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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: 3,735
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 21.78%
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
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Reviews: 557 | Hads: 3,735
Photo of dar482
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The beer comes in black color with tinges of brown coming in through the light. A ring of tan head.

The aroma is bourbon, oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, hints of dark fruit (cherry and dried plums), coffee.

The flavor hits in the front of sweet and dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. There's hints of coconut and dark dried dark cherry and plum as well. Bourbon flavor hits throughout. The finish is of sweet roasted coffee and drying oak.

The mouthfeel is very full and bold at first and falls off reasonably quickly by the end of the beer.

This beer changes throughout with temperature, very much so compared to other bourbon barrel aged beers I have had. A very interesting beer to take an hour or so on.

In the end, slightly weak on the finish, thin, and quite overrated.

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Photo of Durge
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
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!

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Photo of peensteen
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared by Liam.

Deep brown nearly jet black, ring of tan head, little to no lace really. Smell is bourbon forward, lots of coconut and vanilla, well roasted, chocolate with liquorice and coffee as well as a bit of a fruity hint in there as well. Taste has quite a bit of chocolate, coffee and oak, coconut, vanilla witha bit of a light lingering sweetness, bourbon in the finish. Medium-full body, lightly carbonated and bit oily with a creamy mouthcoating as well. Just awesome stuff, an awesome beer consumed on a night filled with awesome beers, would love the opertunity to revisit this again.

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Photo of mynie
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Glugs out very dark and viscous with minimal carbonation and small brown head.

Smells like whiskey, chocolate, and vanilla. The aroma is strong but not overpowering. A very nice blend.

Tastes like it smells--it's clear that this is Bell's direct response to BCBS. Whiskey and stout barley start things off, moving into a bittersweet middle of vanilla and dark chocolate, finishing off with the pleasant burn of ethanol.

Tried this side-by-side against a regular bottle of 2013 BCBS, and Goose Island's brew was a narrow winner due its firmer body and more complex finish. The fact that Black Note gave it a run for its money is quite a compliment, though, and I look forward to sampling some more of these in the future.

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Photo of jmarsh123
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

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Photo of Gryphon69
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 3-12-14

A- Very dark chocolate brown, near black. virtually no head to speak of, but left a nice ring around the glass, with some very light runny lacing.

S- Nice smooth bourbon up front, dark chocolate, roasted malts, caramel, some vanilles, followed by deep dark fruit.

T- Very good throughout, good smooth and not overpowering bourbon, deep chocolates, hints of dark mixed dark fruits. Very good stout flavors.

M- Thick, creamy, smooth, slick and sticky. Everything lingers on the tongue.

O- This is a very good beer, but after reading all the reviews I was expecting more. I cant say I was let down, but not up to the super hype and the years of waiting IMO.
Was kinda of surprised that the lacing didn't coat the glass with a bigger head, the smell is awesome and the taste is wonderful but I have had some much less expensive that comes very close or equals this one. The feel was amazing though, every stout should strive for this part.

Very glad I finally found it to try and will defiantly pick it up again at some point, just wouldn't run out and drop a lot of dollars on it next time. Very good beer and do recommend it to everyone.

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Photo of WillCarrera
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Hackney's in Chicago. Poured into a stemmed pokal glass.

A- Pours pitch black with a big thick mocha colored head.

S- Big roasted aroma, chocolate and coffee, lots of oaky bourbon as well.

T- Dark chocolate, some coffee and heavily roasted malt. Warm bourbon and vanilla in the back as well as some oak, has a really nice chocolatey burnt finish. The bourbon makes itself heard but is done well enough to keep it from becoming overpowering.

M- Full-bodied, thick and creamy feel, moderate carbonation.

O- A very tasty, drinkable stout with nice balanced flavors, its nothing earth-shattering, but its a wonderful beer. I'm not sure it's worth the fuss, but I would love to drink this beer any day.

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Photo of jayhawk73
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On draft at Churchkey:

Pours a super dark black color w/ a one finger chocolate head. Great lacing on the side of my glass. The nose is mainly coffee, chocolate, malt and hops. A nice nose, but the general thought at the table was the nose was on the weak side. Taste is bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and hops. Absolutely none of the 11.5% alcohol is evident at all. Feel is amazingly creamy, full-bodied, and smooth. Easily the best part of this beer. Overall, a World Class brew- glad I got to try it! Cheers.

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Photo of funkel81
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

well obviously, based on all the incredible reviews, this is a mighty fine beer. been wanting to give this a try for a while and after tasting, i am not disappointed or let down in any way.

poured out of a 12oz bottle, little to no head is present, but carbonation is perfectly fine (low) for the style. dark dark brown and pretty darn thick

smells of bourbon, chocolate and some roasted barley, and tastes just like it smells. smooth like butter on the mouth, alcohol is detectable but not more than expected. overall, a delicious beer that im happy to have more of

i'd place it slightly above bcbs and slightly below eclipse elijah craig 12yr

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Photo of alpineclimber
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A 2012 bottle poured into my favourite chalice. A two finger frothy mocha head forms on an impenetrable black brew.

Nose is of the bourbon barrel and chocolatey black malt, fairly sweet.

Taste is of dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses and the bourbon barrel. The bourbon barrel is very apparent in this brew and is very appealing. A thick mouthfeel, very fitting.

Overall very excellent and highly recommended for the bourbon barrel aged stout connoisseur.

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Photo of Jips
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Also had at All Stouts Day, poured blaaack with a thin tan head

Smelled strongly of bourbon and sticky maple, felt a slight sting from the alcohol and carbonation. Felt the carbonation was on the higher end for an imperial stouts. Heavy to medium body, slightly creamy like the Double Cream.

Tasted molasses, BOURBON, slighty roasty flavor, prunes rolled in brown sugar, a touch of vanilla, and some fairly pleasing alcohol.

What a treat to have! It is a worthy member in the pantheon of fantastic Michigan big stouts (e.g., Founder's Breakfasts, Dark Horse's Plead the Fifth and other holiday stouts.)

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Photo of vinny21bal
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really a great beer. Texture in the mouth. The nose is good. The taste is over the top. I really like this beer around room temperature with a little age on it. Again this beer is a lot like bcbs or Kbs where it is a little hot when fresh. But as far as quality it is up there with the big dogs as well.

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Photo of alarmclock314
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

3/12/14 printed on the back of the label. Pours black with a light khaki colored head; fluffy with small bubbles that last. Smells like hops, chocolate, and bourbon. Tastes like chocolate, caramel, and bourbon with hints of oak and coffee. Hop presence throughout. Minor sweetness and drying finish. Good coating mouthfeel. Medium carbonation for the style. This is a quality BA IS, but not quite world-class.

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Photo of mikul93
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - Typical of a lot of BA Stouts. Black as night with little head. Faint tan head clinging to the sides of the glass.

S - Bourbon hits the nose initially , followed by dark fruits, oak, bitter chocolate and hint of vanilla

T - Almost like the nose, bourbon hits the tongue immediately followed by tons and tons of chocolate. This is a chocolate bomb. Dark fruit follows with hints of vanilla. A roasty coffee goodness lingers on the tongue afterwards.

M - Lots of carbonation for a BA stout. I wish it was a little bit less. Thick viscosity as expected that coats your mouth.

O - Delicious beer that I will definitely try to get more of. Very nice to have in the cellar.

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Photo of russwbeck
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Churchkey in DC. The lone keg to make the DC/MD/VA area. Very lucky to get to try this.

A: Viscous black pour with a small brown head. What does stick around laces decently. 4

S: The aroma is extremely well balanced. Bourbon and some booze up front, but a lot of chocolate balance it out. Roastiness, I'm guessing coffee, hides in the shadows. Making it's presence known when you need it. 4.5

T: The taste follows the smell wonderfully. The bourbon is up front, but chocolate and booze quickly provide balance and body, before roasty coffee takes over the backend. The balance is there, the flavor profile develops nicely on the palate, and overall the taste is far above average. 4.5

MF: The body could have been a bit fuller, at times I believed it was too watery, still medium to heavy overall. Booze is noted, dry finish. 3.5

O Delicious, certainly lives up to the hype. Balance is enough to make it great. The bourbon is not too intrusive. I thought it was very drinkable. Happy to have had the chance to try this. 4.5


Desert at RFD Washington's Bell's Beer Dinner. Bell’s Black Note Stout paired with a Black Note Brownie with ice cream and caramel.

A: Motor oil black pour without much head at all. What was there was light brown. 4

S: Bourbon mainly with a ton of chocolate, some roasted malts and vanilla are coming out underneath. The aroma is rich and balanced nicely. Just on a different level. 4.5

T: My God this is good. And with this decedent brownie and ice cream...it’s a good thing I was sitting down. So much chocolate is in front of me. The integration of the bourbon and the stout is what really makes this great. 5

MF: Very heavy body, low carbonation. Just a perfect pairing with the brownie. Wish I could do this more often. 4.5

O: Extremely enjoyable. The perfect way to finish the dinner off. Rich and boozy. 5

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Photo of MbpBugeye
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Yet another one that I was very excited for at Michigan's summer beer fest 2010. Waited all day for this one to be tapped.

Black with really no head at all, nothing too special about the way this looks, just some loose, large bubbles here and there.

Smell is a lot like Expedition at times. Very vinous with dark berries, red grapes, figs and cherries. Bourbon underlies that. Its not at all harsh though there is a lot of very nice creamy smells going on like a milkiness.

Like the nose would suggest its a sweet, vinous and slightly bourbony beer. Lots of dark fruits, berries, cherries, plums, figs, prunes, bourbon, milk sugar sweetness, lots of creamy chocolate. Its unmistakeably blended with Expedition stout.

A very phenomenal offering from Bell's

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Photo of gunpwdr
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Nose: Sweet soy sauce, vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, hint of salty oatmeal, all framed by bourbon. Palate: Coconut cream, vanilla, bourbon, and bitter chocolate on the attack. Chocolate liqueur on the mid-palate fades to bourbon with hints of toasted, nutty oak on the finish.

This BA stout has every opportunity to push into syrup territory but doesn't, thanks to its great bones. Excellent concentration of flavors and supporting carbonation. This is one of the more restrained and balanced BA stouts I have had.

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Photo of HoppySeb
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured form bottle into KBS snifter, bottle had been stored in cellar and refrigerated for a couple of hours prior to serving. The pour is majestic - a velvety jet black that immediately starts forming a beautiful head on the glass. The head is mocha in color and quite thick and foamy.

Aromas are sweet and spicy - predominantly bourbon, vanilla and chocolate. There is a hazelnut presence as well. The taste mirrors the aromas quite well, its hot/boozy as it touches your tongue and as the alcohol fades, vanilla, hazelnut and chocolate take over. There is a cinnamon taste that reminds me of spiced rum as well. The finish is sweet and there's a mildly bitter aftertaste that lasts several seconds.

The mouthfeel is thick although not quite to the point that I would describe it as chewy. Carbonation is very light.

Overall this is a fantastic beer that's deserving of the hype it receives. Beautiful example of a BBA stout - reminds me of BBPt5.

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Photo of n2185
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: pours black with a finger of dark tan head that fades into a thin ring with no lacing.

S: roasted malts with dark chocolate and coffee up front followed by smooth vanilla, toffee, oak, and bourbon.

T: roasted malts with creamy dark chocolate and coffee. Oak, toffee, and bourbon bring up a roasted and sweet finish with a light alcohol burn.

M: thick body with medium carbonation, this beer is a little more carbonated than most examples of the style.

O: a delicious and wonderful smelling beer. I wish it had a bit creamier body, but that's about the worst I can say about it.

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Photo of Spectre
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A. Black body with a thin dark brown head.

S. Strong Bourbon with a hint of coco.

T. Similar to the smell you get a lot of bourbon and finish with a taist of black coffee and dark chocolate.

M. Not too thick or smooth but still goes down fairly easy.

Overall this is a great stout definitely above average.

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Photo of dirtylou
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
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

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Photo of kingston2
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very dark pour with nice lacing once the small head faded. Bourbon and vanilla smells dominate. Has aged very gracefully with a much richer and fuller profile. Very impressed and will seek out in future.

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Photo of charlzm
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Consumed on March 11th, 2013 at 50 degrees F in my trusty Triple Petrus snifter. Thanks to Vurt for the bottle.

Beer pours a very dark brown: one shade lighter than black. Super-deep maroon highlights. A smallish light brown head forms and is gone almost instantly, leaving behind only a tiny crown that encircles the brew and leaves minimal trace behind. A gentle swirl reveals that this beer has some legs.

Aroma - bourbon is the primary component, but it's a modulated component, leaving room for some plum and chocolate notes.

Flavor is a bit salty and soy-sauce-like. Smooth bitter chocolate, some fleeting and creamy lactic notes, dates/plums and a wood mingle with leather and a touch of tobacco. Bourbon is mostly absent from the palate. Not especially boozy, all the flavors mingle and merge with none being especially dominant.

Mouthfeel is thick and slick with a little alcohol heat. Warming after a few sips. A little more carbonation would have been amazing...

Certainly the best use I have ever encountered for Expedition Stout, a beer I don't enjoy on its own. Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout is still the standard for this style as far as I'm concerned, but this is a fine, fine effort. Everyone, keep trying to top BCS!

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Photo of surlytheduff
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
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.

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Photo of MarcatGSB
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 12 oz. bottle into Central Waters snifter.

A: Pours a deep black with no light getting through. Creamy tan cocoa colored head sits on the rim of the glass for almost the entire drinking process. Leaves some very impressive lacing around the edge of the glass. Rather small bubbles with some oddly configured shapes slowly working their way down to the liquid.

N: There is a surprising amount of hop on the nose, must be coming from the Expedition. The bourbon is really up front on the nose. Man, this is honestly the first time I've really sat down and dissected this beer. When the beer is at about 55 degrees, the complex layers of oak and creamy depth come forward. Dark fruits blend well with nice chocolate, vanilla, and touches of bitter molasses.

T: The taste is more of those dark fruit notes, a touch of bitter chocolate, and a bit of sherry/alcohol. The oak is very present, with some drying qualities, yet the creamy, light flavor balance that out nicely. It's almost juicy, kind of chocolate milk like.

M: Creamy mouthfeel, with proper carbonation. Bit on the low side, that allows the beautiful oak and bourbon to come through, and isn't too busy on the mouth.

D and O: This really is a nice barrel aged stout. I feel it lacks a bit of depth and complexity as some of the other World Class stouts, but it's close. A real treat.

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