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

very good
123 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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.

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 123 | Ratings: 320
Photo of Overlord
1.77/5  rDev -52.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

May be showing initial signs of infection. Sadly, I have another bottle, so I'll see if that one is any better.

First thing to note is explosively crazy carbonation. Umm....should half a tulip glass result in an overflowing light tan head? Subsequent pours result in crazy amounts of fizz. Ruddy brown color.

Smells like rancid, spoiled raisins, a bit of buttery malt, and a zingy, intrusive yeast.

The taste is all over the place. Orange rum soaked raisins, a weird tangy malt aftertaste, and the belgian yeast has run amuck with medicinal bananas and an irritating herbal aftertaste.

I usually find this beer to a great value in beerdom. This year's version sucks.

 671 characters

Photo of jneiswender
2.06/5  rDev -45.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Got this beer from friend Carl. Poured out of bottle, cool, into a Belgian tulip glass.

Nice black body and a beige head. Belgian yeast, clove and slight veggie smell. Strong carbonation up front. Roasted malt front. Burnt toast. Heavy carbonation. The carbonation and the burnt malt mouth just mutes whatever else is being offered here. I may avoid next time.

 361 characters

Photo of Vierenner
2.21/5  rDev -41.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours nicely but the aroma and flavor leave something to be desired. Not a pleasant experience. I'm only drinking enough to write this review and the rest goes down the drain. This is my second review of a Unibroue product ... first one didn't turn out well either.

 265 characters

Photo of beerbellydaddy
2.29/5  rDev -38.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Trader Joes Vintage Ale 2011

Corked 750 ml bottle, champagne pop and smoke

It pours a fizzy, dark, root beer brown, not thick, and it has ample foam.

Smell is bold, nearly intrusive; it hits me as too cloying and medicine like.

It tastes of peppermint and reminds me some of cough syrup, and it has a very evident alcohol taste. It didn’t grow on me.

It fills the mouth with pleasant enough, yet to me misplaced, champagne like fizz.

Some people really seem to like this but it isn’t my cup of tea. This is just too sweet and bubbly; and the hops seem to be hidden behind too many flowery flavors.

 610 characters

Photo of Sam21
2.33/5  rDev -37.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Received as a Christmas present. Has a best by date of 2016. Poured into a tulip.

Appearance - Pours with a very dark brown body. It only shows its true color when held up to the light. The head is a cola brown and fades rather quickly leaving very little lace. It looks nice at first, but lacks staying power and ultimately struggles in comparison to other Belgian Strong Darks.

Smell - Dry spice. Heavy yeasty clover aroma and perhaps a touch of mint. It is very difficult to pull any sweetness out of the aroma. In general, the aroma feels muted.

Taste - Light malt sweetness is quickly steamrolled by a wall of spicy clove. The yeasty clove is far from balanced and really overwhelms any malt complexities. The finish lacks dryness and sees a hint of sweetness overwhelmed by spice. Typically, I love the complexities that a Belgian dark can bring to the table, but this beer is a bit muddled.

Mouthfeel - The body is light with unpleasant soda-like carbonation. It lacks that fine effervescent carbonation of the style.

Overall - I am a big fan of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, but this beer misses the mark. Way too spice centered and doesn't let the natural beauty come through. As it warms in the glass, it becomes even less appetizing.

 1,252 characters

Photo of Beaver13
2.48/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

750ml bottle, best before 07-06-2016. Pours brown with a pillowy light tan head that goes to a thin film that leaves a little lacing.

The aroma is sweet bready chocolate malts with some banana notes from the yeast and some perfumey floral notes. Some spices come out some as it warms (corriander, ginger?).

The flavor is similar - sweet sugary bready chocolate / caramel malts with earthy yeast and some banana. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with sharp spritzy carbonation.

Overall, an OK Belgian. Just didn't mesh well with me.

 532 characters

Photo of hwwty4
2.61/5  rDev -30.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured a corked and caged 750ml into my Tripel Karmeliet tulip. Out of the bottle comes a dark, rich coffee colored liquid that leaves a massive 3 inch head and just a bit of lacing as it disappears from the glass. The aroma is sweet malts up front. Caramelized sugar with toasted bread and dark fruits. Almost a wine like grapiness to it. Dates and figs with a odd yeasty spice. The flavor is odd. There seems to be a almost extract like tang to it. It underlies the most of the flavor profile. Almost like a homebrew that hasn't been executed very well. Dark fruits are present. Like in the nose dates and figs with some grape. As it warms booze becomes a bit more present and the tang seems to grow also. Fairly off putting. Its a odd balance. The mouthfeel is dry. I thought there would be a little more heft to it by the look of the beer. While, this is only the second installment in the series that I've had, I found the last one fantastic for the price tag. This is, while still a great price, not that tasty.

 1,017 characters

Photo of rtaps
2.92/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

pours black with a decent khaki head minimal retention and lacing

spicy, dark fruits, yeast like aroma

a spicy yeast dark ale, some dark fruits and sweet malts are present but you have to look pass the spice

medium bodied and highly carbonated

overall i feel this was kinda of a carbonated spicy mess

 306 characters

Photo of q33jeff
2.95/5  rDev -21.3%
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.


 260 characters

Photo of 4000qtrap
3.03/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Source/Serving: 750mL bottle

S: Very phenolic. Ginger root beer/cola woth clove is really predominant with hints of cinnamon, allspice, fennel, and Jagermeister.

T: The ginger root beer and clove note from the nose hits strong at first. Bitingly phenolic, it’s brash but fairly pleasant. Neither bitter nor sweet and on the dry side throughout. In the middle this note softens and becomes more like cola mixed with ginger ale. The clove melts with a bark-like note and there are some raisins hiding in the back. However, its complexity is underwhelming given the over the top spicing covering up any nuance from the yeast. Finish has a tacky/sticky mouthfeel even though its fairly dry, with ginger, cinnamon, and reminiscent of pumpkin pie and. As it warms I get a light, pleasant burst of smokiness.

Notes: Like the previous Trader Joe's Vintage ales, the spicing is fairly rough and overwhleming when fresh. I'm happy to leave room in my cellar for a few bottles of this to sit for a year or two and and I expect it will be right on.

 1,042 characters

Photo of sweemzander
3.06/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750mL corked and caged bottle poured into a tulip.

(A)- Pours a pitch black color. Some tan froth and lace.

(S)- Funky with some spicy(cardamon?) and floral bits. Earthy too.

(T)- Again, some earthy spice and floral bits. Maybe even some signs of Brett?

(M)- A good carbonation level. An interesting balance of funk, spice, and floral bits. Interesting, but a bit weird.

(D)- A funkier version for the style for sure, but fun and intriguing too, but a bit strange.

 469 characters

Photo of woemad
3.07/5  rDev -18.1%
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.

 1,544 characters

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

750 ml into a duvel tulip

my 3rd review of the night and these strong beer are already kicking in.

picked this bad MFer at at trader joes. felt like a trader to my country going into that hippy joint, but a beer made by unibrouw i cant pass up

pours a dark oak with a lively frothy head and some strong lacing

spice, medicinal phenols, toastyness, and some slight coriander in the nose

herbal spices, followed by some clove, and some belgian yeast in the taste,

alittle too carbonated for my taste, but not bad for a "generic" BSDA. maybe a couple years of aging will do this brew well

 593 characters

Photo of homebrewhawk
3.23/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

750ml corked and caged bottle served in a Blvd. Tank 7 tulip. Pours a deep brown with a massive big bubbled, dark tan head. Lots of carbonation. Herbal/spicy aroma, some dark fruits. Maybe some spruce. Bottle conditioned. Lots of Belgian spice, some malt sweetness. Still getting spruce. Medium bodied. Clove in the finish. Spices seem to overwhelm this one, could use a little time to fade.

 391 characters

Photo of brentk56
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
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

 629 characters

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

750 mL bottle poured into a chalice.

Appearance: Pours a solid black color with a nice, thick, and foamy tan/off-white head. Good retention, and leaves a nice lacing.

Smell: Nice aroma with a hint of dark fruit, a few bits of clove, and quite a lot of cinnamon.

Taste: Lots of cinnamon and cloves, with a hint of other spices. The malt body doesn't show up until the finish, and the aftertaste is mostly spices with a bit of malt.

Mouthfeel: Quite a lot of carbonation (a tad excessive), though relatively smooth and medium-bodied.

Drinkability: More than a tad over-the-top with the cinnamon and cloves. High ABV, but not apparent in the flavor.

I think someone dumped too many spices into this one. It is alright, but there's not much dimension to it, and the flavors are a bit skewed. Especially for the price, it is pretty good for what it is, but compared to some of the ones from past years, this really isn't so great.

 932 characters

Photo of brewerburgundy
3.29/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

25.4oz bottle, Duvel tulip, 2011 vintage.

Enormous head, pinkish light brown, widely spaced bubbles, billowing. This year's Vintage Ale is darker than I recall the last two years, more resistant to light, with more red.

Gimme that old distinctive Unibroue yeast. This super phenolic strain is spicy and funky in a raw herbal way, not like Brett at all, but just a very foreign smell. It's totally dominant, root beer is the only other aroma.

No surprise, the yeast is the dominant flavor too. Sweet malts, root beer, sarsaparilla, cranberries, and candi sugar skulk. I'm just not a huge fan of Unibroue's house strain that they use for their darker beers. Things kind of end up like overripe bananas.

Thin for the size and lack of outrageous alcohol, I find the mouthfeel of this beer really quite dull. The super carbonation that made that enormous head had fled.

Maybe I've tightened up my reviewing closer to a C average since last Christmas, but this years really isn't so much to my liking. It's one-dimensional.

 1,027 characters

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

Poured from a 750mL bottle into a snifter

A: Pours very dark brown and opaque. There is a foamy tan head of one finger that sticks around for a while. Leaves mild spotty lacing.

S: Primarily dark fruit with a good helping of cloves and some Belgian yeast.

T: Fairly smooth with more dark fruit flavors. Clove is strong as well as some alcohol esters. Toffee and caramel take some of the edge off. Milder notes of yeast. As it warms I can make out banana bread.

M: Soft, full mouthfeel but more carbonation than I care for.

O: Better than I was expecting, given that this is 4 dollar per bottle Trader Joe's beer. An honest attempt at a Belgian dark ale, but falls somewhat short. The flavors don't quite meld well. It's still a good deal for the price.

 757 characters

Photo of Shibbykaiyai
3.38/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A decent strong dark belgian. I buy 12 or so each year, usually celar-ing one or two for later in the year when I am looking for something more potent than the usual summer ales.

Pours nicely, darker than planned. The brew is contracted from Unibroue, so it has to be good. And this one is just that, good. Nothing spectacular like years past. But a nice, solid, once in a lifetime (since they change it each year) tasty brew. I wouldn't necessarily cellar any of it, but a nice brew to enjoy when you need a break from christmas or winter ales.

 546 characters

Photo of wowbagger
3.41/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very dark with a foamy thick head. Some hints of brown and red but mostly dark.

Smells of malt and fruit.

Taste, a little spice and those fruit notes. A little sweeter than I expected. Some cherry at the back of the mouth with a grassy feel. The spices linger and tend to dominate overall.

It looks like a dark ale, but tastes more like a spiced wheat and it's a little thinner than I expected. I had mine cold but I suspect that closer to room temperature would be more appropriate. Very interesting offering from Joe's. I'd recommend giving it a shot if dark spiced ales are your thing.

 591 characters

Photo of Reaper16
3.43/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

750mL bottle served into a snifter

Pours a russet brown color with plenty of crema colored head composed of fairly large bubbles. There's varying tones of brown here, and it looks like a pretty nice example of the style.

The aroma isn't beating you over the head with anything, but all of the things you'd expect to smell have their subtle day in the sun here. There's raisin and date; there's some gingersnap cookie; there's plenty of dried ground clove. Some dark syrup smell too -- like some diet version of molasses.

The taste is also subtle. The clove flavor blends well with the cookie & fruitcake malt profile. There's some dark fruit flavor here, but it is very soft and distant (unlike the sharpness in some BSDAs).

It's thin for the style. It's this beer's only real drawback. It feels insubstantial in body, and the high level of carbonation exacerbates that feeling.

Overall, this is a very solid beer in the style, especially when you consider the price. This beer, of course, is brewed by Unibroue, and you can really tell just by drinking it. It is lighter and less overtly flavorful than Unibroue's normal lineup, but not really any less good for it.

 1,173 characters

Photo of GossageBrewery
3.43/5  rDev -8.5%
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.

 668 characters

Photo of vandemonian
3.46/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale is ok. It's pretty mild but there are some off flavours too.

A: Black colour and a 25 mm head that lasts really well. 4.5

S: Malty and some apple clove flavour. 3.5

T: Malty with dark fruit flavour. It's a very mild flavour with something off in the finish. 3

M: Super foamy. 4.5

O: 3.5

 321 characters

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

750mL bottle from the local TJ’s - it looked pretty crazy in the store and for $4.99 I couldn’t resist (especially seeing that it was brewed by Unibroue).

A: Pours a dark brown, with a massive khaki head. As the super bubbly foam dies down it leaves no lace, but manages a nice half-finger of creaminess throughout consumption.

S: Sweet malts and spices. Dark bread and candied fruit aroma seem to dominate the nose.

T: Very sweet breadiness here. Spices are interesting and almost overpowering - seems like there’s some ginger in there on the finish? Dark fruit, especially cherry, is also evident as the taste leans almost towards sour about mid-palate. A very interesting brew - a bit all over the place, but interesting.

M: Light mouthfeel and quite fizzy. Not the most enjoyable combination - it feels just about like champagne in the mouth. Again... interesting.

O: A very odd beer - it has a lot going on in the taste department... maybe too much? I guess if you spice the heck out of something, it might as well be a Belgian strong dark ale - problem is there’s just a bit too much going on here. An interesting beer, but it would be nice if it was a bit more “traditional” (hold the ginger, vanilla, clove, etc) - which is kind of what I was expecting given the brewer. But, that being said, its still an interesting brew, and will definitely start a conversation if shared with friends.

 1,414 characters

Photo of peoplewithhands
3.49/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a snifter glass

Appearance: Poured almost black with very slight hints of redness on the edges. Poured with large 2 inch tan head that turns into a half inch that stays for the entire drink lacing throughout consumption.

Smell: sweet smelling, yeasty, a little tart and fruity.

Taste: very sweet with lots of malt flavor, some roastiness. Alcohol is hidden, but the finishing taste is like strong sour tart fruit.

Mouthfeel: Medium feel, creamy and smooth. carbonation is there, but not overbearing.

Overall: very sweet malty ale with a sour finish. 9 abv. is well hidden. Good sipping ale, but maybe a little too malty for my tastes. It could benefit from some hoppiness or other spiciness to offset the sweet malt.

 754 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 320 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.