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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: 3,735
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 21.78%
Wants: 2,599
Gots: 952 | 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: 3,735
Photo of Samichlaus82
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours oily pitch black with a small dark mocha head that slowly dissipates without leaving much trace on the glass. Smell is slightly sweet and malty with roasted malts, quality dark chocolate, dark bread, burnt caramel, charred wood, black pepper, bourbon, coconut, vanilla fudge, asphalt, toffee and hints of sweet liquorice. Taste is sweet and malty with roasted malts, roasted coconut, quality dark chocolate, sweetened dark roast coffee, vanilla fudge, charred wood, lactose, bourbon, toffee, nutella and hints of alcohol. Mouthfeel is soft, creamy, smooth, balanced, silky and full bodied. Finish is slightly sweet and bitter with roasted malts, quality dark chocolate, dark roast coffee, vanilla fudge, roasted coconuts, charred wood and bourbon. Great balance and smooth silky mouthfeel adds up to a great experience.

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Photo of s1ckboy
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 bottle. About 8 months of age since release.

A - Black body, 1-2 fingers of tan head.

S - Oak, bourbon, dark fruit.

T - Tons of dark fruits, dried plums, dates, fig?, bourbon, oak, bit of chocolate, touch of sweetness.

M - Medium carbonation, very smooth.

Awesome stout, glad to have been able to try it.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Review from 10-22-12 updated with bottle enjoyed on 11-08-13. Bottle number 129/1534. Batch #11620.

A - Poured dark black; medium thickness on the pour. A thin layer of espresso coloured head formed and quickly disappeared.

S - Huge whiskey and oak aromas up front. The barrel characteristics dominate the nose with some sweet chocolate fudge in the background.

T - Bourbon, some vanilla and toasted oak up front. Although the barrel is dominant, the base beer comes through more than nose indicated. Chocolate fudge, bitter roast, molasses and light espresso flavours integrate nicely with the barrel flavours.

M - Full body. Thick and somewhat viscous. Light carbonation.

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Photo of Ryan011235
3.61/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Matt the Miller's Grandview on 6/12/12

Nearly black with dark mahogany brown around the edges. No head, save for a thin ring.

The aroma has a lot of the stout - roasted and burnt sugars, molasses, prune, bitter chocolate and some coffee undertones. Creamy vanilla, some oak and hints of soft bourbon. The flavor has more bourbon and more heat. Some burnt sweetness, much similar to the nose. Pretty heavy blend between burnt roast and sugar and prune sweetness. Oak char on the finish. Full, slick body with sugary lingerings. Moderate, appropriate carbonation. Finishes clean for a barreled thing.

Overall, this is good but I would much rather drink Expedition or Double Cream Stout or bourbon.

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

Yes, this is that good. I sampled this stout at the Valpo Brewfest on 09/29/2012. Poured into my pint glass, the stout was a chocolatey black color with only the slightest hint of a head. The initial aroma was nicely boozy, making it apparent that the stout slept several months in bourbon barrels. The malt in the aroma was present, but was overwhelmed not the bourbon. The initial taste was a sour chocolate with vanilla note and bitter coffee. The booziness lays a pleasingly warm backbone amid the chaos of chocolate, vanilla and coffee notes. The mouthfeel is not quite motor oil, but it is fairly close. Thankfully, the taste lingered several minutes. The aftertaste left a warming sensation that was sticky enough to linger in the back of the throat for several minutes. As far as barrel aged stouts go, this is near the top of the list.

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Photo of mgp2675
4.22/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Mscarpen for this growler, great trader, can't say enough about him. Drank this side to side with the base beers that make up Black Note: Expedition Stout and Special Double Cream Stout.

A- Black as night. Not much of a head on it, fades away pretty quickly.

S- When I took the cap off the growler I smelled it just for the heck of it and even the cap smelled like straight vanilla. No surprise the aroma had lots of vanilla in it, with the bourbon characteristic that's so typical of a good BA stout. Has a hint of oatmeal in the aroma as well.

T- Great bourbon presence, the bourbon and vanilla stand out as the two main flavors. It's a little sweet but not overpowering at all...just right. It has a little bit of a bitter dark chocolate taste to it, and definitely some coffee and burnt notes in the aftertaste. Bell's says you should pick up some dark fruits in here but I'm not getting any. It has a little bit of that lactic taste to it from the cream stout base but not a lot. That adds to it nicely. The alcohol is extremely well hidden. This might be the most vanilla I've ever had in a beer.

M- Creamy, like I said it gets some of that lactic taste/feel from the cream stout. It's nice and think, low carbonation.

O- When Black Note bottles came out earlier this year I swore I wouldn't give my cellar away for it cause some of the reviews I was reading weren't too great. Maybe this beer is a lot different on tap or maybe I just disagree with those reviews but this is a very good BA stout. It's got that chewy feel to it that I always look for, very smooth, good flavors from the barrel aging, balanced, and gets better as it warms up. There's nothing distinct about this that blows me away but it's really good, and definitely worth a try if this is your thing.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured jet black with a nice one and a half finger tall mocha-colored head leaving sticky streaks of lace that lasted throughout. Aromas of warm bourbon, milk chocolate, vanilla, dark roasted malt, brown sugar and quite a bit of lactic creaminess. The flavor starts off with a big dose of warm bourbon, chocolate and some lactic creaminess from the double cream stout. Hints of vanilla, oak, brown sugar and rich coffee help to break things up and keep things interesting. Big and full smooth mouthfeel with a ton of sweet flavors and moderation carbonation throughout. The finish was quite sweet with plenty of boozy bourbon and some dark roast, lingering on the palate long after consumption. I look forward to cracking open my Black Note bomber that I acquired early in 2012!

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Photo of zeledonia
4.77/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On-tap at Bryant-Lake Bowl for their stout bout. I came to the event mostly to try this beer, and I wasn't disappointed. Enjoyed 12 September 2012, reviewed from notes.

Pours straight-up black. Brought with a thin layer of medium-brown head, but I saw the server pour some more off. Decent lacing.

Smell is rich dark chocolate, surrounded by the loveliest bourbon-y aromas I've encountered in a beer. All sorts of rich dark malt aromas, but they're all tied together in a way that makes it hard to tease out characteristics.

Taste is, well... it's one of those indescribably good beers that is just beautiful and right. The rest of my description is a mostly-futile attempt to explain that beauty. Like a dark malt wash, with a little bit of bourbon. It has a core flavor that holds together so well, it's hard for me to say exactly what it is. No little bits sticking out to grab onto, just this big glom of deliciousness. The bourbon barrel comes through, but is so nicely balanced and integrated - mostly the rich grainy flavors of the bourbon that really shine through. This adds tons of flavor, but without the burn that accompanies so many barrel-aged beers. Moderately hoppy, but the hops don't come through that much because there are so many other flavors they have to contend with. Stunningly good.

Mouthfeel is thick and heavy with that smooth, full oat fluffiness. Medium-low carbonation, as it should be.

One of the best, if not the best, barrel-aged stouts I've ever had, and among the top beers I've had. In the vein of Bourbon County - a big, robust, flavorful stout with fantastic integration of the barrel flavor - but better. IMO, it blows some other highly-rated stouts (Parabola, Abyss) out of the water. I will be seeking this out again. Definitely worth the effort. I could drink this all day.

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Photo of JackieTH
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On draft at the 2012 Autumn Brew Review, from notes. We missed this at the 2011 ABR, so would not be foiled again.

2 ounce pour was oily black in appearance with a thin skein of mocha brown head. Smell was distinctly bourbon..vanilla, oak, subtle cherry, along with dark chocolate and subtle anise, toffee, dark fruit. Smells rich and delicious.

Taste follows the nose. Bourbon barrel, vanilla, figs, dark and sweet chocolates, coffee, dark fruits, blackstrap molasses, toffee. Booze. Bitter coffee, dark chocolate and hopping keeps some semblance of order in all the richness. Mildly warming. It's very, very good. Heavy creamy body as expected. Overall..The bourbon elements in Black Note aren't as over the top as other bourbon whiskey imperial stouts, it frames the dark chocolates and allows all the other flavor elements to really shine. Impressive.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.89/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On tap at The Blue Door Pub in St. Paul, MN. Served in a 10 oz. goblet glass.

Appearance: Color is a oily jet black. Moderate amount of bubbles. About one finger of deep tan creamy head that recedes to a very thin layer. Decent amount of lacing is left on the glass.

Smell: Big scent of bourbon whiskey up front with good hints of vanilla, wood, and oak. Sweet dark malts with big hints of dark chocolate, coffee, dark toasted bread, molasses, burnt caramel, toffee, and biscuit. A fair amount of syrup and burnt sugars. Subtle hints of dark raisin, plum, fig, and cherry. A light hint of smoke and earthy hops. The bourbon and sweet chocolate stand out the most. A big and rich aroma.

Taste: Just as big and complex as the aroma leads. Nicely dark, sweet, and boozy. Big taste of bourbon whiskey up front with good notes of vanilla, oak chips, and the whiskey barrel. A little bit of smoke. Big dark roasted malts with notes of dark chocolate, bitter coffee, toasted bread and biscuit, sweet molasses and syrup, burnt caramel, and toffee. Undertones of dark fruits including dark cherry, plum, and raisin. Subtle earthy hops in the background. The bourbon and dark chocolate elements really stand out. Rich and very good taste.

Mouthfeel: A fairly heavy body with a moderate amount of carbonation. Thick, creamy, and fairly slick and syrupy. Some alcohol heat is present but its not overly hot.

Overall: A really great barrel aged imperial stout. The bourbon flavor is big and great and the dark chocolate and molasses sweetness is very good.

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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.

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Photo of Tucquan
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on 2012-09-08 in Columbia, PA

A - India ink black with a tan-brown short head with light lacing and lots of alcohol legs.

S - Bourbon, dark fruit, oak tannin, roasted malt. Very big aroma that's heavily on the bourbon side.

T - Bourbon, medium roasted malt, dark cherry, plum, prune, coconut and a touch of umami, and black licorice (not my favorite flavor). Fairly sweet but balanced with some astringent and hop bitterness. I definitely get the influence of the Expedition Stout. Alcohol is quite noticeable but generally blends in and supports the sweetness.

M - Medium-heavy body and light carbonation.

O - Big, big flavors for sure. Didn't quite float my boat as some other Imperial Stouts. For example, I prefer Founders KBS over this for a bourbon-influenced brew. I had this a few hours after having it on-tap. The only difference is there was no head at all from the growler but there was a bit of head on-tap. It wasn't that much of a difference to take points off for the appearance since you don't expect much of a head at this high ABV level.

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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

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Photo of josephwa
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - thin line of head, mostly opaque, very dark brown, good lacing.
S - caramel, molasses, bourbon, chocolate. Alluring indeed!
T - well balance bourbon flavor-the aging was perfect on this beer, molasses, chocolate. Really well done in the bottle. Even better than tap in my opinion.
M - perfect carbonation, perfect body - slightly lighter body for an imperial stout.
O - overall I've found this to be a notch above the draft version, so polished and well done. So glad these are released in 12 oz bottles for distribution.

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Photo of DankB33R
4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A. Motor oil black. Slight lacing around the edges of the snifter. Dark tan foam.

S. Dark fruit chocolate and bourbon.

T. Dark fruit, loads of chocolate, espresso like bitterness, and of course a bourbon and oak finish.

M. Very heavy on the palate. The cream ale stands in here lending a very creamy texture to this blended imperial stout.

O. This is an excellent blended imperial bourbon barrel stout. The chocolate malts and bourbon play together very well. All aspects of this stout are on point. Do yourself a favor and try this out.

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Photo of n2185
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: pours black with a finger of dark tan head that fades into a thin ring with no lacing.

S: roasted malts with dark chocolate and coffee up front followed by smooth vanilla, toffee, oak, and bourbon.

T: roasted malts with creamy dark chocolate and coffee. Oak, toffee, and bourbon bring up a roasted and sweet finish with a light alcohol burn.

M: thick body with medium carbonation, this beer is a little more carbonated than most examples of the style.

O: a delicious and wonderful smelling beer. I wish it had a bit creamier body, but that's about the worst I can say about it.

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Photo of illidurit
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle at Blue Palms during RBSG 2012. Pours pitch black with a coffee-colored head. Boozy coffee and vanilla in the aroma, malty with some acidity. Gorgeous flavor, heaps of cream, sugar and vanilla complementing roasty coffee notes and a deep warm chocolatiness. Bourbon is smooth and melds well without much heat.

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Photo of WorldWideStout
3.61/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this during D.C. Beer Week at The Big Hunt.

A: It's a bit dark in the room, but I can tell there's the typical pitch-black body. What's unusual is that a wisp of a head stays around for several minutes, even after I take a few sips.

S: Mostly bourbon. There is a little bit of roast and biscuit in there as well.

T: The taste opens up with some toffee from the malts, and then ripe dark fruits make an appearance. Towards the middle the bourbon comes out in full force. It's not the sweet bourbon I'm used to in BA stouts - it's more rough and young. The end of each sip and aftertaste is fairly unpleasant - harsh booziness.

M: Nice velvety mouthfeel with the appropriate small amount of carbonation.

O: I was not terribly impressed by this beer. The barrel notes are too prominent, and it's pretty boozy. I'd try it again if it had been aged for a year plus, but I didn't find the draught version worth all the hype.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to Derek, as always, for the bottle.

Black in color with a small tan head. Aroma is almost overpowering bourbon and vanilla. Rich chocolate and a bit of roasted malt. Simplicity at its finest. The flavor is similarly bold. A touch of alcohol, intense bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Tons of chocolate, some hints of coffee and roasted malt, and a bit of molasses. Excellent, decadent stuff.

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Photo of ThePorterSorter
4/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle 923/1081...don't know what that means. But I feel more special letting people know.

Dark black with no head and shiny flecks of garnet in the light. The nose presents a good presence from the oak and a slight touch of oxidation. The taste follows suit with the addition of a nice chocolaty malt base that screams stout.. but definitely not a Russian imperial with only a modestly thick mouthfeel. The mouthfeel is slightly bourbon boozy, but not enough to scream BBA. It's just weak-sauce in comparison to the other stouts I've had.

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Photo of stakem
4.22/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Draft served in a snifter. The brew pours black in color with a rich mocha head. The cap fades pretty fast leaving spotty patches of lace sticking to the glass.

The smell is vibrant with bourbon and barrel aging characteristics that smell of coconut, vanilla and lots of neutral oak. Roasty grain is present smelling of coffee and chocolate. Some tangy booze rounds things up.

The taste is tangy with bourbon booze quality right out the gate that doesnt diminish during the experience. Bitter unsweetened cocoa lingers in the mouth coupled with coffee, raw oak, vanilla, and some hints of caramel sweetness as it warms up.

This is a medium bodied brew with a light level of carbonation. It is quite a boozy sipper that is enjoyable. Fans of expedition stout will go crazy over this. Very well done and worth seeking out if it doesnt cost you a limb.

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Photo of thebigredone
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow, thanks Bells for bringing this to the Milwaukee Brewfest, what an awesome surprise. Definitely the best beer at the event.

Nose dominated by warm bourbon and chocolate notes.

Taste also begins with warm bourbon, followed by a smooth chocolate rosat, and finishes with more bourbon. Delicious, but I would have preferred the stout to have a slightly stronger presence, as I feel it was largely overshawdowed by the bourbon notes.

Mouthfeel was fairly creamy, but could have been more so.

Overall, an excellent offering from Bells. I would really be interested in trying a BA version of Expedition Stout and seeing if that might be preferable to the Expedition/Cream Stout blend.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Previously I tried this at Michigan Brewer's Guild and it came of strangely sour and off. Maybe from a bad keg? Got a bottle now. Pours pitch black with a very small brown head. Aroma is heavy vanilla, licorice, chocolate and bourbon. Smells very rich. Some up front bite with medium low carbonation. Flavor of licorice at first, finishing with overwhelming chocolate and then sweet vanilla really lingering. Thick and viscous, slightly acidic with some burning alcohol going on. Age would probably smooth it out but overall pretty awesome! Glad I got to re-rate this.

Another rerate here with a 2012 bottle poured on 3/22/14. Mostly similar but the booze tones down considerably now. Big anise flavors and lots of beautiful vanilla chocolate Good n Plenties. This is still awesome. The Expedition seems to shine through a bit with the age on this one. Very interesting.

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Photo of hopsolutely
4.32/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow. An awful lot "going on" in this beer. On tap at Ashleys in Ann Arbor. Pours a beautiful dark mahogany with coffee coloured head and lacing. Stunning aroma of oak tannins with a strong roasted & caramelized malt background. Robust flavour that lingers for an impressive length of time. 11% ABV is almost completely hidden in the warm malt tones. Coffee, chocolate, licorice and lots & lots of oak. Even some rye or bourbon notes?

An excellent beer!

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Photo of orangesol
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served on-tap at Al's of Hampden, Brass Rail and Shady McGrady's all in the same week. Also out of a growler at ffej of july...Yeah, this area does not suck.

A - Pours jet black with a nice one and a half finger tall mocha colored head leaving sticky streaks of lace down parts of the glass.

S - Smells of warm bourbon, milk chocolate, vanilla, dark roasted malt, brown sugar and quite a bit of lactic creaminess. Bourbon is strong initially but the other aroma's grow to help keep it in check.

T - Starts off with a big dose of warm bourbon, chocolate and some lactic creaminess from the double cream stout. Hints of vanilla, oak, brown sugar and rich coffee help to break things up and keep things interesting. Finish is pretty sweet with plenty of boozy bourbon and some dark roast, lingering on the palate long after consumption.

M - Big, full body with a TON of sweet flavors and moderate carbonation. Smooth, boozy feel throughout the glass.

O - I have missed out on trying this one a few times in the past so I was really looking forward to trying it when I saw that it went on-tap. Now that I have had it 4-5 times in the span of a week I can say that it definitely lives up to its billing. Awesome beer for sure.

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