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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BA SCORE
99
world-class

543 Reviews
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Reviews: 543
Hads: 3,646
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 6.46%
Wants: 2,513
Gots: 925 | FT: 79
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: 543 | Hads: 3,646
Photo of chinchillin85
2.95/5  rDev -34.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I had this on tap at the Bavarian Lodge. I was really excited to see what was in store for this beer.
A- It was a nice deep black typical of imperial stouts with crimson around the edge of the glass where the light was hitting it. I typically like my stouts a much deeper color though.

S- Sweet bourbon hits you right away. It smells really boozy. Then I get chocolate, roasted notes with some toffee.

T- At first it was too boozy. I let it warm up and It got better. It was smooth and a decent stout but nothing better than what is on the shelf

M- I would like a lot more thickness from this beer with a name like Black note

O- This is an overrated beer if I've ever seen one. Did not live up to the hype. KBS is 100 times better. I cannot stress enough that this beer is no better than another bourbon barrel aged stout on the shelf at your liquor store. I was really struggling to get any complexity's from it and there was no coffee flavor what so ever. Don't get me wrong this is a good beer but It's definitely is nothing special and I still can't believe what people will trade for this. Do yourself a favor and mix expedition and double cream yourself and add a little bourbon. You'll have the same thing. (1,217 characters)

Photo of DaveAnderson
3.45/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The aroma of this beer was overpowering from the second I opened it. It was like a fart aged on bourbon. The pour was beautiful, with a full, brown head. As expected, the beer was as dark as night.

As it opened, more aromas emerged. This one is an oak monster, which almost completely masks some of the more interesting notes, like hops and chocolate and fruits. Once it hits the tongue, there is an unexpected charred taste that throws this into complete disarray. This beer makes no sense to me. Neither the flavors nor the smells work together.

I wouldn't say it's unpleasant, but neither would I drink this again. There are too many well-crafted beers out there waiting for me. (683 characters)

Photo of BearsOnAcid
3.52/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Black pour; small mocha colored head that reduces to nothing.

Mollases, dark chocolate, charred oak, chocolate syrup in the nose. Slight medicinal/cherry quality.

Heavily charred/roasted espresso flavor. Low on malty sweetness. Bourbon finish; caramel, vanilla. Still not much sweetness.

Taste falls flat with a chalky/ashy roasted malt bitterness and not much else other than the barrel. Mouthfeel is basic.

Someone explain to me what is so amazing about this beer (469 characters)

Photo of Arbitrator
3.52/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Growler supplied by eyebrews and generously shared at the Pliny the Younger release. Sampled from a tasting glass. From notes.

A: Pours motor oil black, opaque in the center but lightly translucent at the edges. I have no idea about the history of this growler, but it was taped well, opened with a hiss, and there were clearly bubbles (dark mocha) on the brew. Retention was short. Promising.

S: Pretty bourbon-forward. Dark chocolate, vanilla, molasses. Anise and some booze.

T: Bourbon and chocolate are pretty evident. Anise, vanilla, molasses. The finish was hot and slightly harsh. I kept expecting more from the flavor; I picked up a lot of the barrel character, but not much of the Expedition or Cream Stout.

M: Silky, rich. Hard to criticize Bell's beers on mouthfeel, most of the time, but their barrel aging here leaves a lot to be desired: the beer is fairly hot and tannic.

D: I liked the beer, but I'm not convinced this is one of the top examples of the barrel-aged imperial stout "style." It's above-average, but nothing to give up the cellar for. (1,073 characters)

Photo of pixieskid
3.6/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to Fux for sharing this bottle last night. Has been on my list of rare Imp. Stouts for some time, glad to cross it off. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same experience...

Pours an almost black color with a thin white head, dissipating quite quickly.

Nose; bourbon, oak, charcoal, and some dark fruits.

Taste; bourbon upfront with a touch of bakers chocolate, I too got peanut butter, finishing with a ton of burnt malt and a slight salinity (reminiscent of soy sauce but not like 09' Abyss).

Mouthfeel; oily and surprisingly thin. This can happen with barrel treatments (i.e. Boris vs. BA Boris is the best example off the top of my head) but I think it comes from the Double Cream Stout aspect of the beer as well.

Overall; I wasn't a fan but I will admit, I have been a bit under the weather lately so I know my palate isn't quite up to par...

Retried a bottle of 2013 and can say that the initial review was so low because of the fact that the beer was oxidized. This recent bottle was much better but still not very impressive. The thin body and overly boozy aspect from the barrel aging didnt do much for me. Decent example of the style but over rated and no better than any other barrel aged imperial stout out there. (1,241 characters)

Photo of Ryan011235
3.61/5  rDev -19.6%
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. (708 characters)

Photo of WorldWideStout
3.61/5  rDev -19.6%
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. (929 characters)

Photo of nrs207
3.63/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Let's be real, this beer is all hype. It's not really that good. It has a hint of bourbon barrel, some decent roasty notes, but every time I have it, I expect it to be pretty good. It never lives up to any of the other beers I've had that night. BCBS is in another league, and even just an above average beer like KBS kills this. If you've gotten this far, here is my full review.

A - Fairly dark, not the darkest stout out there. Decent appearance overall.

S - Pretty dry, doesn't smell very sweet. Has a hint of bourbon barrel there. Some chocolate notes.

T - Fairly dry in the taste as well. Doesn't have a lot of bourbon. It tastes like an OK roasty stout got thrown in a bourbon barrel for about 2 weeks. I'm not sure what Bell's is doing, but they're doing it wrong. It's truly not that good. There are an incredible amount of bourbon barrel stouts I'd seek out over this.

M - It's fairly smooth, but nothing too incredible. The best quality of this beer is that it's not very boozy. It's a bit thin for the ABV, but at least the booze is well hidden.

O - This beer is not worth seeking out. If it was on the shelf at $3 a bottle, I probably wouldn't buy it. That is NOT good for a bourbon barrel stout, let alone a very good one. I actually would for trade value I guess, but definitely not to drink. Skip this one unless you just want to tick it. It's like Hopslam, just a tick. Nothing special. It's outdated, and many many other breweries have caught up and surpassed Bell's. The only beer I consider worthwhile from them is Two Hearted. For the price, it's the only beer they make that's worth buying imo. (1,621 characters)

Photo of largadeer
3.73/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to stfun37 for this one.

Black in the glass with a tiny dark brown head that rapidly recedes to a ring.

The aroma is woody and earthy, with a backbone of bittersweet chocolate. Boozy bourbon is present but more subtle than I was expecting, and sweetness is very reserved. Expedition's unmistakable burnt licorice/molasses character shines through with surprising strength here.

The taste is impressively complex; licorice up front, burnt whole grain bread, bakers chocolate, tobacco, vanilla and light earthiness. Medium-bodied without much sweetness. Hot bourbon flavors come through more in the finish, along with woody tannins, strong burnt bitterness and lingering espresso.

This was a pretty interesting beer. The Double Cream Stout and -bal aging have helped tame Expedition's harshness, but not as much as I would have liked. Still enjoyable, but not as remarkable as I was expecting. (906 characters)

Photo of thagr81us
3.8/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ah Black Note... How you have eluded me for this long I will never know. Had during Brewvival 2012! Served from tap into a Brewvival sampler imperial pint. Poured pitch black with a minimal brown head. Maintained nice lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, roasted malt, cream, wood, and sweet alcohol. The flavor was of sweet malt, roasted malt, cream, wood, sweet alcohol, and spices. It had a heavy feel on the palate with medium carbonation. Overall this was a fairly good brew. I went into this one expecting to be blown away if I am honest. However, it fell short of what I was expecting it to be. All of the aspects on this one were good, but the flavor left a lot to be desired. There was a lot more roastiness going on here and not enough sweetness to balance it out at all. The spice note didn't help this fact either. The bad thing is that it was enjoyed with a group of BA buddies and all of us agreed that it was quite lackluster. Worth trying if you have not done so, but I doubt I would seek it out again myself based on what it takes to land it. (1,090 characters)

Photo of BB1313
3.8/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 vintage. Batch # 12811. 12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Pours black with a little light getting through; small khaki head that fades leaves solid lacing and retention. The aromas are full of milk chocolate and bourbon. Smells pretty typical for the style. The flavors are good, but leave me wanting more. Lots of milk chocolate giving it a sweetness along with some dark chocolate giving it a bitterness. Lots of dark fruits in the mix. Maybe some black cherries and some raisins. Some vanilla. Black coffee is there. Some oak/wood notes. Slightly spicy. The bourbon is there and isn't overwhelming at all, but there's a very subtle warmth in the finish. The alcohol basically goes unnoticed, but there's hints of booze that pop up every once in awhile. Mouthfeel is full-bodied with moderate carbonation. I was expecting for it to have that thick motor oil/milkshake mouthfeel, but it's not quite on that level. It's still creamy and fluffy though. This is ultimately easy to drink, but makes a nice sipper.

This is a nice offering from Bell's. I missed the 2012 bottle by 5 minutes, so I made sure I snagged a bottle this year. It's very good stuff, but ultimately left me underwhelmed. I guess maybe my expectations were just too high considering Bell's is one of my favorite breweries and the hype that always surrounded this beer. (1,344 characters)

Photo of Ohiovania
3.8/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Lots of hype on this beer. The nose had hints of bourbon and chocolate with a little coffee, but mostly had wet dog which was really disappointing. I've heard that's from something from the hops that causes this odor but it should settle out with time as the hops fade.

Mouth feel is great. Taste had all the usual bourbony vanilla and caramel I expect. All around a good beer that was slightly disappointing. Looking forward to having this again in a year or so. (465 characters)

Photo of HopHead84
3.82/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Shared by largadeer on 11/06/2009 and poured into a snifter. Thanks Chris! The beer is black with a wispy light brown head. Retention is decent and lacing is scattered.

The nose is of dark chocolate, vanilla, and prominent molasses. The chocolate has a fudge-like quality and licorice presence is strong. Booze and anise are evident. Nice rich nose.

The flavor is licorice, molasses, fudge, and dark chocolate. As the beer warms, the licorice becomes increasingly powerful. The finish is alcoholic and somewhat harsh. Molasses and licorice eventually overwhelm the other flavors. The beer is full bodied with a thick and slightly syrupy mouthfeel. I enjoyed the nose, but the taste had too much licorice and molasses for me. I was enamored for the first couple ounces, but I quickly became disenchanted (804 characters)

Photo of PHBoiler
3.83/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Thin and a bit papery already from 2014. Balanced dark chocolate and bourbon, which has blended nicely over time. The mellowing of flavors also added some oxidation. The bourbon adds a critical dimension but the mouthfeel is lacking at this high end of the BA stout spectrum. (275 characters)

Photo of tjthresh
3.86/5  rDev -14%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dense black with a large brown head. Sweet chared sugar with chocolate, coffee, and roasted character. The flavor is a nice coco/bourbon mix. Lush, rich, and a dry finish finish this off. I don't seem to be as high on this as most. Still really good beer. (255 characters)

Photo of beagle75
3.88/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Draft service into a snifter at The Flying Saucer in Kansas City.

A: Opaque black color with a diminishing residue of light beight bubbles. Scant lacing remains on the glass.

S: Dark chocolate and vanilla are well represented. Little spirit or wood influences transmitted in the smell. No alcohol is detected.

T: Begins very off-dry with rich chocolate and vanilla from the smell as well as dark cherry fruit. Acidity is moderate into the middle as fruit is replaced by some pure roast. Another spike of acidity occurs before the mellow finish fully matures, yielding some late bourbon notes but remaining light on wood and booze.

M: Thick viscosity, creamy but slightly acidic on the palate, with moderate carbonation.

D/O: Best categorized as a dessert beer--it is not as assertive on the palate as some stouts that are born 'imperial' then givven the bourbon barrel treatment. Entirely respectable, it would serve well as a gateway to the world of barrel aged beers. (974 characters)

Photo of Gfunk720
3.9/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Rogee for this bottle. 12oz 2012 bottle out of my Hill Farmstead Glass.

A- Pitch black in color, pours with a nice tannish mocha head that retreats to a light ring around the glass. Some light lacing, but more of an oily sheen on the inside of the glass.

S- Smells wonderful. A nice combination of roasted malt and some smokey barrel character. Some hints of bourbon, but it is very subdued. Notes of dark fruit, chocolate, and some creamy character.

T- To be honest, it is hard to believe that Expedition stout is the base for this beer, as it has no where near the malt presence. The initial flavor is fizzy, roasted malt and booziness. I get a little chocolate, but the barrel is a little overwhelming. The bourbon does add some vanilla flavor, these may need some time to mellow.

M- A bit fizzy, and a little light bodied. Just feels slightly watery, and doesn't have a whole lot of depth.

O- I wanted to try one of these fresh, and have to say I was slightly let down. Expedition stout is one of my all time favorite stouts, as it is just so full bodied and creamy. I feel like the barrel aging of this beer made it slightly less viscous, and at this point isn't drinking too great. The barrel is really just coming through as heat and overwhelming booziness. I definitely need to sit on a few of these for a while, and see how they develop. (1,362 characters)

Photo of maxifunk777
3.91/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Did not live up to the hype 2014 poured into a Bruery Snifter dark as night.
Just slightly above average Stout high B low A at best would drink it again but not sure I would seek it out . Smell was tame, Taste was smooth but not anything that made me go wow on any level. mouthfeel once again good not great. (308 characters)

Photo of Auracom
3.92/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Another great tick here, didn't catch the name of the guy who provided this but thanks to him nonetheless. 2-3 oz. poured into a tulip on March 10th, 2012.

A - Semi-thick black coloring but with a crazy deep violet hue around the edges of the tulip. No head or the like.

S - The bourbon barrels that the Expedition portion sat in seem a bit weak here. Very balanced malt signature with additional caramel and roasted almonds.

T - More of the same, generally. Breadyness, spices, further barrel qualities, faint anise, and sweet malts. Good balance, very creamy. I suspect the Double Cream Stout made a stronger showing here than it did in the aromatics.

M - Very much in the vein of aged Expedition. Toned-down carbonation, medium body.

D - Crazy hype on this one, and I'm not sure it lives up to it. A friend mentioned that it's not quite at the level in this bottle that it used to be straight from the keg. Oh well, glad to have had the chance to try it and I think the blend is genius. Would love to try another bottle to see about variation because I think this has serious potential. (1,098 characters)

Photo of monitorpop
3.92/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black with a one finger airy tan head that quickly faded to a ring.

S: Smooth bourbon with subtitle chocolate, coffee and vanilla extract.

T: Dominate bitter dark chocolate with some coffee that fades into lingering bourbon. More bitter than sweet.

M: A bit thinner and than I expected. Some nice warming alcohol in the finish.

O: More bitter and less sweet than I prefer, but still a really good beer that certainly improves as it warms up. (449 characters)

Photo of kawilliams81
3.95/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 ml into a tumbler glass.

A- pours black with a 1 finger tan head. Minimal lacing.

S- big chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, some spice.

T- chocolate, roast, bourbon, slight vanilla, with some bitterness near the end.

M- medium body and carbonation. Slightly thinner than other similar BA stouts.

O- good BA stout but doesn't knock your socks off. Nose is slightly better then the taste. (403 characters)

Photo of Sammy
3.97/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle 24 of 1081. Virtually no head on black, looks like a wine. carbonation still there though understated.Smoth mouthfel. Rich bourbon,not overpowering but substantial. Chocolate and coconut, this was barrelled a while, some mustiness. Better as it aired.Steve's bottle, thanks for not putting it up on ebay. My bottle shared with Liam. (339 characters)

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.97/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

A: Poured black , sordove sluggish with a moderate dirty cap which leaves some good bubbles and lacing.

S: Chocolate, light whiff of licorice, coffee and a light booze sting

T: Big coffee upfront with chocolate, black licorice and roasted notes. Light addiions of dark fruit in the background. I felt any barrel was really backseat on this bottle but then again I had been consuming bookoo stouts. But really, I perceived more velvety stout qualities than I did barrel so that was a hit for me.

M: Full bodied, low to medium carbonation, yet I felt it was a bit thin going down. Its not as full or thick as I expected from the pour

O: A good beer but I have been drink a lot of Kalamazoo lately and I actually enjoy it over this Imperial Stout. Odd huh? (759 characters)

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.98/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a deep black color stout with a nice large dark brown color foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma consists of bourbon with some vanilla notes and black chocolates. Taste is also dominated by a well-balanced mix between some vanilla, bourbon, creamy black chocolates and light bitterness. Body is thinner then I had anticipated with good carbonation and no alcohol was apparent. Very solid barrel-aged stout but I would have loved a bit more of body to this beer. (493 characters)

Photo of Weli
3.98/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On Tap at the Republic West Bank MSP

A-Pitch black beer with thin tan head, just enough to lace the rim leaving the center of the pint obsidian black

S-Can definitely tell the bourbon from a mile away. Oak, velvet, dark cocoa, vanilla and bourbon with an estery British stout character

T-Kinda overpowering, Very sweet malt character, balanced by dark chocolate, espresso with body from the oak tannins and bourbon. Underlain by vanilla notes.

M-Thick and cloying

O-I much prefer the expedition stout to black note even though black note contains some expedition stout. This beer is excellent, but even 8oz is a bit much at one sitting really belongs in a snifter glass served as an appertif or with a dessert course. It is very sweet while at the same time assertively bitter. A very complex beer, I nonetheless might skip the oak barrels or age longer as the flavors as presented are somewhat discordant. (911 characters)

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 543 ratings.