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
Reviews: 123 | Ratings: 320
Photo of BilbosNuts
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750mL bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Pours a dark brown that is almost black. A two finger, rocky, tan colored head sits on top. Light bubble streams can be seen rising vigorously to the top.

S: The aroma consists of a generous amount of cloves and typical sweet belgian phenols. A touch of dark fruits, particularly plums, add to the aroma. There is a slight hint of alcohol towards the end.

T: The taste is a bit different than the aroma. I pick up on more belgian sugar flavor and more of the dark fruits. The cloves take a back seat to the other characteristics in the taste. Belgian yeast and a spicy phenol taste round out the flavors.

M: Nothing spectacular when it comes to the feel. It is medium bodied with an adequate amount of carbonation. The alcohol is very well hidden.

O: This is a solid, well put together dark ale. It has basically all the characteristics you'd want- strong dark fruits and malts, some spicy phenols, and it hides the alcohol deceivingly well.

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Photo of VaterRoss
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle into pokal glass, BB 7-6-2016

Appearance is a very dark brown with an active tan head. Bubbles are visible through the hazy brew. Head is extremely persistent, stuck around for the entirety of the 30min+ session. Very pretty beer and I was quite impressed by the tenacious head. Smell is spicy and yeasty, oh so spicy, with hints of fruit (prunes). Taste is very boozy, spicy with some yeast, again the dark fruits. Mouthfeel is medium weight and dry, high carb.

The booziness kills this for me, I had a 2010 that was aged a year and can say that this beer truly benefits from aging. Not a bad beer unaged, but it is definitely worth the time.

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

Massive, well retaining offwhite head and a dark brown body.

Nose full of Unibroue yeast, slightly funky for being a current vintage.

Judging by the description on the bottle (which is the same as the 2010) and the taste, it is in fact the same beer. My guess is that it's Trois Pistoles (or something very similar). Raisin, ample coriander, a bit of currant and plum round out the fruit profile-- still plenty of yeast. Overall faintly tart. The coriander may be slightly too much, but I'm splitting hairs; Unibroue doesn't make bad beer.

Full and rich, bottle conditioned and pretty bright.

I was hoping for something different from last years, but now at least I have enough to keep for a while. Maybe I'll do a vertical in 2012.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4/5  rDev +5.3%
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 jbakajust1
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 750ml into 12oz Rodenbach Tulip

A - Pours an opaque black w/ ruby highlights and 2 fingers of beige head that fades to a thick cap, lost of carb, and leaves great lace

S - Smells of chocolate, dried fruits, cloves & cinnamon, cocoa, cherries, oranges, vanilla

T - Tastes of spices, pepper, cloves, fruity, ginger, dried fruits, spice heat on finish

M - Spicy heat & alcohol burn in dry finish, medium/light body, prickly acidic carbonation

O - Very complex, lots of fruits, tons of spices, drinkable, rich, warming, light and spritzy

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Photo of 00trayn
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours with a thick head that faded to a ring around the edge of the glass. Decent lacing. Color is a thick dark brown.

S - Had a malty scent with hints of spices and a sweeter, fruity undertone.

T - Starts out quite sweet with fruity, spicy flavors. Has a nice roasted flavor to it as well. It finishes with a somewhat bitter spice.

M - Good carbonation, smooth and creamy.

O - Pretty tasty, I enjoy the fruity flavors. It's definitely makes me think of the holidays. I'm regretting that I only bought one bottle. I'd be interested in trying this aged.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased from Trader Joe's in Omaha, NE.
Obviously bottled in later 2011.
Poured into a tulip glass.

Summary: The Trader Joe's Vintage 2011 is a fairly light-tasting, fruity, dark Belgian ale. It is good, though not overly complex, and quite drinkable.

Pours a thick slush brown-gray foam, 2cm in height. Excellent retention. Leaves good streaks and lacing as foam descends and with each sip. Body impenetrably black or dark brown, light gives faint highlights of dark amber. Plentiful carbonation at bottom of tulip glass.

Wine-like aroma with a hint of blended sugar sweetness. Not tart or sour. Fruit esters, particularly of grapes and plums, slight caramel if inhaled deeply. No traces of ethanol.

Taste is very vinous, typical Belgian yeast notes, sweetness as if from plum or grape juice. Slight prune juice flavor. Sharp, somewhat acidic on the back of the tongue. Alcohol noticeable on sides of mouth and nostrils. Generally pleasant, nothing amazing.

Medium to medium-light bodied. Carbonation is there, though "soft," not painful or "big," beer foams up to be rather smooth. Soft finish, fairly dry.

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Photo of TheSarge
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Nice to see Unibroue doing the brewing for this one. Should be a solid beer.

Two finger thick bubbly head of light tan color. Dissipates quickly. The body is black, but shows off brown hues when held up to the light.

The aroma and taste is sassafras, sugary cola, and maybe some vanilla.

Feels chewy, wetting to the palate, but still warming in the end.

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Photo of rodney45
4.08/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Very dark red, with a tan head that dissipates quickly. On point for a high abv belgian strong ale.

S: Munich and pilsner malts, over ripe banana, and plum. Some spice notes, perhaps corriander, nutmeg and cinnamon.

T: First tasting notes are of plum, corriander, cherry, raisins, and overripe banana. Secondary profile is of munich, crystal and pilsner malt. Very belgian style flavor, and much of the phenols are given off by the unibraeu belgian yeast that ive noticed before in some of their other beers, specifically maudite. Dry and sweet aftertaste.

M: Light to medium mouthfeel, with low carbonation. More sweet than bitter.

O: I really liked this beer. It was brewed on leese for trader joes, by unibroue. Its a solid example of a belgian strong, you could even consider this in the quad category in my opinion. I would definitively purchase this beer again. Im glad i have a few to try in a year down the line.

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.53/5  rDev -7.1%
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 beerbellydaddy
2.29/5  rDev -39.7%
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.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
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 SgunnarW
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml corked bottle into a snifter.

A: Pours a deep, chocolate brown with a 2.5 finger khaki head that settles quickly. Lacing is minimal.

Sm: Sweet with dark, roasted malts. Brown sugar comes through first, followed by blackberries and possibly figs.

T: Very sweet up front. Tastes of plums and figs with hints of sarsaparilla and molasses. Spices are definitely noticeable, mostly cinnamon and clove and are almost overpowering. Develops into a burnt sugar taste after warming...almost medicinal. The alcohol is very warming.

Mf: Dry and thin with a lot of carbonation.

O: For the price, this is a solid brew from Unibroue. The spices are overwhelming, but it has a great taste. Like others who have reviewed this beer, I'm looking forward to cellaring a few bottles.

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Photo of ElGordo
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
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 elNopalero
4.45/5  rDev +17.1%
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 ikantspel
3.2/5  rDev -15.8%
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

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.94/5  rDev +3.7%
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 Sharkophile
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Trader Joes can't go wrong with having Unibroue brew their winter seasonal. Had this on several occasions this winter. Cheers!

A: Poured into a pilsner glass. Pours almost pitch black, with a tan head that sticks.

S: Smells very spicy, with a malty sweetness and alcohol there as well.

T: Brown sugar and slight fruitiness with a lot of spices, maybe ginger and coriander? Alcohol is well hidden and comes in for the dry finish.

M: Medium body with a lot of prickly carbonation.

O: Hardly any complaints. Tasty, cheap and great with food.

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Photo of Zorro
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
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 4000qtrap
3.03/5  rDev -20.3%
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.

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Photo of homebrewhawk
3.23/5  rDev -15%
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.

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Photo of rtaps
2.92/5  rDev -23.2%
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

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Photo of rfbenavi80
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Cork came out with a nice loud pop.
Poured into a Boulevard Smokestack Tulip glass.

A- very dark brown, almost like motor oil color, 1 inch of light head that slowly dissipates leaving no lacing on the glass. Very little light comes through the beer.

S- roasted malts, dark syrups, molasses, and yeast.

T- holiday spices, dark molasses cookies, malty.

M- thin, highly carbonated, nice warming feeling.

O- very drinkable beer. Nice to enjoy beside a fire on a cold winter night. Good beer at a good price. Wonder how it will age.

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Photo of Reaper16
3.43/5  rDev -9.7%
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.

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Photo of Drinkerofales
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
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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Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.8 out of 5 with 320 ratings