For those of you not in on the ‘lil secret, the grocery chain TRADER JOE’S puts out a 22-ounce bottle of robust, high-alcohol “vintage” ale every year, and sells it alongside their six-packs of contract-brewed pale ales, ambers, cans of Guinness, etc. These vintage ales happen to be made up Quebec way by UNIBROUE, who just happen to be one of Hedonist Beer Jive’s favorite brewers. They generally retail at an exceptionally low $4.99 per bottle, and based on the two that I’ve had so far, they’re worth it in spades. The beer is meant to be aged, but I’ll be honest with you, not only am I not patient enough to age my beer, nor am I much of a believer in “aging”, I also know that there are certain “inventory costs” that come from leaving a beer sitting on the shelf of the garage, a.k.a. my beer cellar. The beer sitting there that’s dubiously “aging to perfection” could instead be a beer that I could put into my refrigerator this afternoon, and consume tonight. Since I’ve never wanted to wait 2-3 years to see how an aging beer turned out, to say nothing of the fact that I wouldn’t know what to compare it to anyway, I just drink ‘em when I feel like it. Hey, the fact that this 2008 beer made it until August 2009 to be consumed is a world record for me. I’m sure it was just awful nine months ago.
Since UNIBROUE can do little wrong, I knew this would be excellent, and it was. It runs a deep, dark brown, and right off the bat it’s spicy and yeasty, tasting of dark fruits like plums, figs and dates. The beer is exceptionally effervescent, with lots of fizz in the mouthfeel. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re going for the classic Belgian dubbel with this one. It doesn’t quite have the sweetness of some of these, and though I’ve read that people feel this is “chocolatey”, I’m not getting it. TRADER JOE’S VINTAGE ALE 2008 tastes as good as anything you’ll find playing Belgian roulette at your local bottle shop. I’m giving it an 8/10. (Thanks to Allesgut for the photo).