The Best Beer at Trader Joe’s (Tasting Notes & Ratings for Each Style)

Trader Joe’s is one of the best places for unique snacks, fun frozen meals, and affordable yet quality beer and wine. If you’re familiar with “two buck Chuck” but haven’t yet explored TJ’s many different beer offerings, you may be wondering if they measure up.

Trader Joe’s beers are beloved by beer aficionados and casual beer drinkers alike and are often priced much lower than their commercial counterparts. They offer a wide variety of beer styles in product lines like Mission St, Josephbrau, and Trader Jose’s. Some must-tries include the Josephbrau Hefeweizen, and both the Mission St. IPA and Pale Ale.

Read on for more on where Trader Joe’s beers come from, and which are the best to add to your cart.

What kind of beer is available at Trader Joe’s?

Trader Joe’s sells both proprietary beers with their own label and other mass-market beers. They’ve sold beer and wine since the 1970s when Trader Joe’s helped usher in the U.S.’s budding interest in California wines.

All grocery store assortments tend to be somewhat regional, but most Trader Joe’s house beers are available nationally (although there may be some limited seasonal availability).

If you’re at a Trader Joe’s, it’s definitely worth picking up a couple of beers to try – especially for the price!

Who brews Trader Joe’s beer?

Even though Trader Joe’s put their own name on the label, they don’t brew the beer in-house.

There are a few key brewers that make Trader Joe’s flagship beers:

  • Steinhaus Brewing Company (Monrovia, California) – Mission St Series
  • Gordon Biersch Brewing Company (San Jose, California) – Josephbrau Series, Simpler Times
  • Cervecería Mexicana (Tecate, Baja California, Mexico) – Trader Jose’s

Is Trader Joe’s beer good?

Choosing a random beer at the grocery store can feel risky, especially if the price point is low. How do you know which Trader Joe’s beers are best and which ones you can skip?

Like any line of beers, Trader Joe’s beer has some hits and some misses. Largely, their beers score well, and there are many that are beloved by beer fans on BeerAdvocate.

They mostly score much higher than other beers at their discounted price point.

Trader Joe’s beer prices and specials

Trader Joe’s is known for its affordable pricing, particularly when it comes to alcohol. They gained notoriety in the early 2000s with their Charles Shaw line of wines, often called “two buck Chuck ” based on its $1.99 retail price (they’ve since gone up to $3.99 in most areas—blame inflation).

Most of the beers listed below retail for less than $2.50 per beer, and most are closer to $1 per beer, which is considerably less than typical craft beer pricing. That being said, you’re unlikely to find any discounts or specials on these beers as they’re already being sold at well below market average.

For the price, it’s definitely work picking up a couple of beers to try out!

Trader Joe’s beer comparisons

Trader Joe’s is well-known for its witty (or perhaps groan-inducing) naming systems, so it might be surprising to find it’s not always obvious which national brand is being referenced.

Most Trader Joe’s beers simply mimic a common beer style like Oatmeal Stout or American Pale Ale, but some specifically reference a specific brand of beer.

Their Josephsbrau series, for example, mimics different Eastern European styles like Czech Lagers and Bavarian-style Hefeweizens.

The best beers at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s offers a full range of beer styles so they really have something for everyone.

Their Josephsbrau and Mission St series are particularly reliable, but many of these beers are great examples of their style and solid choices.

Read on for all of the beers currently offered by Trader Joe’s, listed in order from best to worst Beer Advocate rating.

Stockyard Oatmeal Stout

  • Name: Stockyard Oatmeal Stout
  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 87
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Taste:  Very dark and chocolaty with notes of black licorice and a thin body.
  • Is it true to style? Slightly thinner bodied than a typical Oatmeal Stout.

Josephsbrau Bavarian Style Hefeweizen

  • Name: Josephsbrau Bavarian Style Hefeweizen
  • Style: Hefeweizen
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 84
  • ABV: 5.3%
  • Taste: Funkiness from Belgian yeast, spicy notes of coriander and clove, and sweet banana on the finish. 
  • Is it true to style? A clean, classic Hefeweizen that’s a very good deal for the style.

Mission St. IPA

  • Name: Mission St. IPA
  • Style: India Pale Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 83
  • ABV: 6.1%
  • Taste: Well-balanced with citrus and floral hop flavors and minimal malty sweetness.
  • Is it true to style? This is a classic example of an American India Pale Ale.

Black Toad Dark Ale

  • Name: Black Toad Dark Ale
  • Style: English Brown Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 82
  • ABV: 5.3%
  • Taste: Lightly toasted malts are balanced well by slight hoppiness with minimal smoke or char flavors. 
  • Is it true to style? This is an excellent and well-balanced example of an English Brown Ale. 

Mission St. Pale Ale

  • Name: Mission St. Pale Ale
  • Style: American Pale Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 81
  • ABV: 4.6%
  • Taste: Crisp, lightly hopped, and very sessionable with a slight orange pithiness. 
  • Is it true to style? Like its IPA cousin, this is a classic example of an American Pale Ale.

Mission St. Brown Ale

  • Name: Mission St. Brown Ale
  • Style: American Brown Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 80
  • ABV: 5.7%
  • Taste: Smooth and chocolaty with a savory nuttiness and bread notes.
  • Is it true to style? A straightforward, approachable American Brown Ale.

Josephsbrau Heller Bock

  • Name: Josephsbrau Heller Bock
  • Style: Maibock
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 78
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Taste: Malty and caramelly up front with lemon lime citrus notes on the finish.
  • Is it true to style? Slightly more mild than a typical Maibock.

Josephsbrau PLZNR Czech-Style Lager

  • Name: Josephsbrau PLZNR Czech-Style Lager
  • Style: Czech Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 77
  • ABV: 5.4%
  • Taste: Very mild flavor with a bit of piney hoppiness and grainy malt flavor.
  • Is it true to style? Actually more similar in style to a Czech Pilsner than the lager.

Trader José Dark Premium Lager

  • Name: Trader José Dark Premium Lager
  • Style: American Amber Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 76
  • ABV: 5.3%
  • Taste: Malty but very mild, with slight roasty bitterness.
  • Is it true to style? Notes of German malts are uncharacteristic of the style.

Boatswain Heavy Lift Vessel

  • Name: Boatswain Heavy Lift Vessel
  • Style: American Strong Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 76
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Taste: Biscuity with toffee and caramel flavors, not overly sweet. 
  • Is it true to style? A great value, but lacks the complexity of the typical American Strong Ale.

Boatswain Chocolate Stout

  • Name: Boatswain Chocolate Stout
  • Style: American Stout
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 75
  • ABV: 5.4%
  • Taste: Deep roast flavor with limited chocolate flavor. 
  • Is it true to style? Typical stout roast profile with a lighter-than-average body.

Josephsbrau Summer Brew

  • Name: Josephsbrau Summer Brew
  • Style: Kolsch
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 73
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • Taste: Super refreshing and light, with just a bit of lemony citrus flavor. Perfect for a hot summer’s day.
  • Is it true to style? Summer Brew’s flavors and aromas are slightly atypical for a Kolsch. 

Josephsbrau Bohemian Style Lager

  • Name: Josephsbrau Bohemian Style Lager
  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 73
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Taste:  Very light and easy-drinking with savory corn notes.
  • Is it true to style? Straightforward and savory similar to a typical Bohemian Style Lager.

Simpler Times Pilsner

  • Name: Simpler Times Pilsner
  • Style: German Pilsner
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 71
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Taste: Typical Pilsner bitterness is balanced by fruity, banana-like sweetness.
  • Is it true to style? The banana-type flavors are unique to the style, but the hopped bitterness is very typical to the German Pilsner style.

Peter’s Brand Classics

  • Name: Peter’s Brand Classics
  • Style: European Pale Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 71
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Taste: Light and very mild in flavor without malt or hop flavors that pop.
  • Is it true to style? Very approachable yet lacking the characteristic malt flavor of a typical European Pale Lager.

Oranjeboom Premium Lager

  • Name: Oranjeboom Premium Lager
  • Style: European Pale Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 68
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Taste: Very light and slightly skunky with cracker malt flavor.
  • Is it true to style? Typical European Lager yeast notes but more bland in flavor than higher-quality beers of its ilk.

Simpler Times Lager

  • Name: Simpler Times Lager
  • Style: American Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 67
  • ABV: 6.2%
  • Taste: Straightforward and light with classic lager crispness, mild flavor, and very little bitterness.
  • Is it true to style? It has the flavor of an American Lager with a slightly higher-than-average ABV that enhances the bang for your buck.

Trader José Light Premium Beer

  • Name: Trader José Light Premium Beer
  • Style: Light Mexican Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 67
  • ABV: 4%
  • Taste: Very light with citrus flavors and a whisper of hops.
  • Is it true to style? Slightly lighter and milder than a typical Mexican Lager, but pairs equally well with a twist of lime.

Boatswain Twin Screw Steamer

  • Name: Boatswain Twin Screw Steamer
  • Style: Double IPA
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 64
  • ABV: 8.4%
  • Taste: Strong hoppiness and bite from the high ABV, very low sweetness or malt flavor.
  • Is it true to style? Twin Screw is well-hopped, which is typical of the style, but lacks the malty backbone to balance that out.

Boatswain IPA

  • Name: Boatswain IPA
  • Style: American India Pale Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 64
  • ABV: 6.7%
  • Taste: Bitter astringency, minimal sweetness, and thin body with an unusual yeasty aroma.
  • Is it true to style? More off-balance than a typical American IPA.