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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.
very good

83 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 83
Hads: 319
Avg: 3.82
pDev: 12.83%
Wants: 3
Gots: 43 | 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:
Beer added by: BeerDocT on 11-02-2012

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (21) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 83 | Hads: 319
Photo of LiquidAmber
4/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Unibroue tulip glass. Pours a very dark, almost opaque brown with a huge three finger light brown head with great retention and massive lacing. Aroma of dark fruit, sweet malt, Belgian yeast and spicing. Flavor follows, with spicy dark and dried fruit, caramel malt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Sweet start, but finishes semi-dry. Medium bodied with good mouth feel from active carbonation. A bit attenuated compared to a Belgian strong, but flavorful and well made. I really like getting this each year and after a year or two the body gets more depth. A great annual ale at an incredible price.

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Photo of Coltalenaven
3.82/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from bomber purchased at Trader Joes.
Dark pour with huge head that settles down eventually to a nice lace around the glass.
Aroma is malt, fruit, brown sugar. Taste is subtle malt, sugar and fruits and a smooth taste I cant place. Best desctiption I can come up with is Licorice.
Nice medium body and solid mouthfeel. High carbonation throughout, but it works and makes this beer an easy drink for the 9% abv.
For a Trader Joes beer this is great, obviously due to being from Unibroue. Great brewery.

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Photo of JimTeal
3.8/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

There really is a fig hint. Obvious clove and sweet malt, slight citrus, but overall a very good brew with a high casual drinkability factor. Very enjoyable lighter flavor, and certainly a good value. Not a special brew, but certainly a fair and adequate beverage. It does have a nice appearance, but an average smell, taste and mouthfeel, remember, when compared to fine Belgian dark ales. Compared with mass produced dark lager and dark ale this sizes up very well and more than holds it's own. I feel that one of the plus values of BA is that we always look for comparisons to excellent and compared to excellent, Trader Joe's Dark ale is very good.

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Photo of brewandbbq
4.02/5  rDev +5.2%
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.

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Photo of garymuchow
4.21/5  rDev +10.2%
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.

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Photo of Marq18
3.85/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours dark mahogany. A big pillowy head that falls quickly into thin bubbles.
S- Smells spicy with dark fruit and a bit alcoholic.
T-Has a base flavor of caramel malts with strong winter spices... coriander, nutmeg. Finishes a touch sweet.
M-Highly carbonated feel with medium body.
O- A great belgian ale for the price.

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Photo of ONUMello
3.7/5  rDev -3.1%
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

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Photo of Kendo
3.73/5  rDev -2.4%
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.

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Photo of BeerManDan
4.18/5  rDev +9.4%
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.

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Photo of mdaschaf
3.95/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a dark brown color with a small off-white head that slowly reduces to a thin cap of bubbles on top. Minimal lacing.

S: A really nice mixture of dark fruit, brown sugar, and spices. Some raisins and orange mixed with pepper and a bit of cocoa.

T: Dark fruit flavors up front, some raisin and fig mixed with some Belgian spice. The spices have a rather winter warmer/christmas ale flavor to them. Sugar sweet at times as well.

M: Medium bodied, maybe a touch thin, with high carbonation with a slightly bubbly mouthfeel.

O: Surprisingly good. At $5 a bottle a steal. Not sure I would grab more than one a year, but definitely going to grab next years.

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Photo of mikeg67
4.31/5  rDev +12.8%
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.

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Photo of prototypic
3.63/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale pours a dark mahogany brown color. It’s close to opaque. Backlighting shows some nice burgundy highlights. It’s capped with a really nice, darker caramel colored head. It rises to about two fingers in height. Retention was quite good. Hung around for a while. Lacing was sticky and moderate. It looks good!

The nose is alright. It’s a tad weak in terms of strength. More would be better. There is a hint of caramel malt up front. Smells a little sweet. It’s followed by a mix of spicy and fruity notes. On the spicy side, there’s a bit of clove and pepper. Fruity scents of apple, cherry, and plum are noted. Belgian is there, but is lighter than it should be. Alcohol is noted, but doesn’t come through all that strong. Not bad. Would improve with a little more strength.

The flavor is good. It is a little sweet up front. Caramel hits first. There’s a toasted praline or nutty flavor that’s interesting (and good). Fruit notes of apple, pear, cherry, and plum are all present. Belgian yeast is there and adds some spicy flavors. Pepper and clove are most notable. Nevertheless, the Belgian yeast flavor is lighter than I’d like. Comes together pretty well otherwise. Alcohol is more noticeable in flavor, but still isn’t warm or hot. Good stuff. Finishes fruity and spicy.

2012 Vintage Ale definitely has a light body. It’s far lighter than it should be. It will not be confused with an authentic Belgian. No way. The feel is actually below average. It goes down pretty easy for a bigger beer though.

Unibroue did an alright job with Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale. The flavor delivers where it’s lacking in aromatics and body. Those two aspects need work though. No question. Not too shabby otherwise. Definitely worth checking out, especially at its price point.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.05/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The always dependable brewers of Unibroue takes their regal brewing disciplines to the Trader Joe's family with their Vintage Ale 2012- a strong, dark Belgian ale that celebrates all 9% alcohol and with the complexity and balance that it deserves. Its a beer that's certainly built for celebrations and holidays.

Dark brown in its initial hue, a nod to the light reveals deep golden, lighter brown, and redish amber highlights. Much clearer than expected, the initial pour reveals very low haze that's hardly describable through its dark gaze. An expansive froth grows above the beer with a light tan color and sticky broken lace. Lingering 'til the end, the beer sells its Belgian roots well.

Aromas of perfume, toast, pepper, and cola waft over the nose and take the sense of smell in a lot of different directions. Malty notes of lightly scorched caramel and candy is met with dry toast scents for a complex malty upstart. Spices of clove, cinnamon, black pepper, and alcohol follow closely behind; before the supple notes of burnt berries and grilled plantains round out the light estery make up.

Similarly, the beer opens with the malty taste of hard candy, heavily caramelized malt, and cola-like sweetness. And like some colas, spicy peppercorn, and toasted bread, burnt wood accompany the dry malt taste. Sweetness fades at middle palate and allows the spicy additions of clove, cinnamon, and pepper to provide dry taste throughout. It's this point where a short-lived soap character reveals itself, and this is gone before the finish. Charred currant, cherries, plantain, and red grapes seem to rise at the same rate as alcohol and give a slight medicinal taste to its closure.

Firmly dry from nose to finish, the beer favors a drier and spicier pace than most for its style. This demeanor means that the medium creamy-sweet upstart is short lived and quickly shed in order to favor a toastier, drier, and highly peppery texture. Quite warm and spicy throughout, the beer doesn't mind light spice tannin, winy acidic, and woodish textures that unwavering even deep in finish.

And like Trois Pistoles and Le Terrible, Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale displays the dark ale signatures of Unibroue accurately and boldly. It's a wonderful beer that's highly enjoyable in its assertive dry, spicy tone now but will surly mellow gracefully for years to come.

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Photo of barnzy78
3.97/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750mL bottle, pours an opaque very dark brown with a tall, bubbly, beige head, good retention, but not much for lacing. Aromas are fruity, Belgian yeast, bready, sweet, earthy. Tastes are well balanced with dark malt, candi sugar, bready yeast, fruity, earthy. Thin-to-medium mouth-feel, higher carbonation but acceptable for the style. Overall, I recently had a year old 2011 and the year of aging it seemed to help it some. I have another one of these to save for winter 2013. Gotta love Unibroue!

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Photo of HattedClassic
3.61/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

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

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.

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

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

I have to admit that I'm surprised that such a decent beer from a beer brewed for a store.

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Photo of TheSSG
3.65/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a large, not too dense head. Nose is dominated by spices; clove and mulling spices abound. Deep burnt umber color. Starts a touch sweet, but then the spices come through, dominating everything. A touch of toasted malt is behind it all, but it's a ton of clove, maybe a touch of minty cardamon (?).

This is very nice; like mulled schwarzbier.

This will NOT be for everyone, but if you like mulled wine/cider, this is highly recommended.

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Photo of MDDMD
3.48/5  rDev -8.9%
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

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.8/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

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Photo of TWM
1.95/5  rDev -49%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Started rough- as I poured from the 750ml bottle, it was so carbonated I couldn't get a smooth pour so it foamed like crazy. 4-5 finger head, nice dark rich color, visible carbonation rising through the little bit of liquid that fit under that massive head.

Smell- normally, I like fruit. In fact, I eat a lot of fruit. Somehow, the fruit smells in this beer were a turn-off. I figured out what it was: the compounds (carboxylic esters) that give fruit its scent and part of the flavor were mixing with the esters of the spices and the whole thing smelled artificial. I'm not accusing TJ's of adding fake flavors, but the results of this fermentation with these ingredients smelled very similar to an artificial, synthesized ester. Think "Runts" candies without the sweetness and a little clove.

Taste- a little better than the smell (thank heavens...). The heavy spicing and aforementioned ester taste competed with what I believe is a pretty darn good ale flavor, the combination not flattering either component. The taste changed through each mouthful- it started very sharp (not generally good for a dark ale) as the high carbonation dropped the pH, then rising to a somewhat sweeter, excessively scented finish.

Feel- as carbonated as any beer I've had recently. Felt sharp at the beginning of a sip, and the escaping carbonation flooded my nasal passages with the clove-cinnamon-spice scent that lingered, feeling like a coating of something greasy, after the liquid was gone.

Overall- I wish they had re-made the 2011 ale, that one was much better. If nothing else, having tried this one will make me appreciate dark ales that respect what makes this kind of brew so unique and good... and won't treat them like some winter-spice, flavor-free mass-produced lager by cramming whatever sounds seasonal into the tun.

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Photo of deuce9259
2.98/5  rDev -22%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Serving Type - Bottle to Unibroue Tulip

Appearance - Deep brown color that pours a thick head....looks like plenty of carbonation.

Smell - Strong spices and Belgian-style aroma. Strong malts, clove, coriander, pepper...some fruit.

Taste - Toasted malts, standard spices I get from a Unibroue brew.

Mouthfeel - Way too carbonated IMO. Not quite enough in the body. It gets a little better as it warms....even though its still pretty light.

Overall - Not bad for the price, but don't think I will be bent on getting it next year. I liked the 2011 version much better. Have an extra 2012 and a 2012 that I'll probably sit on for a little while longer...maybe some of the spices will die down by then.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
3.23/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The beer is near black in color with a thin beige head. The aroma offers spices, mint, dark druit, yeast. The flavor is sweet and spicy, a bit overly so. Dark fruits and licorice with notes of anise. Not in the upper half of the style. Medium bodied with lingering spices and a touch of warming alcohol. Very reasonably priced, but you get what you pay for.

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Photo of LXIXME
3.8/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big light brown head settles into a nice lacing above a really dark brown to black colored beer.

Black licorice and dark wine with spices and dark roasted malts aroma.

The black licorice and wine aspects seems to outweigh the roasted malts, spices, and darker fruits in the taste of this 2012 Vintage Ale.

A lighter dry aftertaste that brings with it some of the darker tastes this full bodied beer had to offer.

Quite different tasting, a nice change of pace but I don't think I want to drink this as my regular beer.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.25/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale
750ml bottle, corked and caged, "Best before 07/07/2015"
$4.99 @ Trader Joe's #719 in Omaha, NE

I saw this at the Trader Joe's in Omaha, NE and immediately recognized it as a Unibroue beer. How I could do that with so many European beers available in the same bottle, I don't know, but upon closer inspection it has the Unibroue cork so I was right in the end. It's got a pretty nice painted-on gold label, and maybe that was what did it. I was quite surprised at the price, just $4.99 for a 750 ml bottle, and I figured I was saving at least $3, and probably more like $4 or $5. The back label reads "Trader Joe's Vintage Ale - Unique and limited edition, this Belgian style ale is crafted once a year as a special treat for those who appreciate flavorful, bottle conditioned ales with character". Upon opening it and smelling it I knew it wasn't the "17" that I'd been hoping for, but it certainly wasn't bad. Upon tasting, I thought it might be the "Trois Pistoles" but it seems bigger than that. Anyway...

It pours an opaque, very dark, almost black-brown body that reveals only russet brown highlight along the upper edge. The head is a fizzy tan head that drops fairly shortly and leaves only a minor lacing of spots and splashes behind.

The aroma suggests green cardamom, light cola, clove, a hint of dark chocolate, some brown sugar, a hint of dark fruit, some floral and grassy character, and a light touch of maltiness.

The flavor follows suit with the addition of some nice dark caramel and heightened notes of dark fruit that include: raisins, fig, dates, and a suggestion of currant. As is often the case with Unibroue beers, it presents itself as more of a complex-but-balanced 'round' of a beer rather than a more 'spiky' ale that delivers its components piece-meal and at different intensities across the palate. There is some transition to it, however, and it starts sweetish and fruity, but anchored by spice, and it finishes spicy and dry (although the alcohol is well-cloaked) yet coated in fruit (with more skins and pulp than juicy) with a light hint of anise.

In the mouth it's full-medium in body with a delicate but zesty carbonation that warms to caress the palate rather than lend zing.

For the price, it can't be beat; and within the pantheon of Belgian style beers it still ranks right up there. Not to be missed at the price, but certainly worth trying regardless.

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Photo of augustgarage
3.5/5  rDev -8.4%
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.

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Photo of Jamesthebrit
4.17/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Saw this at Trader Joe's and was skeptical until I saw it was brewed by Unibroue which has some damn good beers. Decided to give it a go.

A: Dark brown. Explosive head that does not fade. Leaves great lacing.

S: Spicy, a very smooth herbaciousness. Alspice, clove, nutmeg. Those more earthy kinds.

T: As with the smell, very herbal and earthy. Probably the only beer this herbal that I like. The balance is great. Alcohol is not present at all. Good finish with a hint of malt.

M: For this high of an ABV and with all the big flavors the mouthfeel is great. It goes down smooth with great flavor development. If anything it's a little on the thin side.

Overall this is a really great beer. Huge flavor notes are kept in check. The beer is smooth and tastey. I would recommend grabbing it.

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