Friday, February 5, 2010

220. Trader Joe’s 2009 Vintage Ale

This beer is kinda from Unibroue, which would make it our second Unibroue beer after Raftman, but Beer Advocate lists this as from Trader Joe’s Brewing Company, although there is no website attached to it, and I can’t find one on the web. I’m just gonna call contract brewing (I’ll bet you didn’t know I could call that, did you? Such awesome awesome powers!) and stick with Unibroue, most specifically since our bottle said it was from Unibroue. Why all the rigmarole?

Trader Joe’s 2009 Vintage Ale pours a deep chocolate brown with red highlights, and is accompanied by a creamy almond head. The nose is yeasty and estery—very Belgian, very Unibroue—with some malt character and something we can’t quite place. The beer opens with malt sweetness and some very minimal chocolate flavor before turning to cocoa and candy in the middle, along with spiciness and some yeast flavors, finishing with a lingering ginger bite. The body is light to medium, and there is a decent amount of creamy carbonation, although it is a bit bright at the end. For all of its flavors, the profile isn’t as interesting as it could be, although for the price and the season, Trader Joe’s 2009 Vintage Ale is a steal—$4.99 for a 750 ml Unibroue beer is a bargain. It’s also a lighter and easier drinking holiday beer—there’s no wad of potpourri in your mouth. Aging this beer for a year or two, as suggested on the bottle (the best before date is 09-12-2012) would probably better marry the flavors and give it an overall more rounded character.

From the bottle: “You might be used to seeing vintage on wine; perhaps not so much on beer. And that’s what makes this ale so special. Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale was developed, crafted, brewed and bottled for us in limited quantities this year. Its flavor, color, texture and overall character are different from our Vintage Ale of 2008, and in 2010 it will be different once again. The 2009 Vintage Ale is an opaque black color and features an impressive coffee-colored foam. In a glass, it boasts cocoa and malt aromas, with a subtle hint of lemon and ginger. A sip from that glass really brings out the best in this ale—malty and mildly sweet, with hints of cocoa, citrus and spices. Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is ready to enjoy right away, chilled but not ice cold. Unlike many beers, though, this one will age for a few years, and its flavors will become more complex and interesting as time goes by. What’s that? You’re a beer geek? We love that. You’ll love this. And we assume you’ll want to know this is a dark ale on lees, 9% ABV (that’s Alcohol by Volume, for the non-beer geeks). Oh, and it’s brewed exclusively for Trader Joe’s, of course.”

While the beer is a steal, the advertising prose is atrocious. I know the beer is not marketed at me, but the opening line makes me want to punch someone. I can just see someone picking it up and saying “Oh, look honey, it’s beer we can age. How neat.” That’s when I slip the package of Depends undergarments into their cart as my sweet sweet revenge. And any beer company that has to admit it loves beer geeks has marketing issues. I’m a beer geek—I’m fine with that. You don’t need to talk down to me and pretend you like me, you pompous jackasses.

Funny, nothing on the Unibroue website; I’m still looking for this mystical “Trader Joe’s Brewing Company” on the internet. Must be hanging out with my man Sasquatch, some unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, and Elvis in a Bunker somewhere playing Go Fish.

ABV: 9%


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