Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale – Unibroue, a good holiday drink

Mark, Timo, Ravi, Lucy and Jane tried Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale. Mark thought it tasted like a combination of sweet chocolate and a porter.  It tasted clove like. He rated it as 7 because it has lots of character but not too sweet like Belgian. Timo gave 4 because it was strongly flavored. While Ravi rated it 6. Both Mark and Ravi agreed that it is a good holiday drink. Lucy liked its sweetness and gave 7. Jane thought it as pine needles and aromatic.

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale has appeared once a year since 2005. It’s a Belgian strong ale, running about 9% ABV and is contract brewed by Unibroue, the highly regarded Quebec maker of Belgian beers. From the very beginning, Unibroue has carved out a special niche in the beer world with top quality products and a brand rooted deep in Quebec culture. It made history by becoming the first North American beer maker to use a brewing method inspired by the two-centuries-old tradition developed by Trappist monks in Europe—particularly in Belgium. Over the years, Unibroue has remained faithful to its origins even as it has grown to become an icon of the brewing world. (Source:

The Vintage Ale is made with dark Belgian malts and spices, each year’s batch being slightly different. Most years, the 750 ml (25 ounces) corked bottles are labeled as “ale on lees,” meaning there’s a layer of yeast sediment in the bottle for further fermenting, assuring the flavor will continue to evolve. (Source:

This dark beer pours an incredibly thick and resilient head that slowly dissipates as the beer settles. It smells slightly fruitier and sweeter than its counterpart being. Indeed, it is a thinner and more noticeably effervescent drink than its cousin, but the two share many similarities. The almost tropical flavors presented in this beer are balanced by a hint of citrusy hops and a moderate darkness, yet nothing too intense to frighten away more timid drinkers. This is a highly drinkable beer and while it’s got a great deal of intricacy and flavor, it’s hardly intimidating. The bottle might be attractive to a wine drinker.  Classy and simple.  So there’s that.  And it’s awfully lovely to look at after it’s poured: that big, off-white head, under which the beer–a rich brown, reminiscent of the color of dark figs–bubbles excitedly from its high carbonation. If you’re in a Trader Joe’s and find yourself curious, grab a bottle. It’s a great price and a great beer, whether you’re a well seasoned palate or a curious individual who seldom drinks craft beer. Grab it while it lasts and enjoy!

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