It may very well be that imperial stout is the boldest beer style going. As
hoppy as an India Pale, as alcoholic and high in gravity as a barleywine,
and as roasty as a, well, imperial stout. Among the many fine examples of
the style I've come across in my tastings, one example stands out as being
the boldest of this robust style: Bell's Expedition. To my taste, that
doesn't make it the best. I enjoy North Coast's Old Rasputin just as much
for example, even though it is not as formidable as Expedition. Still
there's no denying this is a world class brew, and one of my all-time
Now is the time to grab some Expedition, as it is a September to May seasonal. Kalamazoo brewing, the makers of Expedition, indicate that the beer is produced with twice as much malt and five times more hops than their impressive Kalamazoo stout. It has an amazing original gravity of about 1.1 and a 10 percent alcohol content by volume.
This beer was incredible the first time I tried it in 1997. Indeed, one of the most intense and complex beers I have ever sampled. Emptying the contents of the bottle into a glass revealed a beer jet black in color with a tall tan head which receded slowly. The nose was packed with hops and licorice. As I sipped the beer, a complex parade of licorice, chocolate, roasted barley, caramel, hops, and alcoholic warmth marched across the tongue into a grand finale of an exploding piny hop finish. I would guess that this beer would be in the range of 90 to 100 IBU's. It seems quite a feat for the hops to almost dominate such an intensely malty brew, but they did, and left a lingering bitterness on the tongue for quite some time.
I described a more recent sampling thusly:
Almost no carbonation, brownish black color, big perfumy nose. Spices
reminiscent of Our Special Ale. Burnt candy sugar flavors, heavy licorice
overtones, ginger, orange, citric hoppiness, dark malt, spruce, bitter
hoppiness all combine to create a beer of amazing complexity. I don't get
the barleywine caramel and butterscotch flavors I did the last time I had
this beer, but I do get imperial stout characteristics I didn't get last
Bell's Expedition Stout goes well with another Bell's Expedition Stout. It's not a beer I would recommend for food pairing. It's just too powerful, and the palate should be clean for appreciating its complexity.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.