Best Beers 2010: #9 Bell’s Expedition Stout

22 12 2010

A quick search of Bell’s on this site results in a lot of hits. Bell’s Beers is frequently on our list of best beers so it should come to no great surprise that they show up on this list, too. In this case, we look to Bell’s Winter Seasonal: The Expedition Stout. Expedition is an Imperial Stout. Available only between October to March, this is the perfect beer for the dark, cold winter months. According to the brewery, it uses twice as much grains and five times more hops than their flagship stout: Kalamazoo Stout. The result is a velvety smooth stout that warms the body as well as the soul. This is one of the many Imperial Stouts that got me through the Snowpocolypse the Mid-Atlantic witnessed last winter. It has been almost a year since I last drank this beer. But I still think about it often. And now that I am on the West Coast, there is nowhere to find it. I miss this beer a lot.

Photo Credit: Johnnydrunkenirishman/

Bell’s Expedition Stout
Style: Imperial Stout Score:
100 Points (99 for style)

Appearance: Inky black with viscus, oily consistency. Chocolate milk colored head with cappuccino foam-like  texture. No apparent carbonation. Excellent lacing.

Aroma: Chocolate, coffee, dark fruits (black cherry, plum, raisin), slight burnt toast or smoke. Hops are earthy and spicy; fresh tobacco, wet moss.

Taste: Reminiscent of aromas. Chocolate, toffee, hazelnut and burnt toast.

Mouthfeel: Velvety smooth with a fully chewiness. Very slight carbonation. A deep, warm booziness. A lingering sticky sweetness.

Imperial Stouts (like yesterday’s Dark Lord), are notoriously difficult to pair with food. Often big beers like this have an off putting umami tang that makes them a poor choice with chocolates, cherries, berries or other dessert items. Expedition lacks a distinct umami note but is rich in the chocolate, cherry, and berry notes. Thus, making it a wonderful choice to pair with dessert. On the other hand, it is such a full beer, it could just act as dessert itself. Also, I would pair this beer with a hearty red meat. A chili or stew would be a perfect match to it. Something that is sturdy and will not fall down next to it, but would also benefit from its bold flavors.


5 Beers I am Saying “Goodbye” To For A While

9 09 2010

Earlier in the week, I posted 5 beers from the West Coast I am really excited about. You can read about them here. Today, I am sharing 5 beers I am really going to miss. These are beers from the East Coast/Mid-West that are not available here on the West Coast. It really is a bummer. But it gives me all the more reason to make it out East more often. And maybe, a good friend in the East would want to undergo an illicit beer trade with me?

1. Bell’s Beers-

Bell’s beers are amazing. How amazing? They consistently make into our best beers count downs. They almost always make our top five. Bell’s has been mentioned in our top Bocks, IPAs, and Wheats categories. They also have a boat load of other beers we have not yet reviewed. I am not sure how I will be able to tell when Spring has arrived without Oberon. Or how I will survive winter without Expedition Stout. Or how summer will be summer without Two Hearted. Bell’s is just heads and shoulders above so many beers, and I cannot get it here. What a bummer!

2. Founders Brewing

Founders is also one of my all time favorite beers. Last year, their Centennial IPA and Breakfast Stout were my number two and one favorite beers of the year respectively.  Their beers are amazing, innovative, and iconoclastic all at once. They have beautiful bottle art. And they are just well put together. In my mind, Founders can do no wrong. That is why I am so sad to see it go. I will miss you, Founders; particularly you Kentucky Breakfast Stout and your Double Trouble double IPA. Maybe someday, soon, I will make it out to Michigan and make a pilgrimage to you and Bell’s.

3. Heavy Seas-

Heavy Seas is the beer that put the “Charm” in “Charm City”. Their beers are big, playful, and tasty. The best part? The pirates. Definitely the pirates. Each beer is nautically themed (harkening back to the days when the Pirates and Buccaneers ruled the seas and the Eastern Seaboard). Their triple dry-hopped IPA did not make it on our best of Pale Ales and IPAs a few months back. And that was probably a mistake. So chewy and fully of hops, it is a deliciously big IPA. And their Imperial Stout sustained me through the Snowpocolypse a few months back. I am definitely going to miss Heavy Seas and their delicious 22 ounce Pyrate Fleet series with barrel aged barleywines, double and triple IPAs and other crazy concoctions.

4. Duck Rabbit-

They do things a little differently in the South. And for that reason, no one should be surprised by the work the Duck Rabbit brewey has been doing in North Carolina. Not quite English style ales and not quite American style ales, the malt forward but strongly hoppy beers are as enigmatic as the duck rabbit on their logo. Their Milk Stout is big, thick and black with a firm white head on its shoulders. And their brown ale has a large ammount of maple and nut but with a distinct hoppy twang of mint, spruce and citrus. All around a very interesting brewery taking charge of what they like and never apologizing for it.

5. D.G. Yuengling & Son-

Ok, So Yuengling may not be the best beer around. But it is the oldest. The Yuengling brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania is the oldest continiously running brewery in the United States. Their success relies on decent beer sold for dirt cheap. Go to any party east of the Appalachians and there is a really good bet that there will be a twelve pack of Yuengling there. Go to a show or a bar and Yuengling will be the cheapest beer there, competing against PBR for the attention of people who want cheap beer. Its not that I am going to be wanting a Yuengling, per se. Its just that sometimes, when one wants a cheap beer that does not taste like water, yuengling is the way to go.

5 Beers I Cannot Wait For In California

6 09 2010

The last few weeks have been quiet here at The Thinking Person’s Beer. My fiance and I have been packing up all of our worldly posessions and shipping them across the country. We have moved from DC to the Bay Area. It has been a bit gruelling, both emotionally and physically. And I have not had a lot of time to be posting. But we are in California now and getting settled in. One of the things that got me through the trip was knowing that there are so many great breweries to explore here on the West Coast that we cannot get on the East Coast. Here, I am going to share five breweries I cannot wait to try now that I am here. Tomorrow we will list five more that we will be leaving behind in the East.

5 Beers I Cannot Wait For:

1. Russian River-

With Pliney The Elder and Pliney the Younger, Supplecation and other amazing beers we cannot find on the East Coast, I am really excited to give them all a try. The folks who revolutionized barrel aged beers as well as incorporating souring bugs, are kind of a Holy Grail for beer geeks. A friend brought me a bottle of Supplecation for me a few months ago–soured with Brett and cherries, it was so amazingly deep and thought provoking, I cannot wait to see what else they can do. I have already seen Pliney The Elder on draft at a local brew pub. It blew my mind when I saw it.

2. Full Sail/Session-

We’ve mentioned Full Sail before for their enviromental practices. But I am most excited about their low alcohol “session” lager which comes in these cool 11oz stubbies with Rock Paper Sissors themed bottle caps. A six pack is perfect to split with a friend. Loser (best two out of three) treats the winner to the next six pack. Session may just become my new “go-to” beer for parties and get togethers. Sometimes, there are few things as satisfying and refreshing as a well made session lager.



3. Alaskan Brewing-

Alaskan Brewing:West Coast::Dogfish Head:East Coast. Ubiquitous, off-kilter, solidly brewerd beers that rightfully earn a cult status and a bunch of awards. Their Alderwood Smoked Porter is a thing of legend. And I am definitely looking foward to trying all of these beers.

4. Lost Coast-

Other than Alaskand and New Belgium, this is possibly one of the most sought after “we don’t carry that here” beer in DC. Their Downtown Brown is well balanced, leaning toward an English Brown but never forgetting its American Roots. I am super interested in trying this and its whole line of beers from that capital of mind altering substances–Humbolt County.

5. New Belgium-

When it comes to New Belgium, I am not a hater. But neither am I an acolyte. I am just not that impressd by Fat Tire. Their version of a Belgian Pale Ale is tasty, but I think there are a bunch out there that are much tastier, including De Konnick and Palm. But I did like Erik’s Ale when I tried it and I am interested in trying some of their other beers, including their Organic Belgian White and their Ranger IPA.

Tomorrow, we will be sharing the 5 beers I will be saying “Goodbye” to for a while as they are not available on the West Coast.

Best Pale Ales and IPAs 2010: #1 Bear Republic Racer 5

16 07 2010

Talk about an amazing beer! The Racer 5 is the best of what an IPA has to offer! Excellent fragrance, complex flavors and well balanced bitterness. If you are a hop lover, this is the beer for you.

Using the American Alpha Acid Monsters Cascade, Chinook, Centennial and Columbus, Bear Republic has made a deliciously smooth, hoppy IPA rich with tropical fruit notes, herbs and spices. It is a bold beer that races down the straightaway and hugs the turns.

This beer has won gold and silver at the Great American Beer Festival twice each in the past ten years, and they deserve it! This is just a spectacular beer that should be enjoyed by all.

Bear Republic Racer 5

Photo Credit: @joefoodie CC

Rate Beer Score: 98 Points (100 for Style)

Aroma: Hop nose develops tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, and passion fruit. Slight spicy notes of lemongrass and rosemary. Bready maltiness helps accentuate earthy and mossy hop qualities as well as balance the bouquet.

Appearance: Burnished bronze with thin, white head and persistent medium-sized carbonation. Slight haze possibly due to not being filtered.

Taste: Big, juicy hope notes with fresh mango rind bitterness. Malt mostly takes a back seat while occasionally acting as a spoiler to keep it from flipping over.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, smooth and crisp. Medium-sized carbonation and a slight hint of cooling astringency.

This beer is so full of tropical fruit, that is the only thing we can think of pairing it with. Make a chicken kabob with mango marinade. Or a tropical fruit salad with papaya, pineapple and mango. Thai chili curry with a coconut milk base would pair stunningly with this. And a passion fruit creme brule would hit the sweet spot.

Runner Up
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA-

We love Dogfish Head. They are some of the nicest people we have ever met. And their beers often make our favorites lists. Until Racer 5, 60 Minute used to be our go-to beer. When it comes to local beers on the Mid-Atlantic, very few stand up to it. So mellow, so smooth, but so full of hop flavor and aroma, it is a nearly perfect beer. We wanted 60 Minute to be our #1, but it just has to settle for #1.5.

With notes of fresh pine, lemongrass and mint 60 Minute is a wonderfully complex IPA. Their use of continuous hopping and Amarillo hops allows for the beer’s aroma, flavor and bitterness to flow from one stage to the next in a beautiful song and dance on the palate.

We love this beer!

Best Pale Ales and IPAs 2010: #2 Founders Centennial

15 07 2010

Last December, we named Founders Centennial our #2 favorite beer of the year. Because of that, it should come to no great surprise that it is our #2 favorite IPA.

We chose Founders Centennial as one of our favorite IPAs for how smooth and floral it is. It has amazing hop aroma from being dry hopped and unfiltered. But what is so amazing for all the hoppy nose, the bitterness is subdued. This is the perfect IPA for people who love hop aroma but don’t quite care for big in-your-face bitterness. It is a delicious beer.

Centennial Hops are a classic American hop varietal. Famous for their spicy, floral qualities as well as its amazing bitterness, the Centennial hop is an all around workhorse and an excellent choice for a really complex and interesting IPA.

Founders Centennial IPA

Photo Credit: @Joe Foodie CC

Rate Beer Score: 98 Points (98 for Style)

Aroma: Big hop nose full of citrus (grapefruit mostly with a hint of lemon and orange oil) with some spicy grass, sassafras and bubblegum notes. Malty back end helps balance the beer back.

Appearance: Hazy (unfiltered to help retain dry hopping qualities) copper gold with thin, white head. Persistent medium-sized carbonation.

Taste: Hop forward with surprisingly little bitterness. Hops are spicy and bright with notes of rosemary, grapefruit and sassafras. Nice use of biscuit malt to mellow out the end. A lingering fruitiness on the back of the palate with some slight soap bubble bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Crisp and clean with strong, prickling carbonation. Medium-bodied and no lingering astringency.

This IPA would go well with a cheese plate of English cheddar, bloomy soft cheeses and a grassy blue cheese. It would also go very well with ribs or anything grilled meat that had a bit of sweetness to it.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Rate Beer Score:
96 Points (98 for Style)

Ken Grossman has a lot to be proud of. Celebrating 30 years with Sierra Nevada, he has been a leader in the American Craft Brew world. His brewery is setting environmental standards for the beer world. His beers are the epitome of simplicity. And he, essentially, introduced Americans to full flavored hops. Really by accident, in fact. Ken found importing British malts and hops too expensive for too poor of quality. And so, he used whatever American ingredients he could get his hands on. The result is the American Pale Ale.

Sierra Nevada is so ubiquitous, it is almost cliche. But it got there by being a really good beer. Full of crisp, hop flavor and rich with malts, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is an extremely well made beer. And we are so lucky to have it.

Best Pale Ales and IPAs 2010: #4 Dale’s Pale Ale

13 07 2010

Oskar Blues has been around for a little over a decade and they have been distributing for less than that. But already, they have fundamentally shifted the way Americans think about beer in general and can beers specifically. Oskar Blues was the first American craft brewery to distribute their beers in twelve ounce cans. Sparking a “Beer Can Apocalypse” (in every sense of the word), they have “lifted the veil” on good beer in a can. This is all lead by their flagship beer- Dale’s Pale Ale.

A monster of an APA; Dale’s is bold, dripping with resinous hops but sweet and smooth by balancing malts.  It is the first horseman of the beer can apocalypse.

Oskar Blues- Dale’s Pale Ale

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad CC

Rate Beer Score: 98 Points (100 for style)

Aroma: Resinous, piney, vegetal hoppiness with sweet malt aroma.

Appearance: Toasted oak with thin, white head. Solid carbonation. Hazy to clear body.

Taste: Resinous, piney hops with notes of spruce tips, rose hips and spearmint. English malt add biscuit and cracker like bread notes.

Mouthfeel: Crisp, dry and slightly astringent. Strong, scrubbing carbonation with medium body. Very clean on the back end.

Pairs well with fried foods, Mexican and TexMex like burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. Good with sweet and smokey foods like BBQ chicken and ribs.

Runner Up:
Stone IPA
Rate Beer Score:
100 Points (100 for style)

We have the utmost respect for Stone and what they do.  They emphasize sturdy, in your face beers. Their brew pub specializes in local and organic food. They call imported beer “a sin.” They make good beers.

But my problem with Stone is that their IPA is a little too monotonous. It is that bold, slap-you-in-the-face bitterness that does not say much to any real depth or significance. I would rather have a beer that has nuance, subtly changes over time and has a mature complexity to it. While Stone IPA is bitter, it is not complex. Notes of grapefruit, lemon pith and a faint hint of cat piss are the predominant notes. Then it drops off to, well, nothing else. It is great if you want bitterness. But there is little more to it.

Best Pale Ales and IPAs 2010: #5 Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold Pale

12 07 2010

Last week, we argued that pale ales and IPAs are perfect for hot summer months. With light, and crisp hop bitterness; sweet, satisfying malts; and a good touch of alcohol, they are just so refreshing for sitting on a porch, at a cafe patio, or at a picnic. This week, we look to some of our favorite American pale ales and India Pale Ales (IPAs). As per usual, we will post them in reverse order and mention some honorable mentions.

Today, we start with Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Poleeko Pale; a wonderfully smooth and hoppy selection from Northern California. Anderson Valley is renown for making tasty and refreshing beers year ’round. Their seasonal selections: Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice are fitting examples of what the weather calls for. Their names are silly. They use the local dialect known as “boontling“, a combination of Scottish, Irish and Spanish. Lately, they have started canning the beer. And for a company that has such focus on environmental stewardship, it is a fitting move for them.

We have selected their pale ale for its smoothness, crispness and their use of classically American hops which imparts notes of citrus and herbs like lemongrass and mint.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Poleeko Gold Pale-

Photo Credit: Anderson Valley score: 74 Points (67 for Style)

Aroma: Notes of citrus (predominantly orange, lemon and tangerine) as well as herbs like spearmint, lemongrass and pear blossom. Slight maltiness helps balance out the hops.

Appearance: Hazy gold (unfiltered). Small, white head still provides excellent lacing. Strong carbonation.

Taste: Hop forward with notes of lemon, peppercorn and lemongrass. Excellent bittering and very well balanced with hints of cracker and biscuit. Very crisp and dry. Clean backend.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth and crisp. Strong carbonation. Dry, dusty back end with slight astringency.

Serve with spicy foods: specifically Thai, Vietnamese or other Southeast Asian cuisine. Also would pair very well with fresh arugula salad served with goat cheese and mandarin oranges. Would hold up very well to cold fried chicken.

Runner Up:
Firestone Walker- Pale 31 California Pale Ale

Rate Score: 91 Points (94 for Style)

My Partner and I have a soft spot in our hearts for Firestone Walker Brewery. When we first moved in together, we lived in the Central Coast of California not far from the Brewery in Santa Barbara County. We drank a lot of Firestone Walker at that time. And I always get a small twinge of hometown pride whenever I get word that they have won an award. Luckily for them and me, that happens often. In less than ten years their American Pale Ale has won nearly a dozen accolades. That does not even count the dozen or so other awards they have won for their other styles. It is easy to see why Pale 31 wins so many times. Built of a base of English pale malts but set loose with a healthy dose of Northwestern American hops including Cascade, Centennial and Chinook this is one pale ale that does not disappoint.

And yet it does. You are going to have a difficult time finding it if you do not live in California or Arizona. So, while I would love to see this beer in the top 5, it looses points for being so unavailable. Some day though, it will be easier to find. And when that day comes, I will be happy to put it in its rightful place.