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

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

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Photo of felipe2toes
3.62/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep black. Can't really explain head, was a very loose collection of bubbles that dissipated pretty quick, not really foamy or creamy at all. When everything settles, kinda looks like I just poured a flat coke into my glass.

I smell some dark fruit and dark cherry, some allspice and clove, and malt. There are even some cola notes if that makes sense.

This tasted better than I expected. The spices are up front, hints of sweet malt, with some dark fruit undertones. There are even some hints of grapefruit and citrus in there.

Mouthfeel fell kind of flat for me, not much in the way of carbonation. Maybe it was a bad bottle, or maybe that's the style of this beer, but not the mouthfeel I like.

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Photo of argock
3.35/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from 750mL brown bottle into a Duvel tulip. Best by 9/12/12 on back of bottle. Purchased at Trader Joe's (Short Pump, VA) for $4.99.

A: Murky brown with 3-finger cola-like, huge bubbled tan head which has good retention and leaves spotty lace.

S: Heavily spiced nose with elements of nutmeg, clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Malt component isn't as strong as it could be with some dark fruit and grape. Hops are herbal. Yeast is lightly nutty.

T: Flavor is also spiced like a winter warmer with nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger with date and raisin as the biggest malt players. Substantial yeastiness through the middle. Hops are light and herbal. Too spiced for me but others might like it (a lot).

M: Highly carbonated but still feels pretty smooth. Alcohol is well-hidden. Aftertaste is mostly spiced and accumulates not in a good way.

D: The spices are too much and detract from the flavor. Malts and hops are lost in all the spicing. Not my kind of beer. Hopefully the spices will fade and the malt will get a chance to assert itself with some cellaring.

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

Poured from a 750mL bottle into a tulip glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of icetraxx
3.06/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: Brown/black, difficult to see any light through this beer. Pours a one finger head that hangs around for awhile but eventually dissipated into a tiny cap. Some lacing is noticeable.

S: A whiff of ethanol, molasses, ginger, spice, dried fruit, and medicinal astringency. No hop, malt, or roast aromas.

T: Spiced and roasted malt, chocolate, and a hint of ginger/citrus dominate. There are some fruit and tannin flavors that I find similar to Pinot Noir red wine, as well as some oxidized flavors suggesting port, marsala, or sherry wine. Some stale coca-cola undertones on the aftertaste. Low hop bitterness for the style. The flavor is good at first but can become unpleasant as you drink, possibly due to the aftertaste.

M: Good body, but way overly carbonated. This isn't champagne.

D: I can only stand about half a serving before the alcohol, aftertaste, or carbonation get to me.

O: I would like to pick up another bottle of this to see if it will improve with age.

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Photo of Arbitrator
1.48/5  rDev -61.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Chilled 750mL into a glass. Curiosity got the better of me, after re-trying Trois Pistoles recently and seeing this beer compared to it.

A: Pours a dark brown body with substantial clarity in the glass when held up to the light. The head is a beige color with slight grayish tint, perhaps due to its juxtaposition with a seemingly pitch-black body. Retention is outstanding, though lacing is a bit weak.

S: Dark fruits (plums, figs), cinnamon, nutmeg, yeast. A lightly herbal quality of juniper berries. Some medicinal quality to it.

T: Starts off with dark fruits (plums and figs). The mid-taste is yeasty with a cinnamon character. The finish sees caramel and a mild hint of nutmeg, juniper, and some herb or root I can't place (I want to say anise but it doesn't seem sweet enough, more medicinal actually). The flavors don't quite jump out the way they do in Unibroue's other beers. The finish is lightly dry. The aftertaste is toasty and herbally bitter, with an exhalation that reminds me strongly of s'mores (including chocolate, but I don't pick up cocoa in the main taste). For the style it strikes me as a pretty subpar flavor, and I personally find the aftertaste a bit off-putting. Toward the end of the bottle it even becomes a chore. It's not strong in flavor, and what flavor there is, clashes. Ick.

M: Medium-full bodied and chewy, but it suffers from the usual Unibroue problem (overcarbonation). Very foamy in the mouth. I wound up swirling a lot of the bubbles out, so there is a workaround. It's very prickly otherwise, even for a BSDA.

D: I definitely regret picking up 4 bottles of this. I liked previous vintages, but this one winds up being a drainpour just over halfway through the bottle (and, as befitting my policy on drainpours, doesn't merit above a D). Pretty obvious that Unibroue just phoned this one in.

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Photo of TheNapkin
1.56/5  rDev -58.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

I've like all the other Trader Joe's Unibroue Vintage Ales, but this one was not my favorite. It's possible I got a bad bottle (if this is the case, I have a second bottle that I'll try and if things improve, I'll post a second review and amend this one)

Appearance - dark brown, mahogany

Smell/Taste Medicinal, mentholated, really old Coca Cola, birch beer, not gingery at all like the bottle said. Traditional Unibroue yeast smell, which is pleasant, but as soon as it hits your tongue you wish it hadn't

Drinkability - between two people, we couldn't finish the bottle.

Moutfheel - not too thick for it being as dark as it is. Nice carbonation. But carbonation and good viscosity only go so far to mask the taste of this brewer's mistake.

(P.S. The second bottle of this vintage I purchased suffered from all the same flaws as the first bottle. I opened this bottle at a New Year's Eve party. On the one day of the year where people will drink anything and everything, this beer was the only bottle in the house with beer left in it at the end of the night.)

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

Appearance: Pours a hazy translucent sepia, with about a finger of head that quickly disappears. There's a significant amount of lacing.

Smell: a Unibroue. Sweet candy, Apples, grains, and yeast, and a hint of cinnamon and cloves.

Taste: Apples and dark fruit--raisins and currant--are what I notice first here, which isn't too surprising--I find that an apple taste jumps out at me in Unibroues, for some reason. There's also a very yeasty taste, which works nicely with the spices present in the beer. As it warms, there is a definite alcohol taste as well as an emerging hint of anise.

Mouthfeel: light-bodied with medium carbonation, which combined with the spice in the taste makes it pop a bit. Slight aftertaste.

Drinkability: I drank this unaware of the ABV, since I was at a holiday party, and found it to be decently drinkable. Now that I'm typing up my notes and I see the ABV is 9%, I'm significantly more impressed. There is a definite alcohol taste but that does not particularly hamper the drinkability.

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Photo of ommegoose
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Very dark plum color, nearly opaque. Head consists of wispy foam of even beige bubbles, for about two inches. Laced a bit.

Unmistakable Unibroue house character in the aroma. Dry musty grain. Earthy yeast, nutty. Wisps of dark fruit.

Dry earthy flavor, with spicy and fruity notes. Clove and light peppery yeast. Anise. Plum, prune, raisin flavors, but not much sweetness. Not as bold as a typical Unibroue beer. Really dominated by the yeasty flavors. A bit of heat going down. Flavor does not pop the way beers at about 9% often do. Finishes sticky and with the musty yeasty spice flavors lingering. I wish there was a bit more depth to the malt. Not really any hops to speak of. Too musty and spice-driven for me.

Very effervescent. A little too bubbly for me. Even after a hearty swirling in the glass, feels very airy. Alcohol is present going down, warming in the stomach. Starts to feel slightly oily when it flattens out a bit.

I was expecting this to be like Trois Pistoles, but it's not nearly as fruity. More like Maudite, I guess. After a third of it, I don't feel super compelled to get through the whole thing, but being by myself, I'll do it. This is cheap, but I'd probably be more inclined to spend a little more to get a nicer beer in the future. This has been a slow drinker. Belgian Strong Dark Ale is a style with high standards. I'm guessing that almost all of the ones you find will be better.

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

Wow. Waiting for Santa here on the Oregon coast. What a great ale. I'd forgotten how good the Belgian darks are. Can't wait to go up to TJ's in Eugene for a few more bottles. Too bad I didn't save any for Santa. He and the deer would have liked it.

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

Poured from 750 ml bottle into a snifter.

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

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

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

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

D: Nice sippin' beer.

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

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

As mentioned before - a great bargain from Unibroue for TJ's. $4.99 at my local Trader Joe's. Pour is deep, dark brown with a tan head - almost brown. While nose is not bad, a bit one dimensional to yeast. A bit of fruit.

Nice Unibroue flavors of dried figs, chocolate, anise. Some yeast flavors later.

Soft mouthfeel.

A great bargain with a nice refined flavor profile, if not overly complex.

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

Served it a bit warmed up - poured a monster head with a mis of coarse and fine bubbles. Settled down moderately quick. Very dark ruby color, good clarity.

Smell is slightly sweet, but dominated by some spices (orange peel, a bit of pepper). Aroma isn't overwhelming - smells Belgian, though. No prominent alcohol on the nose.

Aroma spice notes come through in the taste, on top of a subtly malty front. Not overly sweet, but never bitter. Nice balance. Finishes with a gentle peppery spiciness.

MF shows medium body and carbonation. Fairly gentle on the tongue - no astringency and only a mild alcohol warming.

A bit bland, but highly drinkable for a 9% beer.

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

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

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Photo of enemyisyou
3.29/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased at Trader Joe's near Union Square, Manhattan, $5 - cheaper than other Unis. I was really excited for this one...

A - Poured and a thick head with large carbonation bubbles immediately fizzed up and came back down again shortly leaving a thin, denser lace on top.

S - The smell was not pleasant... not if this was just a bad bottle, but the glass was clean! Faint notes of cinnamon and dried fruit. GF says "smells like Chinese medicine."

T - There's something funky in this bottle... not sure what it is, but there's nothing really going on here. There's a tiny bit of coffee and orange at the end, but it's surprisingly insipid. Kind of like a gym sock lambic.

M - This suffers from the same issue as other Unibroues IMO - the carbonation, and this contributes to the mouthfeel somehow. An authentic Belgian wouldn't drink like Pellegrino. After half a tulip glass I was ready for a glass of water.

D - Not as inspiring as Unibroue's other efforts, which one can find oneself at the bottom of a bottle with no trouble at all.

Overall - I'll finish this 750 (just don't like to waste even potentially bad beer) but I'll have to come back to it. I suspect something is wrong with it.... If it's really as good as others are saying then it may be worth another $5 to try it out, even if I can stick with something safer for a few more dollars.

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of 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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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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