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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.
BA SCORE
99
world-class

565 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 565
Hads: 3,804
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 21.78%
Wants: 2,677
Gots: 965 | FT: 75
Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Michigan, United States | website

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: 565 | Hads: 3,804
Photo of BierJager89
4.83/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Holy shit. Poured from a growler?! into a snifter in California?! From a complete stranger?! Thank you to every single person and thing and event that allowed black note to cross the threshold of my mouth. Especially the stranger at the bar and my friend with whom I tried this.

A: Solid black with a faint brown ring of head that is all but completely absent. Little carbonation as this was poured into a growler at the brewery and transported all the way to california before being poured into a snifter.

S: Old yeast and dark bittersweet chocolate, very reminiscent of Older Viscosity, as well as vanilla, roasted malt, oak and alcohol in the nose.

T: Anise, oak, vanilla, dark bittersweet chocolate, medium roast coffee, alcohol. Absolutely delicious. A near paragon of the bourbon barrel aged imperial stout style. Lacks the strong vanilla character I love about the style, as well as caramel and is a bit more faint in oak than I'd prefer.

M: Literally perfect for an imperial stout, to my taste. The fullest of silky, creamy smooth bodies coats the mouth.

O: Rich, hearty, delicious, and impossible to find. Just barely overrated (it isn't really a 100, but then again they inflate ratings on this website, which is unnecessary and stupid). Recommended? If you can find it. I feel my luck may have reached the apex of it's potential given that such an odd way of coming upon a taste of this beer was the result of layer upon layer of sheer happenstance. But enough about me. This beer is amazing.

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Photo of d5001986
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into tulip.

A: Pitch black with a minimal amount of tan head that dissipates quickly. No lacing, doesn't seem to 'stick' to the glass like most do to some extent.

S: Slight booze and roasted malt are most up front. Then chocolate, molasses, vanilla, and coconut.

T: Even better than it smells. Roasted malt, chocolate, molasses, vanilla, pepper, and best of all, a nice mellow bourbon that's not so in your face like many other examples. I swear I also pick up just a trace of cherry in there. Very nice!

M: Not as viscous as some, med-heavy body. Creamy and silky smooth, also slick and oily. Carbonation is very low, but not quite flat.

O: Way more drinkable than it should be. A beautifully crafted stout with tons of complex flavor that meets the hype. So glad I picked up 1/2 a case!

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Photo of beachbum1975
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this one on tap at Comet's Hopnosis Event on 12/06. Took detailed on notes while drinking. Big thanks go out to Beangiver for many things - especially hosting this event - this was the whole reason I went!

No surprise on the appearance... Pours a super viscous, black - much like an oil spill into my tulip glass. Thick, creamy ½ inch espresso colored head which doesn't retain long, leaving an attractive ring around the edge of my glass. I let this one sit, as it was served too cold - warmed with me hands for about 10 minutes before trying...

The nose brings an immediate blast of the bourbon barrel aging. I get the expected vanilla flavor, followed by black cherries and figs on the front of the whiff followed by coffee grinds and a touch of milky creaminess. After sniffing and trying to express what's going on, it all seems wrapped up in a delicious alcohol/whiskey blanket. The nose is rich with aromas and complex - smells phenomenal.

WOW! This shit is amazing tasting. The barrel aging really takes the forefront on this one - vanilla all over the place. I'm actually surprised how much the barrel aging dominates the flavor, it's rather heard to get past it to detect the RIS and double cream atrributes... After trying to dissecting the flavor more, I get cherry, heavily roasted malts and coffee flavors. Finishes wet with a lightly floral tang, likely due to the hops from the Expedition side of this stout. Aftertaste is has a lingering vanilla finish. Full bodied and full flavored brew.

Mouthfeel is thick, wet and velvety with ample carbonation. Nice, a meal in itself.

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

2012 bottle. About 8 months of age since release.

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

S - Oak, bourbon, dark fruit.

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

M - Medium carbonation, very smooth.

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

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Photo of fx20736
4.29/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bought 2 bottles from Beers of the World on 5/3/14. Poured into a pint glass, served cool.

appearance: black with two finger khaki head. Nice lacing.

smell: bourbon, molasses, brown sugar, alcohol esthers.

taste: coffee, chocolate, bourbon, molasses, alcohol on the tail.

mouthfeel: creamy, slippery.

overall: This is a good, decent BA IS, about on par with Parabola.

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

On tap at bells eccentric cafe. A long desired beer that I was pleasantly surprised to find on tap here. Pours nearly black with creamy tan head. Nose of chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla. Taste of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, wood...very smooth flavors that are well integrated. You can taste the dark fruit qualities of the Expedition Stout underneath the barrel aging here. Thick body with low/medium carbonation. Overall, an outstanding ba stout. Would be great to see this in bottles.

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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 taylor714914
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow. Just Wow. Was excited to see this on tap at Thirsty Monk in Asheville, so I drove over hoping the keg would still be dispensing this delicious nectar.

Pours a pitch black color with a thin brown cap of foam. Smells of sweet oak, whiskey, bittersweet chocolate, and oak tannins.

Taste is marvelous. The seamless meld of imperial stout and whiskey barrel could not have been more perfect. The taste follows suit with the nose, with the mouthfeel being rich, thick, and chewy. The carbonation is just enough, but not overdone.

An outstandingBA stout, damn near perfect.

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Photo of JoeyStats707
4.71/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 oz pour split with fiance
near jet black, near 1/4 in. of tan head
spicy chocolate nose finishing with a nice waft of bourbon barrel
creamy, spicy chocolate, good balance with the bourbon which provides a nice lasting bite
really enjoyed this brew and hope to get my hands on more

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Photo of MCain04
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Here we go, 12 oz bottle split with BostonRyan. poured into 10 oz snifter from the most recent vintage.

A: dark black, tan head. dissipates into a rim around the perimeter.

S: Bourbon heavy. some nice chocolate and vanilla notes are present with roasty malty, but bourbon dominates.

T: thankfully much less bourbon heavy taste. it had the girth and complexity of expedition with a smooth mellow creamy sweet note from the double cream. they complement each other beautifully. chocolate, vanilla, oak, and toffee flavors. the finish had a lot of Bourbon heat though. only drawbacks are the bourbon heavy finish and a little too sweet.

M: Perfection. thick and creamy and full with a nice feel throughout.

O: A real treat. Not heads and shoulders above the other BBA stouts but comes in close to the top. might not be worth all the hype and might be too bourbon heavy but still enjoyed thoroughly.

Re-reviewing this after opening a 2014, comparing side by side with 2012.

Definitely still a bourbon-heavy nose is in the fresh version, while 15 months in the cellar calmed that down in the aged version. 2014 is boozy with a lot of barrel characteristics. 2012 is boozy as well but better integrated barrel character. 2014 is prickly, and thin while 2012 is smooth but still a little thin. Overall I'm not sure I agree with my high marks on this fresh, but the aged version is drinking nicely right now. Regardless, I think there is way too much hype surrounding this. There are equal BBA stouts without the craze and price that are attached to Black Note.

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Photo of MarcWP
4.7/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage poured into Firestone snifter.

Appearance is on par with other barrel aged stouts. Black, dark roasty almond colored tiny head. Leaves little lacing.

Aroma is fudge, vanilla, toasted coconut, fig jam, bourbon, spice cake, and creamed coffee. I've got to say the aroma on this one of the best I've come upon in a barrel aged stout! So balanced between everything, thinking the year in the cellar helped take the bourbon back a notch.

On the palate there is a huge surge of coffee and fudge with the dark fruit taking a back seat. Bourbon throughout with coconut, vanilla, faint oak, and Brandy beans. If I had to describe the flavor I would have to say its like a not so boozy BCBS and Parabola had a baby. It's somewhere in between that spectrum but on a scaled down level. Just smooth.

The mouthfeel is where this suffers a bit. Not bad but maybe just a bit thin, with aftertaste disappearing rather quickly. The flavor screams viscous but the body thins out a little soon failing to support the formers gung-ho approach.

Overall a truely worldclass barrel aged stout. Quite smooth, very flavorful, surprisingly easy drinking for 12% abv, and very balanced between flavor nuances. I think I enjoyed this a bit more than Parabola but a little less than regular BCBS.

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Photo of silverking
4.65/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I felt compelled to try this when I saw it, so here it goes. It pours jet black with a thin mocha head. Lacing is nice enough. I gives forth sweet aromas of dark roasted malt, charred oak, licorice, cocoa, and dark fruits(cherry in particular). The taste is extraordinary. Now for the taste. Smooth vanilla fades softly into a smokey, woodsy dark chocolate flavor. Subtle hints of Plum, cherry, and licorice appear throughout. The finish shows strong notes of espresso. there is a slight warming alcohol note at the end as well, but it's gentle and enjoyable. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy. It coats the mouth and lingers on the palate. Overall, great. The alcohol is well hidden among the jungle of aromas and flavors. Buy some if you come across it.

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Photo of KornWallace
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Date: 4/16/14
Location: DiCicco's Ardsley
Glassware: Tulip
Appearance: Pours black as black can be. A modest produced next to no head. What little carbonation there was had a light caramel color. There is a large viscous ring that surrounds
Aromatics: The beer starts with a mouth watering bourbon smell Smooth flavors like vanilla, caramel, toffee. Stronger flavors like bitter chocolate, coffee and molasses.
Flavor: Starts cold with a huge bourbon flavor that nearly over takes over the beer. As the beer warms it starts to find its balance and you find new flavors like the dark fruits, prunes maybe some raisins.
Mouthfeel: The beer hides the alcohol very well but ultimately it finds it's way to hang on the lips.

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Photo of jerefreakinmiah
4.98/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Found on the bottle reserve list at The Federal in Durham, NC

I have to say that I LOVED this beer. It changed so much as it warmed. First espresso and vanilla, then big, bouzy bourbon, finishing chocolate and roasty as it approached room temp. Not as viscous as I expected, which was surprisingly refreshing. Lingered on the tongue for a while, but not heavily (make sense? I hope so).

Simple review for a simply amazing brew!

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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 TBonez477
4.74/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 bottle into snifter

A: Beautifully black and almost pours like motor oil. Barely any head to speak of.

S: Deep aroma of coffee, bitter chocolate and dark fruit. Finishes with alcohol even after 2 years of aging.

T: First sip gives way to the deep scents, revealing some tobacco and leather enveloping the dark fruit flavors. Barely any alcohol heat allowing the focus to remain on the beautiful sweet and bitter balance.

M: Heavy and thick on the palate, appropriately lightly carbonated.

O: The best way to sum up this beer is to explain that I audibly giggled after my first taste. While I would never proclaim to be the most seasoned beer enthusiast in this community (or even anywhere close) this is the best beer I've ever had, a statement I have never made before.

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Photo of -Rick
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L: jet black with almost no head. Little carbonation also
S: bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and coffee
T: like the nose, sweet. Anika bourbon followed by a chocolate coffee finish. So well blended.
F: creamy goodness that lingers in the mouth for a long while
O: an amazing BB Stout. Not flashy or fancy with odd characteristics, just a solid solid beer!

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Photo of oldsailor
4.96/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Amazing beer! Just had a 2014 version and I'm on the hunt for more now. Silky feel, jet black color and lingering coffee/chocolate taste that's mind-blowing.

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Photo of spicelab
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle with big thanks to MrKennedy.

Decent hiss on opening. Dark chocolate brown, not your typical RIS motor oil look look, with a modest dark tan head that falls relatively quickly to a collar.

Undoubtedly a rich vein of bourbon running through notes of liquorice bullets, choc-caramel slice, soy sauce, used coffee grounds and molten plastic. Predominantly dry, big and deceptively complex.

A tad sweeter, with impressively rich caramel fudge and butterscotch giving way to coconut, vanilla and the woodier aspects of the barrel.

Light bodied for 11.8%, in no small part due to above average carbonation for the style. Makes it easier to drink, but reduces the oomph.

Worthy BA RIS no doubt, but not quite in the top echelon for me. Lacking a little in presence and intensity.

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Photo of andrewjraab
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - Pitch black with khaki head that leaves nice lace after each drink. A window shade of film falls off the glass after each drink.

S - Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, roasted coffee beans, wood, bourbon, cherries, dates.

T - Layers and layers of flavors - chocolate, vanilla, coffee, fruity, booze, oak, warming alcohol. Velvety mouth feel, rich and creamy, each drink coats and warms on the way down.

O - This is an amazing brew where the actual brew meet and exceeds the hype and expectations. I was able to secure one of these with the limited release and DAMN I want to get my hands on a few more. Truly a world class beer.

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Photo of rhinos00
4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On-tap at South Park Tavern. Let my glass sit a while to get the beer to room temperature.

A- Dark brown, almost on the verge of being black. Very little to no head. There was an off-white, cream colored ring that left some lacing as the beer was consumed.

S- Huge notes of bourbon infiltrate the nose. Reminded me of Bourbon County Stout. In the background, there was faint hints of vanilla.

T- Wow, this was quite a pleasant surprise. After the strong aroma, I thought I was going to be dealing with a bourbon onslaught. However, the bourbon was well balanced in comparison to the other ingredients, allowing for a smoother, mellow taste. Rich notes of chocolate, vanilla, molasses and bourbon all mix together for a perfect combination.

M- This was my favorite part of the beer and what distinguished it from many similar bourbon barrel aged RIS I have had before. The double cream stout really comes into effect in this one. It had a creamy texture unparalleled to none. Quite a wonderful addition to a big, complex RIS.

D- The creamy texture and well-balanced bourbon flavors made this go down like water. I drank this until the keg went dry.

Overall, this is a fantastic blend, one that I will probably never get to try again. The creamy texture really put this beer over the top in my mind. If this beer ever crosses your path, try it. Don't hesitate.

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Photo of danielharper
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted on-tap at Bell's, 03/09/2009

Appearance: Black body, slight reddish tinge on bottom. No head, as usual for beers on-tap.

Smell: Strong bourbon aroma, very malty, nice roasted barley. Slightly raisin-sweet.

Taste: Intense with whiskey-like alcohol, strong with sour mash but malty and dry with a clean aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Thick. Yeah, that's about it. No particular hops or carbonation.

Drinkability: For such a high-ABV beer, this is amazingly drinkable. If I hadn't had to drive I'd have had another.

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Photo of mjpolzin
4.06/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage split with by brother in law.

A great beer but another example of a "world-class" brew that doesn't quite live up to the hype once I get a chance to try it.

Fairly thick pour into the glass but not the thickest beer I've ever seen. More bourbon in the nose than what I got once I tasted it. The roastiness that is characteristic of Expedition Stout was here as well. It helped make it a fairly complex beer once the roasted malts and bourbon blended together but I may actually prefer this one with a little more age on so some of the roasted flavor could fade away.

Would like the opportunity to try a fresh one just to see what changes happen in the 1 year+ that this bottle sat for.

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Photo of mr-jj
4.31/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Color is nearly black with a thin tan head. Aroma is bourbon and dark roasted espresso. Taste is very good - espresso, chocolate and bourbon notes on the palate. Roasted malt and anise with a mildly bitter finish. Body is full and creamy. Overall, a very good beer that deserves it's hype.

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Photo of Luk13
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from tom10101 obtained via sarro, thanks to the both of you. Thick black brown pour with no head. Very intense and complex aroma: molasses, lots of bourbon, charred wood adds some smokiness (nice twist!), some caramel and ripe fruits (plums, figs). Awesome. Taste is very rich, lots of roasted malts, bourbon, vanilla and chocolate. Flavors are enhanced by the sublime creamy mouthfeel and low carbonation. Intense and refined. Side-by-side with BA speedway with BA speedway being a close winner. Although I prefered Black Note's palate and aroma, BA speedway's flavors were out of this world.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 565 ratings.