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

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

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BA SCORE
99
world-class

548 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 548
Hads: 3,677
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 2.45%
Wants: 2,550
Gots: 937 | 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: 548 | Hads: 3,677
Photo of jale
4.67/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap during All Stouts day at the brewery.

A: Pours black with little light brown head.

S: Bourbon, tons of malt and a hint of coffee.

T: Bourbon, malt and more malt. Very complex. Roasted coffee and a hint of chocolate. I get more of the double cream stout then the expedition in the base of this. Very smooth and creamy. Finish is coffee and hop bitterness.

M: Lighter side of thick with average carbonation. Very creamy.

O: So much flavor without being overly thick. Goes down well for a higher ABV stout. (519 characters)

Photo of JDizzle
4.27/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Enjoyed this at Bell's Eccentric Cafe. Still on tap the day after "All Stouts Day". Score!!!!

A:black as nite, with a roasted brown head. Oily looking.

S:chocolate, coffee, bourbon, oak, multi-dimensional smelling beer. Not too much of one smell disracts from the whole experience. It smells amazing!

T: the ultimate!!! So smooth with a prominent bourbon barrel flavor that compliments the expo and cream that come together. One of the best BB stouts I have had.

Mouthfeel is oily, full with medium carbs.

Overall, I can't say enough about this beer. I have been wanting to try this for a while now and feel lucky to have had it.

On a good note: the lady working the bar said they shitloads of this and we should see more of it around this year!! (756 characters)

Photo of kbutler1
4.45/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Draft. FINALLY, I am able to try this beer! On tap at ABR. Pours a pitch black brown color with a light tan collared head. Dark Chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of earthy leather aroma. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Roast coffee adds some bitterness, dark chocolate, vanilla, all very well balanced together. Ends with a slight lingering bitterness. I find myself continuing to go back to Bell’s tent to try this one and everytime is just as enjoyable as the last. The 10.5% is there but well incorporated and is not abrasive at all. (528 characters)

Photo of camil1mj
4.53/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Detroit Fall Beer Fest. I had a good 8 oz pour as a buddy if mine who is not into BA stouts gave me his pour.

A: Dark as you would expect. Reddish/brown creamy, foam head.

S: Wonderful coffee, chocolate and bourbonntones.

T: Wonderfully balanced. Exactly as described. I can pick up the Expedition and the Double Cream....followed by wonderful barrel aged wonderfullness.

M: Creamy and smooth. Medium carbonation.

O: 2nd best of the day to BA Plead the 5th. Best Bell's I have ever had. Here's crossing my fingers I get a bottle or 2 when it is released. (574 characters)

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

Big thanks to urbancaver for bringing this to a tasting - long time want of mine.

It pours black with light head - oily looking as expected. The nose has a lot of expedition in it tempered with a nice smooth bourbon backing. The bourbon comes through nicely in the taste as well smoothing out the rough edges of the expo and not bringing too much butter to the party. There is some nice chocolate and coffee as well and it all comes together nicely. Balanced and tasty. Smooth in the mouth, just right on the carbonation with just a hint of heat. Expo is one of my standby beers so I've been dying to try this and it did not disappoint. Very damn good. (653 characters)

Photo of BeerAndBourbon
4.28/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A. Pours black with a small creamy tan head that leaves small bits of residual lacing.

S. dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon,

T. tons of espresso, dark chocolate, bourbon

M. Big creamy thick body with nice carbonation, a touch harsh

D. quite bitter with lots of dark chocolate and espresso notes. Very good, but a bit disappointing from what I was expecting. (366 characters)

Photo of Urbancaver
4.54/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thank you thank you to my special friend for this one...

Pours a pitch black wih some nice white head. Looks pretty. Well carbonated. Smells rich and chocolatey. Buttery bourbon and a nice roastiness. The aroma is top notch. Tastes Roasty. Lots of expo not so much double special cream. The taste is a bit bitter from the roast. Good solid mouthfeel. Well carbonated. Overall solid but a bit to roug around the edges. (418 characters)

Photo of brew3crew
4.64/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Tasting at Jackie O's. Out of a hand bottle

A-black body with tan head that sticks around for a while

S-sweet bourbon vanilla. Absolutely incredible

T-great blend of smoothness vanilla and bourbon. Definetly worth the buzz

M-medium body and smooth

O-absolutely brilliant. I know know what the buzz is about (312 characters)

Photo of Jayli
4.25/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured in to a pint glass

A: This beer pours an opaque black with a 1/4 inch of medium brown head. Head recedes almost immediately. No lacing to speak of.

S: Nose is woody oak, bourbon, vanilla, roasted malts and light chocolate notes.

T: Taste starts with roasted malts and licorice, dark fruits. Oak and bourbon come through.... lots of bourbon, but not overpowering with a slight vanilla character. The bourbon flavoring is blended nicely. Nice deep bitter chocolate towards the finish. Aftertaste has lingering coffee notes to it.

M: Medium to fuller body, moderate carbonation, smooth, silky body.

O: Goes down easily, very tasty, not too filling, well hidden kick, great representation of style. I have looked forward to this brew for quite some time and did not disappoint. (788 characters)

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

Review 50.

A - Black as night...blah blah. But it is a good inch head on a 10oz pour.

S - Bourbon...and hot. Smells of sweet woods, and alcohol. not to be shocked at the ABV.

T - Its a smoother Expo stout. But nothing like expo stout. Leather and mahogany, following by some burnt sugar and bourbon. Slightly burning.

M - Double Cream shines here. It is very much a filling mouth feel. Hot though, ABV is present.

O - Not the best BA stout I have had. That is still BCS rare. But, this is up there, and unique because of the mouth feel. Not as complex in the noise or taste however. (588 characters)

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

On tap at bells eccentric cafe. A long desired beer that I was pleasantly surprised to find on tap here. Pours nearly black with creamy tan head. Nose of chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla. Taste of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, wood...very smooth flavors that are well integrated. You can taste the dark fruit qualities of the Expedition Stout underneath the barrel aging here. Thick body with low/medium carbonation. Overall, an outstanding ba stout. Would be great to see this in bottles. (485 characters)

Photo of fvernon
4.12/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on-tap at a recent Bell's event, unfortunately they had just run out of appropriate glassware and poured this lovely brew into a red wine glass at a colder temperature than I was expecting. Luckily my second glass came in a tall Bell's tulip.

Black Note is the color of dark chocolate with a head that looks like liquified wheat - a light brown that had broken down into a cling around the side of the glass and a few frog's eyes by the time I had walked back to my table. I had to sit a while (5 minutes or so) to let it warm, and then the scent really started to show: bourbon, malt, burnt sugar and toasted vanilla with a slight hint of fruit... is that apricot?

My sips started while it was still too cold... the burnt sugar was overwhelming at keg temps, but as it warmed up the bourbon and double cream stout notes moved forward. The double cream comes through much stronger than the expedition, but this is a unique offering apart from either - most notable is the slight bitterness, as if vanilla beans were roasted before being added for aging. The mouthfeel was lighter than I was expecting, but not any lighter than barrel-aging typically imparts. It leaves the beer drinkable in larger sips than I probably should have been taking, and the glass was gone before I knew it. Not quite in the same vein as a few other BA imperial stouts (KBS on tap is still the smoothest I've had the pleasure of drinking), but delicious nonetheless.

Most importantly, this was my first beer of the night (I wasn't about to let the Black Note run out while I drank something else), and something odd happened: after that, everything I drank (save the Oracle) had stout notes to it. A total palate take-over happened! If you're going to have the chance to try a Black Note, it gets better glass after glass... but everything else tastes like drinking through a BA Imperial Stout filter. be forewarned. (1,904 characters)

Photo of jmarsh123
4.38/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had at the Bell's tap takeover at Yogi's out of a snifter. The two guys next to us were drinking Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss. I don't know what to say.

Pours a jet black with a small tan head that immediately fades away.

Smells of bourbon with a little oak and vanilla thrown into the mix.

There is a strong bourbon presence throughout the taste with vanilla and bitter roasted malts as well. There's also a little bit of a smooth creaminess to it, I'm guessing from the Double Cream Stout.

Thick and viscous mouthfeel. Lots of sludge.

Very good beer, but doesn't quite achieve Holy Grail status for me. The alcohol was not especially well hidden which I don't mind, but it knocks it down just a tick. A very good combo of two already good beers though and a very complex delightful treat. (792 characters)

Photo of KickInTheChalice
4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served on tap in a cervoise at the Great Taste of the Midwest. I have anticipated trying this for three years, so needless to say, I am excited.

Appearance: My pour is an ebony black color with a modest creamy tan head. As I would expect with the high ABV, the cap fades rather quickly and leaves just a few dots of lace on the glass.

Smell: The aroma does not jump out of the glass, but it is full and complex. Lots of roasted malt and chocolate fudge are noticeable, with coffee and cream, subdued bourbon notes, and some raisins or other dark fruits as well.

Taste: The blend here is just fantastic. It is difficult to describe the intricacy of the interaction of the flavors, but I will do my best. A light bourbon presence exists throughout, so each flavor melds in with that base. Full, deep, almost burnt roasted malt create the deepest bitterness and set the tone for the rest of the flavors. The taste lightens up with some creamy coffee notes. Still bitter, but light and creamy as well. From there, gooey fudge makes an appearance, sticking with a full creamy flavor. The bitter, creamy, and sweet flavors all work well with the bourbon to create different sensations. Some vanilla, oak, molasses, and anise add even further complexity.

Mouthfeel: Luxuriously thick and creamy. Using double cream stout really smooths out any rough edges in the feel. Lightly sticky sweet, a touch of oaky dryness toward the end. Creamy carbonation, a deceptive lack of alcohol presence, and a full body.

Overall: Wow, this is pretty incredible. This is definitely an artful blend of two already good beers. The result capitalizes on the strengths of both beers - creamy and roasty, with the perfect amount of bourbon to blend everything together. This was tapped right as the rain started to come down at GTMW, so it was easy to get several pours as long as you were willing to venture out into the rain. Worth every effort to get it, and I would recommend putting forth any effort necessary to try this beer. (2,012 characters)

Photo of seeswo
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed a pour at the GTotMW 2011. Poured into the special taster glass. Very dark with a cocoa powder head. Looks great. The nose is big vanilla, bourbon and chocolate with some roasty goodness. Just a touch of oak as well. Dark chocolate, bourbon, vanilla and roast are the dominant flavors. Again, just a touch of oak. Very smooth, creamy and actually somewhat low-key in flavor. Good, creamy body with a low-medium carbonation is very nice for a BA Imperial Stout that is not overly sweet. This beer is more impressive in its balance, ease of drinking and mouthfeel than it is for its huge flavors or substantial complexities. Very enjoyable and glad I was able to give this a run. A buddy and I liked GL BA Blackout better, which were darn near side-by-side, but that isn't and indictment on the Black Note. (812 characters)

Photo of Chriscrundwell12
4.67/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured on tap at the Great Taste of the Midwest 2011. 5 oz pour into a tasting glass.

A- Pitch black color, opaque, one finger tan head that dissipates to a nice tan layer on top, nice lacing on the side.
S- The aroma is fantastic, roasted malts, chocolate, vanilla, nice bourbon aroma that is very balanced in this beer.
T- The taste is even better than the aroma, really nice roasted flavors, bourbon and vanilla come out perfectly, some dark fruits are in the background, chocolate, roasted malts, coffee, oak, love this beer, everything I was expecting and more.
M- Medium/big mouth feel, really smooth and creamy, coats the palate.
O- This was one of the highlights of the festival for me. Bell’s tapped this beer at 5 pm, so it was one of the last beers I had at the festival. Got in line in time to get a good spot and waited as the the rain began to come down. This beer is very tasty, well balanced and complex, will seek this beer out any chance I can. (966 characters)

Photo of dirtylou
4.35/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

on-tap, Maduro-Madison

cellphone notes

appearance: served in a (short pour) bells pint glass, dark ebony body, creamy chocolatey head

smell: creamy chocolate waves, bourbon, vanilla, nice and roasty

taste: I think I've had this blend in years past, possibly before the black note name was branded. This one lasted until about 4pm on the eve of the GTOTM '11. A lot of the edge of expedition is cut by the double cream and barrel, which I think is a good think. Smooth and creamy, bourbon and vanilla more subtle than others, molasess, oak, dark chocolate, espresso.

mouthfeel: smooth, rich and creamy

taste: very good - tick it off the list (646 characters)

Photo of Franch
4.25/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

this is the famed blend between expedition stout and double cream stout, all aged in bourbon barrels. expedition, of course, is the big big stout with big dark roasty malty goodness. double cream is pretty self-explanatory. what isn't self-explanatory is the tying of these two together. how can you lose? the big roasts and big malts combine with the velvety softness of a double cream stout and the vanilla notes and are wrapped in a big bow of love with the bourbon. it lacks the complexity of other world-class BA stouts like a.b. hunahpu's, but is still an all-star. if i lived in michigan still, i'd be picking it up whenever possible. (641 characters)

Photo of surlytheduff
4.35/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap last night at Ashley's in Ann Arbor, as part of a Bell's 25th tap takeover celebration. I (thankfully) received the second to last glass of the night, as the keg kicked shortly after I sat down. The Black Note was brewed in 2008, and the keg had been in storage at a distributors cooler for the last year.

The beer was served in a 333ml tulip filled near to the brim, with no head. The liquid was piano black and looked to be quite viscous. The beer left a ring of film on the sides of the sides of the glass as I drank it.

There were pronounced notes of bourbon and dark, roasted malts in the nose. Behind that there were hints of vanilla, oak and sweet chocolate. The taste was outstanding. I was struck at how well balanced the blend was. The double cream stout mated with the Expedition in a pure harmony of taste. As Larry Bell commented to me "Sometimes one plus one equals three". There were elements of caramel, vanilla and chocolate on the sweet end, and dark roasted chewy malts on the other end. Tieing both sides together was the subtle bourbon flavor.

The mouthfeel was very silky and smooth, with just the right amount of slightly prickly carbonation. The heat from the alcohol was perfectly subdued and appropriate. I hope that one day the good folks at Bell's will bottle up this masterpiece so that a greater number of folks can experience the goodness that is Black Note. (1,409 characters)

Photo of Rifugium
4.53/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

First had: on tap at City Tap House, Philly, PA

First (and only at the time of this review) keg to come to Philly!

Served in a snifter, dark brown to black, opaque, with a minimal tan head. Aroma was luscious with dark malts, licorice, vanilla and chocolate; some alcohol noticeable. Taste was rich with malts, dark chocolate, sweet sugars, bourbon-soaked wood; strong in flavor and booze; quite simply amazing all around. Nicely thick and creamy, full bodied. Highly drinkable, and among of the best stouts I've had. (519 characters)

Photo of psychotia
4.57/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Stubs and Herbs, review from notes.

A: I'm not going to go too in-depth, as the 7oz-ish pour was served in a 7oz snifter (filled to the brim). It was very black and had no head.

S: Bourrrbon! Vanilla, oak, and did I say bourbon?

T: omg. This is insane. Initially, all I can sense it the bourbon, but that fades into strong chocolate notes with a hint of oak... but wait, it's not done as it finishes with a HUGE blast of vanilla. Wow... this is an EXPERIENCE!

M: Thick & creamy (maybe even double-creamy). Yum!

D: Oh the 7oz didn't last long, but I don't think I would have lasted much longer had I ordered another!

If ever I have the opportunity to drink this again, I will not miss it. Put this on my "top 5." (727 characters)

Photo of Kegatron
4.72/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ The Great Taste of the Midwest (Madison, WI) on 8/14/10. Several samples served in a tasting mug.

Pours a dense black, with a rich topping of dark mocha colored head. This quickly fizzles out however, leaving a black and still surface staring back at me. The aroma is packed with chocolate fudge, creamy smelling sweetness, sticky molasses character, and a DEEP burnt roastiness to it in the back. The sweet tang this puts off in the nostrils is just fabulous.

The taste is bitter and blackened tasting at first with roast and coffee, being quickly followed by the luscious sweet tang of chocolate, vanilla, and sticky charred molasses, before diving into a heady roasted finish and lingering notes of green woody tannins. Just the right amount of charred bourbon flavor is present without any kind of excessive heat. The mouthfeel is full, thick, and chewy and is hiding it's ABV VERY well. Nuff said!

Badass in a glass sums this up perfectly and I was really glad to finally get to try this one again. An awesome BA blend here and it's definitely one of the best I've had from Bell's. (1,101 characters)

Photo of beerwolf77
4.6/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Yeah I'm reviewing it off my 6oz pour from the GTOM. When the hell else would I be able to tick a beer this epic?

Pours black as coal and thick as burnt motor oil. No head no lace. No surprise there. It is called "black" note.

The aroma is very sweet. Like melted chocolate mixed with coffee and bourbon. Traces of black licorice and prunes.

The flavor is right where I had hoped it would be. Loads of sweet dark chocolate and coffee. The bourbon is mild but present. Moderate smoked barrel in the finish. Spot on perfection in my book.

Full thick and chewy body. Carbonation is looking for a life raft in this beer. It's there but struggling.

Overall maybe not a religous experiance but spectacular none the less. Made my day I was able to finally try this. (766 characters)

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

Tap pour at the Great Taste of the Midwest 2010. Been looking forward to trying this one for some time!

(A)- Pours a fairly thick pitch black color with a decent brown head that stuck around for awhile. Bits of lacing here and there too.

(S)- A rich chocolate and licorice aroma with bits of molasses and raisin. A good roasted profile behind that with light hints at a bread component.

(T)- Very similar to the smell. The chocolate in the smell combined with the licorice creates a light bitter yet sweet profile at the same time. Some molasses. The chocolate flavor is great in the background. Dynamic.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance. Thick, but also smooth which is great for the style. A good feel and profile with a light warmth going down.

(D)- A fascinating beer that they need to bottle and sell in the future; they would make a killing off of it! One of bells best and most unique. One of the highlights of the event.
**Update. Having had this quite a few times now on tap, I feel that this just gets better and better on my list of the better stouts out there in the market today. Because of this, I definitely think this deserves a bump up from my initial review in the overall rating (from an initial 4.5 overall rating).** (1,253 characters)

Photo of Durge
4.39/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

Yet another goodie at Stub & Herb's in Minneapolis, MN . This shows a solid black brown color with a modest tan head and decent lacing. The aroma says cabernet and sour coffee with a hint of licorice. Awesome and fairly intense. The flavor is an incredible medley of coffee cherry chocolate with wonderful root hints that suggest Vicks Formula 44. There is an herbal hop bite here that blends with the medicinal qualities. This is full bodied and sliky feeling with some resinous qualities perhaps. Minute but very tangy carbonation. Not highly drinkable at all, just too intense but very tasty. There's raisin and juniper and the blend is superb. And I thought the Expedition alone would be unbeatable...Wow! (709 characters)

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 548 ratings.