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

230 Ratings
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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Ratings: 230 |  Reviews: 150
Photo of thehammer70
4.65/5  rDev +24%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Trader Joe's doesn't really have a brewery. This is made by Unibroue, the craft brewery from Quebec, Canada.

Like it's label mates 'La Fin du Monde' & 'Trois Pistoles', it's strong and tasty...well worth what TJs is asking for the bottle.

Do yourself a favour and pick up a bottle...and yes, you have to be a real man to pull the cork get ready.

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Photo of kgurator
3.81/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Extremely dark, nearly opaque. No chance of seeing through this beer.

S - Definitely has the standard Unibroue aroma. Yeasty and smells like the usual Belgian Strong Dark

T - Instant bitter mint flavor that is prominent upon the first sip. Blend of spices, anise, apples and darker fruits with winey overtones.

M - Quite thick and full in body with a considerable amount of carbonation

D - Goes down extremely easy, nice warm toasty Christmas brew.

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Photo of katan
3.93/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz into a pint

A - Pours a very deep dark brown, pretty much black. Some amber and brown highlights. The head formation is strong, very bubbly, and just lightly off white.

S - A grainy and yeasty nose. I detect some roasted malts, grainy astringency, and a very strong bready belgian yeast strain.

T - Starts off with some light two row. Builds some more astringency from grainy notes. A strong, but yet very smooth belgian yeast strain comes in, spicing up the beer big time. Finishes somewhat sweet, with some light raisins, cherries and caramel.

M - Thick and creamy beer body, but there is also some strong carbonation airy notes as well. Finishes somewhat cloying, strongly sweet.

D - Scary easy drinking - abv is incredibly well hidden. Somewhat filling.

Well worth trying - amazing for the price.

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Photo of silver0rlead
4.22/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very dark brown with a cola colored head that retains OK, and leaves nice lacing. The aroma is suprisingly subtle, with dark chocolate and coffee upfront, along with some lemon and ginger, clove and molasses, fig, plum and grape, some esters and alcohol. The flavor also starts out with cocoa and coffee notes initially, along with some lemon and crystallized ginger, clove and cardamom, plum and fig, grape and candy sugar, along with some belgian yeast and slight alcohol presence. This is a very tasty iteration of TJ's vintage ale series, complex and drinkable I need to pick up some more to age.

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Photo of StAnthony
4.11/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Impressive, corked 750ml bottle with gold ink, poured into a schooner. Pours a dark brown, mahogany color with a thick off-white head. Good clarity.

Aroma: Very phenolic blend of aromas, with strong notes of prunes, raisins and anise. Some caramel. More caramel as it warms. No hops to speak of. No diacetyl. No dark/roast malt aroma...maybe just the faintest touch of coffee when warm. No hot alcohols or solventy aromas.

Flavor: Very phenolic, peppery flavors up front, unfolding to heavy prune flavors that linger in a long finish. Odd woody taste, as if it had been oaked. Malty sweetness throughout, with a semi-sweet finish. Very low bitterness and no distinguishable hop flavor. Like aroma, no dark/roast malt flavors. or hot alcohols. Pretty dead-on for style just a bit too phenolic.

Mouthfeel: Highly carbonated (appropriate for style, but verging on having to much of a carbonic bite). Medium astringency (inappropriate). Prickly upfront but finishes long and smooth. Slightly chewy.

Overall: Phenolics are a bit much for my tastes, but it's a well-made beer that's mostly withing BJCP style guidelines for a Belgian Dark Strong Ale. The high alcohol content (9%!) is beautifully hidden, which is quite a feat. Closer inspection of the bottle reveals that the beer was brewed with spices...which would account for the excessive phenolics...and would suggest that this beer would be better classified as a Belgian Specialty Ale. However, spice flavors outside those commonly produced by Belgian yeast strains are not distinguishable, so it definitely stands up as a very good example of a Dark Strong. The bottle also suggests that this beer be served only slightly chilled (~53F), and I'd agree. I enjoyed it much more after it had a chance to warm up a bit. Excellent drinkability; I was surprised by how quickly I drained the 750ml bottle, with embarrassingly little help. Bottom line: This Unibroue-brewed beer is another solid Trader Joe's value (especially if you get it as a gift like I did ;) and worth a try if you like dark Belgians.

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Photo of Zorro
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear and deeply brown colored ale with a tall light brown colored head.

Smells dry and spicy and very herbal. Coriander is easily the strongest smell here. Lesser scents of cinnamon, ginger and fig. Over all it more or less smells like a spicy fig.

Starts out semi-sweet and spicy with a high carbonation level. Sweetness doesn't last long; this quickly becomes semi-dry and spicy. Ginger and clove are the strongest flavors here. Little bit of caramel but this is mostly a spice-flavored beer.

Mouthfeel is good.

Good drinkability. Unibroue doesn't really make bad beer so you pretty much expect it to taste good. Dry and spicy beer here, pick something else if you like a sweet tasting Belgian Ale.

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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 cosmicevan
3.62/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - poured into my unibroue tulip with the normal frothy unibroue head with super thick lacing. deep dark purple with some carbonation clinging to the bottom of the glass. classic unibroue look with maybe some more bubbles than usual.

S - dark fruit with that unmistakable unibroue yeast smell very heavy in the mix. haven't had a 2009 in a while, but memory tells me that this one is a bit sweeter and more on the plum side of the smell spectrum. I'm a big fan of unibroue beers and one of my favorite parts of their beers is the fantastic smell.

T - first impressions...pretty sweet for a BSDA. nice spicing, but not a whole lot going on in the flavor dept other than an alcohol bite and pepper with some subtle dark fruit flavoring. i drank this one at room temperature which i find brings out the flavor more perhaps out of the fridge would be better next time? not bad, but just nothing to write home about.

M/D - pretty thin and heavily carbonated. leaves a touch of bitterness and dryness in my mouth and a lasting nice alcohol tingle. the one thing that i really love about this series of beers is the value. at $5 a bottle, just picked up this year's case. great beer to enjoy if you are a fan of unibroue and not looking to spend double on the bottle. pretty spicey belgian flavor, not my favorite beer i've had but not bad...kind of like a unibroue light if it were to exist. i liked last years quite a bit more.

--- edit --- 2011-12-11
been a few days over a year since i tried this and i cracked one tonight after trying the 2011 vintage. gotta say, a year did this one well. still not as good as the 2011, but much closer. the sweetness and spicing has backed off a bit. still, you'd be better off with a trois pistoles.

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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 smcolw
3.55/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Huge head; very rocky. Relatively low level of lace--just some spottiness. The head settles to nearly no bubbles. Dark brown color where no light shines through.

The smell is of clove, pepper, cinnamon and alcohol.

Lots of cardamon and all spice in addition to the smells. There's a high alcohol presence to this beer. Rich body with a high carbonation.

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Photo of mikeg67
3.56/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from Trader Joe's. Pours black with a fluffy, off-white head and nice lacing. Yeasty, fruity aroma with peppery notes. Full, tangy body. Flavors are of fruit, yeast and spices. The finish is long and dry. Good brew, but not something special.

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Photo of brewerburgundy
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml corked and caged Unibroue bottle, snifter.

Raisin brown, yellow edged beer, black tea colors. Moderate amount of tannish head.

Banana esters, cotton candy, clove, some savory herbs that seem fitting for a roasting chicken, a bit like herbs de Provence. Grapes, red wine poached pears, distinct Unibroue yeast, and a sharpe mineral or acidic edge.

Flavors of clove, allspice, bitter dried orange peel, cakey malts dark and savory caramel, and biscuit. It is not sweet and seems like a strong Belgian brown ale. Lots of spice and lemon.

Chewy in carb and body.

I do think the price helps the taste. It's one of the most savory beers in my experience. I find 2009 and 2010 to be quite similar and not really something I like. Not hard, but not easy to drink.

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Photo of steveh
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

First try of this annual style. If there was any doubt, Unibroue is all over the bottle.

A -- Pours a dark brown to near black with a billowy medium tan colored head that settles slowly. Red highlights are apparent with a light shown through my snifter.

S -- Esters from Belgian yeast, dark fruit character; figs, black cherry, candy sugar sweetness, some Weizen-like phenols and vague toasty malts in the background (and apparent when the cork was popped).

T -- Sweet malts and candy sugar sweetness, dark fruit characters blend with phenols, clove spiciness and toasty malts to finish with a mildly tart candied cherry aftertaste -- even some vague lemon citrus notes.

M -- Mouthfeel is slightly syrupy to spritzy from lively carbonation and the body is medium with a dry finish. Good warming from alcohol, not overpowering. The carbonic bite takes away some of the smoothness this beer might have with a less lively yeast.

D -- Drinkability is not at all bad, especially if you are in the mood for something more unique than the standard fair, but this is not a beer I'd reach for as a regular choice.

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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 Natural510
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle; BBD 9-10-13. Brewed by Unibroue.

Pours a dark brown with tan head. Head is immense almost to the point of ridiculousness; when it eventually dies down a moderate, bubbly lacing remains.
Scent heavy with dark fruits such as plum, fig, etc. Molasses & cola sweetness to the nose as well.
Flavor is heavy on cola, or dark fruit, however you choose to see it. The last TJ's Vintage I drank (2007) was heavy on root-beer flavor so it seems to be a running theme. The Belgian yeast adds complexity and rounds out the fruitiness well.
Slightly thin in body; for a strong ale of this magnitude I expect something a bit more full.

Overall, a nice version of the Trader Joe's annual offering. The pricing point (4.99/bottle) allows for pretty much any beer enthusiast to buy in bulk and have fun with drinking it at different ages.

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Photo of StoneTSR
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

APPEARANCE: Poured from the bomber into a standard 16oz. pint glass with a thick, foamy head on top of a deep, dark brown, almost black beer. Absolutely gorgeous head with decent lacing throughout the glass.

SMELL: A nice mix of sweet and spicy, it smelled like Christmas.

TASTE: Malty and brown sugary with a pretty intensely spicy finish. As the spice washed away, however, a sweet aftertaste left the palate craving more. I was very happy this was a 22oz-er.

MOUTHFEEL: Smooth, and as I wrote in my notes "very, very, very easy to drink."

OVERALL: I received this beer as a gift and I am very glad I did. I would probably not have found it or bought a similar beer on my own, but it gave me something unique and quite delicious. It was truly a treat and now I think I may go pick up a few more if TJ's has any left. As one previous reviewer mentioned, this beer is "dangerously session worthy" I couldn't agree more.

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Photo of TMoney2591
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Duvel tulip glass.

Finally get to try one of these things. It pours a pretty much opaque black-brown-plum topped by an abundant wan tan foam. The nose comprises figs, raisins, yeast, rye bread, red grapes, nutmeg, clove, and jasmine. The taste runs toward the darker fruit and spices, with some plum, black grapes, and chianti thrown in as well. The body is a stolid medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a grainy feel. Overall, a very nice BSDA, not surprising coming from Unibroue and all. Tasty stuff.

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Photo of idResponse
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Right off the bat let me clear something up. On the bottle it says "product of Canada" and "Made by Unibroue" right there. You mean this isn't made in California by Trader Joes Brewing Company? NO! When making a special reserve Belgian Strong Dark Ale let's go to the people that seem to REALLY know what they are doing! UNIBROUE! Makers of La Terrible, Maudite, and Trois Pistoles - all of which are getting A- reviews on this website!

Well, hot damn! For only $6 a bottle I can get one of their awesome brews? Pardon me whilst I stock up!

First, I don't have a worthy container to put a bomber in right now so out of the bottle I imbibe this brew. The bottle is dark, with minimalist gold writing and graphics on it. It wants to fuzz right into my mouth on first guzzle due to the yeast making plenty of carbonation. It smells high of alcohol, roasted malts, and molasses. When this stuff hits the tongue, I am pleased to say I get the lovely tastes of a slightly spiced chocolate banana that has been caramelized with the uniquely lovely mouthfeel that only Belgian style yeast can provide, those over sized bubbles tickling your mouth to a smile.

This bottle says 9% on it, but I feel I could probably keep drinking this stuff without even thinking about it. Dangerously Session worthy! I highly recommend giving this brew a shot!

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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 mexikrainian
3.93/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750ml poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: amber and chocolate color with off-white head and thick, vibrant lacing.

Aroma: molasses, belgian yeasts, malty, syrup, spices, and dark fruit.

Flavor: metallic, malty, and alcoholic with dry finish.

Mouthfeel: medium body with medium carbonation.

Overall impression: no surprise that this is another great brew from Unibroue. This is amazing for the price. Although I prefer the 2009 and 2008 over the 2010, it's worth purchasing a case 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 Lukafer
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The cork is in pretty tight, had to grab a towel to get a grip, luckily didn't spill any.

Pours an extremely dark brownish red, almost black with a finger of tan head.  I smell sweet malts, yeast, slight banana, and a little woodiness.  It tastes a little sweet at first, followed by some yeast, alcohol and a little drying and bitter at the end.  Mouthfeel is good, sticky.  Drinkability is really good, although I'm not sure how often I could drink it.  Overall this is a solid brew and an exceptional value at $4.99 as they could charge twice the amount and I'd still buy.  Highly recommended.  

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Photo of andrewm190
3.46/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Hey, it's an average beer. $4.50 for 22 oz isn't a bad deal for what is actually a Unibrou brew, but this isn't a particularly special beer. (Unibrou is frequently overrated in my opinion) When opened, a strong aroma of Belgian style ale and winter spices rushed out. That was really the highlight. The head came out pretty weak, and dissipated -completely - within seconds. I was at first tempted to just up and trash this beer for being uninvented and otherwise mediocre. I ended up improving it's score based on the strong and farily impressive spices that lingered well on the tongue and through the aftertaste. I certainly wouldn't seek this out, but at a great price, you could do worse in a pinch at Trader Joe's.

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Photo of bohemiandonut
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a few of these for the holidays. Great deal, one of the best ever.

Pours up nice and foamy, not the darkest beer but definitely promising. Head unfortunately doesn't stay where it could for more points.

Smells a little off. A tiny bit metallic underneath the heavy clove and fruit. But otherwise a nice yeasty cherry aroma. Is that strawberry as well? Still, this is very savory.

If I were blind there is no way I would peg this as a BSDA. Those phenols speak of Fin Du Monde (and well!) I am enjoying this, but am a bit thrown by the color, and wish the spice had had more time to mellow. There is a smoky note in there not unlike pipe tobacco. Pear. Beautiful alcoholic bite. Almost refreshing in a Belgian sort of way.

This Vintage looks great and is pretty authentic taste-wise, but it really just makes me want a Belgian Pale. I'm not sure what gives Vintage its color but I would almost be more impressed if they had kept it blonde. And left out the spices. I'm not really selling this beer very well am I? Oh well, can't beat it for the price.

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Photo of HalfFull
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served into a large wine glass from a corked and painted 750 ml. bottle. As others have mentioned, cork removal was a bit of an issue. And while I didn't have to resort to a tool, the struggle was an interesting dichotomy vs. last year's almost self popping corks.

Pours nearly black and deep mahogany in the light, and offering a somewhat resilient cap of bubbly tan foam. Cap settles out in a few minutes, keeping a surface film and leaving moderate lacing.

Nose is originally dominated by a bit of peppery chocolate spice before expanding to more yeast complexities and some dried fruits. Doesn't portend a rich malt base however as the fruit notes are not overwhelming. Offers a touch of pleasant alcohol on the aroma.

Taste is fruity with more pronounced fruit and an almost vinous quality as the carbonation is somewhat low. Not overly complex and a bit thin in body given the light carbonation. Feel is moderate and finishes with a flash of sweet black cherry, making me wonder if this has fully conditioned in the bottle. A nice drink nonetheless, smooth and clean. Nose and feel improve with warming, offering that distinctive Unibroue yeast character. Reminiscent of '06 and '08, a great value.

Note: A second visit yields better carbonation and feel and a richer aroma.

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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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