Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale

Thanks to Adam Slaker and the motivation he gave from his most recent Blog - Think'em Drink'em & Nod. There is some cool content along with a couple new beer pairing ideas. I figured since I have a couple from this year, I'd cellar the other along with its 2010 ancestor. Thanks to Jen for bringing this back for Christmas. Tasted while hanging out in the living room while Jen was presenting the her brewery label to Rich Nunez.
Served in a snifter and lightly chilled.
9% ABV

Appearance: Upon popping the cork and pouring, the beer presented a far more substantial head than expected (granted I presumed this would be the case, judging from last year, but this was huge!). It erupted in a beige/greyish colored dry Styrofoam head that had an element of a dense soapiness. The color was of agate brown, with a clarity when held to the light. Carbonation extremely present within. Dissipation was slow, but left very little lacing.
Aroma: I find a note of an acetic/musty character to the beer initially, but can easily be denounced for a stale brown ale. A bit farmhouse oriented. Minute note of chocolate and biscuit malt permeate the nostrils, while the stale scent remains prominent throughout....Brettanomyces.
Taste: The aroma was completely different than flavor. In the taste I initially draw out sensations of dark roasted fruit (i.e. cherries, plums, dates and figs). To parallel this, a rich, but still back casted malt backbone follows through with a perceptive chocolate and caramel undertone. Sweet and fruity, while still remaining refreshing. I can tell the attenuation was taken all the way to completion, not from the alcohol, but from the front sweetness that quickly transforms into a finishing residual dryness. The finish results in a spiced complexity with most dominantly, coriander and at the far end, clove phenols. Overall I get a viney characteristic. The Brett I got in the aroma is no where to be seen! The alcohol is well masked behind the numerous complexities. As the beer warms, more spice is exposed
Mouthfeel: Lighter in body, but with a carbonation that provides a very bite in the second half, kind of like a soda (carbonated to around a 2.7-8). What starts a bit heavy results in a rather drying finish. A bit of an acidity is felt.
Overall Impression: The Belgian yeast they used imparted a tremendous dose of complexity to an otherwise basic base malt. Well crafted. The malt and hops all play a minute part in this beer, while the byproducts of the yeast make what this beer is. One might consider this beer a bit watery in the second half, but it still transforms in flavor from start to finish. Spritzy, sweet, drinkable and intoxicating.

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