Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale
Trader Joe's Brewing Company

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale
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Belgian Strong Dark Ale
3.83 | pDev: 13.84%
Trader Joe's Brewing Company
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale
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Reviews: 123 | Ratings: 320
Photo of q33jeff
2.95/5  rDev -23%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.25

AROMA: Alcohol, sour fruIt
LOOK: Dark black, but clear. Large head; but short lived
TASTE: Sour cherry, smoke, Alcohol.
FEEL: much carbonation, a little sticky.
A sipping beer; Very "in-your-face", but good. A little too much raw liquour.


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Photo of KEH
4.39/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I aged this one for 5 years, and it aged fairly well! Still kept its carbonation, and I'd say the flavor mellowed out quite a bit. I find that when fresh, the flavor is a bit too sharp, with bright acidity. The spices were also a bit overpowering. All that seemed to have gone away. For the price, I really recommend folks to stock up on a few bottles and let them rest for at least a year.

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Photo of SaltofOH
4.02/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle BB 7/6/16. DFH Tulip.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown, little visible carb., with 1 finger tan head.

Smell: Potent and complex layers of Belgian clove and fruity, grape-like phenols. Musty earthy background note.

Taste: Soft, surprisingly not sweet (compared to prior years) malty, clove, grape, vegetal savory notes are also present but quite subdued; mild sherry-like influence, somewhat clean very mild hop finish. Savory herbal/vegetal character lingers. Alcohol is not detectable.

Moutfeel: Very smooth, but modest carbonation was initially present. The yeast has really eaten up whatever sugar remained, and left a good bit of carb, but it dissipated fairly quickly, leaving just mild carb through most of the glass. Quite clean finishing, which is a real break from the past. No lingering bitterness.

Overall: This is probably the best of the TJ's Vintage Ales I've had. The others I found cloyingly sweet or high alcohol. This one aged very well, but did not cross the line (even five+ months after expiration) into soy sauce/bacon territory. Nice job Unibroue!

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Photo of HattedClassic
3.63/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Aged for four years.

The beer pours a nice off-white head that dissipates quickly but leaves a nice covering of bubbles on the surface. The beer itself is an opaque dark brown, which is odd for the style but looks very nice, nonetheless.

The smell and taste have the same notes and are fairly good. However, the smell is better when compared to the taste. Both have have a nice dark fruit note that resembles figs or dates with a bit of raisin in it. The Belgian sugar note is more present in the smell than it is in the taste while the hop note is stronger in the taste and essentially non-existent in the smell. The taste is kind of a letdown compared to the taste because the malt notes aren't as strong.

The feel is a bit thin but the carbonation gives it a bit more texture than expected.

Overall, not a bad beer and most certainly better than some previous vintages.

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Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml cork & wire bottle. "Best before" July 2016 date on bottle.
"Unibroue" stamped on the cork and cap ... a sufficient reason for me to buy this annually. A crescent wrench worked nicely to unseal and help remove the firmly seated cork.

Pours opaque, dark ruby-dark brown with a moderate size, foamy cappuccino-colored head that has excellent retention and leaves decent lacing.

I note that I can repeat a portion of my review of the 2010 version: "The aroma and the flavor both clearly indicate that this is a spiced ale. The exact combination of spices is unclear, but nutmeg and allspice seem most obvious, with hints of clove, ginger and cinnamon. ... the beer is a bit over-spiced [nutmeg or similar] for my taste. ... some raisin, prune and other dark fruit notes are evident."

The complex aroma correctly suggests that the the beer is lightly sweet. High ABV is decently hidden in both taste and smell.

M: smooth; very good, medium carbonation; high ABV mostly hidden excepting some warming and a light tongue bite.

O: A fine winter brew, with plenty of spicy complexity to enjoy in both the flavor and lingering aftertaste, and at a good price for a 750ml Unibroue.

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Photo of Whiteweasel
4.28/5  rDev +11.7%

Patiently poured from a cellared 2.5 year old 750ml bottle into a...tumbler glass. Gotta make do sometimes.

A: Dark ruby red, dark brown, extremely frothy light tan head, can barely see through the beer. 5

S: Dark and fruity, cherries, black currants, raspberry, a bit grainy and a bit candy-like. Actually quite chocolatey. Boozy. 4.5

T: Dark and malty, with a strong chocolate character, a little sweet candy and dark roasted grain. 4

M: Thick and smooth, quite boozy, but frothy. Leaves rich, smooth aftertaste 4.25

Overall: Tastes like a mix of a stout and a Belgian strong ale. Tasty and frothy. Quite alcoholic. May be rating this higher than normal because of how long it's been held, and how alcoholic it is, but still quite a fine beer. Overall rating: 4

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Photo of Rollzroyce21
3.91/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL cork&caged bottle with Best Before date 6-Jul-16.

Cellared on 23-Nov-11. Uncorked on 25-Feb-14 (aged 2 yr 3 mon).

Poured into stemless wine glass.

Looked like really dark coke. Not as translucent as other Belgian darks.

Both aromas and flavors haven't changed much, which is a good thing. The age really smoothed out the edges but maintained the dark fruits and spices of cinnamon, cloves, corriander, and bit of orange peel. It's malty sweet, but not overly sweet like Belgian candy. Again, very smooth from start to finish. No boozy presence either, which I got a bit of when fresh.

Overall, this aged vintage would be able to hold its own against the more infamous of quads in a blind tasting. Wish I put away more.

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Photo of MikeMilanoDesign
3.92/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

aged a bottle for almost 3 years.

totally worth it. mellowed out really nicely. all the sugars mellowed out and it wasnt so super sweet. still had a bit of a funny taste in the finish.

highly recommend aging a bottle. but do keep an eye on the temp you age it at. i think my bottle got exposed to to much heat in the summer time.

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Photo of barnzy78
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Bottle gushed a bit upon opening. Pour reveals a cola-like ale; bubbly beige head fades to a foam.
S - sweet, fruity aroma, bread, caramel, raisin, plum, yeast
T - sweet, very ripe dark fruits - raisins, plums, dates, cherries, yeast, bread, caramel, toffee, alcohol is warming but not hot
M - medium bodied, moderately carbonated, finishes with a lingering sweetness
O - it was nice to see this one age out a couple of years. I had bought 3 at the time; one to drink fresh, one left a year, and now this one 2 years out. Always a perrenial enjoyment from Unibroue.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.01/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

750 ml caged and corked bottle, best before 07-06-2016. Had this bottle a couple years, hope it's good now! Served in a Dogfish Head signature glass, the beer pours dark brown with an inch light tan head that sticked around for a while. There's also a decent amount of lacing. Aroma is nice, the brew smells like dark fruit (plums, raisins), cloves, peppery spice, and some molasses. It tastes like dark fruit (plums, raisins), peppery spice, cloves, dark bread, cola, molasses and brown sugar. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a bit coating and creamy with a good amount of carbonation. I liked this brew, it's sweet, spicy and enjoyable to drink.

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Photo of tsauce2
4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

P: 25.4 fl oz/750 ml bottle. Pour is in to a DFH tulip.

A: SRM is dark brown. Semi opaque. Head is cream/off-white, 1 in, recedes to the edge of the glass. Medium lacing. Medium carbonation.

S: Belgian yeast esters. Dark fruits, caramel/toffee, nutmeg, cloves.

T: Follows nose. Faithful Belgian dark ale true to the style. Aftertaste is caramel and light spice.

M: Medium body. Wet finish.

O: Fantastic value @ under $5. Ages quite well. Mosdef one to put back every year.

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Photo of zeledonia
4.26/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

One that's been sitting in my cellar for a while, finally getting around to drinking it. Tasted 27 October 2013.

Pours a deep rusty brown, though the rust comes through only at the edges, or when my glass is nearly empty. Two fingers of spongy medium-tan head, good retention, not much lacing.

Smell is delightful Belgiany dark fruits, full of plums and figs, brown sugar. In the quad realm, with powerfully sweet and sugary malty aromas, and all sorts of little variants on them. Has great complexity; I'm impressed.

Taste is similar - loads of dark fruit, sweetness, and variety. For malt freaks, this is a treat. It's like dessert, with all those fruits coated in molasses. Has just enough twang in the back-end to balance it out. Excellent.

Feel is nice, and fitting. Medium-bodied, sticky, with medium-low carbonation. Lasting, allowing those sweet flavors to dance and sing and play off each other.

I really like this beer. Shoot, I wish I'd bought more of it when I could. Unibroue is a fantastic brewery. And this is an outstanding beer, a lot like a quad, and just straight-up delicious.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a deep burgundy color ale with a huge light brown foamy head with good retention and some good lacing. Aroma consists of caramelized Belgian malt with some coriander and the famous Unibroue yeast ester. Taste is also a well balanced mix of caramelized Belgian style malt with some coriander and some light peppery notes with the famous Unibroue yeast ester. Body is full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Doesn’t stray away from the brewer standards which is a good thing knowing how he masters the style.

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Photo of woemad
3.07/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.75

750mL bottle purchased at the Spokane Trader Joe’s…a while ago, for …some money. I totally forgot about this one, and I need to clear out some room in the beer stash. Fortunately, this one appears to have been built for aging. 9% abv, and a best by date of July 6, 2016 makes me think this will be all right. By the way, Trader Joe’s isn’t trying nearly as hard to make you think they have a brewery somewhere as they do on some of their other beers, and the cage over the cork clearly identifies the brewers of this beer as Unibroue.

A very good looking beer, initially. Pours a super dark brown and yields up virtually nothing when held up to the light. Lots of mocha colored foam, though it receeds somewhat quickly for the style and leaves little lace.

In the nose I get mollasses, rum raisins and … cough syrup? There’s a really raw, robust boozy thing happening that doesn’t seem to meld with the other aromas very well. Maybe it just needs to warm up some.

Unfortunately, that raw, crude flavor doesn’t go away. It dominates the middle and finish of the taste, which starts off promising with Dark fruits and brown sugar notes before it is greatly diminshed by the sour, Robitussin thing that takes over.

Full bodied, with a sticky, coating mouthfeel.

A beer that is great in theory, but in practice virtually undrinkable. Someone else suggested in their review that Unibroue might have taken shortcuts in the malt dept to meet Trader Joe’s pricepoint. Seems plausible to me. I will not be finishing this bottle.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.16/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark black with a finger of frothy tan-khaki head. Fades very slowly.

S - Dark caramel malts, raisin, plums, and other dark fruits, Belgian yeast, clove, pepper, other spices, a touch of sourness, and a touch of booze.

T - Dark caramel malts with raisin, plum, dates, and other dark fruits, Belgian yeast, clove, pepper, and other spices, a bit of residual sugars, a touch of sourness, and a bit of booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Smooth with a sweet and warming finish.

D - Nice BSDA. Good Belgian character and spices.

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Photo of yamar68
3.98/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The most stubborn cork I have ever encountered. After struggling with my hands, then a plain corkscrew, and finally a wine opener, I sliced the print of my right thumb clean off. Lots of blood... we're off to a great start.

Very dark stuff. Muddy brown without much clarity to speak of. A swelling khaki head fills the glass and then some. Lacing is loose but consistent.

Intriguing... loads of soft pale fruits, sour yeast, some cola aromas, smooth and sweet, approachable, tame.

Fresh grape, more cola presence, frothy carbonation makes for an exciting presentation of flavors, sweet grain, it finishes pretty damn clean and rather wet. I can totally dig this.

That said - my thumb is now wrapped in gauze and electric tape... it's stinging pretty good, luckily I've already had a few but this is going to be a treat to wake up to.

Before you buy this, get some good gloves. Maybe chainmail.

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Photo of brentk56
3.28/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown color with ruby highlights; an inch of tan does an adequate job of leaving a smattering of lace

Smell: Molasses, prune, charred black bread and cloves

Taste: Burnt brown sugar and prune flavors, up front, but there is an excess of clove and sour off-flavors, in the middle; the sourness dominates the finish, as well

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: In order to make the price point, I suspect Unibroue makes some compromises with the ingredients, particularly the malts; this beer strikes me as not having the body or the robust complexity of even a mid-tier BSDA

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Photo of GossageBrewery
3.43/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

I had this stored in my basement for over a year, thought I would take it out and give it a try. Poured from a 750 ml bottle, into a snifter. Poured a amber color, produced a tannish head, decent retention and it left some lacing on the glass. The Aroma consisted of roasted malt, sweet caramel and prunes. Full bodied, this Belgian Strong Dark Ale the base consisted of roasted malt, caramel and some wine like fruitiness, most likely from the yeast. Overall, it was decent, it under preformed my expectations, but maybe my expectations were to high. Unibroue brewed this ale for Trader Joe's and thus far everything i have sampled from Unibroqe has been outstanding.

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.88/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage. Poured from a 750 ml cork n cage bottle into a Pipeworks snifter.

A- pours a dark brown with a 3" tan head. Some small bubbles speckle the glass with a thin ring of lacing.

S- dark fruits, some pepper, some clove and some other spice I can't pick out.

T- amber malts, dark fruits, clove and spices, some bread, and Belgian yeast.

M- medium body and med/high carbonation. Slick at first with a crisp and slightly dry finish.

O- loudest cork for a beer I have ever heard! Pretty good beer, but nothing I would rush to revisit.

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Photo of Derek
4.05/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Reddy-brown-black with a light tan head, thin ring of retention, very little lace.

S: Peppery spice, a bit phenolic, dark fruit, jaggery.

T: Raisins, dates, figs, pepper, jaggery, candied mango, curacao orange rind, cola, good bitterness, slight alcohol warmth.

M: Well-attenuated, moderate body has a crisp finish.

O: Good overall brew, probably a bit better than what the score adds up to...

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Photo of ndepriest
3.57/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into a snifter.

It's pours pretty dark, but there's some light around the edges. Tons of carbonation.

The smell is dark fruit and yeast with a mild sweetness. The taste is similar to the smell. Lots of dark fruit, and the yeast gives it that distinct Unibroue taste. The carbonation is very present in the mouthfeel. It's a bit distracting and odd that it's still so carbonated after 1+ year of age.

Overall, not bad, especially for the price. I have a couple of others bottle that I'll hang onto for a while longer to see how they turn out. For what a bargain it is, I recommend it.

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Photo of Murrhey
3.5/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle in my house in Orange, Calif. Reviewed from notes.

A- Finger width khaki head. Little retention.

S- Hoppy and sweet. Has nice notes all the way. Dark fruits.

T- Dark fruits and burnt sugar. Crazy tastes. Has alcohol to contend with.

M- Very heavy and almost soda like carbonation.

O- Might want to buy and age again. Not great for me now though.

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Photo of TinFang
3.75/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a short wide-mouth glass, cooled to 52 degrees. Best by 6 july 2016. Cork came out with a dramatic POP.

A: dark ruby with a creamy half-inch head that dissipated not too quickly. No lacing.

S: a bit of malt and definitely spices. Smell was fairly predictive of taste.

M: substantial but not thick. Left a bit of a coat in the mouth.

T: nice spice profile that lingers. Ginger, coriander, clove. Unmistakeable Unibroue funk. Slight aftertaste of bark, not pleasant.

I bought three cases of this for cellaring. Can't find my tasting notes from the bottles when fresh, but it seems to be aging just about as one would expect i.e. plenty of character with the individual spice notes more unified. Nothing about this ale struck me as an increase in complexity with time.

Very good for the price, and merits a try, but there's no free lunch. I drink a lot of Unibroue products and they are among my favorites. There's a wee something lacking in this recipe (one less spice? No fresh yeast? A step omitted from the brewing process?) that prevents me from having an immediate "Delicious!" reaction. I also found two bad bottles out of the first dozen I've opened, one of which was undrinkable. That's never ever been the case with anything else from that brewery.

Next scheduled sampling in November.

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Photo of korguy123
4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle into goblet. Purchased at my first Trader Joe's in Ann Arbor MI.

A- Almost completely opaque dark brown pour with red highlights around the edges, Finger width off white head that quickly drops to a thin cap. Lacing is decent.

S- Super typical Unibroue dark aromas. Dark stone fruits, bananas, cloves, slight apple and spicy yeast. This is identical to the other dark Unibroue beers and I like it.

T- Bananas, dark stone fruits, apple juice, slight grape, bananas, cloves, a touch of cinnamon and a nice yeast taste is in all Unibroue beers.

M- Lighter side of medium bodied, great carbonation.

O- I really like Unibroue, they truly do their beers very well. I enjoyed this one equally as much.

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Photo of jondeelee
3.95/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Trader Joe’s 2011 Vintage Ale opens with a nose that makes immediately apparent the beer’s Unibroue brewing, containing that special funkiness that comes from Unibroue’s yeast, which lends the beer a part-Belgian, part-near-Flemish overtone, being ripe with bananas and cloves, but also sour notes, like fermented apple cider. Apart from the yeast aromas, which seem to take up the majority of the nose, the beer does feature thick molasses notes, crusty brown breads, and a few fruit esters, such as plum, fig, and white grape. Touches of grapefruit citrus rim the edges, as well as a peppery spice. As a whole, the nose is certainly intriguing, and comes across as very Christmasy in some ways, like alcoholic fruitcake. The strange spice, banana, and clove notes are perhaps a bit overpowering, making other aromas very difficult to locate, and do come across slightly more like fermented apple cider than is necessary, but the beer still manages to be strangely alluring.

On the tongue, the beer opens with a hit of bananas and cloves, followed immediately by an orange, berry, and spice mixture, the latter containing lemon, ginger, and white pepper. The spices are potent enough that they bite at the soft tissues. Some brown bread crust, raisin, and molasses notes add additional complexity, though the beer does come across somewhat like an alcoholic Dr. Pepper because of the spice and malt combo. The flavors last the entirety of the mouthful, and extend easily into the aftertaste, losing their potency very slowly. The 9% ABV becomes a little more apparent here, coming across as a part-bourbon, part-cognac alcoholic vapor that mixes nicely with the spices and fruits. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium to medium-high, fizzing on the tongue.

Overall, this is good beer, and certainly lives up to Unibroue’s high brewing standards. The fruits and spices do come across as slightly overpowering here, but then I admit that’s a problem I have with most of Unibroue’s offerings. I also think the beer bears slightly too much resemblance to alcoholic fruitcake. But the flavors that are present have excellent strength and variance, and blend extremely well to create a taste sensation unlike almost anything else on the market.

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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 320 ratings