Expedition Ale | Drake's Brewing Co.

very good
70 Reviews
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Expedition AleExpedition Ale

Brewed by:
Drake's Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: American Amber / Red Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.00%

Availability: Spring

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Mark on 04-19-2003

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Reviews: 70 | Ratings: 90
Photo of Sammy
3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Better than average in every measurable aspect, superb for the style. Rich reddish tinge, with retained 3/8 inch white head. Mildly hoppy aroma. Above average mouthfeel. Well balanced hops and malt. Very good drinkability.
Bottle from Augustgarage. Thanks Brad!

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Photo of largadeer
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Turbid brownish-amber (I accidentally poured the sediment in, not realizing it was bottle conditioned). A one-finger off-white head forms from a gentle pour, but doesn't retain very well.

Smell: Aggressive piney hops with an undertone of toffee and toast.

Taste & mouthfeel: Chocolate, toast and toffee flavors to begin with, followed by a blast of resiny hop bitterness and a hint of coffee. Very dry and bitter in the finish. Calling this an amber isn't quite accurate, it's more like a dark IPA. Notes of chocolate and roasted malt set it apart, but the dryness and hop smack are signature West Coast IPA.

Notes: An interesting brew that doesn't quite fit into any particular style. I'll definitely revisit this next year.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.53/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Acquired from fartingdog courtesy of Birthday Club 2, so a big "Thank you" goes out to him. Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a dark copper color with a short off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is full of caramelized malt and hops along with some spice & citrus in the background.

T: The taste is malty and smoky with a strong hops bitterness that prevails as the most dominant flavor. There are minor but complimentary flavors of caramel, nuts & citrus as well. The after-taste is slightly bitter.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

D: A little tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, it's a good beer and is one worth drinking for a while but to me it just seems kind of ordinary. Therefore, if it were available around here, it would probably be a beer that I would routinely pass on.

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Photo of mactrail
3.15/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

White foam and a load of lacing on this mahogany amber brew. A damp basement smell mars the first sips. Acidity slides off into a hint of sourness. After the brief malty flirtation it leaves you with a dirty bitterness that goes on and on. Murky, sharp, a hint of burnt fat.

I just don't get this over-hopped big red style. Start with a wet cardboard malt base and dose it with too much earthy hops? I know they can make great beers like the Aroma Coma, so this flat, harsh taste is a surprise. In the 22 oz bomber.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dirty pumpkin that becomes dark cranberry when backlit. This might be the single darkest amber ale that I've ever seen (if it's really an amber ale). The khaki colored cap is tight-bubbled, long-lived, and is beginning to lay down thick sheets of lace. What's not to like?

The aroma is exactly as advertised. It features dark malts (not too dark) and what smells like a copious amount of hops. We're not talking porter or dunkel, just seriously toasted malt that still (barely) fits within the amber ale guidelines.

Expedition Ale is beautiful, beautiful beer. These guys can flat-out brew their asses off! This is my third Drake's beer and is the third one that has been exceptional. Why can't more craft brewers figure out that an abundant amount of quality ingredients results in delicious, drinkable beer? It also helps to have the imagination to create what is basically a combination brown ale, amber ale and IPA.

Flavors include lightly toasted brown bread coated with orange marmalade and honey, a light sprinking of cocoa powder, and plenty of pink grapefruit zest. Great choice on the hop bill... whatever it is. The perfect storm of sweet and bitter is out of this world and has resulted in a glass that is now almost empty. More please!

The mouthfeel is all kinds of wonderful. It's bigger than expected and is gloriously, glassy smooth. This stuff is a treat for the mouth in more ways than one.

Drake's may not crack the upper tier of 'best breweries in California', but they deserve a huge shout-out for the undeniable quality of their products. Impressive... impressive... impressive. Bottom line: this is an Expedition that is well worth taking.

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Photo of GClarkage
3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12/06/08- Purchased at Hi-Times in Costa Mesa, CA.

Presentation- 12oz bottle with no freshness info. Poured into my Duvel tulip.

Appearance- Deep amber colored pour. Huge head meaning 1/4 beer and the rest head all the way to the rim. Very large bubbles in the head. Leaves behind light patchwork and trails of lace.

Smell- Seems like much more deep dark malted notes than hops. Although, hops are present and bitter scented.

Taste- This is a very intense flavored beer and very well rounded. Extreme deep bitter hoppy taste (which I wouldn't have known from the scent). Also a very large deeply roasted deep chocolate dusted malted base.

Mouthfeel- Very long lasting bitter aftertaste with a nice malt flavor as well. Carbonation is about average.

Drinkability- Nothing wrong with this brew. Well balanced with large flavors.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.23/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Black Raven pint glass. Pours a deep garnet red amber. Fine off-white to light tan head with nice lacing. Looks good. Full aroma of herbal hops and toasty malt. Flavor follows with a somewhat complex hop flavor balanced with toasty and a touch of caramel malt. Finishes semi-dry with a strong grapefruit and slight pine hop bitterness. Very tasty, just what I like to see in a hoppy red ale. Very nicely made.

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Photo of DoubleJ
4.38/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Part of a pre-set mix pack from Cost Plus, on to the beer:

Very foamy at first pour, I had to chop off the head repededly to get all the beer in my pint glass. The beer's appearance is deep copper with a good sticky head. The aroma is a nosefull of hops and notes of caramel. Taste begins fruity befroe a kick of hops and tropical flavor knocks it down. Burnt sugar is tasted on the palate too. Very very tasty red ale and one worth looking for. Comparable to Bear Republic's Red Rocket Ale, although this is a little better balanced.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.32/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've had this beer occasionally over the years, but never reviewed it before now. I think Drake's in general is an under regarded brewery that has some interesting selections, including barrel aged stuff that doesn't get a lot of notice. I'm not saying it is on par with Russian River or Lost Abbey- its not- but it does seem amazing to me that this beer that has been around for years has less than three dozen reviews. It pours nicely enough, with a dark brown color, good clarity, and although the head fades somewhat quickly to a thin cap, it leaves behind some very nice lacing. Nice aromas for the style as well- spicy sweet with cinnamon, dry malt, some fresh grain, and some bright fruit like pear and apple, but subtle. A touch of smoke and roasted grain as well, but again, it is subtle. The taste is similar with a firm layer of dry malt, and a surprisingly hoppy overlay of nice earthy bitterness that lingers. This coupled with a slight sweetness makes for a delicious combination. Some slight spice creeps in on the end. Firm and smooth in the mouth, with a spicy hop bite on the finish. Very full flavored, which keeps my interest as I drink it, but the alcohol level is reasonable as well, so the flavor is especially appreciated. Definitely an underrated beer.

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Photo of biegaman
3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at Public House, in San Francisco.

Expedition Ale is a muddied enough amber colour that only to the light can any transparency be made out. The beer itself is likely clear, however - it's the use of black and toasted malts that give it its deep, shadowy tone. There is some head but not much; it looks less like foam and more like a brittle sheet of ice over a spring pond. Lacing, however, is left.

At 7%, this is no light beer. Indeed, it flexes malt big time, although the real power lay in the the hop muscle; roasted amber malt is predominant but the oily, damp, leafy hops and a squeeze of citrus are the more striking features. There's also a forest-like pine element that won't be anything unusual to those already familiar with Pacific North-West offerings.

The flavour is where malt and hops really lock horns. Crystal malts and Chinook and Cascade hops go at it as if it were a UFC title match. The roast of the grain puts an arm-bar on most of the citric qualities but the hops retaliate with a neck crank that suffocates most of the malts' sweetness, saturating the palate in a pine-like resin. Neither can land a knockout.

We find out late in the game, however, that it's the bitterness that ultimately wins out. Plant-like herbal qualities reach fever pitch with warmth, which accentuates each and every alpha acid on the spec sheet, creating a slightly stinging sensation of which the alcohol plays no part in. In fact, I'm surprised to learn the beer is as strong as it is - it drinks quite casually.

Drake's can be a fairly risk-averse brewery but for one of their flagship offerings, Expedition Ale is actually pretty bold. While a formulaic beer at its heart, the abundance of C-hops and the succulency of quality malts make this a more impressionable and gratifying ale than the average amber. Not worth a voyage to obtain, but worth a few bucks for sure.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours with a frothy, amber-tinged, tan colored head that has a bit of a creamy texture to it. The beer is quite dark, hints of ruby show through when held up to the light, but in general it is a deep concentrated amber color. The aroma of this beer is quite hoppy; it is dominated by notes of pine and herbs, perhaps a hint of citrus as well. There is quite a bit of malt in the aroma as well; sweet carmalized fruit notes are joined by a bit of toasted malt character.

The beer is lightly sweet up front, but quickly moves to a hoppy almost tart note that finishes quite dry in the end. Of course this beer is hop dominated throughout; a bit herbal, a bit raw, with definite notes of pine. While the hops dominate there is quite a bit of malt here as well; notes of raisins, caramel and toffee are evident. As the beer warms up fruity hop notes become much more evident; notes of lychee and grapefruit really help to balance the raw hop notes.

This is quite a nice beer, my biggest complaint is that this beer seems to disappear a bit faster than I would like. One last sip and its gone, quite tasty indeed.

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Photo of tobelerone
3.87/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Clear reddish amber, with a small, quickly falling head and minimal lacing. Powerful aroma of pineapple and sweet caramel malt follows through in the taste. Pineapple and pine needles, caramel and toffee, general sweet maltiness. Very fruity. Booze is pretty well hidden throughout. Medium bodied, a bit creamy, with medium to low carbonation, making for a smooth drink. Lingering aftertaste keeps the fruity sweetness and pineapple candy hanging around a while. Nice example of the style if not anything extraordinary.

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Photo of Zorro
4.09/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear brown colored beer with a small tan colored head. This is only red colored when held up to a bright light.

Smell is sweet and malty with a strong brown sugar aroma. Lots of toasted bread aroma and a hint of spice. Little bit of tea, wood, and caramel candy scent.

Taste starts out sweet and malty with a bitter aftertaste. Fairly sweet and malty and woody this is a lot like a mild Barley Wine. Not a lot of extra layers here just a strong beer. Taste wise this is close to a brown ale.

Mouthfeel is Good.

Drinkability is OK. Quite strongly flavored, don't think I would like more than 3 of them.

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Photo of Halcyondays
4.05/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Beachwood BBQ,

A: Pours a dark amber/brown with a light soapy white head with thick, concentric rings of lace as the beer is drunk.

S: Heavy hop aroma, pine oil and citrus. Good amount of malt.

T: Intense heavy bitterness initially, a lot of pine and bitter melon, heavy on the bitter hops. The flavour evolves and the citrus fruit comes more into picture, strong dark caramel malt gives a good balance. Full-flavoured for sure.

M: Relatively soft mouthfeel and carbonation for a beer of this size which I liked. Resiny, long hoppy aftertaste.

D: Definitely a rugged, full ale, the name Expedition suits it well. Definitely a beer to be on the lookout for.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Ooh, yeah. I love it when a red ale pours a genuinely red colour. This is one of those, a brilliantly deep ruby hue, with a filmy but exceptionally fine head of creamy off-white. Lacing forms in rings and is pleasantly persistent. Body is heavy but fluid, leaving tiny bubbles of carbonation when swirled. Looks great.

Nose is fantastic. Wonderful blend of slightly dark, caramelised malt characters with a bright hop crispness that brings it into a wonderful melange—mixing hops and malt in a way that accentuates both, but also complements. Biting with slight resin, but subtle with biscuity depth. Lovely.

The taste is probably even better. Here the lightly grainy malt character comes through giving a basis on which are layered jammy, fruity hop characters, always tempered with a brisk bitterness to cut through on the finish. A tiny bit more body would help it a little, but this is a real nitpick. It's a lovely brew.

Exceptionally drinkable, and absolutely characterising what I love in an American Red Ale. It has the fresh, bright hoppiness, the mellow malt character, and blends the two superbly. I already regarded Drake's well, and yet this beer just made them shoot up even further in my opinion.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.75/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Hit the red and amber notes, a little brown in there too. Tan head, 1/2". Aroma hit both cascade hop notes and a malty aroma. Almost balanced, thankfully not.

Taste is a strong red ale in the vein of Jamaica Red ale, its a little darker, stronger and hoppier than your average, and its better for its adventurousness. Almost 1st tier, not quite.

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Photo of DefenCorps
3.68/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle received from largadeer. Thanks Chris. Into my Stone pint glass.

A: Deep amber with a little bit of sediment that i missed. Solid light brown head with great retention and excellent lacework

S: Lots of leafy hops up front but giving this a swirl reveals a good deal of citrus character. Mild caramel malt character in the back. Quite massive for an amber, acutally

T: Tons of bittering hops up front a lot of orange and citrus rind character. Mild caramel malt sweetness comes through before a completely bitter finish takes over.

M: Carbonation is ample but the bitterness is a bit overpowering IMHO

D: The bitterness is something that hurts the drinkability of the beer

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Photo of Viggo
4.32/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to fartingdog for sending this my way for BC2.

Pours a clear dark red/brown hints, coppery, thick off white head, eggshell almost, nice chunky lacing, good retention, looks great. Smell is sweet, rich toffee, fruits, citrus/floral, some grapefruit, neat grainy date aroma, smells very good. Taste is sweet and malty, lots of toffee, bread, grains, grapefruit, floral, chocolate roastiness in the finish, lots of bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low carbonation. Very nice, very drinkable, tons of flavour. I dig! Thanks Dave!

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.87/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Light brown/mahogany with a red edge to the pour, cream head. Aroma was nice, hoppy, strong malt aromas. Hops were orange and pine at the same time, didn't see that one coming.

Sturdy beer with a sturdy hop presence. Not too bitter. More pine and caramel. Stays away from sweetness, opts for body, relatively dry and smooth finish. Toffee.

This beer really bridges a gap in red and amber ales. Some of the higher rated ones are very hoppy and bitter without much substance in the body, this one is the best of both worlds kinda.

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Photo of mynie
3.71/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a really magnificent dark red. Very dark, like grape juice, with translucence coming through only at the bottom of the glass.

Smells just a little bit of age, but a robust and tasty age. Light fruit, plenty of plums, and still enough hops to let me know that this was either an incredibly over hopped red or that it's not very old at all.

Taste like lightly aged malt and big west coast hops. Tastes like a well hopped red, pretty much. Malt and hops balance each other well, though not too many complexities come through.

Pretty good.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into an imperial pint. 6.5% ABV, no date, "best kept cold and enjoyed with a rich head from a glass."

A - Gusher! Beer overboard! I quickly stopped the gushing but the pour resulted in over five fingers of dense tan head. Well, I followed the instructions on the bottle... Moderate retention and a plateau of foam with only small bits of lace residing over the hazy brown beer.

S - A striking balance of hops and toasted malts is abruptly noticeable with toasted caramel and amber backing up grassy, earthy notes. It's simple but well-done. Later on I pick up a hint of toffee shavings and solvent alcohol.

T - Lots of strong caramel and crystal with amber malts which come out big in the flavor with an alcohol suggestion but no real strength. The hops are very secondary adding only a little bit of earthiness.

M - Smooth and bold with a medium body and creamier finish with a moderate alcohol sensation.

D - Good but just above a run-of-the-mill amber, Drake's Expedition is a fair offering in the strangest-labeled bottle I've ever seen which is also the reason I picked it up off the shelf in Cali.

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Photo of popery
4.15/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Drake's Expedition Ale is a very nice amber ale with strong flavors of caramel malt and hops. The beer pours a darkened persimmon color with a creamy beige head. The aroma shows off a strong dose of caramel malt of a mildly roasted, somewhat fruity character. The hops are floral and fairly strong. I actually prefer the hop character of this beer to Drake's IPA. The flavor has strong bitterness from the hops and a strong caramel sweetness from malt. There are light touches of grapes and apricots in the malt. The hops are more bitterly citric than floral on the palate. The mouthfeel is fairly round and full. The beer tastes bigger than the listed 6.5% abv, in a good way. There's just a bit too much going on to merit a higher score.

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Photo of laituegonflable
3.83/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a rude red ale colour, bit of cloud with dense pillow of marshmallowy head. Beige colour, nice ribbon of lace left behind and good retention. Looks very good; not quite excellent.

Smells very tangy and hoppy. Lots of citric notes, but hints of acetyldehyde and perry as well. Maybe some green pepper and a big wallop of pineapple. In fact it's totally pineapple. Yeah, big, massive pineapple. Not sure I like beer smelling that much like pineapple, but hey, let's go with it.

Taste is not bad, but still very fruity on the back. Starts with decent caramel and toffee malt but gets very tangy and fruity with hop oils and some alpha acidic notes. Hint of more pineapple that gets almost puckering but it's sweet, bitter, sour and hoppy as a nice blend. Not bad, really, quite refreshing even though it doesn't quite hit the mark. I think there's a goodly amount of hop bitterness there so it's fairly clean and drinkable. Bit weird, though.

Foamy texture, quite full and well-weighted though. Yeah, not bad.

Not sure I genuinely love it, but there's a weird, very refreshing quality to it. I might not be proud of it, but I really could drink it most of the night.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 ounce bottle sealed with a very colorful and nicely decorated crown cap. Simple brown glass bottle is covered in one of those plastic shields where the see through parts lend the impression that the bottle has separate front, back and neck labels, when in fact it does not. My bottle looks just like the one pictured here on BA. Standard “Drake’s” 12oz design is differentiated only with the words “Expedition Ale” against a purple background. Described as “blends the dark roasted malts with the hops of an IPA” and listed at 6.5% Alc/Vol.

Appearance: Dark chestnut brown with a lightly hazed edge. Massive tanned head rises easily and settles to a consistent ½” thick head that remains start to finish. Average levels of carbonation but a decent look nonetheless.

Nose: Toffee coated hops with some malts. Feint currant aromas, fruity, dark and broody but it lacks any complexity, despite this it has an attractive enticing character.

Taste: Mmmm, this has a lovely hop-biting grab in the entrance. Malts soon support, toffee middle with a malt laden bitterness in the finish. Lingering tastes with some grapefruit and a hint of brown sugar to balance the sharpness. Interesting stuff I have to say.

Mouthfeel: Chewy feel, but with a well aerated body that lends a lightness to the texture. It has a bitterness that can grab and pull the body up a notch, as in fact do the brown sugars, toffee and dark malts.

Drinkability: I loved this dark malty IPA …..intriguing and very tasty, quaffable, though the strength and lingering bitterness has it dip a tad below a session brew, or at least it should if you want to get up for work the next day.

Overall: This is perhaps Drake’s most definitively unique brew, aside from some of their “specials” or one-off / annual brews. It seems to blend a malty Amber Ale with the better grapefruit dynamics of a good bitter IPA. Recommended.

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Photo of FosterJM
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

462nd review on BA

App- A nice wood stain red with some a good head to it. A little bit of cling and a nice ring as it feel.

Smell- A bit bigger grain note with a bit of an earthy quality to it.

Taste- Was pretty tasty. A bit malty but balanced and not overly sweet as I have found some reds to be.

Mouth- Medium bodied and medium carbonated. Was a bit dry at the finish.

Drink- Overall, a pretty good red. I will need to snag a bottle of this somewhere soon.

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Expedition Ale from Drake's Brewing Co.
3.96 out of 5 based on 90 ratings.
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