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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3,358 Ratings
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Ratings: 3,358
Reviews: 514
rAvg: 4.56
pDev: 8.55%
Wants: 2,193
Gots: 846 | FT: 87
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:
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 added by: mcallister on 06-16-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,358 | Reviews: 514 | Display Reviews Only:
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4.35/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From notes.

A: Black, half finger of tan head.

S: Baker's cocoa, soy sauce, raisin, roasted malt.

T: Sweet malt front. Malted milkball mid palate Finish is bitter baker's cocoa. Bitterness lasts several seconds before the warmth and sweetness of the booze takes over.

M: Thick. Carbonation is subtle, but it is there.

O: Very nice bourbon barrel aged stout.

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4.54/5  rDev -0.4%

Got this 12oz in a ridiculously great trade with MichPaul....thank you sir!

Whilst pouring into a Bells snifter of sorts, the head is minimal, not even covering the puddle at the bottom of the vessel and quickly dispersing to the circumference of the glass....clinging for dear life. I would consider the body medium, not quite motor oil and mildly opaque on the edges...but a dark beauty none the less.
The nose is of melted bakers chocolate, smashed raisins and a little of that coconut aroma you get with a lot of barrel aged beers. Can't sniff anymore, gotta taste.
And boom goes the dynamite! Am I drinking a beer or eating Raisinets for alcoholics? I already new this beer was going to be great, I'm looking at the giant 100 as I write this review, but I didn't think there would be so many. The mouth feel is creamy, small flecks of booziness, vanilla, burnt brown sugar, chocolate and warm raisins. My favorite part may be the semi sweet bitterness that lingers on the back of my tongue.
I'm in love and I can't imagine how much an already amazing beer will improve with a couple of years in the cellar.

Cheers to great beers!

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look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Huge props to Duff27 for this bottle!

BOTTLE: 2014 vintage. Bottled: 08/12/14. 11.4% ABV. 12 fl oz. Brown glass.

Expectations are sky high; this is currently #25 in the Top 250. Served cold into a tulip/teku hybrid and allowed to warm over the course of consumption.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Beautifully creamy, full, and thick. Has an exquisite rich shiny complexion, which is gorgeous combined with the rich khaki colour head. Leaves a thick even coating of lacing as it recedes. Retention is excellent - ~8 minutes.

BODY: Deep dark black. Opaque. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

A special and great looking stout with apt carbonation. I can't wait for the first sip.

AROMA: Amazing bourbon barrel notes. Rich white oak, authentic vanilla (not artificial vanillin extract), barrel sugars, and toasted wood. Wow.

As amazing as the bourbon character is, it doesn't seem to eclipse the base, which brings notes of subtle dark fruit (fig and plum primarily, with subsidiary notes of date), chocolate, and subtle coffee with a kiss of roast. Pleasant cream is also noticeable, but I'm not finding the espresso mentioned on the label - as nice as the coffee is.

Constructively, I have come across stout aromas with richer more expressive chocolate and more complex roasty coffee notes. I nitpick, but it's an incredible aroma overall.

As it comes to temperature, hidden notes of marshmallow and toasted coconut begin to emerge, as well as a fleeting kiss of faint char and burnt sugar.

Moderate aromatic intensity. This evocative aroma suggests a luxuriously well-balanced beer with plenty of subtlety and complexity. Mouthwatering. Wow.

No hop profile or yeast character is detectable, nor are any off-notes.

TASTE: The open greets the drinker with notes of cream and soft bourbon. The bourbon barrel character is fantastic, boasting notes of authentic vanilla, slightly toasted white oak, and barrel sugars that remain strong throughout the beer, lending it a natural guiding cohesion. The bourbon doesn't overwhelm the base beer, but rather accents its notes of impressively subtle dark fruit (fig and plum), roasted barley, and coffee.

The coffee, unfortunately, is quite shallow and uninteresting compared to other stellar imperial stouts; more complexity, diversity, and depth of flavour is needed for the coffee note to play with the big boys.

Chocolate is similarly limited; I get some creamy milk chocolate, but it's limited in scope and intricacy. We've all had better chocolate notes in beer. As it warms, though, some fudge emerges.

The foundation is comprised of dark malts and chocolate malts, which form an easily imposed-upon neutral stout base - a blank slate into which the more interesting notes can insert themselves.

I find a glimmer of coconut which never fully resolves. And the marshmallow I thought I found in the aroma is absent here...or is it? It flirts with notes of grape and currant, but never fully commits.

Balance is nearly impeccable, with few flaws noticeable aside from a faint charred and burnt character at the bottom of the second act. There's definite complexity and nuance in this build, but I can't find the espresso promised by the label, and if we're nitpicking (as I feel we must do whenever a beer is in the Top 250), I have had more complex & intricate imperial stouts. But few feature such a well-attuned harmony of bourbon barrel and base beer notes. This tastes like a gestalt whole.

Still, this is a delicious brew of the highest quality, and I find myself drinking slowly to savor each sip.

TEXTURE: Damn. This beer just melts into the palate with incredible softness and angelic delicacy. Creamy, comforting on the palate, and fragile. Smooth and wet, enhancing drinkability. The creaminess coupled with the softness is divine, and carbonation is near perfect. It's aptly full-bodied and has ideal thickness, which is needed to support the beer's many flavours. Incredibly well executed, with superb overall presence on the palate. This is a mouthfeel that elevates a beer beyond its taste, and accentuates the notes in the flavour profile, coaxing out their nuances. Majestic.

If not for a slight harshness brought on by burnt sugar and char in the late second act, this mouthfeel would be perfect.

OVERALL: Shockingly drinkable for its unnoticeable 11.4%. Easily one of Bell's best beers (if not THE best), and absolutely a beer that deserves its high ratings. I'm not sure I'd consider it the 25th best beer in the world, but it's a treat of a brew and avoids the common pitfalls of the style: it's not too sweet or dessert-like, it doesn't have acrid or overly bitter coffee, the bourbon barrel doesn't eclipse the base, it doesn't lack a roasted barley presence, and while it has notable complexity, it doesn't sacrifice balance to attain it.

Its main flaw is that pesky burnt/charred character.

High B+

Might easily become an A- with age. But I could never hold onto a bottle for that long; it's too good.

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
100 out of 100 based on 3,358 ratings.