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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.

557 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 557
Hads: 3,738
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,599
Gots: 954 | 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
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Reviews: 557 | Hads: 3,738
Photo of caskstrength
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

black pour with creamy brown head.

the smell is underwhelming.
But who cares because the taste is coming

and it's outstanding. bourbon notes infused into the stout characteristics I was hoping for. Read the Bell's brewery notes on this beer if you want the details, but who really cares when it tastes this good. Just drink it when you see it. Then come here and write a review with all the details that will add up to: "it's really f-ing good."

 448 characters

Photo of infestaxion
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was the big hit of the world record Bell's tapping. And they gave us a kick ass notebook to review it in.

A - Black as night with a dark coffee head that fades quickly.

S - Alcohol, malt and dark sugar. Not a whole lot going on though.

T - Lots of bourbon. Sweet malt and molasses. All of these flavors are rolling around in you mouth all at once. It's frikkin fantastic. The Double Cream brings a sweetness that really makes this beer. I imagine a Bourbon Barrel Expedition wouldn't be as good. It's surprisingly hot for being two years old.

M - A little thinner than I expected.

D - Really good. Not an easy drinker though. I think it took me most of the night to take down 20 oz.

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Photo of srandycarter
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pretty darned black. No head. Some small cling lace.

S - Soy sauce!!! I cannot tell you how much it is soy. Behind that is charred sweet malt.

T - Pretty much the same as the smell. Sweet malt lingers a bit at the end.

M - Somewhat creamy, good carb, good balance. I like it.

D - Very boozy, but hides it pretty well. I like this one.

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Photo of Mikeypnh
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014. Poured into a tulip glass. Pours black with a mocha film on top and a few bubbles around the rim. The smell is very potent. Coffee, chocolate, toffee, licorice and bourbon. Strong bourbon and barrel taste up front. Darks fruits come through nicely, especially at the end. Nice alcohol burn to go along with it. Huge flavor on this one. Very creamy mouthfeel with a dry, somewhat bitter coffee/licorice aftertaste. Another great bourbon barrel beer, although I prefer a couple others to this.

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Photo of Furlinator
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%

Bottled on 05/17/14.

Pours opaque black. The thin khaki head fades to a thin film and ring on top and leaves spots of lace.

The smell is an inviting combination of dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut, pipe tobacco and black coffee.

The taste is of dark chocolate, black cherry, roasted (almost smoked) dark malt, vanilla, toasted coconut and bourbon.

The texture is heavy bodied wilow carbonation.

Hard to come by on the West Coast, I'm glad to have gotten my hands on this one. An absolute world class barrel aged imperial stout.

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Photo of Rutager
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 12oz bottle, thanks mrbubbler!

Appearance. Pours black with half a finger of nice brown head.

Smell. Smooth bourbon with tons of oak, vanilla and sweet chocolate, and a little molasses.

Taste. Sweet dark creamy chocolate, smooth bourbon and oak barrel, a bit of vanilla and molasses. Very nice.

Mouthfeel. Full body with creamy smooth lowish carbonation. Great stuff.

Overall. A bourbon barrel imperial stout done right. I should probably crack my 750 from the original bottling soon. This is drinking very well right now and that one is probably at its peak.

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Photo of zoso1967
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Black Note pours a deep, dark and pretty much opaque blackish brown that is exactly what I had expected since this is supposedly a blend of Expedition and Double Cream. The head is a deep tan in color. The head retention and lacing are both quite nice.

The aroma is intoxicating with plenty of vanilla and bourbon notes mixed with super chocolaty and rich caramel aromas. The wood and bourbon really are the star of the show in the aroma though. (I had this again at the TC Winter Beer Fest and even out in the cold with bonfires all around I could really pick up on the barrel aged notes)

The flavor is very similar to the aroma but with a bit more chocolate and a slightly charred flavor. Vanilla also plays a big role in the flavor with the oak shining through well. I also must note that there is some serious tootsie roll character going on in this bad boy.

The mouthfeel is medium and a bit thinner than I would like, but that is a common problem I find in beers that have been barrel aged. The finish is sweet, roasty and enjoyable without being too taxing.

This brew is well regarded in the BA community and for good reason. In my opinion it does not quite rise to the heights of KBS or CBS, but it is a well crafted and aged BA stout that I will surly do my best to have a snifter or two of if I get the chance.

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Photo of cbutova
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes taken on a growler pour. Opened with a pop and plenty of carbonation in the beer, pressure-filled.

A- Poured from the growler into an 8oz snifter. Small mocha tan head forms but quickly dissipates falling to almost nothing and lace is out of the question.

S- A balance is found immediately between then bourbon and stout. Rich as it gets with high quality Bourbon aromas, deep chocolatey fudge and strong oak barrel. Feels as if there is some age but not in a negative way.

T- Reminds me of Damon in a way but maybe a bit less pronounced in the stout category, just really smoothed out. Bourbon whiskey, vanilla, dark roast coffee, fudge, caramel and deep roast grains.

MF- Lower end carbonation and pretty heated from the almost 12% alcohol. Thick oily body with a somewhat creamy feel.

In the same realm as Damon goes for Bourbon stouts but a bit more of the whiskey shows and more alcohol heat noticed, still super balanced and smooth. Big oak and chocolate fudge comes to mind.

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Photo of CFHMagnet
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes taken 10-24-13.

I went to Deagan's in Lakewood with my wife and some friends for Cleveland Beer Week. We got there as soon after 5 pm as we could because we heard that they were tapping this beer at 5.

The beer was brought to me in a snifter. I got a thin ring of rich brown head over a beer that was as black as night.

The smell was malt and dark fruit, with strong notes of chocolate and a good whiff of booze.

Roasty and malty made up the first impressions of flavor in this delicious beer. Milk chocolate soon turned up and made a good show through most of the rest of the tasting. Vanilla, wood and a hint of bourbon came in and finished it off beautifully.

This beer was smooth. It was almost Fonzie smooth. It felt like silk going down, and was the most enjoyable beer I had that evening.

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Photo of Mrappinin
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just popped the 2012 brew. Poor's a deep ruby only noticeable when held up to the light. The head is a thin dark brown mocha color that dissipates quickly. Heavy vanilla on the nose with slight coffee and bourbon to follow up. Rates of vanilla creamy chocolate and coffee and bourbon to finish it all off. Light carbonation make this a very creamy enjoyable BBS. The best BBS I have ever tried hands down sat this on the shelf for about ten months a very smooth blended flavor, it all works togeather.

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Photo of kbutler1
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Draft. FINALLY, I am able to try this beer! On tap at ABR. Pours a pitch black brown color with a light tan collared head. Dark Chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of earthy leather aroma. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Roast coffee adds some bitterness, dark chocolate, vanilla, all very well balanced together. Ends with a slight lingering bitterness. I find myself continuing to go back to Bell’s tent to try this one and everytime is just as enjoyable as the last. The 10.5% is there but well incorporated and is not abrasive at all.

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Photo of barczar
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours an opaque black with a quarter inch foamy brown head that dissipates into a ring around the rim.

Deep toasty, nutty notes are prominent early, with lots of chocolate and a not of booze, along with a hint of roast malt at the finish. Subtle dark fruit is present in the form of cherries and plums. Vanilla and oak surface late.

Flavor is sweet, chocolatey, and raisiny, with moderate roast character. Booze is evident in the finish, along with sweet cherries. Oak emerges as it warms.

Body is syrupy and velvety, with minimal carbonation and significant alcohol warmth.

Less roast character than most, and leaning toward the sweet side. Cherry is fairly dominant near the finish. A little hot, but tasty.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ninety-nine down, one to go (or at least until the top 100 changes again). Finally got to try this elusive brew at the Bell's 30 Taps World Record event at Beer Sellar in Indy. Had three 5oz tasters of this stuff.

N.B. This was listed as "BB Double Cream Stout", but Larry Bell assured everyone it was the blend and that the erroneous name was merely due to a label approval issue.

A - A half-finger of dark mocha foam with solid retention, and a little bit of lacing. Pitch black - there was no trace of color, even at the fringes. It's about what I expect from a high gravity Imperial Stout.

S - Tons of bourbon and vanilla notes, a bit of roastiness - it wasn't the most complex nose. I even patiently waited for it to warm up, as it was served WAY too cold, but I didn't really get much more than the basics here.

T - The taste was superb, and was somewhat shocking after the lukewarm aroma. Tons of bourbon, vanilla, sweet malts, milk chocolate, and a bit of dark fruit and barrel. I love the way the Double Cream Stout portion offsets the roasty bitterness and acidity. As a result the aftertaste is surprisingly mild.

M - Mild carbonation, super smooth, lighter in body than I expected (more medium-to-full). Plenty of residual stickiness in this one, and shockingly a bit of heat (even after a couple years in the keg).

D - Super drinkable for what it was - the multiple tasters went down pretty easy. I think out of the ten tickets my wife and I got, we used at least half of them on this superb brew. The only problem is the ABV, and is that really that big of a problem? ;-)

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Photo of Dogbrick
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sample at the Bell's tasting at Brews Cafe on 3/6/08: This beer pours a matte black color with a medium thin light brown head with decent retention. Small patches of lacing on the glass. Aroma of coffee liqueur, bourbon and toasted malt. Rich, chewy body with loads of roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate flavor, as well as bourbon and plum. The finish is roasty and sweet at first with mild alcohol and coffee in the aftertaste. Very enjoyable, and a close second to the Bourbon Barrel Java Stout at this event.

 515 characters

Photo of emerge077
4.44/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Second time trying Black Note, first time bottled.

Dark and viscous, tawny mahogany edges, frothy tan foam. Little to no lacing, glassy obsidian surface. Creamy viscous feel, not overly sweet, dry and not at all cloying. Big flavors of toasted almond, dark chocolate, espresso, and toasted coconut. Dry aftertaste of almond, chocolate, and trace pipe tobacco. The base beers are harmoniously blended and sing in chorus with the barrel. Expressive and flavorful, a benchmark of the style that seems to be increasingly ubiquitous and often poorly done. Black Note is in the upper echelon of BBA stouts for sure.

Thanks Aaron & Chris for the chance to try this!

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Photo of axeman9182
4.44/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle, bottled on date of 12/28/12. Received this one from gpawned and tat2dhllblly. It was allowed to warm before being poured into my Brooklyn Brewery tulip.

Black Note pours jet black, with maybe half a finger of dark, mocha foam crowning the beer. Head retention is good, but the lacing left behind is minimal. The nose is spectacular, with aromas of vanilla, marshmallow, brown sugar, bourbon, and a dusting of dark chocolate all waft out of the glass. The only (minor) complaint I have is that the barrel characteristics are highlighted so much more so than that of the base beer. The flavor profile does have some more cocoa to it, as well as even just a little bit of espresso. It comes at the expense of the nuanced bourbon barrel profile. The marshmallow disappears completely, and vanilla and caramelized sugar fade. All are replaced by more of a straight off boozy bourbon flavor. It's great that more stout shines through, but the tradeoff isn't quite worth it. Still, the flavor's very good (just doesn't quite live up to the expectations set by the nose). The mouthfeel has a certain silky quality to it, and it's paired with an appropriately subdued carbonation. The body just isn't quite full enough to really be excellent though. I've had a couple of "hyped" beers that didn't quite measure up lately, but I'm happy to say that Black Note isn't one of them. Superb barrel aged stout from Bell's

 1,420 characters

Photo of chinchill
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap at NOC.
Black with brown edges. The head is not durable but the ring is.
Very, very rich aroma and flavor. Mildly sweet with fairly well hidden ABV.
Barrel aging is obvious.Dark infused fruit.
Very smooth feel, with a good bit of warming.
Indescribably delicious.

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Photo of dlello2
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A - Black. Viscous. Good couple of fingers of head. Lingers longer than I'd have thought.

S - Smell is nice. Chocolate and bourbon dominate. Maybe a bit of coffee.

T - Wow. Very good, I get sweetness and heat to start. This one is strong! Bourbon, some chocolate, coffee, a touch of cinnamon? Like the strength, but will see what happens as it warms.

M - Really good mouthfeel. Thick and mouth-coating. Great balance with the carbonation.

O - Enjoying this one a lot. Didn't expect it to be quite so pleasant after all the anti-hype. Still a bit too hot to be perfect but I'd love to taste this one in a year.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a tulip glass from a 750ml bottle.
Bottle No: 455/1534

Pours a pitch black darkness that is quite thick. There is a nice quarter inch thick head that is light tan colored and is pretty dense. A nice swirl rises a head up to about half and inch and with some dense small bubbles.

Aroma is delicious! Starts off with fudgey chocolate notes. Delicious chocolate cake sweetness and richness. There is some nice bourbon sweetness that follows the chocolate notes and the bourbon is slightly balanced by some nice roast. There are some dark fruit notes present mixed in with some dark chocolate bitterness that shows itself on the back end.

Flavor starts off following the aroma. Starts off with nice fudgey and milk cocoa sweetness. Then there is a nice mix of bourbon with the coca notes. The Bourbon notes add some slight heat and some nice vanilla and almost cinnamon spice notes. There is a nice dark fruit notes with some raisins and prunes notes mixed in with the sweetness of chocolate. These notes are however not too strong and are very well balanced by the roast notes and the cocoa. All the flavors in this brew are very well crafted and represented. Yummy cocoa notes blended with bourbon notes that bring some vanilla and some nice dark fruit notes. All these notes are also very well balanced. Nothing overpowers the other notes and they all play well together. The body is nice and creamy and velvety smooth.

Overall I'm glad I got to try this brew. It is quite delicious with great fudge notes and some slight roast. Then there are some definite bourbon notes that are present and give the brew some nice body and good dimensions but that don't overwhelm. Bravo Bell's.

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Photo of NolaHopHead
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle. Deep brown, very thin head disappears. Sweet bourbon chocolate aroma. Taste is outstanding, vanilla notes and chocolate, bourbon is present but not overwhelming. Crazy smooth silky finish. Overall, one of the best BBA stouts I've had.

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Photo of boomer31
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Stub and Herbs. Cannot believe I got a chance to try this one! Poured into a 7.5 oz snifter.

A - Black and black with a dark tan head. Viscous as any double stout I've had.

S - Sweet bourbon with a hint of malt and vanilla. The bourbon is the dominant factor in the nose.

T - Bourbon up front and sweet chocolate malts through to the finish. A hint of alcohol in the back but bourbon, vanilla and sweet malts dominate the taste. You can really taste the expedition stout here. But the sweetness and bourbon just dominate. Lord this is tasty

M - Viscous and low carbonation. Perfect for a double stout.

D - At 11.5% this is a sipper. I'm very excited to try this one but any more than 7.5 oz may be tough to handle.

Overall incredible. Why do they not bottle this?

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Photo of Fux
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | 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 but not 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.

 883 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
4.42/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Bx Beer Depot. A keg of Hopslam and a keg of Black Note. Amazingly, the Hopslam kicked long before the Black Note, so I enjoyed three of these as I watched people go nuts for Hopslam.

Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Big khaki head. Not a particularly dark head, though. Decent retention. Oh yeah, it's black.

Smell - Huge barrel notes. Bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Roasted chocolate, but otherwise the stout is a touch lost in the barrel. Boozy, too.

Taste - Chocolate and a building tingle of bourbon. Vanilla flavor throughout. The chocolate comes back in the finish in a much more bitter manifestation. Less boozy in the finish that the smell would indicate. Really wonderful incorporation of barrel and stout.

Mouthfeel - Very creamy, which I assume is the Cream Stout. Boozy and chewy, but not too thick. Low carbonation, which is strange. Nearly flat.

Overall - It's damn good. I don't know how much separates the best BA stouts, but this one is quite nice. I'm happy not to have traded for it and rather just came and drank the equivalent of a 750 on tap. Will be back for more next year.

Edited based on drinking the hell out of this at the Michigan Summer Beer Festival.

 1,196 characters

Photo of AndyAvalanche
4.42/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2014 version, it is a 12 oz. bottle poured into a tulip/snifter style glass. Liquid come out of the bottle is a cola brown color but gets dark brown as it rises in the glass. Not much in the way of highlights. Slightly darker than tan colored head, mostly small bubbles goes away after a few minutes, not much in the way of lacing. Each sip gives sort of a syrupy cling to the glass though. Decent looking beer, decent representation of the style.

Smell is really good. Dominant feature throughout is vanilla and oak aromas from bourbon barrel aging. Outside of that there's plenty of dark roasted malts providing a nice sweet and rich chocolate characteristic with a touch of bitterness. At the end there's some candy coated dark dehydrated fruits.

Taste is a step up. Lots of roasted malts providing the chocolate and the faintest light roasted coffee flavor; a little sweeter than I anticipated based on the smell, but in a good way. The candy/liquor coated dark dehydrated fruits (figs, raisons, dates) come through a little stronger. Broubon, vanilla and oak are obviously strong characteristics as well. Everything is meshed really well together, you can tell this is a carefully crafted beer.

Mouthfeel is probably the best part. I guess I'd say full bodied with an appropriate lasting/lingering flavor, but it doesn't feel as heavy as a full bodied beer, more like it'd be a medium body. Nice and smooth with a low medium carbonation level. Appropriate sweetness gradually moving to a warming finish, almost hot. A little bit of age could do alright to take a little heat away but I wouldn't do it more than 6-8 months, this was ready to drink now. Really drinkable, this one goes down nice and easy and is a year round bourbon barrel stout. Huge props to EasyReader for this one, you're the man!

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Photo of Lemke10
4.42/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This pours a very dark brown/ black color with almost no head. The aroma is strong with bourbon and sweet robust malts. The taste is sweet, smooth and strong. This seems to be thinner in texture than most other bourbon barrel stout, but probably has the most unique taste that leaves a tart fruit after taste. A good, well made beer but to currently hold the #20 spot for best beer is a bit of a stretch.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 557 ratings.