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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Ratings: 131 |  Reviews: 96
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 ugaterrapin
3.55/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep dark brown that lets a slight bit of light through. Had about 1.5 fingers of fizzy tan head. Has a very sweet unmistakably Belgian smell. It has sweet caramel malt flavor. There were slight coffee notes in the finish but not as much as I was expecting from the label. It seemed a slight bit over carbonated which detracted from the taste slightly. The flavors I can taste are good, but I wish they were stronger.

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Photo of 4000qtrap
3.56/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Source/Serving: 750mL Bottle

Smell: Very spicy with cloves and cinnamon prominent. Molasses, some sour apple, bananas and raisins. Yeasty. A LOT going on.

Taste: Very Spicy! Ginger and cloves and a rush of sweet molasses. A little citrus shines through after a while. Finish is very bready and yeasty. Moderate carbonation and suprisingly moderate mouthfeel. Not much roastiness of coffee-like character.

Notes: I got quite a few of these to age. At this point, it's a little too spicy for meat this point but its complexity is intriguing. The ginger and citrus are quite unusual and I am looking forward to seeing how this ages.

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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 GreenCard
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
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 xfactor9600
3.9/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: dark brown with decent lacing. Served in a chimay glass

S: hints of berry and citrus and alcohol

T: citrus and berries with a nice malty aftertaste.

M: some carbonation, but pleasant.

D: very drinkable, but not in huge quantities. A nice after dinner beer.

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Photo of Iwhitney
3.9/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I am not a huge belgian beer fan, but if you like the Unibroue beers from Canada you will like this beer. I assume they use the same yeast on all their beers because the belgian yeast gives off fruity esters that are not included in most Christmas beers.

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Photo of flannelman808
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: this pours a very opaque dark brown color and is topped with a frothy light tan head. Looks like lots of carbonation with medium sized bubbles, and it has good lacing.

S: Smells a bit weird, the first thing that strikes me is peanut butter/maybe a little peanut brittle. I get a good deal of spice as well. Milk chocolate covered peanut butte.

T: On the palate I get coco, and peanuts. The finish has a spicy bite to it, sort of ginger like I think. Chocolate peanut butter coco... but for all those sweet flavors, Its pretty dry finishing. The alcohol is completely hidden (like la fin du monde hidden).

M: frothy and carbonated... long finishing.

D: pretty drinkable.

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Photo of darklordlager
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Trader Joe's Vintage 2009

Pours an enormous light tan head which recedes to a manageable layer within a couple of minutes. Dark brown, and opaque.

Big banana phenols, sweet fruit. Lemon citrus. A little caramelly sweetness underlying it all, but the phenolic banana smell overtakes just about everything.

Crunchy bready, light spice, light lemon citrus. Very small amount of dark fruit and caramel if you dig deep. Really nice bready flavour. The hop character matches well in a strange way with the breadiness from the malt. Interesting.

Mouthfeel- lighter than the colour leads one to believe. Well carbonated, with a medium-to-thin body.

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Photo of rootbeerman
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
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 mwa423
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Solidly black ale. Certainly a strong "dark" ale. The tan head stays all the way to the bottom of the bottle.

S - Lots of yeast, orange, coriander, spice

T - A bit lighter on taste then I expect but still a decent taste. Lots of spice and malt. Think of an average Unibroue slightly watered down.

M/D - Mouthfeel is very thick, creamy and tongue coating. This beer is decently drinkable, even at $4.99. Though I would suggest spending the extra dollar or two and get the usual Unibroue offerings.

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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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Photo of FatCaster
3.43/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I was a big fan of last year's Ale, so this has got some big shoes to fill.

A-Opaque black with a thick, lingering tan colored head. Bubbly but not foamy.

S-Yeast, brown sugar, dried apples.

T-Not really sure how to describe this...dark fruit or berry flavors with a slight bitter coffee taste. Perhaps a bit of citrus. You get a touch of the alcohol that lingers in your mouth. Pretty good, but not as good as last year's.

M-Not as thick as you'd think, burns a bit in the back of the throat.

D-Not super drinkable, but I'll still work my way through this bottle. Flavors are a bit too conflicting to be a volume drinker. Probably more of a sipping beer.

I'd pick it up and try it if you liked last year's, and I might get a bottle or two to age. It's still a hell of a deal. But it's not as good as 2008.

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Photo of Terp96
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a lot of bang for your buck. $4.99 for a 750ml of this quality is great.

Appearance is very dark, almost black. Rocky two finger thick head on the pour. Head is almost gone one third of the way through with no lacing.

Smell is very interesting and complex. Malt, ginger, spice, brown sugar, yeast. I agree with some of the other reviews, this is undoubtedly a Unibroue beer. The yeast gives it away.

Taste is equally complex. Dark fruit, roasted malt up front with a definite ginger, spicy finish. Slight alcohol burn but very subtle.

Mouthfeel is good. Not too sweet or cloying. Well balanced. Adequately carbonated.

Drinkability is good as well. Alcohol is well hidden for such a big beer. I usually am not into this style that often but this is a solid brew.

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Photo of rhinos00
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a tulip glass.

A- Pours a dark cola brown. Zero clarity. Produced three fingers width of frothy, foamy off-white/cream colored head. Plenty of lacing as the beer was consumed.

S- The moment I put this up to my nose, I knew this was Unibroue beer. The yeast is so distinct and unique. Tons of Belgian yeast aromas along with some ginger and sweet malts.

T- Really enjoying this one. Initially I pick up yeast flavors along with plenty of spices and malts. As the taste progressed, it really added depth to the flavor. A pleasant sweetness took over from the malts with subtle notes of cocoa. There is an ever slight hint of citrus underneath the finish of this beer. Lots of cohesive flavors going on here.

M- Medium bodied with plenty of it a fuller mouthfeel on the palate.

D- The alcohol was nearly non-existent. Goes down really easily.

Overall, I always thought that when it came to the "best bang for the buck" that SN Celebration Ale was the clear winner. However, at $4.99 for a 750 mL this beer is definitely a heavyweight contender. Not only does it have a lot of flavor, its cohesive and paints a great picture on the palate. Really like what Unibroue did with this one.

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Photo of bsp77
2.75/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Brewed by Unibroue and described as a (Belgian) Dark Ale Brewed on Lees, and certainly not a Dubbel.

Serving glass: Poured from bomber into Snifter.

Appearance: Extremely dark opaque brown with a billowing cappuccino head that quickly disappears, leaving nothing behind.

Smell: Dry musty malts, wood, cocoa, Belgian yeast, lemon and ginger.

Taste: Earthy, musty and woody with cloves, lemon and cocoa. Way too musty for my liking, like sucking the liquid from the wooden walls of a dank cellar.

Feel: Moderate carbonation, medium body, dry but still seems cloying.

Drinkability: While not a bad beer, I don't particularly like it.

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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 nelson4
2.14/5  rDev -43.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1

A - 3.5 Pretty excited when i first poured. Pours very dark brown and thick head. The head quickly dissipates to a somewhat soapy looking mess. I gave it 3.5 for color and what the head started out as, but I think this might be a little generous.

S - I get a slightly medicinal plastic smell. It's not pleasing. I also get a slightly sweet and sour smell. As it sits it opens up the sweetness slightly.

T - A little sour with a faint toasted flavor. It doesn't wow me, and the medicinal plastic notes are coming through. Maybe this yeast got a little wild.

M - Initially very carbonated and watery. As it sits it seems to mellow out a bit and become better. I tend to like a little more thicker chewier beer. This one might just be personal preference.

D - Not sure I would want more than one glass of this. It is just interesting enough for one glass and then it gets kind of old. It also has a very noticeable warming to it that makes me want to slow down.

Overall, I think this beer got a little wild and maybe needs some age. My initial tasting had this near an F, but as I let it sit it opened up and got slightly better. (As most beers do) I might buy this again just to see how it ages.

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Photo of kbm
3.69/5  rDev -2.9%
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 Maction
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep dark blackish mahogany brown. Thick and dense mocha head.

S: Spicy raisins and mincemeat pie filling, cinnamon, nutmeg -definitely xmas.

T: Follows aroma, dark dried fruits and spice, a little sweet apple and bitter spicy cocoa on the finish.

M: Light carbonation, silky, medium weight, just a little cling at the end.

D: It's easy to kill a bomber on a cozy winter's night.

Notes: This is probably the best beer value of the year, $4 a bomber.

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Photo of mightyj
3.03/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

poured into my tulip glass.

a - dark like a trois pistole. good amount of head...about a finger or 2 that was slightly brown

s - smelled spicy. cloves. cinammon.

t - i didn't mind the taste, but as i drank more of it it kinda fell off for me. spicy taste that follows the smell.

m - i felt that it had a little too much carbonation. it kinda stayed near the top of my stomach and left this full feeling.

d - i had about a tulip and a half and then i had to pour the rest. first beer i couldn't/didn't want to finish.

i like unibroue's other beers a lot more. might try trader joe's vintage again in the future but def not 2009 nemore

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

Nice corked and caged 750ml bottle bought at Trader Joes in Williamsburg. $4.49.

Appearance: This thing is black with ruby to brown highlights. Nice foamy light brown head leaves lacing in sheets, but only spotty stickiness.

Smell: If you dont like Unibroue, you will hate this. Their yeast is pretty dominant in the smell. I happen to like it. Spicy and malty with some dark fruit. Very yeasty though. A little sweet and a slight sourness.

Taste: Bready and spicy yeast with some slightly chocolatey and raisiny flavor. It has a little sweetness, but this is not dominant. In the middle, there is a brief alcohol bitterness, but that is short lived. The finish is long, bready-sweet, and slightly spicy.

Mouthfeel: Its prett good. The excess carbonation is appropriate for the style, but is feels just slightly thin. On the finish, its very nice.

Drinkability: This is not a dubbel. It is a BSDA. Seems like a slightly better Trois Pistoles, or maybe exactly Trois Pistoles. Anyway, at $4.49 for a good Belgian style corked 750, you can't go wrong.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
3.63/5  rDev -4.5%
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 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 HalfFull
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From a corked 750 ml. bottle and poured into a large red wine glass. This 2009 vintage pours nearly black, with just a hint of deep garnet highlights and only then in strong light. Rather opaque and with just enough clarity to witness a steady stream of tiny bubbles emanating from the bottom of the glass. An inch of so of soapy mocha foam settles into a somewhat creamy consistency and offers great retention and lacing.

Ginger spice penetrates the foam, along with some light belgian yeast notes and a relatively subdued malt density. Ginger becomes overwhelmed in short order however. Some cocoa and cinnamon and a hint of cherry liqueur accompany, though not as fruity as many a Dark Ale. Said fruit does arrive later as the beer gets some exposure, along with a good but somewhat varying yeastiness.

The champagne like carbonation, when initially uncorked, cloaks some subtleties of flavor at first. Primarily cocoa and light cherry and apple early on. Some spice revealing itself later, most notably on the finish. Truly comes across as a porter of sorts at first given the strong cocoa and malt flavors, warming to reveal a smoother, fruitier flavor. Sweetness becomes evident as the beer warms but remains in a welcome balance, revealing itself as a cherry/chocolate vs. an earlier cocoa/spice. Alcohol is well hidden throughout, lending a solid drinkability.

Mouthfeel varies given the carbonation and the warmth, as I let the bottle sit at room temperature during the two hours I savored the drink. Initially offering a somewhat bready texture with a slight coarseness from the cocoa, this does segue to a more silky smooth feel as the fruit comes forth. All along, quite nice.

Viewed more as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale than a Dubbel, though existing somewhere in between. Expect variations in bottle conditioning.

Value: A+

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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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