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 Rukasu
3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Continuing a tradition of opening these 3 years aged, perhaps waited a little long on this one. Stored in a dark area, refrigerated a day before opening.

A - Dark cola color with a light tan one finger head that diminishes to a thin lace on the surface.

S - Sweet candied fruits (pineapple, apricot, passion fruit, mango), caramel, pine, yeast.

T - A little musky with aging, but still a pretty good tasting brew. Sweet candied fruit tastes come through in the taste as well. Lots of pineapple and other tropical fruits. A bit of traditional holiday spices, orange, pine, cloves. Roasted malty aftertaste.

M - High alcohol leaves mouth a bit dry, but balances well with the sweetness of the beer.

O - Not bad despite the overaging. Unibroue rarely makes a bad beer and this one certainly stands up to the years, pleasant end of the year drink.

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Photo of Beer_HOPper
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Saw this lying in the back of my cupboard, checked the Best Before date = 09-12-2012, whew, time to drink this!

A dark ale on lees.

I don't know what the proper technique is in opening, but, upon popping the cork, a lot of foam came running out. Perhaps, this is past it's prime?

Appearance: Dark, Chocolate., hazy brown. Lots of sticky creamy coffee colored foam over flowing my goblet. If not for the overflowing foam, would be a 4.0.

Smell: sweet citrus and spice like christmas, yeast back-end.

Taste: sweet spice up front, then, some cocoa and malt. Finishes with heavy spice and citrus, a touch dry and bitter.

Feel: wet, slippery, initially carbonated, but, disappears after few minutes.

Overall: Spice dominates with citrus. Lighter tasting than it looks. Alcohol sneaks up on you. Enjoyed this, but, 1 bottle is more than enough.

Note: Brewed by Unibroue exclusively for Trader Joe's, of course.

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Photo of Zraly
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
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 LiquidAmber
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Review from 8/2010 notes. Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a dark, dark red amber. Very nice heavy tan head and tons of lacing. Looks very nice. Malt and dark fruit up front with spices an fruit in the middle and light malty finish with a bit of bitterness. Somewhat of a dry, abrupt finish. Not very heavy bodied, but the flavors are well integrated. These Trader Joe's Vintage ales seem to do nicely with about a year or so of aging.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

brown with a huge frothy head. Smell was very spicey, grassy and earthy tones with a hint of sweetness. The taste was classic belgian and very nicely done. Fruitness and spices predominate, no hint of alcohol, which at 9%abv is incredible. Really smooth and effortless in drinkability. This is a fantastic brew, way too easy to drink, honestly the easiest 9% I have ever had

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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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3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Black coffee color with a huge frothy tan head. Some foamy cloudy of tanned lace.

Sweet candied dates and currants. Candied ginger. Spiced apple pie. toasty caramel and candi sugar. some roastiness.

Dark chocolate cover cherries and caramel candied dates. A gingery toastiness and clovey roastiness. a medium bitterness grounds it.

Medium body. semi-smooth. high carbonation. Touch of astringency.

Good drinkable interesting brew. Glad I tried a bottle.

Consumed 10/2010

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Photo of jlindros
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Optimator13 for this one.

Huge 3+ finger head that fades at a med pace and makes me stop pouring, light lacing, dark coke brown color.

Nose has some Belgian malts, a bit nutty, Belgian fruity dark fruit yeast, slightly tangy, light candi and syrupy, light spices.

Taste has some darker Belgian style malts, bit nutty again, and little syrupy, some booze warmth, dark malts, bit of candi sugar, bit of darker Belgian yeast fruits, light cranberry and cherry, little plum, light spices. Finishes dry and spicy, some booze, lingering malts and light sticky malts.

Mouth is med bodied, lots of carb.

Overall pretty good, interesting flavors, dark malts, fruits, bit boozy and syrupy.

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Photo of notchucknorris
3.28/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Almost black in color with a huge sandy colored head that lasts nicely.

S: Ginger, brown sugar, saffron and nutmeg. A strange array of spices thrown in. It smells a bit better than it did a year ago.

T: Mostly malt with some hints of spice and a touch of the ginger. For me, the mouthfeel is way too thin and kind of kills this one. The finish just dies into a watery flavor.

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Photo of mjpolzin
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I loved drinking this beer the first time around in 2009 (and got really drunk in the process) and enjoyed it again when a client of mine gave me a year-aged bottle of it for Christmas 2010. And for comparison, I liked the 2009 vintage a lot more than the 2010.

It has a nice dark look in the glass. One of the first things I noticed is that it has a fair amount of carbonation. I liked it but some people may not but for sure, it is a little different. The taste is a combination of fruits, spices and cola and you can taste the alcohol for sure. I can vividly recall the feeling of taking a drink and feeling that warm fuzzy feeling in my head. I actually think one of the bottles I had was more than 9.0 abv as after I finished it, I was pretty buzzed and that usually isn't the case for me with that amount of 9+ abv beer. I had a friend who agreed with me on that so I know its not only me.

I have only had 2 years (09 and 10) of the trader joes holiday brew but 2009 was my favorite.

EDIT-I just drank my last bottle of the 2009 vintage as it was a few weeks past it's "best by" date. It was not as good as I remember it. I don't know if this was because it was a little bit past it's prime or I have had more good beers since I first had this one and have more to compare to but I am going to downgrade it just a bit. Still a great beer but not as great as I remember it being.

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Photo of RandyV
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Beautiful cedar swamp brown color on the pour with lots of carbonation (interestingly, the cork had a red wine smell). The smell announces the beer as a Unibroue production; yeasty, slightly farmhouse with malt sweet overtones. I got banana and clove more than anything with a nice alcohol warming to follow. The finish just mellows to an almost cloying sweetness, but certainly not unpleasant. This is a very drinkable brew, and great for the season. Wonder what the 2010 Vintage will bring in a year when I open it?

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Photo of Overlord
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Considering the reviews, surprisingly pleasant!

Pours a murky, turbid brown with some brown highlights. Brown. Maybe a quarter inch of tan foam.

Smells like some dark fruits, some candied, yeasty bread malts, and a hint of spices.

Taste is interesting. Definitely some dark fruits, but also some lighter fruit esters and a bit of a candi spiced flavor to it. Almost like a mulled, sweetened caramel background.

Pleasant. Nice, thick enough mouthfeel.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.68/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The pour is a dark brown color with some definite amber tones to it. A decent khaki colored head forms on top.

S: A strong aroma of herbs here, mostly chamomile and sage. There's a bit roasted malt character as well, and a pretty decent chocolate note. As it warms, the herbal nature becomes more and more apparent.

T: A bit more subtle in terms of the flavor profile. The sage and chamomile are there, and there's a bit of licorice that I didn't notice on the nose. A bit of sweetness and minimal chocolate with some warming alcohol.

M: The body is medium and so is the carbonation.

D: The herbal nature of this beer isn't quite as pungent and overwhelming as some of the other Unibroue special releases, making this more enjoyable.

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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 mikeg67
3.84/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750mL bottle. Pours dark brown with a foamy, tan head, and lively carbonation. Aroma is yeast, brown sugar with some dark fruit. Full, creamy, crisp body. Flavor is yeast, brown sugar, roasted malt and dark fruits. Finish is big and somewhat sweet. Nice winter warmer for a great price.

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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 oregone
3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This screams Unibroue from a mile away. Friend opened this one. Pours with huge carbonation of the large and continuous bubbles that I expect from the company.
Smells predominantly yeasty, definitively Uinbroue style, some malts in there...
Tastes of sharp apples on the front (sharp carbonation gives this effect I think) evolving to yeasty bread and dough flavors backed by dark malts. Finishes with distinct Ginger and Citrus Peel. I'm positive that these were added as they're unmistakable.
Crisp, clean refreshing mouthfeel. True to company.
Very drinkable. Could work my way slowly through a couple bottles of this with ease.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle picked up at Trader Joe's in Alexandria - Winter 2009. Reviewed from notes.

Pours a nice dark mahogany-brown with a thick off white head with a bunch of lacing as it goes down. Smells like dark fruits and some mild caramel along with a bit of creamy alcohol. Taste brings dark fruits, dates, and dark cherries along with a bit of alcohol and dark, sweet malt flavors. Good creamy mouthfeel with a bit of alcohol. Drinks quite well at a really tremendous price.

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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 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 msubulldog25
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
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 cnjohn19
3.59/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

aged for just under 1 year...

beautiful pour of jet black with a toffee colored foam...smells surprisingly of lemon, rasberrys, coffee, and ginger...its sweeter when it warms up...

slightly disappointing for waiting this long for this one, but very interesting to say the least...not worth the wait but never had a dark beer taste this way so kind of cool...


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Photo of rand
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
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 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 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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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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