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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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553 Reviews
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Reviews: 553
Hads: 3,708
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,570
Gots: 946 | 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.
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Reviews: 553 | Hads: 3,708
Photo of AmitC
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got this from Joe.. who brought it for me from some store. Almost $7 for a single bottle. Dated : 12/28/2012. This better be good.

Poured from the 12 oz bottle into a large snifter glass. About one finger thick dark tan almost shining brown colored head that settles slowly into a thin layer. Thick oily dark brown colored appearance while pouring. Darkest of black inside the glass. Truly is a black note. Calm inside the glass, heavy and viscous. Very good lacing on the sides with each sip.

Smell is fantastic. One of the best smelling Imperial Stout. A lot of chocolate and very apparent bourbon barrel aged notes. Some vanilla that is anticipated. No traces of alcohol. Extremely good burnt up malts and very slight amount of coffee. Too much bourbon heavy. Sweetness and maltiness is also present.

Taste is pretty much the reflection of the nose. Very smooth, lacking booze altogether. Typical Bourbon finish. Burnt up notes are low. Bourbon, wood, vanilla and chocolate in the flavor. Awesome taste overall. Low on the hops so bitterness is only mild. Dry and slightly burnt up finish.

Mouth feel is very much on the full and thick side. Drinks pretty easy, High on alcohol, but no real burning sensation or feel. No astringency of any kind. At 11.8% it drinks very smooth and won't let you feel anything. Provides good amount of warmth. Perfect for the snow season.

A lot of price for an excellent beer. Comes very near BCBS but does not quite deliver the extra value.

Style Rate: 4.5
Personal Rate: 4.5

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Photo of CManuel
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated 12-28-12. Poured into a snifter.

Awesome smell. Heavy on the bourbon, but also a lot of chocolate and vanilla present. One of the best smelling beers I've sampled.

Pours a very thick black with no head at all. Dark as night, very pretty.

Lot of stuff going on with the taste. Bourbon is very present, followed by a bit of vanilla, chocolate, and charred wood. Hides the 11+% well. Very thick bodied and smooth, awesome mouthfeel.

Overall, I love this beer. A little heavier on the bourbon than I would like, but I can still see why this is such a world class stout.

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Photo of jlindros
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to both mcsecne (Reddit) and erric (Reddit) for bottles of this gem.

Light fizzy darker colored head, pitch black dark beer with nice long legs, decent thick head as I swirl.

Nose is awesome, tons of dark malts, chocolate galore, some rich thick expensive Belgian chocolate, bakers choc, a little dark even, velvety too. Little espresso and coffee with a bit of roasted malt but no burnt aromas, cocoa nibs. Then barrel, some vanilla with light toasted oak, decent bourbon, little alcohol tingle. Velvety and maybe even creamy oats.

Taste starts with malts again, dark malts with syrupy dark malts, lots if creamy velvety chocolate, cocoa nibs, bakers choc, etc. The malts have a light roast, little bitter tannin char but not really burnt. Cocoa leads to barrel, light vanilla and barrel, must a touch of bourbon. Light warning tingly booze. Light bitter hops but not much. Finish is long creamy chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, light bourbon barrel, little sticky sweet with a bit more booze, so much mouth layered thick chocolate.

Mouth is big bodied, thick and creamy lush velvety, decent carb, some warming booze but doesn't drink like an 11+% beer.

Overall very nice, great base stout with tons of chocolate, nice dark malts and decent barrel but if I could complain about anything maybe a bit more bourbon as I love bourbon.

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Photo of zachary80
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz poured into a glove, 11.8% abv. Bottled 12/29/12 batch 11620. Served at 55* and allowed to warm.

Hard pour gives only the slightest head which immediately fades into a tiny ring of white bubbles. A little bit of action from the nucleation point in the middle of the glass, but otherwise its pretty much still and black. Very dark brown while pouring but opaque in the glass. Minimal lacing.

Aroma is sweet, bourbon, vanilla. Very appealing, but fewer layers than expected.

That same aroma follows through but with a lot more complexity from the roastiness of the stout. Still favoring the sweeter elements up from, the finish has a long bitterness from the roast and a little alcohol. Cacao/dark chocolate, light oak. The sweetness ends up being balanced by the alcohol/roast, but this is still on the sweeter side.

Warming from the first sip, the alcohol lends more of a pleasant presence than harshness. Low carbonation level, but not flat, appropriate for the style but maybe could be just a tad higher. Carbonation level seems more appropriate around room temperature, where it's slightly increased.

Overall Black Note is an excellent beer that is smooth and complex. Others may have more barrel character or be more extreme, but this is a great stout.

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Photo of jzeilinger
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Rich black in color with a toffee/molasses colored creamy head, thick and viscous looking.

S - Rich caramel cream, roasted toffee, dark chocolate malt, vanilla, bourbon, and some oak.

T - Rich and flavorful with vanilla, some traces of dark chocolate, oak, and bourbon. Ends with a sticky oak, vanilla, bourbon finish.

M - Luscious and rich velvety texture, thick, and slightly sticky on the lips.

O - An outstanding barrel aged stout.

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Photo of shivtim
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from a friend. 2012 vintage aged in his beer cellar in Michigan for one year.

Nearly opaque black/brown, with brown tinged edges when held up to light. Slight lacy brown head.
Nose is bourbon-soaked raisins. Chocolate. Slight anise. Fantastic.
Taste is deep malt, bourbon, some sweetness.

Excellent stout.

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Photo of corby112
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours pitch black and completely opaque with a half finger beige head that quickly settles into thin, lasting ring.  Spotty lacing and legs coat the glass.

Incredibly inviting nose with sweet and spicy bourbon barrel notes excellently integrated into the elements of the base beer.  Spicy whiskey/bourbon with toasted oak and vanilla.  Toasted coconut and vanilla notes really stand out along with the dry, earthy  oak presence.  Underneath, there's some luscious chocolate, licorice, vinous fruit, oatmeal and toast.  Smells amazing!!!

Viscous and full bodied with a strong bourbon presence that is perfectly integrated into the flavors of the base beer.  Some dry toasted oak and spicy bourbon along with smooth vanilla bean and roasted coconut.  Again, the toasted coconut flavor is realy prominent and the vanilla rounds out the hot booze.  Great bourbon flavor.  Underneath, there is a nice combination of sweet and roasted malt notes with hints of dark chocolate, burnt sugar, toast, oatmeal and coffee bean coutered by licorice and vinous fruits.  Slightly dry in the finish with a good amount of boozy heat and warmth in the chest.  Abv not masked very well but the base beer flavors aren't obliterated and it's still somewhat easy to drink.  Very nice.  

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Photo of WankelEngine
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter

A: Pours a dark, black coffee color with just a touch of mocha foam. Oily legs when swirled.

S: Opens very sweetly with coconut, maple, and vanilla. As it warms an oaky bourbon flavor joins the initial sweet scents. Complemented by aromas of fig, plum, hazelnut, and brown sugar. A little bit of warming booze. Near the end there is some milk chocolate.

T: Bittersweet chocolate is more potent here. In combination with oak, cappuccino and a hint of smoke, this nicely tempers the remaining sweetness. Dark fruits show through and blend nicely with the chocolate. The finish is all bourbon and mocha.

M: Medium thick and very smooth/sticky. Almost no carbonation.

O: A wonderful beer. Undeniably complex and well crafted. Up there with Parabola and BCBS. I really love the aroma, very sweet but interesting.

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Photo of psychotia
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Stubs and Herbs, review from notes.

A: I'm not going to go too in-depth, as the 7oz-ish pour was served in a 7oz snifter (filled to the brim). It was very black and had no head.

S: Bourrrbon! Vanilla, oak, and did I say bourbon?

T: omg. This is insane. Initially, all I can sense it the bourbon, but that fades into strong chocolate notes with a hint of oak... but wait, it's not done as it finishes with a HUGE blast of vanilla. Wow... this is an EXPERIENCE!

M: Thick & creamy (maybe even double-creamy). Yum!

D: Oh the 7oz didn't last long, but I don't think I would have lasted much longer had I ordered another!

If ever I have the opportunity to drink this again, I will not miss it. Put this on my "top 5."

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Photo of AdamF625
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A- black and almost flat with a thin dark brown head that fades quick and leaves no lacing.
S- bourbon, chocolate, oak, plums
T- follows the nose my friends tons of cocoa and sweet bourbon, oak, some dark fruit, toasted marshmallow
M- thicker body with little carbonation. It is ridiculously smooth and easy to drink for a big beer. No burn to report from the high abv and barrel aging. This was bottled in February of 2012 so let's keep that in mind.
O- this beer really took to the barrel well and is graceful at almost two years old. Very smooth and flavorful.

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Photo of MaxSpang
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Chappy's in Dayton, Ohio.


Well, what do you expect? It's black as night, and sat under a mocha-colored head that dissipated quickly. There was no lacing, but the beer had some pretty apparent alcohol legs. There wasn't any light coming through on this one. With a name like Black Note, would you expect anything else?


This is heavy on the bourbon in the nose, which brings notes of vanilla and toasted coconut. There is a lot of nice complexity that ranges from sweet to slightly boozy. A hefty amount of chocolate and licorice comes through, and brings a bit of coffee and roasted malt with it. This is the type of beer that you get full from by just smelling - there is a LOT going on!


First off, this beer is remarkably smooth. The bourbon is not as strong as it was on the nose, but it is definitely present. With the bourbon, notes of vanilla, licorice, and toasted coconut come out. Surprisingly, the alcohol is very well hidden. The beer starts off milky sweet, with smooth caramel and toffee characteristics, then finishes with a nice hoppy bitterness. The bourbon lasts a long time after the swallow, making this beer have an absolutely amazing after taste.


This beer drinks like a pillow - it's smooth! It has a velvet-creamy mouthfeel, sort of like melted chocolate. There isn't much carbonation, which adds to the creaminess. The beer has a nice big body which makes it a sipper. The intense aftertaste lingers for an extremely long time.


This beer is incredible. It can hang with the big boy bourbon barrel aged brews and hold its ground. It's a special beer that demands a special occasion, but the taste is so good that you'll find an excuse to drink it! I wouldn't say that this is the barrel-aged stout to end all barrel-aged stouts, but it is absolutely incredible and worth seeking out.


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Photo of KevSal
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

this passed thursday the lady and I hit a pretty important milestone for us making i to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, had to properly celebrate!

huge thanks to dblab for hooking me up with this gem, dan you never end the surprises.

bottle 571 of 1081 poured into 2 eclipse snifters

a- much thinner than i was expecting, but it looks dynamite nonthess. no light comes thru the glass and theres a nice brown mocha head sitting on top.

s- mmm wow a nice mix of bourbon and chocolate, followed by that awesome expedition stout, no alch at all surprisingly. a soft creaminess of flavors really comes through the nose of this one.

t- this guy is a home run. very soft and velvet flavors come though on this one. great chocolate and bourbon notes. vanilla comes heavy in the back which i particularly love. juicy and delicious. no alch at all and i cant believe it. maybe sittin on this guy a few months has done it some good.

m- the body is much thinner than expected but that doesnt hold it back any. upfront is the bubble carbonation followed by a fantastic smoothness

o- never thought id be tasting this guy, and its better than i expected. id say its neck to neck the top eclipse out there honestly.

this was the perfect brew to celebrate our personal milestone. thanks again dan for giving me the chance.

you have to try this brew

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Photo of fiver29
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Brew Kettle. Pours pitch black with a thin tan head . The head does not last long at all. Aromas are amazing. Wood, vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, coffee, roasted malts, and bourbon. Has a silky smooth heavy syrupy mouthfeel. Flavors follow the aromas in line and are just amazing. I could drink this all night. Next time this is on tap I may just find myself drinking it all night.

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Photo of Hamburgers
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Vintage. Pours black with one finger mocha brown head. Aroma is sweet bourbon, vanilla and dark chocolate. Flavor is bittter sweet chocolate, dried fruit, charred oak and coffee all tied together with delicious bourbon. Perfect creamy body with light carbonation. Everything a barrel aged stout should be. In my opinion best there is.

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Photo of Jaycase
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 release 12 oz bottle

a: black as night. Thin mocha colored head which recedes quickly. no lacing to speak of.

s: Bourbon presence but not overbearingly so. licorice, slight chocolate.

t: chocolate, coffee, vanilla filtered through a bourbon lense.

m: smooth, creamy. low to medium carbonation.

o: A very nice, well balanced BBA stout. The bourbon here is not in your face like other BBA stouts where it's all about the bourbon kicking ass and taking names later. It's there but it seems a bit bashful at times - almost a boubon tease it is. And I want to get teased again and again and again...

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Photo of deadonhisfeet
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 bottling poured into a small Great Lakes snifter. I just had a bottle of BCBS out of the cellar a few days ago so it will be pretty fresh in my mind for comparison. The beer pours out very, very dark, but not quite black. Carbonation is low (not uncommon and perfectly acceptable for a barrel-aged stout). I'm getting lots of dark fruit and barrel character on the nose instead of the roasty notes I expected. Plums, dark cherries, and some vanilla and bourbon notes. I also get some bittersweet chocolate notes.

The beer has a full body and a strong, complex flavor. Some sweet malt and a big hit of bourbon up front greet you first. The texture of the beer really enhances all this rich flavor. Some of the dark fruit slides in and out, but mostly it's toffee-like malt, toasted oak, and bourbon. You half expect the bourbon to intensify towards the back of the palate, but it maintains consistency of strength and never quite burns you. It lingers while the profile gradually tends toward dark chocolate and espresso, then keeps lingering on the finish after you swallow.

Very interesting beer. It has a lot of intense bourbon flavor, but never quite seems as hot as it threatens. It's much more like BCBS than KBS, in that it embraces the bourbon instead of coffee and chocolate. Spectacular beer that I hope I am fortunate enough to score again some day.

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Photo of infinitebruner
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

August 9, 2014

12 oz bottle; Snifter

A – Jet black, thin brown head disappears almost immediately. Looks like pure motor oil.

S – Tons of vanilla, boozy warmth even on the nose. Sweet chocolate, mild oak.

T – Tons of vanilla, sweet chocolate malt notes, a hint of coffee. The burnt flavors are there, but seem to be “sweetly charred,” possible some caramelized flavors. Lots of bourbon and molasses, but very well balanced.

M – Milky, silky, very sweet. A lot of bitterness on the finish, some burnt notes.

O – This is a phenomenal, balanced, complex barrel-aged stout. My gold standard is Bourbon County, and the malt and hops here are much more balanced with the alcohol than with BCS (which is not to say I like Black Note more, just that it is more balanced.) This beer stands on its own as a fantastic example of barrel-aging.

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Photo of montesown
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Finally had a chance to try some - 2014. Out of a magnum bottle at the Beer fest in GR. Very good, however I think it would have been better a little warmer.

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Photo of Kendo
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 3/12/14; consumed on 5/15/14, making this one just 2 months old. . . .

A: Poured from the bottle into a Piraat tulip/snifter-type glass. Body is inky jet black with only a hint of head on top - which then disappears immediately anyway, leaving behind absolutely no lace.

S: Bourbon, molasses & vanilla. Quite pleasant nose.

T: Pretty much follows the nose, with bourbon dominating, some molasses and a lot of vanilla. As it warms I note some dark fruits (black cherries come to mind) and even licorice on the aftertaste. High-ABV (11.4%) is noted more as warmth on the belly than as heat on the palate - a neat trick for a beer of this strength and considering the bourbon. Also as it warms up I'm getting more general roastiness cutting through the bourbon. Oh and the ABV is definitely working its wonders, buzz-wise.

M: Full-bodied, heft-wise, and fairly slick in feel, though as it warms up the carbonation seems to activate itself and cut through that slick feel. . . .

O: Real nice. I'd love to do a blind tasting with this, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Founders KBS. This one is heavier on the vanilla/molasses side of things, while others have more roasty malt to balance the bourbon.

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Photo of did3376
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 2/12/14 Poured into stout glass.

A:Thick and black. About a finger of dense, tan head that fades over a few minutes. This stuff is dark, held light behind glass and could not see it.

S:Slight bourbon, roasty, raisins and chocolate.

T:Hints of bourbon quickly followed by slight coffee, then dark chocolate. Chocolate flavor seems to linger. Some alcohol is noticeable in the nose, but not overly strong. Roasted caramel and hints of black cherry noticed as well.

M:Smooth, medium consistency. Slight feel of carbonation dancing on my tongue. Slightly astringent.

O:Very good. Well balanced. Slightly bitter aftertaste. I believe some aging would improve this beer nicely. Definitely improves as it comes up to room temperature. Bottle was taken from basement which was probably around 45-50 degrees.

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Photo of shadetree67
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Black with thin brown head that dissipated quickly. Sparce lacing

Smell: Vanilla and oak. Dried fruit maybe prunes. Some bourbon.

Taste: Big vanilla flavor. Slight bourbon. Dark chocolate makes an appearance as the beer warms.

Mouth feel: Medium body and low carbonation. Slight burn from the alcohol but not bad given this is over 11%

Overall: Wish the mouth feel was a bit thicker but that is only a minor gripe about this amazing beer. It's more balanced and smooth than bcbs.

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Photo of KYGunner
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Black and beautiful, there was a layer of brown froth at the top. Very thick in appearance and feel it was viscous and smooth on the tongue.

All the vanilla and coconut one can handle, the scent was as smooth as the feel. Very elegant in the nose, the scent is creamy and pronounced.

The taste is as smooth and creamy as the nose would intimate. Barrel oakey flavor mixed with strong vanilla tones, there's a coconut flavor near the end. Slight hints of chocolate/caramel brownie finish it off. As good as any taste I've had in a stout.

Overall I find this the closest to BCBS, which ranks as tops with me!

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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 beerwolf77
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Yeah I'm reviewing it off my 6oz pour from the GTOM. When the hell else would I be able to tick a beer this epic?

Pours black as coal and thick as burnt motor oil. No head no lace. No surprise there. It is called "black" note.

The aroma is very sweet. Like melted chocolate mixed with coffee and bourbon. Traces of black licorice and prunes.

The flavor is right where I had hoped it would be. Loads of sweet dark chocolate and coffee. The bourbon is mild but present. Moderate smoked barrel in the finish. Spot on perfection in my book.

Full thick and chewy body. Carbonation is looking for a life raft in this beer. It's there but struggling.

Overall maybe not a religous experiance but spectacular none the less. Made my day I was able to finally try this.

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Photo of starrdogg
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap on ChurchKey, finally getting to try this one!

A: Black with a small brown head. Very viscous with serious lacing.

S: Smell is a nice bourbon with some roast/chocolate in there as well. It's nice, but it's not super strong. I wish I got more.

T: Okay wow, now this beer is something special. At first it's a heavy dose of bourbon with some sweetness, oak and chocolate - similar to Bourbon County. As I drink it, though, I realize that there is more to this beer than meets the eye. It's got some nice depth with some great coffee/roasty notes hiding beneath the surface. This beer is so easy to drink, I never would guess the ABV is so high. Awesome.

M: Thick and creamy. The mouthfeel really makes this one stand out, it feels like drinking melted marshmallows.

O: This beer is just flat-out amazing - one of the best stouts I've ever had. I can't wait for them to bottle it.

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