Trader Joe 2012 Vintage Ale

Snowpocalypse. Snowmageddon. Snowpalooza. 12 Inches of Snow. Whichever clever play on words you use to describe the past few days, if you were in the central part of the state odds are pretty good you have some cabin fever in need of a remedy. I certainly have. And what better way to pass some time when stuck indoors? Why check out what might be kicking around in the ol’ beer cellar of course.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear: Well loooky there, it’s a 2012 bottle of the winter seasonal beer marketed by Trader Joe. What say we give that a day in court, shall we?

One of the nice things about this beer is that it is easily accessible and competitively priced. Out like clockwork annually in your local Trader Joe just as winter starts to make itself at home; this is a beer the masses can enjoy. You don’t need a magic ticket or a hotel room in a different part of the state. No crazy-long lines or beer snob elitists filling your head with tales of that rarest of the rare, they only made 84 ounces, you probably can’t get it here, shuck and jive. This one is readily available in a store you might shop in for groceries as well. My how convenient.

But proximity to bread, milk and eggs won’t cut it anymore. It has to be flavorful and interesting as well. Does this beer deliver? Absolutely. Ringing in at 9%ABV it might be best to share a bottle with a loved one, a good pal, or maybe just the neighbor who helped dig your car out from under the snow-plow-mountain a day or so back.

To be fair, Belgian beer isn’t my favorite style. Sometimes the esters and adjunct sugars just become too much for my BJCP trained (yet admittedly feeble and ill-used) palate. That’s where I really thought this beer shined. Despite the label stating that it was brewed with spices, and my prior knowledge of the style, I found the beer both complex and subtle. The esters weren’t over the top. The mouth-feel wasn’t heavy on the palate like one might expect from a beer this color. Rather it finished a little on the sweeter side of dry, wasn’t cloying, and had an almost imperceptible dark grain flavor. Not at all what I expected from the packaging. It does gain some complexity as it warms up. The packaging suggest serving at 53F but we enjoyed it a bit colder than that.  Your mileage may vary.

One other point that bears mention here: Trader Joe doesn’t actually brew beer. Rather, they label and package beers that have been contract brewed on their behalf by various notable breweries. This particular product is brewed by Unibroue. These are the same cats that bring you beers like La Fin du Monde and Trois Pistoles which are also readily available locally.

As with many higher ABV beers I do think this one benefits from a couple of years conditioning. Our bottle was 2 years old at the time we tasted it and the label suggests it is good before July 2015. By that logic we could have kept it around another year or more and I kind of wish we had a second bottle to do just that.

So once the thaw begins to take hold and we all start burrowing out of our respective igloos, maybe head on over to Trader Joe and see if they still have a few bottles of this years’ vintage on the shelf. Set a couple back for the blizzard of 2018. It’s just the ticket to make being stuck indoors a treat rather than a drag.