Trader Joe's wine has long been A Thing, best epitomized by its bargain booze Charles Shaw line. But for a number of years, the grocer has also been contracting with major craft brewers (like Goose Island) to deliver in-house beer offerings—although you would be forgiven for not knowing that, since all the bottles say TJ’s up top. For cold weather months, the one that may convince shoppers to skip Two-Buck Chuck is Providential Golden Ale, a Belgian-style ale “brewed with spices” at a comfy 7.5% ABV.
Take away the store moniker, and the name “Providential Golden Ale” sounds pretty fancy, right? It comes in a bomber and has a Champagne-style top, complete with the ability to easily end up with foam overflow. In a pint glass, it retains a big, beautiful head.
When it comes your other senses have a shot at this beer, lemon pops up as the dominant scent. But the first word that comes to my mind is “fresh.” You can already tell this ale is light, with mild maltiness, before you take a single sip.
Trader Joe’s is not your typical nationwide food and beverage retailer, and Providential Golden Ale is not your typical grocery-brand offering.”
Trader Joe’s devotees are obsessed with its unique products. Cookie Butter? Yes, please. Truffle Honey Mustard spread? We’ll take two. With Providential Golden Ale, the flavor is just as enjoyable. This beer has a pleasant bitterness (in the form of mild grassiness) with citrus as the strongest, but not overwhelming, flavor. Despite that citrus-forward sip and sniff, Providential is not overly tart—it’s light-bodied, and finishes clean. This is a beer that may finally allow you to understand what craft brew-heads say when they describe a beer tasting like "banana peel": It’s fruity and bitter, but those two traits work together instead of fighting each other.
Trader Joe’s is not your typical nationwide food and beverage retailer, and Providential Golden Ale is not your typical grocery-brand offering. Slap this in a six-pack and attach the name of its primary brewer (in this case it’s Montreal’s Unibroue), and I’d wager you’d see it handsomely rewarded on beer review sites without the burden of lowered brand expectations.
For now, at least, allow us to be the latest to say drinking Trader Joe’s is actually as good as your aunt and uncle keep telling you it is.