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.

How Many Years Away?

Innis & Gunn had better plan to be around in 100 years because they are planning on sealing up a bottle of its limited edition beer, Vintage in a time capsule to be opened in 2117.

How the The 7.7% ABV beer which is a bottle conditioned strong ale will fare, will be 50/50 in my estimation. I have a feeling it might end up a little thin after a century tucked away in a transparent enclosure at Innis & Gunn’s brewery in Scotland.

If you can find one of the few bottles available in the States, then here is what you will taste, if you taste it in your lifetime: “Created with Super Styrian hops, Vintage’s malt profile includes Innis & Gunn Ale Malt, Crystal, Roasted Barley and Raw Wheat. Innis & Gunn brewers describe the beer’s taste profile as “Buttered toast, creamy toffee, a little sharpness from the yeast and a creamy full mouthfeel.”

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.

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.