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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 stevoj
2.59/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.5

Bottle share courtesy of Toby. This one didn't seem to hold up too well in aging. Dark pour with small airy head, seemed kind of flat and dull. Aroma and taste were in the right zone for the style, but it seemed it had started to go down hill, dusty, dirty, funky elements. Too bad...

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Photo of SaltofOH
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

BB 7-6-2015; oops! DFH Tulip.

Appearance: Well, I really screwed this up trying to decant it, and ended up spilling about 2/3 of the bottle, and creating a massive Belgian foam mess all over my kitchen. Needles to say, what ended up in the glass did not have much head, though I imagine based on what was in the decanting bottle, that there would have been about 3 fingers of frothy tan head had I not screwed this up. Pours an opaque dark brown with some translucency at the edges. Surprisingly, no lacing, and virtually no retention. Even what was left in the decanting bottle after the spill didn't retain much head.

Aroma: It was chilled for the decanting process, but has warmed up significantly. Initially, very earthy, malty tones, with some light fruit and spice. As it warms, the traditional Belgian phenolics come through more prominently: grape, plum, and banana. There is a restrained, spicy complexity underlying it: sandalwood, cinnamon, nutmeg. I would not say clove, though there is a sweetness that pervades the aroma. Surprisingly earthy/woodsy.

Taste: Slight malty sweetness on the arrival, but much less so than I remember the 2011 or 2010 being. As it crosses mid-palate, it transitions into a fruit explosion. Red grape, raisins, plums, really fruit salad-y. Kind of syrupy in sweetness, but not in texture. As it transitions toward the end, really turns earthy and woodsy. That fruit-to-earth transition is perhaps my favorite part of this beer. A dried fruit sweetness and tartness lingers after the swallow.

Mouthfeel: Incredibly soft and smooth across mid-palate. Just this side of syrupy. Very low carbonation (my fault, I assume). Seems lighter and more drinkable than my prior experiences with Belgian strong dark ales.

Overall: I really screwed up the appearance and mouthfeel by spilling it not once - but twice - in trying to decant it into a smaller bottle. Lessons learned. But in terms of taste, I can say that this one seems way less sweet than the 2010 or the 2011, and I like that a lot. It also has an earthy note, and I can't tell whether that comes from the fact that it is past-date, or because it is by design. Either way, it is a very satisfying BSDA, as compared to the 3-4 others I have had. I didn't get this in 2014 or 2015, but maybe the even-number year, gold bottles are the ones to get.

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Photo of Lingenbrau
4.08/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Had this aged 3 years, and side-by-side with '13, '14, and '15. That being said, it was a toss up for the best along with '14. Plenty of raisin and spice, and everything nice for welcoming the winter. Cheers!

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Photo of smbslt
3.07/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Dark brown with cola colored highlights. Ashen head fairly tall with some lacing. Dried fruits dominate the nose and taste but very subtle. Watery feel was not enjoyable.

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Photo of hreb
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Apparently, I didn't review this fresh, so I'm going to review my personally cellared 2012 edition 2+ years after the fact. Aside from the champagne-style cork disintegrating in my hand as I try to open the 750mL heavy brown glass bottle, it seems no worse for the age. Beer pours rich dark brown in color, supporting an ample head. Gentle aroma of raisins and dark fruit. Flavor is similarly rich and demands to be warmed up, in order to bring out classic Belgian Brown ale flavors. Raisins and prunes are complemented by licorice and spice. Very mellow and drinkable. I don't recall if it was this mellow when this winter seasonal was first released, but it sure is now.

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Photo of Edzomb5
5/5  rDev +31.6%

Just popped one open after storing since 12/2012 in my closet today is 11/7/14 . Which hit various temperature changes from 60-80 degrees. I know that's not recommended but wow surprised to see it held up. I did the same for a 2013 as a test I opened early and they weren't ready to drink a bit bitter but still good. This year I'll buy a 2 cases of 2014 and enjoy throughout 2016 year. Keep in mind there are far better beers out there but! For the price I can afford to house these for a while till my 2013 are ready. Color pours dark brown. Malty,Taste of cinnamon, wood, raisin, smells sweet and strong. I'm no beer professional but in training. If you want to blind test a friend for a taste test at a party or open up any year as a conversation piece just pick up one of these. I've paid 20 dollars for other pieces and nothing beats this price and quality. (Good job trader joes! Where I can eat healthy and buy decently priced beers and wines while shopping) if your not picky, 2 and a half of these will put u to sleep like a baby. Try it! Oh! And a great inexpensive gift for crafty beginners.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.34/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle into snifter. Best before date 7/6/15.

A; Pours a deep cola brown color with a couple fingers of dense light tan head that slowly faded into a fuzzy and lasting film. Thick wispy lace was left down the glass.
S: Rich and spicy notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, raisin, and powdery chocolate. I get hints of dark fruits and wood as well.
T: Follows the nose with the addition of mint, slight citrus zest. Clove, chocolate, woody must, dates, plums, raisins, cream, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Spicy lingering in the aftertaste. Tastes like creamy spiced chocolate ice cream. Extremely delicious.
M: Full body, creamy, fluffy, and soft carbonation, light bitterness, smooth and rich mouthfeel.
O: Extremely rich, smooth and delicious. Not overly sweet, fruity, or malty. Very balanced yet complicated.

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Photo of secondtooth
4.19/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours almost black, with deep ruby highlights. Prodigious head of tan foam, dissipating slowly into thin and loopy lace.

Aroma is plenty of fermented fruit (wine grapes), spices, Belgian yeasty bread -- absolutely a wonderful approximation of classic Belgian ales.

Taste is similar -- some sweet notes, but this one is really well-balanced on the palate. I get hints of dark fruit and berries again, alongside plenty of spice (coriander, clove). This is a delicious brew, overflowing with complexity.

At $4.99 a bomber at Trader Joe's, this is a real bargain, and well-worth a try.

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Photo of Foyle
3.1/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Appearance: dark reddish brown, 1" off white head, very light lacing
Aroma: strong fruit and clove/cinnamon spice aromas along with distinctive Belgian yeast. There is a also a somewhat medicinal alcohol smell.
Mouthfeel: medium bodied with a mostly wet finish.
Flavor: spices dominate (cinnamon and clove) along with some raisin and citrus rind flavors. The middle and finish feature cocoa, some earthy hops, and a warming alcohol presence.

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Photo of mactrail
3.44/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown color with a modest head in the tall Petrus goblet. Moderate carbonation. Something of a musty aroma.

This has that classic taste that all Unibroue products seem to share. Distinctive yeasty flavor with a seriously dry finish and a bitter edge. Raisiny but not too sweet. Roasted fruity malt. Dark hints of chocolate add some pleasure. Seems to get better as it warms up and you get used to the taste.

This is an interesting big brew at a bargain price. From Trader Joe's in San Diego.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.48/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle: Poured a dark cloudy brown/burgundy color ale with a very generous foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma consists of candy-like ester with some Belgian-style malt. Taste is also dominated by some candy-like ester with some residual sugar notes with some heavy dark Belgian-style malt. Body is full with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Very enjoyable beer with good drinkability with nice complexity and beautiful ester. Glad they drop the coriander in this year’s version.

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Photo of qchic
4.06/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

For 4.99, a fine value. With a year on it, well worth an evening to sip on. Dark brown with good head retention. Aroma is fruity and spicy. Reminds me of those canned fruit nectars from the Hispanic food section. Tastes roasty and Belgian estery with some grainy malty smoothness. Drinkable with enough going on hold your interest throughout the 750mls. Why didn't I buy more?

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Photo of Brandegee
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured in tulip glass... this was a New Year's Day share.

A: Lovely head with lots of lace, a hint of brown in the thick, dark pour.
S: Not much going on here, but a few hints of spice and sweet malt. It's pleasant, however.
T: I didn't try a fresh example, so I can only assume the aging helped bring out some of the dark fruit flavors, which dominate the profile without little hint of sourness or bitterness. Raisin, plum, dates even. Sweet malt and clove round out the flavors for me.
M: Nice, full, lots of room for the spices to play.
O: A nice Belgian seasonal and good effort by Unibroue and hopefully I can still get a 2013 to age for next year. This was well worth what was probably a low price tag.

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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 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 1sophrosyne1
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a cork-and-cage, "best by 2015" bottle and enjoyed over 90 festive minutes.

Color is densely opaque ebony brown that holds up a light tan head with fairly good retention. Not much lacing, though.

Smells of winter spice, chocolate covered raisins, clove, and mild herbaceous phenols. The foundation of malt is evident with a breeze of hop essence.

The taste profile is complex and balanced. It starts sweet, but nicely sliced with carbonation that ushers in a combination of fruits and a-bit-too-bright acids. Figs, dates, raisins, and pears all dipped in melty bakers chocolate that takes over later in each gulp. It's then also chewy and just bready enough, dashed with cinnamon and anise, the latter of which slides into the ending oils that carry a nice long finish.

Thick and smooth, balanced nicely with high carbonation, the mouthfeel is a nice fit to the style and frames the flavor profile well. It becomes a bit tart and tannic in aftertaste in a way that suggests a cleaner ending would help to address--so I dock points here rather than in the flavor category.

In general, I'm extremely grateful that this great Canadian brewer partnered up with a chain of markets I can get to easily. Three cheers for Unibroue south of the border!

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Photo of bluejacket74
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml caged and corked bottle, best before 07-06-2015. This is about a year old now. Served in a Dogfish Head signature glass, the beer pours dark brown with about an inch and a half light tan head. Head retention is good, and there's a decent amount of lacing. The brew smells like cloves, dark fruit (plums, raisins), peppery spice, and molasses. It tastes like cloves, dark fruit (plums, raisins), cola, dark bread, molasses, and a bit of nutmeg. Mouhfeel/body is medium, it's slick and creamy, and is well carbonated. This is very similar to the 2011 bottle I drank right before this, which I liked. Guess I'll have to buy a bottle of the 2013 now!

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Photo of dhannes
3.36/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Poured from a bottle with 11 months' worth of aging into a standard pint glass.

A=Dark, reddish brown with larger, 3-finger eggshell head.

S=Spice...nutmeg or allspice.

T=Similar to a porter's rich cream malt backbone, but nutmeg and cherry present...at times, it reminded me of cherry cough syrup. Alcohol taste present much of the time.

M=Lighter body...felt flat...also a slick feel to it.

O=I was somewhat disappointed in this beer and would not seek it our or buy it again...for numerous reasons, it was too much of a chore to drink.

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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 Tsar_Riga
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark, mostly opaque with just a touch of transparency on the edge, a slight burgundy cast and a full dark tan head that reduces moderately to lacing and a sheen over the top.

S - Dark fruit and a bit of warm alcohol burn. Definite sweet element underneath.

T - Following the nose, with a strong hit of plum and raisin, sugar, and a boozy close. Age is coming in with subtle sherry elements. This is aging well.

M - Mild carbonation, and a bright alcohol warmth that fades out slowly.

O - This is a solid brew that stands up well with age. It is a full, warm brew.

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Photo of Jabberwocky
3.6/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Drinking it cold. Pouring out of bottle. The liquid part is dark rich black color with a slight red tint. The foam head is very large and light brown. This is a beer that tends to pour with a lot of head. The head has a slightly creamy mouthfeel and is actually quite enjoyable.

Smells sweet with a faint hint of Logan fruit. Upon drinking, it is toasty, with medium high amount of carbonation. Spices tingle my tongue a little. The one minus is that the beer does not have a very viscous mouthfeel that I had thought it would. It definitely doesn't have the heavy mouth that I wish it had, but then again it isn't a stout, its a dark ale. Tastes quite decent, good amount of toastiness, sweetness, and some slight hints of fruit similar to a fig or prune with a bit of brown sugar. Not hoppy or bitter at all. Taste leaves the mouth fairly quickly and doesn't linger like a heavier/heartier beer.

Edit: As the beer gets wamrer, the spices are a bit more prominnent. Unfortunatley, is doesnt get any more viscous which is what i feel this beer is missing the mos -texture/mouthfeel.

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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 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 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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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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