Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale | Trader Joe's Brewing Company

very good
150 Reviews
Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale

Brewed by:
Trader Joe's Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.20%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Contract brewed for Trader Joe's. Often brewed by Unibroue.

Added by tang3nt on 11-19-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 150 | Ratings: 230
Photo of OttoPeeWee
2.06/5  rDev -45.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

This is the second year I have tried this beer under much hype. I have to say, I am not impressed.

It tastes and smells way overly peppery for my tastes without much else going on.

And just to clarify, I don't mean the "hint" of pepper. It tastes like they took pepper oil and added it to boil.

Pepper's excellent on my steak, salad, or pasta carbonara, but none in my beer please.

Knowing that this is the same brewer as Fin Du Mon and other classics, I expect more.

Sure, its less expensive than their signature brews, but this stuff is going down my drain.

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Photo of czechsaaz
2.18/5  rDev -41.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Based on two bottles since I thought the first might be a fluke...

Smells roasty with hints of chocolate. There's also a chemical aroma like a little bit of solvent.

Poured with a huge (at least three inches) of brown head into a Belgian chalice glass. That faded quickly to just a wispy layer of little bubbles with some rising carbonation. Very dark so clarity isn't an issue.

Flavor is malty with a bunch of plum and apple fruity flavors. Yeast esters include bread and some spice. Spice is in the brew so it may not be the yeast. But then there's that alcohol flavor. It's right in your face. There's where the solvent from the aroma must have come from.

Mouthfeel is also problematic. Carbonation and body are fine but there is a big hot alcohol effect. It actually burns in the back of my throat and then a pronounced warming in my stomach. And that's after a half a glass. I fell like I've done a shot.

Sorry guys, but this is easily the worst Unibroue product and the worst in the Vintage from T.J. It's a big old alcoholic mess with not enough complexity to hide the obvious flaw. I'm usually excited by the TJ Vintage release but I'm willing to give away the third one I bought. I won't be celaring this year's offering. Even at sub $5 a bottle I can't justify buying any more of this.

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Photo of womencantsail
2.36/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

A: The pour is a dark amber color with a thin off-white head.

S: A huge sage aroma to this with quite a bit of bitter, baking chocolate as well. There's a really high level of carbonation that becomes apparent on the nose. A bit of pepper that sort of comes out of nowhere.

T: Again, the sage really dominates the beer. Quite a bit of pepper is present, perhaps some fennel as well, and there's just a touch of chocolate. Not necessarily all that sweet, but a moderate malt/sugar character.

M: The body is medium and the carbonation is as well.

D: Somebody suggested that this beer tasted like breakfast sausage, and I'm somewhat inclined to agree. Not my favorite by any means.

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Photo of Reagan1984
2.41/5  rDev -35.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

The head was crazy on this beer as it was poured. A dull, foamy aggressive tan head formed and remained. The beer was also dull in color and a dark brown with some maroon/burgundy tones. After the head falls, there really wasn't any lacing to speak of.

Aroma was very herbaceous and a pre-cursor to the menthol notes to come. Let me say it here for the first time and not the last. Vicks vapor rub.

Lots of dark fruits give way immediately to a menthol flavor coming from the spices. I can't really get past the overwhelming flavor of Vicks here. It's not a bad beer, but many I want to save some and rub it on my chest the net time I am congested. I shared the bottle with two friends and they both had the same opinion.

Kind of astringent on the tongue. Foamy bubbles pop in your mouth.

Ehh, not so good. I am not a fan of Vicks beer.

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Photo of latackbeer
2.48/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I had higher hopes but this is average at best, Poured a 2 finger lacy head but quickly disappeared to where there is little retention around the sides. I get some coffee and caramel in the nose smells sweet.

Very easy to drink, good carbonation.

For the price I figured I would give it a try but I expected more from unibroue, I love mostly all their other brews!!

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Photo of wdswan
2.59/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Having enjoyed previous vintages (some of the 2009 is still in my cellar), I eagerly awaited trying the 2010. However, the heavy-handed use of spices created only disappointment. My wife and I could not and did not finish even the first of the three bottles we bought to sample before possibly buying more.

The spices (probably nutmeg and cinnamon) simply overwhelm the natural ale/beer flavors. The spices screamed from the Chimay Belgian glass, obliterating all else. I imagined that I was drinking a bad pumpkin pie.

I readily admit to generally disliking flavored beverages. Good coffee, for example, is ruined by adding flavors such as hazelnut to the beans or Bailey's Irish Cream to the cup. When used in moderation, some spices can enhance certain beers and ales. This 2010 vintage is an example of how more can achieve less. It MIGHT have been drinkable if the brewmaster had been restrained with his buckets of spices.

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Photo of Philousa
2.71/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Aged in my own cellar, may taste slightly older than normal since I let it sit in my closet one summer before getting a proper wine fridge.

Pours a dark brown, somewhat red color against the light, black in the glass. Head is billowy at first but settles to a dense off white color, not too far from grey. Lots of spices: mostly allspice with pepper, clove, and ginger. I also get caramel and a bit of chocolate. It's hard to get the aroma out of the malts because the spices are so strong. Yeasty! Flavor is equally spicy and malty. Mostly caramel with cacao and a healthy amount of allspice, pepper, and clove. There's also a significant amount of raisin, prune, and grape juice. It's just this side of cloying, really. The finish is slightly dry, feel is a bit watery. Not my favorite. Glad I only paid $5 at the time. Nice first try in cellaring.

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Photo of DPFRD
2.79/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750ml poured into Chimay Chalice

A- Dark brown, 80% opaque, head froths up, but dissipates quickly leaving no lace and barely any suds on top.

S- Took a wif out of the bottle right when it was corked and I got all giddy, once I poured it, however, my mood changed slightly. It's an odd smelling one. I can't tell what it is, I believe it's a certain hop that's standing out. Comes off very white pepper, so much so that I am having troubles getting anything else out of it.

T- The peppery taste is the first thing out, maybe a touch of chocolate, with some malt presence somewhere in the sea of pepper. If there was a referee in beer making a flag would have been thrown on the field for excessive use of spice. I literally want to taste the other notes in this beer and can't. I don't even know if it's beer.

M- Medium bodied (much less thick than I expected). Abundant Carbonation

O- I wasn't expecting much out of this beer in the first place. It's not bad, it's not great. It is interesting and it didn't get poured out. Will I buy it again... nope. I think if you cellared this for a year, it might mellow out and you might be able to actually taste the other flavors in the beer being concealed by the overabundant pepper flavor. For being Unibroue, it's a complete failure. If I was them I would have had Trader Joe's sign a confidentiality agreement as to not mention that Unibroue made it.

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Photo of DaveBlack
2.82/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I generally find Trader Joe's beers to be both cheap and relatively good, and I figured if it's brewed by Unibroue it's got to be pretty good, so here it goes.

Poured from a 750 ml bottle into a Chimay chalice

A: Much darker color than I was expecting. Deep, dark brown with slightly reddish tints at the edge of the glass when held up to the light. Maybe a finger's width of tan head that has relatively short retention and leaves only very light lacing.

S: Smell of this one hits you right out of the bottle, even before it's poured. Right up front and very overpowering to any and every other aroma is the smell of allspice. Hidden behind that is a slightly yeasty smell, and some coffee malts. WAY too heavy on the spices to smell like a good beer.

T: Tastes better than it smell, to be sure. Allspice takes a backseat to the sweet, slightly roasty/caramel malts and yeast, but it is still way too prevalent. Furthermore, there is nothing to balance the overwhelming sweetness of both the malts and the sweet allspice.

M: Full bodied and balanced with a medium amount of carbonation. Quite sticky, though, which when coupled with the sweetness coats my mouth and is fairly unappealing.

D: Better than some beers, but worse than many, this is not really a beer worth drinking. Too sweet and someone had a heavy hand with the spices, making this beer completely overwhelming, at least to my palate.

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Photo of yeahnatenelson
2.83/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance -- Pours an earthy brown hue with an abundance of foamy beige head. Head retention is lacking.

Smell -- Banana, clove, dark fruit, buttery diacetyl, anise, coriander, and sage. Very strange herbaceous sage note.

Taste -- Dark fruit, clove, coriander, earthy yeast, toasted malt. The sage note in the nose is quite apparent in the taste. Weird business.

Mouthfeel -- medium-light in body with moderate fizzy carbonation.

Drinkability -- All in all, not terrible. Not good enough for me to go back for a second bottle, but it was a worthwhile purchase. To make a suggestion I would say to go through the couch cushions and scrounge up the balance for La Fin du Monde.

Unibroue is consistently a great bargain. However, their regular lineup are so much better than this beer that it is worth the extra dollar or two.

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Photo of retrobeast
2.88/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

After having Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2009 I was very excited to buy the 2010.
Excitement turned to Rats! as I took my first sip from the glass.

My first thought was that it tasted like a root beer that was under sweetened. 2009 was smooth and worthy compared to this surprise taste that hit my palette.
Just does not have that 2009 Wow taste that I expected.

I have a second bottle that I will hold for about 9 months before cracking to see it the taste changes.
But for now I give 2010 a thumbs down.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.03/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Chilled bottle into a glass.

Special note: the cork was WEDGED into this thing. I struggled with it for a good five minutes, using my shirt, a jar gripper, and finally wiggling the thing out, whereupon it proceeded to pop forcefully and cause me to slap myself in the face. *@^$%!

A: Pours a dark, raisin-brown body capped with a dirty tan head that seems to have some gray to it. Not an entirely appealing appearance, perhaps because it looks like last year's beer (which I didn't care for). Great retention, though, and it leaves curtains during sips.

S: Upon popping the bottle I was greeted with a smell of toast. It's less prominent in the glass, which is instead dominated by fruit (plum, fig, apple), yeast, and a range of spices: nutmeg, white pepper, clove.

T: A soft, unassuming taste of plums, green apples, and figs. Spices add a warming effect. Unfortunately, I find them used too much; the nutmeg, white pepper, and clove dominate over the fruity flavors. A dry finish with a yeasty aftertaste. A bit out of balance and not all that pleasing.

M: The beer gets better as it warms and the carbonation is swirled out. When cold, the beer is watery. Ick. But it firms up into a medium-bodied beer; it's relatively dry, or maybe that's the spice effect in the finish. My major complaint is that it's over carbed and requires a lot of swirling to get the bubbles out to a point where it's palatable.

D: A decent buy at $5, but I know I'm giving my second bottle away. It's nothing offensive, but nothing that grabs me, either. I think I might give up on the series at this point. Unibroue appears to be phoning it in.

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Photo of ricke49
3.06/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Those who have pointed out the peppery nature of this brew match my experience completely. I've have had Trader Joe's Vintage Ale each of the past 4 years, and this is by far the spiciest.

Also concur with the cork difficulty; but after having 4 or 5 now I've pretty well got it down by gently twisting with a pair of pliers as I slowly pull upwards.

Was amused when I recapped about 1/2 bottle for about 8 hours, using rubber wine stopper and re-applying the wire cage that comes with this Unibroue product. As I re-opened, as soon as the wire was untwisted enough to just clear the lip near the top of the bottle, the rubber stopper and cage each flew straight up about 25-30 feet into the air.

I like this ale after 8 months in the cellar, but not as much as 2009 after a similar period fo time. I like the dark fruity taste, but the spiciness was a bit overwhelming. I have 4 more bottles, maybe in another year or so I'll try it again.

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Photo of midworken
3.07/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Poured this into a snifter and head was bubbling crazy. I've never seen a brew that fizzes and pops like a soda, this one was more than that. The head had no retention at all, the carbonation was too active. Other than that it looked decent with the deep brown and a hint of gold. There was hardly any lacing left on the top.
This tastes quite good with a complexity of spices and maltiness. Wasn't able to leave the beer sit and enjoy the flavors, the reasoning I will explain below.
Drinkability and mouthfeel were downright awful. Because of the intense carbonation, I couldn't get a good profile of the taste. It was like the beer was screaming at me while it was in my mouth. It's too bad, because I think this could have been a great overall beer. Maybe I got an infected bottle, I might pick up another one to see if it is the same. If it is different, I will be re-reviewing this.

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Photo of scoots511
3.08/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

When I picked this up at Trader Joes I saw "On Less" stated right before the alcohol content on the bottom of the bottle. It immediately reminded me of Unibroue. That night when I opened the bottle it was like a xmas present to see UNIBROUE printed on the cork! I've been really enjoying the Unibroue beers this past year and had only stopped into T Joes for a few other items, not beer. I actually have a Tres Pistoles in my refrigerator so I am exicited to review that tomorrow night and compare since they are both strong dark belgians.

A: Dark, malty brown nearing black in color. Very highly carbonated, fitting the Belgian style pours wonderfully with a tannish head that turns back to whitish after the pour or swirl settles down.

S: Malty, sweet, almost a subtle cola smell to it. Could be a bit too much

T: Smooth strong dark belgian. Definitely candi sugar tastes and aromas

M: Smooth, bubbly

D: Very drinkable, possibly a bit too heavy on the belgian candi sugars

Not too shabby for the price, maybe a good beer to slip in after having a few others first though. The high flavors of belgian candi sugar are a bit too much for more than a tasting.

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Photo of rand
3.09/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

From 750 mL bottle to Mikasa tulip glass

A: Pours dark brown in color and forms a huge sudsy head on gentle pour. The chocolate-cream colored head never fully recedes and leaves sticky lacing all over the glass.

S: The nose is cherries and raisin, ripe fruity esters. The aromas are enveloped in a sweet, medicinal overtone.

T/M: Cherries and ripe fruit and the front of the palate. Heavy phenols. Nutmeg, paprika, cracked pepper are noted. The complexion is sticky and syrupy, and leaves a sweet residue all over the palate - could have used a little more carbonation. The flavors become overly medicinal toward the finish, which is long and sticky-sweet.

Not the best showing for Unibroue, or the Trader Joe's Vintage series. I've had this cellared for a couple of years yet the brew is still a little cloying and one-dimensional.

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Photo of Buebie
3.11/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from the bottle into an oversized snifter. Drk brown color, thin coating head.
Spotty islands of lace cling.
Aroma is a bit awkward. Smels of apples, sweet fruits, unfermented sugar, a bit bready with a funky twang resembling sourdough slightly, with a small amount of hay filled hops.
Taste a bit warm and boozy up front, allspice through the middle as well as mild cinnemon and dark fruits, just a touch of apple flavor.
Finishing dry. Mouhfeel is light and crisp.
A good festive Christmas beer, but a tad heavy on the spices. I think year of cellaring would do this beer wonders.

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Photo of jamex
3.14/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3

Wow, what a steal at $4.99. Bottle states 9.0% ABV. Brewed by Unibroue.

I had a heck of a time trying to pull the cork out. Had to resort to pliers. (EDIT: second bottle was also impossible to pull off by hand - grabbed pliers again).

Pours a nice, dark coffee. I poured a bit aggressively which gave me quite a head. Pour this guy gently. Let the head settle for 2-3 minutes which allowed the beer to slightly warm (I'm in San Diego and poured this outdoors).

Smells of a typical Belgium beer with some added dark fruits and dark wine. Some booziness as well.

Tastes like the smell; like a tripel with dark hints of fruit and perhaps banana.

The bottle states that this beer improves with age, and at $5 a bomber I might pick a few up and see. Definitely worth a five spot. (EDIT: Not sure I'd buy this again after the second bottle).

EDIT: I had to edit this because upon trying a second bottle, it was a bit of a mess. WAY over carbonated (almost like champagne) and the taste was a bit off. Maybe they are having consistency issues - who knows.

EDIT x2: Third bottle (a gift) and WTF - way over carbonated again. Meh.

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Photo of Retsinis
3.2/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Review from notes.

Shared with friends, & poured from a 750ml corked & caged bottle into a Bruery Tulip glass.

The beer pours a dark, hazy, walnut brown with a large two inches of tan colored head that slowly settles, but is very sticky with lacing. Some ruby highlights near the edges and top when held to the light shine through.

The Aroma's are of Belgian yeast esters, & dark fruits such as black cherry, dates, figs, and that candy sugar sweetness that is typical for the style. Some slight mellow toast in the background.

The flavors in the taste range from dark fruits, clove spiciness, to candy sugar, yeast, sweet malts, and dark fruits. The finish has a mild black cherry tartness, and even some lemony citrus notes.

The mouth feel has a carbonation bite that takes away from the beer. Medium body, with a semi dry finish. Good warming from the alcohol, that is not overpowering, and the 9% heat is fairly well masked.

Overall, not all that bad, and for the $5-$6 price, a reasonable choice, though I was not impressed with this years. Seems Unibroe has lost something this year, as their beers seem to be getting less complex than years past. Have one cellared, & still have a 2009 in the cellar, will see what next year's brings.

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Photo of JLeege
3.21/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Contract brewed by Unibroue ~ into a chalice

Appearnace- Pours a deep murkey mahogony color, with a bubbly one finger tan head. Fades fairly quick. No lace at all.

Smell- Strong belgian yeast. Slightly phenolic, a cinnamon like spice. Dark fruits; raisons, plum. Some brown sugar and molasses. Smells nice.

Taste- Dark fruits and and the brown sugar like sweetness start it off. Then the strong belgian yeast shows up. A little spicy, a bit doughy, a hint of banana. Still getting the cinnamon notes. The lingering taste is a little strange, almost metallic.

Mouthfeel- Has a soda like mouthfeel, kinda weird. You would expect much more body in this.

Overall- This beer smells delicious, but all the rest of the aspects are a little off. Unibroue makes much much better beers. I actually wonder if they backed off a bit on this one, trying to appeal more to the masses?

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Photo of brendanbeer
3.26/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

note: this beer is brewed by Unibroue for trader joes, not "trader joes brewing company"

a. nice look, dark brown, pretty light brown head that is sticky and laces a little.

s. subtle spicy smell. also woody/bready notes.

t. bland sweetness hits first, then an array of spices which is the best tasting part in my opinion. the aftertaste is minimal, not much happening there for me.

m. i really like the mouthfeel despite the flavors. rich and silky, but very light after swallowing.

d. eh, its pretty tasty, high abv is disguised well. but nothing i would prefer to drink given other options.

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Photo of tang3nt
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Excited to try this, I've had good luck so far with these trader Joes/unibroue vintage ales.
Poured into tulip glass a dark brown color with a very active tan head.
Strong yeast aromas and a bit of alcohol on the nose.
Tastes just like it smells, tons of yeast - bready and a bit of spiciness to it. Also get some dark fruit flavors a little citrus and a nice amount of heat from the alcohol on the back end.
The mouthfeel is particularly good for this ale, with a good amount of carbonation this beer goes down nicely.
Unfortunately I don't think this beer is as drinkable as I remember last years being, but still a steal for only $4.99 a 750ml at Trader Joes. I will definitely be buying more of this soon.

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Photo of Urbancaver
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours dark brown. A bit thin. A ton of head even after sitting open for hours. Good head retention. Very highly carbonated. Smells yeasty and malty. Lots of floral scents. Tastes strong and flowery. A solid malt profile but doesn't really taste that good... Tastes too strong to be that drinkable...

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Photo of readbaron
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours dark, dark brown with a lot of foamy head that dissipates quickly.

Smells like a dark belgian - spicy, yeasty, hints of dark fruit/molasses

I really wanted to love this beer - but, it's kind of meh. Don't get me wrong - for the price it's amazing - but it just doesn't do it for me. Too metallic and too much alcohol to make drinking it truly enjoyable.

mouthfeel is quite nice - smooth - medium body, nicely carbonated, warms well.

I didn't have too much trouble finishing this off - just wish it was more delicious. Hopefully it ages well.

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Photo of KingPuuChuu
3.31/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Just broke into my bottle.

I definitely wish I had aged this.

Poured with a thick head that quickly died down, which was a bummer. It also started off with a heavy citrus, almost sour flavor, which was very unpalatable at first.

As my session continues, I'm finding that its' quite flavorful. Lighter citrus notes, cranberry, orange, malty & spicey, but lack of head retention eliminates any scent that I could have enjoyed.

Carbonation is high. Almost a little too high for me, but it's still palatable.

I like this beer, but I feel that it could be much better once its aged. Far from the worst.

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Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 230 ratings.
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