Brew Review

Thirsty Thursday Craft Beer Recap: The Beers of Trader Jokes. Err… I mean Trader Joe’s!


Last Thursday night, The Alemonger invited me over for a tasting of his recent Craft Beer purchases from Trader Joe’s. We are no strangers to Trader Joe’s at the G-LO residence, and go there every so often to purchase their unique and usually fine quality food offerings, so when the opportunity to try some of their beers came up, I just couldn’t say no. Of the seven different beers in the photo above, we managed to try five.

Since I know very little about the Trader Joe’s Craft Beers, and since there is very little information about their beers on their website, I will skip the usual, “Here is what the brewery has to say about this beer” section and just get on with our reviews.

Here goes…

Beer #1 – Newton’s Folly Authentic Draft Cider

  • Alemonger says: Tasted as though it came straight from a bottom dollar grocery store generic apple juice container that sat out in the heat for a week or so. One plus: there wasn’t half a worm floating in it
  • G-LO says: Overly sweet. Flat. Think Mott’s Apple Juice with a splash of vodka. Hard Cider can be delicious and refreshing. This was neither.

Beer #2 – Josephs Brau Bavarian Style Hefeweizen

  • Alemonger says: About as faithful to the flavor profile of a German Hef as it is to a Norweigan rabbit. Nothing worked. All of the flavors were off the charts. No head retention either. Simply terrible.
  • G-LO says: Way off balance. That classic German Hefeweizen taste was overblown with cloves. There was so much clove that it tasted like it was added as an afterthought. Lacked the crispness that I long for in a Hefeweizen. Wet cardboard aftertaste.

The Alemonger says, “That’s some swell looking swill!”

Beer #3 – Simple Times Pilsner

  • Alemonger says: Pilsner? Really? Makes Miller’s claim “taste a real Pilsner” seem plausible. Reminded me of what you might pour out of the bottom of an open Fritos bag if it were left out in the rain, i.e. corn juice. And not the high fructose variety either! At least THAT can be really tasty.
  • G-LO says: Bland bland bland. Where is that hint of bitterness and maltiness that I crave from a Pilsner? This one made me long for a Bud/Miller/Coors. At 67 cents a can, I say throw in 8 more cents and buy yourself a can of soda.

Beer #4 – Mission Street India Pale Ale

  • Alemonger says: Not a top notch IPA by any standards, but far from a weak immitator. They may be once removed from Firestone-Walker, but the “big brothers” don’t let this brewery stray too far from standards brewed at the the Big House. For the price, a respectable value IPA.
  • G-LO says: Finally! A drinkable and downright enjoyable beer! Firestone Walker makes this for them. Their Union Jack and Double Jack IPAs are fantastic. This isn’t that, but it’s still quite good.

Beer #5 – Boatswain American IPA

  • Alemonger says: Thank god I found a really cheap fuel to fill my grill lighters because I’m sure that’s what these guys really meant the liquid in the bottles to do. Easily the worst “IPA” I’ve ever had. Felt bad even subjecting the drain to it.
  • G-LO says: IPA? But where are the hops? Bland and flavorless. The less said, the better.

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So there you have it! Five very different beers from Trader Joe’s, and four out of five were highly disappointing. In case you think we’re being overly harsh, here are a couple more opinions…

Have you tried the beers from Trader Joe’s? Let us know in the comments below!

19 replies »

  1. Thanks for the review, now I know to not even look twice at their beers when they eventually come to Denver.

    Love the Zapps Crawtators in the IPA photo, we always have a couple of bags for late night snacks in our hotel room when we go to New Orleans every year.

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    • Yo Will! I’m sure there’s a decent Trader Joe’s beer to be had. The Mission Street IPA was quite tasty, so perhaps that particular line up might be worth exploring further.

      The Zapps were delicious! Haven’t had them since I worked at a New Orleans themed restaurant when I was in college (late 80s). I need to get back to New Orleans…

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  2. I just had the Boatswain American IPA last night and would have to agree with your assessment. I felt so bad for my guests that I went down to the cellar to open up something nice just to make up for the lack of flavor in this beer. I still have the DIPA to consume. Lucky me. At least they were only $2 a bomber.

    I always buy new beers from TJ’s with the hopes that one of them will shine and become a cheap, everyday beer. Alas, one gets what one pays for.

    That said, the “vintage” beers they sell around the holidays (corked, 750 mL) are brewed by Unibroue (or used to be). Those are pretty good but nothing mind-blowing. If you look hard enough, you can figure out which beers are contracted to which breweries.

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    • You’re an excellent host and it sounds like you have a very Craft Beer knowledgable circle of friends. I truly don’t like to slam a brewer or company, but with the exception of the Mission Street IPA, this was a really lame tasting line-up.

      On a positive note, these beers did make for a fun night of Instagraming (is there anything lamer than a couple of old dorks?) and for a fun to do blog post. I also had a few laughs and got to eat some DELICIOUS Cajun style chips. Life gives you lemons, or in this case, lame beer…

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  3. So I’m going through my daily review of regulatory updates with a side of arbitrage calculations compliance and my Magic Wormless Apple World Wide Portal ElectroTile (often referred to in slang as an “iPhone”) alerts me to a new craft beer post by the BoozeDancers. Welcoming a brief escape from the world of exceedingly hieroglyphical language then presented in tortuously small print, I decided to take a peek….

    Woah! (apologies to Keaneu Reeves). The photos looked remarkably familiar, bearing an eerily similar resemblance to my own house. Then I remembered that G-LO and I opened and tasted the exact same beers that night and I could rest (and think) comfortably.

    OK, with that silliness out of the way…

    Anyone who’s suffered their way through my “Crafting of a Craft Beer Geek” post on Alemonger.wordpress.com knows my feelings about cheap beer. You taste what you pay for, plain and simple. All of the mass produced industrial swill factories spew horrendous beer because you can’t taste advertising, and that’s all they do well (extremely well). I have to admit that when I come across a new and inexpensive craft beer bomber I tend to make the assumption that the price may reflect the use of inferior ingredients and I usually take a pass on picking it up. If I’d followed my standard craft beer purchasing decisions I’d have saved myself (and G-LO) some anxious moments as I tried in vain to figure out what to do with most of these brews after the first sip.

    Ah but there are always exceptions to any rule – especially to my own. Enter Trader Joe’s. I’,m a fan. I don’t go often but when I do I almost always come away with something new, interesting, previously unheard of and reasonably cheap. In other words, the “you taste what you pay for” rule doesn’t apply with many of Trader Joe’s goods – including those brands that I’ve never heard of (many probably contract packaged exclusively for them).

    With that precedent in mind, I figured there was some possibility that a gem or two might lurk within the ranks of the small collection of Trader Joe’s exclusive (or so it seems) craft beers. As the night progressed, it became apparent that while there are exceptions to every rule, its also the case that exceptions prove the rule. This lineup of “craft beers” (save for Firestone-Walker’s Mission Street line) fit the rule as well as any member of the Jackson family fits the role of wackadoodle. These were, at best, tremendously poor imitations of real craft beer. No need to recap my impressions of the individual beers other than to say that I think G-LO and I commented often that we’d actually have preferred a Bud or Coors to what we were subjecting ourselves to. Thankfully, very few actual dollars were wasted in picking these brews up – Trader Joe’s pricing model saw to that.

    Now, what to do with the 2 we didn’t get to last week…. A preemptive drain pour is under consideration. Very serious consideration.

    Cheers!

    @TheAlemonger

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    • The imbibing part of the night wasn’t a total loss…

      At least you got to end the evening with a dram of the Bruichladdich Laddie Ten. A lovely, and recently kicked bottle of whisky! Slainte Mhath!

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  4. Nice post of what appears to be mostly bad beers. While the photos are fantastic and the comments amusing, this sounds like a bad trip to the Monger’s Wide World of Beer. I’m not sure if it is a good thing but he is now in your debt.

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      • He is in your debt because he lured you to the MongerCave under a false premise. Clearly, a typical trip to the Monger’s would include a fine or number of fine beers. Your post would suggest that that was far from the truth. Thus, under the international do-over rule (usually reserved for 7 year olds), the Monger should immediately invoke his do-over and make good on his invite.

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      • Since he has a huge surplus with regards to “Fine Beers” vs “Swill Beers” (i.e. I have tried many a fine beer at his Hacienda Della Craft Beer on his dime), I think he has earned a pass on this one (it did result in what I think was an amusing “He Said/He Said” post afterall). If this do-over rule were to be enacted, it may apply retroactively to many of our lackluster beer/whisk(e) tastings as well. Do we really want to go there?

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