Trader Joes Vintage Ale: Fresh vs Aged

Hey, so it’s in here somewhere. Aha. Here it is. Nine year old Trader Joe’s vintage ale and hmm, six years outta date. Still good?

Every year trader Joe’s brew a vintage ale, the beer is a Dark Belgian Ale that differs slightly from year to year. It’s brewed under contract by uni-brew in Quebec, Canada. Now the bottle claims it’s brewed “on Lees.”

And what the heck is on Lees? Well, that’s commonly a wine making term, but a effectively just means it’s bottled conditioned.

Trader Joes recommend aging the beer up to three years and adding a best before date that expires at that point.

So, well, how does a beer fair that six years after that?

I’ve bought a 2021 bottle. So let’s compare that to the 2012 vintage. To try these two beers I have assembled esteemed tasting panel. So we have Norm from well, many different beer tastings, right.

And then Carl, Carl, you’re a member of the Ghana Ale Society? That’s right. So you know, a thing or two about brewing them. And we’ve been talking about doing a tasting for well a long time, right?

Too long, too long. Yeah. I think back in the old bedsheet brick wall days.

Obviously I’ve been planning this for the last nine years. Absolutely not the case that I just found this at the back of the cupboard. And this is new 2021 and this is nine years old, but they are bottle conditioned, but it does have a best before date.

And I didn’t tell either of you guys this ahead of this, but I’m afraid I can see it. Yes. It expired in 2015. So six years expired.

All right. Is there a recommended, uh, temperature, uh, for, for serving these?

Yes, there is around 53 degrees. Okay. I’ve had these just sat out of the fridge of about an hour. Carl, did you want to try, uh, opening this guy?

Who we can give it a go. You could, you could feel this one immediately, as soon as they start. Oh, we’re we’re we’re gonna need, we’re gonna need a new bottle opener. Never inviting Carl back again….

We’ll get the bottom. Yep. There we go. All right. Well done. Not even any cork bits, well done. Well done. We should all be able to get a good tasting outta that.

All right. So carbination wise, they are both carbonated. They are, but clearly one more than the other.

I wanna say that the new one seems a tad brighter.

Okay. Well, let’s see if we can get anything just on the aroma. Sure. Um, for this.

Oh man. Completely different. Oh, totally different. Completely different beer. Get a lot of raisin on the older one.

Raisin is spot on, on this one. Yeah. Really? On, on the older one, raisin is spot on now I’m assuming that these beers have the same mash bill and everything despite being, you know, so far apart?

Each year is slightly different, but very similar mm-hmm. So this beer should be sort of like a, a Belgian quad style. Mm-hmm, just a it on the darker side from that I think. Okay. So let’s try the 2021 the new beer first.

Okay. So we can sort of see how it’s supposed to taste. Okay. That’s a good call.

Very carbonated. Like bubbles taste. A lot of mouths feel, to lot of mouth feel. Yeah. The, the flavors are fairly mellow on the new one. They really are. I would like to say surprisingly mellow, definitely a little, a little Boozey a little heavy, but I was based off the nose, even expecting more of like a acidic kind of pop to it.

Right. The home brew challenge legal department would like to remind you that, uh, drinking the next beer is at your own risk. That being said, should we get this a try? I think we should give it to go. Yep.

A completely different experience. Mm-hmm

Yes. Okay. So let’s break this down. Okay. Way less carbonation, way less. I think it’s delicious to be honest, it is very good. Smooth.

It’s more what I was expecting, not a beer you’re gonna chug, but sipper, especially as it warms up, it’s delicious.

But it is the, the, the lack of carbonation makes the drinking experience of this one so much different than this one. This is this I know isn’t planned, but I’m going to change things up here a little bit. If you don’t mind.

Could we maybe get a third glass and combine the two and see what a mix of the old one and the new one would taste like? So I’m gonna pour a little bit of this in there. Oh man. I’m gonna say the sum is greater than the parts.

It’s amazing that the best of this one and the best of this one is what you get here. That they’re not, there’s no conflict between the two. Um, you don’t lose anything from either one either.

I think that’s fantastic. And it tastes so much fresher doesn’t it? Yes. Yeah.

Yeah. That’s a good, that’s a good mix. Maybe aging them for three years would be the optimal, like it says on the bottle. But if you happen to find one, lying around, mix it with a new one and you have got a delicious beer.

And the best by date – completely ignore that. If you find, if you find one in the back of the closet, somewhere in the best by date’s gone by some, I think, I think you can, you can safely enjoy that beer without too much concern.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale?

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is a Dark Belgian Ale that is brewed annually and varies slightly from year to year. It is brewed under contract by uni-brew in Quebec, Canada. The bottle mentions that it’s brewed “on Lees,” which is a term indicating that it’s bottle conditioned.

How long can you age Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale?

Trader Joe’s recommends aging their vintage ale for up to three years. They also provide a best before date on the bottle that corresponds to this three-year period. A bottle that is six years past its best before date can still be enjoyable.

What does “brewed on Lees” mean?

“Brewed on Lees” is a term commonly used in winemaking. In the context of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale, it means that the beer is bottle conditioned.

Who brews Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale?

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is brewed under contract by uni-brew, located in Quebec, Canada.

How does the taste of a fresh Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale compare to an aged one?

A fresh Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is more carbonated and has mellow flavors with a slightly boozy and heavy taste. An aged version, such as one that’s nine years old, has significantly less carbonation and offers a smoother drinking experience.

Interestingly, mixing the old and the new versions can result in a blend that captures the best qualities of both, providing a fresh and delightful taste.

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