So, many of you may have tried a few of Trader Joe’s house brews. I’ve had a number of them myself and, frankly, I’ve been disappointed on almost every occasion. So, I was reasonably skeptical of paying $5 for a big bottle of the Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. However, when I picked it up and checked out the bottle, I couldn’t help but notice the trademark Unibroue logo on the cage and cork of the bottle. So, what is this? A Unibroue beer in disguise? Because, if so, then it might just be a bargain on a tasty brew. So, I picked it up.
And, as we suspected, it IS indeed a Unibroue beer – apparently they contracted this excellent Canadian brewery to throw some flash into their house beer line-up. This beer pours a deep dark purple-brown. The smell of this is full of dark fruit, and the head is almost nonexistent – in fact, it looks very weak on the carbonation side. In the mouth, however, this is actually very good. Frankly, it’s fairly simple. It has some characteristics of a Belgian Dubbel – there is some cocoa hints and a tad bit of anise. However, the predominant flavors are of dark fruit – mostly grape with a hint of dark cherry. Throughout the mouth, there is a light sweetness, and the beer sits lightly at the back of the mouth, with a lasting but not overbearing aftertaste. Frankly, this is a Unibroue beer by any name – it’s delicious and well-balanced. It DOES seem a tad lighter than most Unibroue beers, which may make it more palatable to the general beer drinker. However, that could also just be my bias against store-branded beers. At any rate, it’s the best Trader Joe’s beer I’ve had, and a damn good beer by any name. [Ed. Note - 2006 Vintage Ale pictured - this review is actually for the 2007]