Bell’s Brewing — Expedition Stout

Bell's Expedition Stout

Bell’s brewing out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has a thing for stouts.  They make a basic stout, called Kalamazoo Stout, and 4 seasonal stouts.  Also, several of their limited release beers are stouts, a cream stout, a cherry stout, a coffee stout, and a Russian imperial stout.  is Bell’s take on .  Considered one of the benchmarks for the style, I picked up a 6 pack while visiting family in Michigan this past Fall, and am carefully savoring them over the winter.    This beer starts at a gravity of 1.11, and ends up at 10.5% ABV, putting the final gravity around 1.030 with an apparent attenuation of 72%.

Color — Black, with a tawny head.  The carbonation is very restrained, almost flat, but what bubbles are there just sit on top of the beer the whole way down.

Aroma — Black licorice, molasses, coffee, caramel, sherry.  Some spiciness, could be hops, but not very strong.  There is also quite a bit of alcohol.

Taste — Full mouthfeel, but not heavy.  A very round, malty, caramel sweetness, followed by some roasted notes, but not as pronounced as the malt and caramel.  There are dark fruit flavors here too, but pretty restrained.  There is a bracing bitterness at the back end to balance the malty sweetness.

Critique — at 10.5% ABV, and being an imperial stout, it is lighter in body then I was expecting.  There is not much in the way of hops on the nose or the taste, but there is plenty of bitterness to balance this out.  There is a very characteristic sweetness to this beer, similar to , which I think is from the crystal malts they use.  Living in Michigan when I was younger, I frequently sampled Bell’s wares, and there is a distinct taste to their beers.  This has it in spades.  The esters are pretty subdued, which is consistent with their house yeast strain, which is very clean and I have heard maybe an offshot of Sierra Nevada’s yeast.  Not the biggest Russian Imperial out there, but probably more drinkable then most.  That being said, at over 10% ABV, one is enough.

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