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 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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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