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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.

557 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 557
Hads: 3,733
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,599
Gots: 952 | FT: 75
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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 557 | Hads: 3,733
Photo of broodog
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Black Note Stout Batch 11620 (I think, A little hard to read) Bottled 12/28/12 - Into a Bell's Tulip

Appearance - Pours jet black - 1 finger tan head which dissipates rather quickly into a ring. Lacing is nice

Smell- Bourbon, Coffee, roasted malt

Taste - Wow - In a class by itself. A rush of flavor. Bourbon followed by coffee, followed by roasted malt , molasses. Blend together perfectly. Alcohol is there, but not overwhelming.

Mouthfeel - Not as thick as some other BB stouts at this ABV. Feels great going down.

Overall - A wonderful experience. If you can get your hands on a few, try one now. Save a few for aging.

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Photo of 33nickadams
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Completely black, opaque, and beige head sticks to the sides of the snifter. First smell I get is of dark dried fruits, which I find interesting since it's bourbon barrel aged. Of course you get the bourbon on the nose, but also you can smell sweetness. Alcohol is also evident in the nose. Tastes of coffee, dark dried fruits, chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, oakiness. Very well balanced and smooth. Not harsh at all, especially for being 11.5%. Nice aftertaste of vanilla that lingers in the mouth. Mouthfeel is full-bodied, velvety smooth and lightly carbonated. A world class beer from a world class brewery. I'm not sure that this could improve any more than it already is. Unless its better with age. I think I may keep some around for that.

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Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Birch.

A - Classic imperial stout look, great lacing, nice brown head, pitch black.

S - Very appealing smell, smoke, charcoal, bitter chocolate.

T - Bitter taste, smokey, pretty complex. Very substantial in abv taste. Very delicious.

M - Fairly creamy and full bodied.

O - Although it may not be one of the best beers around right now, it still earns its reputation as a superb quality beer. Have I had better lately? Maybe. But this is still excellent.

Oh, bullchips. This is awesome.

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Photo of Gfunk720
3.9/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Rogee for this bottle. 12oz 2012 bottle out of my Hill Farmstead Glass.

A- Pitch black in color, pours with a nice tannish mocha head that retreats to a light ring around the glass. Some light lacing, but more of an oily sheen on the inside of the glass.

S- Smells wonderful. A nice combination of roasted malt and some smokey barrel character. Some hints of bourbon, but it is very subdued. Notes of dark fruit, chocolate, and some creamy character.

T- To be honest, it is hard to believe that Expedition stout is the base for this beer, as it has no where near the malt presence. The initial flavor is fizzy, roasted malt and booziness. I get a little chocolate, but the barrel is a little overwhelming. The bourbon does add some vanilla flavor, these may need some time to mellow.

M- A bit fizzy, and a little light bodied. Just feels slightly watery, and doesn't have a whole lot of depth.

O- I wanted to try one of these fresh, and have to say I was slightly let down. Expedition stout is one of my all time favorite stouts, as it is just so full bodied and creamy. I feel like the barrel aging of this beer made it slightly less viscous, and at this point isn't drinking too great. The barrel is really just coming through as heat and overwhelming booziness. I definitely need to sit on a few of these for a while, and see how they develop.

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Photo of SportsandJorts
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Type: Bottle 2012
Glass: Snifter
From: Bell's General Store
Price: $24 a 4-pack

Appearance- Pitch black and opaque. Small tan head the faded pretty quickly and only left a lacing along the side.

Smell- Chocolate, molasses and bourbon, and a touch of sweetness

Taste- Chocolate, brown sugar, bourbon and molasses, with a finish of bitter roasted malts. Perfectly balanced and not lacking in any way.

Mouthfeel- Creamy and thick. Low carbonation and a warming finish. Exactly what it should be.

Overall- This beer is exactly what I want it to be. It is a stout no doubt with the perfect addition of bourbon. Most BBA stouts are taken over by the bourbon, while this is not a terrible thing, it still takes away from the beer. The use of Expedition and Special Double Cream gives it both a smoothness in the body but a slightly bitter finish that is perfect for the style. I couldn't and wouldn't as for anything different in a bourbon barrel aged stout. At $6 a bottle it is definitely a treat but one that I would buy a 4-pack at any opportunity.

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Photo of dbc5
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle poured into 10 ounce Kentucky Bourbon Stout snifter.

A: Motor oil black with a brownish tan head. Moderate pour yields a 1 finger head that recedes fairly quickly but leaves a constant ring around the edges of the glass. Minimal lacing left on the glass.

S: Smells sweet. Picking up vanilla, dark chocolate, brown sugar, and malt sweetness. The bourbon is apparent, but not as assertive as in some bourbon barrel aged stouts.

T: The sweetness in the nose carries over in the taste. Chocolate syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla hit my palate first, then the bourbon makes its presence known. Doesn't carry the same roast character that is present in a beer like Bourbon Barrel Plead the Fifth, falling more on the sweet end of the continuum. The bourbon adds an interesting element to this stout blend and makes for a really nice drinking experience.

M: As expected from a big, barrel aged stout, the carbonation is fairly low in this one. Nice thickness to this beer.

O: Really like this one and thrilled that it is available in 12 ounce bottles. Given that this is a sweeter bourbon barrel stout, the 12 ounce serving size is ideal. I'm nearing the bottom of my glass and am not tiring of the beer at all. My only critique is that I would like a bit more roast character, which is why I would give the edge to a beer like BBPt5th, KBS, or BCBS. Despite that, Black Note does not fall too far below those beers.

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Photo of BlissJunkie
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served at room temp. An aggressively poured head dies down to a thin foam across the beer rather quickly. Whats left reminds you of the sweet crema left atop a well drawn espresso in both the color and body of the dense bubbles of the remaining head. The beer is espresso dark as well.

Vanilla and candied brown sugar are the first things I smell which trail off to sweet bourbon. None of the smells are over powering any of the others. In searching for what sticks out the most, I smell sweet, fresh brewed coffee from a coffee house, not the kind you make at home.

Vanilla and candied brown sugar carry over immediately to the taste. Dark fruit and bourbon take the middle, front of your tongue while coffee and astringency take over the back. The bourbon is everyone but in a soft, well presented manor. It has a good woody flavor that goes along with the bourbon that I really enjoy, almost a smokey flavor.

The mouth feel is great! This beer embodies why I like BBA beers so much. None of the hot/harsh alcohols just smooth woody goodness that pairs great with those vanilla notes.

All in all, its a sweet but balanced beer. It has lots and lots of good qualities but I think I would like it much more with a year in the cellar. It's not as roasty as some of the beers it shares its company with but its better in the sweet department than they are. I try to limit giving fives but it's tempting with this one.

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Photo of codysjb
4.83/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bells Black Note
Poured from a growler into my CCB sniffer.
A: Black as motor oil, low viscosity unlike BCBS. Very good lacing, small head when poured.
S: Chocolate, molasses and coffee notes with an overall bourbon smell.
T:Thick, lots of coffee up front that leaves a nice bourbon flavor on the end.
M: An overall bourbon flavor that coats the mouth.
O: An excellent beer. I think I prefer BCBS (especially when its been aged out a bit and its much easier to get than Bells BN), but pretty amazing.

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Photo of ryanfolty
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Date: March 9, 2012 Mode: Bottle Source: mibirder Description: Opaque jet black pour with nice head and lacing that just sticks to the glass. Aroma is lactose, roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, wood and faint bourbon. Taste is woody, vanilla, and a nice mild bourbon finish. Silky smooth, creamy and medium to full bodied. Thank you Sean for such an amazing beer! Bottle number 965 of 1081, batch 10136.

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Photo of Petcha
4.87/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap at New Bohemia in Minneapolis

A: Dark with a very aesthetically pleasing head, some darker browns swirled with tan.

S: Mostly chocolate with some coffee and bourbon

T: Silky chocolate-coffee with nicely integrated bourbon characteristics, namely vanilla and oak. Very little ethanol coming through

M: Damn near perfect to me when considering this style. Really smooth, velvety with a small touch of alcohol on the tail end to remind you of it's ABV

O: Was really happy to find this on tap and would definitely seek it out again. One of my favorite bourbon barrel aged stouts.

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Photo of aaronplayford
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bought this from the brewery store yesterday; a little exited.

A- pours a deep black with no instant carbonation. Carbonation rises slowly and forms a ring for the duration.

S- smells like sweet fig. Next a touch of bourbon barrel. Ends with a faint smell of graham cracker and possibly licorice. Smells divine.

T- my favorite part. Very well balance between roast/bourbon/ And sweetness. Pleasantly smooth bourbon that rises to the nose aft swallowing. Not much heat at all.
There is a lingering licorice/fig flavor that pleasant.

M-a little sticky, but less than I would have expected. Perfect amount of carbonation. Washes over the tongue with a slight amount of carbonation but doesn't detract from the rich flavor of the beer.

O-dark and Bourbony. Smooth and pleasant to drink. No one flavor is overwhelming. Never pass this beer up.

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.95/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 ml into a tumbler glass.

A- pours black with a 1 finger tan head. Minimal lacing.

S- big chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, some spice.

T- chocolate, roast, bourbon, slight vanilla, with some bitterness near the end.

M- medium body and carbonation. Slightly thinner than other similar BA stouts.

O- good BA stout but doesn't knock your socks off. Nose is slightly better then the taste.

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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 beagle75
3.88/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Draft service into a snifter at The Flying Saucer in Kansas City.

A: Opaque black color with a diminishing residue of light beight bubbles. Scant lacing remains on the glass.

S: Dark chocolate and vanilla are well represented. Little spirit or wood influences transmitted in the smell. No alcohol is detected.

T: Begins very off-dry with rich chocolate and vanilla from the smell as well as dark cherry fruit. Acidity is moderate into the middle as fruit is replaced by some pure roast. Another spike of acidity occurs before the mellow finish fully matures, yielding some late bourbon notes but remaining light on wood and booze.

M: Thick viscosity, creamy but slightly acidic on the palate, with moderate carbonation.

D/O: Best categorized as a dessert beer--it is not as assertive on the palate as some stouts that are born 'imperial' then givven the bourbon barrel treatment. Entirely respectable, it would serve well as a gateway to the world of barrel aged beers.

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Photo of ehammond1
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5


Acquired via trade
Thanks, Shilt!

Black throughout and thick in body. A very small hint of a head consisting of very smell dark brown bubbles. Very little visible carbonation, but still a menacingly appropriate, beautiful, thick barrel-aged stout. It just looks right.

The aroma is incredible. Big, layered notes of chocolate abound, along with rich, expressive, espresso and subdued bourbon. There's a hint of an alcohol kick but it's tame considering this beer's ABV. There's some mellowed bourbon notes as well, but the chocolate and coffee are quite dominant.

The flavor is boldly expressive; it's an incredible combination of chocolates, espresso, cream, vanilla, and integrated bourbon. The alcohol is present but not distracting. Remarkably drinkable.

Full in body. Creamy. Decadent. Rich.

I had 2 10 oz. pours and was regretting not drinking more. But, hey, sharing is caring. Amazing stuff, and very generous of Shilt to get it out my way. Thanks, again!

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Photo of tempest
4.1/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had a large snifter at Republic in Seven Corners. Overall, a delicious stout and well worth the $8, but I though the character was relatively dull for everything that's been put into it. The bourbon barrel character is smooth, and pleasant with oaky vanilla, but it sits in the background behind even smoother cocoa malts. It's almost like it's too balanced, with few flavors really standing out. I'll admit though, I'm being hard on this very tasty beer. I just don't think it drinks up to its potential.

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Photo of Weli
3.98/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On Tap at the Republic West Bank MSP

A-Pitch black beer with thin tan head, just enough to lace the rim leaving the center of the pint obsidian black

S-Can definitely tell the bourbon from a mile away. Oak, velvet, dark cocoa, vanilla and bourbon with an estery British stout character

T-Kinda overpowering, Very sweet malt character, balanced by dark chocolate, espresso with body from the oak tannins and bourbon. Underlain by vanilla notes.

M-Thick and cloying

O-I much prefer the expedition stout to black note even though black note contains some expedition stout. This beer is excellent, but even 8oz is a bit much at one sitting really belongs in a snifter glass served as an appertif or with a dessert course. It is very sweet while at the same time assertively bitter. A very complex beer, I nonetheless might skip the oak barrels or age longer as the flavors as presented are somewhat discordant.

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.18/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tumbler at Firkin.

Review #2800! Solidarity rolls on for me with a beer I've been looking forward to for a long time. This stuff pours a straight obsidian topped by a finger of dark brown foam. The nose comprises bourbon, toasted wood, caramel, and roasted malts. The taste brings in more of the same, along with a touch of dark chocolate syrup. The body is a hefty medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a lightly chewy feel. Overall, a damn tasty stout. To me, the barrel is a bit overpowering compared to everything else, but it somehow doesn't go too far in this way. Good times, indeed.

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Photo of hooliganlife
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

@stlhops 5th anniversary PaRtY

poured dark thick black, little dark cocoa head. very viscous looking.

some chocolate, light vanilla, and light roasted malt. the BA was there but lighter than i was expecting.

similar to nose, a bit like a BA expedition or expedition blended with double cream, but all 3? i guess... i thought this was tame, it was good but lacked a deep complexity. the BA was soft and subtle. the chocolate and coffee were faint. did not really pick up any oak.

thick, creamy, and chewy. great mouthfeel. no heat at all.

it was good but not worth the effort to seek out.

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Photo of rodkin
4.02/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Got a pour at the STLhops anniversary party.

Looks like a stout. Black, smallish head. Poured into a tasting glass so I couldn't get a great sense, but it's nothing special.

Smell is vanilla, coffee, bit of chocolate, some oak, roasty bitterness, some dark fruits. It's pretty good, but it's a bit muddled. Not a lot of balance.

Taste gets better as it warms. Vanilla, coffee, bourbon, oak, caramel. Really rich, very tasty.

Mouthfeel was too thin and flat. I don't want it to be hypercarbonated, but more than it has would be good. It's also too watery. I like my stouts to be thick and chewy, which this was not.

This is a solid stout. However, the mouthfeel was really lacking, and it was a bit unbalanced. A bit disappointing. I'd like to try it again sometime, maybe get a better experience.

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Photo of pixieskid
3.6/5  rDev -20%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to Fux for sharing this bottle last night. Has been on my list of rare Imp. Stouts for some time, glad to cross it off. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same experience...

Pours an almost black color with a thin white head, dissipating quite quickly.

Nose; bourbon, oak, charcoal, and some dark fruits.

Taste; bourbon upfront with a touch of bakers chocolate, I too got peanut butter, finishing with a ton of burnt malt and a slight salinity (reminiscent of soy sauce but not like 09' Abyss).

Mouthfeel; oily and surprisingly thin. This can happen with barrel treatments (i.e. Boris vs. BA Boris is the best example off the top of my head) but I think it comes from the Double Cream Stout aspect of the beer as well.

Overall; I wasn't a fan but I will admit, I have been a bit under the weather lately so I know my palate isn't quite up to par...

Retried a bottle of 2013 and can say that the initial review was so low because of the fact that the beer was oxidized. This recent bottle was much better but still not very impressive. The thin body and overly boozy aspect from the barrel aging didnt do much for me. Decent example of the style but over rated and no better than any other barrel aged imperial stout out there.

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Photo of Fux
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

From the bottle (234/1081). Batch #10136
A: Pitch black with a thin mocha head that leaves some lacings.
S: Smell is mainly of heavy dark chocolate with dried fruits (currants, figs) and some dark fruits. Some roasted aromas (almonds, espresso). Vanilla comes after.Some nuts also (cashew nuts, peanut butter). The presence of alcohol is noticeable but not overpowering (notes of sherry). Deep but not aggressive. Elegant.
T: The taste mainly follows the nose with a lot of dark chocolate and roasted malts (coffee flavors). Some vanilla. Warming alcohol but without booziness. The aftertaste is on sweet chocolate and bitter chocolate.
M: Medium to high body. Almost flat. Quite velvety. It could be thicker and a bit smoother. A bit sticky on the length, but very drinkable.
O: A great, elegant imperial stout, with an excellent nose, flavorful and deep, still sober on the palate.

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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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Photo of cfrances33
4.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Bell's Eccentric Cafe, served in a snifter.

Pour: Pitch black, with a half finger of deep khaki head. Nice legs, and this beer is a little more splashy than the pitch black body would tell you.

Smell: Really nice vanilla bourbon, with a distinct roastiness, and creamy milk chocolate. A touch of dark fruits.

Taste: Wow. Bourbon vanilla bomb up front. Nice sweet milk chocolate creaminess, which mixes with roasted malts. Creamy vanilla bourbon finishes.

Mouthfeel: Not too heavy, and just a touch of bourbon heat. Really nice carbonation, which play well with the creamy flavors.

Overall: Awesome beer, definitely looking forward to having this again.

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Photo of coreyfmcdonald
3.99/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Porter Beer Bar, re-reviewed from a 2012 12oz bottle

A: Pours pitch black with two fingers of off white head. Retention is decent.

S: Strong bourbon upfront, I get dark chocolate, caramel, and licorice behind. Dark fruit in the background adds to the complexity. The aromas mix very well together.

T: Again, strong bourbon and caramel upfront, this time there is more coffee and roast to balance. I get a bit of lactose sweetness to give a bit more sweetness. I also get quite a bit of dark chocolate, intensifying as the beer warms. The beer always stays on the roasty/coffee side, but is very well balanced.

M: A bit on the thin side for the style with low carbonation. Definitely the worst part of this beer, but not terrible.

O: With a bit thicker mouthfeel, this would be significantly better. It still balances roast, bourbon, and chocolate extremely well, better than just about any other barrel aged stout that I've had.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 557 ratings.