Bell's Expedition Stout

April 22 2011 - 9:47 AM

Wow.   I went a couple of years without having a Bell's Expedition Stout because it's an expensive six pack and it's a big, big beer not designed for everyday drinking, the same way that bear meat is not for everyday consumption.  I recently revisited the Expedition, having been fortunate enough to find a single bottle for sale at West Lakeview Liquors on Addison.  Note to beer retailers that offer craft brews:  when possible, offer as many single bottles of pricey craft brews as possible; this encourages customers to try expensive brews from which they would otherwise shy away, and will ultimately promote the sales of more six packs.  That aside, the Expedition proved to be even more overpowering than I remembered.

I let it chill in my freezer for about 20 minutes before unleashing it.  A Russian Imperial Stout, the Expedition is a complex potion with an array of flavors, many subtle, and is not desirably served at too cold of a temperature.  I poured it into a snifter glass.  The beer itself is black, jet black.  It has a modest tannish or perhaps cafe-colored head of tiny bubbles that lingers around the rim of the glass.  Lacing is also modest.   The mouthfeel is rich like a viscous Brazilian coffee served out of a French press, and the nose is replete with chocolate, rye bread, coffee, and toffee.  

Overpowering is the only apt description for the amalgam of chocolate, toffee, coffee, barley, roasted nut, and oatmeal flavors.   It blankets your palate and lingers forever on the finish.   As its temperature rises, you notice the serious hops in this beer that compliment these aforementioned  flavors.   Yet it is rich and smooth with all of its flavors well-integrated throughout.   You taste very little of the 10% or more alcohol content. 

Understandably, a beer this complex makes for an expensive six pack; it's the price of a decent chicken parmigiana plus an appetizer in Little Italy.  Fortunately, you can age this beer for several years so you can stretch out a six pack for quite a while, and treat yourself to one of these periodically, such as when you get that big promotion and can afford your next sixer of this.

–Mark Sheppard