Trader Joe's 2014 Vintage Ale
Trader Joe's Brewing Company

Trader Joe's 2014 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2014 Vintage Ale
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Strong Ale - Belgian Dark
3.94 | pDev: 8.12%
Trader Joe's Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Trader Joe's 2014 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2014 Vintage Ale
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Reviews: 37 | Ratings: 144 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of thebeers
thebeers from Pennsylvania

2.84/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.75

Red-tinted dark brown with three fingers of light tan head that last a fair while and leave good lacing. Some slight gushing upon opening.

Wood, clove, spruce, chocolate and plum in the nose.

Toffee, nougat, prune, leather and Belgian yeast are added to those in the taste. There’s a slight vegetal quality hidden beneath the chocolate and fruit. Warming alcohol present on the backend.

Medium bodied with strong carbonation.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is past it’s prime. You can sort of pick out the ghost of a good beer here, but the fruit, chocolate combo is too sweet, medicinal and plum pudding-ish and has also picked up some off-flavor I don’t believe was intended. I wouldn’t rate it if there wasn’t this year-specific line, as I’ve always enjoyed these fresh. If anyone wants to know what the 2014 vintage taste like at Christmas 2018, these notes may still be useful. Drink em if you’ve got em!

Dec 08, 2018
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rand from California

3.71/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

750 mL bottle into a tulip

Not going to go through a full review, as I've reviewed different vintages of this brew before.

Couple of comments on the aging of the brew, as I've just busted this out from storage. Flavors are tamed and sort of linear. Phenols are still distinct, but the medicinal aspect has died down. Still a 'cherry' brew overall, and bubblegum-y, but overall more quadfable, sweet and soda-like.

Not my favorite example of the style, but it's always fun to try robust beers like this several years in a cellar.

May 21, 2018
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daliandragon from Maryland

4.21/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This one has been in storage for a few years. Pours a very dark, almost black with a decent cream head that doesn't last. Nose features dark fruit and yeasty esters.

The taste seems simple at first but hits several levels of complexity on its way. Big chocolate malt note at the front, followed by a fruit wine interlude and a sweet coffee toned finale. Texture is a little thinner than I would like and carbonation a little high but the result is still very smooth in the finish.

Dec 02, 2016
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.99/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle with a July 2017 BB date, that's been cellared for about 2.5 years. Brewed by Unibroue , as indicated on both the bottle and cork. Served in a Belgian snifter.

Clear dark brown but pours essentially black with a tan head that's shorter and a bit more fizzy that it should be. The medium-high carbonation is obvious but not objectionable in the feel of the medium-full body.

Aroma: dark dried fruits, especially raisins, and a hint of chocolate.

Flavor: rich and fairly strong; dominated by raisins, prunes, figs and other dark dry fruits. Some alcohol esters but rather well hidden alcohol. Near equal bitter-sweet balance.

Sep 20, 2016
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secondtooth from Indiana

4.17/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Almost black, with a decent tan foam and no lace.

Aroma: Fruit, specifically grapes and dark fruit, dried and aged like raisins. Pretty good.

Taste: Delicious! Complex grape tannins, with a wine-like character, some tobacco, some chocolate hints, and a light sweetness that complements a smooth, crisp dryness that finishes with a pleasant warming. Superb!

Jun 21, 2016
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Lingenbrau from Oregon

4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Side-by-side with '12 through '15. Second best of the bunch, but no matter what, always a winner and something to look forward to every year. Cheers!

Jan 20, 2016
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Bluegrass49 from Minnesota

4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a tall glass. Very rich dark brown color with a foamy tan head, about three fingers worth. Strong coffee taste, very malty. Delicious.

Dec 19, 2015
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UPMD_Bill from Maryland

3.55/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Aged for a year (translation: misplaced and found during pantry clean-out), and still held up.

Aroma and taste is primarily yeast, a little minty/spice and bubblegum to go with the sweet malt. Chewy and lots of carbonation, although that could be from the aging.

Overall: Didn't quite like as much/not quite as much flavor as Jailbreak Van Dammit (similar style I had recently) but willing to give the 2015 a shot.

Dec 13, 2015
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M_C_Hampton from Georgia

3.01/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 1 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

A: poured from a 750 mL bottle into a pint glass, after carefully removing from the fridge and uncorking, this beer exploded all over me, my computer, and my sofa, half the bottle was lost and the volcano continues, it is a dark color with a head that dissipates quickly

S: dark fruits and soured, a bit of bread and yeast

T: sticky sweet with a sour funk, figs, prunes, cherries

M: thick and way to carbonated

O: this beer is obviously infected, it has been stored properly, I hesitate to give it such a bad review, but something bad happened to it before it got to my cellar.

Jul 19, 2015
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mikeg67 from New Jersey

3.82/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle. Pours dark brown with tall, long-lasting, foamy beige head and nice lacing. Aroma is funky yeast, spices and toasted malt. Body is full and slightly crisp. Toasted malt, brown sugar, spices, herbal hops, chocolate and dark fruit fill the mouth. Finish is long, worming. Very nice brew.

May 29, 2015
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ClavisAurea from New York

3.63/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Fresh bottle served in a wine glass.

Appearance: very dark, almost black, opaque, huge khaki head

Nose: Classic Belgian/Unibroue yeast aroma, very malt forward, spicy and complex

Taste: very complex and kinda sweet, red stone fruits, thin mouthfeel, absolutely no hops

Overall: price is right, complex but not exactly up to te Unibroue name. I have another bottle that I wanted to age. They're cheap enough to do some serious vertical tastings here. Seriously, $4.99 for a 750ml!!!

May 02, 2015
Photo of mac31
mac31 from California

3.99/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sweet fruity, malty entry. Dark fruits- prune, black cherry, red grape skins. Yeasty, spicy, hints of clove. A wave of stone fruit-like brightness comes in and picks up this brew. Low amounts of dark roasted malts is present. Bitterness is low and clean with earthy/herbal hoppy notes lingering, trace amounts of mint? Medium bodied brew. Carbonation is on higher side, appropriate to style though. Booze is evident after the first handful of sips. Slow and easy does it. Belgian darks are not my thing, I like their lighter/golden counterparts. With that said, this is a really nice, quality beer. Unibroue, what can you say? At 5.99 an awesome value. I will buy again, cellar a bottle or two.

Apr 21, 2015
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damndirtyape from Ohio

4.02/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750mL corked and caged bottle, shared with the Mrs. in Tulip glasses. Mine was a Karmeliet tulip glass.

Appearance: Black with hinds of cola brown at the edges. Lots of bubbles coming up through the beer after the initial pour. Nicely thick 1/4" foam that persisted for awhile after pouring, but eventually died down to a thin skin across the top and some denser islands at the edges. Some occasional strands of lacing.

Smell: Coriander, wintergreen/mint, yeast, and just a hint of cloves.

Taste: Spicy, hint of licorice, dark candi sugar, some dark fruits, and a herbal noble hop finish that got a bit more notable as the beer warmed up.

Mouthfeel: Lively / airy carbonation, smooth thickness.

Overall / Drinkability: A very nice sipping and savoring beer. Went well with meatloaf and green beans. I enjoyed my large glass, but I'm not wanting another right now as I'm starting to feel the higher ABV. Still, a very good beer especially for the price and definitely a good beer for sharing.

Apr 05, 2015
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Tsar_Riga from Indiana

3.94/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark brown-black, nearly opaque, with a light tan head. Big to start, the head is persistent and rocky. Definite lacing, but mild.

S - Plum, fruit and skin, alcohol, and a bit of sweetness.

T - Strong fruit and sweetness, coupled with dark bread and molasses. The close is crisp enough.

M - Full, but not burdensome.

O - I enjoy this big, broad Belgian, and at $5 a bottle, it is a steal.

Mar 21, 2015
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ThisWangsChung from Maryland

3.74/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Brief write-up. I mean, it's made by Unibroue! How bad can it be? The spices are a little too powerful on the nose, but it still has a nice breadiness to it. The flavor is similar, but more balanced. I get a lot of cinnamon and mint to start, but the finish is nice and light. The only thing I can really complain about is how the finish isn't quite dry enough - and that's a total nitpick, really. I can see this being overly spicy for some, but I enjoy it quite a bit.

3.74/5: Good job Uni...I mean, good job Trader Joe's!

Mar 14, 2015
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demon from California

3.48/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Looks like a nice dark ale. Pours dark amber to black with an initially two finger thick tan head that fizzes away quickly. Very boozy and strong. Can smell coriander. Some nice dark malt flavors come through, though that is really all that can be found. This beer just really isn't a great tasting beer. Nothing interesting hop wise, nothing interesting malt wise (as a whole). Maybe a little chocolate flavors, maybe a little coffee. I really like the dark fruit flavors in these styles of beers, but those were completely absent. This is a pretty sweet and one dimensional brew.

I picked up a couple bottles of these guys because they are cheap, but in terms of a fine Belgian style experience, this will probably leave you a bit disappointed. To me however, economy is a part of my enjoyment of the beer experience, so I wouldn't not recommend this beer on the basis that it is good value for the money.

Mar 04, 2015
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Auraan from Arizona

4.13/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured a dark brown body that looks black unless held to light with two fingers of bubbly tan head that receded slowly. A very good looking Belgian Strong Dark, though not the finest in appearance. Scents of dark fruit, with an emphasis on cherries, raisin and prune with lesser amounts of light fruit, notably apple. Spices and spicy phenols are moderately high as well, with notes of allspice, clove and pronounced nutmeg. A medium-light chocolate aroma is discernible alongside slight brown sugar aromas and notes of rich dark bread. Overall impression of aroma is of a fruity, spicy, rich Belgian Strong Dark with nice supporting medium level malt aromas. Quite nice. Flavor begins sweet, with notes of dark fruit, raisin, prune and cherry, with a light alcohol-soaked fruit flavor. A moderate level of spicy phenols is present, though not discernible to type. Notes of bread crust are present in the background. Middle picks up greater spice flavors with notes of nutmeg and allspice preeminent, adding some light bittersweet chocolate flavors and continuing dark fruit notes. Finish is sweet with a slight dryness to balance, with notes of allspice, nutmeg, bittersweet chocolate at medium levels and light roasted malt along with some bread crust, toast and molasses and a continuing flavor of dark fruit with some moderate alcohol. Aftertaste is light roast malt, nutmeg and allspice. Overall impression is of a rich, spicy, fruity, complex Belgian Strong Dark. True to style in all respects and quite nice. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with high carbonation and a drying, chalky feel with a smooth alcohol warmth. Overall impression of mouthfeel is of an excellent Belgian Strong Dark that feels more Abbey ale than commercial. Overall this is a fantastic Belgian Strong Dark. True to style in aroma, flavor and mouthfeel, it is a joy to drink and for the price cannot be beat. It sits between Trois Pistoles and Maudite in Unibroue's dark Belgian lineup, and can match both quite nicely. An extremely solid budget Belgian.

Mar 01, 2015
Photo of AirBob
AirBob from Massachusetts

3.95/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - 2.5 fingers of fluffy beige head. Great retention and lacing. Dark, deep brown-red body, almost black. Reminded me of a porter.

S - Sweet dark fruit. A little booze. Cocoa nibs. Brown sugar. Touch of leather. Belgian yeast (clove and banana).

T - Tons of sweet dark fruit, more plum and golden raisin. Maybe some dark chocolate. Some coriander?

M - Medium carb and body. Slightly sticky finish.

O - A little too sweet for me. Could use a couple of years to mellow out the sweetness and add more earthiness.

Feb 27, 2015
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deford from California

3.43/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 750 into a Stone Old Guardian Snifter.

L- Very dark, just slightly brown when held to the light. Nice two inch head with a decent pour...fades to half an inch or so.

S- Coriander and clove definitely...maybe some kind of sweet fruit.

T- A little too sweet right away, kinda scares me off. Coming back as it warms I get more winter spices, quite enjoyable. Maybe some bitter dark fruits here and there...maybe.

F- Pretty much just fine...nothing jumps out at me.

O- Really quite good for the price...if I had only a few beers for the rest of my life, this would probably be one. It's pretty satisfying as it warms..

Feb 20, 2015
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BowWowWowYippyYoIPA from California

4.45/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Best before 07-02-2017

Look - Pours pitch black with only the slightest bit of dark ruby red around the edges. Very slightly tan head that dissipates slowly to pleasantly thin layer capping the liquid. No lacing. 4 paws.

Smell - Lots of what smells like pumpkin spice: allspice, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, with hints of vanilla and pine. Roasty malt background. No hop presence, and only the slightest bit of alcohol. 4.5 paws.

Taste - Rich and tasty pumpkin spice flavors again, lots of clove and spruce tips. Very well balanced hop bitterness on the finish. Notes of bourbon-like vanilla linger. Extremely well -balanced all around. 4.5 paws.

Feel - Somewhat thinner than might be expected. Tingle is mostly on the tip of the tongue. Very smooth and easy drinking. 4.25 paws.

Overall - One of the best buys in the land of beerdom. Excellent through and through, the only reason to pass this up is if you don't like spiced beers, but this one might change your mind. 4.5 paws.

Feb 18, 2015
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Tripel_Threat from Michigan

4.24/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Surprise, surprise. Trader Joe's finally hopped on the beer bandwagon, and has a few private label brews, including this one made by Unibroue, makers of one of my favorites, Fin du Monde. Picked this one up for $5 for the bomber, if it's halfway decent then it's a steal.

Poured form bottle to tulip glass. Lots of carbonation as it hits the glass, a couple fingers worth of creamy light brown head presents. Head dissipates to a significant cap with some sticky lacing. Color is dark, dark brown.

The aroma is one of spices: coriander and clove, with some earthy fruits, bready yeast. Typically Belgian in aroma.
Taste follows the smell, with some warmth on the tongue and the back of the throat. Very smooth mouthfeel, and the ABV is well disguised.

Definitely putting this one on the "have again" list. And for $5.00, there is so many more worse ways to get good booze.

Feb 01, 2015
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brureview from Massachusetts

4.25/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I first tasted the beer in a chalice and later switched to a snifter- a much better choice.
Also, I first served the beer at 53°F as suggested on the bottle.
It's much better colder at about 48°F. The initial flavors are enhanced with warming.

The cork is quite good unlike many Unibroue corks which are difficult to uncork and sometimes are too dry and break. This cork easily came out of the bottle.

Poured an opaque dark brown color with a 2F head.

Aroma: Clove, spice, coriander, fig, raisin.

The taste is sweet, raisin, clove, and prune with a spicy alcoholic finish.

Overall- this is a Unibroue brewed beer, and surprisingly is at about the same caliber as the twice as expensive Unibroue labeled beers. It's big bang for the buck and worth checking out.

Jan 25, 2015
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hreb from Washington

3.99/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750mL cork-topped bottle served in tulip. Best before 07-02-2017. Beer pours rich dark brown in color and easily forms a pillowy tan head. Big spicy and yeasty aroma. Very "christmas ale", to my nose. Or spice cookies. Flavor is also spicy, and combined with the heavy carbonation and having being served cold, the result is fairly aggressive. Also that this is relatively fresh, not cellared at all. I'm unfortunately blanking on the name of the spice that dominates here. It's not clove, and not exactly allspice, but something in the same vein. Anyway but it's definitely a spice flavor, and not fruit flavors, unlike my experience with earlier years' Vintage Ale. Body is moderate, and balance is fantastic. Alcohol does not inhibit the drinkability of this one. I suspect drinkability would improve by .25 or even .5 with cellaring.

Jan 19, 2015
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dbl_delta from Pennsylvania

3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Xmas gift. 750 ml bottle into glass mug.

Dark - not quite like a porter or stout, but pretty darned dark. Huge (3-finger+) fizzy pale head. Too much carbonation, in my opinion. Not much retention or lacing.

Bready, malty, yeasty, sweetish but with some cola, chocolate, clove and maybe some raisins and banana?? Lingering sweetness. Really complex, kinda fun to try to sort out. Alcohol is well disguised and doesn't overwhelm the sublety of the beer.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied - probably spot-on for the style.

Overall, not a bad beer but I'm not a real fan of the Belgian style.

Jan 10, 2015
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RonaldTheriot from Louisiana

4.23/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2014 has a medium, spongy, beige head, a medium-brown, bubbly, murky appearance, and very little lacing left behind. The aroma is of bready, yeasty, spiced cake, and the flavor is of the same features, with coriander, low bitterness, prune, raisin, anise, and possible other flavor notes. Mouthfeel is medium and prickly, and Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2014 finishes rich, surprisingly drinkable, and a touch hot.


Dec 30, 2014
Trader Joe's 2014 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 87 out of 100 with 144 ratings