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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

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 bsp77 on 12-12-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 96 | Ratings: 131
Photo of mrquartetman
4.88/5  rDev +28.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is simply a wonderful holiday beer, far better than last year's TJ Vintage Ale, which was very good. What a beer! And what a price! $4.99 for a 750ml bottle? What a deal.

It's a dark Belgian-style ale, clearly made, along with its spices, with candy sugar in the mix.

A: Pours with a dark, persistent head and is very dark in the glass. Looks like a stout.

S: The aroma is one of malt and spice, and gets even stronger as the beer warms. Excellent.

T: This a complex beer that seems to be playing on the tongue. It starts sweet, then the combination of spices starts its joyride, with a lemony hint, then ginger, but it's difficult to identify the ginger at first because in combination with the other spices, one gets a sort of mint flavor for a bit. This flavor hint pretty quickly merges into a subtle ginger. It is big in malt across the palate and never loses its sweetness.

M: This is a dense brew that uses the entire palate and is like eating a meal all by itself. One reviewer called it "not chewy," but I can't say that - it is chewy to this taster.

D: All I can say is that I will buy 2 to lay down, 5 for friends, and 3 to have here this holiday season. Unless it's all gone tomorrow.

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.6/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750mL bottle into a tulip glass

A - Poured black with a reddish tint along the bottom edge when held to the light, with a HUGE (3 to 4 fingers) yeasty off-white head and clingy lacing.

S - Citrusy cherry mixed with exotic fruits and spices blended. Definitely has a characteristic of the smell of other Unibroue beers I've had, but also very unique in a complex way.

T - WOW! Lots going on in there. My first thoughts are that it tastes like I'd imagine blending up every exotic fruit into a single drink and mixing in some pepper and spices. Pepper, banana, kiwi, orange, plum, apple, coca with a citrusy kick.

M - Even carbonation. Lots of flavors and spices...but leaves that Unibroue afterglow.

D - The smell is upfront and blends really nicely with the taste if you breathe it in as you sip it. A truly unique tasting beer...one the I really like and one that I could understand some people really not liking as well. Not really something you can drink a bunch of at a time, but this isn't really a beer made for that (although as I type this, my wife and I are cracking open a second one - if my wife likes it, that says a lot for the beer).

Picked up a few of these today, looking forward to having another in the near future and saving a few for a year or two to see how it ages. DEFINITELY worth the price in spades clocking in at about $5. Since these are a one time brew, I might even pick up a few more. Get em while you can.

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Photo of beer3nthusiast
4.6/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is a dark Belgian abbey-style. 9%

Cork eagerly pops out. It pours dark with a big but light head that settles into a patchy layer that looks like whipped egg whites. Very little lacing, but the patchy head persists for awhile.

Tastes a LOT like the Westvleteren, or St. Bernardus yeast. It's got a spicy, peppery, yet sweet-ish taste. Not very fruity.

The mouthfeel is light and its very drinkable.

Overall, this series is highly underrated IMO. Great beer.

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Photo of Beerenauslese
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%
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 porterwoobie
4.47/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

cask ale, poured into a standard pint glass.

A: dark brown to black color, clear on the edges otherwise opaque, large tannish head that falls quickly but maintains a nice layer, very little lacing.

S: malty sweet. slightly fruity, plum maybe. spicy. some chocolate aromas too.

T: a chocolate and dark fruit like taste initially. some alcohol warming present. both spicy and sweet in the finish.

MF: medium/full bodied, medium/high carbonation.

Drinkability: pretty good fresh. bought a couple so will give the others a tasting in the far off months/years.

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Photo of ChimRichels
4.41/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Saved this bomber from last thanksgiving... We'll see how it holds up after a year.

A - Cork pops off with with seemingly little carbonation force behind it. Deep, rich, murky brown pour with a head that exhibits cola-esque appearance and the retention to match.

S- Aroma is pungent, attacking olfactory receptors with plumes of raisin, brown sugar, caramel, and charred candy

T - Sour cherries, dark fruit, slight acrid bitterness. Very sweet and delectable. Slight coffee flavors mingle in the shadows of its murky depths

M - Carbonation has faded since its release - something I was looking forward to as I felt the original carbonation was a tad bit heavy. Very smooth and viscous.

D - Delicious :) A year of aging did wonders for this beer. I can't wait to see what another year (or two) can do.

UPDATE: Just popped this one on 12-21-2014 and will add a few comments

The first thing I noticed is the foam... foam everywhere. As soon as I popped it she was frothing all over the place. The most cautiously conservative pour ended up giving me half a glass of head. It died down relatively quick.

Going off my notes, the aroma is entirely different than it was a few years back. It smells very rich and sweet, like a chocolate covered cherry. Taste is a bit off, almost soy-saucy. I think this might have aged a tad too long. Maybe should have read the "best before 09-12-2012" warning.

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Photo of ViveLaChouffe
4.4/5  rDev +15.8%
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 NeutroMan
4.37/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750mL caged/corked bottle into a snifter.

Appearance: Pours an extremely dark brown, almost black, with a one-finger persistent foamy light tan head.

Smell: Roasted malts, chocolate, and ginger in the nose. Some fruity esters, as well - dark fruits, mostly, along with some citrus elements. Also picking up some spiciness - coriander, maybe?

Taste: Mostly similar to the smell, but sweeter. Same fruity esters - dried cherries, figs, bananas, raspberries, and raisins, along with a general breadiness.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and highly carbonated (but not acidic). Really hides the alcohol - I can barely notice it.

Drinkability: Smooth and sweet, but not offensive. Quite drinkable despite the 9% ABV. A great holiday beer.

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Photo of skberke
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer is brewed for Trader Joe's by Unibroue, one of my favorite breweries, and it did not disappoint. Poured into a goblet, the dark raisin-colored beer gave rise to a cream-colored head at least 1.5 inches high, which persisted for quite a while before subsiding with very little lacing.

This is the beer version of a christmas fruit cake. Not the horrible fruit cakes people joke about, but a really excellent, decadent, moist and rich homemade fruit cake. Flavors are of raisins, apricots, currants, candied citrus peel, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and brandy.

Something in the aftertaste makes me think of hot cross buns--it must be the combination of yeast, currant, and cinnamon flavors, with a subtle sweetness like a little touch of confectioners sugar icing.

For all the candied fruit presence, this beer is not at all cloying, with a clean, yeasty aftertaste. The citrus notes are surprisingly bright, and I would not be surprised if this beer mellows and improves with age, but I am thoroughly enjoying it right now.

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Photo of hoegaardenhero
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

a: beautiful deep brown with an insanely thick and loosely bubbled beige head that leaves a lot of lace and never quite leaves over the sip;

s: prunes and spices; a light but not unpleasant sour; banana bread; very very fragrant;

t: really warm with raisins and light chocolate but definitely a sour note that is kind of nice; sweet light abv

m: light carb; medium slightly cloying body; but gets a nice textural boost from the head

d: a really good beer; one of the best years imo with strong flavors

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Photo of mistaya
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
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 Phyl21ca
4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
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 adamette
4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Live review. Poured from the 750 ML dark brown corked and caged bottle that I bought for the very reasonable price of $4.99 from (where else?) Trader Joe's. 15091726Q printed on the neck and "Best before 09-12-2012 printed below the 4 stanzas of information describing the beer. Poured into my gold rimmed Brewery Ommegang Westvleteren style goblet.

A Great medium brown silky smooth head over a black body that lets the darkest of mahogany colors through only in front of direct light. Classic Unibroue belgian look. 4.0

S Medium roast sweet malt, distinct Belgian yeast smells rise up in what is, again, a classic Unibroue smell. There is also a Westveletern like merlot grape smell that is very inviting and interesting. 4.5

T As the smell suggests, a nice sweet malt taste with a significant Belgian yeast organic taste that I have come to love. That great fermented grape taste is there but it is not as complex as the taste found in the Westvleteren 12. 4.5

M Interestingly, there is significant carbonation which makes the beer dance across the tongue and a kick of warm alcohol also increases the feel of this rather large beer. The significant head contributes a bit of softness to the feel but not to any degree of that of Westvleteren 12. The primary feel is that carbonation and the warmth of alcohol. 4.0

D I will finish the bottle within about 20 minutes but this is not a session beer by any means. The bigness found in the ABV, the sweet malt, the merlot like grape goodness, the Belgian yeast and the carbonation make this an apertif which I am quite sure it is intended to be. All of that being said, this was enjoyable to drink. 4.0

Notes: Trader Joe's should be very happy with this very good beer from Unibroue featured in their stores.

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Photo of aeroguy
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I don't do a lot of reviews but I'm a big fan of Unibroue so when I heard that Trader Joe's had this I went out to get a few bottles. At $4.99 a pop for a 750ml Unibroue, that's a damn good deal for a reliable brewer.

So, onto the beer - I love Trois Pistoles, and I think if this isn't a rebranding of that beer (same ABV, very similar taste, head, etc.) then they simply took their 3P recipe and tweaked it a bit to get this. Does that make it a sham? What do I care - it's great stuff. If TJ's wants to stick their name on it and sell it at about half the price then we should all be so lucky.

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Photo of innersanctum
4.28/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

First of all, I've got to thank my wife for buying this bottle for me last Christmas, and also for some of the other reviewers who recently tasted/reviewed the 2009 Vintage Ale as they reminded me of this tasty treat!

Last holiday season 2 of these bottles were gifted to me and the temptation of one of them was too strong so it went down right away. For the past 10 months another one of these gorgeous bottles had aged in my attic, and it did improve with age.

There was a Champagne-like moment when the cork popped off this bottle as a some of the foamy brew spilled out. The rich dark brew was poured in a 16 oz Pilsner with lots of head which led to ample sticky lacing.

The smell was not as pronounced as some other features of TJ's Vintage Ale, but in color it is jet black, there are hints - I said hints not strong tones - of cinamon and nutmeg, and it offers a cola-like mouthfeel.

Compared with the bottle from last year, this sample had a silkier and smoother finish and there appeared to be a higher sugar content.

If you have the willpower this is definately worth storing, and the bottom line is this is an exceptional value at $6 or so bucks!

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Photo of HopHearted
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Tulip Glass slightly chilled. First impressions....Definitely a Abbey style/Old World European brew. The smell, very sweet, but with a slight hint of hops and chocolate and alcohol. Decent head retention but the bottle lies, not quite a coffee colored foam, more like frapuccino. First sip was quite enjoyable but definitely on the sweet side; an absolute awesome beer as she warmed up a bit. Not quite a chewy mouth feel but still holds that Abbey style going on a fast, not eating for days monk deliciousness. Would buy three. One to cellar for 6 months, one to cellar for a year, and lastly one for when the 2010 comes out so I can make room.

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Photo of soupyman10
4.22/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had a couple bottles of this with a friend over a recent weekend in NY. Up front, the fact that this is a 750 ml for $4.95 is absolutely incredible and a huge step cheaper than anything else available. That right there gets it points from me.

Otherwise, it's kind of a delicious but fairly by-the-numbers Belgian dark. Nice pour, with a deep brown color with a tan head that sticks around. Aromas and taste are you standard chocolate, dried fruit, Belgian spiciness. Nice, if not particularly unique.

Overall, a nice Belgian that I'd get again given it's general tastiness and the price tag. I feel as though people are mark it more poorly just because it's a Trader Joe's beer (even though it's not), or maybe have just gotten bad bottles (which is a different problem entirely). Either way, both of the bottles I tried were excellent, and I'd get this again if I could find it.

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Photo of gfreed
4.22/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Don't be fooled-- this is a Unibroue beer (perhaps identical to Trois Pistoles?) from the moment you pop the cork, and not just because it says "Unibroue" in small print on the back label. It has all the characteristics: fruity and yeasty aroma and taste with a good deal of spicy cinnamon, mellow alcohol that warms but doesn't overpower, and dense, dark body with enough fizz to be buoyant but not bubbly. I've had some dogs with the TJ label, but this definitely makes up for bad experiences. Let it warm up a bit before serving.

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Photo of BDJake
4.22/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- dark brown, almost black, without very much head or lacing

S- yeasty amd spiced with a deep malt backbone, and some fruit notes hidden in there

T- much like the aroma, it was good even before it warmed up

M- good carbonation, fairly thick and chewy

D- although a rock-solid brew, it's more the type to sip

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Photo of popery
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nice BSDA from Unibroue. This beer is a flat-out great bargain for $5 per 750ml bottle. It's not the best Belgian around, but it's one of the very best bargains in beer. The beer pours a very dark burgundy-brown with a big fluffy khaki head. The aroma didn't sit quite right with me at first, but it's improving a lot as it warms up. The signature Unibroue yeast is present with notes of soy sauce, brown sugar and holiday spices, primarily fresh ginger. The flavor is nice and dry, and the Belgian earthiness really blooms on the palate. The mouthfeel is typical of Unibroue, nice and prickly. It's a very good beer and I'm going to pack away a few bottles for the cellar.

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Photo of bmwats
4.17/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into a snifter.

A: Dark brown. Light carbonation, but leaves a one finger foamy, greyish head. Leaves some nice lacing as it settles. More spotty lacing as you drink.

S: Dark roasted malt, oak, clove, and oregano.

T: A syrupy sweet nutty roasted malt. Kind of a strong licorice alcohol flavor also.

M: Kinda' light body, but really hearty and robust. Pungent aftertaste, and dry finish.

D: Nice sippin' beer.

Good atmosphere. Really pristine and regal appearance. Nose is unique and a good combo of malt and Italian spices. Same with the flavor. Good complexity and combination of flavors. Really unique. Overall, this is a great beer.

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Photo of smcolw
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
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 flexabull
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
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 BrittReed
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Wow! I agree w/ Beer3nthusiast! Awesome stuff! With the yeasty smell/flavor and the sweetness, my wife's first impression was rootbeer (she has 2 sips and "done"). Got a little of that, but kept tasting different things as the glass got lighter. Had it a little cool, not cold. Got one for now, one for cellaring, but will go back for more. smooth mouthfeel, w/o being thick, but just a little sticky sweet. Thought it went well w/ the yeast and spice flavors. Yum!

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Photo of jwinship83
4.08/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml corked and caged bottle drank from my chimay goblet

A- this one pours out a very dark brown colored body with a centimeter of khaki colored head. the head sticks around for a while and leaves behind a wall of lacing.

S- starts out with the classic unibroue yeast. lots of brown sugar. slightly spicy. hints of plum and raisins as well as chocolate.

T- once again, the unibroue yeast comes to the front. after that i get lots of plums and raisins. pretty spicy. sweet brown sugar. the alcohol is slightly detectable.

M- medium bodied, bordering on full. creamy with a high level of carbonation. slight warming from the alcohol.

D- easy to finish. at 4.99 this is one of the best deals in craft beer. curious to see how this one ages, and i have enough to check back in on it somewhat regularly during its shelf life (best before 9/12/12). check this one out if its an option.

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Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
3.8 out of 5 based on 131 ratings.
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