(2009) 12 Beers of Christmas, beer 4: Trader Joe’s 2009 Vintage Ale

The next beer in our countdown is portable, ages well, and gives you the best bang for your buck. These three qualities alone, notwithstanding the fact that it’s a tasty brew, make it a wonderful gift to give or receive this Christmas season. Curious? So was I, so I decided to give it a try this year for the first time ever… and Trader Joe’s 2009 Vintage Ale did not disappoint.

The Vintage Ale is brewed exclusively for Trader Joe’s by Canada’s Unibroue, using their signature method of “beer on lees,” which means that the yeast left after the secondary fermentation of the brew are bottled into the beer rather than being discarded. This method allows the flavors of the yeast to remain in the beer, giving it a hearty, earthy taste.

The Trader Joe’s label describes the Vintage as a “dark ale on lees… boast[ing] cocoa and malt aromas, with a subtle hint of lemon and ginger.” Perhaps these flavors will mellow out a bit as the beer ages, but my taste buds detected a lot more lemon and ginger than just a hint. That’s not to say the flavor was unpleasant, though. On the contrary, it had a nice balance of Belgian taste, warming alcohol flavor, and holiday spiciness.

This beer is supposed to become more complex and delicious as it ages, so it will be interesting to see how it tastes in a few months, or even next Christmas when they come out with their Vintage 2010. It’s sure to be different than this year’s brew, but equally as tasty. All things considered, though, the best thing about the Vintage is the price. All Trader Joe’s locations are selling a 750 ml bottle for only $4.99! That’s a great bargain, especially for a brew that’s 9% Alcohol by Volume.

So, if you’re interested in sampling another tasty Christmas beer, or saving one for later, check out the Trader Joe’s 2009 Vintage Ale. Enjoy!

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