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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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

120 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 120
Hads: 313
Avg: 3.75
pDev: 22.93%
Wants: 5
Gots: 79 | FT: 5
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: hreb on 11-13-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (21) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 120 | Hads: 313
Photo of DaftCaskBC
4.13/5  rDev +10.1%
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.

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Photo of Bierguy5
3.58/5  rDev -4.5%
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.

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Photo of DCon
3.9/5  rDev +4%
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!

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Photo of uwmgdman
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
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.

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Photo of WankelEngine
3.31/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 750mL bottle into a snifter

A: Pours very dark brown and opaque. There is a foamy tan head of one finger that sticks around for a while. Leaves mild spotty lacing.

S: Primarily dark fruit with a good helping of cloves and some Belgian yeast.

T: Fairly smooth with more dark fruit flavors. Clove is strong as well as some alcohol esters. Toffee and caramel take some of the edge off. Milder notes of yeast. As it warms I can make out banana bread.

M: Soft, full mouthfeel but more carbonation than I care for.

O: Better than I was expecting, given that this is 4 dollar per bottle Trader Joe's beer. An honest attempt at a Belgian dark ale, but falls somewhat short. The flavors don't quite meld well. It's still a good deal for the price.

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Photo of Sam21
2.33/5  rDev -37.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Received as a Christmas present. Has a best by date of 2016. Poured into a tulip.

Appearance - Pours with a very dark brown body. It only shows its true color when held up to the light. The head is a cola brown and fades rather quickly leaving very little lace. It looks nice at first, but lacks staying power and ultimately struggles in comparison to other Belgian Strong Darks.

Smell - Dry spice. Heavy yeasty clover aroma and perhaps a touch of mint. It is very difficult to pull any sweetness out of the aroma. In general, the aroma feels muted.

Taste - Light malt sweetness is quickly steamrolled by a wall of spicy clove. The yeasty clove is far from balanced and really overwhelms any malt complexities. The finish lacks dryness and sees a hint of sweetness overwhelmed by spice. Typically, I love the complexities that a Belgian dark can bring to the table, but this beer is a bit muddled.

Mouthfeel - The body is light with unpleasant soda-like carbonation. It lacks that fine effervescent carbonation of the style.

Overall - I am a big fan of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, but this beer misses the mark. Way too spice centered and doesn't let the natural beauty come through. As it warms in the glass, it becomes even less appetizing.

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Photo of damndirtyape
3.71/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750mL bottle, best by 07-06-2016, served in a Duvel Tulip.

Appearance: Black, with hints of brown when held up to the light. Tan/coffee with a lot of cream colored head that eventually got quite thin. Tiny bit of lacing here and there.

Smell: For all the flavor this has, not a lot going on in the aroma dept. Almost odorless when cold. By the time it warmed up, I could finally pull out some wintergreen and that was about it. By the time the glass was warmed up to room temperature the smell moved again to a mix of cinnamon and wintergreen. Very unusual aroma beer.

Taste: When first poured and cold, it was cherry and cola. As it warmed up, spicy flavors came through, which at first I thought was cinnamon, but as it warmed up, it was clearly wintergreen. Malt in there, along with wintergreen and a hint of yeast. Malt has some coffee and caramel hints to it, but the spiciness of the wintergreen makes it hard to pull out.

Mouthfeel: Plenty of carbonation, effervescent even but not fizzy. A bit of stickiness at the end.

Overall / Drinkability: Very complex beer with a lot going on. The wintergreen is unusual, and by the end of the glass was really lingering in my mouth as a spicy sensation. Almost, but not quite, medicinal in nature with that spiciness which at one point made me wonder about finishing it. But - the constant changing of flavors kept this an interesting beer that had me continue to sip and figure out what the heck was going on. So high marks for an interesting beer, but not something that is very drinkable. One glass is enough. Maybe with the right meal it would work though. Or with more time this beer morphs into something else entirely like it did in one sitting as it warmed up. Indeed, they do recommend cellaring this one right on the bottle and I'm beginning to think they're right.

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Photo of NuclearDolphin
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
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!

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Photo of nickfl
4.42/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A - Poured with a large, three finger head of light tan foam on top of a dark brown body with some amber highlights. The head settles slowly and it deposits average lace on the glass as it recedes.

S - Caramel, toffee, and Belgian yeast notes of coriander, cinnamon, banana, and clove.

T - Caramel, toffee and dark fruit up front with notes of plum, clove, and red apple. More toffee and raisins in the middle with a bit of cinnamon. The beer finishes with a nice combination of spicy and fruity yeast character that works nicely with the dark sugar of the malt.

M - Medium-thick body, high carbonation, and a very dry finish.

D - The yeast character is spot on for the style and the dark malt is full of complex, dark sugars that work perfectly with the fruity notes. Very drinkable with a dry finish that really hides the high alcohol content, this is a really nice Belgian beer, I would not have guessed it came from North America, let alone that it was brewed for a grocery store chain!

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Photo of kylehay2004
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: single finger frothy head with decent retention and some lacing on a dark body with some light getting through.

S: mostly dark fruit, mostly red apple and plum, and clove.

T: dark fruit, mostly raisin, plum, cherry and fig. Nice breads, banana, spicey and zest note as well

M: moderate to high carbonation. medium bodied.

Overall: This is a very drinkable member of the genre. Not too sweet, complex and flavorful.

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Photo of NatetheGreat
4.49/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I really liked this one. It's dark brown with a large head and minimal lacing. Huge, complex, enticing aroma with cinnamon, apple, raisin, and a sweet-spicy mix that includes alcohol. Tastes much like the smell with layers of sweet fruit and spicy undercurrents. The mouthfeel was a bit thin but overall a great beer at a great price.

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Photo of jrenihan
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Beer is dark brown, close to black. A large off-white head. Very active, bubbles a lot and begins to dissipate right away, at a fairly quick pace. Some lacing, not much.

Smell is full of dark fruit and the characteristic Unibroue Belgiian yeast. Cherry, plum, raisin, grape. Some hints of spice as well, and a malty backbone.

Very sweet, the fruit flavours are up front. Raisin, grape, plum, cherry. Spices are clearly present though I am not able to pick out particular ones- some ginger in the aftertaste, perhaps some nutmeg. Fairly bready. A little thin and not as complex as many of the style.

Thinner than expected, and highly carbonated. Too fizzy for me. Sweetness is a bit drying.

Overall, a decent BSDA but not great. Very clearly a Unibroue beer but not up to the calibre of most of their offerings.

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Photo of ForWhatAlesYou
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Cork and cage bottle says good for many years to come. Cork in good condition.

A: Pours a huge fizzy off white head. Opaque pitch black with brown tones.

S: Alcohol, dark fruit, very spiced.

T: Initial raisin and spice (clove?) Allspice carries through. Port, a light burnt note.

M: Well carbonated. Nice drying note.

O: 9.0% but pretty good. Worth a shot for the low price tag. Worth considering aging a couple.

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Photo of tastybeer
3.57/5  rDev -4.8%
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.

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Photo of wedge
3.59/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slight gusher. Pours damn near black in color. Opaque with a tall, rocky beige head that quickly fades to a wispy covering, then nothing. Deep fruit, spice, and Belgian yeast in the aroma. Apple, banana, and a touch of licorice. Big, creamy, spicy flavor...a large smack of Unibroue yeast and some brighter spices like coriander and clove. Sweet raisin and fig with perhaps some ginger and citrus, though it's faint. Medium-plus body with some lively, but not over the top carbonation. Pretty good stuff and an interesting move with the spices...

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Photo of Beaver13
2.48/5  rDev -33.9%
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.

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Photo of vandemonian
3.46/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale is ok. It's pretty mild but there are some off flavours too.

A: Black colour and a 25 mm head that lasts really well. 4.5

S: Malty and some apple clove flavour. 3.5

T: Malty with dark fruit flavour. It's a very mild flavour with something off in the finish. 3

M: Super foamy. 4.5

O: 3.5

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Photo of BrownNut
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This review is of an un-aged 2011 vintage.t

A - soapy foam head that takes a few minutes to boil down to a persistent cap. Almost no lacing. Cola colored.

S - Hint of fruit under something else I can't identify. Something bordering on savory. Maybe like a savory baked good.

T - Very nice. Christmas spices pair nicely with the high booze content. Goes down pretty smoothly. The finish is slightly sour and slightly metallic.

M - Not thick like I was expecting. Bit of a carbonation sting on the top of the tongue.

O - Pretty nice. I was expecting something syrupy and not ready for prime time since I didn't age it. Now I wish I'd drank this at Christmas. It would be good anytime, but the spices make it very much appropriate for cold holiday evenings.

Had another 6 months later in july. Here's what I found.

Smells of belgian yeast with a bit of a funk. A little spicy
opaque dark brown nearly black
loud and active tan foam that dissipates quickly
tastes christmasy. Spice
carbonation stings more than I'd like
would give it a 3.75 if I could

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Photo of wowbagger
3.41/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very dark with a foamy thick head. Some hints of brown and red but mostly dark.

Smells of malt and fruit.

Taste, a little spice and those fruit notes. A little sweeter than I expected. Some cherry at the back of the mouth with a grassy feel. The spices linger and tend to dominate overall.

It looks like a dark ale, but tastes more like a spiced wheat and it's a little thinner than I expected. I had mine cold but I suspect that closer to room temperature would be more appropriate. Very interesting offering from Joe's. I'd recommend giving it a shot if dark spiced ales are your thing.

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Photo of garymuchow
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Desired this for several years and was finally able to come across some.
Great fresh spice aroma - with the spices not necessarily yeast related but the additional spices noted on the label. Nonetheless, a pleasing aroma. Some dark base malt in the back.
Nice visual. Full rich head. Dark body with reds hues on the edges. Soft lacing.
Good complexity to the taste. The spices are evident, but a little quieter than in the aroma. Firm tasty malt. Yeast is rather subdued for style. It's there, but it's not as prominent as I expected.
Body seems as it should. A little south of moderate, with ample carbonation.
For the price, this is a very solid beer. Worth it all the way. Doesn't meet the best version, but I'll seek out the version next year.

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Photo of peoplewithhands
3.49/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a snifter glass

Appearance: Poured almost black with very slight hints of redness on the edges. Poured with large 2 inch tan head that turns into a half inch that stays for the entire drink lacing throughout consumption.

Smell: sweet smelling, yeasty, a little tart and fruity.

Taste: very sweet with lots of malt flavor, some roastiness. Alcohol is hidden, but the finishing taste is like strong sour tart fruit.

Mouthfeel: Medium feel, creamy and smooth. carbonation is there, but not overbearing.

Overall: very sweet malty ale with a sour finish. 9 abv. is well hidden. Good sipping ale, but maybe a little too malty for my tastes. It could benefit from some hoppiness or other spiciness to offset the sweet malt.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
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!

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Photo of BilbosNuts
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750mL bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Pours a dark brown that is almost black. A two finger, rocky, tan colored head sits on top. Light bubble streams can be seen rising vigorously to the top.

S: The aroma consists of a generous amount of cloves and typical sweet belgian phenols. A touch of dark fruits, particularly plums, add to the aroma. There is a slight hint of alcohol towards the end.

T: The taste is a bit different than the aroma. I pick up on more belgian sugar flavor and more of the dark fruits. The cloves take a back seat to the other characteristics in the taste. Belgian yeast and a spicy phenol taste round out the flavors.

M: Nothing spectacular when it comes to the feel. It is medium bodied with an adequate amount of carbonation. The alcohol is very well hidden.

O: This is a solid, well put together dark ale. It has basically all the characteristics you'd want- strong dark fruits and malts, some spicy phenols, and it hides the alcohol deceivingly well.

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Photo of VaterRoss
3.86/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle into pokal glass, BB 7-6-2016

Appearance is a very dark brown with an active tan head. Bubbles are visible through the hazy brew. Head is extremely persistent, stuck around for the entirety of the 30min+ session. Very pretty beer and I was quite impressed by the tenacious head. Smell is spicy and yeasty, oh so spicy, with hints of fruit (prunes). Taste is very boozy, spicy with some yeast, again the dark fruits. Mouthfeel is medium weight and dry, high carb.

The booziness kills this for me, I had a 2010 that was aged a year and can say that this beer truly benefits from aging. Not a bad beer unaged, but it is definitely worth the time.

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Photo of zaphodchak
3.91/5  rDev +4.3%
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.

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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 120 ratings.