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
Very Good
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:
None provided.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 123 | Ratings: 320
Photo of jneiswender
2.06/5  rDev -45.8%
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.

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Photo of mithrascruor
3.28/5  rDev -13.7%
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.

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Photo of IKR
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Very dark Brown with a large beige head.

Smell: Spices and bready yeast notes.

Taste: The spices are upfront along with some faint roast notes. I also pick up some slight fruity notes. Finishes fairly dry with some alcohol in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with a fairly high level of carbonation.

Overall: Good beer for the price.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.17/5  rDev +9.7%
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 0%
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 Overlord
1.77/5  rDev -53.4%
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.

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Photo of HBeezley
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
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 mpyle
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very dark - pretty much opaque. Pours a nice creamy tan head with good head retention.

Subtle spicy aroma with hints of pepper and mint, also some chocolate.

Initial flavor is slightly sweet with the mint like flavor noted in the aroma. Seems slightly one-dimensional in flavor profile. Flavor gradually transitions to be somewhat drier, more bitter in the finish. Alcohol flavor is properly subdued.

Medium-full body, fairly high carbonation. Nice gentle alcohol warming in the finish, but not harsh at all.

A clean, strong ale, but maybe a bit boring. However, hard to fault this beer given the price at which TJ sells it at.

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Photo of mikeg67
3.76/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle. Pours brown with a long lasting, foamy, tanned head. Aroma is of barnyard yeast and sour dough. Medium, crisp body. Venous fruit, raisins, peppery hops, chocolate malt and brown sugar combine on the palate, some hints of alcohol. Long, peppery finish. Nice brew.

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Photo of whatthehull
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


A - Very dark brown completely opaque, two finger off white/tan head w/ nice retention and

S - Tons of sugar, yeast, malts toasted and not, earth, herbs, dry wood, raisins, fall/winter spices, minerals and more earth

T - Very nutty, tons of malt, sweet yeast, slight booze, toasted oak, caramel/toffee, lots of holiday spices, very herbaly/earthy, oily, lots of minerals, wet soil, dried out plums and or raisins,

M - Full bodied, well balanced, nice complexity, medium acidity and long finish

D - The novice and advanced beer drinkers alike should find comfort in this winter warmer/strong ale. Lovely nose and flavors, refreshing and delicious. Lots of malts and earth. Quite yummy ale

Final thought - $5 a pop and 9% abv! Another tasty vintage. Can't wait to do an aged vertical of these awesome ales

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Photo of impending
3.94/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml into a tulip. Pours an opaque ruddy dark brown, tall deep mocha colored head, minor lacing.

Aroma is clean and spicy, a strong phenolic clove. Definitely Noël.

Taste too is spicy to match the scent. The Unibroue yeast is on full display, blindfolded & unknowing, it would be obvious. Delicious.

An exceptional value.

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Photo of lawlerj
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
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 rand
3.57/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From bottle to tulip

Taken from notes

A: Dark red-brown in color, foamy effervescent head that sunsides surprisingly fast. Moderate patches of lacing.

S: Ripened fruit, booze-soaked raisin bread, earthy multigrain malt-sweetness. Alcohol is vibrant and prominent.

T: The flavors follow, cherries leading the ripe-fruit profile. Butter rum and raisin bread-laced malts balance, while plenty of funky tart tones accent the profile. Boozy but not biting, the brew easily quaffs with small sips.

M: Medium bodied, tending light. Ample carbonation yields an effervescent feel.

Fairly true to the style, more nuanced as the beer warmed. Not the best of the TJ's vintages, but delicious as usual.

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Photo of JohnnyChicago
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
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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Photo of MattyG85
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
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 FosterJM
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

957th Review on BA
Bottle to Hangar 24 2nd Anny Glass
750 ML C/C

Best by:7/06/16
Purchased from Chino Hills, Trader Joe's

App- A great brown color with garnet edges and a bit of crimson in the center of the pour. A giant 2-1/2 finger head a medium khaki color that was fast receding but didnt leave a much in cling or lace. Very bubbly and craterous.

Smell- A nice strong aromatic to the style. A bit yeasty with a bit of cocoa powder which tends to smell like a soda. A good bit of spice behind it and a bit peppery.

Taste- A good version of a favorite style. I am glad I didnt listen to the girl when she said 2 weeks to come in. Ha!! This was uniquely Unibroue and their in house yeast. Everything has a good Saison/Triple yeasty flavoring. A good balance between the grain bill with the malts and a slighter less peppery note with some cocoa powder and a little bit of bittering Noble hops.

Mouth- A little bit too over carbonated this year. It was a tad bit high carbonated and a bit prickly. Missing that smoothness to the style. The body was nice and medium and a bit thin.

Drink- I have only been heavily into craft since Mid 08 and early 09. However, when you dont shop @ TJs till 2010 when they build one by your house, you miss out on some great beer. Never again for this great great beer.

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Photo of Vixie
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours very dark, not quite black, I can see a bit of ruby red when held up to the light. Have to pour it slowly, it forms a large tan head very quickly.

Smell was as expected, a hint of malt, with hints of chocolate and coffee, as well as dried fruit like raisin.

Somewhat sweet with a decent amount of fruit flavors, raisins and maybe a bit of prune. I can also taste a hint of coffee and chocolate, with a bit of a spicy finish.

Very nice solid feel to this one.

Once again, a nice beer from Unibroue. Very drinkable, and the abv is well hidden. I wish I could get more of this, I'd like to taste it after a couple years, I think this will get even better over time. At $5 a bottle, an exceptional value.

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Photo of amphion1065
3.52/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle purchased by a friend for $5. Poured into a Duvel tulip.

Pours a very deep cocoa, bordering on black. A very thin, dark brown head forms but subsides quickly. Minimal lacing around my glass.

The aroma is just slightly off-putting. There's an overwhelming smell of Cola, a soda-like scent I just can't shake. Some cocoa and a melange of other spices are in the mix, but that Coke character is pretty overpowering.

I'm pretty surprised with how much I enjoy the taste. All of that Coca-Cola taste is there, but it's much more restrained. The spices really shine here. At first I thought that tamarind or saffron dominated, but my friend correctly pointed out that this beer has a very distinct nutmeg taste. A little chocolate rounds out the sweetness.

Mouthfeel is nice, if just a touch too lively. There's zero indication of the ABV, and I could have easily finished the bomber solo.

Price notwithstanding, this is very nicely done. Not exactly traditional, but a nice take nonetheless.

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Photo of notchucknorris
3.61/5  rDev -5%
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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Photo of pBRale
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: A very dark brown pour with a tan head that settles quickly and leaves a few isolated spots of lacing behind. The head retention is impressive and is maintained throughout the entire beer (about 50 minutes for me).

Smell: Dark fruits, banana bread, and brown sugar combine with a smoked oak aroma and a hint of alcohol to create a very nice woody, bready, and slightly fruity/sweet smelling beer.

Taste: There is a rich, oaky taste up front, along with a rich breadiness. There are also some subtle dark fruit tastes that combine in there as well to form a flavor that is reminiscent of spiced banana bread. The aftertaste is woody.

Mouthfeel: This was surprisingly light in body considering style and abv, and it had medium levels of carbonation that led to a crisp, wet finish.

Overall: A very solid beer and a bargain for the price ($4.99). I really like the combo of fruits and smokey wood in this beer. It is nice treat for Unibroue to brew this for Trader Joe's, and I look forward to the future vintages as well.

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

One of my favorite releases of the year, I called my local Trader Joe's this week to see if they had it in yet. They said they did and I drove out of my way to pick up a bottle to sip on a Friday night. Although I didn't like it as much as the '09 vintage (my favorite of the series), it was better than last year's and good enough that I will probably buy more either for a holiday party this year or for cellaring purposes.

As I poured it into a wine glass, my wife commented that it looked like root beer. You know what? She is right. It has a nice dark look with a tan head.

The smell reminded me of root beer, various holiday spices, candy and maybe slightly of a good imperial stout.

The mouthfeel was disappointing. Almost a little thin.

The taste give me hints of ginger, citrus, coriander, dark fruit and candy. It is for sure a complex beer.

I looked at my list of all the beers I have reviewed. I tried to decide where I would rank this compared to everything else I have drank and I think I pegged it about right.

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Photo of Eriktheipaman
4.64/5  rDev +22.1%
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 hreb
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
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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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.8 out of 5 with 320 ratings