Trader Joe’s beer is cheap. But is it any good? We tasted ten cans and bottles from Trader Joe’s beer selection and ranked them all, from skip to savor.
I already know you’re all going to be so mad at me for this one. But you need to trust that if you lined up every Trader Joe’s beer you could find and tasted them side by side, you would come to the same conclusion—or at least a similar conclusion. I have had a lot of beer in my life. Yes, a lot of it was Keystone Light in college. But since those days, I’ve also had a lot of really good beer. Lots and lots and lots. I’ve studied beer, too. And I’m married to a guy who brews beer. So, I like to think I know what I’m talking about.
Do me a favor. Take a deep breath and just read the whole ranking. You might get angry when you get to number one. But, seriously, just trust me.
And I promise, as new Trader Joe’s beers pop up in our local stores, I’ll add them to this list (some, like Trader Joe’s pumpkin beer, are seasonal).
Here’s every available Trader Joe’s beer, ranked.
- Drive Thru Red Dry Hopped Red Ale
I love red ales. I think there aren’t enough of them out there. So I was psyched to try Trader Joe’s red ale—until I took the first sip. A good red ale should taste a touch malty—almost caramelized. And a hopped red ale should taste hoppy and mouthwateringly bitter. This one tastes like a pumpkin ale. It tastes like it’s spiced with nutmeg. If you’re looking for a year-round fall beer, then I get this is the Trader Joe’s beer for you. But it’s not for me.
- Trader Jose Light
Trader Joe’s light beer selection is, at the moment, limited to this Corona Light dupe. And it is perfectly satisfactory. I won’t tell you to run out and grab a six-pack but it’s a fine summertime brew to stock up on for a party, especially if you squeeze in a spritz of lime.
- Trader Jose Dark
I like this more than the light version, but it’s lacking the maltiness I want from a dark Mexican beer. Once again, it’s a totally fine, cheap beer to grab a lot of and serve up at a BBQ. It’s also the best Trader Joe’s beer to use in a Michelada.
- Stockyard Oatmeal Stout
This is a nice, classic oatmeal stout. It has chocolaty undertones and, at 5.2% ABV, is a great session beer. But I wish it was a bit heavier and a bit creamier. Sporked managing editor Gwynedd Stuart also warns that if you sip from the can you get a lot of that aluminum flavor on the finish. So go ahead and pour it into a glass for the cleanest flavor and a creamier head.
- Josephbrau Hefeweizen
If you like that banana flavor you get from a classic hefeweizen, then take a big gulp of this Trader Joe’s German beer. It’s a little tangy and tastes a bit like some home-brewed beer I’ve had in the past. But, again, if you like banana flavor in beer (or, more specifically, an organic compound called Isoamyl acetate), then you will like this beer.
- Trader Jose
I like full-fat Corona more than Corona Light and I like regular Trader Jose more than Trader Jose Light. It has the same marijuana-esque flavor that I get from a Corona (really think about it the next time you try one, you’ll see), and it’s terrific with a lime. It’s a bolder flavor than the Light and that gives it an edge.
- Boatswain Double IPA Twin Screw Steamer
At 8.4% ABV, this Trader Joe’s beer is not playing around. It’s very malty and not super hoppy (a bit shocking for a double IPA), though it does finish with a bitter flavor. It’s extremely flavorful (I get a ton of apple flavor in the mix) but it’s also crisp and a little bit sweet, which kept me coming back for more. Gwynedd thought it was too intense, but I think if you’re looking for a beer you can really dig your teeth into, this is the best Trader Joe’s beer for you.
- Boatswain American IPA
The TJ’s American IPA is hoppier than the double IPA. It has that resin-y hoppiness that so many IPAs tried to tap into in the early 2010s—I’m thinking specifically of Sixpoint Brewery’s IPAs (they even had one called Resin). It has a really nice rich bitter finish that lasts. If you want to tap into some IPA nostalgia, this is definitely the best Trader Joe’s beer.
- Boatswain Hazy IPA
While the hazy IPA is much more mellow than the American IPA, the hops are still in attendance. At first sip, you get a nice balance of hops and malt, but then the finish ends on a definite hoppy note that lasts and lasts. That mouthwateringly bitter finish makes this a great beer to pair with foods like grilled chicken with a sweet BBQ sauce or spicy curries. It will refresh your palate and complement bold flavors.
- Simpler Times Lager
Please don’t yell at me. I did not expect this to be the best Trader Joe’s beer either. But I can’t deny the results of our very official taste test! Maybe we just got a really new batch, but the Simpler Times Lager I tasted smelled fresh and malty—not like a standard party beer at all. It’s a perfect day-drinking beer and it tastes way better than PBR or Bud Light. And it’s seriously cheap. “It has so much more flavor than your average Budweiser and 6.2% is pretty good for a lager,” Gwynedd commented. Really. It’s the best beer at Trader Joe’s. Trust me.
Drive Thru Red
Trader Jose Light
Trader Jose Dark
Stockyard Oatmeal Stout
Boatswain Double IPA
Boatswain American IPA
Boatswain Hazy IPA
Simpler Times Lager
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