Bell's Black Note Stout - Bell's Brewery, Inc.

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Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout

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553 Reviews
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Reviews: 553
Hads: 3,708
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,569
Gots: 943 | FT: 74
Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc. visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.40% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: mcallister on 06-16-2007

One of the most sought-after stouts in Bell's history, Black Note Stout blends the complex aromatics of Expedition Stout with the velvety smooth texture of Double Cream Stout and ages the combination in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels for months. The resulting harmony of flavors captures the finest features of all three components: malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso & dried fruits, all buoyed by the warmth and fragrance of the bourbon barrel. Aimed squarely at the stout and bourbon aficionados, Black Note makes a grand statement about the art of the dark.
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Reviews: 553 | Hads: 3,708
Photo of barhoc11
5/5  rDev +11.1%

A: Black as the name says with a nice creamy tan head

S: Smooth bourbon with a hint of cocoa nibs/coconut

T: Wow, this is so creamy and smooth its hard to believe this is 11+% abv. The bourbon is not harsh at all and comes across with a coconut taste which is so very good

O: I think this is my favorite barrel aged stout... less than 12%. It is such a smooth drinking Imperial Stout that it is hard to describe. I would be sure to pick some up if you ever get the chance

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Photo of pat61
5/5  rDev +11.1%

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl. This is a big bourbon barrel aged stout that smells and tastes like a bourbon barrel.
It pours black as night with a dark tan creamy cap that rapidly dissipates. The beer has legs and lace.Tthe beer hits the palate with all the major flavor groups - big alcohol, bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, sherry, caramel and the flavors delightfully linger long.
Big and chewy, the beer is a delight.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've always loved Expedition stout and since I've heard they did a barrel aged version I couldn't get away from wanting this beer. It's been a long journey and thanks to a local Pittsburgh distributor I finally came into contact with this one.

Pours a pitch black hue with creamy tan head floating above the head, let me tell you about this BA version of Expedition fine lacing left evenly around the chalice.

Aromatics dark malts charred oak, with vanilla and whiskey rich character...also has a toasted marshmallow note with booze that is much needed for a dark imperial stout called Black Note. The finish is full of caramelized dark sugars and it so nice and full of nearly burnt malts. Smells so good, it's amazing what a whiskey barrel can do to a stout, I'm glad New Holland tried to put whiskey into some stout barrels to see if the inverse were true. Each time I take a sniff I get hints of umami from soy sauce tainted meat and spicy notes of ginger impregnated in a marinade of chicken breast.

Flavor has milky creamy dark chocolate notes, flowing with heat of bourbon barrel aging effects, charred oak, and rich vanilla booze infused stout character. Dark fruit with plums and over ripened fruits that are soaked in alcohol infusing through the palate with each sip. In the backend I definitely get that meaty soy sauce, umami character that I've come to know and love salty/sweet and a bit of braised beef or grilled tuna approaches the palate. I believe either of these would be great pairings amongst this beverage.

Mouthfeel full bodied creamy texture seduces your palate, even slow bubbling carbonation what a great experience that is too be had by all lovers of great barrel aged stouts. Salty sweet combination reigns supreme on the palate and leaves me wanting more and more.

Overall, one of the best barrel aged creations I've ever had...light years ahead of the complexity of KBS and Arcadia Shipwrecked BBA beers. I will hold onto the rest of the six pack I have left.

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Photo of docoman
5/5  rDev +11.1%

Was lucky enough to sample this Bell's offering at the 2013 summer beer event in Ypsilanti, MI and it was exceptional BA stout. Always on lookout to sample more of it especially on tap.

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Photo of GeorgiaBeerGuy
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This only gets better with age. This is the 2012, stored @ 50 F, and poured into a snifter.

A: Black , with thin head, thick pour.

S: Heaven. Vanilla, cherry, almond(?) and of course some chocolate.

T: Follows the nose. This was great when I had it fresh, but is AMAZING with some age on it. I have revised to a 5/5.

M: Smooth, creamy, velvety, and no alcohol bite. Slight bitter finish on the tongue from the barrel aging.

O: I am regretting trading this away, when I had 12 in the cellar. This will be an enjoyable one for future sessions, and I will definitely look for more this fall.

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Photo of SportsandJorts
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Type: Bottle 2012
Glass: Snifter
From: Bell's General Store
Price: $24 a 4-pack

Appearance- Pitch black and opaque. Small tan head the faded pretty quickly and only left a lacing along the side.

Smell- Chocolate, molasses and bourbon, and a touch of sweetness

Taste- Chocolate, brown sugar, bourbon and molasses, with a finish of bitter roasted malts. Perfectly balanced and not lacking in any way.

Mouthfeel- Creamy and thick. Low carbonation and a warming finish. Exactly what it should be.

Overall- This beer is exactly what I want it to be. It is a stout no doubt with the perfect addition of bourbon. Most BBA stouts are taken over by the bourbon, while this is not a terrible thing, it still takes away from the beer. The use of Expedition and Special Double Cream gives it both a smoothness in the body but a slightly bitter finish that is perfect for the style. I couldn't and wouldn't as for anything different in a bourbon barrel aged stout. At $6 a bottle it is definitely a treat but one that I would buy a 4-pack at any opportunity.

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Photo of Chrisfarleywine
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing balance of flavor, aged about six months. Dried blueberries, coffee, chocolate, oak and bourbon. Some of the barrel aged stouts can be overwhelming with bourbon barrel flavor, this is a perfect balance. The consistency is just right too, not overly syrupy or flat. It has a decent effervescence with a balanced mouthfeel. Aroma is great, but belies the complexity of the beer.

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Photo of humuloner22
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had searched high and low for this beer for a few years and could not find one in a store. I finally traded for some and man am I happy I did! This beer is what Bourbon County wants to be when it grows up!

Appearance: Dark as night very little head if any. Settles quickly to a light caramel colored film around the edges of the glass.

Aroma: Jesus this beer smells so good. Lots of barrel immediately detected. Bourbon out the ass! Vanilla and chocolate maltiness dominate.

Taste: Man this just doesn't get any better really. The taste is sweet but not too cloying. Its perfectly balanced between the two base beers. Not too much barrel but you certainly detect the bourbon and the flavors that come with a bourbon barrel aged beer. Vanilla, chocolate, bourbon and oak dominant barrel finish. Mouthfeel is also velvety and oh so smooth. Perfect balance accomplished with this beer!

Overall: I have been saving this beer to try for a big number but I just felt like what the hell why not tonight! I also paired this one against the two base beers as an experiment and this is a case where the sum of the parts are better. I will say I do tend to enjoy the Double Cream better than the Expedition but I can understand where that needs to be utilized as a base ingredient. Overall this beer is layered and superb in my book. I think this is much better beer than many of its companions out there. Totally worth the effort in trading for this one!

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Photo of 4amepiphany
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served a la Mikey at DLD '13.

Wow. I thought BCS set the precedence for me, but this blew it away. Dark, dark color. Little head with respectable lacing. Sweet bourbon, where's the booze? To me, this was perfectly balanced and complex with each flavor joining hand in hand rather than going to combat. A peacemaker, if you will. Only thing, I wish this was as available as BCS. I could drink this all day, anyday. Then shower in it. Probably drinking the bathwater after. Just kidding. No, I'm not. FIND THIS!

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Photo of kylelenk
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had both on tap and from 12oz bottle.

A-Hard not to fall in love with the darkness. Head dissipates quickly.

S-Wow, Bells nailed it. It's easy for BBA beers to be overwhelmed by the bourbon on the nose. Lactose from the Double Cream turns the aromas into an almost candy shop of fudge, chocolate, vanilla, and caramel.

T-Easily top-3 stouts I've ever had. The taste was reminiscent of a 2-3 vintage KBS but with sweeter notes brought on by the lactose.

M-Very creamy and dangerously easy to drink. Enjoyed quite a few at a Bells tasting party and didn't enjoy the walk back to my car in the morning when it was blizzarding...

O-Hard to compete against and hope Bells introduces this into their yearly lineup. Have went back and forth comparing against KBS and have given up. They're both very different beers.

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Photo of watsonmd
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

appearance: pours thick and dark, with a dense, dark brown head

smell: unbelievable chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and bourbon

taste: sweet, coffee, bourbon, vanilla, oak, chocolate

mouthfeel: smooth, thick, full... awesome. Sipped it for over an hour.

overall: one of the best beers I have had, and do believe that the hype probably had some effect in my interpretation, but I feel it lived up to the hype.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of Mscarpen
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Was lucky to find this gem while traveling through MI on my first beer tour with my buddy Ben. Enjoyed it so much, we had to come back a second time later in the day. At 6.75 for 16 unholy ounces, how could you pass up on a second glass?

Appearance: Black,, black, black. It was fun to watch the bartender pour this one as it looked just like she was draining used motor oil from an old Chevy. Zero head and not. Hint of lacing.

Smell: Refined/smooth chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, and dark fruits.

Taste: Wow! The best beer Ive ever had. Complex and refined with flavors of sweet chocolate chips, almost like a chocolate souffle. Super smooth bourbon for sure.

Mouthfeel: zero carbonation makes it very drinkable brew. In fact, that makes this on a bit dangerous as its smoothness can make you forget the quality (and alcohol content) of beer you are enjoying.

Without a doubt, this lives up to the hype. If you ever get the chance, make sure to get a taste of this one.

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Photo of Dawgboned37
4.99/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer was amazing! I didn't think they could significantly improve the Expedition stout, but somehow they found a way. Picked up a 2012 bottle in trade and poured into a tulip glass. One finger of caramel-colored head and a very dark body. Bourbon scent was quite mild and did not overtake the initial flavors of dark chocolate, roasted malt, and dried fruit. The creamy texture pushed this one over the edge for me. Flavors continued to develop as the beer warmed.

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Photo of jerefreakinmiah
4.98/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Found on the bottle reserve list at The Federal in Durham, NC

I have to say that I LOVED this beer. It changed so much as it warmed. First espresso and vanilla, then big, bouzy bourbon, finishing chocolate and roasty as it approached room temp. Not as viscous as I expected, which was surprisingly refreshing. Lingered on the tongue for a while, but not heavily (make sense? I hope so).

Simple review for a simply amazing brew!

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Photo of pwoods
4.97/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Sampled at The Comet in Cincinnati during Hopnosis and at South Park Tavern in Dayton during their Bell's event. Notes from both.

Pours deep black with a touch thinner viscosity than I'd expect. Pretty short head, I'd assume from the barrels but it leaves nice wisps of lacing. Great barrel aroma. Vanilla is very present, accentuated by the double cream but not too sweet, very pleasant(the expo has definitely handled DC's sweetness). Woody and earthy notes in the back. The DC and barrel has rounded out the Expo's huge hop profile though it still lingers. Great mixture of the two beers. Very chocolately, just enough sweetness and hops, great bourbon snap with the fantastic barrel to round things out. Body is full but not thick or chewy. Carbonation is pretty low but still maintains a fantastic smoothness. This beer is too fucking tasty to not be drinkable. You could literally drink this until you passed out before you were sick of it. Stellar.

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Photo of joshuaseresse
4.97/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this on-tap at the Bell's Fermented Eclipse Party at Stub's and Herbs - June 26, 2010. Had about 18oz total and decided to jot down a few notes on the top of my to-go box. Each served in a 6 oz at a time:

A- Black as night, cannot see through it at all. Hardly any lacing, very little head if any. Toward the middle and end of this beer it appears brownish around the edges, slightly transparent with a light ring of foam.

S- Bourbon Barrel with hints of cream, sweet vanilla, bits of chocolate but mostly vanilla. When its cold, its very clean smelling...biting the nostrils. Very nice.

T- Very smooth, caramel, brown sugar, bourbon barrel, cream the whole way through, slight boozy at first then calms down and vanilla toward the end. A bit of a coffee after taste.

M- Lovely, awesome, very smooth, perfect carbonation, satin and silk. All you could ask for in a beer.

D- Does not feel like a 10.5% at all - way too easy and probably very dangerous. I could have drank this all night and for breakfast in the morning. Very happy I was able to try this and would very much like some more. Good job, Bell' make some more!

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Photo of drpimento
4.97/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bam-BAM! Heavy hitter!! Served at a good temperature with a large, thick, fine, creamy, tan head and lots of lace. Aroma is mostly cocoa, dark ripe fruit, old leather, coffee, a little of the classic stout roast, malt. Color is an opaque black brown. Flavor is a curious blend of expansive and yet slightly conservative - similar to nose, excellent balance between bitter, sweet, and tang, the bourbon is there, not overdone. Body is perfect, ditto for carbonation. Finish is like flavor, yet the whiskey lingers a bit longer. Very easy drinking with only a hint of the alcohol at the end. Fabulous!

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Photo of oldsailor
4.96/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Amazing beer! Just had a 2014 version and I'm on the hunt for more now. Silky feel, jet black color and lingering coffee/chocolate taste that's mind-blowing.

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Photo of PaulyB83
4.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On- tap served in a snifter

A- Jet black with a millimeter of mocha head that quickly dissipated to a ring.

S- Coconut, vanilla, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, slight raisin

T- Smooth, tastes like a Mounds bar, dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut, very similar to the nose

M- Creamy, surprisingly easy drinking for such a big beer, it's a good thing the flavors are so big or you'd be in trouble. Not as thick as other bourbon barrel aged stouts, but I kinda like it. Bourbon County stout was pretty thick and actually took me a while to get through just one bottle. I think this it perfect mouthfeel for a 12oz. serving of this weight of a beer.

O- Living in Kalamazoo, I'm lucky to find this on draft somewhere every couple of months. This hits everything on the head and is the benchmark for me in BBA stouts. I tried KBS a few weeks after having this and thought there was no comparison, this is the better beer. If I could have one more beer before I die, this would be it.

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Photo of AlMarzo
4.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured from a bottle into a Dogfish Head Specialty glass / snifter
A: Thick and dark, this beer allowed no dark to shine through. Not much of a head however of what was there the color was a dark brown; it vanished to the sides quickly. Some great lacing followed.
S: Amazing aroma of dried fruit, dark chocolate, a hint of bourbon / oaky, a lot of raisin, hints of a floral aroma came through, along with some spice.

T: Sweet raisins, hints of Carmel, followed by a lot of dark fruit dipped in rich dark chocolate. a nice thick to medium body with a sweet mocha finish. Not too much bourbon present in the initial taste, but it became prominent in the after taste. Almost like a great cookie with the roasted malt, chocolate and hint of vanilla. Some dryness crept in toward the finish, but the sweetness won out. Some heat from the alcohol developed in the finish and aftertaste.

O: A great beer, I expected more bourbon, but it was a very dynamic stout with a great flavor profile. The appearance made me have my doubts but the aroma and taste won me back immediately. It only got better as it warmed. Nicely done!

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Photo of taylor714914
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow. Just Wow. Was excited to see this on tap at Thirsty Monk in Asheville, so I drove over hoping the keg would still be dispensing this delicious nectar.

Pours a pitch black color with a thin brown cap of foam. Smells of sweet oak, whiskey, bittersweet chocolate, and oak tannins.

Taste is marvelous. The seamless meld of imperial stout and whiskey barrel could not have been more perfect. The taste follows suit with the nose, with the mouthfeel being rich, thick, and chewy. The carbonation is just enough, but not overdone.

An outstandingBA stout, damn near perfect.

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Photo of Abbbp
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Once again thanks for opening the cellar Bryan, the fact that we side by sided this with a KBS and an old Rasputin 17 was just awesome. But of the 3, sorry KBS and your #3 ranking, this Bell's is just flat out superior.

Poured into a snifter it darkens the cup, with lil to no head. It's aroma just reeks of an old bourbon warehouse, where the forgotten barrels have just soaked the bourbon for ages and the rest has been stolen as the angel's share. That and chocolate, big espresso, deep dark fruits all bring together a symphony for the nose.

The taste however is what really sets this ye old American Double apart- it isn't overwhelming. It's smooth, it's as though the fermentation of this fruit allows for delicious lambic carbonation to build giving it a drinkability like none other I've tried before.

Bravo bravo Bell's, you've done it. This not only lived up to the hype but far exceeded it. It's a damn shame that you're not in Texas, you leave me no choice to pillage other states and take their stock.

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Photo of Setmup10322
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer is creamy, smooth glory in a glass. Everything most stouts try and fail to be, if you find a bottle snag it immediately. It's cloyingly sweet, with heavy malts, and a noticeably delicious bourbon taste. I enjoyed just slowly sipping it on a spring evening.

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Photo of mjohnson17
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 12 oz bottle

A: Pours jet black, slight head that instantaneously dissipates. Some alcohol legs

S: Balances, a bit muted but well rounded charred oak, fig, roasted malt

T: roast, oak, charred wood, fig, a bit of chocolate and coffee. More of an earthy dry taste than a caramel/toffee sweetness that's sometimes seen in other BB stouts.

M: Very well balanced stout. Coats mouth nicely but not sticky. Full body.

Overall: Fantastic beer. One of the best stouts I've had, let alone bourbon barrel stout. This and BCBS are a near tie for perfection. I also really love the 12 oz format of the 2012 batch. If you have a chance to try this stout do not pass it up!

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Photo of MuenchenerKindl
4.92/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from the tap at Birreria Paradiso into a very generous snifter, Happy Hour price $4. LOL I would have paid... well never mind. The liquid was dark too black had a cool looking one finger mocha head with a bit of lace.

The smell was just oh so good, big bourbon on that great Bell's stout. Lots of coffee and chocolate noted dancing with the vanilla and alcohol, truly a master piece.

The taste followed the aroma, lots of bourbon, mild vanilla working with all the great flavors of the cream stout.

The mouthfeel was good to very good thick and creamy but the carbonation could have been a bit better to make the body just right.

The drinkability was A1A, man did I enjoy this brew. This is a must try beer. Thanks Larry! Prosit und Zum Wohl. MK

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 553 ratings.