Trader Joe's 2005 Vintage Ale | Trader Joe's Brewing Company

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Trader Joe's 2005 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2005 Vintage Ale
Very Good
37 Ratings
Trader Joe's 2005 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2005 Vintage Ale

Brewed by:
Trader Joe's Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by lou91 on 12-11-2005

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 37 |  Reviews: 32
Reviews by Boilermaker88:
Photo of Boilermaker88
3.91/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased this 750ml bottle last fall and promptly forgot about it until last night. Caged and corked bottle bore a best before date of 10.13.08 so it was okay to sit for a bit.
Poured into a goblet, this BSDA (brewed for TJ's by Unibroue) had a inpenetrable dark brown color, a large dose of finely spun carbonation and a thick creamy tan head that leaves sheets of lace in its wake.
The smell, full of yeasty bready malt, evoked a recollection of pumpernickel bread. Caramel and the sweet aromas of dark fruits sit firmly over a more subtle peppery spice note.
The taste was quite sweet and full of caramel-dipped fruits initially. Malty, had a nearly dark wheat bread flavor. Rather zippy peppery taste rode the crest of a wave of alcohol through the finish. Feel was medium-bodied and lushly creamy on the tongue.
Overall, a pretty tasty beer. Smooth, silky feel just makes it slide right down. TJ's definitely upgraded in their choice of contract brewers. Worth giving a try, especially at the bargain price of $4.99.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.85/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage (Sampled 1 Year Old)

Presentation: 750ml tall straight sided brown glass bottle with a fluted neck. Sealed with a thumbed cork and a silver colored cage and steel cap that has the year 2005 in blue text on it. Main bottle is classic Unibroue, metallic silver printing has the beer as ‘Trader Joe’s 2005 Vintage ale’, with some suitable hoppy emblems. Smaller text at the base of the bottle continues, ‘Dark Ale on lees, 9% Alc./Vol.’ The reverse of the bottle goes on at great length about this brew. It is clearly stated that this is a dark Belgium beer that is exclusively brewed for Trader Joe’s by Unibroue an that this 2005 offering is the inaugural Vintage Ale. Screen printed as Best Before 10-13-08 with an inkjet neck code of ‘K24050730Q’.

Appearance: Muted slick exit from the Cork, the gun-smoke seems to rise but then is sucked down and vacuumed back deep into the tall bottle neck before it raise its eyebrows above the mouth of bottle rim. Dark body with an ebonyous black veil that hides a clear mahogany body. Tanned head quickly scarpers and hides, leaving nothing but the thinnest of thin rings that cling hard against the meniscus edge. Lazy conditioning is partially fine but short lasting. The looks have dropped a whole point in one year. [4.5 to 3.5]

Nose: Still punts a decent nasal front. The alcohol seems to break through the clouded dark fruits a bit more than it did when fresh. Has a dry feel, malts with some dark chocolate in the backdrop. Lightly spiced the yeast enters late. For all its up and downs, it settles out a straight 3.5, just as it did a year ago. [3.5 to 3.5]

Taste: The high fizzing tanned Cola head soon plies down and settles to reveal a blackened pond that may well distort time and matter. The entrance picks up and punches heavy on the spiced malts. Middle is heavily accentuated with a Port tangent and dark Rum hyperbole, which is much higher in strength than it was a yea ago. The finish is shorter than I remember, faded as my memory may be. The lingering death has anise and spicy yeast but it is fading a tad. Still cuts it though [4.0 to 4.0]

Mouthfeel: Whereas the appearance has dipped, the Mouthfeel certainly seems to have picked up a click or two in the last 12 months. The conditioning is feisty and lively but the nature of the carbonation is spiky and a still uncomfortable. The body exudes a presence that never reveals its 9% ABV but it always seems adequately supported and bolstered by it. A year in the wilderness has pushed this one up a half point [3.5 to 4.0]

Drinkability: Imminently quaffable, a slight heart burn tingle from the yeast bothers but it is not a hug distraction. Goes South all too easily considering the strength, it pulls in the same score it did a year ago. [4.0 to 4.0]

Overall: I enjoyed this Trader Joe’s brew the first time I tried it, in fact I figured it was one of their better moves, using a respected brewer such as Unibroue to put together a dark high ABV brew. And at the selling price it is extremely hard to fault this beer. A year later I think exactly the same. The Appearance has suffered, but a team effort between the Mouthfeel and Drinkability has pulled this one through the one year barrier, but I am not sure it could handle two years without some serious detriment. The Mouthfeel has certainly smoothed out a tad, and its damned good stuff given the economic $4.99 price tag - but it is no more complex than it was when I first tried, this is the only disappointing aspect, age is not pushing the boundaries it should be within this brew. Still good a year later, but I wouldn’t age this one much longer.

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Photo of BlitzShadow
4.32/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The bottle has a cork printed with a Unibroue emblem, along with a "2005" cap on a 0.750 L bottle.

Appearance: The body is almost black with a dark crimson hue and a rich beige head. Very carbonated.

Smell: It is very complex. Peppery, light fruity (plum), floury. You can certainly smell the alcohol, too.

Taste: Wow! The taste is mellow and balanced. Not plain or normal by any stretch - Perfectly Balanced. I was expecting the alcohol be the front-runner and that was certainly not the case at all. The hops are present, but again to serve the purpose of total balance with the sweetness. I must emphasize that it a refreshingly tasty symmetry.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth, effervescent, refreshing, and warming.

Drinkability: It definitely leaves you wanting another, but this is a strong dark ale and should be respected with slow and sensible sips to prolong the enjoyment.

Notes: Trader Joe's Inaugural Vintage Ale is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! The bottle states that the ale "will age exceptionally over time, developing a more complex flavor as the years go by". Given its current complexity, I am really looking forward to storing this delicately balanced, refreshing brew, and enjoying it in a few years.

Edit - This was one of my first reveiws ever (over four years ago) and this was a rare find. Hence, you can understand my excitement.

Minor score adjustments to recalibrate since I'm now much more familiar with this style.

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Photo of watermelonman
3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This poured to a very dark brown with an explosive head that shrank but lasted well. It's leaving a moderate amount of lace.

The smell is good, with a bit of dark fruit on top of sweet malts. The taste starts somewhat plain but then turns to a light combination of dark malts and fruits. A touch of alcohol finishes it off. The mouthfeel is very carbonated and a bit lighter than expected. It's very drinkable for the alcohol content.

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Photo of BKotch
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%

Photo of edchicma
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What a surprise for a "store brand" It pours a pillowy head, almost black in appearance with great lacing. Smell is a very nice blend of malt and hops. Taste is an initial malt blast that became dry at mid-palate with a tartness...some "brandy" undertones. Mouthfell is dry, very nice. Drinkability is very good for the high abv.

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Photo of Stubbie1
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This brew poured a nice deep red, almost brown in color. A thick off white head was perched upon the top of the beer for some time and left a thick lace then thin patching. Aroma of dark fruit (plumb) and maybe fig mixed in. Slight hints of alcohol make its presents known. Taste is sticky and smooth with the fruit up front and malt back. Touch of dryness in the middle with a warming alcohol finish. Nice on the carbonation and a smooth and creamy feel to it.

Overall a nice brew, one to think about putting away until next years comes out. And at $4.99 a 22 oz bottle, you cant beat the price. Don’t pass this one up if you see it.

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Photo of Dukeofearl
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The bottle has a very tight cork that does not want to come out. I had to put on my pirate hat, and pretend it's a "bot'l o' rum" and pull the cork with my teeth (kinda fun, actually). A nice gunshot and gunsmoke follow.

Pours a dark, OK, very dark brown/black (completely opaque in my St.Bernardus goblet) with a pretty tan head. Looks very inviting.

Aroma is very interesting, with my first thought being sweet licorice, a slight black pepper, chalk, and a certain earthiness. Then, as I think about it, comes buttered popcorn. Is this the diacytl that I have read so much about? If so, it's the first time I've picked it up unassisted.

The flavor follows through on the aroma, overall pleasant, but an odd butteriness that just isn't quite right. Overall, the general profile is good, but it just doesn't come together. As the bottle disappears (funny how that happens), and as the beer warms, this settles, and it gets better.

Overall a decent beer, but the flavors from the yeasts are a little much. Perhaps some age will settle this down and make it more drinkable.

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Photo of lou91
3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big pop on the champagne cork. Very dark brown with hints of red. Nice smell of candi sugar and subtle sourness. Rich, creamy, malty, thick with a characteristic sweetness and pepper spiciness. Everyone will be happy to know that this is a good offering and a bargain at $4.99. This is a solid beer – probably a bit young. Great looking Belgian lace on my chalice as it pours into my gut.

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Photo of carln26
4.07/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured from the 750ml a deep brown to mahogany topped by a a tan head charged with carbonation. The aroma has a nice mixture of spice, coriander, pepper, orange peel a little ginger, and is backed by sweet malt in the form of dates and some blueberry. The taste is nicely balanced. All of spice (ginger, pepper, orange peel, coriander) blends well with the fruity sweetness of the malt. The bitterness from the hops in the form of a light citrus adds a nice finishing bitterness to the beer. The mouth feel is light and carbonated (but not overly so). Good drinkability. A $5 and change 750ml quality beer. I really like what Trader Joes and Unibroue are doing.

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Photo of audiojon
4.45/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

750mL bottle, best before 10/13/08 printed on back, along with brew info and "Dark ale on lees." Served in wide mouthed goblet. Very impressed with this brew, especially at $4.99 a bottle. It is very dark, with a ruby tint. Not much head, but tons of natural carbonation. Mouthfeel is effervescent, not too thick but not too thin either. Alcohol is definitely a large part of the taste, but there is a malty sweetness and some barely there fruitiness. Hops are used sparingly, but balance out the malt quite nicely; this is a very balanced brew. As for drinkability- I could easily drink a couple of bottles of this (and would probably be quite jolly as a result). I am def going to buy a couple to put away for a while, I'm guessing those fruit undertones will come out quite nicely after a couple of years.

Another solid offering from Unibroue, who have yet to produce a brew I didn't like.

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Photo of Zorro
3.86/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a black colored ale with a thick brown head. Looks a lot like a stout in the glass, I can't pass light through it.

Smell has an acid edge to it. Somewhat sweet and fruity in the glass. Light spicy scent with some cherry and mint to the scent.

Taste is mildly sweet and spicy with a taste coriander, black pepper and faint chocolate to it. Faint apple and cherry flavors but this tastes much like a Duvel. Not a top representative of the style but certainly worth the price for weekend relaxation.

Mouthfeel is good.

Easy to drink as Unibroue always is. A tasty drink and a easy to drink Belgian style ale.

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Photo of granger10
3.81/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The cork makes a loud pop off the bottle and lots of smoke is relased. Pours a dark plum color with a large foamy tan head. The head reduces to a skim layer with moderate lacing. This is a nice and lively brew.

Aroma is yeasty, definitely showing that Unibroue yeast profile. There's some figs and plums as well and a soda like smell which is a bit weird. As its warming I'm getting roasted notes on top.

This is a dark fruit beer reminiscent of Trois Pistoles. The fruits are dominant and plums seem to rule the show, but there's also a good amount of peppery spices right at the start. The roasted flavors are good and full and really come on in the middle. Some hay and bitter chocolates come and go. A cola like texture towards the finish. Ends with a strong spice flavor in the mouth and a bit of alcohol flavors.

Very effervescent and well carbonated and that's how I like my Belgians. Full of flavors yet the cola like texture hurts the mouthfeel from being anything above good.

This was a nice sipper but quite drinkable in its own right. I am on the final glass and have had no problem drinking it. The maltiness and roasty flavors work well to balance themselves out while maintaining interest to my palate. The spices do add up over time though and the abv does get noticeable.

At $4.99/750 ml bottle, this may be the best deal I have seen in quite some time. I wish there were a Trader Joe's by me, if there's one by you, get this.

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Photo of drewone
4.25/5  rDev +9.8%

Photo of womencantsail
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: The pour is a dark mahogany color with some amber notes to it and a big tan head.

S: There is an intensely vinous character to the nose. It's almost like taking a sniff of a big red wine. Lots of red grapes and other dark fruit, particularly berries. There's also booze, chocolate, and a bit of green apple.

T: A big chocolate and red wine flavor to this beer. A moderate licorice note comes through, as do the big dark fruit flavors. There's the same hint of green apple and even a bit of a woody character. A moderate oxidation as well as some toffee.

M:The body is medium to full and the carbonation is medium.

D: This was a pretty good beer, even at five years old. It was almost like drinking a big red wine, but very nice, especially considering some of the other vintages.

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Photo of ReDave
3.03/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Interesting [what I would call fancy Belgian cork] bottle. Very Dark color, almost no light visible through the glass. Dark tan head that I had to be careful not to foam over. In that note, it seems somewhat over carbonated. Has an almost home-brew like flavor to it. Very malty, low hops. Rather rich, probably could have used some more time in the cellar.

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Photo of misterscooter
3.7/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A large, dark, 750mL cork popping bottle. Feel free to age it, based on what the bottle says. If I could trust myself to keep it stored in a cool enough place for a while, I might try to keep one until I get closer to the 2008 expiration date.

The appearance is dark with a thick, tan head that disappears quickly.

The smell came in waves with a mix of mandarin orange, milk chocolate, creamsicle, anise and sarsaparilla.

The taste is definitely a sarsaparilla and vanilla base with a hoppy balance. Not too malty. Well done but it didn't blow me away.

With the alcohol content, this is a true winter warmer. Thick, warming, substantial. Not a bad entry from one of my favorite stores. The brewer ain't too shabby, either.

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Photo of mzwolinski
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The cork explodes out of this bottle with a loud pop, exposing what is probably one of the darkest Belgian Style ales I've ever seen. Almost stout-like in it's opaque appearance, with a head that starts off large, fizzy, and dark-tan, but quickly dissipates into a thin, wispy but creamy top.

This beer has a bready nose with dark fruits and rich, almost chocolatey malts. Appealing, though the latter two elements could be better blended together.

Alcohol was just about the first thing I noticed with the flavor. Surprisingly hot, the alcohol bite kicks in almost before the tongue has had a chance to appreaciate the malts.
As the beer sits, however, more flavors begin to emerge. Dark fruits compliment a rich malty character that still, in keeping with the appearance, has a somewhat chocolatey character. Overall, the beer is still very spicy, with both alcohol and the yeast contributing to the heat. But it develops into something much rounder than it first appears.

Very well-carbonated, occasionally fizzy mouthfeel. "Burpy" indeed, as the Bum so eloquently put it.

Still, a nice beer. It'd be good to see what a little age will do for it.

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Photo of doctorjoeyboey
3.93/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is another one of those unique Belgian/Belgian style experiences. The bottle comes corked. After removing the cork and experiencing calamity, I poured the beer only to have the head consume the entire glass... as usual with a Belgian/Belgian style beer. I poured my second glass more slowly to prevent this. There is a double lip on the bottle that is perfect for securing the lip of the glass being poured into. The crevice created by the two lips is so perfect for holding the drinking glass that I think it was probably intentional. If anyone can confirm or reject this, please let me know. The color is a deep brown that appears to be black upon first impression. The aroma is unique and seemingly complex, but to be honest my taste isn't developed enough yet to decipher what the hops are. After smelling the aroma and not being able to nail it down, I can only expect to be able to analyze the taste with a great limitation. However, the bottom line is that the beer is good, intelligent, and unique, all of which I can appreciate without being more experienced with Belgian/Belgian style beers. The mouthfeel is smooth and the alcohol can be tasted a little, along with a grain taste that I can't pinpoint.

This beer is a steal for the price. It provides the Belgian style experience at a low price, even below normal for Unibroue. After two 750ml bottles of this stuff at $5 each I could dance an Irish jig and, trust me, I couldn't come close to jigging without a brew like this. I am happy to have drank this beer on Christmas, especially considering my limited budget. Personally, I consider this ale to be the best sleeper beer I have found. Who would expect a grocery store brand beer to be good? Thanks to Unibroue, this is a good store beer for Trader Joe.

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Photo of DogFood11
4.07/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The local trader joe's is stocked to the max with this 750. Good price for any beer made by Unibroue. I picked up a couple and this is the second one going down.

Pours a deep rich dark brown to black. Rather fizzy khacki head that has a short life. some lacing but not your typical belgian strong dark meaty froth.

Dark fruits jump out at me right off the bat followed by a deeper rich malt backbone. There is something spiced in the towards the middle of each pull that has a peppery quality to it (very subtle) which is a nice touch. Carbonation fits this offering well, fairly aggressive it zips up the finish.

I like this offering and the drinkability is great for two reasons. I craved another no sooner than the last drop of the first hit the gut. Number two the alcohol is pretty well hidden. Great price. Unibroue serves up another beaut' 'eh.

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Photo of GClarkage
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

03/14/06- Purchased at Trader Joe's in San Mateo, CA.

Presentation- 750ml bottle, caged and corked. 2005 version. Poured into my Don De Dieu tulip.

Appearance- Dark caramel brown colored pour. Maybe approaching grape juice color. Full one inch head, but quickly disappears leaving not even a rim after a few minutes. Lacing almost absent.

Smell- Caramel malt scent hidden under dark fruits. Plums and raisins mostly. Light alocohol scent with maybe a touch of chocolate.

Taste- A roasted malt underbelly. Infused with dates, prunes, raisins, plums and corriander. Unibroue for sure.

Mouthfeel- A bit drying at times. Medium carbonation level.

Drinkability- Kinda like Terrible. Nice beer once again by Unibroue. Best Trader Joe beer I've had.

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Photo of beerpadawan
4/5  rDev +3.4%

Photo of SolsticeDreamer
3.18/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I've been holding on this bottle along with the others to do a vertical tasting. The best before date on the bottle was labeled 10-13-08, I'm a year and some change past the best before date: keep that in mind. The vertical tasting of mine started with 05 through 09.

The 750ml bottle was cellar in a cave for the duration of the aging, up till the finally weeks of its life. The corked was pull, a nice pop and after the smoked cleared the bottle was poured into two Duvel glasses.

Appearance: The thought of this brew being trapped under this cork for over four years with out a breath, is nothing compared to the contrast of black on white. An almost pitch black body that light dares not pass through and in fact hasn't ever in it's life, topped with a fluffy bubbly white head; but then the moment is gone. The reality is the body is a dark amber mahogany that only reveals itself towards the shallow ends, by then the head has been long gone leaving only traces of where it touched the glass the last sip.

Smell: Aroma is quite gone with it's age. Memories of the dried fruits and malty goodness are only hinted at. I stirred the glass and held it close to my nose, closing my eyes to find a dried out malt aroma with a bit of chocolate hiding. The yeast has long ago quit overpowering the aroma with it's spiciness but only tickles the aroma at this point.

Taste: The bottle was chill down and left in room temperature prior to opening. After pouring as time goes by and the body warms, and reveals an ocean of flavors hidden. Dark rum flavors hinted with what would seem to be dried fruits that leave a port like finish that dries into nothing... I remember a spicier finish but that seem to of disappeared long ago along with the yeast characters that only left a tart kiss goodbye.

Mouthfeel: After 4 years some of the carbonation must of leaked out, a hint of oxidation slips in to reveal the true age of this brew. The lively nature of the yeast that once give this a carbonation bite and settled down to allow for a pleasurable event. All the while one forgets the nature of this brew at 9% ABV, the event goes on and the glasses get emptied...

Drinkability: Given the nature of the brew, having to have had aged it and drank it over the course of years to find the right spot of time to behold it's beauty peak... At $4.99 for a 750ml and an amazing eventing with friends, it's worth saving and try the experience.

Finally I will say the best before dates are perfect peak of time. I overshot the aging but had it the year prior where it was about perfect. TJ 06 at this point is perfect and very similar to the 05 to compare of what this was at it's peak.

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Photo of BeerManDan
4.23/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

When poured in a glass, it had a reddish brown color with loads of medium tight tan foam that disapated within a minute after pouring. But it did keep enough foam in the glass to leave some lace. The smell of roasted malts and mild hops was very pleasant, but not over powering. The taste had a wonderful balance of roasted malts and aromatic hops. Long clean finish.

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Photo of phisig137
3.7/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well I was quite surprized today to walk into trader joe's for the first time in a couple of months, and see a bottle of Unibroue for only $5.
This one is heavily carbonated, and pours a pepsi like color, with only hints of light showing through the glass, and a tall lasting head. Smells bready, yeasty, and hints of dark fruit. Taste is also dominated by bready flavors, and some rich plush spiciness to round out the finish. The alcohol hides itself well, and is pleasently warming.

After finishing the bottle, I'd have to say the best way to describe this one, would be to think of a slightly weaker version of Terrible. It's quite good, and well worth the $5.

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Trader Joe's 2005 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.87 out of 5 with 37 ratings