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I love winter for many reasons, but as a devoted follower of our ever-progressing microbrewery-led “better beer” scene (these are fine days, indeed, for beer advocates), a key highlight is the annual release of Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. Each year, this private label beer proves nothing short of fantastic. Renowned Canadian brewer Unibroue manufactures it for Trader Joe’s, and each year the brew is slightly different.
This is private label done extremely well. The bottle-conditioned, 750-ml ale retails for $4.99—a significant bargain for a beer of this quality. Its fans are legion, spreading across the country, and as soon as it has been released, they quickly clamor for a case or two of the product to offer at holiday celebrations and beyond. And it’s a brew that cellars well, with ardent beer geeks like myself storing bottles from previous years and sampling them from time to time to see how they age (well, for as long as I can stand it once my supplies begin to dwindle…). For all of these reasons and more, its popularity easily spreads via organically generated buzz. Finally, this is a private label product that doesn’t skulk in ambiguity, as Unibroue (brewer of my all-time favorite, Maudite) is clearly credited on each bottle as the source.
So grab a bottle (or two) and a wide-rimmed chalice to toast another successful year in this business. Inspiration never comes easier than this.