Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale - Trader Joe's Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

83 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 83
Hads: 318
rAvg: 3.81
pDev: 6.3%
Wants: 3
Gots: 40 | 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: BeerDocT on 11-02-2012

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 83 | Hads: 318
Photo of notchucknorris
3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a deep brown color with a huge tan head that takes a while to go down. Pretty solid appearance.

S: A lot of that signature Unibroue yeast with some spicy clove notes. Some faint plum, brown sugar and alcohol as well.

T: Very spicy upfront with some thick Belgian yeast holding it up. Notes of cherry skin, prune and some almost herbal yeast. Mouthfeel doesn't really give away the ABV at all. To me, this needs some age. The taste isn't bad now, but with some age, this could be pretty good stuff. (509 characters)

Photo of garymuchow
4.21/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into goblet.
Quite a nice aroma. Solid mix of yeasty spices and firm malt foundation. Then subtler and occasional aroma's of tartness, sour and sweet fruit (I like this last part as it seems to stay around and it is quite pleasant).
Really dark body with brownish read highlights. Dark tan head that is full. It does settle out some but not too quickly.
Initial taste is really nice. A little more of the added spices are evident, but that nice sweet and sour fruit aroma carried to the flavor. The malt is firm but not heavy handed. The yeast flavors are the same. Seems like the spices are showing with a cinnamon and very slight nutmeg showing. Just enough drying.
Light and effervescent with sufficient carbonation.
As much as I can tell I"m digging this quite a bit more than the 2011. Really like the light fruit aroma and flavor and it seems to stick throughout. The drink was goo throughout the whole bottle. (924 characters)

Photo of Chaney
3.41/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I picked up two of these today. Only $4.99? For a Unibroue? Nice!

Served in a Port City shaped-glass because I don't own a Unibroue one. Fail!

A: Poured a dark, burnt cocoa brown, with a very frothy, beige head that died down quickly for it's 2 finger state.

S: Sort of a minty, cough medicine-like disposition, understated, yet still present. The more I dug, I definitely got ginger.

T: I didn't like the fact that the raisony, dark fruit-like quality was washed over with this intense ginger component. Way too much spice for my taste.

M: VERY carbonated for such a high octane brew, but I actually dug that about it. Not sure why. The lacing was mildly splotchy and the spice component was through the roof.

O: Not a big fan of ginger, so I guess I'm a bit biased. Still, this was a well-priced, yet one-dimensional brew. (830 characters)

Photo of MattyG85
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 ml corked bottle into a Duvel tulip glass. 2012 Vintage.

Appearance: Pours a deep and dark brownish amber that is pretty cola like. Big four finger tan head that settles into a very thin patchy layer. Leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell: A fruity and spicy Belgian style aroma that is typical of Unibroue. Belgian yeast with a consider amount of spicing including clove, pepper, coriander, and a touch of cinnamon. Big hints of banana along with some apple and orange. Belgian candied sugar and dark malts with hints of toffee, dark biscuit, and chocolate. Big dark fruit presence with hints of fig, raisin, and dates. Pretty solid.

Taste: Like it smells, fruity and spicy Belgian taste. Belgian yeast with a lot of spices up front including cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and coriander. Fruity esters of bananas, orange, and apple. Dark malt with a taste of dark bread, toffee, and chocolate. Candied sugars and a good mix of dark fruits including fig, dates, raisin, and plum. Taste is fairly dry with a lot of spice. It comes together well.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a medium to high amount of carbonation. Crisp, spicy, and pretty drying. Alcohol is hidden pretty well.

Overall: Another solid year for this Belgian style ale. Big on the spices, which I like. Solid fruit undertones. (1,326 characters)

Photo of elNopalero
3.48/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This pours a deep intense dark raisin-date color with a foam capping that dies down quite rapidly. There’s an aroma with evident stone fruit, mostly figs and raisins as well as some …plums? And wet leather? Just barely. There’s also an alcohol-warmth in the aroma that is fairly evident once it warms, and slightly off-putting.

The flavor has more of those stone fruits in combination as well as a touch of dark chocolate and some hints of a piney-medicinal finish. Juniper, perhaps?
The body is slightly on the lighter side for the beer itself, as I would have appreciated more body and a tad more heft to match the flavors and the alcohol’s strength.

Every year I buy this. It’s from Unibroue and it’s dirt cheap and I find it hard to resist a deal like that. But after finding this year’s version so disappointing, and feeling underwhelmed by last year’s as well, I’m thinking I need to restrain myself come next year. But who knows, maybe some more time on this edition will bring out some more depth and complexity. (1,040 characters)

Photo of MDDMD
3.48/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A-dark brown color with a light tan head and some lacing

S-caramel malt, cloves, some dark fruit and earthy notes

T-dark fruit, caramel, cloves, hints of pepper and coriander

F-light to medium body with moderate carbonation, thin mouthfeel and lacks some smoothness

O-for the price this was a decent ale, but not typical of the quality one has come to expect from Unibroue (376 characters)

Photo of pkalix
4.33/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

huge foamy head. very dark and unable to see through even the sides of the tulip glass holding it.
smells like a dark belgium, malty and dark fruit-y.
taste is the same- dark fruit-y, heavy on the malt, a little taste of alcohol on the finish.
this is my first trader joes and i was thinking what a great job they did of brewing such a semblance of a belgian dark ale. and then i read someone said that unibroue is producing these. that explains why it tastes so good. very good considering the 9% abv, in fact. and the tasting ended prematurely after the kids accidentally threw the dog's ball into the glass.... had to be there.... (634 characters)

Photo of Kendo
3.73/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: Poured from the 750 ml, caged-and-corked bottle into a Piraat tulip/snifter-type glass. Body is black with a fluffy 1-finger cream/light beige head. The occasional dash of lace shows up on the sides of the glass.

S: Vinuous, with generic spice, burnt sugar and something that seems slightly "off."

T: Sweet - think candied fruits (cherries) and berries. Some spice - nutmeg, perhaps allspice. Finishes mildly sweet, but not at all cloying; there's a bit of drying at the finish (perhaps from the 9% ABV) that keeps it relatively clean on the aftertaste.

M: Good Belgian-style fizzy effervescence makes this one feel (and drink) lighter than it really is.

O: Decent stuff, certainly solid for the price. (711 characters)

Photo of socon67
3.84/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Brown pour with a purple hue & a thin foam that shrinks. Very little to no lacing. Some small bubbles of carbonation.

S - Very strong smell of nutmeg, and dried fruit. The spicy aroma is nice but unfortnately it is very dominant and drowns out the other more subtle flavors. Some of the telltale Unibroue yeast strain is noted inthe smell.

T - Dry sherry, dried cranberries, figs, and finishes with a spicy nutmeg kick. This seemed to age well and would have been better with a full year.

M - Sipping beer more for the complexity than the body or ABV. Take some time and enjoy the flavors. Perfect for after theat holiday meal.

O - Unibroue contracted this for Trade Joe's and it is certianly a good bottle share with family and friends. If you do get a bottle of this I'd recommned at least a year of cellar time. (823 characters)

Photo of brewandbbq
4.02/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle.

Pours dark brown with a coarse, spongy head of beige. A partial skimcoat with errant dots of lacing for the duration of the glass.

Aromatics are spicy and chock full of Belgian character. Cloves, nutmeg, apples, and bubblegum ride atop cocoa-laced malt with raisins and rum.

Medium bodied with a creamy, crispish mouthfeel. A bit tacky.

Rum-soaked raisins with clove-studded apples and sweet malt starts the palate. Hints of nutmeg, cardamon, and boozy phenols follow through.

Finishes with lingering spice-dusted raisins and dark rum.

Tasty beer but could use some age to let the spices mellow a bit. (621 characters)

Photo of BucannonXC5
3.78/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Type: 750 ML glass
Glass: Oversized Sea Smoke wine glass
From: Trader Joe’s in Hillcrest (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $4.99
Purchased: June 19, 2013
Consumed: June 22, 2013
Misc.: Best before July 6, 2015

Poured an almost pitch black color with 1-2 fingers of khaki tan lacing. Below average lacing with some occasional wet spots on the sides of the glass. Average-to-below average retention on the top.

Smelled dark malts and Belgian spices. Specifically got roasty nuts, toffee, cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, pepper and cloves.

Tasted like toned down version of the smell. Got those Belgian spices. Also winter warmer notes like cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. The 9 percent alcohol is well-hidden.

Medium body, Oily texture. Soft carbonation. Long, smooth finish.

This beer grew on me as it went down. Not as good as the Providential Belgian Style Golden Ale I tried last night, but definitely worthy. (920 characters)

Photo of HattedClassic
3.61/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance:
Pours a decent and slightly tan head with good head retention and lacing. The beer itself is a pitch black color.

Smell:
I certainly smell spices such as clover and a little bit of Belgian spices as well as brown sugar. I also get some dark fruits and caramel malts but they are dominated by the spices.

Taste:
The beer tastes as it smells but with the dark fruits and sugar being stronger.

Mouthfeel:
The beer feels a little light bodied for a strong dark ale. Biting carbonation.

Overall:
I have to admit that I'm surprised that such a decent beer from a beer brewed for a store. (597 characters)

Photo of secondtooth
4.19/5  rDev +10%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours almost black, with deep ruby highlights. Prodigious head of tan foam, dissipating slowly into thin and loopy lace.

Aroma is plenty of fermented fruit (wine grapes), spices, Belgian yeasty bread -- absolutely a wonderful approximation of classic Belgian ales.

Taste is similar -- some sweet notes, but this one is really well-balanced on the palate. I get hints of dark fruit and berries again, alongside plenty of spice (coriander, clove). This is a delicious brew, overflowing with complexity.

At $4.99 a bomber at Trader Joe's, this is a real bargain, and well-worth a try. (585 characters)

Photo of brewcrew76
3.8/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Brown head, ruby highlights and a finger or two of bubbly foam. Leaves a thin coating foam behind.

S - Cardamom and clove with dark fruity and belgian yeast and candi sugar.

T - Cardamom, clove and maybe even a touch of allspice. Dark fruits, licorice and anise.

M - medium body with prickly carbonation.

D - Aroma is a little better than flavor but a nice holiday beer. (378 characters)

Photo of augustgarage
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a caged-and-corked 750mL bottle into my Trappistes Westvleteren goblet. Unibroue produced of course.

Nearly opaque seal brown liquid with a smattering of pale tan suds. Average retention, pasty lacing, faint legs.

Lots of stewed fruit, toasty malt, and a surprising vinuous quality suggesting blackberry wine and clove-studded oranges in the nose. Ester-heavy.

Sweet/sour palate entry that unfurls into increasing complexity, albeit restrained throughout. The flavor profile remains rather heavy handed with dates, honey, berries, cherries, oranges, and so on. The malt bill is interesting and flavorful, though the overall impact is not as well integrated as I would like. Somewhat lacking in the yeast department too. Finishes a touch sweet with a faint nuttiness.

Soft, medium-bodied, with a little warming flourish and a gentle effervesence.

Tasting more and more like a watered-down, rushed-to-the-bottle version of one of Unibroue's regular offerings (e.g. Trois Pistoles), perhaps this would improve with some age, but I would skip buying a case this year. Still, not a bad ale, and still a good value. (1,126 characters)

Photo of TheSixthRing
4.1/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Pours a near black, dark ruby brown with a light tan 3 finger head. Good retention. Leaves behind a small, spotty lace.

Smell - Aroma consists of sugar and cream, spice, bubblegum and candied plum or black cherry.

Taste - Follows the nose. Assertive notes of cream and spice to start, while moderately sweetened dark fruit character shines through mid-taste. Finishes creamy with notes of bubblegum and a hint of spruce pine.

Mouthfeel - Full bodied. A touch syrupy. Well carbonated, leaves a nice tingle on the tongue. Smooth, creamy finish.

Overall - Another creamy Belgian offering from Unibroue. So many intricate layers to wrap one's mind around. Lots of sweetness, becomes a bit cloying after a glass or two. Great candidate for storage. (760 characters)

Photo of Proteus93
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

So we just had a Trader Joe's open up in Charlottesville and curiosity drew me in. I was completely unaware that they had these annual brews done, and much less that they were done by Unibroue... for $4.99, at that!

A: Ruddy reddish-brown, topped with a liberal pillow of head--white around the edges, but more of a khaki in the richer foam.

S + T: Quite sweet and spicy on the nose... like a dessert, really. Sugary notes and plenty of dark fruits... lots of plum and raisin, along with a banana-like yeasty ester. The flavor is much the same. Lots of spices going on here... some cinnamon and clove, maybe ginger? It's got such a strong sugary side to it that none of them really come out as subtle spices.

M + D: The body is like that of most of Unibroue's offerings (sitll trying to figure out what exactly 'Trader Joe's Brewing Company' is--this is plastered with Unibroue all over the place. Medium to richer in body, with a nice sparkling carbonation that gives it a 'shimmering' quality. I find this beer to be a little more intense in the sweetness, but not too bad all around. Certainly not my favourite from the brewery, but at the price, it's a pretty good bargain. (1,183 characters)

Photo of falloutsnow
3.84/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From: Trader Joe's, Glen Ellyn, IL
Date: 2012 bottle, best by 2015-07-06
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Unibroue has a solid Belgian Dark Strong Ale with their Trader Joe's 2012 annual offering. The flavors and aromas are of appreciable complexity, with grape-like esters, modest caramel and roasted malt, and allspice-like phenols being the most prominent. This is an annual special good enough to pick up each year it's offered, particulary for the $5 cost.

Pours a 1cm tall head of tan foam, made up of small-sized bubbles, giving a dense, fluffy appearance. Retention is below average for the style, the foam lasting less than thirty seconds, quickly fading to a thin ring around the glass and a small island of foam in the center, atop the body. Lacing is present, but not particularly interesting, a few medium-sized shapes cling to the inner walls of the glass. Body is a dark brown to black color, with light bringing out amber-brown highlights. Carbonation is visible, appearing vigrous and fairly active.

Aroma of grape esters, allspice, and sweetness (Special B malt, Belgian amber candi sugar, light caramel), mild ethanol becomes noticeable as this warms.

The overall flavor profile for the beer is of grape-like esters, modest caramel and roasted malt, and appreciable allspice-like phenols. Front of palate features grape-like ester flavors from the Belgian yeast, closely followed in perceptibility by malt sweetness (Special B, Belgian amber candi sugar). Mid-palate brings the malt further forward, with a caramel-sweet, lightly bready, character from Special B and other caramelized malts, along with allspice-like phenols from the yeast. The grape-like ester remains in mid-palate, but becomes subdued beneath the malt character. Back of palate finds renewed grape-like esters, caramel-like sweetness, hints of roasted malt, allspice-like phenols, ethanol. There is also a modest spiciness, whether from ethanol or hops is unclear. Aftertaste is of caramel sweetness from malts, grape-like esters, prune-like esters, slight breadiness, and lingering ethanol spiciness and warmth.

Beer is medium to medium-heavy in body, with fairly high, aggressive carbonation. This leads to, at first, a fizzy, prickly mouthfeel that isn't particularly pleasant. With time on the palate or in the glass, the foam lessens significantly, though, eventually leading to a soft, rather foamy touch. Ethanol is felt a bit in the nostrils, particularly as this warms. Closes dry, with significant stickiness lingering on the palate. (2,535 characters)

Photo of ONUMello
3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle poured into a goblet
A: Pitch black with a one-finger head that slowly settles
S: Figs, brown sugar, spices, a hint of orange peel
T: Baking spice up front, clove in particular, with figs and citrus. A bit sweet and the finish is a bit off in a way I can't quite place; overall this is perfectly pleasant though.
M: Medium-bodied with a pleasant carbonation
O: Solid overall, though for my palate it would be even better if it were a bit drier (456 characters)

Photo of mikeg67
4.31/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle. Pours dark brown with a long lasting, thick, beige head and nice lacing. Aroma is of funky yeast, caramel malt, brown sugar, spices and hops. Body is full and smooth. Funky yeast, caramel malt, brown sugar, spices, dark fruit and hops fill the mouth. Finish is long and very spicy. Very nice, delicious brew. (323 characters)

Photo of impending
3.94/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

B+

750ml into a tulip. Pours a dull walnut, fully opaque, towering dense tan head doesn't linger, minor lacing.

Aroma is of heavy spicing . . . .

here I stop to acknowledge my 2011 review fits this precisely so I proceed to cut & paste . . . .

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.
cheers
jd (487 characters)

Photo of BeerManDan
4.18/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

When poured into a tulip glass, the color was very dark, dark, brown with a fair amount of tan foam and a medium amount of lace. The smell of sweet spices, fruit and roasted malts were evident in the aroma. The taste was sweet carbonated malts, spices, fruit like sweet figs, rasins, with maybe a hint of coffee and cocoa. I think this is a complex Belgian Dark Ale. The alcohol of 9% is not overpowering, but sutle in a nice way. This is a pleasant surprise and is, for me, the best Vintage Ale that Trader Joe's had made. Unibroue is one of my favorite craft brews and again, I'm not disappointed. (599 characters)

Photo of damndirtyape
3.79/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

750mL bottle - served in a Duvel tulip glass.

Appearance: Very dark brown - let little to no light through. Light tan thick rocky head upon pouring, lots of persistent lacing. Lots of carbonation coming up through the glass upon the initial pour, dying back over time.

Smell: Yeasty mostly, and as it warms up then the Nutmeg really comes out. Never could smell much else besides the nutmeg.

Taste: Belgian yeast fruity esters up front. Some roasted malt bitterness in the middle. Strong nutmeg finish. When the beer was fully room temperature I could pick out some of the noble hop tastes, but not a lot under the nutmeg.

Mouthfeel: Nice thickness, spicy carbonation on the tongue. A little bit sticky on the teeth.

Overall / Drinkability: Just as there are single hop beers, I almost think of this as a single spice belgian dark winter ale. Nutmeg dominates this beer, but not in a bad way. This beer went very well with salmon au poivre, and I think it would be great with a steak. That being said, I think I would have a hard time finishing this bottle by myself. I shared it with the Mrs. and by the end of the glass I was glad I tried it, but I did not want another. Also a beer that sneaks up on you by the end of the glass - I was definitely noting the 9% by the time I finished my glass. (1,305 characters)

Photo of Kromes
3.89/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black with ruby edges and a thin tan colored head.

A big orange peel , coriander, and clove aroma with a touch of alcohol.

Initial flavor is clove, anise and coriander. The flavors remain strong as a bit of the roasted malt bitterness kicks in. There is a lingering anise/clove flavor in the finish along with a dark cherry fruit flavor.

high level of peppery carbonation gives the beer a great texture and compliments the flavors.

Pretty good Dark Ale. Very tasty and bit strong right now with the spices right up front. I imagine it will get better with age. (564 characters)

Photo of tjsdomer2
3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Fluffy white head and lacing. Dark brown with decent carbonation. Red tint in the light.

Smell: Plums and red wine. Holliday spices also. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Smells better as it warms.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Licorice dominates the flavor. Yeasty backbone in the finish. Feels thin in the finish, but there is a nice alcoholic aftershock in the sensation.

Overall Drinkability: I enjoyed this. I think I will save another bottle and open next year. (466 characters)

Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 83 ratings.