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 kylehay2004
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: single finger frothy head with decent retention and some lacing on a dark body with some light getting through.

S: mostly dark fruit, mostly red apple and plum, and clove.

T: dark fruit, mostly raisin, plum, cherry and fig. Nice breads, banana, spicey and zest note as well

M: moderate to high carbonation. medium bodied.

Overall: This is a very drinkable member of the genre. Not too sweet, complex and flavorful.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.04/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Brewed by Unibroue.

Best before 7/6/16.

Pours a dark murky brown with a 2 inch foamy tan head that settles to a thin cap. Random streaks and chunks of lace form on the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark malt, dark fruits, Christmas spices, banana, and the distinct Unibroue yeast aroma. Taste is of malt, dark fruits (raisins, plums), spices (clove especially), and yeast. There is a slight spice bitterness that lingers on the tongue after each sip. This beer has a higher level of carbonation with a very crisp and bubbly mouthfeel. A bit too much carbonation for the style in my opinion. Overall, this is a good BSDA and a fantastic deal for $4.99 for the 750 ml bottle. I enjoyed this year's recipe much more than the 2010 bottle I tried.

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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

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

750ml brown glass bottle with hood-and-wire cap over a cork served into a Weizen glass in low altitude Orange, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are high given what I've heard about this beer. I really hope it lives up to the hype. Acquired at Trader Joe's (obviously).

A: Pours a three finger head of fair cream, nice thickness, and great retention (especially for the high ABV). Colour is a solid nontransparent black. Generally appealing.

Sm: Lees, yeast, roast, and spice. Maybe raisins and plums; certainly dark fruit. Rich and inviting. A pretty strong aroma. Very pleasant and intricate.

T: Spice and yeast (or lees, if you prefer), with dark fruit esters - maybe plum and/or raisin. Really impressive. Very yeasty, but it isn't biscuity. It does add a lot of character to the body. It's nicely subtle, and I imagine the subtlety would only improve with age. Complex enough, and delightful to drink. Some light wine character towards the finish. Bravo. Rich and almost exquisite.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Not too thick or too thin. Suits the flavours nicely. Not over or under carbonated.

Dr: A bit difficult to drink just given the flavour boldness. There's nothing wrong with that. I'd love to try this aged. It's got a great subtle flavour to it that I really dig.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev +6.7%
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 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 chinchill
3.9/5  rDev +4%
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 mactrail
3.67/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Totally black in the snifter. Big foam-up at first pour but subsequent sloshes are fine. Fairly coarse head. The sudsy mouthfeel is the most pleasant part of the experience. Slight fruity touch of dried figs and old red wine. Surprisingly light bodied. It goes down easily, leaving only a faint burnt raisin toast flavor. Hops are pretty much undetectable. A little aroma of alcohol and something like grapes or jam.

Seems like a typical Unibroue offering. Some are great and some are like this, a hard to understand stew with some dark yeasty nonsense going on.

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

750ml bottle - $4.99 at Trader Joe's in Roswell, Georgia.

Best Before: 07-06-2016.

Appearance: Pours out a near black body with a airy, lofty head stand, light khaki in color. Plenty of head from a little, light pour; good thing I'm using the Duvel glass here.

Smell: Mixed fruits spritzed with alcohol and mixed with a variety of raw sugars, then, a sniff of wafting ground cloves and orange peel followed by notes of burley tobacco, aniseed, and banana.

Taste: Toasted crusty dark bread dosed with dark brown sugar, dark candi sugars, a shot of cola (potentially with a doctorate degree), and a blend of finely-ground spices. Moderately sweet. Clove and redolent, bitterish citrus peel carrying over from the nose. Hints of star anise, spruce tips, allspice. More spicy and less fruity here in the taste, though the banana is making a good showing. Teeny tiny sliver of hops here simply blending into the spice tastes. Sweetish, spicy, well-carbonated finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Lively, effervescent carbonation -- there will be burps.

Overall: An agreeable brew from the simple, understated packaging to the taste to the price tag. Sadly, I've developed the habit of keeping the Vintage Ale in mind until it's actually released, then, only remembering when it's long gone. Not this year, thankfully!

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

Huge beige head which settles moderately, but in a lumpy fashion, leaving minor spots on the glass. The liquor is ruby, brown where bright light barely makes it through the center of the glass.

Strong earthy aroma with lots of corriander, star anise, cinnamon and all spice. Light alcohol nose.

Tastes very much like a Quad. Smooth (but spritzy) darker malt flavor upfront. The spices described above jump almost immediately. The swallow is brandy-like with some warming from the alcohol. The body is full but the carbonation is equally high, so it balances out.

Despite the Trader Joe's name, I would encourage others to try this. I imagine in a blind taste test this would test well against even its Belgian brethren.

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

Poured into an Ommegang flute. Pours a very dark red brown amber. Two finger light brown head dissipates quickly to a thin film and heavy ring around the glass that has good retention. Nice lacing. Aroma of dark fruit, Belgian yeast and spicing, light citrus. Great flavor of dark, light and dried fruit, assertive but well integrated spicing with cinnamon and clove dominant. Finishes somewhat dry with a sharp kick from the spices, hops and active carbonation. Medium bodied with slight creaminess supplemented by spicy carbonation. Not quite as intense as the Unibroue main line up, but very pleasant and enjoyable to drink. An incredible bargain for a decent Belgian strong dark at the price.

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.94/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This could be a fun one. It's brewed by Unibroue, which is a good omen, and it's relatively cheap ($4.99 for a 750 ml). Enough with the anticipation, on to the beer:

...wha?'s recording? oh....It features a dark buby brown color that's polished like marble, and thick forming, creamy color of beige that crumbles to a thin lace. I am weak to Unibroue yeast, and that yeast strain in evident in the aroma. Pleasing buttery pears, vague clove, spiced cinnamon apple, apple pie, "love pie". All this is making me hung...thirsty.

The yeast comes up again in the beer's taste. In this case, it's probably a good thing, because there doesn't seem to be much malt at work underneath. Whatever. Spices are at work, but in a controlled way. Pears, figs, and cinnnamon apples at play. It turns out to be a tasty one, despite "only" having a medium body and semi-bubbly carbonation.

This is a more than respectable beer to come with the Trader Joe's monikor, and one of the better values you'll find among strong Belgian styles.

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

Very dark brown colored beer that passes almost no light, medium sized tan colored head.

Smell is spicy with a strong coriander scent. Little bit of sweetness but not to much. This smells mostly of coriander and allspice berry.

Starts out semi dry and spicy in the mouth, coriander with dry spice drop candy flavor. Pleasant warming of the chest from the alcohol. Additional tastes of brown sugar, clove and mint. After a while I taste toffee candy. Not the best beer Unibroue makes, but it IS a Unibroue beer.

Mouthfeel is good.

Overall a tasty and very affordable beer. Not the best beer Unibroue makes, but Unibroue doesn't really make bad beer.

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Photo of Derek
4.05/5  rDev +8%
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 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.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.01/5  rDev +6.9%
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 barnzy78
3.75/5  rDev 0%
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 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 AgentMunky
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750mL bottles into a cervoise glass. Stamped G20112317Q. Best before 6 July 2016.

A: Corked very tightly with a Unibroue cork and cage. Head is off-white and fizzy. It churns and fades fast and completely. The beer itself is incredibly dark, almost black, but is actually barely translucent and blood-red in direct light.

S: Winey, musty, and spicy. Corriander and...clove? Bay leaf?

T: A very spicy, noticeably strong BSDA. Though the flavours are strong -- mostly darkish, fermented fruit liberally laced with the aforementioned spices -- they persist only a short time and leave very little notable aftertaste.

M: The mouthfeel is dry, spritzy, and, again, vageuly wine-like.

O: I feel that it's better than my rating indicates, but it's not a particularly strong showing for a BSDA. Perhaps, as the label indicates, it will benefit from aging. As is, it's overspiced, overlight, and underwhelming.

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

750ml bottle into NB snifter.

A: Pours a very very dark mahogany brown that barely shows red when held up to the light. The light tan head is billowing and very active, and a full 3.5 fingers of foam filled my glass despite a careful pour. After waiting a long while the head finally receded into a thick fluffy film that held great retention and left rings and streaks of clinging lacing down the glass.
S: Huge notes of spruce and pine forest, sweet candied fruits, fruit skins and fruit zest, followed by scents of sarsaparilla, juniper, coriander and other greens and spices. I get a hint of grape as well.
T: Sweet but not cloying fruits are more noticeable than the nose. The grapes, along with dried raisins and caramel, provide a strong backbone. The forest from the nose isn’t as green or potent in flavor, but the spices (and spicy yeast) come through very nicely, especially in the finish. The finish also contains flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and lightly bitter earthy and herbal tasting hops. The aftertaste is sweet with candied sugar and maybe just a hint of chocolate and dark bread.
M: Medium-full body, creamy and ample carbonation with a fluffy and fairly thick mouthfeel. The nearly double-digit alcohol is just barely noticeable.
O: I enjoyed this a lot. For the price, it’s hard to beat. This tastes like a holiday themed winter warmer mixed with a traditional Belgian Dark. Definitely worth an impulse buy while grocery shopping.

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

Beer is dark brown, close to black. A large off-white head. Very active, bubbles a lot and begins to dissipate right away, at a fairly quick pace. Some lacing, not much.

Smell is full of dark fruit and the characteristic Unibroue Belgiian yeast. Cherry, plum, raisin, grape. Some hints of spice as well, and a malty backbone.

Very sweet, the fruit flavours are up front. Raisin, grape, plum, cherry. Spices are clearly present though I am not able to pick out particular ones- some ginger in the aftertaste, perhaps some nutmeg. Fairly bready. A little thin and not as complex as many of the style.

Thinner than expected, and highly carbonated. Too fizzy for me. Sweetness is a bit drying.

Overall, a decent BSDA but not great. Very clearly a Unibroue beer but not up to the calibre of most of their offerings.

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Photo of wedge
3.59/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slight gusher. Pours damn near black in color. Opaque with a tall, rocky beige head that quickly fades to a wispy covering, then nothing. Deep fruit, spice, and Belgian yeast in the aroma. Apple, banana, and a touch of licorice. Big, creamy, spicy flavor...a large smack of Unibroue yeast and some brighter spices like coriander and clove. Sweet raisin and fig with perhaps some ginger and citrus, though it's faint. Medium-plus body with some lively, but not over the top carbonation. Pretty good stuff and an interesting move with the spices...

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Photo of notchucknorris
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Nearly black with a 1 finger tan head. Nice lacing down the glass and good retention.

S: Lots of spiciness, that signature sweet Unibroue yeast, clove, banana, burnt brown sugar and some cola nut.

T: Lots of spiciness and clove, some faint dark fruit, cola nut, some prune and a pretty good touch of alcohol. Overall, pretty tasty and another good addition to the Vintage Ale lineup. Mouthfeel is lighter than last year's but taste is similar.

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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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