You know it’s the holiday drinking season when Traders releases their Vintage Ale. Since 2005 Trader Joe’s has contract with a brewery, in this case a Canadian brewery called Unibroue to brew a special beer for the holiday season. The past couple of years have been about the same, a heavy dark ale in a 750ml bottle with a cork and a wire cap like a Belgian style beer.
I suppose I should back up about 35 years to give you a brief rundown with my love affair with beer. I suppose it all started when that beer can collecting craze hit us all. Of course I was under aged at the time, but my father was game since it involved a lot of beer drinking. I think he tried hundreds of different beers over the years and he would let me take a sip here and there. Especially the really bad ones!
(Disclaimer: I had to buy two bottles of this beer as the first one was bad. I was wondering what all the hype was about when I first tasted it and it tasted like crummy homebrew where there as some type of bacterial infection so I went out and bought a 2nd bottle and this review is based on the good second bottle, but still should not have a bad bottle)
When I first poured it, it was overly carbonated. You can see it in the glass in the last picture how much foam was generated, but after the beer warmed up, things calmed down and future pours were OK. You can immediately smell the spices when you stick your nose in the glass, not too powerful, but definitely there. The color is a real dark brown, similar to a Porter style of beer but don’t be surprised how different it is when it goes down. This is not a beer to pound on a nice hot day, this is a sipping beer. In fact, you would get quite wasted trying to drink a whole bottle by yourself. This beer clocks in at 9% alcohol which is more than double most beers out there. The beer has a long finish and has flavors reminiscent of dark dried fruits, almost fruit cake like. There is some bready/yeasty tastes as it goes down. This is a beer meant to age, so if you are so inclined, I would put a bottle in your wine cellar for a year or two and see how it ages. I’ve had a few aged beers and have always been pleasantly surprised how nicely they age.
The price in Washington state is $4.99 and I’d call that a bargain anywhere.
I was expecting a better showing on this beer. From the bad first bottle and the over carbonation, but all in all not a bad beer.
I’m going to rate this 7 Bells!