Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale

LogoI know, many of you are looking at this and wondering “What is Trader Joe’s?”.  Others are saying “Trader Joe’s?  It must be crap!”.  Well hopefully this will be an education for many of you out there.

Before I start, let me preface by saying that I have drank a lot of beer in my life, from all over the world.  While this doesn’t make me an expert….for some, they at least know that I will be honest about what I like, don’t like and what I find to be utter crap.  If I think something is horrid, I don’t sugar coat it (I have a review coming up that really exemplifies that statement).   I understand, respect and appreciate the various types of beer – and the craftsmanship that goes into those styles….even if they do not work for me.

With the above paragraph in play, I am going to go on record and say I enjoyed the Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale quite a bit.


Trader Joe’s started in 1958, and is named for it’s founder Joe Coulombe.  Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that stocks considerably fewer items (4K compared to 50K of typical grocery stores), with 80% under their name brand.  On the Booze front, while they do stock a large selection of California and "New World Wines", Trader Joe’s is probably most famous for the exclusive sales of Charles Shaw wines – commonly known as “Two Buck Chuck” due to its low cost (and some say quality).

Based on that reputation, I was somewhat skeptical when I saw they had a “Vintage Ale” for approximately $4.99, but (being who I am) I decided someone needed to throw themselves on the sword and try it……purely for scientific purposes mind you.


Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage AleTrader Joes 2012 Vintage Ale

  • Source – Corked 750ml Bottle
  • Alcohol Content – 9%
  • Appearance- Very Heady, with asymmetrical bubbles.  Color is a dark brown, almost “Stout-ish” – begging me to dive in.
  • Nose -  Caramelized (almost burnt) Brown Sugar, Cloves and with a hint of honey.
  • Taste – Sweet and fruity – I thought of fruitcake on Christmas.  Just like biting into the cake, all the flavors are there – Cherries, nuts, plums  and a bit of breadyness (is that even a word)…this is surprisingly complex. 

Overall – This beer is an unique anomaly -  Listed on the bottle as a “Dark Ale, Brewed with Spices and Natural Flavors”, I would categorize this Vintage Ale as a Belgium…even though it is brewed in Chambly, Canada by Unibroue.   Being a Belgium Style, I thought I wouldn’t like this one – because, as I stated before, some beer  styles just are not in my wheelhouse.  However, I really really did enjoy this one.  In fact, so much so – I plan on sending my buddy Dave a bottle to add to his collection (Trader Joe’s is not in MidMO).

Given the vast history with Unibroue, and the great things they put out, this is truely a hidden Gem.  For me, I would give this a solid Three out of Five as a beer – Five out of Five for Price.  I plan on stocking a 6’er under the bar if someone enjoys Belgium Beer – and as Dave has taught me….I would love to see how this ages.

I know, its a shocker folks – but at $5 a bottle….how can you go wrong?


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