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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BA SCORE
99
world-class

543 Reviews
THE BROS
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Reviews: 543
Hads: 3,643
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 6.46%
Wants: 2,513
Gots: 925 | FT: 80
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: 543 | Hads: 3,643
Photo of humuloner22
5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had searched high and low for this beer for a few years and could not find one in a store. I finally traded for some and man am I happy I did! This beer is what Bourbon County wants to be when it grows up!

Appearance: Dark as night very little head if any. Settles quickly to a light caramel colored film around the edges of the glass.

Aroma: Jesus this beer smells so good. Lots of barrel immediately detected. Bourbon out the ass! Vanilla and chocolate maltiness dominate.

Taste: Man this just doesn't get any better really. The taste is sweet but not too cloying. Its perfectly balanced between the two base beers. Not too much barrel but you certainly detect the bourbon and the flavors that come with a bourbon barrel aged beer. Vanilla, chocolate, bourbon and oak dominant barrel finish. Mouthfeel is also velvety and oh so smooth. Perfect balance accomplished with this beer!

Overall: I have been saving this beer to try for a big number but I just felt like what the hell why not tonight! I also paired this one against the two base beers as an experiment and this is a case where the sum of the parts are better. I will say I do tend to enjoy the Double Cream better than the Expedition but I can understand where that needs to be utilized as a base ingredient. Overall this beer is layered and superb in my book. I think this is much better beer than many of its companions out there. Totally worth the effort in trading for this one! (1,450 characters)

Photo of stephens101
4.55/5  rDev +1.3%
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. (557 characters)

Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.11/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2012 bottle.
Pours a pitch black and sits still in the glass. A delicate head quickly fades. Aroma is intense with notes of bourbon, luscious vanilla, tobacco, charred malts, and caramelized brown sugar. You don't have to dig deep in the glass to get a wide range of decadent aromas.
Flavor takes on a little different approach with more of the dark fruits that is evident from the Expedition Stout portion of the blend. A touch of chocolate, and lots of the barrel character. Sweet at times, but not cloying with the added lingering bitterness. Booze is fairly noticeable...even after 2 years in the bottle. Silky feel that is thinner than I prefer.
Overall, well done. Not a home run for me though as the flavor did not stand up to the greatness the nose brought. Some of the espresso may have been lost in the bottle age. (838 characters)

Photo of johnnnniee
4.16/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 Bottle from BlowOffTube, thanks for the opportunity!
Solid black color with a quickly fleeting head. Chocolate, roast, molasses, vanilla, wood, light dark fruit, there's lots going on here and its all good. Rich sweet silky creamy thick body with light carbonation. Damn that's good, wish I had more! (306 characters)

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

Poured from the bottle an opaque black with purple highlights. The mocha-colored head was quite thin. Light lacing left behind.

Aroma of dark chocolate, dried red fruits and bourbon.

Bright creamy note of dark chocolate opened on the tongue followed by espresso, chocolate milk, vanilla, and bourbon. Roasted malt notes lingered with every sip.

Very creamy and smooth.

This was one incredible stout for sure. A must try. (425 characters)

Photo of mn_nuge
4.24/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 version in a side-by-side with BCS (2014). While excellent, the bourbon character was far more restrained on the Black Note. The mouthfeel of the BCS syrupy and thick compared to the thinner Black Note. A great beer. (221 characters)

Photo of brewskifan55
4.2/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a snifter. Thanks, Darren.

A: Black with garnet highlights. No head, light lacing.

S: Bourbon, chocolate, anise.

T: Follows nose with a decadent smoothness. Sweet. Robust. A true sipper. The 11.4 gradually creeps up on you for a toasty buzz. Even better as it warms.

M: Medium with medium mouthfeel. A bit watery on the finish.

O: Outstanding. As tasty as it is hard to find. Recommended. (419 characters)

Photo of oldsailor
4.96/5  rDev +10.5%
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. (157 characters)

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

wow. very smooth; very mellow. 2012, February, almost three years old and drunk on the anniversary of my dad's passing. cheers! nothing to compare it to, never had one before, but very, very nice. thanks to Dan for the brew! this bottle says 11.8%. lots of tempered bourbon aroma and flavor, dark fruit, fig, chocolate, caramel, tobacco..... but no egg as someone mentioned (?).... (381 characters)

Photo of McStagger
4.34/5  rDev -3.3%
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. (381 characters)

Photo of Tridement
4.71/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

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! (1,147 characters)

Photo of kojevergas
3.99/5  rDev -11.1%
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. (4,999 characters)

Photo of MrIncognito
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%

I feel very blessed to have gotten the opportunity to try this. Thank you Tuskies

Poured into a snifter, it is just about all black with slight hints of deep walnut as light comes through. Not much in terms of head but has whisps of lace here and there.

Nose is all bourbon chocolate. Very sweet and syrupy aroma and quite aromatic at that.

The taste isn't nearly as sweet as I feared it would be. There is a prevalent boozy, vanilla bourbon flavor with pronounced oak. Chocolate comes in as you get that smooth transition into the maltiness of the beer. No hops or bitterness to speak of. Lingers nicely on the tongue. Never becomes too sweet and syrupy.

Slightly dry in mouthfeel with almost no carbonation. Coats the mouth pleasantly and hangs around.

A great dessert beer. Very well balanced. The vanilla in the oak plays well with the chocolate from the malt. Nice even bourbon flavor throughout. (922 characters)

Photo of Furlinator
4.46/5  rDev -0.7%

Bottled on 05/17/14.

Pours opaque black. The thin khaki head fades to a thin film and ring on top and leaves spots of lace.

The smell is an inviting combination of dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut, pipe tobacco and black coffee.

The taste is of dark chocolate, black cherry, roasted (almost smoked) dark malt, vanilla, toasted coconut and bourbon.

The texture is heavy bodied wilow carbonation.

Hard to come by on the West Coast, I'm glad to have gotten my hands on this one. An absolute world class barrel aged imperial stout. (536 characters)

Photo of deadonhisfeet
4.59/5  rDev +2.2%
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. (1,366 characters)

Photo of drewaha
4.47/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage. Had right after a bcbcs. Great beer but unfair to compare to bcbcs. Not as sweet and has a nice mustly charcoal flavor. Goes down a little easier. Great beer but not top of its class. (198 characters)

Photo of docoman
5/5  rDev +11.4%

Was lucky enough to sample this Bell's offering at the 2013 summer beer event in Ypsilanti, MI and it was exceptional BA stout. Always on lookout to sample more of it especially on tap. (186 characters)

Photo of Bubba569
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%

Great beer, love the full bodied flavor and how it changed in taste (even better) as it warmed up! We sampled with KBS, Bourbon County Stout the same night! I'd rate this one 3 but still can't deside which one is better between KBS and BCS! My top 2 by far! (257 characters)

Photo of papat444
4.15/5  rDev -7.6%

Poured from a 12oz botle, 2014 vintage. Thanks to Tricerahops (i think).

Pours a black body with a very thin head. Not as boozy as expected but bourbon is strong in the flavor. Nuances of coffee and chocolate are present but this would probably open up in a few years. I will say it was very smooth and alcohol was very well hidden. (333 characters)

Photo of wordemupg
4.3/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

355ml bottle poured into tulip 20/10/14, big thanks alfie for the bottle

A sits black in the glass with a deep cola edge, two fingers of mocha foam sits around for a couple sips before falling leaving just a couple dots of lace

S chocolate syrup, vanilla, bourbon, charred wood, some booze, sweetened coffee, chocolate covered raisins, prune, and a hint of smoke

T much more charred bourbon barrel in the mouth, darker coffee and a little licorice, a pumped up boozier version of the nose and it works well for me

M leaning towards full but thinner then expected, bubbles fluff it up a bit and a fair amount of heat on the way down, lots of roast lingering long and strong

O well rounded and very tasty if you don't mind intense boozy barrel, need to mellow out a bit but drinking well fresh

This needs some cellar time for sure, I could see this already great beer getting much better down the road, pretty stoked I have two more bottles Cheers alfie!!! (967 characters)

Photo of pat61
5/5  rDev +11.4%

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl. This is a big bourbon barrel aged stout that smells and tastes like a bourbon barrel.
It pours black as night with a dark tan creamy cap that rapidly dissipates. The beer has legs and lace.Tthe beer hits the palate with all the major flavor groups - big alcohol, bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, sherry, caramel and the flavors delightfully linger long.
Big and chewy, the beer is a delight. (425 characters)

Photo of ediaz
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%

2012 into a Hunahpu's day snifter with a friend.

A: Opaque black with minimal light coming through on edges in a copper-orange hue. Minimal delicate lacing on the top. Somewhat flat with a minimal ring of bubbles hugging the glass.

S: fig, toffee, dark chocolate, malt, tobacco; bourbon whiskey, hints of vanilla, mild oak

T: bitter dark chocolate; raw tobacco, charcoal; sweet; dark fruits; toffee; egg; butter; finishes with a smooth burnt caramel

M: medium viscosity, oily, coating of mouth,; buttery, silky, lingers; a little more carbonation wouldnt have hurt

O: Incredibly balanced and smooth with a rich blend of interesting flavors. After 2 years the beer has mellowed and accepted the char nicely without ruining the bourbon flavor or the chocolate, coffee, toffee flavors you'd hope for in a bourbon stout. Overall, a great beer that I'm very happy to enjoy. If I was able to get this beer properly aged again, I'd be happy to trade for it. Very pleased; Does not possess an overly alcoholic taste even though there are definitely notes of bourbon whiskey initially. A smooth, buttery feel that lingers provides an opportunity to experience all the flavors in this beer. Overall, it is slightly better than what I remember first tasting 2 years ago and offers some pleasantly unusual tastes compared to other barrel-aged bourbon stouts. (1,355 characters)

Photo of infinitebruner
4.59/5  rDev +2.2%
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. (851 characters)

Photo of Chrisfarleywine
5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing balance of flavor, aged about six months. Dried blueberries, coffee, chocolate, oak and bourbon. Some of the barrel aged stouts can be overwhelming with bourbon barrel flavor, this is a perfect balance. The consistency is just right too, not overly syrupy or flat. It has a decent effervescence with a balanced mouthfeel. Aroma is great, but belies the complexity of the beer. (384 characters)

Photo of avalon07
4.62/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a jet black color and had a thick consistency. There was a small amount of creamy, tan-colored head that quickly dissipated. Fair lacing.

S: A big aroma of bourbon, dark fruit, and chocolate. Very enticing.

T: Tasted of bourbon, roasted malt, chocolate, dark fruit (plums, raisins), vanilla, and some coffee in the finish. A massive, assertive, muscular flavor. Extremely complex and flavorful.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a thick, chewy finish. Full-bodied.

O: Bell's seems to have a knack for making stouts (see Expedition and Java Stouts) and this one just adds to the pantheon. Not a brew for the faint of heart, Black Note is quite a robust beer and one of the best examples of the style. (752 characters)

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 543 ratings.