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

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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale

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

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by hreb on 11-13-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 123 | Ratings: 320
Photo of Eriktheipaman
4.64/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a murky Belgian style brown with huge off white head.

The smell is very herby. Coriander, grass, and lemon peal.

The taste is herby on the front, followed by brown sugar, and a prune, caramel, and herb back.

The style of "Belgian Dark Ale" can scare me at times because it has been hit or miss and a pretty undefined style. To me this tastes like a dark Witt if there were such a thing. Outstanding beer and the fact it is so cheap is unmatched. I will buy more for sure.

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Photo of NatetheGreat
4.49/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I really liked this one. It's dark brown with a large head and minimal lacing. Huge, complex, enticing aroma with cinnamon, apple, raisin, and a sweet-spicy mix that includes alcohol. Tastes much like the smell with layers of sweet fruit and spicy undercurrents. The mouthfeel was a bit thin but overall a great beer at a great price.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.45/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

It’s a malty-dark cocoa color in appearance with a healthy topping of foam. Great bouquet with lots of floral, spicy, earthy aromas. Full flavored with mushy berries (thinking mashed blackberries with orange zest, like what I topped holiday waffles with), perhaps figs? Dates? Thick, dark, fruit more savory than sweet is what I’m getting at here, followed by some spices (not chili/peppers—more like mulling spices) and a hint of rootbeer. There’s a clove-banana-rootbeer (sarsaparilla?) finish too. The effervescence keeps this light, and it holds together as it warms over an hour. This is a steal for $5. Even at twice the price it would be a good deal since it’s a terrific brew.

Trader Joe’s annual release of this beer is one of the reasons why I’m always willing to take a chance on their other contract brews. By this point I’ve worked my way through and back on their store brand beers and had more than a fair share of duds—but also found some real gems. Count this among the best of them. Try it if you can find it.

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Photo of nickfl
4.42/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A - Poured with a large, three finger head of light tan foam on top of a dark brown body with some amber highlights. The head settles slowly and it deposits average lace on the glass as it recedes.

S - Caramel, toffee, and Belgian yeast notes of coriander, cinnamon, banana, and clove.

T - Caramel, toffee and dark fruit up front with notes of plum, clove, and red apple. More toffee and raisins in the middle with a bit of cinnamon. The beer finishes with a nice combination of spicy and fruity yeast character that works nicely with the dark sugar of the malt.

M - Medium-thick body, high carbonation, and a very dry finish.

D - The yeast character is spot on for the style and the dark malt is full of complex, dark sugars that work perfectly with the fruity notes. Very drinkable with a dry finish that really hides the high alcohol content, this is a really nice Belgian beer, I would not have guessed it came from North America, let alone that it was brewed for a grocery store chain!

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Photo of KEH
4.39/5  rDev +17.1%
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 Drinkerofales
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown, almost black with a giant mocha colored fluffy head that dissipates to a ring quickly with minimal lacing.

Smells like spice and malted roastiness, with and undertone of crisp hops.

Tastes a little like toffee from the malts, followed by a gingerbread taste, allspice, and cloves taste most prevalent. Leaves a roasted spice aftertaste that's nice. Spice flavor comes out more as it warms.

A very carbonated beer, in a good way, it makes it feel light. Doesn't coat the tongue. For a 9% beer, it feels smooth and easy drinking.

I liked this beer, and so did my wife, which is a surprise, since dark beers aren't her thing. This beer is very festive, great spice content doesn't overpower or assault the nose, but tastes enough to get into that holiday mood. I liked feeling like gingerbread was in the oven and I was already eating the first batch.


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Photo of MattyG85
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into a Duvel tulip glass. 2011 Vintage

Appearance: Pours a dark blackish brown with a little ruby red showing on the bottom of the glass. Big five finger tan head fizzles down to a thin layer. Lacing is moderate on the glass.

Smell: Lots of spicy Belgian yeast upfront with cloves and hints of banana and pepper. Also some hints of raisins and other dark fruits. Has a lingering aroma of cocoa powder giving a cola like smell to the spices. Also picking up some hints of coriander, lemon, and brown sugar. One of the most spice forward beers I've smelled.

Taste: Spicy like the nose suggests but not as much cola in the taste. Big taste of Belgian yeast throughout with some clove. Hints of banana and nutmeg with dark fruit raisins and plum. Some notes of cocoa powder that blend in well with the yeast. Also some light hints of lemon, coriander, brown sugar, and dark malts giving a little hint of chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Body on the lighter side of medium and carbonation is medium to high. Finishes somewhat sweet. Alcohol heat is nowhere to be found which is a bit surprising considering the body isn't heavy. Very smooth.

Overall: A very nice and interesting take on a dark Belgian ale. The spices blend very well in the taste and this is pretty easy to drink.

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

after not really loving last year's and buying a case without trying one first (since i loved 2009 so much), i decided on a single bottle.

a - opened the corked and caged bottle and poured 2 unibroue tulips. looks rather promising with the deep purple with crimson highlights liquid capped by the classic unibroue yeasty head with chunky lacing.

s - hey...that's pretty spot on!!! great dark fruit and candied yeast. i forget how much i love unibroue beers. like a mix of candy flavors.

t - VERY nice. like a classic unibroue belgian strong dark, but on the sweeter and softer side. a big improvement from last year where i found the spicing to be a bit overwhelming (although i haven't had that one in almost a year and will probably pop one after this to see where it is at).

m - a bit thin lacking the creaminess that i typically expect from the style and the brewery. an easy drinker and cooling...the booze is pretty invisibile except some tingling in the mouth.

o - overall...hoorah! glad to see unibroue doing what they do best on this year's trader joe. think i best be nabbing a case of this whilst i still can. overall, a solid vintage and very much what i dig about unibroue's BSDAs, perhaps a bit on the sweet and softer side of trois pistoles (one of my alltime favs).

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Photo of Whiteweasel
4.28/5  rDev +14.1%

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 zeledonia
4.26/5  rDev +13.6%
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 uwmgdman
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter this ale has a thick, long-lasting khaki head with a black body and faint garnet hue when held to a bright light--very nice. The aroma is dominated by Belgian yeast character, mainly clove and spicy pepper, some banana and a bit of sweet malt. The flavor is a nice mix of fruity esters, spices, peppery, chocolate malt and medium-low hop bitterness. The finish is pleasantly dry and the spicy/fruity esters linger nicely. The carbonation is medium and body medium as well. Overall a flavorful, interesting beer, certainly worth giving a try, if I make a trip to Trader Joe's I'd pick this up again.

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

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale. Brewed by unibrou, best before 07-06-2016 (no waiting for me though). Even before pouring into my Chimay chalice there's the distinct grapy/yeasty aroma of champagne from this similarly topped 750mL bottle. Beer itself is dark brown with a thick chestnut head.

Flavor is slightly sweet with nutty malts, a little bit of funk from the lees, and tasty hoppage. Spice flavors are perhaps cinnamon and clove and play well with the sweetness of the beer.

I'm definitely enjoying this more than earlier years' Vintage Ales. The balance is great; the flavors are fresh; and there's enough complexity to keep it interesting. Aging might do it well, but I'm very pleased with my choice even today.

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Photo of korguy123
4.2/5  rDev +12%
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 jjanega08
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage with a best before 07-06-2016

A= Pours a deep black color with no light passing through and a tall three fingers of deep brown tannish head on it that holds nice retention and nice lacing.

S= Smells like spicy belgian yeast. Cinnamon and coriander. There is a little bit of a lavender or anise aroma coming from it. Decent dark fruit aroma to it as well.

T= The flavor is again deep belgian yeasty spice to it. A almost a classic christmas spice taste if that makes sense. Reminds me of ginger bread and cinnamon with a little bannana to it. The dark fruit character is toned down as it is mostly just a ton of spice and yeast.

M= Very highly carbonated and light on the tongue.

O= This is a pretty nice beer. I imagine it to be a great christmas beer. Maybe not so much suited for mid May. Worth trying however and I actually enjoyed the shit out of it.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.17/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

very dark, almost a hazelnut color of brown, with a slightly reddish tint to it. Very hazy and cloudy and with a good amount of sediment running through it. A good two inch plus of head

alcohol presence here, but not in an overpowering or derogatory way, more of a subtle, just letting you know it was there. Lots of dark spices here. I could pick up even some dark fruits, plums and maybe even a bit of grape very nice warming feeling coming over as I took the first sip. Lots of mellowed yeast here. Some apples and plums, maybe a fig mixed in seemed to bring out the lighter notes. Meanwhile, underneath that was a deep caramel like flavor that blended in with a earthy or bready like back. Very complex and yet remarkably smooth.

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Photo of Tschnab
4.17/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- a dark red hue with a thin film of off white head. Sporadic lace clings to the glass.

S- lots of Belgian yeast and a good amount of wheat, plums, sugar, cherries.

T- a yeasty but sweet dark ale that warms on the way down. It has a slight spice character with a good winter fruit note.

O- what a good brew for the price! Thanks to my grandparents for picking me up a bottle.

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Photo of PangaeaBeerFood
4.17/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Saw this on the shelves at my local TJ's for $4.99 and had to grab one.

It pours much like a Belgian Quad, with average levels of carbonation, an attractive brown color with red accents and a fluffy tan head with excellent retention.

The aromatics really just out of the glass at you, sweet and fruity with some grassy notes and subtle hints of alcohol. Smells very similar to my recollection of Trois Pistoles, which I'm sure is due to Unibroue's signature yeast strain.

The flavor is more subtle than the nose, and probably more subdued than the average quadruple, but enjoyable nonetheless. It's very fruit-forward with a chalky sort of dryness in the finish and brandy-like warmth as you swallow.

Mouthfeel was noticeably thinner than other BSDA and moreso than I'd expect from something of 9% ABV, but it didn't detract from the experience.

Overall, an excellent brew that's made outstanding by the price tag. Easily the best buy I've seen in beer, ever. A must-buy for those seeking holiday beers on a budget.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.16/5  rDev +10.9%
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 lawlerj
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from the 750 ml bottle into a tulip glass.

A - pours a dark black/mahogany with a tan head. Looks like Coke and/or root beer. Big tan head that fades, leaving a touch of foam on the top. Not much in the way of lacing. Can't really tell about the carbonation.

S - dark fruit, licorice, a touch of alcohol. Some belgian yeast and malt in the mix as well.

T - the taste follows the nose. Dark fruit and cherries up front with a bit of tartness, and then it opens up into the yeast. Some chocolatey flavors/cocoa hints in the mix. Alcohol is present but not overwhelming or unpleasant. There's a lot going on, and I can't quite pin it all down. But I like it.

M - very well carbonated and medium bodied. The carbonation gives a bit of prickliness to the beer.

O - overall, a steal. A very solid beer and it dirt cheap price. I have another bottle that I'm saving for next year around Thanksgiving - we'll see how it tastes after a year.

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Photo of NuclearDolphin
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Oversized Wine Glass

Appearance - Opaque Black even when held up to light, they don't get much darker than this. Head is slighty brown with good retention

Smell - Figs, spices, hefe-style cloves and bananas but what really caught me by surprise was the apple smell! For a Belgian Strong this is a very fruity smelling beer!. The malts in here are also fairly strong too.

Taste - Cloves, Figs, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and a strong malty backbone.. The hefe-style bananas and red apples make for a fruity yet pleasant aftertaste. The taste is very complex and it all comes together nicely. And there is no boozy flavors in here either, which is even better!

Mouthfeel - Body is average in body, but it feels thick. Carbonation is more on the intense side, but it doesn't detract from the overall flavor.

Overall - I never considered Trader Joe's brand ales to be complex, but this ale has changed my mind about that. It's smooth yet complex flavor makes this easy to recommend. I picked this up for $5, and I think it was a purchase well spent!

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Photo of HBeezley
4.13/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Murky-Black with coffee colored head that is well carbonated (maybe on the verge of too carbonated for this style?) that retains nicely as a half an inch head.

S - Head smelled of licorice, burnt coffee, dark cocoa powder, sugar, and spice. Once head recedes smell is almost strictly hops - which is a shame really, if they could only blend the two it would be fantastic in the smell I miss that complex head!

T - Roasted coffee beans, chocolate, some kind of nut I can't put my finger on, allspice, maybe a hint of anise? and malt with hops coming through just by the skin of they're teeth. Finishes dry with the flavor of champagne coming through (don't see that done every day!) A lot going on here! Might not be an absolute favorite, but man I love trying to taste all the different flavors in every sip which is what I think TJ's simply make something complex, not many of their beers are, so I get excited for this every year even though its not THAT high on my list.

M - SIP-ABLE! Sometimes with aged beers I hate to use the word "drinkable" cause you just cannot enjoy this beer to it's full potential unless you savor it, picking it apart one at a time. On another note, the mid-carbonation makes this oddly crisp, and I don;t know if I really like that too much or if I do. I'll decide later...

O - I feel like this was better than last year's Vintage Ale. Something much better is going on in that glass and it's really nice. I really need to see what could happen to a cellared bottle though. Come back in a year. Until then, this will do just fine by me.

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Photo of DaftCaskBC
4.13/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: 1/2" tan coloured bubbly head over black liquid.

S: Apples, cloves, pears and figs. Somewhat similar to Trois Pistoles.

T: Cloves, apples, cinnamon, figs, pears and raisins. Complex and spicy. Somewhat sweet.

M: Medium viscosity and carbonation.

O: Very drinkable, and you can't beat the price.

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Photo of beck2008
4.13/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - dark coffee / cola, 1/2 finger head on the 1st pour

S - lots o' spice, hint of lemon

T - Spice is most dominant, pepper & clove, citrus on the finish. It tastes better as it warms up. Ice cold is not the way to serve this up.

M - a bit too much carbonation - I like to let my glass sit awhile so the carbo mellows out. A bit thinner than the 2009 (2010 was not all that impressive) but still a good bsda.

O - 2009 was my 1st taste of this style of beer and I have to say it was the best compared to 2010 and 2011. Overall I think 2011 is better than 2010. I am going to save one (hopefully) for one year and compare to 2012. I love this beer and for a mere $4.99 it's a great buy.

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

Poured from the 750ml caged and corked bottle into a Maudite snifter. Body is a deep brown color topped by a small amount of creamy tan head that has some decent staying power but doesn't leave any lacing. Nice aroma of dark, sweet malt, some holiday spices, dark fruit, candi sugar, and the tangy notes of the Unibroue house yeast.
Palate is sweet and complex. Lots of dark fruit (raisin, prune, blackberry), a touch of roasted malt, and a little bit of candi sugar are the primary flavors up front. Notes of clove and cinnamon, bready yeast, and a faint touch of hoppy bitterness. Finish is a bit warming from the significant booze content. Body is rich and creamy, a good vehicle for the assertive and complex flavors. I've got a few years of this saved up in the cellar, I need to try doing a vertical tasting sometime soon.

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Photo of JohnnyChicago
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle; split into oversized wine glasses.

A: Pours...yup, like Coke. It has that dark caramel body, that fizzy and foamy, but dropping head. It looks pretty though.

S: Smells like a Wit. It has orange and coriander hints and that subtle funk from the yeast along with crisp citrus hops.

T: Very Wit-like. Same citrus and sour notes along with a tiny bit of sharpness. Bubblegum and clove flavours are nice and insistent and it ends in a subtle, but pronounced mocha blast that reminds you that you're drinking something dark.

D: Alcohol is completely hidden and the balance is perfect. Mouthfeel is a little thin, but it doesn't ruin the experience at all.

Overall: Damn fine beer here! It is complex and intense, but also balanced and smooth. I have to say, this is one of the better BSDAs that I've had. It doesn't come near the complexity of some of the best Quads, but its quality attests to the fact that a company like Unibroue was responsible for its creation.

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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 320 ratings.
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