1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Bell's Black Note Stout - Bell's Brewery, Inc.

Not Rated.
Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
100
world-class

3,016 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 3,016
Reviews: 495
rAvg: 4.56
pDev: 8.11%
Wants: 2,074
Gots: 781 | FT: 74
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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 3,016 | Reviews: 495 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of 1Adam12
4/5  rDev -12.3%

1Adam12, Feb 04, 2012
Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.18/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

10 ox tap pour into a snifter at Burnhearts in Bay View last night. Thanks BJ and Paul for the event and swag and to D-Train for driving!

A - The constant flow from the tap as people lined the bar at least two deep produced a plethora of pitch black snifters on the bar-top, each one crowned delicately by loose dark brown foam.

S - Heavily roasted, plenty of coffee made its way out of this beer with cocoa and chocolate accents. Mellow oak and bourbon follow up.

T - Burnt toast and charred oak paired with the beer's already strong cocoa and coffee proved to be pretty taxing to drink. Chocolate and warm bourbon heat followed nicely.

M - Voluptuous and rich, the balance of this beer is well done. Plenty of hops aid the roasted bitterness while the thinning alcohol warmth finishes out.

O - While Black Note is certainly a great brew, it's also an example of what hype and "rarity" can elevate a beer to. Don't expect anything life changing from this one; it's another heavy stout but, thankfully, balance sets it apart from some other overly-alcohol-rich stouts.

BeerFMAndy, Feb 03, 2012
Photo of JAYBLACK
4.22/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky to get one of the last glasses of this at the Bells Party in Indianapolis. 8 oz pour served cold in a snifter. The appearance is very dark, almost black with minimal carbonation and very little head. The smell is wonderful, with lots of vanilla, chocolate, dark fruits and a hint of bourbon. The taste is surprisingly smooth for the abv. I get a lot of vanilla and creamy chocolate upfront with a hint of bourbon and it finishes a bit dry with a hint of hops and bourbon. I would like a little more bourbon but that is just my personal preference. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy with little to no carbonation and very sticky. I feel like this is a fantastic offering by bells and would love to see them start making it on a larger scale. It wasn't my favorite example of the style but definitely among the top. Seek this one out if you get the chance.

JAYBLACK, Feb 02, 2012
Photo of denimdemon
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

denimdemon, Feb 02, 2012
Photo of fo1ksguitar
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

fo1ksguitar, Feb 02, 2012
Photo of dpasotti
4.33/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Deep black with a thick brown cap that leaves great lace. Smells of strong vanillin and bourbon, with lots of roasted malt character. Brown sugar and a little chocolate as well.

Prominent vanilla tones, dark chocolate bitterness, coffee, sweet molasses, and alcohol on the palate. The menu says "...with bourbon undertones," but that couldn't be more inaccurate -- bourbon absolutely dominates this beer. Good thing that's what I was looking for. It lacks the bourbon 'attack' (for lack of a better descriptor) that GI Bourbon County Stout has, which is not a slight towards Black Note. The bourbon character is awesome. Loads of vanilla match the sweet roasted malt foundation very well.

The minimally-carbonated, dense body is far and away the highlight of this beer. Quite possibly the silkiest, smoothest body I have ever experienced, in liquid form at least... Mr. Bell does it again. Black Note is an exquisite sipper. High on my list of stouts as well as barrel-aged beers.

dpasotti, Feb 02, 2012
Photo of aasher
4.22/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was sampled at the Beer Sellar in Indianapolis for their Super Bell's Party before the Super Bowl. It poured a full bodied darkest of blacks with a one finger khaki head. It smells like a barrel aged stout. It has the creamed coffee, chocolate, with a touch or bourbon and vanilla. It is essentially a poor man's Bourbon County. It has a good amount of roast with a good amount of bourbon and vanilla. That said, lighter and less intense than Bourbon County. It's really drinkable because of this. The alcohol takes a backseat as well. The longer you sip the more the char makes itself known, alongside the vanilla. It leaves plenty of roast behind. Regardless, it drinks really nice and everything meshes rather well. This is a nice barrel aged stout. I'm glad I could try it.

aasher, Feb 02, 2012
Photo of phisigben
4.68/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

8oz pour served in a snifter at the Super Bells party at the Beer Cellar in Indianapolis

It is black as motor oil with a nice tan mocha head that leaves a nice ring of lacing with each drink. I get nice oak from the bourbon barrel, followed by coffe, and bitter chocolate. The taste is great I get bourbon right up front, next is the coffee and chocolate with a nice sweetness from the malt and cream, at the very end is a roasted flavor for me its a little too much its the only reason this didn't get a 5. The mouthfeel is amazing it feel as thick as other big stouts but at the same time that feeling leaves as you drink it and the carbonation is great for this style. Overall is one of the best stouts that I have ever had, I can't believe its this good.

phisigben, Feb 01, 2012
Photo of hwwty4
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

hwwty4, Feb 01, 2012
Photo of zeff80
4.47/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap at Sycamore - Columbia, MO

A - Poured an opaque, jet black color with a small, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left sudsy sheets of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of dark chocolate, toffee, vanilla, oak and roasty malts.

T - A delicious blend of roasted malt, dark chocolate, vanilla, burnt molasses and a slight bourbon flavor.

M - It was crisp, sharp and very smooth. A medium to full bodied stout with a dry finish.

O -This is a fantastic imperial stout. I'm glad Sycamore was able to get a keg of this.

zeff80, Feb 01, 2012
Photo of mrebeka
5/5  rDev +9.6%

mrebeka, Feb 01, 2012
Photo of duffcalifornia
5/5  rDev +9.6%

duffcalifornia, Jan 29, 2012
Photo of PhineasGage
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

PhineasGage, Jan 27, 2012
Photo of jnaustxdom
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

jnaustxdom, Jan 27, 2012
Photo of jeonseh
4.55/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Has this on tap at Tribes Alehouse.

A - Poured into a snifter, its a very, dark black beer that allows no light to get through. It has a small coffee colored head that stays strong along the edges

S - Notes of coffee, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel malt and bourbon barrel spicyness. You definitely get the creamy sweetness of the double cream stout with the darker expedition favors. As I let it sit and warm up, the nose become much stronger and sweeter as the vanilla becomes more prominent

T - Initially, sweet vanilla, mocha chocolate, caramel and the heavier coffee favors come through. You definitely get the barrel aged spiciness in this one. One of the nice things about the barrel aged aspects of this is its blended in perfectly with the beer to add new levels of flavor. The spice from the bourbon really lingers on the tongue. As it warms up, the vanilla and sweetness really opens up.

MF - Velvety smooth allowing it to coat the tongue and mouth beautifully. This is where adding the double cream stout really stands out as that and the aging seem to have taken off some of Expedition's rougher edges. After the beer goes down, it leaves a nice tingle on the tongue to go with the bourbon flavors. This is the part of the beer that is just amazing.

O - A wonderful, well balanced beer by Bell's. It shows how well barrel aging can add to a beer's flavor without overpowering it. Definitely worth having and a great beer overall

jeonseh, Jan 27, 2012
Photo of Mrpickles
5/5  rDev +9.6%

Mrpickles, Jan 27, 2012
Photo of bpolglaze
5/5  rDev +9.6%

bpolglaze, Jan 27, 2012
Photo of BuckyFresh
4.7/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tulip glass at 7 Monks in Traverse City. Enjoyed in the company of zoso1967 and TCHopCraver.

Appearance: Pours about as black as they come, with some mocha accents sneaking through around the edges of the glass. A bubbly, tan one-finger head tops things off, with pretty spectacular lacing crawling up the sides of the tulip. Surprisingly good retention. You can just tell by looking at this one that it's going to be a beast.

Smell: Very sweet up front in the nose. Lots of molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee, and licorice. Some oak and bourbon are discernible as well. The more bitter notes are lingering in the background, but provide a nice backdrop for the sweeter elements and really add to the depth and complexity of the aroma.

Taste: I think the taste trumps the aroma of this beer as far as balance and complexity go. Very creamy and delightfully smooth, with the sweeter elements up front again. As you finish a sip, the roasty oak, bourbon, and bitter coffee/chocolate take over and leave you with a pleasantly dry finish, given how much malt punch there is on the front end. So balanced and smooth; I never would have guessed the ABV was higher than 11%.

Mouthfeel: Medium/Full bodied, creamy and smooth, with minimal carbonation. While quite sweet at first, the beer finishes surprisingly dry. As such, it is not all that taxing on the palate, even with an ABV of 11.5%.

Overall: This beer certainly lived up to my expectations and was an incredibly complex, balanced, and delicious example of the style. Very drinkable for the ABV and stands toe-to-toe with the best imperials out there.

BuckyFresh, Jan 26, 2012
Photo of Beerbash
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

Beerbash, Jan 26, 2012
Photo of jegross2
4.83/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewing the infamous Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery Inc. Black Note Stout is a barrel aged blend of Bell's Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout. A huge thank you to BeerAdvocate user FrankenBrew for tipping me off to this under-the-radar tapping.

Score: 97

Unknown vintage keg tap pour served in a 12+ oz pilsner glass and enjoyed on 01/25/12, courtesy of the Malt House in Madison -- one of the best bars in the Midwest.

Appearance: The lighting in the bar is not great, so bear with me. Body is a jet black color with thin caramel colored highlights at the absolute top of the glass. I arrived with a glass of this awaiting me (to ensure getting a pour), so I am unsure if it was served with any head (and if so, what the head looked like). A super thin tan ring of head coats the outside of the glass. No real lacing, but a slowly dripping, thick oily layer coats the side of the glass as you drink. 4.5/5

Smell: The aroma is incredibly complex. There is raisin/fig, other nondescript dark fruit and vanilla from my first pull. Then sticky brown sugar and molasses, followed by light amounts of licorice. Definitely getting notes of chocolate and caramel malt as well. At points, the beer smells like molasses-and-vanilla soaked raisins. The aroma is a perfect blend of stout and barrel aromas. 5/5

Taste: Equally as complexly flavored as the aroma, and incredibly balanced. First impression is an interesting blend of creamy (milk?) chocolate and vanilla. There is a slight roastiness in there, but it's very faint. The flavor of this brew falls somewhere between Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. The midpalate is loaded with mellow, slightly sweet dark fruit, creamy malts, molasses/brown sugar and bourbon flavors without the alcohol bite. Light dark licorice flavors are in there somewhere towards the finish, but no licorice lingers in the finish at all. Absolutely no alcohol is detectable, save for a little warming effect as the beer warms, so I was a bit shocked to discover that this beer is 11.5% ABV. Finish lingers with an interesting mix of light chocolate, vanilla, molasses and dark fruit. Each sip leaves a seemingly different mix of those finishing flavors. Some pulls finish with more raisin-and-brown sugar like flavors, while others seem chocolatier, while others seem like a smooth vanilla-and-molasses mix. This is an absolutely astonishing medley of stout and barrel flavors. Everything you could want from either is present. This beer is dangerously drinkable. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Not overly heavy, but still thick and viscous. Medium bodied, minimal (if any) carbonation. Mouthfeel is creamy and sticky. Finish is decently (but not overly) sweet -- essentially raisin-and-vanilla like. 4.5/5

Overall: Hoo boy! This one absolutely lives up to the hype. I would have to have them side by side before I can say this definitively, but I think that I enjoyed this beer ever slightly more than Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I had the fortune of drinking five or six glasses of KBS on tap over the past few days, so the comparison is relatively fresh in my mind. Bell's Black Note Stout brings every flavor and aroma you could possibly want in either a stout or a barrel aged beer, and it blends them in an incredibly drinkable, palate-satisfying experience. A world class beer, no doubt. If only I had the time for another pint, I'd have knocked back several.

Recommendation: Seek this one out. Chicago will have a tapping of this sometime mid-February, so if you are the area, make room on your calendar.

Pairings: A medium-cooked New York Strip would go wonderfully with this beer.

Cost: $6 for a glass. I am not sure what a 750 ml bottle sells for, but I can assure you that $6 for a full pint of this brew is one of the best beer deals you will ever find in a bar.

jegross2, Jan 26, 2012
Photo of rmalinowski4
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

rmalinowski4, Jan 25, 2012
Photo of Rhettroactive
4.28/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From tap to snifter on 1/10/12
*From notes

-- Thanks to the folks at RFD for hookin' me up with this epic want --

A: Black. Or damn close to it. Really, this is one dark glass of beer. Minimal head, with a faint, creamy collar.

S: Heavy whipping cream, aged wood, toasty brown sugar and luscious bourbon overwhelm my nostrils.

T: One of the things I love so very much about craft beer is the journey, where the brew leads your palate. Bell's Black Note, my friends, is this kind of beer. It begins rather mellow, it doesn't push the limits and extremes that others in the BA RIS world do. Rather, it's a delicate balancing act of whipping cream, rich chocolate, crushed vanilla bean, toasted tannin and incredibly smooth bourbon. There's also a pretty sizeable hop kick on the mid to finish.

M: Not overly viscous. It's quite mild and medium bodied, allowing the beer to almost flow through, without getting caught in the density of many in-style.

O: Bell's Black Note has easily been one of my top wants for years, and to have the opportunity to have a giant snifter of it at my leisure with good friends was an absolute pleasure. This really did remind me of a Charlie Parker number, as all you gotta do it sit back and let the master do their thing.

We did this side-by-side with BCBS '11, which in my opinion did this beer a disservice. A brew as special as this shouldn't be compared to what I feel is the best in class. Rather, it should stand on it's own. So yeah, BCBS may have packed the oomph that Black Note didn't, but on it's own, this delicate little number really is something special.

Rhettroactive, Jan 24, 2012
Photo of projectflam86
4.7/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes.

Poured from the tap into a snifter.

A- Pours a jet black color with only the tiniest bit of light shining through the edges. A thick coffee brown head leaves good lacing.

S- The first thing I notice is how subtle the bourbon is on the nose (which is much more preferable to it being overpowering). Deep roasted aroma with some hints of vanilla and oak.

T- Amazing how much bourbon flavor you get without the stingy alcohol burn. Waves of roasted coffee, vanilla, milk chocolate, anise, dark fruits, and bourbon all meld together nicely.

M- Full bodied with medium/low carbonation. The alcohol is hidden so well I would have guessed this at 8%.

O- Truly a special brew. I'm so glad I got the chance to try this.

projectflam86, Jan 22, 2012
Photo of cpmichael
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

cpmichael, Jan 22, 2012
Photo of mistakebythelake
5/5  rDev +9.6%

mistakebythelake, Jan 21, 2012
Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
100 out of 100 based on 3,016 ratings.