Dismiss Notice
Hello, is it beer you're looking for?

Learn more about beer. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for as low as 68% off the single issue price.

Subscribe now →

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

Not Rated.
Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

553 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 553
Hads: 3,708
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,571
Gots: 945 | FT: 75
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.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 553 | Hads: 3,708
Photo of camil1mj
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Detroit Fall Beer Fest. I had a good 8 oz pour as a buddy if mine who is not into BA stouts gave me his pour.

A: Dark as you would expect. Reddish/brown creamy, foam head.

S: Wonderful coffee, chocolate and bourbonntones.

T: Wonderfully balanced. Exactly as described. I can pick up the Expedition and the Double Cream....followed by wonderful barrel aged wonderfullness.

M: Creamy and smooth. Medium carbonation.

O: 2nd best of the day to BA Plead the 5th. Best Bell's I have ever had. Here's crossing my fingers I get a bottle or 2 when it is released.

 574 characters

Photo of Rifugium
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

First had: on tap at City Tap House, Philly, PA

First (and only at the time of this review) keg to come to Philly!

Served in a snifter, dark brown to black, opaque, with a minimal tan head. Aroma was luscious with dark malts, licorice, vanilla and chocolate; some alcohol noticeable. Taste was rich with malts, dark chocolate, sweet sugars, bourbon-soaked wood; strong in flavor and booze; quite simply amazing all around. Nicely thick and creamy, full bodied. Highly drinkable, and among of the best stouts I've had.

 519 characters

Photo of anteater
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle.

A: Black and deep, practically no head whatsoever

S: Strong! You can smell this one from far away. Roasty malt, espresso, chocolate, bourbon and vanilla

T: More of the nose. Rich espresso, bourbon, roasty malt, chocolate and vanilla from the oak. Bitterness is present but in the background. Lots of flavor, very well balanced

M: Pretty thick, very smooth

O: One of the better barrel aged stouts I've had. Better than KBS, not as good as BCBS.

 476 characters

Photo of birderbeerer
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A balanced and exceptional beer. Very dark but not too big or filling.

Licorice is obvious, but it blends well with the roast flavors and the sweeter malts. No huge flavors here; rather, it's a well-blended, well-balanced, measured and subtle combination of flavors. Very easy to drink.

It doesn't leave me wanting to chase after more and more of it, but it's an amazing beer that I'd drink over and over again.

 415 characters

Photo of Holland
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: good head and a bit of lacing. Very dark and beautiful looking.

S: good bourbon angel but it does not overpower. There are some roasted notes that shine through.

T: again excellent bourbon, oak, vanilla, and some coffee, chocolate, and a slight bitterness.

M: medium carbonation on a big body is wonderful

O: excellent beer all the easy through. Would have again. Paid 8 dollars for a10 ounce pour. Worth every penny.

 427 characters

Photo of founder26
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap before and after this bottle they are quite similar. This review is from the 12oz bottles dated 12/29/12, poured into a snifter

A- black with a little red around corners. Not much head at all.

S- this is the second best part about this beer, it is intoxicating. First smell is of light bourbon and chocolate, middle you get some oak, vanilla, and caramel, finishes with coffee.

T- to me this is where I dont like this beer as much as bcbs or kbs. It has too much sweetness and bitterness, not enough chocolate ot bourbon.

M- this is the best part about this beer, so creamy and smooth. Not much carb but thats ok.

O- I like how drinkable this is, I just wish it had more of a roastyness and less sweet/bitterness. I hope some age will help that.

 766 characters

Photo of THECPJ
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: black as night with a nice 1 finger mocha head

smell: vanilla, chocolate, bourbon barrel, roasted malts,

taste: bitter chocolate, roasted malts, hints of vanilla,

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, full body,

overall: an outstanding stout. glad I was at the right place and time to give this bad boy a try.


 355 characters

Photo of dejrrma
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

$7 for a 8 or 12oz pour at BSP. Reviewed on 5/5/12 (just only now typed up my review). I believe the keg was from 2011.

a- black, still with a reddish tint, a slight ring of head
s- slight bourbon, coffee, vanilla extract.
t- Lots of dark chocolate and a touch of coffee and roast. woody and slight vanilla. not as much "bourbon" taste as I expected, so the beer is not overpowered by it. still, i think it's just a bit too understated.
m- really smooth and creamy. i was blown away. it has a medium carbonation and a full-body
o- enjoyed this beer tremendously. still love kbs more, though.

 593 characters

Photo of yamar68
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Massive thanks to alelover for hooking me up with my first taste of Black Note! 2012 vintage:

Certainly is black... there's a bit of muddled clarity around the edge of the glass. A short-lived medium brown head produces a dense, stubborn collar - oily lacing above and clouded beading beneath. Very nice looking stuff.

Smooth, sweet caramel bourbon immediately shows some BCBS qualities. It's hard to really even pull in any alcohol character, a big sniff just offers a deeper layer of oak. Milk chocolate and mellow burnt brown sugar. Maybe a bit of molasses. Incredibly smooth - as smooth as you could hope for a beer like this.

Creamy twist cone flavors covered with silky bourbon and bitter caramel. Faint leafy tobacco dries up the tail end of the palate. Coffee grounds, more milk chocolate, candy corn... pretty damn unique I'd say. This one certainly doesn't need any age but I'm excited to see what it does regardless.

Very, very good.

 950 characters

Photo of oline73
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is review #1000 on BA. Poured from the bottle into my Hunahpu's snifter.

Appearance: This beer pours black with just under a finger of thick tan head. The head fades fairly quickly to a ring around the edge of the glass.

Smell: Sweet roasted malt and full of bourbon heat. I'm getting some chocolate and dark fruit notes as well. Lots going on here.

Taste: Doesn't disappoint at all. This is a very smooth and creamy stout, especially given the abv. Roasted malts with some sweet chocolate notes. I'm getting hints of coffee and dark fruit as well. The bourbon taste is rather strong, but it doesn't overpower the other flavors, it adds to them.

Mouthfeel: The body is on the thick side of medium, but I think it could have been a little bit thicker and that would have been alright. The carbonation is tingly and the finish is dry.

Overall: I really enjoyed the balance and complexity of this stout. It was a sweet beer, but not in an overwhelming way. The rest of the flavors were allowed to contribute and it all worked out perfectly. I would love to have more given the chance.

 1,091 characters

Photo of smokeypeat
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Once again the power of the central PA/SEPA beer market comes through and I finally get to try Black Note.

Pours a jet black into the goblet with a light coffee tan head that quickly disappeared leaving just the slightest head. Some alcohol legs on the glass.

The smell on this one is up there. Rich vanilla bourbon with some great hints of toasted coconut. Fainter hints of toffee and light tobacco.

Taste is as good as I hoped for. The base beer here really holds up well to the bourbon treatment. Plenty of roasted coffee notes, bakers dark chocolate, and a dash of anise. The bourbon adds a great interplay of vanilla, caramel, toffee, and woody oak. No one aspect of the beer dominates but there is a great mixture of a lot of my favorite flavors.

Mouthfeel on this beer really worked for me. I don't know if it's because it was on tap or not, but I found the carbonation level to be perfect. The beer was extremely creamy and really easy to drink, and the alcohol was perfectly masked.

All in all, Black Note lived up to the hype for me. I was fortunate to get a whole growler, and frankly it seems like an embarrassment of riches. Everyone who got a pour of this agreed that it was top notch. I would definitely go out of my way to get this beer again.

 1,265 characters

Photo of tarheels86
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Tap at Churchkey. Pours ink with a medium tan head leaving webby reddish lace. Nose is rich buttery bourbon with tropical notes like dried pineapple and dried papaya. Toasted coconut. Let it decant to cinnamon ganache and very subtle meat/umami character. Soft booziness, coffee liquor. So many rich subtleties makes this an incredible experience. Taste is similar to normal and Rare Bourbon County Stout. Super creamy, rich coconut oil mouthfeel. Feels less sharply bitter than normal Expy. Softer and easier to love than normal Expy. Superlative soft mouthfeel. Nice bitterness comes through to cut initial sweetness. Great mouthfeel- mild heat reminds of soft bourbon aging but softness is unreal. Roasty bitterness and coffee character hints that this is not BCS but something else. Very beautiful. Complexities are easier to fall in love with than normal Expedition which can be too aggressive and powerful at times. Had this on tap now four separate times- always delicious and silky. Not sure what's up with that bottle picture, since that is not what the bottled version of this beer looks like. 12/6/2011 9/4/9/5/18=4.5

 1,128 characters

Photo of draheim
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle (bottled 12/28/2012 - thanks again Hoptologist!) into a snifter. Pours oily black w/ a very thin tan head that quickly dissipates to a narrow collar. I know it's not supposed to matter with big stouts like this, but I still like to see a little head+retention.

Aroma is big powerful bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, rum-soaked tobacco, toffee/molasses, and caramelized dark fruit. Fresh-baked sticky buns. Smells phenomenal.

Taste follows nose. Dark bitter chocolate, coffee, bourbon, dried figs/dates, vanilla, caramel, and more bourbon. Nice boozy heat warms the throat. Everything very nicely balanced, maybe just a touch sweeter than I like my BA stouts.

Mouthfeel is sticky, chewy, a little syrupy.

Overall, a solid barrel aged stout, in the same league as Parabola and KBS and better than BCBS. I'd buy this every year if I could.

 848 characters

Photo of scottfrie
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle into Lost Abbey stemmed glass. Thanks a TON for sending me this bottle Jay. You’re the man!

A: Pours pitch black with a minimal head. Not getting much lace but that’s expected.
S: I get huge notes of vanilla with undertones of bourbon, caramel and deep chocolate. There are some spicy notes as well.
T: Phenomenally smooth notes of chocolate fudge, sweet bourbon, caramel, hints of barrel spice and smoke. The finish is super smooth and bourbony and so very mellow.
M: Ultra smooth and creamy beer. The booze is well hidden and the body is thick and chewy. This feels awesome.
O: One of the better stouts I’ve ever had. I could drink a whole bottle of this myself. Thank you so much Jay!

 710 characters

Photo of jethrodium
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Devil's Den. Pours a dark black with a small light tan head the settles to a ring at the edges and leaves some light lacing on the glass. The aroma is molasses, dark chocolate, some bourbon and vanilla, a bit of roastiness, some light coffee, a bit of coconut, some light alcohol, and hints of raisin and cherry. Quite awesome. There is a lot going on here. The initial taste is sweet with dark chocolate. Then comes some molasses, licorice, and some bourbon and vanilla. There is also some light coconut, a bit of cherry, and some coffee roastiness. The finish has a mild bitterness with some roast and a bit of alcohol. Big, full, creamy mouthfeel that is quite nice. Medium-low carbonation. Amazing beer. Right up there with the best barrel aged stouts.

 766 characters

Photo of RoamingGnome
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bell's Black Note

Glad I finally get the chance to try this beer. Split a bottle amongst friends at my favorite bottle shop. Served lightly chilled.

A) Definitely black on the pour. There was not much had generated, maybe a half finger. It was dark tan in color, and settled quickly to a collar.

S) Needed to warm up a bit, but once it did the aroma really opened up, and was very pleasant. There is vanilla, bourbon, bit of roast, it's definitely got some of that oak barrel woody aroma to it. There's some chocolate too. The chocolate was more noticeable at near room temp.

T) Follows the nose nicely. Pleasantly chocolatey, vanilla sweetness, light roast, oak barrel, and bourbon. The 11.5 ABV is well hidden. The quality of this stout's aroma and taste is reminiscent of BCBS.

M) Medium bodied and lightly carbonated. This is very smooth, very supple, very soft, very easy to drink. No alcohol burn. Nice aftertaste.

O) Ranks right up there with any other barrel aged stout I have had the pleasure to drink. I certainly wish I could get a hold of a few more bottles. Glad to recommend.

 1,095 characters

Photo of jimmy82063
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Finally received the elusive Black Note - Poured into a Bell's Snifter

A - Jet Black with a thin brownish head. Minimal lacing.

S - Outstanding - bourbon comes right through.

T - Bourbon of course, coffee, chocolate and some nice drak fruit. There is a real nice semi sweet chocolate finish at the end. A bit of the oak and burnt sugar are noted as well.

M) - This is so smooth and in regards to other style offerings this is where this stands out. Absolutely no harshness!

O) An outstanding beer, very easy to drink - this will cause a commotion if it ever hits the New York area.

 586 characters

Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a pitch black with a very thin tan head.

S - Aromas of heavy bourbon with some vanilla and chocolate.

T - Starts out with a hint of bourbon that transforms into a nice mix of chocolate and coffee. There is a nice vanilla sweetness throughout. Alcohol is very well hidden.

M - Full bodied with low carbonation. Silky smooth mouthfeel.

O - An awesome treat. Lots of rich and lucious flavors. Very smooth and drinkable for BA sout. Highly recommended.

 464 characters

Photo of davey101
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2012, 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass. Batch #11620, bottled 12/28/2012. Thanks to ObiWanKushnobi for this long time want!

A - Pours a pitch black body with two fingers worth of mocha foam. Settles out into a thin cap. Moderate lacing and retention.

S - Starts off with the bourbon...oak, vanilla, and some char. Then some roasted malts and sweet cocoa powder. A touch of dark fruits too. No element really dominates here, just well integration of two base beers + a barrel.

T - Just all kinds of balance going on here. Smooth vanilla and oak, a bit of a bourbon butterscotch, lightly bitter coffee beans, and dry cocoa powder. A little bit of everything here. Finishes with a real faint but pleasant alcohol warmth.

M - Creamy, smooth, and decadent....thank you Double Cream stout! Surprisingly high drinkability compared to other BA stouts.

O - Perhaps the most balanced and easy drinking BA stout I have ever had. This is a damn impressive beer and I wish I somehow had year round access to this. Forever ISO, but I still prefer BCBS for its unrelenting bourbon element.

 1,088 characters

Photo of soughtbygod
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

About to try my first black note: 2012 poured from a 12oz bottle,

I am a huge fan of BBA stouts, I have had CBS, CW BBA stout, KBS, Class X kern River, BCBS, Parabola etc, some live up to the hype and others fall flat, I am about to test drive Bells Black note:

Appearance: Opaque black no like gets through as you pour it almost no head forms and the head that does form is dark dark tan with fine bubbles.

Smell: Wow interesting, this has dark plum, raisins, black licorice, the bourbon is there but very muted and hidden, I also get almost a sweet coffee on the nose.

Taste: The taste is very good this is definitely a top 5 for me, the hidden bourbon is no longer hidden that is the first upfront flavor, but even though that is the upfront flavor it is not hot like one would expect for 11.8 %, as it continues to ease over my taste buds the other flavors emerge vanilla first, then a touch of sarsaparilla, and finally on the very back of the tongue coffee candy that reminds me of loomis coffee candies in the gold wrapper my mother used to eat them when I was young.

Mouth feel: not much to say here this was very typical, smooth and creamy not the best mouth feel I have had but not the worst.

Overall: I am very impressed with this beer, I still give higher rating to my all time favorite CBS, but this is def in the top 5 for me and worthy of seeking in the future, cheers fellow BA's

 1,404 characters

Photo of treznor
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Jet black and inky with a dark tan head.

S - Can definitely get the bourbon off the aroma here! Some dark chocolately, raisany notes down there as well.

T - Complex, dark, the taste lingers for a bit and increases in complexity with something extra coming out at the end.

M - The 'weak' point of the beer as its slightly thin.

O - A great beer to sit around and sip.

 374 characters

Photo of kkleu357
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Got a bottle of this as an extra. Never had it before, but reminds me of of CW Bourbon Barrel Stout, just thicker and boozier. Thick dark body. Tons of chocolate flavor with oak and slightly too much whiskey. Very good.

 219 characters

Photo of Axnjxn
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

draft at federal in Durham.

pours an opaque black with a small head. dark fruit, chocolately malts. dark fruits at the beginning, slight bourbon...not overwhelming at all. ABV absolutely undetectable and drinkablity is this beers #1 attribute. full bodied..very creamy. low carbonation

overall love this one.

 311 characters

Photo of Fux
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From the bottle (234/1081). Batch #10136
A: Pitch black with a thin mocha head that leaves some lacings.
S: Smell is mainly of heavy dark chocolate with dried fruits (currants, figs) and some dark fruits. Some roasted aromas (almonds, espresso). Vanilla comes after.Some nuts also (cashew nuts, peanut butter). The presence of alcohol is noticeable butnot overpowering (notes of sherry). Deep but not aggressive. Elegant.
T: The taste mainly follows the nose with a lot of dark chocolate and roasted malts (coffee flavors). Some vanilla. Warming alcohol but without booziness. The aftertaste is on sweet chocolate and bitter chocolate.
M: Medium to high body. Almost flat. Quite velvety. It could be thicker and a bit smoother. A bit sticky on the length, but very drinkable.
O: A great, elegant imperial stout, with an excellent nose, flavorful and deep, still sober on the palate.

 882 characters

Photo of -Rick
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L: jet black with almost no head. Little carbonation also
S: bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and coffee
T: like the nose, sweet. Anika bourbon followed by a chocolate coffee finish. So well blended.
F: creamy goodness that lingers in the mouth for a long while
O: an amazing BB Stout. Not flashy or fancy with odd characteristics, just a solid solid beer!

 352 characters

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