I know it’s Wednesday, but this one was too good to wait for an entire year to review and this is only available for a limited time at Trader Joe’s. I picked up a bottle of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2011 a couple weeks ago, threw it in the refrigerator and actually forgot about it. It hit me only yesterday that I still had it and it was the end of a really crappy day. There really didn’t seem to be a better time.
Vintage Ale pours a beautiful abyss-like black. The bottom of my glass glowed a eerie ruby-purple color that remained until the last drop. The nose immediately bursts of coffee and malt, but there is a hint of sarsaparilla hidden somewhere in the back behind these big flavors. Like a Guinness, the head forms quickly and in force. There is an art to pouring the perfect pint and this one will challenge the eager drinkers to slow down and enjoy the process. The colder the beer, the more the head will form, so if your pulling this fresh from the refrigerator, let it sit on the counter for ten minutes or so. This will improve the flavor as well. It’s hard to describe the taste of this Vintage Ale. If coffee is a dominant flavor and had an alcoholic love child with the recessive root beer, this ale may be the result. Perhaps this description sounds weird, perhaps even nasty, but Vintage Ale works and does so quite well. While the malt and coffee flavors immediately emerge on the palette, there is a tang that develops and lingers on the tongue playfully. I have noted in the past my distaste for dark beers, but perhaps this brewed in the Belgian tradition is generally more appealing to my taste buds and allowed me to appreciate the depth of this beer.
I really like this beer. In fact, after I finished this bottle, I convinced my wife to drive me to Trader Joe’s to buy three more bottles (at 9% ABV, please do not think of driving yourself). The back of the bottle provides the connoisseur advice that while the Vintage Ale is great to drink now, the flavor will develop over the next 5 years. I’m hoping that I can make one of those three bottles last until at least 2015. Whenever I open the other three, I’ll be sure to post an update. At $5 for a 750ml bottle, I think this is an outstanding deal for a fine dark ale. I think this would make an excellent change of pace to your holiday party or dinner. If you so happen to have a Trader Joe’s near you that sells libations, you may want to consider stopping by to pick up their Vintage Ale.