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

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BA SCORE
94
outstanding
2,095 Reviews
Bell's Expedition StoutBell's Expedition Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Michigan, United States
bellsbeer.com

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 01-10-2002

BEER STATS
Reviews:
2,095
Ratings:
6,008
Avg:
4.22
pDev:
17.77%
 
 
Wants:
528
Gots:
1,701
For Trade:
134
User Reviews
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Reviews: 2,095 | Ratings: 6,008
Reviews by Fatduck:
Photo of Fatduck
3.87/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Here's a beer I should have tried earlier. I'm a big fan of the RIS, and a big fan of Bell's. High time this one gets reviewed. I just finished my taxes and this is my reward.

This thing is black, nothing gets through, even on the edges. Smells of deep roasted/burnt coffee/chocolate with some raisins.

Taste is good, big full body, nothing like a good RIS to ruin your review, right?

Very drinkable

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More User Reviews:
Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.45/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Did a 10-year vertical with friends. Below are our general thoughts on how it changed each year.

2015 - tastes young, woody, bitter, chocolate
2014 - cherry, milder, sweeter, lost its bitterness
2013 - got more complex, a "flavor punch" as Matthew said.
2012 - smoother, milder, back to a 2014 taste
2011 - deep cherry flavor, dark fruit, fig, chocolate, chalky, back to the "flavor punch"
2010 - "I can't tell if this one is my favorite or if I'm just buzzed," says Megan. Lost its fruitiness, more date, salt, 7UP, minerals, not as mild
2009 - a small swig tastes like nickels or loose change (oxidation), but a big swig is like chocolate goodness "going through my body."
2008 - super woody, smoky, "the flavor is back!" says Griffin. Matt ranks this one in the lower 50%. "Pretty metallic with no strong flavors to cover it up."
2007 - "Ooh, very chocolatey," says Megan. Smooth. All the metallic taste is gone. Really good. Michael is debating if it's the best of the bunch.
2006 - Smooth, oily, almost like a bourbon barrel aged beer. Salt, no bite, strong flavor of everything that's come before. It's like "a concentrated version of the current 2015 stout," if they put it in a saucer and boiled it, it would be a chocolate or mole sauce. Very little alcohol bite.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.41/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

From BeerAdvocate Magazine #74 (Mar 2013):

Why Expedition Stout isn’t ranked in our Top Beers or talked about at the same level as overly hyped Imperial Stouts is beyond us. Nothing short of amazing here, and a truly rich experience. Bell’s touts that its shelf life is “unlimited,” which explains why the brewery sent us 2011 samples for review. From what we heard, a bit of age does this beer right, but of course do what suits you. This could also answer our question, but who cares. This is one badass beer.

STYLE: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.5%
AVAILABILITY: Seasonal

LOOK: Black liquid, dense brown head

SMELL: Roasty, prunes, faint sherry, dark chocolate, juicy, charred raisins, boozy

TASTE: Intense roasted graininess, creamy, full bodied, warming alcohol, very smooth, slight oxidation, sherry, baker’s chocolate, bitter, black berries, raisins, molasses, bittersweet finish

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Photo of teromous
4.42/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From the label: "13415 PKGD 08/22/14 C" so it is just under two months old.

Appearance: Oily black with a thick creamy khaki head that fades leaving fine bubbled lacing on the glass.

Aroma: I pick up the scent of caramel and a hint of coffee. It is very light on the aroma.

Taste: It has a very very rich flavor consisting of coffee, oak, chocolate, molasses, and a hint of bourbon around the edge. The bottle doesn't say anything about bourbon barrels or anything but this is how it tastes. It is a very excellent tasting stout.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is superb. It is thick and smooth. It is a sipper, but it doesn't burn with the high alcohol content.

Overall: This is a very excellent RIS. It is thick, smooth, and full of flavor. Less than two months in the bottle and it has the quality of a well-aged imperial stout. I highly recommend trying this out and buying more than one. It is very easy to drink and is delicious.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.55/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Do large stouts get any more classy than this? Bell's makes it look easy as they layer the taste of roast, chocolate, alcohol, and fruit onto a succulent and savory base that seduces the palate at every turn.

The onyx-black ale arrives at the bar with a stern, disciplined, and masculine appearance. It's depth of clarity gives the beer a mirror-like sheen although it's black color makes it opaque. A mocha-stained head caps the beer with a blanket of foam that easily retains the session and laces the glass with confidence. Even a gentle swirl of the glass leaves brandy-like shiny legs clinging to the glass.

High roast, light smoke, and cocoa-rich chocolates overwhelm the nose with a backing of rum and bourbon booze that reveal notes of toffee and molasses. Underlying fruit aromas of red grape, cherry, and blackberry seem to carry a charred character and create a mouthwatering effect heading into the first sip.

Notions of chocolate wrapped espresso beans come to mind as the sweeter malts coat the front of the tongue and palate with its malty richness. Slightly scorched molasses allows for a rich and savory taste to rise at middle palate. This is the point where espresso roast, bittersweet chocolate, and charred dark fruit weave together for a complex but pleasantly rounded taste. Bold however, the taste is further complemented by piney and citrusy hops that assist the roast bitterness to finish. Cherry flavored alcohols and walnut oils all integrate into taste and continue the varying tastes that unveil themselves as the beer warms.

And with its marshmallowy texture, the enormous malt complexes provide a nearly chewy body to start. This silky and succulent texture keeps the beer's flavor squarely focused on the taste buds. But a patient transition to semi-dry maltiness is rewarded in finish as the beer's alcohols act like port wine and fine cognac to signal closure. It's extended roasty bitterness melds seamlessly with the next sip.

Bell's Expedition is a world-class stout, by which all others could be measured. I'm not sure if it is perfect at any one attribute, but it's near that on all. Plus there's several complexities that go above and beyond what the style prescribes. It pairs well with rich foods like honey-dripped dates, smoky bacon, and well aged gruyere.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.37/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a jet black body with a full, frothy tan-colored head.

Smell: Aroma of black malts, roasted coffee, dark chocolate syrup, scorched almonds, molasses, and herbal, piney hops.

Taste: Black roasted malts with flavors of coffee and exceedingly dark chocolate. Some burnt almonds and fire-blackened marshmallows. The hops are bold in their bitterness, but not overbearing, and provide a taste of dried herbs and pine. Finishes with a lingering bitterness and acidic char taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Mild carbonation. Chewy mouthfeel. Warming from the first sip.

Drinkability: A very fine stout both fresh and cellared. To wit, I had an '02 this past weekend that had morphed into a slightly roasty chocolate liqueur.

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Photo of pahldavis
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled on 11/06/15

Look: Black as night with a thick, dark carmel brown head
Smell: Shiitake mushroom, bitter chocolate, wood
Taste: Bitter chocolate, molasses, earth and dirt, fresh bay leaf, oregano, wild mushroom
Feel: cough syrup thick, little to no carbonation

Whats not to love or at very least appreciate about this beer. It's everything one wants in an Imperial Stout. The combination of roasty-toastiness with the earthiness reminds me of some Baltic Porters I've had. Overall, it's fantastic and one to sip. I'm in a good place.

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Photo of 94Sip
4.68/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is a BIG stout (as expected). The bottle said it was brewed Oct 2014 and I had it March '15, poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

The label said this stout was meant to be aged and I would highly agree with that sentiment. There is a significant booze presence and the flavors were overall "tight". It reminded me of the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, in that I think that beer is amazing after sitting in the cellar for a year or two. This beer will probably be incredible with a little age on it.

It is not too hoppy like some of the west coast stouts, but does have just the right amount of bitter to it. The booze hit me initially with each sip, then followed with some of the dark fruits/prunes/raisins. Then the finish gives you some good chocolate/toffee flavors which is my definition of a perfect stout.

With a little age I expect the booze to subside and those middle flavors to come forward and the chocolate/toffee to stay with it and be perhaps a bit more pronounced.

Overall, just a really great imperial stout and ranks up there with the others that I really like.

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Photo of Stevedore
4.06/5  rDev -3.8%
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.

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Photo of Bshaw22
4.39/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

This beer is really hard for me to rate. I'm drinking it so fresh, only a couple months old.
Looks beautiful. Sleeps ok. Taste is really goo but really bitter for a stout. I am going to save the rest of the six pack and age it. I'll review again next year.

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Photo of medicinewheel
4.33/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

6 month old bottle from date on label, maybe too young, couldn't wait. This is Bell's after all.

Look- Black as night, it is like motor oil, tan thin head, quick run lacing. (Doesn't last)

Smell- almost too much to describe, so much going on at once- pine, tar, resin, chocolate, coffee, wine.

Taste- dark Chocolate, coffee bitterness that lingers, possibly some very ripe banana, noticed that after many tastes.

Feel- Smooth, light carbonation but the effect here is so appealing for the style, the ale just lingers on the tongue and the palate, you'll feel it sip after sip it's right. Bitterness will sit on the back of the tongue for a while in such a pleasant way commanding another taste.

Stout's are not my favorite style-but- now this Stout is one of my favorite's how's that for a change of pace!?
Only Bell's could do something like that-

It's a massive Stout and I recommend anyone give one a try regardless of palate preference- it's simply an amazing ale.

If you come across this- it's a must have.
Cellaring would be damn fun if you have the patience.

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Photo of woemad
4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle courtesy of LehighAce06 as part of his battery of (mostly) Michigan beers that he sent me as part of NBS BIF # 2. Another Bell’s beer that I had wanted for a long time! According to the label, this was bottled August 22, 2014. Hmm. Pre-aged for your pleasure…

Poured into a Jones Radiator mug, this is a very dark brown, with a big, foam head that is colored somewhere between tan and mocha. Said head left lots of lace on the sides of the glass, and fell rather quickly – not a surprise given the potency of this brew.

Big nose of molasses, coffee and booze, but the coffee isn’t nearly as pronounced as other reviewers indicate – maybe because mine has been sitting for nearly a year, it’s mellowed a bit. Still, the other aspects of the nose give it a suitably unsubtle but tasty aroma – like all good Imperial Stouts!

The flavor does more to convince me this is mellower than it would be when fresh. The mollassly-brown sugar thing leads the flavor charge, backed up by booze, dark chocolate and coffee (in pretty much that order). In the background there’s some figgy-pruny things happening as well, along with notes of pipe tobacco (Referencing a forum rant someone made - Yeah, I’ve smoked a pipe, mentioning that in flavor terms isn’t being pretentious, it’s coming from my own experience). There’s a mild, hoppy zap at the swallow, but it’s nearly buried in sweet and bitter malt flavors that give off a kind of coffee ice cream aftertaste.

Full bodied, with spot-on carbonation and a creamy, coating mouthfeel.

I really, really like this beer. It’s ridiculously drinkable for a 10+% stout, without seeming like a dumbed down version of the style. In a weird reversal of how things usually go, I find myself wishing I had a fresh, harsher version so I could compare it to this slightly-aged version. I may have to trade for this again (or pick up a few bottles if I ever get back to Michigan), so I’ll be leaving it on my “wants” until further notice.

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Photo of SLOTHLIFE
4.19/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Best part about this beer is the mouth feel. So creamy and chewy. This beer is like a jacuzzi filled with frothy cappuccino and you dunk your head under and My Bloody Valentine is flowing out of underwater speakers like milk, sending warm fuzzy vibrations deep into your brain.

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Photo of oberon
4.2/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have been able to drink this a few times and really like it,poures a rich black color with small brownish colored head.Smell is sweet and earthy,the taste is a complex mix of earth,chocolate,and roasted malt.When it warms a little the alcoholic notes really come thru,very true to the style.A good high quality imperial stout from my favorite brewer.

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Photo of Shawnadams330
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%

Photo of don1481
4.43/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz poured into snifter.

Appearance: Pours like a motor oil. Virtually no head on this bad boy. Tiny amount of lacing on the side of the glass. Mocha colored.

Smell: a little boozy, coffee and chocolate notes intertwined.

Taste: like the nose. The booziness is less prevalent on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: rich, full mouth feel here. Luxury in a bottle.

Overall: aging more. Cant wait to revisit in a year. Already so good .

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Photo of RoyalT
4.85/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - Black in color with a slightly reddish hue and an awesome, dark tan head that showed great retention and laced the hell out of my glass. I can't say enough about how cool this looks at the pour.

Smell - Big, beautiful roasted malt notes along with some nice coffee and very dark fruiting, most notably figs and dates. There's also some brown sugar to this one along with a hop balance of some kind. This nose is very complex, and I'm sure that I'm missing a lot.

Taste - The bitter coffee comes out huge at the taste. All the other players from the aroma are here as well, but it's the coffee that takes things up a notch. There's also some malty cocoa to the flavor profile. This is not for the faint of heart.

Mouthfeel - Super creamy and milky smooth. This is a full-bodied stout if there ever was one. The bitter nature of this ale will give you the shakes.

Drinkability - I loved this stout, although it may be too bitter for some. I'll give Stone the edge simply because it has a bit more balance (with more big fruits) but this is certainly one of my Top Ten beers of all time.

Comments - A big thumbs up to francisweizen for sending me this awesome offering from Bell's. This is an experience that I'll never forget - and one I hope to repeat : )

Update - I got an '04 bottle of this from my brother-in-law in Madison, WI, and cellared it for four years. For some reason I was in a giddy mood tonight and decided to pop it open.

Oh, Lordy, is this a good beer. First let me say that this has not changed nearly as much as I thought it would after four years of cellaring. It hasn't sweetened up like I thought it would and could probably stomach another four years. Having said that, this is one of the most flavorful beers on the planet and is probably STILL too bitter for most even after four years in the cellar. Damn the torpedoes though I am enjoying the hell outta this one.

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Photo of aszatk01
4.75/5  rDev +12.6%

Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.55/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Golden2wenty1 for the sample.

Dark, near opaque brown with a Crayola brown skim on top. Crude like. Well hopped and burning aroma of vanilla, coffee, plum, and booze. Tastes and feels like bitter and acidic coffee sludge with a hint of chocolate and a shot of gasoline thrown in for good measure. Dark fruits are also present. Very assertive, butt kicking beer. A bit much to drink more than a few ounces of. Long term aging would do this beer well.

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Photo of DanGeo
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%

Photo of Smokesnotes
4.5/5  rDev +6.6%

Photo of tectactoe
4.34/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a squid-ink shade of black, letting no light through this one at all, super dark tan head, excellent staying power with thick bouts of lacing left along the edges of the glass. Aroma is full of rich, bittersweet dark chocolate, highly roasted malts and grains, sweet black licorice, and a touch of deep fruit sweetness and ashy hop bitterness. The presence of this beer is very powerful from the aroma alone. Some alcohol detectable, but not too heavily; just enough to provide a nice warming sensation on the tip of the nose.

One sip of this and you know you're in for a treat. Thick, sweet licorice up front, along with sweetness in the form of over-ripe dates and figs. Roasted cocoa beans, bitter espresso and thick coffee, dark chocolate and cocoa beans, bitter, creamy, and milky. An ashy, leafy hop profile asserts itself just in time to balance the extreme sweetness and put everything into perspective. Fading out, the beer leaves a nice combo of sweet and bitter behind on the palate with cocoa, roasted malt, and ashy hops. Alcohol warms and make itself known, but never burns or scares you away - it just adds another element. Super thick, motor oil body with a low-medium amount of carbonation.

This beer is extreme - it's heavy, thick, powerful, and jam packed full of flavor. I believe it's slightly underrated, but I may be biased since it's readily available in my area when in season. Take this one slow, it's a doozy, but it's damn good.

EDIT: 2006 vintage, enjoyed 3/21/2013. Thanks to Chris from bringing this one from this cellar. Bell's wasn't kidding when they said this one would hold up. No head, still silky smooth. Flavors are all there; dark coffee, bitter cocoa, sweet licorice. Mellow booziness with a light oxidation - understandable given the age. Fantastic. Seven years old and still holding up like a fuckin' champ.

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Photo of kidrogers
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%

Not usually a fan of imperials, the alcohol burn is never a friend of mine. But this one was different, it was more flavor than booze. One of the few rips that I would order while out! Loved it

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Photo of t2grogan
4.25/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of TCHopCraver
3.75/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Pours black with just a hint of brown into a standard pint glass. One finger head is dark brown and disappears rather quickly. I cannot see through its defenses.

S: Lots of dark chocolate with touches of anise and toasted malts. Some dark cherry and fig scents are also present.

T: Has a very smoky taste upfront that marries with the sweet chocolate/fruit flavors decently. Over the duration of the sip, the smokiness wins out over the sweetness, leaving a slightly unbalanced taste. The finish has a pretty acidic coffee flavor. The taste kind of reminds me of a s'more with a marshmallow that was held over the campfire a bit too long.

M: It has a pretty big feel, which I appreciate. It doesn't quite coat my palate in waves like other beers of the style I have had, though.

D: The high a.b.v. and competition between the sweetness and acidity in the taste make this beer lack in the drinkability category a little for me.

I think this is definitely a beer that could improve with some age on it and I will probably update my review when I've had a bottle with a year or more in the cellar.

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Bell's Expedition Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.22 out of 5 based on 6,008 ratings.
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