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Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale | Trader Joe's Brewing Company

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Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale
Very Good
131 Ratings
Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2009 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:
None provided.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 131 |  Reviews: 96
Reviews by beagle75:
Photo of beagle75
4/5  rDev +4.7%

More User Reviews:
Photo of RBorsato
3.38/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Photo of Zraly
3.96/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark garnet, borderline black. Opaque and thick. Nice off-white head sits nicely in a Teku glass. Strong smell of yeast.

Rich with hints of mocha, cherry, spice, and ginger, this is interesting to have in its aged form. The suggested "drink by" date is coming up: 9-13-2012; suffice to say that this might be a touch past its prime but, nonetheless, has a spicy, malty, almost sour presence to it that is really refined for $5 a bottle. Smooth. The booze is all but buried in the back, making this dangerous drinking. Cola-like in mouthfeel and actually has a "Cherry Coke" flavor to it. Medium to medium-heavy bodied but super easy on the palate.

If you have any of these lingering about in your stash, break them out ASAP. Bring out the cheese plate while you're at it.

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Photo of GreenCard
3.78/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: very dark brown to black, huger layer of tan foam that slowly collapses to a dense cap

Aroma: brown sugar, all-spice, poached pears, hint of yoghurt and yeast

Flavor: medium malt sweetness with a potent mix of ginger and other wintry spices; candied citrus and light brown sugar; finishes semisweet with a lingering spiciness

Mouthfeel: medium-full body, spritzy carbonation, and a combo-ginger and alcohol warmth in the throat

Other comments: This is a great candidate for aging. Would be great to see how the spiciness changes as it is a bit raw at this point.

Update 12/2/2011:

I just tried a bottle that I had been aging since its release in 2009.

Aroma: caramelly malt with a toasty note; hints of yogurt, raisins, rum, and cooked strawberries

Flavor: medium malt sweetness with hints of clove, cinnamon, and possibly cardamom; finishes semisweet with lingering notes of ginger and rum raisin

Still a solid, tasty beer 2 years after bottling.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.32/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a dark brown color ale with a large light brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma consists of candi sugar and coriander with the typical Unibroue yeast profile. Taste is a very nice mix between some sweet Belgian malt with light notes of candi sugar and quite a bit of coriander. The Unibroue yeast strain profile can also be easily detected but I find the light fruity ester it provides very enjoyable. Body is full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Well brewed with some complexity and easily drinkable characteristics.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.67/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled January 2010
Very careful pour, foam over, in my 25cl tulip, 5-fingers of head, light brown / darkened tan color. The beer is a dark, burnt amber color that shows clear, ruby-plum highlights when held up to the light. The smells characteristically of Unibroue; an earthy, herbal spiciness that is typical of the yeast, definite clove and coriander aromatics, quite a bit of fruitiness that reminds me of prunes, some sweet plums and raisins. There is also an earthy, dark cracker like malt character, grassy toasted grain note. After sitting for a bit the nose becomes nicely balanced

Pretty light bodied, with only a touch of sweetness that is actually accentuated by the fruity and clove-like yeast character. The finish has a touch of dark grain as well as that earthy spiciness that leans towards coriander that reminds me of Unibroue. There is a touch of tartness in the finish that helps to mitigate the earthy spiciness that really lingers in the finish. The light tartness makes me think of plums and raisins. The malt character is more muted than the color would suggest; there is not much in the way of any roast character that the rich color would suggest; there is perhaps a touch of astringency to the finish. There is a soft woody herbal note here in the finish and there is a . While the texture can be a bit fizzy after a fresh pour (this bottle is clearly a bit over-carbonated), it has a nice light body for a beer of its strength.

Overall this beer has a pretty decent balance; the Unibroue yeast character is certainly expressive here, so if you don't like that then definitely avoid this one; luckily I don't mind it too much, though it can be a little bit much at times. Still this is definitely an enjoyable beer, that should age nicely for another year or so.

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Photo of ViveLaChouffe
4.4/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured 12/2009

Pours a deep opaque brown, damn near black, with the signature Unibroue "voluminous head of froth". Lots of yeasty and dark fruity aromas. Raisins, black currant and a breadiness in the nose.

In the mouth, rich dark fruit, really big and deep, dark fruity flavors. So fruity and so luscious and vinous. Raspberry, black currant, ripe plum...bready too. Thick but smooth with just a hint of warming alcohol. Not too sticky in the finish though, the alcohol cleans the palate just enough to keep it from being overly cloying.

If this is not just a rebottled version of Unibroue's Trois Pistoles, it's a variation on the theme. And at $4.99 a bottle, that's a great value for a very cellarable beer. My other bottle joins my cellar collection today and I need to get out to TJ's to grab another couple bottles.

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Photo of smcolw
4.13/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Huge head. Settles in a rocky fashion. Lots of chunky lace. Dark muddy brown color--some light passes through the edge of the glass.

Good Belgian yeast smell. There's also aromas I associate with spiced winter ales, like cinnamon, star anise and cardamom. Notable alcohol warmth.

Mild sweetness in the start. Good alcohol presence in the swallow. The spice shows up in mid-taste. Light hop bite in the aftertaste. Very complex. Overall, this is one of the better made American-Belgian beers.

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Photo of sweethome
3.98/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

As mentioned before - a great bargain from Unibroue for TJ's. $4.99 at my local Trader Joe's. Pour is deep, dark brown with a tan head - almost brown. While nose is not bad, a bit one dimensional to yeast. A bit of fruit.

Nice Unibroue flavors of dried figs, chocolate, anise. Some yeast flavors later.

Soft mouthfeel.

A great bargain with a nice refined flavor profile, if not overly complex.

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Photo of blackie
3.86/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

a: into the Unibroue snifter-tulip, huge tan with heavy retention and lots of sticky lace that eventually settles down

s: plummy with spicy notes of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon bark, and ginger, very subtle roast, hops give papery pulp aroma, the fruit and spice is nice, interesting set but they seem to kinda float on their own without much of a solid foundation

m: lively, high carbonation prickly on the tongue, body light to moderate

t: vivid flavors of dried plum with a solid spicing of clove and and nutmeg, a bit of cola and ginger, some lurking roast, papery hops add a nice balancing flavor and mild bitterness, just a glance of boozy sweetness, same issue as with the aroma - needs a better structure for the spice

d: no problems here, carries the 9 percent well

4/16/2013: A little overaged at this point. On the nose we have ginger, orange, and sweet tobacco. Touches of clove and cocoa. Palate is similar but muted. A little musty. Didn't age poorly for the years - just aged too long, as it's still got some good stuff going for it.

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

Corked and caged Unibroue bomber, $4.99 at Trader Joes in Columbus. This beer is dark, almost black colored and opaque, with about 1 finger of off-white head comprised of large celled foam. The aroma is spicy and estery, a little like an aged hefeweizen minus the bananas. The cloves stayed though. The beer starts with a strong dose of the spice and finishes with a bitter bite that, while objectionable to my tastes, is about right for a winter warmer. BA lists this beer as a dubbel, not sure I agree with that. More of a central European Christmas ale if such a thing exists.

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Photo of rootbeerman
4.03/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bought 6 bottles, this is the first, pour into boston lager glass.

A: pours dark brown, light brown finger and a half head
S: citrus and somewhat floral, sweet malts, spices. light berry
T: citrus again, spices. berries are hidden. sweet malt with an astringent,
M: medium carbonation, light
D: drinkable yes. more than a bottle per night, no.

plan on aging the other 5

the bottle is not a year old, poured and shared with friends into the best available pint glasses. served at about 50 degrees. the head popped up to about 3 to 4 fingers and only fell when the glass was finished. flavors had smoothed out nicely. clove and cinnamon smoothed out with the prune fruitiness. I am glad to have three bottles left. i will see if i can make on last till its best by date of 9/12/2012.

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Photo of brandoman63
4.25/5  rDev +11.3%

Photo of msubulldog25
3.96/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A 750 ml caged/corked bottle, served to a 'La Chouffe' tulip glass at cellar temperature, filled right to the 25cl serving line. Silk-screened: Best Before 09-12-2012. Trader Joe's, you may claim this as your own, but this belongs to Unibroue...

A: A loud, wet 'POP' as the cork releases. Looks like the deepest, darkest brown; hold it to light and the reward is a vibrant mahogany, crimson-tinted. A plethora of bubbles, angrily streaming upward. Khaki foam, dense and creamy. Lace is OK, blotchy and broken.

S: The plummy, musty odor of Unibroue's 'Belgian Dark' take. Murky scent of muddled dark fruit and peppery Belgian yeast spicing.

T: An apple/fig/banana/raisin-filled dessert beer if there ever was one. Nutty at times, more toffee at others. Loads of spice, honey, even some cracked pepper and ginger. It doesn't quite come together, but it really does showcase the complexity of the yeast quite well.

M: Carbonation roils in the mouth, then there's a refined mellowness. Crisp, with a decent bite then soft and lingering.

D: If you like the BSDA (I do) you'll like this treat. As I recall, this bottle runs around $5, which is flat-out ludicrous for an ale of this quality. Glad to have bought a few (been doing this for the last 3 years; this is the first one I've cracked); fine now, probably better later.

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Photo of mistaya
4.33/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wow. Waiting for Santa here on the Oregon coast. What a great ale. I'd forgotten how good the Belgian darks are. Can't wait to go up to TJ's in Eugene for a few more bottles. Too bad I didn't save any for Santa. He and the deer would have liked it.

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Photo of enemyisyou
3.29/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased at Trader Joe's near Union Square, Manhattan, $5 - cheaper than other Unis. I was really excited for this one...

A - Poured and a thick head with large carbonation bubbles immediately fizzed up and came back down again shortly leaving a thin, denser lace on top.

S - The smell was not pleasant... not if this was just a bad bottle, but the glass was clean! Faint notes of cinnamon and dried fruit. GF says "smells like Chinese medicine."

T - There's something funky in this bottle... not sure what it is, but there's nothing really going on here. There's a tiny bit of coffee and orange at the end, but it's surprisingly insipid. Kind of like a gym sock lambic.

M - This suffers from the same issue as other Unibroues IMO - the carbonation, and this contributes to the mouthfeel somehow. An authentic Belgian wouldn't drink like Pellegrino. After half a tulip glass I was ready for a glass of water.

D - Not as inspiring as Unibroue's other efforts, which one can find oneself at the bottom of a bottle with no trouble at all.

Overall - I'll finish this 750 (just don't like to waste even potentially bad beer) but I'll have to come back to it. I suspect something is wrong with it.... If it's really as good as others are saying then it may be worth another $5 to try it out, even if I can stick with something safer for a few more dollars.

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Photo of kbm
3.69/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: pours dark brown with light brown hues on the edges. Gigantic beautiful almond head, nice retention with moderate lacing.

Smell: bready yeast and christmas spices with a little bit of metallic notes gives way to dark fruits and molasses.

Taste: Hardy bready yeast with a little of the same metallic notes. Dark fruits in the back end and bitter coffee on the back of the tongue in the aftertaste. Good cold weather flavors.

Mouthfeel: Low viscosity with a pleasant, but sharp, carbonation.

Drinkability: It's not a gulper but it's probably a tad bit more drinkable than your average dubbel.

For $5, I can't think of a better cold night on the couch beer.

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Photo of ygtbsm94
3/5  rDev -21.5%

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

Served it a bit warmed up - poured a monster head with a mis of coarse and fine bubbles. Settled down moderately quick. Very dark ruby color, good clarity.

Smell is slightly sweet, but dominated by some spices (orange peel, a bit of pepper). Aroma isn't overwhelming - smells Belgian, though. No prominent alcohol on the nose.

Aroma spice notes come through in the taste, on top of a subtly malty front. Not overly sweet, but never bitter. Nice balance. Finishes with a gentle peppery spiciness.

MF shows medium body and carbonation. Fairly gentle on the tongue - no astringency and only a mild alcohol warming.

A bit bland, but highly drinkable for a 9% beer.

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Photo of rand
3.88/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From bottle to tulip glass

Aged for one year

Pours a completely opaque black that forms a wispy, cotton-like 2 inch head. There is very little lacing, which hints towards high viscosity.

It smells sweet and spicy, with ripe cherries and raisins dominant. Some bread-like yeast with banana undertones, but this isn't the most 'Belgian' nose for the style.

The taste follows the smell but is much more interesting. The ripe cherries hit you first, which are slightly sour. Raisins and plums are also prevalent. Sweetbread and woody spice combine with the fruity profile, giving this a distinctive holiday feel. The alcohol is remarkably hidden - I've let this slowly warm to about 60 F and there is still very little alcohol bite. Finishes slightly sweet, but the earthy spice leaves a slight acerbic aftertaste.

Given the 9% ABV, the brew is actually light on the palate. It's oily and rich, but there was a surprisingly effervescent effect, reducing its stickiness. The overall experience wasn't as 'Belgian' as what I was expecting, especially for Unibroue, but it was still quite tasty, and the holiday vibe made up for whatever it lacked in traditional style.

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Photo of flexabull
4.13/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown cola like color with a huge off white head.

Aromas are creamy, nutty, and a bit mineral like.

Light roasted nut flavors up front, a definite crispness, and a malt creamy sweetness. There are some cocoa, cola, and light spice flavors as well. Finish is nice, with a tart cherry like bite.

Mouthfeel is good. Very smooth, soft feeling, and with enough body to not be overly heavy.

This is a very drinkable Dark Belgian Ale. Smooth with nice flavors, very approachable, and you gotta love the $4.99 price tag for a 750 ml bottle.

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Photo of MisterDeeds
3.46/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark dark brown, with an impressive head like the dude from Kid N' Play.

Smells like a sour, a fruity almost lemony aroma.

Taste is all over the map. I almost feel like there is too much going on for a bottle that only cost $5. A slightly lemony sour twist, and the malty aftertaste has an almost ginger-like kick. A weird almost antiseptic like taste, but somehow, it is working for me.

Feels like a nice Belgian, with a good bit of carbonation, which I guess explains the awesome afro that sits atop this brew.

Drinkability is decent, though it is quite strong and bubbly. I think you can get through the bomber if you are determined.

This beer is legit, you just have to look past where you got it and what it says on the label. Don't judge this book by it's cover.

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Photo of Beerenauslese
4.5/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Aged in my cellar 1 year.

Pours a dark reddish brown, with an ample tan foamy head that dissipates to a fine ring, leaving trace amounts of lacing.

Aromas of sweet dark fruits, coriander, and clove.

Taste is roasted dark malt, mildly sweet with milk chocolate, dried cherries, raisins, and spice--I'd say clove and coriander. However, the taste borders the line of sweet and sour. Has a cola taste but is more complex.

Has a crisp carbonation level and a cola-like mouthfeel to go with the taste, but is creamier in texture.

This is a highly drinkable, and tasty ale, brewed by Unibroue. It is a bargain, and ages well.

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Photo of prototypic
3.56/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage Ale 2009 pours a dark, cola brown color. It's not opaque. Burgundy highlights are noted throughout with backlighting. A light tan head tops it off. It's substantial, standing over two and a half fingers tall. Retention was very good, and lacing was sticky and thick. Good stuff.

The nose is a little on the weak side, but isn't bad. It features a nice cocoa-like scent from the chocolate malt presence. Spices are rather light. I'm getting a little, but not enough to identify anything. Light citrus lemon is noted. One downside is the lack of Belgian yeast. I'm not getting any. That's a negative here. Its presence would really improve this overall. Alcohol is blended well and is barely noticeable. It's alright. Not great.

The flavor is alright, but falls a few steps shy of being good. It does have a nice chocolate malt base that imparts a cocoa-like flavor. Fruit flavors are more pronounced in flavor. Light lemon and berry flavors are noted. There's even a touch of raisin. Spices are also stronger. Pepper and ginger are present and accounted for. Again, I'm not getting much Belgian yeast. That's too bad. It's crying out for it. Alcohol is noted, but isn't strong. I wouldn't guess 9%. Overall, not bad, but could've been better.

Vintage Ale 2009 has a light-medium body that feels too thin. Carbonation is also active and a little buzzy. It's not quite smooth. Drinkability is above average. The flavor's okay, and I'm semi-enjoying it. It's deceptively strong. The 9% abv creeps up on you. Nonetheless, a 750 is more than enough.

Unibroue did a credible job with Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2009. It's alright, but is a bit of a missed opportunity. The missing piece of the puzzle here is glaring...Belgian yeast. Where is it? A strong presence would substantially improve this beer. No question. It's alright as it is. Far from a bad beer. But, could've been appreciably better rather easily. It's definitely worth picking up, especially given the $4.99 price tag. What a value! But, it's not going to win any awards.

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Photo of kevgod
4/5  rDev +4.7%

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Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.82 out of 5 with 131 ratings