCaskBC
4.13/5  rDev +9%
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.

DaftCaskBC, Apr 27, 2012
Photo of beck2008
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - dark coffee / cola, 1/2 finger head on the 1st pour

S - lots o' spice, hint of lemon

T - Spice is most dominant, pepper & clove, citrus on the finish. It tastes better as it warms up. Ice cold is not the way to serve this up.

M - a bit too much carbonation - I like to let my glass sit awhile so the carbo mellows out. A bit thinner than the 2009 (2010 was not all that impressive) but still a good bsda.

O - 2009 was my 1st taste of this style of beer and I have to say it was the best compared to 2010 and 2011. Overall I think 2011 is better than 2010. I am going to save one (hopefully) for one year and compare to 2012. I love this beer and for a mere $4.99 it's a great buy.

beck2008, Dec 09, 2011
Photo of mikesgroove
4.15/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

very dark, almost a hazelnut color of brown, with a slightly reddish tint to it. Very hazy and cloudy and with a good amount of sediment running through it. A good two inch plus of head

alcohol presence here, but not in an overpowering or derogatory way, more of a subtle, just letting you know it was there. Lots of dark spices here. I could pick up even some dark fruits, plums and maybe even a bit of grape very nice warming feeling coming over as I took the first sip. Lots of mellowed yeast here. Some apples and plums, maybe a fig mixed in seemed to bring out the lighter notes. Meanwhile, underneath that was a deep caramel like flavor that blended in with a earthy or bready like back. Very complex and yet remarkably smooth.

mikesgroove, Dec 03, 2011
Photo of PangaeaBeerFood
4.15/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Saw this on the shelves at my local TJ's for $4.99 and had to grab one.

It pours much like a Belgian Quad, with average levels of carbonation, an attractive brown color with red accents and a fluffy tan head with excellent retention.

The aromatics really just out of the glass at you, sweet and fruity with some grassy notes and subtle hints of alcohol. Smells very similar to my recollection of Trois Pistoles, which I'm sure is due to Unibroue's signature yeast strain.

The flavor is more subtle than the nose, and probably more subdued than the average quadruple, but enjoyable nonetheless. It's very fruit-forward with a chalky sort of dryness in the finish and brandy-like warmth as you swallow.

Mouthfeel was noticeably thinner than other BSDA and moreso than I'd expect from something of 9% ABV, but it didn't detract from the experience.

Overall, an excellent brew that's made outstanding by the price tag. Easily the best buy I've seen in beer, ever. A must-buy for those seeking holiday beers on a budget.

PangaeaBeerFood, Dec 20, 2011
Photo of ngeunit1
4.16/5  rDev +9.8%
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.

ngeunit1, Feb 24, 2013
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 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 HBeezley
4.18/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Murky-Black with coffee colored head that is well carbonated (maybe on the verge of too carbonated for this style?) that retains nicely as a half an inch head.

S - Head smelled of licorice, burnt coffee, dark cocoa powder, sugar, and spice. Once head recedes smell is almost strictly hops - which is a shame really, if they could only blend the two it would be fantastic in the smell I miss that complex head!

T - Roasted coffee beans, chocolate, some kind of nut I can't put my finger on, allspice, maybe a hint of anise? and malt with hops coming through just by the skin of they're teeth. Finishes dry with the flavor of champagne coming through (don't see that done every day!) A lot going on here! Might not be an absolute favorite, but man I love trying to taste all the different flavors in every sip which is what I think TJ's wanted...to simply make something complex, not many of their beers are, so I get excited for this every year even though its not THAT high on my list.

M - SIP-ABLE! Sometimes with aged beers I hate to use the word "drinkable" cause you just cannot enjoy this beer to it's full potential unless you savor it, picking it apart one at a time. On another note, the mid-carbonation makes this oddly crisp, and I don;t know if I really like that too much or if I do. I'll decide later...

O - I feel like this was better than last year's Vintage Ale. Something much better is going on in that glass and it's really nice. I really need to see what could happen to a cellared bottle though. Come back in a year. Until then, this will do just fine by me.

HBeezley, Nov 30, 2011
Photo of NuclearDolphin
4.18/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Oversized Wine Glass

Appearance - Opaque Black even when held up to light, they don't get much darker than this. Head is slighty brown with good retention

Smell - Figs, spices, hefe-style cloves and bananas but what really caught me by surprise was the apple smell! For a Belgian Strong this is a very fruity smelling beer!. The malts in here are also fairly strong too.

Taste - Cloves, Figs, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and a strong malty backbone.. The hefe-style bananas and red apples make for a fruity yet pleasant aftertaste. The taste is very complex and it all comes together nicely. And there is no boozy flavors in here either, which is even better!

Mouthfeel - Body is average in body, but it feels thick. Carbonation is more on the intense side, but it doesn't detract from the overall flavor.

Overall - I never considered Trader Joe's brand ales to be complex, but this ale has changed my mind about that. It's smooth yet complex flavor makes this easy to recommend. I picked this up for $5, and I think it was a purchase well spent!

NuclearDolphin, Mar 04, 2012
Photo of Tschnab
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- a dark red hue with a thin film of off white head. Sporadic lace clings to the glass.

S- lots of Belgian yeast and a good amount of wheat, plums, sugar, cherries.

T- a yeasty but sweet dark ale that warms on the way down. It has a slight spice character with a good winter fruit note.

O- what a good brew for the price! Thanks to my grandparents for picking me up a bottle.

Tschnab, Dec 26, 2011
Photo of korguy123
4.23/5  rDev +11.6%
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.

korguy123, May 28, 2012
Photo of jjanega08
4.23/5  rDev +11.6%
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.

jjanega08, May 22, 2012
Photo of zonker17
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

zonker17, Jan 15, 2012
Photo of MidwestBA
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

MidwestBA, Apr 11, 2013
Photo of lernerlift
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

lernerlift, May 05, 2013
Photo of Jiatlas
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

Jiatlas, Jul 13, 2012
Photo of brandoman63
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

brandoman63, Jan 30, 2013
Photo of n00blar
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

n00blar, Dec 24, 2011
Photo of zeledonia
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%
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.

zeledonia, Nov 03, 2013
Photo of uwmgdman
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%
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.

uwmgdman, Mar 10, 2012
Photo of DeezGunz14
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

DeezGunz14, Jul 20, 2012
Photo of larbush
4.25/5  rDev +12.1%

larbush, Jul 01, 2012
Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 279 ratings.