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

very good
96 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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.

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 96 | Ratings: 131
Photo of blackdog1101
2.01/5  rDev -47.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

I bought 6 bottles of Trader Joe's Vintage 2009 when it came out, and this is the third bottle I've drank from over the past several months. I've enjoyed some other Unibroue beers and hoped this would be similar, but at a better price point. Sadly, this beer has completely disappointed me.

Poured into a generic tulip.

A - The most promising part of this beer. Dark but not totally opaque. Forms a nice tan head, but it fades to a ring rather quickly. Looks very much like a cola.

S - Smells of dried plums and alcohol. There's something about the aroma that makes me think of Nyquil - phenolic and medicinal.

T - To begin, this beer has a very sour taste. As it warms up it gains some sweetness. But all the time it seems hot. There is this raisin/plum thing going on, and also a lemon/citrus thing going on, and I'm not sure that I like those two tastes together. Seems rather unbalanced.

M - The worst aspect of this beer. It seems over-carbonated, fizzy like a soda pop rather than properly carbonated like a Belgian-style ale. Very thin in the mouth. Not pleasant in the mouth whatsoever. Fizzy and hot.

D - I really can't find any reason to want to drink the other half of the bottle, except that I hate to drain-pour beer. If I do drink the rest of the bottle it will be only due to my miserliness, and not because I enjoy it. Avoid this beer if you haven't already bought some.

 1,393 characters

Photo of prototypic
3.56/5  rDev -6.3%
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.

 2,041 characters

Photo of Krevee
3.87/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Drank on 04/20/10
Poured from 750ml bottle into a Bruery tulip

A - Large thick beige head. Beer is a soda like color, and has nice lacing that stays for a while.

S - Nice spice smell along with light fruit maybe berry smell. Also faint hints of cocoa and coffee.

T - Malty - yeast flavors with hints of some sort of spice. Has a bit of a fruity taste. Including possible lemon flavor.

M - Has quite a bit of carbonation. Thin in the mouth

D - Drinkablity in nice. Hides its alcohol very well. A pretty good Belgian Strong Dark Ale.

 539 characters

Photo of CHSLBrew
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

A-Light, airy head, light-brown in color, good retention. The head finally condensed down to a frothy, gray-white bubble layer. Beer was dark brown to black, deep and luxurious.

S-Spicy malts, clove, apple, a hint of semi-sweetness.

T-Sweet sugar/candy with a smooth maltiness. The beer's dark color does not bring with it any real roasted malt or toasty notes. Any toastiness is more sweet, on the lines of a toffee-candy character.

M-High-level carbonation, but fine-bubbled and smooth, consistent of that creamy feel of bottle-conditioned Belgian-style beers. Body of this beer is medium density, though lighter than anticipated.

D-I love that Trader Joe's contracts this quality brewer (Unibrou) for this quality brew. Smooth and deceivingly easy to drink, it is also quite affordable each year.

Thanks to my parents for giving this to me for a Christmas present.

 911 characters

Photo of 1759Girl
3.51/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Appearance> Poured with a thick tan head, gorgeous color that I was expecting from Uni. The lacing was a disappointment, but more disturbing was the discovery of bits of sediment. I poured this in a tulip glass and there were white-ish chunks towards the bottom.

Smell>alcohol, maple syrup... tiny notes of copper.

Taste> Tart start that quickly defers to a rush of malty goodness with a strong, sweet alcohol hang.

Mouf>overly carbonated and full. A friend sharing the 22 with me said "but, beers don't have mouthfeel." And then he had a sip and said, "You're right. The mouthfeel sucks."

Drinkability>We finished the bottle because it still tasted good, but it was not as good as the 2008.

 711 characters

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.

 1,763 characters

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.67/5  rDev -3.4%
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.

 1,794 characters

Photo of devilben02
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep, muddy, mahogany brown, with a thick foamy head. In contrast with the darkness in color, the aroma and taste are surprisingly light. It has a dryly sweet fragrance that seems to contain a blend of rich fruits, mellow spices that add interest more than mere spiciness, and a bit of yeast. The flavor contains this same blend, with the dry fruitiness making me think of berries for some reason, not in a syrupy or fruit-juice kind of way, but in the way that you appreciate a different character of the fruit when aged balsamic vinegar is poured over them. There is a bit of alcohol that is discernible, but it is almost entirely washed away by the prickly carbonation that, when combined with the medium body of this ale, creates a kind of tingly silkiness in the mouth. Overall, I appreciated this one more for the texture than for the aroma and flavor, but the entire experience was enjoyable.

 907 characters

Photo of jeffjeff1
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a gift from my fiance's sister.

Appearance- dark brown color, thick creamy head, nice lacing

Smell- yeast, spices

Taste- sweet, spices, really good

Mouthfeel- medium bodied

Drinkability- Thus was really good. I really enjoyed it. I intend on drinking it again sometime.

 283 characters

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.

 493 characters

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

Poured from a 750ml bottled with a best before date of 9/12/12 into a Chimay chalice.

A: Moderate pour yields a 2 finger semi-fine light brown head with great retention. Beer is opaque black, darker than any other BSDA that I've had. Lacing is just an extension of the head, frothy, ample.

S: Belgian spice is strong in the nose, along with a signature clove character. All these unibroue creations smell alike... good... but alike. Also some ripe and fresh dark plums and grape. As it warms, there's a bit of coffee also.

T: Clove character is strong throughout along with the Belgian yeast flavor. Tastes like it smells. A bit of coffee sourness is present which is out of the ordinary but appreciated. Purple grapes and plums are there along with a creaminess towards the end. No real aftertaste as this one kinda just ends.

M: Light to medium bodied and highly carbonated. Not a whole lot of substance as this is relatively watery. Easy to drink though and goes down quickly. Aftertaste is non-existent. It comes and goes with no real fanfare.

D: A continuation in a long line of Unibroues that all taste similar. Not bad by any means but this one doesn't really stand out except for the unique dark color. Quite enjoyable though nonetheless and for $4.99, its a huge bargain in my opinion!

 1,304 characters

Photo of kaseydad
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Snifter pour with a dark brown (almost black) colored ale with a nice beige two finger foamy head. Darker fruit aroma with some hints of lemon, orange and assorted spices. Very clean tasting with a dark malty blend and some coffee characteristics on the sip. Slight spiciness in there as well. There's a slight alcohol burn almost a full minute after I consumed the sip. Aftertaste lingers on the buds though it is pleasing....almost a roastiness. At 9% this can hit pretty hard, but going down is I can confirm since I finished the bottle myself.

Overall I was going to cellar this for a year or two but decided against it...too tempting. At around $5-$6 for a 750 ml, this is an outstanding deal if you can find a TJ's with this still available. Plus it's made by Unibroue so you really can't go wrong. Another well done vintage ale and I look forward to 2010's version.

 887 characters

Photo of AnswerInQuestion
3.31/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Very dark chocolate brown with 1/8 inch head that sticks to the glass on the way down.

S: Cocoa nibs, a hint of black pepper and lemon/orange zest. Refreshing malt.

T: Chocolate with a cola aftertaste (perhaps due in part to carbonation), black licorice and very lightly alcoholic finish.

M: Very bubbly, almost to the point of distracting from the taste. Smooth moving across the palate but practically foamy when sitting on the tongue. East going down.

D: Tasty, but a bit too bitter with the bubbles and not a strong enough flavor through them. Also leaving a lingering slight iron/metallic taste as I get through the glass.

 634 characters

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

A: Dark brown black with a 2" head that goes to about a 1/4"

S: Nice whiff of coriander, allspice, and licorice, and a hint of lemon-orange. A hint of rye/malty bread.

T: Orange/coriander... there is an iron-like tinge. Also ginger, and cloves in there.

M: Light spritely feel on the tongue form the carbonation.

D: A delicious brew, certainly something I can enjoy a few of, however that iron-like tinge is a bit strange... we'll see if it mellows out over time, as we are going to cellar a couple of these.

 513 characters

Photo of JTahoe
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Deep dark brown color, nearly opaque, cola-like at edges. Minimal tan head reduces quickly to a thin cap with decent sticky, chunky lace.

S - Yeasty with candy sugar, spice, and traces of fruit. A distinct mustiness in the background.

T - Sweet and spicey with notes of clove, ginger, raisin, fig, plum, citrus, and herbs. Decidedly yeasty with a slight smokiness.

M - Medium-full body with high carbonation

D - Not too shabby, but the flavors begin to overwhelm at a certain point which dings the drinkability. Overall, a nice Belgian style dark which is especially impressive given the price.

 602 characters

Photo of wknight167
3.48/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Apearance - Pours an opaque near black with a three finger tan head that doesn't stay too long.

Nose- Big allspice and clove notes, Dark fruits and cocoa also present.

Palate- Figs and raisins are accented by clove, cinnamon, ginger and quite a bit of yeast. Alcohol is hidden well.

Mouthfeel- Highly carbonated, medium smooth body.

Overall- I do with out so much spice and with more body to this one.

 405 characters

Photo of blackie
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

 1,049 characters

Photo of MisterDeeds
3.46/5  rDev -8.9%
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.

 783 characters

Photo of SpittinRivers
2.77/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Very dark color with nice straight carbonation. spicy orange with deep raw sweet (cocoa). slight sour aftertaste. feels like a wheat or dark hefe. clove says another. Dark Ale on Lees. Looking forward to see what some years will do to it. drinking out of a chimay glass and it's too foamy. try regular pint instead.

 315 characters

Photo of brewerburgundy
3.57/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Opaque brown. The highlights are slightly red but this beer is hazy, matte brown. 2'' of very light brown head on the first pour. It recedes to half/quarter, then a normal film. No lacing to speak of. On the second glass I was able to conjure a much more impressive and lasting head.

Lemon, spice, cloves, mint bread, a smidge of must, gingerbread sans ginger strangely. White pepper. A lightly white pepper alcohol.

Stuffy bread, lingering of dark fruit, all the aspects from the nose. Wet leaves perhaps.

Lots of bubbles, bubbly prickly, though it's not off putting.

I said not more than half a glass at the time. About a week after this initial tasting I shared another bottle with a friend and I felt similarly. I'm glad that I was able to try something that is a departure from what I have been exploring.

 817 characters

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.

 883 characters

Photo of fastsrt
3.02/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

poured the 750 ml bottle into a chalice deep brown almost black raised a nice dirty head that the carbonation keeps alive to a perfect lace. smells srong distinctive of unibroue yeasts, cherry booze and monster cinnamon. tastes too spicy which throws this brew out of balance the mouth feel was great prickly carbonation lifting the sweetness, but not the spice, while creating a light mouth feel. the spice is over powering and i laid a another bottle down which i will revisit next year, but i ended up dumping the last glass down the drain due to too much spice, hopefully this mellows out over the next 12 months or so.

 623 characters

Photo of atsprings
3.49/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This one is an annual Christmas gift from my older sister, 750mL corked and caged bottle into a Duvel snifter pours an almost opaque black with a decent frothy off-white head. Aroma is slight sweet malts, but not much there. The taste is sweet malts and slight spice with just a hint of roastiness. The beer is medium bodied with heavy carbonation and well hidden alcohol. This one is a decent beer, but not what I would expect from a beer brewed by Unibroue.

 459 characters

Photo of mklinger
1.95/5  rDev -48.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

My father-in-law picked up a bottle of this for me. After seeing that it was brewed by Unibroue, I was prepared to be impressed, but boy, I found this to be quite the trainwreck.

Poor head development -- rather than looking like beer at all, it looked like fizzy Coca-Cola. Same color, same large bubbles and quickly dispersing head. Fine appearance for soda, pretty poor for beer.

Smell and taste both had some weird complexities going on (which is generally good). There was some spice, some dark roasted malt flavors, surprisingly little caramel sweetness or plum/raisin sweetness for this style of beer. The problem here was balance -- there are a bunch of individual smells & tastes but none of them seem to go together. There's just no balance here. Folks are comparing this in places to some of Unibroue's beers like Trois Pistoles -- for me, nothing could be further from my tasting. Certainly the poorest beer I've had in a year.

 940 characters

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

 312 characters

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

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.