Dismiss Notice
Hello, is it beer you're looking for?

Learn more about beer. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for as low as 68% off the single issue price.

Subscribe now →

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.

553 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 553
Hads: 3,708
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8.44%
Wants: 2,570
Gots: 945 | FT: 75
Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc. visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.40% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: mcallister on 06-16-2007

One of the most sought-after stouts in Bell's history, Black Note Stout blends the complex aromatics of Expedition Stout with the velvety smooth texture of Double Cream Stout and ages the combination in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels for months. The resulting harmony of flavors captures the finest features of all three components: malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso & dried fruits, all buoyed by the warmth and fragrance of the bourbon barrel. Aimed squarely at the stout and bourbon aficionados, Black Note makes a grand statement about the art of the dark.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 553 | Hads: 3,708
Photo of dejrrma
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

$7 for a 8 or 12oz pour at BSP. Reviewed on 5/5/12 (just only now typed up my review). I believe the keg was from 2011.

a- black, still with a reddish tint, a slight ring of head
s- slight bourbon, coffee, vanilla extract.
t- Lots of dark chocolate and a touch of coffee and roast. woody and slight vanilla. not as much "bourbon" taste as I expected, so the beer is not overpowered by it. still, i think it's just a bit too understated.
m- really smooth and creamy. i was blown away. it has a medium carbonation and a full-body
o- enjoyed this beer tremendously. still love kbs more, though.

 593 characters

Photo of dlello2
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A - Black. Viscous. Good couple of fingers of head. Lingers longer than I'd have thought.

S - Smell is nice. Chocolate and bourbon dominate. Maybe a bit of coffee.

T - Wow. Very good, I get sweetness and heat to start. This one is strong! Bourbon, some chocolate, coffee, a touch of cinnamon? Like the strength, but will see what happens as it warms.

M - Really good mouthfeel. Thick and mouth-coating. Great balance with the carbonation.

O - Enjoying this one a lot. Didn't expect it to be quite so pleasant after all the anti-hype. Still a bit too hot to be perfect but I'd love to taste this one in a year.

 613 characters

Photo of Treebs
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml C&C bottle served in a Deschutes tulip. Bottle # 272/1081. Huge thanks to Andrew (nasty31) for the share. This was the night cap to the pre-DLD tasting.

A: Pours a jet black with a light khaki head forming on the pour. It recedes slowly to a thin collar that leaves some soapy looking lace across the glass.

S: Bourbon up front in the nose and slowly the dark fruits and pure chocolate start to emerge. As the glass warms the sweeter notes of caramel to show and the roasted malts also get amplified.

T: The dark fruits and the bourbon flavors are up front with smooth oak and a nice combination of dark chocolate and sweet milk chocolate. The finish is roasty with a nice addition of caramel and vanilla from the barrel.

M: Smooth and sweet with a low carbonation and chewier body. There is a mild warmth on the back end of each sip.

O: I really got the nice dark fruit and dark chocolate flavors from the Expedition Stout and the creamy malt and milk chocolate flavors from the Double Cream Stout. Overall, combined with the barrel aging this was a very nice beer.

 1,078 characters

Photo of jera1350
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at The Bodega Brew Pub.

Served in a 10 ounce nonic with a solid black body and a dense head of brown colored foam.

Incredibly rich smell of dark malts and bourbon. Molasses, lactose, coffee beans and bourbon.

Rich malty flavors with deep complexity. Chocolate. The bourbon is there and does not overwhelm or stand out more than the malt. It's a nice complement to the overall brew.

Very sticky and rich with a full body.

Awesome beer. Wish they would bottle this bad boy on a regular basis. Lighter on the barrel, but it makes for an overall enjoyable beer that is towards the top of the list for the style.

 620 characters

Photo of drpimento
4.97/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bam-BAM! Heavy hitter!! Served at a good temperature with a large, thick, fine, creamy, tan head and lots of lace. Aroma is mostly cocoa, dark ripe fruit, old leather, coffee, a little of the classic stout roast, malt. Color is an opaque black brown. Flavor is a curious blend of expansive and yet slightly conservative - similar to nose, excellent balance between bitter, sweet, and tang, the bourbon is there, not overdone. Body is perfect, ditto for carbonation. Finish is like flavor, yet the whiskey lingers a bit longer. Very easy drinking with only a hint of the alcohol at the end. Fabulous!

 599 characters

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

On-tap at Brewvival 2102

Poured an inky black with a dense mocha head. Luxurious aromas of cream, bourbon, malt, chocolate, and roasted malt. Taste is similar to the nose, lots of hot Bourbon, chocolate, molasses, raisin, and roasted malt. Definitely tasty, but no better then any of the other 78472397629289 Bourbon-barrel Stouts out in the world. Full-bodied, with a creamy mouthfeel and ample carbonation. Overall a great BA Stout, but the definition of "overhyped".

 470 characters

Photo of chinchillin85
2.95/5  rDev -34.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I had this on tap at the Bavarian Lodge. I was really excited to see what was in store for this beer.
A- It was a nice deep black typical of imperial stouts with crimson around the edge of the glass where the light was hitting it. I typically like my stouts a much deeper color though.

S- Sweet bourbon hits you right away. It smells really boozy. Then I get chocolate, roasted notes with some toffee.

T- At first it was too boozy. I let it warm up and It got better. It was smooth and a decent stout but nothing better than what is on the shelf

M- I would like a lot more thickness from this beer with a name like Black note

O- This is an overrated beer if I've ever seen one. Did not live up to the hype. KBS is 100 times better. I cannot stress enough that this beer is no better than another bourbon barrel aged stout on the shelf at your liquor store. I was really struggling to get any complexity's from it and there was no coffee flavor what so ever. Don't get me wrong this is a good beer but It's definitely is nothing special and I still can't believe what people will trade for this. Do yourself a favor and mix expedition and double cream yourself and add a little bourbon. You'll have the same thing.

 1,217 characters

Photo of ChugginOil
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed at The Bavarian Lodge.

Pours a deep black color that shows no light. There is a thin layer of dark tan head. There is oily residue but no lace.

The nose is amazing. Toasted coconut, chocolate, molasses, light vanilla, and a touch of booze. Rich bourbon notes are married well together.

The flavors involve more toastes coconut, dry oak tannin, vanilla, light chocolate and molasses. The bourbon comes in again and smooths things out. Very tasty and actually quite similar to BCBS.

The mouthfeel is rich and creamy upfront and then transforms into a dry feel. Light carbonation.

Overall, Black Note is a great bourbon barrel stout that really doea live up to the outrageous hype. Great nose, awesome flavors, and velvet smooth. Great brew.

 751 characters

Photo of brystmar
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to shutyourface for sharing this one.

Dark brown/black, tan head, decent lace. Smell reminds me of Expedition Stout with bourbon character on top. Layers of roasted malts & coffee flow freely. Aroma is this beer's best quality.

Taste is about what I expected: a good imperial stout with mild bourbon flavors. Much more Expedition than Double Cream. I applaud their choice to not go overboard on the bourbon like so many brewers do today. Love that smooth & creamy body.

That said, Black Note is a perfect example of the BA hype machine getting out of control. Like most Bell's beers, Black Note is pretty good but not exceptional. It's a step up from Expedition Stout, yet it cannot touch the top-tier stouts like Hunahpu's and Black Tuesday.

 752 characters

Photo of kif
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pitch black, tar appearance. Light tan 1 finger head with nice lacing.

S - Very aromatic. Scents of chocolate, raisin, roasted malt, hints of plum.

T - Chocolate, some bitterness from the roasted malt. Hints of plum. Alcohol burn is prevalent. Oak flavoring comes in late.

M - Medium to thin. Way less thick than expected. Very carbonated from an imperial stout.

O - A very good beer. Some acidity, but overall very drinkable. If there was less alcohol burn, this might be my favorite imperial stout, but I think that is the flaw. A great effort, just needs a slight refining.

 584 characters

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.

 412 characters

Photo of stewart124
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a pint glass.

Deep brown to black with a tiny amount of dark tan head.

Nose has strong roasted malt aroma with espresso and chocolate present. Some dark candied fruits coming out as well.

Mostly roasted malt characters and more espresso with a nice dose of bourbon barrel. Firm bitterness with some of the alcohol detectable. Overall smooth and easy to drink. There is noticeable residual sweetness but nothing cloying. As this warms more fruit comes out and there is a chewiness that leans towards the double cream stout.

Rich, smooth, and generally a delicious Imperial Stout. I was very excited to get my hands on this and even more excited that it came in a pint glass. Sneaky alcohol percentage and another one of Bell's beers that is so drinkable.

 769 characters

Photo of Doodler
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle cracked open at Forgetfu's big stout tasting (thx greatly Bill). Poured a dark brown body with a thin cocoa head. Nose is roasted coffee and chocolate, with a oaky bourbon aroma. Taste is molasses sweet with some dark fruits, coffee, vanilla and bourbon. Decent body with light carbonation and a creamy rich mouthfeel on the finish. Very nice stuff from the folks at Bells.

 380 characters

Photo of minterro
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Crunchy's in East Lansing, rating from notes

snifter= 7$

A&S: A wide range of smells: dark cherries, raisins, bourbon, roasty malts, burnt sugars, marshmallows tones. Kinda smells like a Old ale (lots of similarities to 4D). Medium tan ring of head, with whisks of head in the center. Spots of lacing like a fine wine. Very syrupy looking pitch black colored beer. Not much head probably due to the plus 10% ABV.

T&M: Many similarities to the scent. Differences include lots of bourbon midetaste to the back. Roasty with hints of dark chocolate upfront. Much smoother then their expedition stout, with even a bolder taste.

Overall: very good, no flaws. I wish I had a bottle to sit down and enjoy vs drinking at a bar. I had really high hopes for this beer and they were pretty much all met.

 806 characters

Photo of raszputini
4.7/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From tap at Thirsty Monk. Incredibly fierce, big stout. Notes of chocolate, coffee, cocoa and, milk are followed by intense bourbon tones. Pours thick but smooth with heavier brownish head. Syrupy mouth feel. One of my favorites of the barrel-aged imperial stouts.

 264 characters

Photo of zoso1967
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Black Note pours a deep, dark and pretty much opaque blackish brown that is exactly what I had expected since this is supposedly a blend of Expedition and Double Cream. The head is a deep tan in color. The head retention and lacing are both quite nice.

The aroma is intoxicating with plenty of vanilla and bourbon notes mixed with super chocolaty and rich caramel aromas. The wood and bourbon really are the star of the show in the aroma though. (I had this again at the TC Winter Beer Fest and even out in the cold with bonfires all around I could really pick up on the barrel aged notes)

The flavor is very similar to the aroma but with a bit more chocolate and a slightly charred flavor. Vanilla also plays a big role in the flavor with the oak shining through well. I also must note that there is some serious tootsie roll character going on in this bad boy.

The mouthfeel is medium and a bit thinner than I would like, but that is a common problem I find in beers that have been barrel aged. The finish is sweet, roasty and enjoyable without being too taxing.

This brew is well regarded in the BA community and for good reason. In my opinion it does not quite rise to the heights of KBS or CBS, but it is a well crafted and aged BA stout that I will surly do my best to have a snifter or two of if I get the chance.

 1,324 characters

Photo of badbilly30
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from my good trading buddy in the great state of Michigan. Black pour with an expresso tan head that fades and easily reappears with a swirl of the glass. Aroma is medium bourbon with vanilla and coconut and a roasted malt character. Taste is smooth bourbon followed by layers of dense, earthy malt with the signature bitterness from the Expedition Stout. Taste also presents with coffee, chocolate, roast, and more bourbon through the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Exceptionally well balanced and drinkable. Very impressive beer.

 547 characters

Photo of kevanb
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #1071 - Thanks Shawn!

The pour is pretty standard for any stout, lovely jet back color with no transparency. Watching it pour is like watching motor oil pour from the canister, syrupy and viscous, yet thin enough to resemble something you would want to drink. An aggressive pour yields some head, but not much, and easily dissipates within moments, not uncommon of a high ABV stout. The nose is remarkable, the Double Cream Stout is in full effect in the nose, lots of milky lactose notes, roasted coffee and grainy malt compliments the subtle bourbon and charred wood that comes forth at the end, exceptional balance between the barrel and the base blend, neither seems to dominate, but instead they compliment each other quite well. I’ve had many a milk stout but the is the first time that the nose has suggested harmony between a milky or creamy stout and anything pleasant from a bourbon barrel. The flavors tend to favor Expedition Stout, heavier on the roast and bourbon, but also with a sweeter element, especially as it warms. Big notes of coffee and malt jump out, not unlike the Double Cream Stout, but they resinate in a way more reminiscent of Expedition Stout. The flavors are bigger, more robust and thicker, pairing well with the bourbon, which never takes over the beer, but only adds a nice layer of complexity and woodiness that compliments the roasted coffee and bold chocolate and caramel malt flavors. The body is nice and thick, minimal carbonation which plays nicely into the milky and creamy stout playbook of Double Cream Stout.

Verdict: Exceptional stout from Bell’s, I wish they released more of this so it could get around, but I’m very happy to have had a bottle. The creaminess and roastiness go hand in hand and the barrel aging adds just enough complexity to take this blend to a new level, without overpowering or dominating the palate. If you have the chance to try this beer, make it a top priority, the hype is deserved.

 1,972 characters

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

Tap at Flying Saucer Charlotte NC. Thought I would have to get lucky on a trip home to Michigan to try this one.
Maybe Charlotte beer week actually has its usefulness??

Deep black, thin layer of darker tan head. Sticks to the glass just a bit.

Aroma, Well blended roast, chocolates, vanilla, peat, anise, coffee.

Taste, even better. Roast malt and anise blend seamlessly into oaky vanilla, caramel, milk chocolate, cocoa.

Slick full body, warming in the throat. Coats well with a near creamy carbonation. If this us anything like Expedition in bottle, it probably needs some time. On draft it is world class right now.
Had Double Cream at my wedding for a reason, this big barrel aged expedition blend ups the game 5 fold.
The list of beers I HAVE to try is getting nice and short. Not worth the effort to try most of them and I'm tired of the game.

 853 characters

Photo of birchstick
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Shared by some super generous St Louisians

A - pours brownish black with a small head on it

S - sweet chocolate, caramel, bourbon. As it warmed, the bourbon started to explode.

T - Starts off with dry chocolate notes that move to an eruption of cocoa. The cocoa fades to a nice bourbon flavor. Dark fruit and some bitter dark chocolates make appearance to round out this beer. I would describe this as really chocolaty with some bourbon

M - a little thin and watery

D - really nice beer here, minus the body. The blend brings together two great beers and the bourbon adds an even greater layer of complexity. Worth the ammo? Probably not, but a great experience nonetheless.

 679 characters

Photo of Phelps
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed (very much) in a chalice at the Hungry Monk during the Arizona Beer Week Eccentric Café event.

Not quite black, but as close to black as purple gets. Strawberry highlights. A tiny tuft of bubbles settles into the middle of the glass, but that's all the head I get.

Layers and layers of aroma. The component parts are obvious in here, with major black coffee coming from the Expedition, and heavy cream and oats coming from Double Cream Stout. The barrels are in perfect proportion, lending dark cherry, molasses and oak. Nice smooth dark chocolate swirls as well, as does toffee. It’s like a fruity, oaky red wine. Great balance.

Bourbon is in the flavor, but it's not the star, which is great. The front is vinous oak, burnt bread, espresso and spicy black strap. The swallow smooths things out with dark chocolate, bourbon-soaked dark cherries, a lot of buttery toffee and a little bit of toasted coconut. Oats and whipped cream rise at the finish. Gentle waves of flavor roll in with each sip. Strikes an impressive balance.

A little heartburn on the way down, but alcohol is well-hidden overall. A shade over medium in body, the brew exhibits a nice velvety texture and heft. Very light, tingly carbonation and a little fizz. Slightly tongue-numbing.

Got damn. So many great flavors mix in this brew. It’s like a bourbon-soaked cherry stuffed inside a dark chocolate toffee treat, with a heavy cream chaser. To balance both the Expedition and Double Cream as well as the barrel notes is just so impressive. The more I ponder it, the more I like it. Very grateful to have the opportunity to try it without giving up my first born. Though he might be on the table if anyone wants to send me a bottle.

 1,722 characters

Photo of Jwale73
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to jdiddy for sharing this; it's been a long-time want of mine. 750ml bottle served in a snifter. Batch 10136, bottle 1022 of 1081. Pours one shade shy of black with a frothy, tan-colored head that dissipates into a dollop of foam in the center and a thin, bubbly band around the shoulders. Nose expresses chocolate malt, a hint of bourbon, vanilla and a trace of booziness. Taste consistent with nose - a superb balance of flavors. The only other quality I pick up that varies from the nose is a slight buttery character. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with a pleasant, even carbonation. Just a little more body would really make the mouthfeel for me. Overall, a really exceptional and easy drinking stout. Not something I would recommend for extended cellaring by any means, but a really top notch beer nonetheless.

 820 characters

Photo of tewaris
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Blend of Bell's Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout aged in bourbon barrels. Huge want. Thanks Frank! Shared with two other BAs.

Very dark brown and clear with a tiny collar. An incredibly smooth and silky beer... feels like milk, seriously! Tartness, coffee, and very mellow roast with, of course, bourbon. Not the beast that Expedition is but an immense beer nonetheless. One of us had the opinion that the Double Cream Stout component brings the milkiness and smoothness and I think I agree. Very good, loved it! My only regret is not being completely sober while drinking this one :/

4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5

Enjoyed on tap again with sobriety on my side:

Beautiful looks here and a great aroma... chocolate cake, vanilla, some barrels. More wood than liquor. A little too tart. A good beer but I have had better.

Taking 0.5 points off the taste and overall score.

4.5, 4.5, 4.0, 4.5, 4.0

 906 characters

Photo of Auracom
3.92/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Another great tick here, didn't catch the name of the guy who provided this but thanks to him nonetheless. 2-3 oz. poured into a tulip on March 10th, 2012.

A - Semi-thick black coloring but with a crazy deep violet hue around the edges of the tulip. No head or the like.

S - The bourbon barrels that the Expedition portion sat in seem a bit weak here. Very balanced malt signature with additional caramel and roasted almonds.

T - More of the same, generally. Breadyness, spices, further barrel qualities, faint anise, and sweet malts. Good balance, very creamy. I suspect the Double Cream Stout made a stronger showing here than it did in the aromatics.

M - Very much in the vein of aged Expedition. Toned-down carbonation, medium body.

D - Crazy hype on this one, and I'm not sure it lives up to it. A friend mentioned that it's not quite at the level in this bottle that it used to be straight from the keg. Oh well, glad to have had the chance to try it and I think the blend is genius. Would love to try another bottle to see about variation because I think this has serious potential.

 1,098 characters

Photo of Gosox8787
4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Presentation: Big thanks to Urbancaver for bringing this and giving me the chance to try this. Around a 4 oz. pour served slightly chilled into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Black to dark brown in color. A touch of a brown lacing.

Aroma: A whole lot of coconut upfront, with layers of chocolate, vanilla and bourbon. Really nicely balanced. Definitely one of the more coconut forward beers in the aroma I've ever had.

Taste: Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and bourbon all belnd nicely together. There is a lot of barrel character but it blends almost perfectly with the base beer and there is little to no heat. There is a touch of roasted coffee bean notes. Really balanced and tasty. Near perfect.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a nice creaminess throughout. Spot on for the style.

Overall, one of the better bourbon barrel beers I've ever had. There was almost no heat from this being that fresh, and the flavors are incredibly complex and balanced. It is drinking great right now so I'm not sure time would help this much.

 1,024 characters

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 553 ratings.