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 IamTHEeggMAN
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I put away a case to age after it was released last year. Since the 2011 is now out, I figured I'd open up a bottle to see how it's aged.

Poured into a chalice the color is an extremely dark black with a pale cream-colored foam. Bringing the chalice up to my nose reveals strong notes of ginger and a hint of alcohol as the 9% abv suggests. Again the ginger hits the pallet in the first sip with a taste of roasted malt, complimented with a light spiciness. It finishes with a chewy, gingery, malty taste accenting by a soft alcoholic bite. I now understand why the English enjoy biscuits and tea as this beer is perfectly paired with ginger snaps. So much for the tea.

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.75/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

In the interest of honesty, I have to admit I have not actually had this beer since last Christmas time and I know we are not supposed to review beers on here that we are just scoring based on memory. I wanted to put my score on here though simply as a comparison as I drink this year's vintage and compare it to the '09 (great) and the '10 (not as good). I remember the '10 having a lot of the same characteristics of the '09 but it wasn't as sweet, the spiciness wasn't as prevalent and it didn't have all of the characteristics I like from a dark ale/stout.

EDIT-Was given 4 bottles of the 2010 for Christmas 2011 so I can come back to it now and review what I said. The score is about right. I always like Trader Joe's Vintage Ale but I have placed right where it should be for my taste; behind the 2009 and 2011.

It is a very spicy, bitter beer. The smell was almost overpowering at first. Maybe this is due to the aging process? But although I say it is spicy and bitter, it just doesn't seem quite as complex as the other two years I have had so I don't like it as much. I have heard people say the '10 was more hoppy and the '11 was more malty? That seems about right.

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

Notes from Christmas 2010. 750ml bottle corked and caged.

Violently dark brown meets opaque color. Very spicy nose. Ginger, coriander, chicory, and and some strange bittering agents I cannot put a finger on. Taste seems to put the most of its thoughtfulness in its finishing spice more than the actual brewing itself. After the spiciness, there is some yeasty breads that I thought were underwhelming. I think a bigger yeast and/or biscuit would really give this one a bigger backbone that would have complimented the spices much better. In the finish, there is some subtle fruitiness that is vague. Neverthless, alcohol is hidden well and its very warming. It was a good Christmas brew.

I'm going to get it again this year and age it a year or so. $5 a 750ml bottle brewed by Unibroue is incredible.

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Photo of NeutroMan
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750mL bottle, corked and caged. Uncorking this one proved to be quite the ordeal.

Pours a viscous, solid, opaque dark brown color. One finger creamy tan head forms before receding to a persistent cap. Visible carbonation; bubbles force their way through the top of the head and give the head more character.

Spicy phenols and dark fruits characterize the aroma. Spicy flavor: cloves, nutmeg, with some Belgian candy sugar. Malts are dextrous and full-bodied. Candied fruits round it out. No hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is creamy and full-bodied; the carbonation keeps it lively. A nice sipper; the 9% ABV is well-disguised.

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Photo of VaTechHopHead
3.89/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Nice dark brown color and the head is a little flat. Pours pretty viscous out of the bottles and the lacing is a little lacking.

S - A very nice spicy Belgian aroma is prominent. A little banana is in there as well as figs and candied sugar.

T - Very strong spicy flavor....cinnamon and nutmeg are the two driving flavors. There's a nice brown/dark sugar note as well. The grain bill is complimentary in sweetness and no hops are detected.

M - A very medium to heavy body but the high carbonation makes it feel a little lighter on the palate. The alcohol is well hidden but still warming. Finishes semi-dry with flavors of spice on the tongue.

O - Not having any TJ Vintage ales before I'd have to say this one is pretty good. Granted it is contract brewed by Unibroue so I'd expect something very good. Don't know the price but I'd say it a must seek during the holiday season.

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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 kylehay2004
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I used my bare hands to pry this cork off... which made the beer that more satisfying as it is no easy task.

Moderate to high carbonation on my tasting which is why the mouthfeel score was marked so low as I felt this subtracted from the flavor. Dark brown with red hue. True to the Unibroue nature, this is a spicy beer with dark fruit taste predominating. I wish I had enjoyed previous editions to provide a "year by year comparison. The finish is semi-dry.

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Photo of dacrza1
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Situation: Mourning an NCAA pool ending and celebrating a garage door half-installed... Glassware: Maudite goblet... Appearance: Velvet dark almost coffee body with a thick brown head that occupies a chalice well... Aroma: punchy, fruity flavors and soft malts balance the bouquet... Palate: Creeamy, alarmingly soft and warm; milky on the lips; little bubble but a late vigor reveals complexity... Taste: Bright, lactic hops that are blunted by the subdued nature of malts--the roasted aspect is understated as well--little smoke but definitely fire! Overall: It’s Unibroue, and it’s a special release, and it was FREE thanks to my father-in-law--how can this review NOT end well? Less caustic than the Maudite, more body than the La Fin du Monde, darker than the Trois Pistoles, and easier drinking them all of them! At 9% alcohol another engineering marvel from the Canadians...

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Photo of Alpar
3.45/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Estocker for this bottle. An extra in my first trade ever :)

A: Brown with red hints. Good amount of carbonation that settles to a nice 1/4 inch on the rim of my glass.

S: Spices and more spice has a belgian candy smell as well. Very nice.

T: Really smooth quad like taste, brown sugar, Christmas spices, nutmeg maybe. Can still tastes some alcohol but its mixes well and isn't too prevalent. THe carbonation really keeps this beer alive and easy to drink.

O: I like this and if I see it around I will definitely pick up a bottle or two.

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a very rich hazy reddish tinted mahogany colored brown with a big three finger high head of foamy and sticky off white colored lace on the top. nestled into a bed of just thin brownish lace and a nice layer of foam across the top.

. The first assault came from a deep rooted spiciness with hints of fig very predominant here. As it started to come through a little clearer lots of dark fruity like smells started to emerge and take over. A nice amount of plums, pears, raisins and even a touch of grape were easily picked up among a nice backbone of cereal grains and a touch of grassy like freshness in the back. Now this was not terribly strong, however it did have a lot of raisin like flavor in it that almost becoming a little too much as it went on. There were hints of plum and fig as well as some earthy tones in the back but the majority of this was a plum raisin spice medium bodied and somewhat of a grain like consistency to it. This was a nice sipper, not too terribly high in alcohol, but the flavors were a little too sugary perhaps,

Overall this was ok, that is about all I can say for it is ok.

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Photo of banesong
3.48/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served in a guinness glass (all I had clean)

A - dark color; no light passed through the glass

S - strong first nose - hints of sweet in the smell that fade as the beer warms.

T - contrary to the color of the beer, the taste is nowhere near as heavy as expected. Hints of caramel, deep fruit (plum, dark berries).

M - effervescent, high carbonation. Coca-cola like bubbles (very fine and clustered). Leaves a coating on the mouth with an almost caramel like feeling.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer served in a Tulip glass. I've heard about the corks in these bottles and yes, I did have to take a pair of pliers to get a good grip and slowly rotate the cork out. Didn't give off a loud pop which worried me, but the carbonation was just fine (see below).

Appearance: Dark brown/black with a fluffy tan head. Persistent sheets and strands of lacing the whole way down the glass.

Smell: Black cherry, plum, and sarsaparilla when cold, and the sarsaparilla dies down and gets replaced with cherry, ginger and cloves once the beer is fully warmed up. Muted when cold, but more notable as it warms up. This beer seems to have been inspired by sugar plums and other candied winter treats.

Taste: Cherry, sarsaparilla and spices (ginger & cloves) again. Alcohol very well hidden in flavor. The other flavors dominate here - the malt and hops really take a back seat but I'm not complaining as this is a tasty brew.

Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation which adds to the spiciness of the beer on the tongue, but overall the beer is, well, airy. Goes down but doesn't leave a sensation that it was there other than some lingering spice flavors. Doesn't cling to the teeth or wet out the mouth much at all. Surprisingly refreshing an quite unique in mouthfeel - I don't think I've ever had anything quite like it.

Overall / Drinkability: Very nice sipping beer. I didn't quite go well with the meal (Lasagna) but it was still quite good. However, one is enough. The higher ABV, while not noticeable in the taste, does show up later on and you can feel it. So one big glass slowly over the course of the meal and a memorable experience.

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Photo of lynchtae
4.28/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had to use a cork screw to get the cork out of the. Pours dark dark brown with a light brown persistent head. Fine bubbles continually rising from the bottle ageing and natural carbonation. Smells yeasty, and a hint of malt and ginger. Very complex flavor - lots of ginger up front, fruity esters from the Belgian yeasts, caramel malty notes, other spices are present as background notes maybe cardamom? Feels great in the mouth, rich and velvety. Overall this is an extremely well made beer, and at $7 is one of the best values out there.

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Photo of OhSoHoppy
4.28/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From Bottle to glass.

A- This is a very dark brown, Love that I can see the yeast and other sediment at the bottom. Great lasting Tan head

S- Good malt and some spice with a slight bready hint. and a little fruitiness in there.

T- clove, ginger, and maybe a few other spices, Very subtle almost winey taste, with some light fruit, beautiful aftertaste. Alcohol is present but in a good warm way.

M- Full bodied, Rich with a great crisp feeling that stays with you for a while.

O- I wish I bought a couple more of these to age longer (I hear they age with the best of them. Great beer that I would recommend if you like them dark

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Photo of n2185
4.14/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a very dark brown with only the faintest traces of light getting through the edges. Two fingers of off-white head accompany it, which recedes into a ring with little lacing.

S: Very perfume-like nose, though not in a bad way. There's definitely coriander in there along with an underlying bready yeast aroma. The biggest aroma is difficult to name . . . very floral and almost stings the nostrils. Ginger, nectarines, peaches, and apricots come to mind.

T: Some coriander and sweet, dark fruits up front--plums, red grapes, pomegranates, and the like. A hearty bread and yeast flavor comes up on the finish, which is both lightly bitter and warming.

M: Medium body with lots of carbonation, this beer has a nice high attenuation so even though it's dark and high gravity, it's pretty crisp.

O: Overall, a good beer. The taste can't quite live up to the very interesting aroma, but it nails the attenuation needed for a good Belgian.

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Photo of MrOH
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours really dark brown with a big rocky tan head that dissapates quickly. I've read cola in reviews, and it definitely suits this beer. Leaves some lace.

Nose is interesting. A bit of earth, a dose of malt, a dash of citrus, and then spices. Licorice, cinnamon, and cardamom are what I get. A lot going on, but it just doesn't gel.

Taste follows nose, but comes together better. Not much else to say.

Fairly light bodied, nice carbonation. Doesn't stick around, which is kinda nice.

Overall, this beer is great for the price and what it can possibly do for the community. I'm sure that there are a ton of people who buy this beer every year as a curiousity and hate it. But then there are all the people who buy it and love it, and really start to get into limited releases, cellaring, etc. So it's good for that. Also, I know of no other BSDA that is $5 for a fifth.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.78/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750mL corked and caged bottle poured into a tulip. Thanks to cjacobsen for sharing!

(A)- Pours a translucent brown color. A nice foamy tan head and lace.

(S)- A very spicy pepper and coriander earth and clay smell.

(T)- Not as spicy as the smell, but thankful for some dark fruits of plum and raisin. Plenty of a clove and coriander spice.

(M)- A crisp carbonation level and a decent balance. Not overly spicy, but also fruity and dry earthy qualities. A bit bitter.

(D)- An interesting spiced take on the style. A bit too much going on to enjoy fully, but the earthy qualities are rather nice.

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Photo of cjacobsen
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

(A) When pouring it was like a dark brown, but when it sits in the glass, its pretty black. Not much of a head, but there was one present.

(S) Smells pretty spicy. Decent amount of plum and other fruits. Some molasses or other sugary compound in there.

(T) Thankfully not as spicy as the nose. It's definitely fruity and the plum is as present in the taste as it is in the nose. Roasted malt character with a hint of dark cherry and molasses.

(M) Had a spicy bite up front. Decently carbonated and settled like a high carbonated saison.

(O) I was a bit surprised by this one. Didn't know what to expect, really. I'm glad it wasn't as spicy as the nose but it was still fruitier and spicier than I had anticipated.

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Photo of devilben02
3.57/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle, the color is a dark but still translucent mahogany brown, with a massive, foamy tan head. The aroma has that distinctive belgian character of yeast and cloves, but also some cherries (both fresh and dried) and earthy hops. The flavor features a dry sweetness with notes of molasses, brown sugar, and a little bit of dried fruit. There are also flavors of pepper & spices, earth, alcohol, and maybe even a little lemon. I swear every sip tastes a little bit different.

Although complex, however, there is just something not quite complete about this beer. At first, the texture seems surprisingly flat for how foamy the pour was, but the ultra-fine carbonation soon reveals itself. Unfortunately, though, it is the kind of carbonation that doesn't complement the flavors, but masks and distracts.

Overall, there are certainly some interesting nuances to this beer, but something just seems a little off between the complex combination of flavors and the distracting carbonation. In the end, though, this is a fine beer, and I didn't have a problem polishing off the entire bottle myself.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.58/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brewed by Unibroue. Best before 9/10/13 - so this is cellar material. I have another one aging right now.

Pours a very crimson red/dark brown color with a nice 2 inch tan head that fades to a small cap. Small rivulets of lacing on the drink down. Smells of dark fruits, spices, yeast. Very similar with the taste. Plums, raisins, spices, and the typical Belgian yeast taste. This beer is very carbonated and is crisp and bubbly on the drink down. Overall, a pretty good beer for the style. I am glad I got to try this one.

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Photo of Jason
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml brown magnum and was caged and corked.

Tan colored bubbles do their job, the brew is nearly pitch black in color. Super spicy nose from the obvious spices added (ginger seems to be the biggest addition) and the alcohol as well, hint of rose water to boot. Fluffy smoothness. Ginger right out of the gate, small handful of medicinal phenols as well. Dry malt flavors of toasted malt, hint of chicory and carob powder. Light on the hops. Fruity with a subtle yeast backing. The 9% abv is there, warming but pretty mellow for its size. Other spices within but all a quite vague other than the ginger and perhaps orange peel.

Big beers from Unibroue can do no wrong for the most part ... glad that Trader Joe's does this every year for a great price as well.

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Photo of BeerForMuscle
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Standard ruby-brown body, nice looking. Decent head.

S - Some spice in the nose and some sweet and earthy notes. Didn't smell incredibly rich or spiced.

T - Dark bread, toasty wheat, slight roasted malt in the backrground. Some tangy lighter notes as well. Light on the dark sugars and dried fruits here. Ok so this is a Belgian Strong Dark? Not sure if I'm the only one who thinks this is a dead ringer for a Dunkelweiss. The taste sort of surprised me as i was expecting a much richer, spcicier, sweeter mouth. I did like the taste, just not what I expected.

M - Nice mouthfeel here. Medium carbonation and a decently smooth feel but could definitely use some aging here.

D - I'd say this one is pretty drinkable, and good work here masking most of the alcohol.

Notes - So I like this beer. It's just not what I'd consider a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, at least not a particularly good BSDA. Gulden Draak, Oerbier or a Rochefort 8...

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
3.36/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to cosmicevan for this one. Poured from a 750ml corked and caged bottle into Lost Abbey stemware. Best before date of 9/10/13. This is actually contract brewer by Unibroue.

A: Cork is almost impossible to eject but when it comes out, there's just a muted pop. Standard pour yields a monstrous 4 finger frothy, foamy, dark purple/brown head with fantastic retention. Beer is a dark, near opaque purple. Lacing is thick and layered and with good cling. Very appropriate for the style though the head is a bit too much.

S: Nose is classic Unibroue... plums, grapes, clove, and Belgian yeast. Excessively sweet and very aromatic. Root beer comes to mind. Could be a bit deeper and there seems to be a hint of soap or some type of cleaning fluid aroma. A little awkward but not bad by any means.

T: Opens slightly ashy and heavy on the spices. Plum and grape juice and puree towards the middle. Very sweet. Clove and more spice towards the end with a Belgian yeast kick. Finish is Belgian yeast and sugar plums with a sweet, almost syrupy aftertaste. There's not a lot going on here but what is present is pretty enjoyable. Again, a bit too sweet though.

M: Light to medium bodied and moderately carbonated. Slightly prickly in the mouth and smooth going down with just a hint of carbonation. Finish is messy with a lingering aftertaste. Pretty standard and just a touch too light.

D: A pretty pedestrian beer overall but very in line with what Unibroue does. All of their offerings seem to very closely resemble each other so this one comes as no surprise. Enjoyable but I wouldn't go out of my way for another.

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Photo of beerman207
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Cork and cage bomber for just over $6? Yes, let me try this.

A: Popped the Unibroue cork and out came brown with barely any light coming through - nice tan head that leaves no lace behind but pours down like a geiser if you aren't careful.

S: Nose is yeast, belgian spice, and some malt

T: Belgian spices dominate along with raisins, figs, some caramel, and some clove

M: Very wet feeling beer with medium carbonation

D: Very. I intend on finishing this one tonight by myself and intend to be feeling pretty good afterwards. Great job Trader Joes (or Unibroue) - doesn't matter - great beer.

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Photo of DmanGTR
4.02/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Janna and Chris for this Christmas present (or part of it!).

Poured a dark, murky brown with scotch-like hues in the light. A well-formed light tan head diminishes to a thin cap and finally a thin ring in my St. Bernardus chalice. No lacing to speak of. Aromas of dark, ripe fruit of the plum and fig variety take the stage, followed by lighter vinous flavors. Similar in flavor, with a distinct prune-like and/or cola finish. Spices are very well blended. Lightly flowery, maybe a whiff of chamomile? Or maybe that's something else. In any case, there's a pleasant, relaxing aroma and flavor to this beer. I know I'm all over the place with this review but I'm just typing as things come to me. The tiniest touch of roasted malt in here! It's like a teaspoon of coffee was added to a big bottle and it's just barely noticeable. Carbonation was pretty decent. Maybe a bit cask-like for a BSDA and the body is somewhat slick. However, it drinks very well. I recommend this for a quick Belgian fix.

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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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