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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: 3,733
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
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: 3,733
Photo of jrenihan
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled Dec 28, 2012.

Beer is jet black with a small tan head.

Nose is very good. A nice blend of bourbon scents (oak, vanilla, bourbon itself), dark fruits, and chocolate. The nose reveals a well blended barrel-aged stout, with the barrel being obvious but not overwhelming.

Taste lives up to the promise of the nose. There is nothing unexpected here: it has all the flavours one would expect from a bourbon-barrel aged stout. What makes it great is two things: (i) the base beer is of a very high quality; and (ii) the flavours are very well proportioned. Bourbon, oak, vanilla, dark fruits, chocolate and some roasted malt are all there, and all harmonious with one another.

Mouthfeel is also great. Full bodied, moderate to low carbonation level and very very smooth. Despite the high ABV, it drinks quite easily. Alcohol hear is there but surprisingly muted for what it is.

Overall, terrific. Absolutely a first rate BBA stout.

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Photo of zeff80
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap at Sycamore - Columbia, MO

A - Poured an opaque, jet black color with a small, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left sudsy sheets of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of dark chocolate, toffee, vanilla, oak and roasty malts.

T - A delicious blend of roasted malt, dark chocolate, vanilla, burnt molasses and a slight bourbon flavor.

M - It was crisp, sharp and very smooth. A medium to full bodied stout with a dry finish.

O -This is a fantastic imperial stout. I'm glad Sycamore was able to get a keg of this.

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Photo of unclejazz
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the Blue Tusk 5oz into a wine glass.

Pours jet black very little head has solid legs like a good wine. The aroma has bourbon, vanilla, almond, roasted malt and almost a Dr. Pepper sort of vibe. Vanilla leads on the first taste, very creamy, and then bourbon and dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is rich but not heavy, you get a creamy texture from the cream stout element. Overall this is a wonderful beer and worth the hype. I have had this before in a bottle and it's maybe even a bit more enjoyable on draft.

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

on tap at brewpub for All Stouts Day and left on afterwards:
This beer was pitch black and produced a small snow white head that left trace lace as it subsided. An aroma of malt, bourbon, chocolate, cocoa and anise. The flavor was of malt, chocolate and anise. It had a medium body and slightly creamy and a sweet finish. Love this combination.

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

2014 vintage. Had right after a bcbcs. Great beer but unfair to compare to bcbcs. Not as sweet and has a nice mustly charcoal flavor. Goes down a little easier. Great beer but not top of its class.

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

On-tap, served in a wine glass

Pours an ink black, a little sludgy, with little to no head. Just some brown foam around the collar of the glass.

The aroma is of rich bourbon, butterscotch, vanilla, toffee and a large amount of oak. The oak was largely present when the temperature was cooler, but as it warmed, the oak subsided a bit.

Rich, roasty goodness, bourbon, and vanilla up front. Oak carries through the middle with burnt toffee and then a bourbon, dark Belgian chocolate, roasty finish.

Full bodied with perfectly low carbonation. This was a thick stout, but had nice lift off the palate. Not oily by any stretch. Thick, full and luscious with a dry oak finish.

This beer is the real deal. A great combination of roast, bourbon, oak and butterscotch/burnt toffee. Definitely a beer one should seek out.

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

Bottle #1071 - Thanks Shawn!

The pour is pretty standard for any stout, lovely jet back color with no transparency. Watching it pour is like watching motor oil pour from the canister, syrupy and viscous, yet thin enough to resemble something you would want to drink. An aggressive pour yields some head, but not much, and easily dissipates within moments, not uncommon of a high ABV stout. The nose is remarkable, the Double Cream Stout is in full effect in the nose, lots of milky lactose notes, roasted coffee and grainy malt compliments the subtle bourbon and charred wood that comes forth at the end, exceptional balance between the barrel and the base blend, neither seems to dominate, but instead they compliment each other quite well. I’ve had many a milk stout but the is the first time that the nose has suggested harmony between a milky or creamy stout and anything pleasant from a bourbon barrel. The flavors tend to favor Expedition Stout, heavier on the roast and bourbon, but also with a sweeter element, especially as it warms. Big notes of coffee and malt jump out, not unlike the Double Cream Stout, but they resinate in a way more reminiscent of Expedition Stout. The flavors are bigger, more robust and thicker, pairing well with the bourbon, which never takes over the beer, but only adds a nice layer of complexity and woodiness that compliments the roasted coffee and bold chocolate and caramel malt flavors. The body is nice and thick, minimal carbonation which plays nicely into the milky and creamy stout playbook of Double Cream Stout.

Verdict: Exceptional stout from Bell’s, I wish they released more of this so it could get around, but I’m very happy to have had a bottle. The creaminess and roastiness go hand in hand and the barrel aging adds just enough complexity to take this blend to a new level, without overpowering or dominating the palate. If you have the chance to try this beer, make it a top priority, the hype is deserved.

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Photo of PhatAtUT
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 bottle poured into tulip

A: pitch black, inch tan head. looks like a delicious imperial stout
S: the smell is a little off-putting to me. kind of a syrupy soy smell that i got from uncle jacobs. not bad, just not a smell that appeals to me personally.
T: so rich and complex. milk chocolate. caramel. vanilla. a sort of fig-like jammy fruitiness. licorice. obvious strong hop profile perfectly balanced out with a very rich but not overpowering sweetness. bourbon character is very subtle, but i dont miss a stronger presence. such a great balanced brew. delicious.
M: very fullbodied and an almost creamy carbonation. very effervescent for such a thick stout. absolutely perfect feel for a big stout.
O: dont care for the smell, but past that, its as good an imperial stout as ive had.

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Photo of kirok1999
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at South Park Tavern which might have been a little over seating capacity that night.
Pours a deep black with a few ruby hints. A bit of a frothy small head and some lacing.
Smell is mildly boozy and sweet. Lots of vanilla and caramel.
Taste is wonderfully complex. There's slight bourbon, lush caramel, vanilla, and a bit of chocolate and coffee as it warms. The Double Cream Stout comes through very well and is not overpowerred by the Expedition. There gets to be a bit of alcohol burn as it warms up too. Not a lot of carbonation.
It definitely needed to warm up. I could drink quite a bit of this and wish Bells would bottle it.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured from the 12oz. bottle into a large snifter glass.

Barely a whisp of faint tan head is made off the pour, but settles to a common 1mm collar while drinking. A nice little coffee cream top, with a body that is walnut black in color, just a little hint of see through around the edges.

Nose is very subtle, with hints of classic bourbon barrel aging. A controlled heat mixing with a large thick roast and caramel mix. Hints of charring thickness and booze. Hints of peanut like and salty character, Somewhat one dimensional and a little varied, but it's a good profile.

A real wonderful thickness. Great thick chocolate ganache finish on this beer, with hints of dark chocolate and bitter cocoa coating feel. A real controlled lingering very mild bitterness on the finish that lasts and lasts. Mild sweetness lingers on the tongue with this powder light heat and faint sting from a little tinge of carbonation. Incredibly coating palate and a nice dark chocolate. This is without question the most dark chocolate tasting brew I have had to date. The hint of sweet and punching dark bitter on this is just perfect.

This brew is all in the aftertaste, with a real incredible chocolate rich darkness. Drinks incredibly easy for such a large stout as well. Very memorable but not for the reasons that are mentioned on the bottles description. I would be shocked if Bell's could pull this beer off on a regular basis. Please try again!

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

On tap at Birch.

A - Classic imperial stout look, great lacing, nice brown head, pitch black.

S - Very appealing smell, smoke, charcoal, bitter chocolate.

T - Bitter taste, smokey, pretty complex. Very substantial in abv taste. Very delicious.

M - Fairly creamy and full bodied.

O - Although it may not be one of the best beers around right now, it still earns its reputation as a superb quality beer. Have I had better lately? Maybe. But this is still excellent.

Oh, bullchips. This is awesome.

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Photo of kdahnke123
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 Vintage. 11.4% ABV. Poured at cellar temperature into a snifter.
A - Pours an almost black color with a medium brown head. The head is long lasting, leaving an even longer lasting lacing.
S - Up front is bourbon, followed by chocolate and a strong, sweet malt presence.
T - Roasted malt, bourbon, vanilla and a good bite of booze/hops on the end.
M - Medium thick and smooth, with a minimal amount of carbonation
O - A very pleasant stout. A little light on the bourbon. Good but not quite up to the level I was expecting given, the hype and the cost, even though I'm a big Bell's fan. I would recommend trying one at some point if you can find one.

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Photo of chanokokoro
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

2012 Vintage 12 oz. bottle poured in a Bell's Brewery Inc. branded snifter

Pours jet black capped by a one and half finger tan head. Great retention and plenty of lacing, especially for a barrel-aged brew. Plenty of oak, dark chocolate, and even hint of whipped cream with hints of booziness on the nose. Opens with semi-sweet chocolate, dark fruit especially black cherries and prunes joined by chocolate milk notes. Hints of bourbon and the perfect touch of oak and boozy alcohol add to the complexity on the finish. Lighter side of full bodied, lower level of carbonation, but higher compared to most barrel-aged stouts. Velvety, creamy, luxurious on the palate--really exceptional. Awesome brew, and without a doubt better than when it was fresh.

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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 oglmcdgl
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

On tap at city tap house. 31 bells beers, looks like I've got my work cut out for me. Got one with my main squeeze katie.

A- blackalicous and capped with a finger of coffee and cream colored head. Coats the glass beautifully. Legs for days, this dames got steams.

S- tons of milk chocolate, caoco powder, and sweet cream. Roasty and toasty with some oak and bourbon.

T- oh boy! Opens up with all the rich veinous qualities with port wine, dark chocolate and over ripe black berries. Wood and bourbon with some vanilla and black strap molasses. Plums, dates, raisins all the dark fruits. I keep coming back around and finding new levels of complexity.

M- thick and chewy with some slick and stick. Perfect carb, just enough to lift it all up but not too much that it doesn't stay on the palate for the right amount of time. Bliss.

D- well for a brew of this stature and abv this is as drinkable as it gets. I love it in so many ways.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle of the 2014 picked up at a Whole Foods in Washington, DC. Poured into a teku.

A pitchblack, viscous-looking beer that from the pour produces a thin, maybe half a finger thick, dark khaki-colored head. What little head there is persists well and forms a ring around the edges of the glass above the body.

Burnt caramel, oak, and barrel are what my nose finds and I want to say this is bourbon-barrel aged (I haven't read too much into this beer). The aroma is similar to BCBS with vanilla hints and a pungent malt presence that smalls gooey. I do get a hint of hops but not much.

Nice! Lots of oaky spice and a thick molasses flavor. It"s sweet and caramelly, but I get some hop spice towards the end.Oak and other bourbon-like notes begin becoming more apparent, as do the malt's flavors.

This brew has a spritely effervescence that makes its presence felt through the thick creaminess and viscosity. It's sweet, has a bit of a bite, and a tiny hint of bitterness, but what is most notable is how well buried the alcohol is.

This is an excellent brew. So many flavors work their way through and are joined my what seems like just as many sensations. I suppose my only qualm is that this resembles BCBS in numerous ways, yet is about 2.5 times the price per bottle.

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Photo of Hophead717
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on tap at St Stephens Green as part of Philly Beer Week. Poured into a GI tulip glass.

A: Black, tiny head, with a bit of lacing along the glass, but not much.

S: Bourbon-heavy, with a light semi-sweet roastiness. Overall, a very sweet nose.

T: Very sweet also. Bourbon dominates throughout, beginning with the early sip. Mild roastiness provides the canvass for this great masterpiece of a beer.The double cream stout's influence is noticeable, as the base-beer is vaguely sweet. Semi-sweet chocolate also comes across mid-sip. The finish is mainly of bourbon, with light undertones of semi-sweet roastiness.

M: Medium-bodied. Not heavy or thick at all, which was unexpected. I perhaps would have liked this to be a touch thicker, but that's largely splitting hairs. Well carbonated.

O: Incredible beer and one that I am so glad I got to try. I wouldn't trade the farm for a bottle of this, but I definitely plan to seek it out every time it is on tap in the area.

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Photo of JamesShoemaker
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into my snifter. First batch of 2012, I think. Bottled on 12/28/12. My Mom picked up three bottles of this for me in Michigan while I was away in New York. Thanks Mom!

A - not terribly impressive. Pours like an RIS, black with a little head, dark brown, recedes abnormally quickly. Not bad, but nothing super notable.

S - pretty delicious. A lot of bourbon on the nose, similar to Backwoods Bastard, if I had to compare it to anything else. A little sourness; I assume it's got a subdued hop profile. Malt forward, and very rich.

T - great, one of the most BBA-forward beers I've ever had. Lots of sweet, sticky whiskey with just a little malt on the end. An almost truly complete profile, delicious. Very negligible points off for the wood notes dominating the base.

M - smooth, smooth, smooth. Alcohol and carbonation are incredibly balanced; drinks dangerously easily. Sweetness sticks to the cheeks in a very pleasant way. I wish I had three hundred bottles of this instead of just three (now two).

O - excellent beer, one of my favorite BBA stouts. This is my first bottle; I look forward to getting some year in and year out, or at least asking my Mom to!

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Photo of GJ40
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled from a 12oz bottle in a DFH snifter. 2012. Started at 60 degrees. Thanks surge1311!

A - Deep black with no light and a minimal tan head.

S - A nice mix of bourbon, oak, vanilla, chocolate and coffee. Great depth and very inviting.

T - A very balanced and complex blend of bourbon, oak, chocolate, vanilla and other subtle flavors. Assertive yet delicate. This is far from the bourbon bomb that some barrel aged beers deliver.

M - A moderately thick consistency with a low carbonation. Provides a very smooth delivery of the flavors.

O - A fantastic beer!!!

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Photo of AdmiralDiaz
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: very dark body with a one-finger brown head with decent retention and minimal lacing.

S: Smells of strong bourbon alcohol and strong notes of chocolate and some vanilla. Very bold and very attractive, can't wait to try a sip.

T: Similar to the taste, Strong alcohol with a bourbon creaminess along with chocolate, dark berries, and roasted malts. Very good, but didn't knock my socks off like I had hoped.

Overall: Well carbonated and silky mouthfeel. The drinkibility is lower on this one though, It's delicious and smell amazing but it would be hard to put down a couple pints of this. Great beer though, get it if you can, while you can.

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Photo of SGerrard
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 2014 bottle into a Teku glass. First noticed that it was quite a thin head, different from many other high ABV stouts that I've had. Rich mouth feel without being syrupy. Bourbon is well integrated with other flavors, including molasses and dark fruit. Exceptional quality stout and one I'd look to procure again.

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

Shared this with a couple of fellow BA'ers and found it to be quite good, but not quite up to my Gold Standard, as set by Goose Island Proprietor's. But did a side by side tasting of it along with Lost Abbey's Agave Maria, and found it did edge out the Agave Maria by a nose. Pun intended. You would be hard pressed to drink a full bottle of this beer by ones self I feel. Solid 4.5 beer.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Funky Buddha Brewery snifter. Back label says PKGD 03/12/14. Celebrating my 900th review with this miracle of a gift provided by mjshearer1.

A- Pours a fully opaque black color with a 1/2 inch light brown head that retains a bit before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a bubbly center patch of surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves a thin jagged ring behind.

S- Big rush of dark roasted malt with heavy notes of dark chocolate, bourbon and molasses. Also some caramel and vanilla undertones. Booze fume is there but works well with the rest of the aroma.

T- Initial dark chocolate comes across subtly and then the barrel creeps in and brings a bit more intensity as well as some vanilla sweetness. Wonderful black coffee aftertaste brings the profile around full circle. Additional notes of raisin and more molasses. So drinkable for the ABV and yet the flavors linger good and long so that they can be savored by only sipping sporadically. As it warms, it somehow becomes more sweet and even less boozy, however the dark roast becomes even more prevalent making it a bit more bitter.

M- Quite creamy and viscous plus there's some sticky residue in the afterfeel. Medium-low carbonation and the fullest of bodies.

O- A great BBA beer that's full-on with the bourbon presence but not so much that it becomes too hot or one-dimensional. Though I still think BCBS and KBS are both above it, this one is certainly a major contender and deserves to be appreciated for its own unique qualities.

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