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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: 3,732
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,597
Gots: 953 | 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
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Reviews: 557 | Hads: 3,732
Photo of adnielsen
4.92/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had two snifters of this on tap at Bells back in November. It has a deep black appearance with a light brown head. The aroma was fantastic with smooth, sweet bourbon, toffee, dark chocolate, and oak. The flavor was even tastier and was quite smooth for the abv. Tons of caramel, dark chocolate, toffee, and vanilla to go along with the oaky, bourbon elements. I couldn't believe how smooth this was. Excellent.

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Photo of tpd975
4.92/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Hand bottle provided by gunhaver.

A: Pours a very dark shade of flat black, no head.

S: Wonderful earthy aromas up front. Lots of wood, like fresh cut trees in a forest. There were hints of char, bourbon, vanilla and dark fruit.

T: Barrel flavors right from the start. Fresh oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Chocolate and dark fruit are there along with light cream and a touch of ash.

M: Full bodied, low carbonation

D: Awesome. Really tasty complex beer. Not the most tasty of the stouts we tasted tonight, but was the most complex.

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Photo of stdaniel
4.91/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle served at 45 degrees. Sipped slowly to allow the flavors to develop.

A: Pitch black with the slightest caramel colored head that quickly reduces to nothing.

S: Sweet bourbon, caramel, vanilla.

T: Very similar to the nose. Sweet bourbon and caramel dominate, vanilla in the background. Balanced enough for the unrefined palate such as mine to distinguish individual flavors.

M: Creamy. Not bite for a 11.5% stout.

O: Holy smokes, this has to be one of the best balanced BBA stouts I've tasted. The taste and aroma are harmonious. Luxurious mouthfeel. I've said balanced three times now and it is absolutely true.

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Photo of carolynschaf
4.91/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pitch dark body, as the name implies. Distinguished oak aroma and rich molasses taste makes for one of the best barrel-aged stouts you can find, if you can find it.

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Photo of JohnG190
4.91/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours pitch black with a thin mocha head. Good lacing.
Gobs of bourbon in the nose, with notes of vanilla, toasted coconut, chocolate, licorice, coffee and roasted malt with it. A lot going on in the aroma of this beer!
The bourbon is not as assertive on the palate as it was on the nose, but it is most certainly there. With the bourbon comes vanilla, licorice, and toasted coconut. At 11.5%, the alcohol is very well hidden. The bourbon lasts a long time. Starts sweet and finishes slightly bitter. The palate is as complex as the aroma. This is one silky smooth beer, it's got a big body with almost no carbonation. Overall, one of the finest examples of a BA stout I've ever had!

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Photo of ralflord
4.9/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoying this with a buddy. Holy moly! Unbeliveably black with no head. The smell was creamy, vanilla, and bourbony. It made me think of what heaven would be like. The mixture was perfect, the blended beers complimenting each other like a great rythym section. Coltrane's Impulse years comes to mind. The beer finished incredibly strong, with a sublime taste that will rest on my palate for a long time. This is an all-time great beer. If you have the means I highly suggest you try it. It is so choice.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.89/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On tap at The Blue Door Pub in St. Paul, MN. Served in a 10 oz. goblet glass.

Appearance: Color is a oily jet black. Moderate amount of bubbles. About one finger of deep tan creamy head that recedes to a very thin layer. Decent amount of lacing is left on the glass.

Smell: Big scent of bourbon whiskey up front with good hints of vanilla, wood, and oak. Sweet dark malts with big hints of dark chocolate, coffee, dark toasted bread, molasses, burnt caramel, toffee, and biscuit. A fair amount of syrup and burnt sugars. Subtle hints of dark raisin, plum, fig, and cherry. A light hint of smoke and earthy hops. The bourbon and sweet chocolate stand out the most. A big and rich aroma.

Taste: Just as big and complex as the aroma leads. Nicely dark, sweet, and boozy. Big taste of bourbon whiskey up front with good notes of vanilla, oak chips, and the whiskey barrel. A little bit of smoke. Big dark roasted malts with notes of dark chocolate, bitter coffee, toasted bread and biscuit, sweet molasses and syrup, burnt caramel, and toffee. Undertones of dark fruits including dark cherry, plum, and raisin. Subtle earthy hops in the background. The bourbon and dark chocolate elements really stand out. Rich and very good taste.

Mouthfeel: A fairly heavy body with a moderate amount of carbonation. Thick, creamy, and fairly slick and syrupy. Some alcohol heat is present but its not overly hot.

Overall: A really great barrel aged imperial stout. The bourbon flavor is big and great and the dark chocolate and molasses sweetness is very good.

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Photo of Moheban
4.89/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle dated 12/28/12 poured into snifter

A: very little carbonation, tiny ring around the rim only.

S: smells like sweet malt, notes of coffee, dark chocolate

T: dark chocolate covered espresso beans . Starts off sweet, with some dark fruit, dark chocolate flavors, then ends with some coffee-like bitterness and bourbon-alcohol. much sweeter than some of the other beers in its class, almost as sweet as a barleywine. Alcohol is somehwhat present, but masked by the sweetness. Very complex.

M: very thick and creamy.

O: quite the treat. Wish we had bells in Cali. Up there with KBS and BCBS.

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Photo of Dolphinsmarlins1
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2014 bottle. Poured into a snifter. Very smooth, despite the high ABV...dangerously deceptive. Awesome flavors despite not possessing the boozy heat one would expect from the style. Very sweet. I want another.

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Photo of SaisonRichBiere
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served on draft, post Bell's tap-takeover at Aubree's in Northville, MI.

Appearance- Oily and dark, viscous, but a shade lighter than other BA stouts. Dark, dark espresso brown. One finger of beige head yields to a foamy veil atop the brew. As you drink, it dissipates further into a halo around the glass, leaving lots of lacing on the glass.

Smell- Caramel-coffee-toffee-creme brûlée. Big complex nose with a hint of bourbon heat. Roasty, roasty malts creep in. This smells awesome. One of the best.

Taste- Big boozy hit. Surprisingly more red wine than bourbon here. Fruity booze yields to a smooth 80 proof bourbon finish. What follows is awesome. Roasty espresso, big caramelly dark chocolate notes- think a chocolate riesen candy. Big strong Madagascar vanilla, creme brûlée and a blunt, dry roasty malt finish. Amazing.

Mouthfeel- Oily, smooth, creamy. A mouth-coating tingly whiskey burn that you really don't want to go away. Akin to the style with just a bit more.

Overall. One of the best, hands down. Extremely grateful that I was able to stumble on this (surprisingly) left over from a tap-takeover. The description does it justice, but this beer is so much more. If you have a chance to try this, try it. It will not disappoint. I thought CBS was the bar for the style, but this changes things. A shred more accessible than others of its ilk, this brings more Michigan BA stout firepower to the table. Drink this. Period. Thanks a ton Bell's!

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Photo of Samichlaus82
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours oily pitch black with a small dark mocha head that slowly dissipates without leaving much trace on the glass. Smell is slightly sweet and malty with roasted malts, quality dark chocolate, dark bread, burnt caramel, charred wood, black pepper, bourbon, coconut, vanilla fudge, asphalt, toffee and hints of sweet liquorice. Taste is sweet and malty with roasted malts, roasted coconut, quality dark chocolate, sweetened dark roast coffee, vanilla fudge, charred wood, lactose, bourbon, toffee, nutella and hints of alcohol. Mouthfeel is soft, creamy, smooth, balanced, silky and full bodied. Finish is slightly sweet and bitter with roasted malts, quality dark chocolate, dark roast coffee, vanilla fudge, roasted coconuts, charred wood and bourbon. Great balance and smooth silky mouthfeel adds up to a great experience.

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

First off, let me say my thanks to Larry Bell for making this gem, and thanks to The Party Town for making this available for growler fills.
That being said, wow, what a treat! I’m a huge expedition fan, so this beer is what I’m all about. Pours a dark brown with a slight head that recedes quickly after pouring. This is possibly one of the best noses I’ve ever had come from a beer. I spent quite a bit of time sniffing this one. Smell is velvety bourbon, with notes of chocolate and espresso coffee. The taste is incredible. Think bourbon barrel aged Expedition with a very creamy and silky finish due to the Double Cream. This is the perfect combination, everything is working incredbily together. If bottled this would rival and give Kentucky Breakfast a run for its money. Very happy that I had the chance to enjoy this, but very sad as well, because the chances of coming across this rare gem again is small.

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Photo of PsilohsaiBiN
4.87/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 bottle, much thanks to JerryM1984!

Appearance: Dark opaque with a small tan head that quickly recedes to the perimeter. Lots of little bubbles, nice.

Smell: Rich chocolate, vanilla, coconut, dark fruit, Bourbon. Amazing.

Taste: Wow, just wow. First, I get intense fudge brownie like chocolate richness with some coconut and Bourbon in the background. Afterwards in the middle of the drink, the Bourbon asserts itself more and overpowers the chocolate. In the end, the chocolate pops out again as the Bourbon subsides and leads into a smooth, balanced ending of chocolate and Bourbon. There's a background element of vanilla/coconut present throughout the whole drink.

I honestly can't find anything wrong with this; the booze is just hidden so well.

Mouthfeel: Velvety and silky smooth; just about perfect. Not as viscous as BCBS, yet definitely fuller in body than say KBS.

Overall: I don't know if I like this as much as BCBS, but it's damn close! There's just not much to dislike in this beer, even if you try to find things; this beer blew me away. Can't wait til' Bell's distro hits NY!

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

12 oz bottle, served cellar temp in a Tyranena tulip, split with my dad

A - pours a silky black with mocha head, leaving slight lacing

S - aroma is fantastic- bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, very well balanced, best I've encountered in awhile

T - again, expertly balanced with chocolate,, malt, and bourbon, nothing overpowering.

M - thick, smooth as silk, minimal alcohol

O - fantastic, I feel lucky to have found a bottle, easily one of the best stouts I've come across

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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 macher0
4.86/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Damn near room temp. Purchased and consumed at the Grale Haus in Louisville.

A. Poured jet black with a fine bubble amber head that retreats to an amber rim. Slight effervescence. Not especially thick (but maybe the serving temp is a factor).

S. Awesome. Some dark roasted malts, toffee, vanilla, dried figs, and BOURBON.

T. The taste certainly follows the nose. Dark roasted malts, bourbon soaked oak, vanilla, figs. Minor notes of coco and coffee. Some sweetness from the aging but not overpowering or negative. A little dusty. Not hot at all.

M. Way smooth. Moderate carbonation - especially for the style. Heavy body. Slightly oily.

O. Well done. A super well crafted ale, top to bottom. They just brought it from the cellar and threw it directly on the shelf. I went for it without refrigeration, but if a beer could hold up to that, this is the one. This is not boozey beyond what is expected. I feel perfection is unattainable but one cannot get any better in the taste and mouthfeel metrics.

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Photo of Docrock
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Served on tap at Bell's Eccentric cafe in a 12 oz snifter:

A - dark as midnight with a nice mocha colored head, nice sticky lacing and a thin cap remain

S - very complex, dark roasted malt, light coffee, nice BA note with a touch of bittersweet chocolate and burnt sugar.

T - Wow, it changes as you hold it in your mouth. Creamy and thick with the bittersweet chocolate and dark roasted malt, just a touch of coffee.

M - thick and chewy, not overly carbonated. Was served a bit on the cool side for me so I let it sit a bit and warmed with my hands.

O - what a great beer, I preferred it a bit warmer than it was served. The favors and aroma really opened up around 50F. Glad to not only have it on tap, but to get some bottles to age a bit. At least for me, this is the finest stout I have ever tasted.

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

This beer if bottled would be in my fridge constantly.
I texted my friend from the bar that I was drinking the best beer ever.

A: dark, thin tan head. It looked browner than some black stouts, like it was just happy tasting great that it didn't need to be black as night.

s: rich, creamy smell, obviously bb aged.

T: So Good. Everything was in perfect balance. Rich malts make this beer sweet, the barrels have given the beer vanilla notes, and bourbon. It's perfect, it was worth 8 dollars.

M & D: This beer was so smooth, the alchohol wasn't even a thought going down. I'd drink 3 or 4 if had them at home... please mr Bell, bottle this.

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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 bobhits
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thank you beer trappe for letting me sample this master piece!

Pours black as night, truly held to multiple lights only the SLIGHTEST of brown legs throw through. Poured into a 6 zo snifter it seem to have some carbonation but hard to comment on.

The aromas is dark bakers chocolate, roasted malt, espresso and vanilla.

Wow..tastes like pie crust and bakers chocolate blended with vanilla and hints of oak. Yes as a bourbon lover a bit more oak would be ok, but the chocolate and pie crust flavors are out of control. There just isn't a possible negative comment to be head.

The double creme did the job. This is creamy and full bodied as hell. Well carbonated and sinfully rich.

Worthy of all the praise and then some!

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Photo of CooperEllis
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Beautiful draft at a Takeover night at the Tap House in Rochester, MN. Poured in flight sized pours (4-5oz).

Soft bourbon and oak notes with a great deal of layered notes in the aroma. The taste is equally full, with a breadth of flavors which compliment. This is one of the easiest drinking beers I've ever had and the -bal compliments the base beer nicely without adding a strong 'booze' presence.

Mouthfeel is solid, if unspectacular. Light up front but a touch sticky at the end. Really, quite light given the complexity, robust flavors and abv. I'm actually more impressed that it's this light on the palate.

Damn fine all around.


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Photo of Neorebel
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bell's most sought after stout is blacker than the dead of night... Literally no light can pass through this viscous looking libation. A splash of tan color in the center and a thin ring around the edge are the only indications of a head on this beast. If one looks closely, it is apparent that there is *some* carbonation, however, as there are small bubbles intermittently rising to the surface.

The rousing aroma is very chocolatey, like the finest dark chocolate available to humanity! The next two aspects I detected were roasted walnut and of course that vanilla-like Bourbon that's oh so pleasing! The more subtle notes present include dark roast coffee, molasses, and fig/dark fruits. I could sniff this beverage all day and be happy, but thankfully the evaluation of the nose is over and it's time to drink this baby!

As I take a sip, so many things come to mind... First of all, after all this contemplation of the color and aroma, the beer is now the absolute ideal temperature for drinking. The flavors do not disappoint as they are as tasty as the aroma teased at. The sweet malt intermingled with the only slightly sharp, oaked bourbon character is particularly balanced and well done. It's so velvety smooth, fully coating the mouth with the flavors lingering. It's so big bodied, and nicely intoxicating. The finish is semi-dry with a nice earthy nuttiness.

Overall, this is one of the finest beers available to humanity! Bells, you have indeed made a grand statement about the art of the dark! I am glad I had this to make this pseudo-holiday 'Stout Day' a real cause for celebration! Hey, it is Friday...

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Photo of KornWallace
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Date: 4/16/14
Location: DiCicco's Ardsley
Glassware: Tulip
Appearance: Pours black as black can be. A modest produced next to no head. What little carbonation there was had a light caramel color. There is a large viscous ring that surrounds
Aromatics: The beer starts with a mouth watering bourbon smell Smooth flavors like vanilla, caramel, toffee. Stronger flavors like bitter chocolate, coffee and molasses.
Flavor: Starts cold with a huge bourbon flavor that nearly over takes over the beer. As the beer warms it starts to find its balance and you find new flavors like the dark fruits, prunes maybe some raisins.
Mouthfeel: The beer hides the alcohol very well but ultimately it finds it's way to hang on the lips.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Previously I tried this at Michigan Brewer's Guild and it came of strangely sour and off. Maybe from a bad keg? Got a bottle now. Pours pitch black with a very small brown head. Aroma is heavy vanilla, licorice, chocolate and bourbon. Smells very rich. Some up front bite with medium low carbonation. Flavor of licorice at first, finishing with overwhelming chocolate and then sweet vanilla really lingering. Thick and viscous, slightly acidic with some burning alcohol going on. Age would probably smooth it out but overall pretty awesome! Glad I got to re-rate this.

Another rerate here with a 2012 bottle poured on 3/22/14. Mostly similar but the booze tones down considerably now. Big anise flavors and lots of beautiful vanilla chocolate Good n Plenties. This is still awesome. The Expedition seems to shine through a bit with the age on this one. Very interesting.

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Photo of rodlavers
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

12oz format, dated 12/28/12, poured into a snifter.

Less than a finger of thick dark tan mocha head, pretty much disappears after just a few minutes, maybe not even that long, leaving a very thin ring around the glass. Very minimal lacing. Black coffee coloring, with small traces of red, very small traces.

Nose really opens up as this thing warms a bit. At first a little one dimensional, with a flat roasted character present up front. After the pour, bourbon, vanilla, molasses, dark fruits, some coffee and chocolate, and whole host of other aromas announce themselves, giving Black Note a super complex, yet balanced overall aroma. There are earth tones in there, as well. Even a bit of tobacco.

Taste is equally complex and balanced, but not quite as amazing. Everything in the nose combines to create a very enjoyable flavor profile, but nothing is too prominent. It's all very balanced. I do find myself looking for something extra, more robust. It's not too hot, either.

Feel's smooth and velvety up front with a chalky finish, if that is possible. Somewhat hoppy and bitter at the same time. Carbonation is definitely noticeable.

Overall, I do really enjoy Black Note. It's complexity and uniqueness lend it something other bba stouts do not have. It's definitely not as smooth as some others I've had , but it's amazing in its own right. Cheers.

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