4AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 17/20
I’ve never been a big fan of the Russian Imperial Stout style because I often find the intense potency tends to overwhelm the palette and makes it difficult to appreciate. Then along comes Bell’s Expedition Stout - a midwestern example that impressed me more than all other previous examples of the style put together. It’s got everything I look for in a great stout: smooth, creamy texture; prominent chocolate and deeply roasted barley notes and it’s quite drinkable.
|2013 edition (I'd upgrade this to a 10/10)|
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. This beer has a body that could only be described as opaque jet black. Even the head is very dark brown. It’s creamy and surprisingly thick for an imperial brew. It lasts for the first few swigs, dies down, but regenerates easily with a quick swirl.
The aroma is more along the lines of a chocolate stout with bitter dark chocolate notes as well as a significant alcohol presence. It’s surprisingly mild for such a strong beer.
I noticed three separate, but very noticeable, flavor components to Bell’s Expedition Stout. Up front the beer is thick, creamy, smooth and chocolaty. As it finishes there’s quite a bit of heat from the alcohol which is rather dry, but completely tolerable. The aftertaste is almost as strong as the mouthfeel itself with a strong flavor of deeply roasted, or even burnt malts along with dark chocolate. Now that’s what I consider a complex palette.
What I like about this beer is the fact there is no sour red grape taste and the fact the chocolate is more on the bitter side so as not to be overly sweet the way some straight-up chocolate stouts tend to be. The alcohol is probably a little more prominent than I’d prefer, but it actually seems to fade away as the beer warms (usually, the opposite is true of beers like this).
I just wish the roasted malts had been more pronounced, since it this flavor was very pleasing on the tongue in the aftertaste.
What impressed me most about Bell’s Expedition Stout (relatively speaking) was the how creamy and smooth the beer felt in the mouth. As it first enters the mouth, it’s velvety like a nitrogen-charged session stout but without the watery body. It’s thick, but not sticky or heavy. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet like candy or a dessert beer. Even though alcohol is quite prominent on the finish it’s actually rather subdued compared to other beers of the style.
Weighing in at 10.5% ABV it’s not surprising how much heat is generated from the beer, but what is surprising is how hefty the beer is not. Sure, just one bottle gave me a noticeable buzz, but I didn’t feel as though I had a watermelon in my stomach the way some imperials make me feel.
While I wouldn’t consider Bell’s Expedition Stout among the best of the best, it’s quite an amazing beer for what it’s able to accomplish. It’s rare I’m able to get such enjoyable taste and true drinkability in a Russian imperial stout.
(note: this beer was sent to me from a friend in Michigan since it’s not yet distributed here in upstate New York. I’m not sure of the price, but I would say upwards of $15 for a 4-pack is a good value.)