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.
- 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?