Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale - Review

Here's an interesting one you weren't expecting for the next review.  The hat tip goes to Shaun for recommending this interesting ale from my favorite grocer, Trader Joe's.  You read that right.  The store known for private labels and Two Buck Chuck also makes a very good private label beer.  It's said that Firestone Walker anonymously brews at least one of TJ's beers, a pale ale.  This one is openly a Unibroue brew, so one can expect this beer to carry that brewery's delicate, artisan touches.

 I admit that I needed to spend more time with this one, but I had enough to give it a substantive review. It's basically a strong ale or barleywine with spices that will remind you of Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  Be prepared. When poured, the head is massive and keeps on billowing.  There's a boatload of spice on the nose and some caramel.  The mouthfeel is lush, rich and dense.  It took forever to cool it down to a drinkable temperature.  It  has a rich malty flavor to it with caramel, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and herbal tea flavors.  (Trader Joe's lists it as containing "Natural Flavor Added" which sounds like an ingredient on some processed middle-of-the-supermarket food like Pop Tarts - now with fiber!!)  Enough hops firm it up so that it's not a soupy barleywine or a dressed up brown ale. 

This is somewhat of an ass-kicker at 9%. It's fun in a bottle that seems ideal for sharing. Because of that Christmas spice profile, I can't see myself drinking another one of these until the calendar says December.  But I'm the type that keeps Christmas close to the vest and won't play A Charlie Brown Christmas before Thanksgiving night even though it's a great jazz album worthy of play at any point.  This beer is a present to us all to be enjoyed all year round, and can be enjoyed at any point of the year befitting a good barleywine.

4.0 of 5 stars.

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