Dismiss Notice
Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...
Dismiss Notice
Join The Buzz! Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest BeerAdvocate updates delivered to your inbox.

Bell's Expedition Stout - Bell's Brewery, Inc.

Not Rated.
Bell's Expedition StoutBell's Expedition Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
93
outstanding

1,981 Reviews
THE BROS
98
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 1,981
Hads: 5,518
rAvg: 4.19
pDev: 11.46%
Wants: 474
Gots: 1,442 | FT: 121
Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc. visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 01-10-2002

Expedition Stout offers immensely complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Bell's Expedition Stout Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,981 | Hads: 5,518
Photo of beerdedking
4.65/5  rDev +11%

Bottled 9/25/13 poured obsidian into snifter with a thick cinnamon head. Just beautiful to behold.
Scents of raspberry truffle and plum brandy. The complexity has really come through after a year of sitting.
The dark fruits have melded perfectly to the dark chocolate and roasted barley. Still a touch of alcohol on the finish
which I prefer. A beer of this nature should have a bit of heat. What an experience. Just think, there are more
of these just sitting there at my bottle shop. Not for long.... (513 characters)

Photo of MonkeyBread
3.1/5  rDev -26%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Tastes like used motor oil. If I wanted something so acrid, bitter and viscous I'dattach a funnel to the gas tank on my car. Bell's seems to have no clue how to produce a decent stout. Pretty much their entire line is an undrinkable mess. How this gets nationally distributed is unreal. Take your average home brew and it would taste like the second coming of Christ compared to this undrinkable mess. (401 characters)

Photo of seedyone
4.5/5  rDev +7.4%

02/11/14 On tap at Rattle n Hum, NYC. A fine, fine brew. First nostril full is of a mild coffee. On the tongue it has a very pleasant bitterness from coffee & a mild chocolate. Steady, steady stuff. Sessionable plus. (216 characters)

Photo of tmm313
4.2/5  rDev +0.2%

When I first bought this two years ago, I read how bitter it was when new, so I aged it for a couple of years. Its a pretty complex stout with big coffee, dark chocolate, some licorice, and caramelized brown sugar. But yes, it is still pretty bitter. The finish reminded me of a bitter hop bomb lightly subdued with dry dark chocolate and light pine mixed in. Overall, it was nice. Super viscous, sweet, bitter, balanced, and not much burn. (441 characters)

Photo of Roguer
4.45/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a big, 3 finger dark brown and creamy head from a strong pour. Brew is a solid nut-black with a hint of brown. Head retention is very good, and lacing is wide and bubbly.

Smells like chocolate booze! Very strong aroma with big notes of cocoa and alcohol; some slightly sweet dark fruit (but not the overripe sourness of some stouts); slightly earthy bitterness; and a creamy and sugary finish.

Flavor is an excellent mix of roasted barley and chocolate (dark cacao, not added chocolate like a dessert stout), dancing and playing on their journey across your palate. The rest of the nose is present as well - cream, a hint of booziness (especially on the finish), and earthy hops, with a slightly grassy finish - but this is a showcase of malts.

Thick and sticky mouthfeel, full (but not chewy), with a long, bitter, clingy finish.

The beer is a little hot (alcohol; not peppers), but other than that, this is a fantastic, traditional RIS. The hype is warranted. (971 characters)

Photo of micromaniac129
3.99/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours thick and deeply brown with a desent size head which to it's credit is thick like a milk shake. The aroma is pretty much roasted malts deeply roasted at that. You get sutle hints of chocolate and coffee but you must dig for them.
Taste is like the nose well roasted or burnt malts with underlying alcohol.
Feels thick on the palette with a corse ashen feel. Finishes dry and bitter.
Lacks in depth of flavor and character.
I really don't think it's worthy of all the hipe and in fact think it's a violation. (513 characters)

Photo of Mikus
4.33/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured into my tulip from a 12oz bottle. These have about a year on them (purchased at the Andersons in C-Bus, OH). Bit pricey, but well worth it! Pure black (blacker than my heart) with a finger of tan head... didn't last too long. Immediate notes of coffee, molasses, and DEEP dark roasted malt. Yes. The deep roasty flavor emerged with the first swig, also a crisp bitterness. Hints of bitter chocolate and even a bit a caramel as time passed. Smooth, velvety mouthfeel. Glad I invested in a sixer, and excited to age a couple of these for upcoming birthdays (maybe '15 and '16). What a winner. One of my faves is FIS, and in my opinion (though it has some unique characteristics)... Expedition stands right up with FIS. Get some. (733 characters)

Photo of Mongrel
4.49/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 10/22/12.

A - Pours thick but smooth. Basically black with a nice dark khaki head that hangs around for a few minutes.

S - Smell just oozes syrupy, chocolate sweetness as soon as it hits the glass, with a touch of licorice.

T - Smooth and luxurious, with a perfect balance of sweetness and roastiness. There's dark chocolate, espresso, dark fruit and again that subtle hint of black licorice to keep things interesting. The flavors are so well melded. It's also got some over the top X factor, like umami but not really, that really sets this beer apart. Absolutely stunning with two years on it. Almost no suggestion of the big booze.

M - thick, but silky smooth. Fills your mouth to the extent that you can almost feel the bitter-sweet effervescence in your sinuses. Big sweet center that dries out nicely on the finish, leaving some lingering roastiness. (870 characters)

Photo of brewskifan55
4.09/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. Thanks, CorgiDad!

A: Black with shades of brown. No head, but a tan ring wraps around the glass. Light lacing.

S: Dark chocolate, light coffee, anise.

T: Rich and robust. Sinful. Chocolate cascades in with lighter coffee notes than I expected. Dark fruits (raisins, dates, plums). Cocoa.

M: Medium to heavy with medium carbonation. A dry finish.

O: Another winner from Bell's. A great sipper. Make sure to go on this Expedition. (458 characters)

Photo of majorbase2
4.1/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very very dark brown with a small lighter brown head. Okay retention, with some light lacing.

Aroma of alcohol, dark chocolate, and coffee. Roasted malts and molasses, as well. A little bit of nuttiness. Surprising amount of sweetness.

Roasted malts up front (that really stay on the tongue). More nuts, a little bit more than in the aroma. Good deal of alcohol warmth. Coffee. Not as much chocolate present. Just the slightest hint of dark fruits. Not quite as strong of a taste as I was hoping for, honestly.

Mouthfeel is sensational. Heavy bodied. Smooth and creamy. Very little carbonation. Very easy to drink.

Overall: Doesn't quite match the hype. Still a very good beer. Not quite as heavy as I expected it to be. Surprisingly easy to drink. A very solid Stout. (780 characters)

Photo of SebD
4.45/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle

Appearance: It has a nice jet black color to it. It has a nice dark tan head that dies down moderately and leaves nice lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruit (mainly raisins) and perhaps a touch of vanilla.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a ton of roasted malts followed by bitter dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans, light raisins and some faint vanilla.

Mouthfeel: It has a medium carbonation with a very nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied by great flavors and aromas. (613 characters)

Photo of patre_tim
3.75/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: Black with perhaps a dark brown hint only when held to the light, two fingers of dark brown head with a rusty tinge.

S: Malt bread, molasses, coffee, chocolate, malt beverages, sweet floral notes, meaty summer sausage umami scent, rubber tire in the sun.

T: Thick malty, rubber tire in the sun, tar, a hint of meaty umami, a fair amount of sweetness, light burnt toast quality on the tongue in the aftertaste.

M: Thick oily body that does not stick to the tongue and is not cloigny, light fine bubbled carbonation.

O: This one was produced on August 29th 2013, drank in Pensacola July 26th, 2014. I got this in Asheville at World Market about a month ago in a sixer. This is the second one I’ve had, and I’m wanting to age the others. (745 characters)

Photo of mabermud
4.3/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This early 2013 bottle was a hard pour into a brandy snifter. The pour created a phenomenal, beige, creamy, puffy head. The body is a super dark brown. After a few minutes of sitting the head settles down into a patchy cover of fine froth and a solid halo around the glass.

This stout has the usual stout smells, roasted malt, some coffee, and dark chocolate. What stands out to me is the aroma of sweet lactose. This tells me this thing is going to be creamy, hopefully like a chocolate/coffee milkshake.

The taste is nice. Roasted malts, bitter chocolate, and lactose...milky...like a mocha, only better.

The mouthfeel is so-so. It is fine, but it doesn't shine.

Overall, this is one of the better non-BA stouts. It is nice and creamy, very smooth, and has a complex, well-balanced taste. (796 characters)

Photo of Vixie
3.76/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pitch black. Held up to the light, and the light has no chance. Forms a little of a tan head that is leaving some nice lacing behind.

Not as strong a smell as I expected from the looks of it. Mainly smokey with hints of chocolate and coffee.

Coffee, chocolate, smoke, vanilla. Can't really taste the alcohol at all, and finishes with a bitter coffee aftertaste.

Feel is nice, smooth and full.

This was what a RIS is all about. While not the best example of the style I have had, this is a really good one. Big, in your face, no doubt this is a serious beer. It isn't the best example of the style I have tried, but easily one of the better ones. Worth seeking this one out. (677 characters)

Photo of bowzer4birdie
4.22/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had this on draft @ Local Option after I had a BORIS. Side-by-Side I favored the BORIS although I realize different styles at play here.

Dark fruity sweet smell with some bitter chocolate. Great head (dark brown) and thick lacing. Complex flavor with roasted malts / dark fruit and it seems that dark fruit influence lingers on the aftertaste for awhile which is a good thing. Nice change from some of the hoppier, heavier roasted brands like Plead the Fifth (which I enjoy as well). (485 characters)

Photo of VRH
4.75/5  rDev +13.4%

The 2011 batch from the tap of Beverage World, this brew pours dark reddish brown black with a big tan head. Aromas and flavours of molasses cookies, spicy ginger snaps, cinnamon, bitter chocolate, coffee, hints of wet straw, soy sauce, grass, & vanilla. Full bodied, rich palate combines with dry, crisp, smoky roasted finish. Truly outstanding! (346 characters)

Photo of nodder
4.31/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours black with a one finger light brown head. Fades quickly leaving lots of foamy lacing. Looks great.

S- Strong black coffee, chocolate, roasted malts. A bit of dark fruits (raisins, prunes). A slight alcohol scent is present.

T- Sweet dark chocolate and strong coffee. A bit boozy, but not bad for the 10.5% ABV

M- Full and thick. Coats the mouth. Love it.

O- A great stout that hides the ABV well. I'll have again, no doubt. (436 characters)

Photo of Stevedore
4.06/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle dated 12/27/12 poured into a Bell's tulip and quaffed today, 3/9/13. Review is based primarily on today's bottle but also uses notes from previous bottles from the same vintage which were consumed fresh.

Aroma: I definitely get the dark fruits- raisins, figs, cherry. It's definitely sweet smelling with quite a bit of heat on the nose. Really good smelling imperial stout- the ones I've been drinking are usually roasty and/or hoppy. But this is straight up dark fruit. Really a nice change of pace. (4)

Colour: Pours a dark dark dark jet black, looks great. It comes out with an absolutely beautiful 1cm dark brown head that dissipates within 30 seconds into absolutely nothing, leaving a very thin brown collar over an abyss of black beverage. The lacing is absolutely thick, and swirling agitates the collar and makes it even thicker. You can't do any better than this brew for its appearance! (5)

Flavour: When I first drank it fresh back in December, it tasted rather medicinal with a straight-up overdone cherry tartness- not complex at all and rather hard to drink. I didn't like it at the time but I decided to give it 3 months to see how it changes over time. And it would appear that just a bit of age really develops this beer. The heat has been covered up by a more complex flavor combining hints of the underlying roasty malt character with the dominant dark fruit flavours as described in the nose- raisins, cherry, figs that contribute quite a bit to the aftertaste. It's not boozy at all and has developed nicely in such a short amount of time. (4)

Mouthfeel: On the lighter side of a thick body. Decent carbonation. Goes down smoothly leaving a nice balanced finish that is neither wet or dry. The aftertaste is probably dominantly tart cherry that goes to town on your taste buds for quite a while afterwards. Not the thickest imperial stout but it's a very smooth quaff. (4)

Overall: It makes sense that this beer develops with some age on it as it would seem that Bell's intended it that way. I'm happy that I hung onto the six-pack I bought last December. I'll probably try it at 3-6 month intervals to see how it develops from here on. It's a nice change from the usual roasty and hoppy imperial stouts (e.g. Founders Imperial Stout, Plead the 5th, etc.), as the dark fruits are the strongest contributor to the flavour. (4)

Re-reviewed 5/30/2014. 2013 vintage (7/19/2013) poured into a Bell's goblet. A bit over 10 months old now. Essentially, appearance is the same, and I do get a ton of dark chocolate bitterness with even more dark fruit and some vanilla essence in the nose. Flavour profile is similar, heavier on the dark fruits- dates, raisins- roast malts and dark chocolate mixed in with milk chocolate and caramel, with a bit of vanilla and molasses. Very complex, interesting and decadent beer that has a nice slick mouthfeel that isn't quite too thick or oily but just right. Overall, a great RIS that stacks up with the other Michigan RIS's- Founders RIS and DH Plead the 5th to name a few.

Based on this vintage, I would re-review to a 4.5/4.25/4.5/4/4.25 which comes out to a BA score of 4.35. (3,152 characters)

Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.46/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle (dated 12/27/12) into a pint glass, very dark brown almost black with a short dark tan head that dissipates leaving little lacing, clear

S: coffee, chocolate, dark coco, molasses, cane sugar, sweet, espresso

T: sweet, chocolate, coffee, espresso, dark roasted malt, heavy on the malt flavor, raisins, brown sugar

M: thick and oily, alcohol present but not overpowering, little carbonation

O: an excellent RIS, flavor maintains some bitterness through the sweet with a nice dose of hops and chocolate malts (539 characters)

Photo of pants678
4.34/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Black with a brown head, recedes quick.

Smells of roasted malt and alcohol. Could be stronger.

Chocolate's there, nuts are prominent, licorice. The alcohol's not masked but works in the beer's favor. Still wouldn't have figured 10%. Tiny note of coffee and tobacco but more so fruit, though, not Belgian or citric. I need some superlatives for this one.

Coplex profile but body's not all that heavy. (402 characters)

Photo of Mightykingmalard
4.15/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: completely opaque. Beautiful caramel head that burns down fast. Super black. 4.25

S: milk chocolate. A hint of booze. 4.25

T: very characteristic imperial stout taste: smooth taste with a bitter finish. 4.0

M: very smooth. Hard to say much more, but it has a great feel. 4.25

O: a very, very nice imperial stout. Probably one of the best straight up imperial stouts I've had. If it was distributed to ca, I would definitely frequent it. 4.25 (448 characters)

Photo of barhoc11
5/5  rDev +19.3%

A: Thick and black with a dark tan head, looks amazing

S: Dark, fruity with some smokiness

T: Roasted malt is upfront with hints of dark fruit and smoke. Taste improves and the beer warms

M: Thick and sweet, but not too sweet.

O: I have had this beer with some age on it and it definitely improves over time. This is probably my favorite RIS and for good reason (365 characters)

Photo of 57md
4.1/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Appearance is a deep, dark brown with more than a finger of fluffy tan head. The head seems to linger forever and leaves thin lace rings on the glass. The nose is surprisingly muted for a beer as big as this one – a whiff of alcohol is the most noticeable thing.

This offering is certainly rich and creamy, but the roast profile is just not quiet up to other top shelf RISs. The best part of the drinking experience is the finish when the coffee notes come on relatively strong.

This is a bit of a mixed bag, but certainly a tasty RIS.


Update on 11/21/2014:
Sampled a 15 month old bottle from the 2013 vintage today.

It was definitely superior. The nose was more potent and the flavors were deeper and better defined – except, as expected, the coffee notes were non-existent. I edited my rating for this offering upward as a result of this sample.

Next up: I want to try a 2 year old + sample of this fine RIS. (923 characters)

Photo of toppoop
4.63/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A - aggressive pour yielded a solid inch thick head which reduced down to bit lingering on the top. A little bit of lacing too.
S - booze and chocolate hit the noise with a bit of dark wine and wood.
T - half a year has done this great. The booze is a lot smoother now and chocolate notes dominate up front with a touch of vanilla. The bit of booze hits at the end with nice dark fruit.
M - great mouth feel here. The beer completely coats the mouth with a nice touch of carbonation.
O - one of my favorites. Never fails. Tremendous stout. (539 characters)

Photo of magictacosinus
4.55/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to c64person for sending me two of these, both bottled on "9/19/11." Thanks! I've never had this fresh (I really want to), but this apparently only gets better with time so I felt around now was a good time to crack one open. Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a teku glass.

Pours not totally opaque (black with brownish tones), yet in the glass, I can barely get any light to pass through this. Looks almost solid, like hardened chocolate syrup when left alone. The mocha colored head adds to the effect, with tons of lacing sticking around with each swirl in a shrapnel coated manner. I'm impressed that carbonation is this good this late in the game - it's very elegant yet powerful in presentation. Really delightful looking and fresh I'd only imagine it looks better.

Ahhh, yes, haven't had a imperial stout that smelled like this in a while - the last one being Marshal Zhukov - it's an effect that I'd like to call the "truffle" condition that the best of these imperial stouts hold. At first, there's a chocolate truffle roasted richness (think 85% cacao), with lingering notes of peanut brittle, cashews, as well as lightly burnt toffee, molasses, cinnamon, and coffee. Underneath, there's a plethora of dried dark fruit and herbal qualities that are often found in high quality aged tannic red wines - raisins, figs, prunes, and dark cherry pits. Bright mint, peppercorns, licorice, and light spicy notes from the alcohol finish it up. Everything is wonderfully balanced, and the alcohol is hidden gracefully. Quite extraordinarily opulent, bright stuff.

Wow! This is amazingly rich, yet unlike Zhukov, not nearly as mouth coating or hedonistic - this is far more approachable, with an easy drinking texture and loads of layers of flavors that open up over time. At first, the palate is coated with a dense, dark chocolate flavor, with a powdery, melting sensation akin to eating fudge, alongside toffee, caramel, and burnt brown sugar notes. Then, the fruit flavors explode, to which my friend and I agreed it tasted like a chocolate covered raisin filled with molasses, or a coffee chocolate covered raisin or fig of sorts. Finishes spicy, with light chili powder notes, some mint, light black licorice, kirsch, and light cocoa butter at the finish. The aftertaste is powerful - goes on for a while and rewards the senses with a rich chocolate chili flavored sensation alongside the fruit. This is surprisingly medium body given the style, and it's definitely less carbonated than one would expect, but it somehow works perfectly, driving up the drinkable qualities and yet simultaneously makes this a sipper due to its rich roasted qualities, rather than the sweet qualities that your everyday RIS provides. Creamy, rich, yet very approachable. World class stuff.

This is one of the greats, and with its tremendously high aging qualities, this is perhaps one of the most unique stouts brewed in the country that is available quite often. I'd love to get a case of this and age it, but location is seriously screwing me up here. Simply phenomenally complex and easy-drinking stuff. Rewards you in the long run and sticks it to the hyped beers as any old school craft recipe should. Highly recommended. (3,222 characters)

Bell's Expedition Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
93 out of 100 based on 1,981 ratings.