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

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Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout

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BA SCORE
99
world-class

543 Reviews
THE BROS
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Reviews: 543
Hads: 3,643
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 6.46%
Wants: 2,513
Gots: 925 | FT: 80
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: 543 | Hads: 3,643
Photo of MusicaleMike
4.16/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thank you to monitorpop for this beer in our trade.

Poured this beer into a balloon glass at room temperature. With a very vigorous pour, I am able to coax two fingers worth of mocha colored head to rise from this black, abysmal beer. The head receded quickly to a tight creamy layer that doesn't appear to leave any lacing behind.

The aroma is more gentle than I expected. The bourbon is obvious and the first thing that I can smell. Deeper into the aroma, I can pick out more complex hints of dark chocolate, oak, anisette, molasses, brown sugar and bruised fruit (banana and peaches).

The taste is complex as all hell. The flavor profile is huge and goes through waves of changes after the first swallow. Up front, it is reminiscent of chocolate milk. The soft, almost creamy texture helps that initial impression. After that, a prominent booziness shines through and dominates the palette, especially in the exhale. It is toasty, oaky, and similar to chocolate covered raisins. The brash alcohol on the exhale brings no real heat, but lends a solvent flavor that creates the impression of whisky-soaked black cherries. I am glad there is no heat, because I am already not a fan of this booziness. The finish brings smokiness, bourbon, oak, vanilla, and roasted malts.

Viscous mouthfeel, creamy; not sticky, but smooth. I almost feel like this would pass as an Irish Dry Stout without the flavor component. Very solid example and just an incredible example of this style.

I found Black Note Stout to be a good beer. Not "World-Class" but most certainly worth purchase again. I bet that a few years on this beer might help it out a little bit. As another BA said on here already, this beer is an above average beer, but not worth emptying your cellar for. Pretty standard Bouron-Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout if you ask me. Tasty for sure, but is a bit middle of the road. I actually liked Victory Dark Intrigue more than this... (1,934 characters)

Photo of Docrock
4.85/5  rDev +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. (810 characters)

Photo of rlee1390
4.41/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A-Black in the glass, one finger brown head that leaves some lacing behind.

S-Balanced bourbon, roasted malt, chocolate, coffee with faint vanilla.

T-Great balance, moderate bourbon, roasted malt, chocolate, slight coffee and slight bitterness.

M-Medium to heavy bodied, very creamy.

O-A great BA stout, however it isn't at the same level on BA Speedway, BCBS, Parabola or some of the Eclipse beers. (403 characters)

Photo of Knapp85
4.28/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This was sent by mjmadsen21, thanks man!!

This poured out as a rich looking black color with a thin brown head on top. Very quick fading retention and no lacing. The smell of the beer is big, lots of bourbon, roasted malts and some subtle vanilla in there. The taste of the beer is very rich with more vanilla, chocolate, molasses and wood. The mouthfeel is slick, kinda harsh at first but softens up as it warms. Lingering sappy finish to it also. Overall this beer is really good and really glad I got to try it finally. (523 characters)

Photo of emerge077
4.44/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Second time trying Black Note, first time bottled.

Dark and viscous, tawny mahogany edges, frothy tan foam. Little to no lacing, glassy obsidian surface. Creamy viscous feel, not overly sweet, dry and not at all cloying. Big flavors of toasted almond, dark chocolate, espresso, and toasted coconut. Dry aftertaste of almond, chocolate, and trace pipe tobacco. The base beers are harmoniously blended and sing in chorus with the barrel. Expressive and flavorful, a benchmark of the style that seems to be increasingly ubiquitous and often poorly done. Black Note is in the upper echelon of BBA stouts for sure.

Thanks Aaron & Chris for the chance to try this! (661 characters)

Photo of yamar68
4.52/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Massive thanks to alelover for hooking me up with my first taste of Black Note! 2012 vintage:

Certainly is black... there's a bit of muddled clarity around the edge of the glass. A short-lived medium brown head produces a dense, stubborn collar - oily lacing above and clouded beading beneath. Very nice looking stuff.

Smooth, sweet caramel bourbon immediately shows some BCBS qualities. It's hard to really even pull in any alcohol character, a big sniff just offers a deeper layer of oak. Milk chocolate and mellow burnt brown sugar. Maybe a bit of molasses. Incredibly smooth - as smooth as you could hope for a beer like this.

Creamy twist cone flavors covered with silky bourbon and bitter caramel. Faint leafy tobacco dries up the tail end of the palate. Coffee grounds, more milk chocolate, candy corn... pretty damn unique I'd say. This one certainly doesn't need any age but I'm excited to see what it does regardless.

Very, very good. (950 characters)

Photo of jtingue
4.56/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated 12/28/12. Poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance. Pitch black. Pours with a finger of hazelnut colored head. This dissipates quickly, but there is a nice ring around the top of the glass.

Smell. That now familiar bourbon aged smell permeates the nostrils: buttery, sweet and vanilla. An underlying layer is implies creamy milk chocolate. There is something about bourbon aging that give the smell a certain softness, a softness that expedition already has in its chocolate notes.

Taste. Starts out with a strong punch of bittersweet chocolate. Some vanilla tinged oaky sweetness permeates the whole experience. It occasionally becomes dominant, being manifested as a toffee like flavor. Other times it fades into the background, allowing the chocolate notes of the stouts to dominate.

Mouthfeel. Excellent creamy body is broken up just enough by tight carbonation.

I just had to review this one after having the first few sips. A very refined bourbon barrel aged beer. It gets to the level of KBS as far as balance goes, something that BCBS doesn't do for me. (1,079 characters)

Photo of founder26
4.53/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Had this on tap before and after this bottle they are quite similar. This review is from the 12oz bottles dated 12/29/12, poured into a snifter

A- black with a little red around corners. Not much head at all.

S- this is the second best part about this beer, it is intoxicating. First smell is of light bourbon and chocolate, middle you get some oak, vanilla, and caramel, finishes with coffee.

T- to me this is where I dont like this beer as much as bcbs or kbs. It has too much sweetness and bitterness, not enough chocolate ot bourbon.

M- this is the best part about this beer, so creamy and smooth. Not much carb but thats ok.

O- I like how drinkable this is, I just wish it had more of a roastyness and less sweet/bitterness. I hope some age will help that. (766 characters)

Photo of Honus1
4.79/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is what bourbon aging should do to a solid blend of base beers in my opinion. On par with BA BORIS, KBS, BCBS. This pours black as night into my snifter with a slight chocolate head that dissipates quickly. Smell is intoxicatingly good, obvious bourbon, malt. The taste is what we are all here for, and this rare one actually doesn't disappoint. I I had to go to Bell's to get it, and was ready for some letdown. Clearly not the case! Let this beer warm up some, as the smooth bourbon finish really gets better as the temp rises. Caramel, and vanilla dominate the drawn out finish. Well done Bell's, well done. (615 characters)

Photo of Spectre
4.36/5  rDev -2.9%
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. (313 characters)

Photo of webmanspidey
4.77/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This is a typical dark black color with medium head. The smell is really heavy on bourbon, with some other hints of vanilla and cherry. This smells like a really amazing fancy dessert. Taste has a nice blend of bourbon, buttery heavy cream, cherry, chocolate, and coffee. The alcohol isn't overbearing at all and it maintains a pretty easy drinkability.

This is very delicious and I think it definitely lives up to the immense hype surrounding it. (448 characters)

Photo of broodog
4.54/5  rDev +1.1%
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. (633 characters)

Photo of 33nickadams
4.66/5  rDev +3.8%
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. (744 characters)

Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.48/5  rDev -0.2%
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. (501 characters)

Photo of Gfunk720
3.9/5  rDev -13.1%
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. (1,362 characters)

Photo of SportsandJorts
5/5  rDev +11.4%
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. (1,051 characters)

Photo of dbc5
4.51/5  rDev +0.4%
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. (1,432 characters)

Photo of BlissJunkie
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%
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. (1,420 characters)

Photo of codysjb
4.83/5  rDev +7.6%
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. (501 characters)

Photo of ryanfolty
4.85/5  rDev +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. (403 characters)

Photo of Petcha
4.87/5  rDev +8.5%
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. (588 characters)

Photo of aaronplayford
4.55/5  rDev +1.3%
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. (843 characters)

Photo of kawilliams81
3.95/5  rDev -12%
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. (403 characters)

Photo of zachary80
4.57/5  rDev +1.8%
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. (1,267 characters)

Photo of beagle75
3.88/5  rDev -13.6%
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. (974 characters)

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 543 ratings.