Some beers aren’t modest. Bell’s Expedition Stout is one of them. With an initial aroma that leaps from the bottle, a shining black darkness whose beauty can’t be ignored, a plethora of flavors offering a new discovery with each sip, and an aftertaste that is anything but fleeting; this world-class beer is an absolute delight.
True black is the total absorption of light, and a pour of Expedition challenges the holder to find any color other than black within the liquid. Held to direct sunlight, I noticed a faint ruby red along the surface, but this is one of the darkest beers out there. It definitely tips the SRM scale.
The aggression of the pour has a big influence on the head with even moderately quick pours producing little foam. However, one of the best attributes of the Spiegelau stout glass is the ample headspace allowing rapid pours. It really is a fantastic sight to watch the brown head form and settle atop the beer before leaving a nice layer of lacing as it recedes.
In addition to the beauty of the head, the aggressive pour also liberates the aromas. Though the roasted malt can be detected even with the glass across the table, a closer inspection challenges one to detect all of the scents as notes of heavy roasted malt, maple, vanilla, dark cherry, currant, and black licorice leap forth.
The brain is challenged by the aroma, and then nearly overwhelmed by the flavors. The medium-heavy mouthfeel of this 10.5% beer coats the tongue allowing the taste buds ample time to investigate. Every sip is an enlightenment, and in an affront to Maxwell House, this beer develops new flavors as it warms and is truly good to the last drop. The beer initially has a bit of sweetness of chocolate, maple, and vanilla. As it travels along the middle of the tongue, a bitterness develops both from a flavor of anise on the sides and the initial appearance of a hop bite in the center. The back of the tongue finds a combination of hops and heavily roasted malts with a bit of smokiness. The enduring aftertaste is dominated by a dancing of the hops and malt. This performance has periods where each partner is dominant with times of definite hop bitterness accentuated by just a bit of alcohol burn but also distinct stages where the heavy roasted flavors of the highly kilned malt take the lead.
The bottle sampled for this review was packaged on September 8th of this year, so it is still relatively fresh. The high ABV and complex flavor profile encourages cellaring, as does the claim on the bottle of an unlimited shelf life. Being a winter seasonal release, this beer is a prime candidate for later vertical tastings and comparisons years down the road.
So light a fire on a chilly evening, and sit back. Pop open and pour a bottle, and let Bell’s lead your senses on an expedition without leaving the warmth of home.
Outdoor Friendliness (a home-sipper)…Not Rated
Aroma (complex and somewhat contradictory with sweetness and heavy dark malt)…9/10
Flavor (like the amp on This is Spinal Tap)…11/10
Style Appropriateness (a silver medal at GABF says it all)…10/10
Alex writes a beer review every other Friday. Two weeks ago he reviewed The Sierra Nevada Celebration 2016: Seeing Reds Again