It’s safe to say Trader Joe’s has a cult like following. Their home-brand products are renowned for being high quality and well-priced.
A seemingly little known fact about TJ’s is their line of house beers, sold under the label of Josephsbrau. They cover a number of styles and are generally priced for about $1/bottle. So I stopped by my local TJ’s and picked up one each of their current offerings (which varies by season and store). $6 got me a bottle of Oatmeal Stout, Pilsner, Hefeweizen, Red Ale and Summer Lager, including tax. Here’s what I thought about the brews.
Stockyard Oatmeal Stout
Stout and I often have a love/hate relationship. I thoroughly enjoy a nice, hearty brew that’s full of malt, but have not enjoyed the recent trends of packing them with coffee flavors.
Stockyard is a well-leveraged brew that will be enjoyable for coffee heads and those more wary of stouts alike.
Pouring the expected dark, opaque color and building a solid head, shipyard greets you to a malty aroma, tempered with coffee notes.
A thick-bodied and smooth brew, primary flavors are oat and dark chocolate, with a complementary hint of coffee. I think the flavors were tremendously balanced, creating a flavorful and smooth brew that’s a joy to drink. At $1.09 a bottle, this one is definitely worth picking up!
PLZNR Czech Style Lager
As the trends of beer have pushed towards the most ambitious and boozy hop-bombs available, it’s always great to see options on the lighter side. Deceptively complex to brew, a well executed Pilsner or Kolsch is a strong indicator of a talented brewer. So how does TJ’s version hold up?
Straw-colored and clear, Josephbrau’s PLZNR fits the bill of a Pilsner-style brew. Building a nice head, the aroma is mild and somewhat malty.
Light, crisp and slightly dry, PLZNR has quite a developed flavor compared to many of its peers. While it’s definitely a light brew, malt notes and a surprisingly deep hoppy bite create a great experience all-around. Again, this is a definite must try.
Drive Thru Red Dry Hopped Ale
As a big fan of malty beer, red ale tends to be one of my favorite styles. I’m always quick to try a red ale on any menu, and jumped at a chance to pick this one up.
Immediately, I was skeptical. Drive Thru Red pours a very light and clear color, a bad indicator regarding its likely flavor profile. It built a large head which receded quickly. Aroma is sweet and hoppy, with very little malt discernible.
Flavor wise, the aroma was a solid indicator. The brew is surprisingly thin, and consequently isn’t as flavorful as I would hope. The brew is reasonably effervescent and very sweet, opening almost like a soda. On the back end, there’s a reasonable hoppy bite which grounds it in the area of a beer.
Either way, this one was pretty disappointing. While drinkable, it’s not as well brewed or tasty as the previous two. It’s very thin and doesn’t meet expectations set by naming it a red ale. The only redeeming features are being palatable, cheap and 7.2% ABV. Pass on this one, in my opinion.
Hefeweizen Unfiltered Wheat Beer
Another style close to my heart is a Hefeweizen. While I tried and reviewed this brew about three years ago, I was excited to take a fresh look and see how it was.
Pouring the expected opaque, amber color and building a nice foamy head, Josephbrau’s take on Hefeweizen gives off a fairly expected aroma.
Smooth-bodied and slightly sweet, notes of wheat and banana take center stage. A mild clovey overtone rounds out the typical flavor. It’s light and refreshing and, while not a tremendous take on the style, quite tasty.
Keeping in mind this is a house-brand hefe at $1.09 per bottle, I think this is definitely worth checking out. It’s not going to blow you away, but it’s a solid brew that is fairly priced. I’d happily drink a few of these.
Summer Brew Top Fermented Lager
Writing this in mid-June, under the Texas heat, summer style brews are a welcome addition to my life. In Josephbrau’s portfolio, the summer brew is Kolsch-style.
A translucent, light straw color, the beer appears as expected. Aroma-wise, Summer Brew gives off a slightly grassy smell with a hint of hops.
Light-bodied, crisp and slightly dry, I was impressed by the flavor depth in such a thin brew. Light malts give way to a nice hoppy bite. In what is a recurring theme, this isn’t an outstanding Kolsch, but it’s a fairly solid one and is incredibly cheap.
It’s a great brew to cut the southern heat, and is something I am happy to recommend.
This review represents a fairly limited scope of Josephbrau’s complete portfolio (which probably necessitates additional reviews in different seasons). That said, I’ve found Trader Joe’s home-brand takes on brew to be generally high quality at a low price.
While I don’t see any of these beers winning industry awards, all of them perform at a reasonably high level compared to similar brews in the style. Four of the five brews reviewed were quite good and I would happily buy and drink them again.
Is Trader Joe’s a secret beer Mecca of your suburbs? Probably not. Is it a solid option for brew when you are shopping there anyway? Absolutely.
In posting reviews to my Untappd account, I scored each of these five brews as follows:
- Stockyard Oatmeal Stout: 3.75/5
- Plznr: 3.5/5
- Drive Thru Red: 2.5/5
- Hefeweizen: 3.5/5
- Summer Brew: 3.75/5
So make a point to pick up a mixed-6er next time you’re at Trader Joe’s!