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Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale | Trader Joe's Brewing Company

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Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage AleTrader Joe's 2012 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 BeerDocT on 11-02-2012

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 88 | Ratings: 325
Photo of TheSSG
3.65/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a large, not too dense head. Nose is dominated by spices; clove and mulling spices abound. Deep burnt umber color. Starts a touch sweet, but then the spices come through, dominating everything. A touch of toasted malt is behind it all, but it's a ton of clove, maybe a touch of minty cardamon (?).

This is very nice; like mulled schwarzbier.

This will NOT be for everyone, but if you like mulled wine/cider, this is highly recommended.

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

This poured a very dark brown, almost black color. The first smells that hit me where plum and spice. Its very smooth and has lots of darker fruit flavors like plum. Hints of clove and spices. The Finnish a little spicy.

I consider the value of this beer to be great.

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Photo of Proteus93
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

So we just had a Trader Joe's open up in Charlottesville and curiosity drew me in. I was completely unaware that they had these annual brews done, and much less that they were done by Unibroue... for $4.99, at that!

A: Ruddy reddish-brown, topped with a liberal pillow of head--white around the edges, but more of a khaki in the richer foam.

S + T: Quite sweet and spicy on the nose... like a dessert, really. Sugary notes and plenty of dark fruits... lots of plum and raisin, along with a banana-like yeasty ester. The flavor is much the same. Lots of spices going on here... some cinnamon and clove, maybe ginger? It's got such a strong sugary side to it that none of them really come out as subtle spices.

M + D: The body is like that of most of Unibroue's offerings (sitll trying to figure out what exactly 'Trader Joe's Brewing Company' is--this is plastered with Unibroue all over the place. Medium to richer in body, with a nice sparkling carbonation that gives it a 'shimmering' quality. I find this beer to be a little more intense in the sweetness, but not too bad all around. Certainly not my favourite from the brewery, but at the price, it's a pretty good bargain.

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

750ml bottle poured into a goblet
A: Pitch black with a one-finger head that slowly settles
S: Figs, brown sugar, spices, a hint of orange peel
T: Baking spice up front, clove in particular, with figs and citrus. A bit sweet and the finish is a bit off in a way I can't quite place; overall this is perfectly pleasant though.
M: Medium-bodied with a pleasant carbonation
O: Solid overall, though for my palate it would be even better if it were a bit drier

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Photo of Kendo
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: Poured from the 750 ml, caged-and-corked bottle into a Piraat tulip/snifter-type glass. Body is black with a fluffy 1-finger cream/light beige head. The occasional dash of lace shows up on the sides of the glass.

S: Vinuous, with generic spice, burnt sugar and something that seems slightly "off."

T: Sweet - think candied fruits (cherries) and berries. Some spice - nutmeg, perhaps allspice. Finishes mildly sweet, but not at all cloying; there's a bit of drying at the finish (perhaps from the 9% ABV) that keeps it relatively clean on the aftertaste.

M: Good Belgian-style fizzy effervescence makes this one feel (and drink) lighter than it really is.

O: Decent stuff, certainly solid for the price.

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A few years ago, I was really fond of this yearly release from Trader Joes. As I have gotten more into beer, this one has started to slip for me a bit as I have just simply found other brews I like better. I am always still excited though to buy a few bottles each year to add to my vertical collection. At Thanksgiving, my brother in law and I did a 3 year vertical (2010-2011-2012) and I was disappointed to find that all 3 years tasted basically the same. I suppose you could say that this beer holds up well but I was hoping there would be some differences that the aging had brought out.

The 2012 then was much like the other years; a fair amount of holiday spice (ginger, clove, cinnamon) with a slight cola or maybe root beer taste. The beer is also fairly carbonated. But maybe a few years ago I would have been "wowed" by this beer but now I am not.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Type: 750 ML glass
Glass: Oversized Sea Smoke wine glass
From: Trader Joe’s in Hillcrest (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $4.99
Purchased: June 19, 2013
Consumed: June 22, 2013
Misc.: Best before July 6, 2015

Poured an almost pitch black color with 1-2 fingers of khaki tan lacing. Below average lacing with some occasional wet spots on the sides of the glass. Average-to-below average retention on the top.

Smelled dark malts and Belgian spices. Specifically got roasty nuts, toffee, cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, pepper and cloves.

Tasted like toned down version of the smell. Got those Belgian spices. Also winter warmer notes like cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. The 9 percent alcohol is well-hidden.

Medium body, Oily texture. Soft carbonation. Long, smooth finish.

This beer grew on me as it went down. Not as good as the Providential Belgian Style Golden Ale I tried last night, but definitely worthy.

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Photo of damndirtyape
3.79/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

750mL bottle - served in a Duvel tulip glass.

Appearance: Very dark brown - let little to no light through. Light tan thick rocky head upon pouring, lots of persistent lacing. Lots of carbonation coming up through the glass upon the initial pour, dying back over time.

Smell: Yeasty mostly, and as it warms up then the Nutmeg really comes out. Never could smell much else besides the nutmeg.

Taste: Belgian yeast fruity esters up front. Some roasted malt bitterness in the middle. Strong nutmeg finish. When the beer was fully room temperature I could pick out some of the noble hop tastes, but not a lot under the nutmeg.

Mouthfeel: Nice thickness, spicy carbonation on the tongue. A little bit sticky on the teeth.

Overall / Drinkability: Just as there are single hop beers, I almost think of this as a single spice belgian dark winter ale. Nutmeg dominates this beer, but not in a bad way. This beer went very well with salmon au poivre, and I think it would be great with a steak. That being said, I think I would have a hard time finishing this bottle by myself. I shared it with the Mrs. and by the end of the glass I was glad I tried it, but I did not want another. Also a beer that sneaks up on you by the end of the glass - I was definitely noting the 9% by the time I finished my glass.

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Photo of LXIXME
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big light brown head settles into a nice lacing above a really dark brown to black colored beer.

Black licorice and dark wine with spices and dark roasted malts aroma.

The black licorice and wine aspects seems to outweigh the roasted malts, spices, and darker fruits in the taste of this 2012 Vintage Ale.

A lighter dry aftertaste that brings with it some of the darker tastes this full bodied beer had to offer.

Quite different tasting, a nice change of pace but I don't think I want to drink this as my regular beer.

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Photo of JimTeal
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

There really is a fig hint. Obvious clove and sweet malt, slight citrus, but overall a very good brew with a high casual drinkability factor. Very enjoyable lighter flavor, and certainly a good value. Not a special brew, but certainly a fair and adequate beverage. It does have a nice appearance, but an average smell, taste and mouthfeel, remember, when compared to fine Belgian dark ales. Compared with mass produced dark lager and dark ale this sizes up very well and more than holds it's own. I feel that one of the plus values of BA is that we always look for comparisons to excellent and compared to excellent, Trader Joe's Dark ale is very good.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Best before 7/6/15.

Pours an almost opaque super dark brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to a thick cap on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, spices, and Belgian yeast. Taste is much the same with slightly smokey flavor as well. There is a mild spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer but it tastes better than it smells in my opinion.

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Brown head, ruby highlights and a finger or two of bubbly foam. Leaves a thin coating foam behind.

S - Cardamom and clove with dark fruity and belgian yeast and candi sugar.

T - Cardamom, clove and maybe even a touch of allspice. Dark fruits, licorice and anise.

M - medium body with prickly carbonation.

D - Aroma is a little better than flavor but a nice holiday beer.

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Photo of Coltalenaven
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from bomber purchased at Trader Joes.
Dark pour with huge head that settles down eventually to a nice lace around the glass.
Aroma is malt, fruit, brown sugar. Taste is subtle malt, sugar and fruits and a smooth taste I cant place. Best desctiption I can come up with is Licorice.
Nice medium body and solid mouthfeel. High carbonation throughout, but it works and makes this beer an easy drink for the 9% abv.
For a Trader Joes beer this is great, obviously due to being from Unibroue. Great brewery.

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Photo of socon67
3.84/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Brown pour with a purple hue & a thin foam that shrinks. Very little to no lacing. Some small bubbles of carbonation.

S - Very strong smell of nutmeg, and dried fruit. The spicy aroma is nice but unfortnately it is very dominant and drowns out the other more subtle flavors. Some of the telltale Unibroue yeast strain is noted inthe smell.

T - Dry sherry, dried cranberries, figs, and finishes with a spicy nutmeg kick. This seemed to age well and would have been better with a full year.

M - Sipping beer more for the complexity than the body or ABV. Take some time and enjoy the flavors. Perfect for after theat holiday meal.

O - Unibroue contracted this for Trade Joe's and it is certianly a good bottle share with family and friends. If you do get a bottle of this I'd recommned at least a year of cellar time.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.84/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From: Trader Joe's, Glen Ellyn, IL
Date: 2012 bottle, best by 2015-07-06
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Unibroue has a solid Belgian Dark Strong Ale with their Trader Joe's 2012 annual offering. The flavors and aromas are of appreciable complexity, with grape-like esters, modest caramel and roasted malt, and allspice-like phenols being the most prominent. This is an annual special good enough to pick up each year it's offered, particulary for the $5 cost.

Pours a 1cm tall head of tan foam, made up of small-sized bubbles, giving a dense, fluffy appearance. Retention is below average for the style, the foam lasting less than thirty seconds, quickly fading to a thin ring around the glass and a small island of foam in the center, atop the body. Lacing is present, but not particularly interesting, a few medium-sized shapes cling to the inner walls of the glass. Body is a dark brown to black color, with light bringing out amber-brown highlights. Carbonation is visible, appearing vigrous and fairly active.

Aroma of grape esters, allspice, and sweetness (Special B malt, Belgian amber candi sugar, light caramel), mild ethanol becomes noticeable as this warms.

The overall flavor profile for the beer is of grape-like esters, modest caramel and roasted malt, and appreciable allspice-like phenols. Front of palate features grape-like ester flavors from the Belgian yeast, closely followed in perceptibility by malt sweetness (Special B, Belgian amber candi sugar). Mid-palate brings the malt further forward, with a caramel-sweet, lightly bready, character from Special B and other caramelized malts, along with allspice-like phenols from the yeast. The grape-like ester remains in mid-palate, but becomes subdued beneath the malt character. Back of palate finds renewed grape-like esters, caramel-like sweetness, hints of roasted malt, allspice-like phenols, ethanol. There is also a modest spiciness, whether from ethanol or hops is unclear. Aftertaste is of caramel sweetness from malts, grape-like esters, prune-like esters, slight breadiness, and lingering ethanol spiciness and warmth.

Beer is medium to medium-heavy in body, with fairly high, aggressive carbonation. This leads to, at first, a fizzy, prickly mouthfeel that isn't particularly pleasant. With time on the palate or in the glass, the foam lessens significantly, though, eventually leading to a soft, rather foamy touch. Ethanol is felt a bit in the nostrils, particularly as this warms. Closes dry, with significant stickiness lingering on the palate.

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Photo of Marq18
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours dark mahogany. A big pillowy head that falls quickly into thin bubbles.
S- Smells spicy with dark fruit and a bit alcoholic.
T-Has a base flavor of caramel malts with strong winter spices... coriander, nutmeg. Finishes a touch sweet.
M-Highly carbonated feel with medium body.
O- A great belgian ale for the price.

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Photo of Dave1999
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This pours pure black with a tiny tan head which quickly disappears.

The smell is really strong, raisins,prunes and smoked sausages. The more I smell it the more it smells like sausages...

The taste is dark malts, banana and cloves.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied and has quite a lot of carbonation.

Overall a generic Belgian dark ale, by no means great but for $5 for a 750ml a bargain. Hides its 9%abv very well. I bought a couple of these to cellar, at this price point I can experiment. I also think there is too much carbonation in this beer.

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

750 ml bottle into signature tulip glass, best before 7/6/2015. Pours clear nearly opaque reddish brown color with a 1-2 finger fairly dense light khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Spotty foamy lacing clings on the glass, with a lot of streaming carbonation retaining the head. Aromas of raisin, pear, apple, grape, clove, peppercorn, cardamom, coriander, orange peel, caramel, molasses, herbal, brown bread, toast, and yeast earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of malt, spice, and yeast ester notes; with solid strength. Taste of raisin, pear, apple, grape, caramel, clove, coriander, orange peel, peppercorn, cardamom, molasses, toast, brown bread, herbal, and yeast earthiness. Lingering notes of light fruits, caramel, toast, clove, peppercorn, cardamom, coriander, orange peel, herbal, brown bread, and yeast earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice balance and complexity of malt, spice, and yeast ester flavors; with good flavor robustness and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a fairly slick, smooth, and lightly syrupy mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming present after the finish. Overall this is a very nice spiced Belgian dark ale. All around good balance and complexity of malt, spice, and yeast ester flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a chalice glass

Appearance – The beer pours a deep brown chestnut color with a big billowy cream colored head. The big billowy head has a good level of retention, slowly fading to leave a fantastic level of foamy lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell- The aroma was slightly roasted and rather fruity. A good dose of a slightly grainy but roasted and toasted malt smell along with darker fruits of cherry and raisin are there. Along with these aromas are some smells of yeast and a little bit of a spicy smells and some hot rum like aromas are there, producing a nice Belgian strong dark aroma.

Taste – The taste begins with a slightly roasted and malty flavor with the darker fruit cherry that was detected in the nose. Some yeasty and spice flavors of a clove and nutmeg later come to the tongue as well as some other flavors of more raisin and fig. As the flavor advances further to the end, the malty flavors dwindle further as the darker fruit and spice seem to increase, combining with a little bit of a boozy rum flavor, which all in all end up leaving a rather nice Belgian dark smell to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the average side for a Belgian strong dark of 9 % adv. with a carbonation level that is on the slightly higher side. The combo of body and carbonation are nice for styles of the brew as well as in keeping the brew very drinkable but not too drinkable in light of the abv. and the boozy flavors.

Overall – A rather nice drinking Belgian strong dark ale with some nice fruity flavors as well as a good level of roast and booze.

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Photo of Kromes
3.89/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black with ruby edges and a thin tan colored head.

A big orange peel , coriander, and clove aroma with a touch of alcohol.

Initial flavor is clove, anise and coriander. The flavors remain strong as a bit of the roasted malt bitterness kicks in. There is a lingering anise/clove flavor in the finish along with a dark cherry fruit flavor.

high level of peppery carbonation gives the beer a great texture and compliments the flavors.

Pretty good Dark Ale. Very tasty and bit strong right now with the spices right up front. I imagine it will get better with age.

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Photo of BrownNut
3.92/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Aged this a year. It was very nice. It was raisiny and something fresher in the fruit department like plums. The spices were subtle and the characteristic Belgian yeast taste was somewhat muted, which is good if you're me. It tasted refined, as in fine, as in fancy and mature and good. It was very accessible at the same time. I can't remember if I ever had this vintage fresh but aged one year was nice.

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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 a dull walnut, fully opaque, towering dense tan head doesn't linger, minor lacing.

Aroma is of heavy spicing . . . .

here I stop to acknowledge my 2011 review fits this precisely so I proceed to cut & paste . . . .

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 mdaschaf
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a dark brown color with a small off-white head that slowly reduces to a thin cap of bubbles on top. Minimal lacing.

S: A really nice mixture of dark fruit, brown sugar, and spices. Some raisins and orange mixed with pepper and a bit of cocoa.

T: Dark fruit flavors up front, some raisin and fig mixed with some Belgian spice. The spices have a rather winter warmer/christmas ale flavor to them. Sugar sweet at times as well.

M: Medium bodied, maybe a touch thin, with high carbonation with a slightly bubbly mouthfeel.

O: Surprisingly good. At $5 a bottle a steal. Not sure I would grab more than one a year, but definitely going to grab next years.

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Photo of tjsdomer2
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Fluffy white head and lacing. Dark brown with decent carbonation. Red tint in the light.

Smell: Plums and red wine. Holliday spices also. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Smells better as it warms.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Licorice dominates the flavor. Yeasty backbone in the finish. Feels thin in the finish, but there is a nice alcoholic aftershock in the sensation.

Overall Drinkability: I enjoyed this. I think I will save another bottle and open next year.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a Lagunitas mason jar.

Yeah, a mason jar for such a Belgian-style brew. Deal with that shit. Anyway, this stuff pours a deep ruby-sienna topped by over a finger of sandy tan foam. The nose comprises slightly tart red grapes, cinnamon, clove, banana, fig, and a touch of that general Belgian-y yeast character. The taste brings in more of the same, with a heavier focus on the spices (particularly clove). The body is a light-leaning medium, with a moderate carbonation and a sorta/kinda drying finish. Overall, a pretty tasty BSDA. It's a tad too bubbly for my tastes, but beyond that it's good times.

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Trader Joe's 2012 Vintage Ale from Trader Joe's Brewing Company
3.8 out of 5 based on 325 ratings.
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