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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

549 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 549
Hads: 3,683
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 6.24%
Wants: 2,555
Gots: 938 | FT: 73
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: 549 | Hads: 3,683
Photo of charlzm
4.35/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Consumed on March 11th, 2013 at 50 degrees F in my trusty Triple Petrus snifter. Thanks to Vurt for the bottle.

Beer pours a very dark brown: one shade lighter than black. Super-deep maroon highlights. A smallish light brown head forms and is gone almost instantly, leaving behind only a tiny crown that encircles the brew and leaves minimal trace behind. A gentle swirl reveals that this beer has some legs.

Aroma - bourbon is the primary component, but it's a modulated component, leaving room for some plum and chocolate notes.

Flavor is a bit salty and soy-sauce-like. Smooth bitter chocolate, some fleeting and creamy lactic notes, dates/plums and a wood mingle with leather and a touch of tobacco. Bourbon is mostly absent from the palate. Not especially boozy, all the flavors mingle and merge with none being especially dominant.

Mouthfeel is thick and slick with a little alcohol heat. Warming after a few sips. A little more carbonation would have been amazing...

Certainly the best use I have ever encountered for Expedition Stout, a beer I don't enjoy on its own. Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout is still the standard for this style as far as I'm concerned, but this is a fine, fine effort. Everyone, keep trying to top BCS! (1,245 characters)

Photo of paultierney1
4.79/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Can't tell you how I got the bottle.

What an awesome stout! At first I thought: Wow, that's really good. Then it only got better. So complex, so much going on. It truly deserves the 100 rating. I'm just piling on. Out of my way. Amazing brew from Bell's! (255 characters)

Photo of mnphish
4.68/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12oz. 2013 edition poured into a wine glass. Thank you kindly to yamar68 for the share!

A pitch black body, a fat khaki head that recedes quickly and leaves a nice round circle around the glass.

Smell is of watery bourbon, like the stuff i want to drink straight. Stiff & bold - Huge chocolate, cream, oak, and maybe some vanilla.

Taste is of rich chocolate, bourbon, oak, cookies & cream, coffee, and dark fruit.

Mouthfeel is very creamy, rich, and boozy. Moderate carbonation.

Overall this is a perfect bourbon barrel aged beer. The perfect blend of fantastic bell's beers with the proper treatment. World class! (620 characters)

Photo of beerpirates
4.34/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into my lost abbey stemware glass

A: pours black with a finger of dark tan head that fades into a thin ring with no lacing.

S: roasted malts with dark chocolate and coffee up front followed by smooth vanilla, toffee, oak, and bourbon.

T: roasted malts with creamy dark chocolate and coffee. Oak, toffee, and bourbon bring up a roasted and sweet finish with a light alcohol burn.

M: thick body with medium carbonation, this beer is a little more carbonated than most examples of the style.

O: a delicious and wonderful beer ! (549 characters)

Photo of Jaycase
4.59/5  rDev +2.2%
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... (607 characters)

Photo of pmarlowe
4.2/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 release. 12oz bottle to tulip glass.

A: Pours a dense black with a half finger of medium brown head, which recedes quickly to a ring. Very good retention but no lacing.

S: Dark chocolate, bourbon, oak, a touch of roastiness.

T: Bourbon is very prominent, with some drying oak, with subtle cocoa on a long finish. Tasty but not as much complexity as you might like.

M: Medium-full body and medium-light carbonation. Alcohol is extremely well hidden.

O: Pretty solid BA stout, and quite drinkable. But it's a notch below the other top-tier BA stouts like BCBS and KBS, and more on par with CW BBS. (605 characters)

Photo of sukwonee
4.56/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks for the trade Jim!!!

A: Black body with very little head

S: wow. Huge vanilla, bourbon, oak, dark fruits, some hops, coffee, chocolate,
5 stars here.

T: ok so not as good as it smells - still great. more bourbon notes over vanilla and oak than in the nose. alcohol heat is definitely there. I pick up brown sugar, caramel, coffee, chocolate, but not much dark fruit as in the nose.

M: It's syrupy alright but it's not the thickest stout I had or anything like that. as mentioned alcohol heat is there (dry).

O: Another excellent BA stout. Nothing crazy or anything but great BA stout. I love the fact that it comes in 12oz bottle now. (648 characters)

Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.71/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 / 12oz bottle served in a snifter.

L - black with a tan head that thinned to a ring.

S - bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and a smoked/roasted scent.

T - whoa, this is very tasty. Delicious blend of dark chocolate, roasted coffee and the bourbon warming things up a bit.

F - full bodied with a smooth feel, easy to keep sipping until it's gone.

O - excellent example of a barrel-aged version of the style. (410 characters)

Photo of mjtiernan
4.65/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Courtesy of Kzoobrew...thanks Kevin!

2012 vintage. 12oz bottle poured into a CBS snifter. Served near cellar temp (~55 deg).

A: Pours thick and black. Half a finger of tan head that didn’t hang around too long, leaving an oil slick behind. Decent ring of bubbles around the edge throughout. Prominent alcohol legs. Nothing extreme.

S: Not as much alcoholic bourbon as I expected. Cocoa nibs, molasses, licorice and some dark fruit are most noticeable. An additional tinge of sweetness that I can’t identify.

T: Tremendous. Chocolate, a little bitter roast coffee, some dark fruit, vanilla, a touch of caramel/toffee. The sweetness and bitterness are wonderfully balanced. The bourbon and barrel characteristics are there, but I can’t get over how integrated they are with the entire spectrum of flavors. Moderate warming alcohol in the finish.

M: Creamy, more creamy than most oily BA beers that I have tasted. Low-to-medium carb. Full-bodied. Finishes dry and alcoholic.

O: One of those rare beers that just gets everything right. Feels great, tastes great. A harmony of extreme flavors...which is difficult. Worthy of the attention it gets. (1,154 characters)

Photo of SaisonRichBiere
4.88/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served on draft, post Bell's tap-takeover at Aubree's in Northville, MI.

Appearance- Oily and dark, viscous, but a shade lighter than other BA stouts. Dark, dark espresso brown. One finger of beige head yields to a foamy veil atop the brew. As you drink, it dissipates further into a halo around the glass, leaving lots of lacing on the glass.

Smell- Caramel-coffee-toffee-creme brûlée. Big complex nose with a hint of bourbon heat. Roasty, roasty malts creep in. This smells awesome. One of the best.

Taste- Big boozy hit. Surprisingly more red wine than bourbon here. Fruity booze yields to a smooth 80 proof bourbon finish. What follows is awesome. Roasty espresso, big caramelly dark chocolate notes- think a chocolate riesen candy. Big strong Madagascar vanilla, creme brûlée and a blunt, dry roasty malt finish. Amazing.

Mouthfeel- Oily, smooth, creamy. A mouth-coating tingly whiskey burn that you really don't want to go away. Akin to the style with just a bit more.

Overall. One of the best, hands down. Extremely grateful that I was able to stumble on this (surprisingly) left over from a tap-takeover. The description does it justice, but this beer is so much more. If you have a chance to try this, try it. It will not disappoint. I thought CBS was the bar for the style, but this changes things. A shred more accessible than others of its ilk, this brings more Michigan BA stout firepower to the table. Drink this. Period. Thanks a ton Bell's! (1,465 characters)

Photo of Fanhitter
4.82/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Served at Aubree's Northville

As the glass arrived, it resembled a glass full of crude oil. Just looking at it I can tell it is syrupy and thick; the head is dark, reddish bruise-black. The head is a thin layer of microscopic bubbles that I can only imagine seeing in places like te La Brea Tar Pits.

Smells like vanilla-cinnamon-chocolate-coffee spiked with a sweet, wheated bourbon. There's a nice coffee aroma as well. It's big and sweet.

The flavor is a boozy bourbon bomb at first, followed with a balanced chicory and smoky sweetness. The vanilla notes come out shrouded in a caramelly, dark roast coffee finish. It finishes surprisingly dry for all that's going on here. This is a real treat for the tastebuds.

Mouthfeel is effortless for as boozy as this is; nice, oily, and smooth sipping.

Overall I am blown away by this. I've had CBS and KBS, and this tops out with both of them; however I like this better than KBS. This is a real treat to find on draft. Amazing beer. (985 characters)

Photo of MDDMD
4.7/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A-dark brown black color with a smallish tan head and minimal lacing

S-chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, bourbon, oak

T-rich chocolate, coffee, raisins, figs, vanilla, oak, slight smokiness, all interwoven with delicious bourbon flavor

F-medium to full body with light to moderate carbonation, smooth and creamy mouthfeel

O-absolutely delicious, so well-balanced with a wide array of flavor and bourbon beautifully blended throughout, one of the best (451 characters)

Photo of rodlavers
4.84/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

12oz format, dated 12/28/12, poured into a snifter.

Less than a finger of thick dark tan mocha head, pretty much disappears after just a few minutes, maybe not even that long, leaving a very thin ring around the glass. Very minimal lacing. Black coffee coloring, with small traces of red, very small traces.

Nose really opens up as this thing warms a bit. At first a little one dimensional, with a flat roasted character present up front. After the pour, bourbon, vanilla, molasses, dark fruits, some coffee and chocolate, and whole host of other aromas announce themselves, giving Black Note a super complex, yet balanced overall aroma. There are earth tones in there, as well. Even a bit of tobacco.

Taste is equally complex and balanced, but not quite as amazing. Everything in the nose combines to create a very enjoyable flavor profile, but nothing is too prominent. It's all very balanced. I do find myself looking for something extra, more robust. It's not too hot, either.

Feel's smooth and velvety up front with a chalky finish, if that is possible. Somewhat hoppy and bitter at the same time. Carbonation is definitely noticeable.

Overall, I do really enjoy Black Note. It's complexity and uniqueness lend it something other bba stouts do not have. It's definitely not as smooth as some others I've had , but it's amazing in its own right. Cheers. (1,364 characters)

Photo of natemort13
4.77/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Been a while...lets make this a good one
2012.
Pours jet black with hardly any head.

Nose is the sweetest of Carmelly bourbon. Vanilla, oak, delicious.

Taste brings out dark fruits that weren't present in the nose but otherwise it's more of that very carmelly bourbon. Booze is well incorporated. Smoothest vanilla, some cola, hint of smoke.

Mouthfeel is extremely smooth, full bodied, light alcohol prick that doesn't detract from the taste.

Overall this beer is fantastically balanced for how big it is. Superb. (517 characters)

Photo of BarrytheBear
4.3/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle courtesy of Brian. Thank you for the opportunity. Poured into my Darkness snifter.
Bottle dated 2/28/12, so this bottle is almost a year old. Happy birthday you little minx.

Looks like a stout.

Massive wave of dark fruits hit you on the pour, mainly in the form of prune and plum. Light char and ash mix with vanilla and rich fudge. Tannic laced alcohol heat as well. One the sweeter side, maybe this is the prominence of the aging on the double cream stout? Truth be told I cannot remember the last time I had an Expedition....this calls for future exploration.

Sweet dry fruit and chocolate cake batter. Again the Double Cream stout flexes its relative muscle. Alcohol is abundant but not overwhelming. Vanilla molested plums and raisin. Bourbon is well woven and not abrasively in your face. I would not deem this a bourbon bomb. More milk chocolate than dark with a light oak on the end that hints at the barrel aging as well.

Not overly thick and syrupy, more towards medium bodied if not veering towards lighter bodied. Rather airy and smooth while not weighing you down.

Overall, this is pretty solid. I like bourbon beers that show nuance and aren't all brawn and no brains. This fits that category well. However, I find Double Cream stout borderline cloying and its inclusion here does steer this beer into a fairly sweet realm. Love 12 oz barrel aged beers and am thankful to have the opportunity. (1,426 characters)

Photo of srv33
4.46/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A 2012 poured into a tulip. Pours a near black chocolately brown with minimal lacing and no head. Scent of raisin, fig, swiss milk chocolate, coffee, and caramel. With a nose like that it must be fantastic, right?

The nose is fully expressed in the taste, rich dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and caramel are all present and craftfully balanced. I've had the pleasure to try KBS, Expedition, and CBS, and would remark that this deserves its place among them. I would say the general flavor palate is quite similar but differs a fair bit in mouthfeel and richess, especially when compared to K/CBS. Compared to those it is much less rich, lacks the sort of near-syrupy richness of CBS or the earthy depth of KBS. There is also a much smoother touch of fine carbonation, more than K/CBS.

I had just as hard a time finding this as I did finding its cousins. Certainly glad I finally got to see what the hype is about. For some, this will certainly be perfect, (to those who find CBS or KBS simply too much) and others might find it lacking when compared to those, though somewhat similar in terms of flavor. Would I buy this again if I had the chance? Yes. Is it Bells best? I wouldn't say so, but it is certainly up there. Is it an absolutely fantastically crafted stout? WIthout a doubt. Cheers! (1,297 characters)

Photo of screamking
4.76/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into snifter.

Appearance-pours black with a small light brown head, head is gone quickly, nice lacing around glass. 4.25

Aroma-oak, roasted coffee, vanilla, plum, toffee, butterscotch, hint of dark chocolate, black cherry. 4.5

Taste-dark chocolate covered raisins, creamy toffee, oak, roasted coffee is hiding but there, alcohol is present, vanilla. 5

Feel-full bodied, thick with mild carbonation, coats mouth very well, a little blast of heat at the end. 4.75

Overall- great bourbon profile! This is how to age beer in a barrel. One of the best bourbon beers I've had. Too bad I was only able to get my hands on one bottle. Hopefully they increase production of this next year. Being a bourbon guy, beer doesn't get much better than this. 4.75 (770 characters)

Photo of FUwolfpacker
4.56/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really happy that I was able to grab this one at a local store. Got 2 of the last 5. Bottled 12/28/12.

Poured from the bottle into a Westbrook tulip.

A: Pours black as oil and just as thick. Very thin tan head. Mild lacing.

S: Mostly vanilla and oak at the start. Maybe a little roastiness. Some mild coconut.

T: As you would expect, the vanilla, oaky, bourbon booziness is the first thing you taste. While it is prevalent, it isn't overwhelming like many of the bourbon barrel imperial stouts I've had. A nice sweetness but not cloying. Some mild warming in the chest but no burn. It's faint but there is some mild chocolate, roasted coffee, coconut, and dark fruit (raisins?) as the bourbon notes fade away. They become a little more prevalent as the beer warms. Roasted flavor and maybe some mild oak flavors stick around for a little while.

M: Very smooth, silky, creamy. Carbonation is mild but it is there.

O: This is a truly great bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. The bourbon character is there, but is not overwhelming. This makes it a pretty drinkable despite the 11.5% ABV. Definitely the best BBA stout I've had to this point. Worth making the effort to get if you haven't had it. (1,200 characters)

Photo of ncketchum
4.87/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 oz bottle, served cellar temp in a Tyranena tulip, split with my dad

A - pours a silky black with mocha head, leaving slight lacing

S - aroma is fantastic- bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, very well balanced, best I've encountered in awhile

T - again, expertly balanced with chocolate,, malt, and bourbon, nothing overpowering.

M - thick, smooth as silk, minimal alcohol

O - fantastic, I feel lucky to have found a bottle, easily one of the best stouts I've come across (486 characters)

Photo of Florida9
4.01/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Black in color. Forms a small mocha colored head that doesn't bother to stick around for long, receding fairly quickly to not even a hint of surface coating, leaving only a glossy, black liquid in the glass. Only a speck or two of lacing.

S: Aroma is sweet and boozy; a mix of chocolate, vanilla, molasses, fig, and a very slight mintyness.

T: Taste is sweet and chocolatey, with a bourbon kick. Actually this is the most chocolatey bourbon barrel aged stout I've ever come across. Flavor is sweet with notes of vanilla, raisin, plum, anise, and milk chocolate. A mix of alcohol and brown sugar sweetness on the finish

M: Very smooth, almost velvety, with a lower carbonation level. A bit boozy, but still a fairly mellow beer.

O: This beer reminded me of some sort of nouveau bourbon-infused chocolate dessert. Sweet and chocolatey with a pleasant bourbon quality to round it out. Would make a nice dessert, but its not exactly what I'm looking for in a beer. (970 characters)

Photo of CooperEllis
4.84/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Beautiful draft at a Takeover night at the Tap House in Rochester, MN. Poured in flight sized pours (4-5oz).

Soft bourbon and oak notes with a great deal of layered notes in the aroma. The taste is equally full, with a breadth of flavors which compliment. This is one of the easiest drinking beers I've ever had and the -bal compliments the base beer nicely without adding a strong 'booze' presence.

Mouthfeel is solid, if unspectacular. Light up front but a touch sticky at the end. Really, quite light given the complexity, robust flavors and abv. I'm actually more impressed that it's this light on the palate.

Damn fine all around.

(200th) (647 characters)

Photo of brewtus
4.8/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into tulip. Obviously 2012

A- pours black with a half finger dark tan head the quickly disappears
S-milky, bourbon is very prevalent, dark fruit, chocolate, some subtle cinnamon
T-woah, dark chocolate that makes way for oak and bourbony warmth. Some faint vanilla, slight coffee flavors, amazing silky smooth texture, no burn.
O- wow I'm glad I spent so long trying to track this down, this beer is complex, smooth, and delicious. The bourbon isn't overpowering but it is balanced perfectly with the smooth creaminess of stout mixture. If you had the opportunity to get some, buy as much as you can, it's worth the price tag for sure. (655 characters)

Photo of smakawhat
4.48/5  rDev -0.2%
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! (1,439 characters)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 549 ratings.