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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 ThickNStout
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle from jaheussner (thank you!). Bottled 12/28/12. Served in a Sweetwater snifter.

Pours oil black with a thin quarter finger cap of mocha head. A few dots and veins of lace.

Smells of sweet vanilla, bourbon, chocolate and roasty malts. Very inviting.

The taste doesn't disappoint. Smooth, sweet boubon, oaky vanilla, dark chocolate, creamed coffee, dates/figs, leather and syrup. Booze is near non-existent. Phenominal depth and balance.

Smooth, creamy, medium heavy body yet lighter than expected. Nice light carbonation. The elixir coats the tongue and lingers for a long bourbon soaked, chocolate covered dates aftertaste.

Outstanding. I'm a fan of Bell's stouts and this is by far my favorite. Wonderful balance between the roasty, chocolatey malts and sweet barrel character. After getting shut out of all of the local stores supply, I'm very happy to have gotten to try this. Definately worth seeking out to try.

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4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours beautiful pitch black letting no light through whatsoever. Head is just a sim of carmel brown fuzz that is barely there. Nose is of very good whiskey, carmel, toffee and a bit of vanilla. Kind of hard to fully enjoy from a 5-oz. pour sample glass, that is why I had two 5-oz. pours just to be sure. On first sip the whiskey is very up front but soft, well presented and very smooth just like your favorite bourbon whiskey. Layers of caramelized malt roll all over the tongue with such sweetness. Toffee mixes with a nice hop character on the backside that is a bit rustic and nicely drying. Finishes with a mouthfeel that is full, smooth yet very clean and enjoyable. This is my kind of stout, big, rich, with a nice whiskey profile.

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Photo of pixieskid
3.6/5  rDev -20%
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.

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Photo of Urbancaver
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thank you thank you to my special friend for this one...

Pours a pitch black wih some nice white head. Looks pretty. Well carbonated. Smells rich and chocolatey. Buttery bourbon and a nice roastiness. The aroma is top notch. Tastes Roasty. Lots of expo not so much double special cream. The taste is a bit bitter from the roast. Good solid mouthfeel. Well carbonated. Overall solid but a bit to roug around the edges.

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Photo of stephens101
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A smallish, dark tan head is in a big ass hurry to get moving off this pitch black brew.

Smells quite rich and desert-like with prominent notes of milk chocolate, chocolate cake, black licorice and black cherries.

Taste starts with deep, sweet and bitter chocolate notes followed by a touch of vinegar, an uncertain candy sweetness, obvious oak, subtle earthy hops and medicinal cherries.

A warming alcohol cuts through a heavy, slightly syrupy body.

An ambitious and exceptionally flavorful beer that could've ran wild but keeps it all in check.

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.95/5  rDev -12.2%
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.

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

Growler sample from shigadeyo.

Poured a black color with a moderate creamy brown head that diminished slowly and produced sticky legs and fair lacing.

Good roasted malt, licorice and woody bourbon aroma.

Full body with a smooth texture.

Complex sweet stout flavor with a smooth bourbon woody finish.

Very well balanced complex barrel stout.

This is a standout beer.

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Photo of Ohiovania
3.8/5  rDev -15.6%
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.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: black ink ale with a dark tan foam head maybe a finger high; light sheen glazed the inner glass as it went down

S: rich bourbon and vanilla flavors caress the nose, followed by aromas of wet cocoa and dry wood

T: the chocolate and bourbon are up-front - bittersweet, rich, and dark; undercurrents of vanilla and molasses run throughout, accenting other impressions of espresso and anise

M: full-bodied and smooth as silk, mellow bittersweet action, slight drying on finish with a flash of char at the very end

O: an indisputably superior product, well-worth its rank and rating, highly recommended.

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Photo of DovaliHops
4.29/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into small Eclipse snifter glass. 2012. Pours a pitch black color with a tiny light brown/tan head that disappears quickly. Scent is sweet vanilla and bourbon up front. A little oak and cherry aroma with some bitter chocolate and dark fruits. Roasted espresso as well. More vanilla lingering in the nose with a bit of toffee. Taste immediately reminded me of a BA stout I've had on multiple occasions. The initial flavors remind me of some of the Eclipse variants, where the overall beer remind me of Parabola (somewhat). Bitter chocolate up front with some nice bourbon flavors (and burn). Sweet vanilla with some sherry and oak flavors. A hint of coconut with some boozy whiskey flavors. More chocolate and a bit of roasted espresso in the finish. Mouthfeel starts out very nice, but tends to be a bit thin in the finish. Drinkability is pretty high for such a high ABV BA imperial stout. Overall, this beer is a great one. I guess for how hard the 750ml bottles were to get, I expected a little more. I absolutely love Parabola and rated it very highly. Although the flavor of this beer remind of Parabola in a way, I feel it is not on the same level. Solid beer overall, and I am VERY glad I scored me a four-pack via trade.

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

its huge but drinkable which i would figure its saving grace and the reason why its so sought after. But as for the midwest i would say this is a standard. Of excellence to say the least but in bourbon country its is also the most accessible. Both for attaining the barrells and lets just call it practice.

The base to this stout is one of my favorite. The beer is not so much noticeable in the nose. I get the malty notes of the nose that was vanilla and bourbon hints. The beer is actually quite lean and easy going. Carbonation isn't particularly creamy. But malt smooth. Tingle. Bourbon, coffee toast, and a nice lingering note. Quite standard. Although a nice treat for the fan.

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.03/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Finally, a limited-release beer in a 12 oz bottle. Though the price-per-ounce is about the same, I don’t have to shell out a considerable chunk of my net worth just to try a specialty brew.

Brewed a little over a month before the date of this tasting (“PKGD 12/28/12).

A: Pours a slick dark brown, nearly black, with a surprisingly watery appearance. The only head to appear are some fizzy soda bubbles along the edge of the glass; slight wet lacing.

S: Sweet vanilla nougat and caramel candy tones with a flowing backdrop of woody bourbon. Overall, the aroma is malty as hell, but the booze and roast make the sugars manageable. Hints of hickory smoke, baking chocolate, and Irish cream play along the edges. Hints of slight oxidation appear in small, sparse doses, giving a cardboard scent.

T: A slow-building masterwork, this palate begins with a luscious wave of residual sugars: tastes of syrupy caramel and vanilla abound. As in the nose, it’s a candy sweetness. Soon after these sugars lay down as the body of the brew, tastes of cinnamon, anise, toasted coconut, and bitter chocolate shift the palate to a character of soft spice, a quick transition to the dark, roasty, finish. In a final burst of flavor, powerful tones of smoke, chili pepper, black coffee, and burnt toast overwhelm the sense and bring this beer to a staggeringly smoked end. Charred bourbon barrel tastes linger in a moderate aftertaste of oak, smoke, and astringent whiskey, along with a dried-out sugar flavor akin to cola.

M: Feels like it looks, actually – a little thinner than expected. With the hidden alcohol and all the residual sugars, it really drinks more like root beer at first. Light, foamy carbonation.

O: A good stout is never unwelcome in January, and this one hit the spot. If you like smoke and barrel, this is your beer – I really thought I’d be able to pick out the beers that go into this blend, but the whiskey pulls it together in one big, woody package. Nothing average here.

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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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Photo of richj1970
4.63/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured on draft at local pub.

A: Pours midnight black with one to two finger mocha colored head that dissipated fairly slowly. Some nice 360 degree sticky lacing.

S: Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, and cherry. The nose on this one is fantastic. If it didn't taste so good, I would just sit and smell it all day.

T: Big bourbon flavors up front. Roasted malts, dark chocolate, vanilla, and cherry.

M: Thick and creamy. Coats the tongue nicely. Drinks way too easily for the ABV.

O: One of the best stouts I've had to date. Just wish I could land a few bottles somewhere.

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Photo of Docrock
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Served on tap at Bell's Eccentric cafe in a 12 oz snifter:

A - dark as midnight with a nice mocha colored head, nice sticky lacing and a thin cap remain

S - very complex, dark roasted malt, light coffee, nice BA note with a touch of bittersweet chocolate and burnt sugar.

T - Wow, it changes as you hold it in your mouth. Creamy and thick with the bittersweet chocolate and dark roasted malt, just a touch of coffee.

M - thick and chewy, not overly carbonated. Was served a bit on the cool side for me so I let it sit a bit and warmed with my hands.

O - what a great beer, I preferred it a bit warmer than it was served. The favors and aroma really opened up around 50F. Glad to not only have it on tap, but to get some bottles to age a bit. At least for me, this is the finest stout I have ever tasted.

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Photo of beagle75
3.88/5  rDev -13.8%
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.

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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 paco1029384756
4.32/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with a small tan head.

Scent of sweet molasses, oak, bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, roasted malts, and sugars. The oak and bourbon characters do not overpower here, probably one of the most balanced scents in a barrel aged beers I have come across.

Taste of chocolate, bourbon, roasted malts, molasses, dark fruit, oak, and smoke. Similarly with the scent, this has a nice balance between the base beer and the bourbon barrel.

Mouthfeel is medium heavy bodied and smooth with low carbonation.

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Photo of vinny21bal
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really a great beer. Texture in the mouth. The nose is good. The taste is over the top. I really like this beer around room temperature with a little age on it. Again this beer is a lot like bcbs or Kbs where it is a little hot when fresh. But as far as quality it is up there with the big dogs as well.

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Photo of Etan
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into a tulip.

A: Pours a shiny black body with a very small chocolate-colored head.

S: Rich notes of milk chocolate, oak and bourbon, light cherry. Very chocolatey with a hint of fruit.

T: Taste comprises dry oak, bitter roasted grain, light raisins, dark chocolate, some tannic caramel, dark alcohol on the end.

M: Between medium and thick-bodied with moderate carbonation.

O: Although the aroma and feel are quite nice, I wasn't as impressed by the taste as I could have been. I can think of a bunch of other stouts that have better barrel characters. Still a very good barrel-aged stout.

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Photo of GeorgiaBeerGuy
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This only gets better with age. This is the 2012, stored @ 50 F, and poured into a snifter.

A: Black , with thin head, thick pour.

S: Heaven. Vanilla, cherry, almond(?) and of course some chocolate.

T: Follows the nose. This was great when I had it fresh, but is AMAZING with some age on it. I have revised to a 5/5.

M: Smooth, creamy, velvety, and no alcohol bite. Slight bitter finish on the tongue from the barrel aging.

O: I am regretting trading this away, when I had 12 in the cellar. This will be an enjoyable one for future sessions, and I will definitely look for more this fall.

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Photo of monitorpop
3.92/5  rDev -12.9%
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.

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

10oz pour at city taphouse bell's event

A: Deep brown/black body. One finger dark khaki head that held for some time after the pour. Spotty lacing.

S: Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, sweet cream, molasses, roasted malts and dark fruits. Complex and well layered. Nothing really overpowers the other elements.

T: Nice blend of boozy-goodness and sweet, dessert like malts. Warm bourbon is present from the first drop. Sweet milk chocolate, cream, molasses, caramel, a little roasted coffee, vanilla and some figs.

M: Thick, full bodied and viscous. Low carbonation, but appropriate. A bit boozy, but not overbearingly hot. Nice lingering sweetness.

D: At first it was fairly easy drinking considering the thickness, but the beer eventually slowed down for me. This was likely the result of the underlying sweetness. A very nice beer, that is a bit different than the other big stouts out there. Thanks to Bell's and City Taphouse for the fun event.

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Photo of BB1313
3.8/5  rDev -15.6%
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.

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Photo of MuenchenerKindl
4.92/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from the tap at Birreria Paradiso into a very generous snifter, Happy Hour price $4. LOL I would have paid... well never mind. The liquid was dark too black had a cool looking one finger mocha head with a bit of lace.

The smell was just oh so good, big bourbon on that great Bell's stout. Lots of coffee and chocolate noted dancing with the vanilla and alcohol, truly a master piece.

The taste followed the aroma, lots of bourbon, mild vanilla working with all the great flavors of the cream stout.

The mouthfeel was good to very good thick and creamy but the carbonation could have been a bit better to make the body just right.

The drinkability was A1A, man did I enjoy this brew. This is a must try beer. Thanks Larry! Prosit und Zum Wohl. MK

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