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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.
very good

278 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 278
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: 278 | Reviews: 117 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of waiting4lunch
4/5  rDev +5.5%

waiting4lunch, Nov 27, 2011
Photo of mpyle
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very dark - pretty much opaque. Pours a nice creamy tan head with good head retention.

Subtle spicy aroma with hints of pepper and mint, also some chocolate.

Initial flavor is slightly sweet with the mint like flavor noted in the aroma. Seems slightly one-dimensional in flavor profile. Flavor gradually transitions to be somewhat drier, more bitter in the finish. Alcohol flavor is properly subdued.

Medium-full body, fairly high carbonation. Nice gentle alcohol warming in the finish, but not harsh at all.

A clean, strong ale, but maybe a bit boring. However, hard to fault this beer given the price at which TJ sells it at.

mpyle, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of mikeg67
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle. Pours brown with a long lasting, foamy, tanned head. Aroma is of barnyard yeast and sour dough. Medium, crisp body. Venous fruit, raisins, peppery hops, chocolate malt and brown sugar combine on the palate, some hints of alcohol. Long, peppery finish. Nice brew.

mikeg67, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of jeff1973
4/5  rDev +5.5%

jeff1973, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of AlexM
4/5  rDev +5.5%

AlexM, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of whatthehull
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


A - Very dark brown completely opaque, two finger off white/tan head w/ nice retention and

S - Tons of sugar, yeast, malts toasted and not, earth, herbs, dry wood, raisins, fall/winter spices, minerals and more earth

T - Very nutty, tons of malt, sweet yeast, slight booze, toasted oak, caramel/toffee, lots of holiday spices, very herbaly/earthy, oily, lots of minerals, wet soil, dried out plums and or raisins,

M - Full bodied, well balanced, nice complexity, medium acidity and long finish

D - The novice and advanced beer drinkers alike should find comfort in this winter warmer/strong ale. Lovely nose and flavors, refreshing and delicious. Lots of malts and earth. Quite yummy ale

Final thought - $5 a pop and 9% abv! Another tasty vintage. Can't wait to do an aged vertical of these awesome ales

whatthehull, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of impending
3.93/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml into a tulip. Pours an opaque ruddy dark brown, tall deep mocha colored head, minor lacing.

Aroma is clean and spicy, a strong phenolic clove. Definitely Noël.

Taste too is spicy to match the scent. The Unibroue yeast is on full display, blindfolded & unknowing, it would be obvious. Delicious.

An exceptional value.

impending, Nov 26, 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 mariposafan
4/5  rDev +5.5%

mariposafan, Nov 25, 2011
Photo of rand
3.55/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From bottle to tulip

Taken from notes

A: Dark red-brown in color, foamy effervescent head that sunsides surprisingly fast. Moderate patches of lacing.

S: Ripened fruit, booze-soaked raisin bread, earthy multigrain malt-sweetness. Alcohol is vibrant and prominent.

T: The flavors follow, cherries leading the ripe-fruit profile. Butter rum and raisin bread-laced malts balance, while plenty of funky tart tones accent the profile. Boozy but not biting, the brew easily quaffs with small sips.

M: Medium bodied, tending light. Ample carbonation yields an effervescent feel.

Fairly true to the style, more nuanced as the beer warmed. Not the best of the TJ's vintages, but delicious as usual.

rand, Nov 25, 2011
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 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 FosterJM
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

957th Review on BA
Bottle to Hangar 24 2nd Anny Glass
750 ML C/C

Best by:7/06/16
Purchased from Chino Hills, Trader Joe's

App- A great brown color with garnet edges and a bit of crimson in the center of the pour. A giant 2-1/2 finger head a medium khaki color that was fast receding but didnt leave a much in cling or lace. Very bubbly and craterous.

Smell- A nice strong aromatic to the style. A bit yeasty with a bit of cocoa powder which tends to smell like a soda. A good bit of spice behind it and a bit peppery.

Taste- A good version of a favorite style. I am glad I didnt listen to the girl when she said 2 weeks to come in. Ha!! This was uniquely Unibroue and their in house yeast. Everything has a good Saison/Triple yeasty flavoring. A good balance between the grain bill with the malts and a slighter less peppery note with some cocoa powder and a little bit of bittering Noble hops.

Mouth- A little bit too over carbonated this year. It was a tad bit high carbonated and a bit prickly. Missing that smoothness to the style. The body was nice and medium and a bit thin.

Drink- I have only been heavily into craft since Mid 08 and early 09. However, when you dont shop @ TJs till 2010 when they build one by your house, you miss out on some great beer. Never again for this great great beer.

FosterJM, Nov 24, 2011
Photo of Vixie
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours very dark, not quite black, I can see a bit of ruby red when held up to the light. Have to pour it slowly, it forms a large tan head very quickly.

Smell was as expected, a hint of malt, with hints of chocolate and coffee, as well as dried fruit like raisin.

Somewhat sweet with a decent amount of fruit flavors, raisins and maybe a bit of prune. I can also taste a hint of coffee and chocolate, with a bit of a spicy finish.

Very nice solid feel to this one.

Once again, a nice beer from Unibroue. Very drinkable, and the abv is well hidden. I wish I could get more of this, I'd like to taste it after a couple years, I think this will get even better over time. At $5 a bottle, an exceptional value.

Vixie, Nov 24, 2011
Photo of ineva
5/5  rDev +31.9%

ineva, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of paxchristi
4/5  rDev +5.5%

paxchristi, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of mweso2000
4/5  rDev +5.5%

mweso2000, Nov 22, 2011
Photo of amphion1065
3.6/5  rDev -5%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle purchased by a friend for $5. Poured into a Duvel tulip.

Pours a very deep cocoa, bordering on black. A very thin, dark brown head forms but subsides quickly. Minimal lacing around my glass.

The aroma is just slightly off-putting. There's an overwhelming smell of Cola, a soda-like scent I just can't shake. Some cocoa and a melange of other spices are in the mix, but that Coke character is pretty overpowering.

I'm pretty surprised with how much I enjoy the taste. All of that Coca-Cola taste is there, but it's much more restrained. The spices really shine here. At first I thought that tamarind or saffron dominated, but my friend correctly pointed out that this beer has a very distinct nutmeg taste. A little chocolate rounds out the sweetness.

Mouthfeel is nice, if just a touch too lively. There's zero indication of the ABV, and I could have easily finished the bomber solo.

Price notwithstanding, this is very nicely done. Not exactly traditional, but a nice take nonetheless.

amphion1065, Nov 22, 2011
Photo of notchucknorris
3.6/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Nearly black with a 1 finger tan head. Nice lacing down the glass and good retention.

S: Lots of spiciness, that signature sweet Unibroue yeast, clove, banana, burnt brown sugar and some cola nut.

T: Lots of spiciness and clove, some faint dark fruit, cola nut, some prune and a pretty good touch of alcohol. Overall, pretty tasty and another good addition to the Vintage Ale lineup. Mouthfeel is lighter than last year's but taste is similar.

notchucknorris, Nov 22, 2011
Photo of pBRale
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: A very dark brown pour with a tan head that settles quickly and leaves a few isolated spots of lacing behind. The head retention is impressive and is maintained throughout the entire beer (about 50 minutes for me).

Smell: Dark fruits, banana bread, and brown sugar combine with a smoked oak aroma and a hint of alcohol to create a very nice woody, bready, and slightly fruity/sweet smelling beer.

Taste: There is a rich, oaky taste up front, along with a rich breadiness. There are also some subtle dark fruit tastes that combine in there as well to form a flavor that is reminiscent of spiced banana bread. The aftertaste is woody.

Mouthfeel: This was surprisingly light in body considering style and abv, and it had medium levels of carbonation that led to a crisp, wet finish.

Overall: A very solid beer and a bargain for the price ($4.99). I really like the combo of fruits and smokey wood in this beer. It is nice treat for Unibroue to brew this for Trader Joe's, and I look forward to the future vintages as well.

pBRale, Nov 20, 2011
Photo of teyuders
5/5  rDev +31.9%

teyuders, Nov 20, 2011
Photo of dav
3/5  rDev -20.8%

dav, Nov 19, 2011
Photo of mjpolzin
3.93/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

One of my favorite releases of the year, I called my local Trader Joe's this week to see if they had it in yet. They said they did and I drove out of my way to pick up a bottle to sip on a Friday night. Although I didn't like it as much as the '09 vintage (my favorite of the series), it was better than last year's and good enough that I will probably buy more either for a holiday party this year or for cellaring purposes.

As I poured it into a wine glass, my wife commented that it looked like root beer. You know what? She is right. It has a nice dark look with a tan head.

The smell reminded me of root beer, various holiday spices, candy and maybe slightly of a good imperial stout.

The mouthfeel was disappointing. Almost a little thin.

The taste give me hints of ginger, citrus, coriander, dark fruit and candy. It is for sure a complex beer.

I looked at my list of all the beers I have reviewed. I tried to decide where I would rank this compared to everything else I have drank and I think I pegged it about right.

mjpolzin, Nov 19, 2011
Photo of Eriktheipaman
4.63/5  rDev +22.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a murky Belgian style brown with huge off white head.

The smell is very herby. Coriander, grass, and lemon peal.

The taste is herby on the front, followed by brown sugar, and a prune, caramel, and herb back.

The style of "Belgian Dark Ale" can scare me at times because it has been hit or miss and a pretty undefined style. To me this tastes like a dark Witt if there were such a thing. Outstanding beer and the fact it is so cheap is unmatched. I will buy more for sure.

Eriktheipaman, Nov 18, 2011
Photo of I2uss
4/5  rDev +5.5%

I2uss, Nov 18, 2011
Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 278 ratings.