My mother bought me my first bomber of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. She knew nothing about it. I knew nothing about it. I didn’t ask her to buy it. But she was in Trader Joe’s and decided to buy me a bottle. I wasn’t expecting much, honestly. But I’ll try any beer once for the sake of experimentation.
When I got the bottle, I was surprised to learn it was made for TJ’s by Canadian brewery Unibroue, which makes some pretty solid Belgian-style beers. And this one was as solid as any of them.
That chance encounter started a tradition for me. See, TJ’s gets a new version of the Vintage Ale every year and 2013’s offering is probably the best I’ve had.
Time for the Review: Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale
In true Unibroue style, this has a very prominent sweet (but not cloying) and malty flavor. A bready aroma couples with cocoa and spice notes and hints of fruit to create a very pleasant and almost dangerously easy drinking beer. At 9% ABV, it may not be the best idea to knock back a lot of this in one sitting. But be careful, because you don’t taste the alcohol much and it’s smooth enough that you can drink a lot of it quickly.
Pours a deep, rich brown with a creamy, thick head that sticks to the glass just a bit. It’s a beautiful-looking beer and is probably best served in a tulip glass.
Style: Belgian strong dark ale.
At $4.99 for a 750mL bottle, this is one of the best craft beer values out there. It’s cheap enough to be an everyday beer or to keep around to serve to unexpected guests. Heck, it wouldn’t break the bank to buy a few bombers for a party. And while supposedly, it’s only available in limited quantities around the holiday season, I had no trouble getting hold of a couple bombers in May. Trader Joe’s is like that – Vintage Ale or regular old run of the mill beer, if it’s any good, they’ll stock it.