TJ’s Beer Pipeline

Trader Joe’s looks to its own shelves to brand extend their popular items. Cookies end up in ice cream being one example and soon the mixing will be cookies and beer with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Beer. 

17 different versions were brewed before the grocer was happy. Later in the year will see other new beers coming like Coffee Peanut Butter Cup Porter around Halloween and in the winter, Ginger Beer Spiced Stout plus a Toasty Cookie Spice Cider. 

Review – Hibiscus Tripel from Hardywood Park

It’s not often that you find Hardywood Park beer in a Trader Joe’s in California.

Gotta say that I like the new direction from the grocery retailer though. They still have Uinta doing the Mission beers and Anheuser Golden Busch Road supplying the Tap 79 beers with little to no transparency but they are starting to do beers that are co-branded. Possibly realizing that the combined strength of two breweries is better than some store brand.

That is all prelude to the review pledged in the title. This Tripel is the rare Hibiscus beer that isn’t bright pink. The hibiscus is there and not meekly either, but the beer is orange and showcases the tripel just as evenly. This is quite a silky beer. Almost vanilla notes under the spice note. If someone picks this bottle out just seeing the Trader Joe’s flowers and name, they will be surprised by the full flavor that Hardywood has provided.

Up From the Cellar – Vintage Ale from Unibroue and Trader Joe’s

That was quite the cork misadventure. Top half sheared off. The neck was quite stuck. Had to hack away at it and when I finally got the cork pushed into the bottle, there was a short geyser that delayed my drinking as I was forced to clean up the sticky mess. Once drunk, it was still quite good for five years old. Getting a cola like sweetness with a light fizz to it. Some alcohol notes seep through at the back of the throat. Some Rohrschach lacing on the glass.

For a beer that is in essence, over 5 years old, it held up remarkably well. No weird off notes or flavors at all.

Fruit & Hops Jumping the Shark

This might be where the fruit IPA craze crests….

When one of the Trader Joe’s house brands (Uinta, for this one), hits up peach for not just an IPA but a Session IPA. Or is there another fruit that would signify that the trend was winding down?

Lemon and Jasmine

Earlier this year, Trader Joe’s had a 50th Anniversary beer with Green Flash called Fearless Fifty that was quite unique and tasty. Different because it didn’t have the private label look that most of their contracted beers have.

Now they are back with another saison that is, again, branded with the brewery name instead. This time they have gone to Angel City for lemons and jasmine….

A New Stroll on Mission Street

Trader Joe’s has a few house brands, Ol’ Burro (Golden Road) and Joseph Brau (Gordon Biersch) and Mission Street which was done by Firestone Walker but now is brewed by 4+ Brewing in Salt Lake City.
So it is time to see how the Utah version of the session pale and IPA taste….

The slightly mercenary naming of the pale ale as a “session pale” is the only turn-off for the blue labeled Mission Street.  The beer has a juicy citrus and tea taste with a nice layer of bitterness and malt underneath. It tastes lighter than the 4.7% ABV.

(On a side note, the label is stamped with the bottling date which is very helpful.)

On to the IPA, which is quite fine.  Woodsy would be the main flavor attribute.  A little toffee sweetness to it which is a bit of a detriment.  Tastes heavier than it’s ABV which is a fitting counterpoint to the pale ale.  Again, it is rather a juicy beer with some pepper notes in it.

I would take the Session Pale over the IPA but both are screaming great deals at $6.99 a six-pack with tax that comes out to about $1.25 a bottle.

Up From the Cellar – Vintage Ale from Trader Joe’s 2011

Earlier this month, I reviewed the gold embossed 2010 version of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale brewed by the Canadian Unibroue and now we move on to the silver embossed 2011 and see how much (if any) differences there are.

To recap, here is what I said about this beer years ago, Aroma is not malty or roasted. Rich smelling. Pours dark brown close to black. Alot of plum type flavor in here. A faint touch of spice. The cheeks warm up but only after a few sips.

Every once in a while, you end up with a cork battle. This time the cork won. Various instruments of torture were used and I finally was able to get 1/2 of the cork out while the remainder floated merrily in the bottle.

After cleaning up the mess I made in the kitchen, I brought the glass to my nose and smelled cola?  Yup, distinct cola notes in the nose and taste as well as the carbonation. Drastically different from the 2010. I also pick up rhubarb in there as well. Rhubarb pie to be precise. This us such a brighter and bubblier drink.  There are some candi sugar flavors in there which adds to the sweet overall profile.

As it warms, the clove and typical Belgian yeast components come out of hiding.


The Verdict?  Strange and soda pop but I kinda liked it. Maybe the thrill of a fizzy aged beer has clouded my judgement but this year was fun.

Sean Suggests for June 2014


Last month was a little light on the ABV, for June, we are cranking it up a notch.  Starting with a dry hopped beer that is not to be missed followed by a pair of collaborations on the darker side.  Enjoy!


Brasserie Dupont/ Cuvee Dry Hopping 2014 6.50% ABV

“Every year Dupont’s Master Brewer, Olivier Dedeycker, makes a special dry-hopped  version of  the brewery’s world famous Saison Dupont. For 2014, he chose the famous English hop, CHALLENGER, renowned for its balance of bittering and aromatic qualities. Importantly, they were cultivated in Belgium by the farm that supplies Olivier’s Golding hops. Using only hop flowers (no pellets, please), he added them to the late boil and dry hopped in cold maturation. ”


AleSmith with Cigar City/ Ramblin’ Rye Brown Ale 8.50% ABV

“Alesmith and Cigar City have once again partnered up for our second coast-2-coast collaborative brew, a delicious rye brown ale.

Worn out and tongue-tied from rhyming countless beer-centric names with “rye,” we knew it was finally time to quit rambling on and figured “Rye bother”…let’s brew. The result is a rich, malty Roggenbier that is riddled with notes of chocolate and biscuit that perfectly compliment the soft spiciness of the rye. Grab a pint and toast to the coasts.

This balanced and complex brew pairs best with smooth cigars and life-long friends.”


Unibroue for Trader Joe’s/ Vintage Ale 9.00% ABV

“Unique and limited edition, this Belgian style ale is crafted once a year as a special treat for those of you who appreciate flavorful, bottle-conditioned ale with character. This year’s vintage: a rich, dark and full-bodied ale with a fine and generous coffee-colored, beige foam. It’s ready to enjoy right away and you may also wish to cellar a few bottles. It will evolve interestingly well, developing more complex flavors as the years go by.”

Up from the Cellar – Vintage Ale from Trader Joe’s 2010

The private label beers at Trader Joe’s fall into two camps. The “Really cheap and it Shows” and the “I Can’t Believe They aren’t Charging More.”

The Unibroue beers fall into the latter and I have squirreled away 2010-2012 vintages that were labeled as Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. I will only review the two oldest though. Maybe save 2012 and get 2014 to compare against each other.

Here is what I said about this beer years ago, Aroma is not malty or roasted. Rich smelling. Pours dark brown close to black. Alot of plum type flavor in here. A faint touch of spice. The cheeks warm up but only after a few sips.

Now it is time to see how 4 years has treated this Canadian Dark ale with spices…..


First off, the cork came out beautifully. Two seconds later it was a grade school science fair exhibit that delayed my drinking whilst I cleaned up sticky beer from the counter.

Once I had it in the glass, the smell of cherries and plums greeted the nose. Almost juice like in aroma. A pretty taupe pattern of lacing on the glass. Taste wise, the Belgian yeast influence seemed to have faded a bit. There was a bit of thinness too that I don’t remember from before and the booziness isn’t as apparent. After the fruit notes the biggest flavor is a wine tannin hit. The spice which was faint has completely left the building.

Coming in at 9%, this beer shows signs of losing strength. Still plenty of flavor here but the complimentary notes which rounded out the taste are gone, leaving a more acidic ale with a fruit focus in its place.


The Verdict – I think I let this one sit for a year too long.  The fruit forward nature is a bit too much.