Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99! (Limited time offer, US delivery only)

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

Your Rating: None

Want it   Got it 
Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale
Very Good
320 Ratings
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.

Bros Score:
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 320 |  Reviews: 123
Photo of hwwty4
2.61/5  rDev -31.3%
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 Scout11
3/5  rDev -21.1%

Photo of augustgarage
3.65/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a caged-and-corked 750mL bottle into my Unibroue tulip.

Nearly opaque body is a mix of bistre, bole, and cordovan capped by a fist of wheat colored foam. Creamy, sticky merengue-like lacing. Superior retention.

Yeast and alcohol feature prominently in the aroma suggesting sourdough starter, grapes, and a wave of peppery phenols as well. Wintery and straight-forward.

Mead-like palate entry with hints of tart apple and pear. Pleasing yeast notes tie the flavor profile together. Finishes with a touch of spice and stewed fruit. Fairly sweet but never cloying.

Effervescent, soft, and medium-bodied. Just a touch hot maybe...

This remains a wonderful value - lacks some complexity for an ale you might consider cellaring - but it's worth picking up a few bottles for the price alone.

 803 characters

Photo of ankdoktor
5/5  rDev +31.6%

Photo of mmbernie51
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of Chopman50
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%

Photo of OldIronLungs
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured into a stemmed tulip a straight cola color with a finger of light tan head that falls to a film and sticks and laces thickly.

The nose is boozy phenols, light berries, plenty of Belgian yeast spice with notes of cinnamon and clove.

Prickly full carbonation (over-carbonated, perhaps) and a thin body uncovers some grainy, lightly spicy malt and some berry tones. Alcohol present but not overwhelming by any means - still a touch numbing on the palate. More of a dry finish. Not terribly complex, but a very reasonable Belgian strong dark.

It's still a Unibroue-contracted beer. It's $4.99 for a 750mL. It warms up well, though I can't say it's really worth cellaring. Wait it's $4.99 a bottle. Cellar away. 2009 was the first year I had it and it hasn't been replicated since.

 786 characters

Photo of cosmicevan
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
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).

 1,286 characters

Photo of Jdub983
3/5  rDev -21.1%

Photo of jeffjeff1
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My mom picked this up for me a week or two ago.

Appearance- dark brown color, thick foamy head

Smell- fruit, spices, very nice

Taste- definitely spices, some fruit as well

Mouthfeel- medium bodied, well carbonated

Drinkability- I thought it was pretty good. I would probably have it again.

 294 characters

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

A: Looks like root beer -- dark brown, with a massive brownish-white head that appears without trying, lingers long, and leaves a wisp of lace on the glass.

S: Sweet, fruity, citrus. Subsequent whiff reveals allspice and other spicy aromas, which dominate even more on the third stiff.

T: Sweet, with a mild tangerine-like tartness. More sweet malt, with Christmas spices as it washes back on the tongue. There's a hint of hoppy bitterness in the finish that adds a little balance, but I'm still getting a lot of sweet an some spice. Did I mention the sweetness? Someone at the brewery was pretty liberal with the sugar added to this brew!

M: Nice carbonation. Watery feel (not taste!), with a hint of alcohol burn (it is (% ABV, after all).

O: If it weren't for the distracting, overpowering sweetness, this would have been a fine dark ale, indeed. It's certainly drinkable, but I won't be rushing out for more.

 916 characters

Photo of dcbike
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of 2dogbrew
3/5  rDev -21.1%

Photo of beerme411
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of fehrminator
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of railman
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Found this at Trader Joes for 4.99. Knowing that it was brewed by Unibroue made it all the worthwhile.

Pours a very dark almost black hue with minimal carbonation and head.

At first whiff it reminds me of Coca Cola with raisins.

Tastes like it smells, Coca Cola with raisins maybe some spice mixed in.

Medium body in the mouth, not much else going on.

Overall it was worth the price although I was a little disappointed
with the flavor. Not sure if I would purchase again in the future.


 501 characters

Photo of southhousebrew
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of beck2008
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
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.

 688 characters

Photo of grittybrews
3.68/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark cola brown with three fingers of loose khaki head. Yeast-dominated aroma with dark fruit, apple, clove and other indistinct spices, and raisiny sweetness.

Moderate carbonation and a light, dry mouthfeel. Bready toffee and yeast up front mingling with dark fruit and banana before the spice character reasserts itself on the finish. Hardly a trace of alcohol to be detected.

Not too sweet, but the spices come across a little muddled. Drinks easy enough but lacks the "wow" factor (although the price was right).

 527 characters

Photo of Listers
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of bennetj17
3.61/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer, like most Unibroue selections, has an inviting appearance. The beer is dark brown, topped with a thick, bubbly head of off-white foam. Smells like every other vintage I've had: touches of dark fruit with dominant spice.

The taste has a good balance between the robust malts and the spices. It has a cocoa/raisin character with touches of roast and a decently bitter finish. The pairing of coriander-like spices gives it a unique flavor profile, and overall the beer is quite mellow in terms of alcohol flavor. The mouthfeel is slighty thin, but the bubbly carbonation tends to make up for that.

This 2011 vintage doesn't deviate much from years past. It seems like the issue with excess carbonation is fixed, but the beer isn't any more drinkable overall really. A good buy for the price, but not something I want to drink all the time. I wish they would change the recipe more significantly from year to year, but I supppose this is their niche.

 961 characters

Photo of mactrail
3.67/5  rDev -3.4%
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.

 563 characters

Photo of Wreckoncile
3.77/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750ml into a snifter.

A - Initial pour was cola-like, pouring with a two and a half finger foam of larger bubbled head. Very dark brown, nearly opaque. Initial pour was heavily carbonated to the point where it really looked like soda, but I let the bottle warm as it was overcooled and just poured the second pour which was much less carbonated.

S - Solid overall scent. Spices dominate, with notes of clover and nutmeg and what seems like an underlying but faint cumin. Some dark fruit lingers on the nose, with a touch of fig and raisin.

T - Spice dominates at the front, but subsides quickly to let in more of the fruitiness than the nose revealed. Clover is the most evident taste on the front end, while it subsides and lets mostly a raisin flavor to linger, albeit a little more subdued. Some booziness, but not overpowering or offputting at all. The yeast finishes the sip and gives it a pleasing aftertaste with a breadiness that fits well with the darker fruit notes towards the end.

M - A bit overly carbonated on the inital pour, but after letting it sit out and warm, the second pour was much less. Although, still the mouthfeel is a bit overcarbonated for the style and leaves a trace of tingle on the tongue that shouldn't be as pronounced.

O - Not exactly overwhelmingly good, but a solid offering for a great value. Unibroue is the brewer for this one, so you can expect a certain level of quality in the Belgian styles, but its definitely not quite the level of quality that you'll find with their branded offerings. All in all, you could do much worse for a BSDA and you can do much worse at the price point. If you can get over the overcarbonated mouthfeel, the taste and the scent are among the best you'll find in the style at this price point.

 1,788 characters

Photo of ADTaber
4/5  rDev +5.3%

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.

 361 characters

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.8 out of 5 with 320 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

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