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

2,136 Reviews
Bell's Expedition StoutBell's Expedition Stout

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

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

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Reviews: 2,136 | Ratings: 6,153
Photo of Pinknuggets
1.38/5  rDev -67.3%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

Bottle to hfs sniffer

A: very dark basically black small thin mocha head that dispates quickly and stays in a thin ring

S: reaks of alcohol and rotting fruit like some sort of fig extremely off putting one of the worst smells for a beer I've seen

T: follows the nose with a weird taste that is really off putting could not finish

M:thin not smooth can't really stand to drink it

O:this is officially the worst is I have ever tasted total drain pour couldn't even get half way through I'm real disappointed I had bigger expectations from what is heard from bells

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Photo of Nikkibrews13
1.89/5  rDev -55.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1

A: Bell's stout pours a deep black/ brown with a roasty brown head that leaves minimal lacing

S: The aroma gives off lots of sweet scents. licorice is present, as well as the alcohol.

T: This stout has roasted qualities that are quickly overcome by a acidic bitter flavor... and not a good one either. it honestly leaves a bad taste in my mouth... literally.

M: Thin coating mouthfeel.

D: Terrible. I think im gonna put this one to rest.

Overall i think that the apperance and aroma over the expedition was very misleading when the flavor comes into play. I dont know if this bottle was old but its no bueno in my book... thus far.

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Photo of mwilbur
1.9/5  rDev -55%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

Poured from bottle into pint glass.
A: Thick and black. Minimal dark tan head with no carbonation (a little odd since I just bought this bottle).
S: Roasted malts and chocolate. Can smell the high ABV...too prominent.
T: Completely unbalanced. Very weak malt can't offset the very high ABV. Roasted malt, chocolate...but not enough of it.
M: I hate to harp on it, but the high ABV distracts too much. Weak body and no taste to linger...just the alcohol.
D: Undrinkable...I hate to do this, but I'm not even going to finish this. I love high ABV beers, but they have to be balanced and have enough malt, flavors, etc. to hold up. This doesn't cut it. I see that others had difficulty with no carbonation. Either this is a major bottling problem or Bell's needs to rethink their approach here.
Definitely the worst russian imperial stout I've had in a long time...and I doubt this will age well as the bottle suggests.

7/26/10: Well, let's check on this one again...cellared for about 2 1/2 yrs. The appearance is actually nice. Thick black-brown with super dark brown head. Looks like you could chew on it (4). Dark chocolate, molasses, and piney hops. Decent (3.5). Dark chocolate syrup, blackstrap molasses, and piney hops. Follows aroma pretty much on cue (3.5). Thick, smooth, oily. Faint alcohol burn and hop bite. I like it (4). OK, so I was wrong. This one does age well, but starts off terrible. It ends up as an ok RIS, but you gotta be patient (3.5).

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Photo of semihobo
1.91/5  rDev -54.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

A 12 oz of Batch 8728, bottled just over 2 months ago so pretty fresh. Incidentally, while looking up the age of this batch, I found out that a bottle is a neat 400 calories... fun to know :)

Pours with a thin dark brown head, darker than such standby terms as "mocha." The head simmers down pretty fast but that little bit that remains hangs in tenaciously. Go ahead and backlight this with your cellphone -- a searchlight wouldn't go through this baby. Back in black.

Smells like tar and liquor distilled from some dark homemade molasses. Also smells of mint, drywall mud, and funk. And regular mud, not just drywall compound but swampy mud. And chicory, although I'm not getting much coffee. And nutmeg. And vanilla. The first ominous notes of Pink Floyd's "Time" just came on, foreshadowing a scary taste...

Exceedingly sharp. Pungent, bitter, veering toward evil. Very plant like bitterness, like eating bark or some root and being told by nature, "people are not supposed to eat this, fool." Slightly sour on the finish, the bitterness and sour blend to create a smoked coffee grounds-like taste. Mix in rum and asphalt. Some alcohol warming, but it's pretty well masked by the 500 pound gorilla flavor. Becomes more chocolatey as it warms. I grasp the complexity, and I am trying to stay positive within the style.

Mouthfeel is thick, it's tough to not gulp as mouthfuls are overwhelming. Finish is, sadly, sickening -- definitely making a face. Severely undercarbonated. The mouthfeel is the worst part of this beer and detracts from all other aspects.

It was some serious work to get through 12 oz of Expedition Stout. Definitely do not want another, thanks. Highly disappointing. I kept trying to like it, but I don't... to each their own. Tried to finish it as a matter of principle -- however, when it came time to choose between booting in the sink from the taste or pouring it out, the last few sips ran down the drain.


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Photo of BarkingLeopard
2.04/5  rDev -51.7%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Paid $2.49 for a 12oz bottle from Total Wine & More.

Got 1/8th inch of head that quickly dissipated. No lacing, and about as dark as you can get.

Smells DARK, as in dark coffee and chocolate, but not "dark" in the sense of good and rich. Smells slightly sweet...

Taste is very syrupy, dark, and sharp; very much not for me, one of the more disagreeable tasting beers I've had in a while. Similarly, this stuff is thicker than I was expecting (though it isn't too too thick). It really sticks to your tongue, and with its taste that's not a good thing at all in my book.

I have very low drinkability with this. It's very slightly warming as it goes down, and its taste is so sharp that it's definitely not something you'd want to drink one than one of... or in my case more than one sip of... I'm sure that this is good beer to some, but it was a struggle to make myself finish this beer; definitely not for me.

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Photo of bboelens
2.06/5  rDev -51.2%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A-Black motor oil in viscosity, an aggressive pour yielded no head at all, and the beer left no lacing.

S-Ok we're getting back on track, roasted malt and coffee are the main presence, a hint of chocolate and alcohol in the background.

T-Woof! This beer is thick and has waaaay too much going on in it, it's an explosion of flavors and not in the good way, yes there's some malt and coffee and a heavy alcohol taste but i can't even explain what the rest is, licorice and a clusterf**k of other things that just didn't come together for me.

M-Thick, no carbonation, medicinal

D-I almost broke my no drain pouring rule with this beer. I wonder if I got a bad bottle or if my taste buds just weren't made for this beer. This is a fresh bottle and a bought another one to age, after reading about it's impressive aging abilities, so I'll give it another chance.

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Photo of GoldenVIKE
2.09/5  rDev -50.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Opened a bottle that was only about a month or two old and was stored in the refrigerator for about 2 days prior to opening.

A-nice frothy pour. Very good head if you pour it hard, with a nice, cascading look. Head is milk chocolate color with a copper hue. The head quickly dissipates into a ring and leaves a very sticky lace.

S-subtle chocolate and perhaps some roasted or burnt coffee. not a strong or very complex smell.

T-awful compared to what i was expecting. very roasty, smoky tastes of burnt coffee, burnt toast, and an bad alcohol bite that leaves a mosquito-spray aftertaste. maybe some bitter chocolate in there but that'd be generous.

M-i'm not sure what the BA review was all about saying that this isn't carbonated at all. the carbonation is fine, if underwhelming. it's hard to focus on the mouthfeel when the taste is so bad.

O-i've heard this ages well. it can't get any worse than this for me. i love stouts and this is one of the least enjoyable i've had. i'll probably give it one more try just because other people give it good reviews, and it's possible that i just had a bad bottle.

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Photo of TechMyst
2.16/5  rDev -48.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

CONTAINER TYPE: bottle (Conditioned)
FRESH: 6672 (must be mislabled: their site has this as being an Amber Ale made 11/04. the date is probably right though) Anyway it’s almost 2 yrs old and this is ok for cellaring, but being on the top shelf exposed to fluorescent light every day might have had an impact
PURCHASED @: Binny’s
COST: $2.69/12oz bottle
HEAD: first, then it rose slightly and then diminshed; red in color; a few huge soapy iridescent bubles among the smaller ones
LACE: spare
AROMA: faint medicine; average hop
PALATE: sticky, flat conditioning
TASTE: cherry flavored cough syrup; cloying, sweet acidic cherry flavor; astringent average lasting aftertaste

COMMENTS: I was really looking forward to this, but it was nothing like I expected. I had a flashback to Vick’s 44-D cough syrup. Could this Imperial Stout with ABV of 11.5% become lightstruck? this made my cheekbone muscles cramp up. Kalamazoo by this brewer is the best stout I’ve ever enjoyed. This is a big beer though, it’s like climbing a wall. To me the Hop and Cherry flavors didn’t mix. My throat and torso burned for hours after consuming this. Did I drink it too cold? did I get too much sediment? Is this diactyl flavor from being light struck? or do I just not like the hop/fruit balance?(I’ve stated before that I really do not care much for fruit beers...)
MOWING/WORKING ON CAR- If I owned an Astin Martin(but then I wouldn’t be washing my own car or mowing my own lawn then now would I)
WITH FRIENDS- if they are buying
SIPPING- if I had a fresh one; or one that was cellared correctly (sipping is the only way to get this one down)
GET MY BUZZ ON- if fresh

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Photo of Jdecarol
2.23/5  rDev -47.2%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

This bottle was fresh on the shelves at the total wine in Boca Raton but it is absolutely flat. I got the slightly bubble on pouring but that was it. The consistency is that of Hershey Chocolate and no matter how much I chill this drink it still feels like it is room tempreture.

I like the sherry flavor though, but I can't pick up any other flavors behind it and its almost on the verge of being nasty sweet and thick.

I wanted to age the 2nd bottle but I'm just going to chug it seeing as I have a bad batch on hand.

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Photo of gonzo46and2
2.24/5  rDev -46.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Pours a very dark black as to be expected. Very dark head formed.

Smell wasn't all that bad. Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Licorice, Spice, etc.

Taste was a stinging burnt grain with heavy alchohol fumes. Not pleasant.

Carbonation was too low.

Just not a very good RIS in my opinion. I wonder if I got a bad bottle. I will try this stout again. Just not any time soon.

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Photo of BogleHill
2.26/5  rDev -46.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Bottled dated 10-2009. Pours out jet black like used motor oil. Sweet roasty and malty aroma with a presence of alcohol. Good tan head and carbonation. Very heavy mouthfeel. Quite roasty, almost smoky. The sweetness overpowers this one for me though, perhaps the alcohol too. This seems like a well made brew, but sadly, I found myself unable to finish it. Imperials are just not my thing-that I am sure of. -But I am up for trying anything, once. My thanks to awesome trader Birchstick for giving me the opportunity to try this highly rated stout.

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Photo of timtheenchanta
2.35/5  rDev -44.3%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 1.5

Good look. Completely pitch black with thin dark tan head. Slight retention with some thin lacing down the glass.

Sweet malt tries to squeeze through the alcohol but is unsuccessful. When I noticed this beer was 11.5, I was taken back but it really ruins the nose of this beer.

The taste is a tad bit maltier but once again completely spoiled by the alcohol. There are some dark fruits (raisins, plums) trying to poke through following and it finishes with a black coffee taste which is very dry after swallowing .

This brew is very thick. Bulky chewy feel.

Glad I could try this one but I'm not going to try it again without at least 18 months on it.

Many thanks go to CRJMellor for a chance to try this well regarded beer.

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Photo of nickg902
2.35/5  rDev -44.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

This beer really disappointed me. It poured pitch black and thick, looks like motor oil, very little mocha colored head. Aroma is overpowering with alcohol...extremely distracting. Possibly a little chocolate comes through but all I can smell is that alcohol. Taste is of carmel, burnt chocolate and coffee, but again, the alcohol taste is hugely overpowering. Mouthfeel is creamy and a little oily and the drinkability is definitely low. Don't get fooled by the high rating, this is hardly in the top 20 stouts in my book, unless you happen to like the taste of alcohol overpowering everything. Unfinishable, never will buy again.

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Photo of FleeVT
2.36/5  rDev -44.1%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

12oz. brown bottle with no dates into a snifter.

A: This pours an extremely thick black brew with almost no carbonation. I thought it might be flat until I checked some other reviews. Got a brief thin dark tan head by snifting.

S: Espresso, alcohol, and sweetness in the form of molasses. Slight hop bitterness on the nose as well.

T/M: Thick and again, no carbonation. There is a bite in this that comes from the alcohol and something else. Extremely astringent. Extremely hard on the palate, not balanced and not a good complexity. Lots of smokiness and burnt coffee beans.

D: No thank you. Not your typical from Bell's. Avoid

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Photo of bbothen
2.39/5  rDev -43.4%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

2007 vintage.

A - Deep dark black with a pretty chocolate brown frothy head. Nice looking sticky lace on glass.

S - Sour milk. Chocolate. Smells like a chocolate milkshake that was left out for several days. Then had port poured into it.

T - Soured chocolate milk. Burnt coffee. Warming alcohol presence.

M - Thick & chewy.

D - I barely got through one bottle.

I finished the bottle and will be looking to trade my others.

This has all the exact opposite flavors of what my brain tells me is tasty. Hey, looks like lots of people like it. I sure didn't.

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Photo of tegelaar
2.42/5  rDev -42.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Pours thick like an oil slick with a small amount of head that took a bit to appear. Clear film of lacing sticks to the glass for just a moment while you drink. Smells of earthy fruit and dirt. Also some badly burned meat. Uh oh at this point I know I am in trouble. The taste also does nothing for me. Like drinking oven cleaner. I can respect that it is very rich and flavorful but can't finish this beast. Drinkability is poor due the taste and extreme alcohol content.

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Photo of Scooter77
2.45/5  rDev -41.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

The first thing that came to my mind when I poured this one was…STP motor oil. Pours a thick, deep black color with no head what-so-ever and virtually no carbonation. Aromas of coffee, chocolate and molasses emerge from the glass. The initial taste seems to complement the aromas, but with a strong taste of alcohol that was extremely overpowering, almost medicinal. Maybe my taste buds haven’t progressed enough for this one. I just couldn’t see myself drinking this on a regular basis. By having such high ratings, I guess I just expected more out of this one.

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Photo of DoctorDog
2.48/5  rDev -41.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A- Deep brown/black, opaque in appearance. Aggressive pour yields just barely 1/2 finger of brown head, which fades as quickly as it formed, leaving a thin ring and an oil slick looking surface. Milky chunks/streaks of yeasty sediment pooling at the bottom as I let it warm. Random globs of lacing.

S- The alcohol odor dominates the nose, and is making it difficult for me to adequately ascertain any other odors to any level of specificity or enjoyability.

T- Harsh alcohol bite greets my tongue from the first drop to hit my tongue. Some indiscernible burned tastes. The flavors just aren't blending satisfactorily at all here, and are being dominated by the booziness and astringency.

M- Creamy and oily, but no carbonation whatsoever. Somewhat off-putting.

D- Clearly nothing more than a very slow, somewhat labored "one glass slow-sipper" of a beer IMO.

Future outlook: I suppose I'll sock a few of these away in the basement, cross my fingers, and hope for a better day with this beer in the distant future.

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Photo of charlzm
2.49/5  rDev -41%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

UPDATE - consumed 04/07/08. Bottle code is 8311: Bells web site says it was bottled on 02/07/08.

Pours virtually black. Thick like motor oil. A one finger dark tan head forms and fades soon into sticky foam on the sides of the glass.

Aroma has a bit of soy sauce to it and a medicinal character.

Texture is thick, baby, thick, like chocolate milk that's heavy on the syrup. Needs more carbonation to break through that mouth-coating stickiness.

Flavor is raw: bitter chocolate syrup with undertones of cherry cough drops, charcoal and soy sauce. Alcohol burns as the beer slides down, leaving behind a disagreeable bitterness. Coats the mouth like cough syrup.

Can you tell I'm not a fan of this one? And read my review below to see my views on an aged bottle...

I'm going to have to declare this one as not a favorite based on these two samples, but I'm willing to try it again after it ages a while (but less than the bottle below).

2004 bottle, consumed 12/17/07.

So dark brown it's almost black. No head on pour, but it spontaneously erupts a few seconds later, dying quickly. Coats the sides of the glass when swirled. Aroma is a little musty, salty. Velvety smooth mouthfeel. Red wine flavors, saltiness (like soy sauce) bitter finish. No carbonation a major bummer; this bottle must have passed its prime. Too bad, as it's supposed to be so good.

A - 3.5, S - 2.0, T - 3.5, M - 4.0, D - 2.5

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Photo of Hellabeerguzzler
2.51/5  rDev -40.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

I love a good stout. But a stout has to be drinkable. This stout was overly sweet, sickeningly sweet, with little or hardly any carbonation. When poured a small head can be seen and the booze in this pitch black mixture strips the lacing from side of the glass. Smell is a bit overcooked with hints of dark chocolate, some fruits, and some spices but mostly booze. I've had similar and even higher %ABV brews that hid the booze much better than this one. Bells, I love your line, and a few of your beers may be my absolute favorites....

This stout is not one of them.

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Photo of arkhamresident
2.52/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

12 oz. from trade with Beavers poured into a Duvel tulip.

A - Dark brown almost black body with a one inch brown head, good retention and thick lacing.

S - Smells very sweet, almost like a heavily creamed and sweetened coffee with some booze thrown in.

T - Front is slight hop bite followed by overly sweetened and creamed coffee and chocolate with a bit too much roasty bitterness on the finish. No alcohol apparent.

M - Not thin but not full either. Complete lack of carbonation hurts quite a bit but slightly thick and smooth for the most.

D - I really can't see drinking more of one of these at a time.

Not bad but much too sweet for my tastes. The lack of carbonation also took me by surprise and made me feel this was more of a cold coffee drink than a beer. It's too bloody sweet in my opinion. Overall I'd not turn this down if offered but I can't say I would buy it if available.

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Photo of esv
2.52/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12z 10.5% abv

Brown-chocolate, milkshake head. Thick head. The beer is thick to the eye when poured. The beer is black.

I smell salty, smoked ham. It smells Malty Sweet. Hops have a real presence in the nose, which seems out of style. And now I'm sure I've got a pig in my nose.

It's a bitter-bulldozer that ploughs over the tongue but the wake is more like that of a loaded down barge. Sweet medicinal flavors dominate the finish.

Mouthfeel. Thick, heavy and smooth. Like the mother of all imperial oatmeals, hyped up on nitro.

While I can drink it, I also have a high, distorting threshold for imperial stouts.

Sometimes a severe beating can be less painful than a couple of light jabs. Adrenaline kicks in at higher levels and masks the really brutal stuff. I think my tongue went into survival mode.

I'm not even sure the masochist in me will reach for this again but the sadist may certainly help it into a house guest's glass.

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
2.54/5  rDev -39.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter.

A: Pours a vigorous 1 finger chocolate, medium fine head with moderate retention. Brew is opaque black with thin webby lacing that doesn't cling.

S: The color green and unripened come to mind throughout the nose. Also chocolate, hops, mellow coffee, and nutty caramel. Very grassy and too unripened.

T: Very grassy and green again throughout. Like unripened coffee beans. Also chocolate, bitter coffee, toffee, caramel, brown sugar, unripened green figs, pine, and hoppy in the finish with a punch of alcohol. Not what I expect from a RIS. Not malty and why do I taste unripened green anything?!?

M: Medium to full bodied, oily, finishes a bit dry but its clean. Rather carbonated and that really prevents the flavors from melding here. Coffee beans linger a bit in the finish.

D: Not the best interpretation of the RIS style. Its not malty enough and the carbonation in the mouth takes away from the whole picture that the different flavors try to paint. It also makes this brew less robust. Heard a lot of hype, but this one isn't for me.

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Photo of SaCkErZ9
2.57/5  rDev -39.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Batch #8311

Dispensed from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass. Pitch black with a cocoa colored head. Tons of lacing. Two finger sized heat.

Aroma was a bit weird. Smelled like beef jerky and soy sauce. Also some licorice and some peat smoke.

Tasted like beef jerky too. I like beef jerky, and I like beer, but not beef jerky beer.

Medium bodied and overall a bit weird. Maybe this one needs to mellow or something because right now, it isnt very enjoyable.

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Photo of mobyfann
2.59/5  rDev -38.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Paid $2.99 for a 12oz. single

The appearence is a thick black bace with a thin if any brown head that doesn't last and the lacing is hard to find. The aroma is pretty good of roasted chocolate and coffee.

The taste was mixed personality, the thickness of the beer I didn't like, so I lowered mouthfeel down, the taste is a bit too strong, as not well defined, I really didn't find anything to special in this department. It's kind of drinkable but I didn't enjoy finishing my glass...

Final Thought: Extremely high expectations down the drain, almost literally, I don't know if this is common in high alcholic stouts, or if I had a bad bottle or what, I can't believe this is a Kalamazoo BC product... love their porter and double cream stout, but this was below par...

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Bell's Expedition Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.22 out of 5 based on 6,153 ratings.
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