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

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

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BA SCORE
100
world-class

3,626 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 3,626
Reviews: 555
rAvg: 4.55
pDev: 8.35%
Wants: 2,500
Gots: 914 | FT: 82
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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,626 | Reviews: 555
Photo of Auracom
3.92/5  rDev -13.8%
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.

Photo of Gosox8787
4.8/5  rDev +5.5%
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.

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

750ml bottle (#290/1081) poured into a medium-sized Duvel tulip. Gigantic thanks to Chris for tracking down and sharing this scarce gem.

A: Completely opaque black body with a solid, creamy cap of brown head. Good retention, delicate lace. A swirl reignites the head and coats the glass with some reddish legs. Lovely.

S: Pure, straightforward bourbon-barrel goodness. Vanilla, coffee, bourbon, chocolate, licorice, and some faint dark fruits. Hugely complex, with a nice balance of sweetness and booziness. Terrific.

T: Sweet and bourbon-soaked at first, with vanilla, coconut, coffee, molasses, and spicy alcohol. Delicious.

M: Rich, creamy, full-bodied. Perhaps a bit more carbonation than necessary for the style, but luxurious all the same.

O: What a beer. It was amazingly close to breaking through to perfect scores in every single category, and was a sheer pleasure to savor. If I were to offer a complaint, it would be that it wasn't particularly distinctive - it just tasted like I expect a really, really great BBA stout to taste (much like Czar Jack, although with a bit more intensity that that incredibly smooth beer). It was worth the hype, and I just hope that Bell's makes more of it after they expand. I'd love to have it again.

Cheers!

Photo of thagr81us
3.8/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ah Black Note... How you have eluded me for this long I will never know. Had during Brewvival 2012! Served from tap into a Brewvival sampler imperial pint. Poured pitch black with a minimal brown head. Maintained nice lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, roasted malt, cream, wood, and sweet alcohol. The flavor was of sweet malt, roasted malt, cream, wood, sweet alcohol, and spices. It had a heavy feel on the palate with medium carbonation. Overall this was a fairly good brew. I went into this one expecting to be blown away if I am honest. However, it fell short of what I was expecting it to be. All of the aspects on this one were good, but the flavor left a lot to be desired. There was a lot more roastiness going on here and not enough sweetness to balance it out at all. The spice note didn't help this fact either. The bad thing is that it was enjoyed with a group of BA buddies and all of us agreed that it was quite lackluster. Worth trying if you have not done so, but I doubt I would seek it out again myself based on what it takes to land it.

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.33/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to rjm217 for trading me this beer!

poured into a snifter glass. First beer that we drank at a small tasting with local BA buddies on 2/24/12. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance: dark black bodied beer with 2 fingers of medium khaki head that fades slowely to a small ring around the glass. Decent lacing in noted to the side of the glass. 4.5

Smell: you get the barrel right away, but its a nice smelling stout with decent balance. Chocolatey, bourbon, smoke, roast, and faint vanilla. 4.0

Taste: bourbon barrel right away just like the nose. Roasty, smokey almost like a charred wood note. Some vanilla and wood. Mild notes of chocolate and coffee. You also geta hint of black licorice. The aftertaste is most intriguing and unique because it has notes of cherries and smoke. All the flavors are really mild I wish this was a little more robust for a BA stout. 4.0

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with low carbonation. The beer is smooth with no booziness noted to the beer. Thin mouthfeel; this is what is the beer main downfall. Make the beer a little bit thicker! 3.5

Overall: Its an easy drinking barrel-aged stout by Bells. Nice complexity, but suffers on the mouthfeel. Just a nice smooth brew, but its almost too mellow. I was just a little bit dissapointed by this beer, I had way higher expections for this brew. 4.0

Original Score-3.98

09/04/12---

Got the oppirtunity to revisit this beer on draft at the olympic tavern tonite. It has changed alot since the last time I drank it. Its drinking much better now!

poured into a fancy looking goblet by the bartender at the olympic tavern, rockford, IL.

The biggest changes that I have noticed in this beer is the taste and mouthfeel.

It honestly has a bigger whiskey presence and has much more chocolate notes! Its really tasting magnificent. Not so much of a dissapointment anymore. This hangs with alot of the big names of BA stout! The mouthfeel is alot silkier and just plain wonderful. Just a touch of booze and a fantastic whiskey note, and its still quite drinkable for a BA stout. The barrel aging is shining right now!

New Score-4.35

Photo of THECPJ
4.53/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: black as night with a nice 1 finger mocha head

smell: vanilla, chocolate, bourbon barrel, roasted malts,

taste: bitter chocolate, roasted malts, hints of vanilla,

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, full body,

overall: an outstanding stout. glad I was at the right place and time to give this bad boy a try.

Cheers,
The CPJ

Photo of Duff27
4.06/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a mid mocha head on a black body. Wonderful head retention and lacing for a stout. My favorite aspect of this beer.

Smooth, sweet bourbony chocolate.

Present bourbon but not overpowering by any means. Big roasted cocoa notes. Slight cherry aftertaste. Well hidden ABV.

Creamy mouthfeel but doesn't have the thickness you may associate with an impy stout. Low carbonation.

Overall a well put together bourbon barrel age stout from Bell's. Black Note didn't knock my socks off but I would have it again. Thanks for sharing 4DAloveofSTOUT!

Photo of iadler
4.19/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On--tap at Hackneys Printer's Row.

A- Pours a pitch black with a one finger head that slowly dissipates into a thin cap. Minimal lacing is left behind.

S- Dark rich chocolate, coffee bean, roasted malt, vanilla bean, cream, dark fruits, sweet bourbon and wood. Very well balanced and complex.

T- Initially, the beer matches the nose with dark chocolate and coffee bean upfront followed by roasted malt, plumb, fig, raisin, bourbon, wood and some sweet vanilla bean and cream. As it warms up a bit though, the vanilla bean and cream become overpowered by harsh bitterness with char and burnt toast notes.

M- The most disappointing aspect of the beer. Medium prickly carbonation with a thin mouthfeel with the bitterness lingering on. Really wish there was some more body and less carbonation. The one good aspect is that the high abv is masked very well.

O- Black note is a great beer, however, it was too carbonated and was overtly bitter as it warmed up to make it a world class stout. Overall this beer is overhyped a bit, but certainly one to try if you get the chance.

Photo of AJacob81
4.55/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Promoted as a sideshow to the Hopslam firkin tapping at Hackney's, this of course was the first keg to blow. Glad I got some.

A - Pitch black, with a tightly packed cappuccino-colored head of about a finger that was retained surprisingly well, albeit without any significant lacing.

S - The bourbon asserts itself up front, but there are strong supporting RIS notes of roast, dark fruit, some chocolate and coffee. The bouquet opens up nicely as the beer warms, drawing you back pleasantly for each sip.

T - The nose is inverted, with the flavors of Expedition Stout hitting first, followed up nicely by the warming charred oak and booze of the bourbon barrel. Perfectly balanced, with a hint of sweetness in the finish that enhances rather than distracts.

M - Exquisitely smooth and velvety, the brilliant addition of Double Cream Stout shines through here. Soft and creamy, yet medium to full in body, this stout isn't as viscuous and chewy as some of its peers, but it sits on the palate wonderfully.

This is a beast of a bourbon barrel stout. Its various elements are in awesome harmony, and while it won't kick you in the face the way some of its ilk will (not that there's anything wrong with that), it makes a delightful late-winter companion, even in a ridiculously crowded bar.

Photo of MaxSpang
4.58/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Chappy's in Dayton, Ohio.

APPEARANCE

Well, what do you expect? It's black as night, and sat under a mocha-colored head that dissipated quickly. There was no lacing, but the beer had some pretty apparent alcohol legs. There wasn't any light coming through on this one. With a name like Black Note, would you expect anything else?

SMELL

This is heavy on the bourbon in the nose, which brings notes of vanilla and toasted coconut. There is a lot of nice complexity that ranges from sweet to slightly boozy. A hefty amount of chocolate and licorice comes through, and brings a bit of coffee and roasted malt with it. This is the type of beer that you get full from by just smelling - there is a LOT going on!

TASTE

First off, this beer is remarkably smooth. The bourbon is not as strong as it was on the nose, but it is definitely present. With the bourbon, notes of vanilla, licorice, and toasted coconut come out. Surprisingly, the alcohol is very well hidden. The beer starts off milky sweet, with smooth caramel and toffee characteristics, then finishes with a nice hoppy bitterness. The bourbon lasts a long time after the swallow, making this beer have an absolutely amazing after taste.

MOUTHFEEL

This beer drinks like a pillow - it's smooth! It has a velvet-creamy mouthfeel, sort of like melted chocolate. There isn't much carbonation, which adds to the creaminess. The beer has a nice big body which makes it a sipper. The intense aftertaste lingers for an extremely long time.

OVERALL

This beer is incredible. It can hang with the big boy bourbon barrel aged brews and hold its ground. It's a special beer that demands a special occasion, but the taste is so good that you'll find an excuse to drink it! I wouldn't say that this is the barrel-aged stout to end all barrel-aged stouts, but it is absolutely incredible and worth seeking out.

Cheers.

Photo of calcio360jrd
4.03/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at the bell's takeover at bx beer depot in lake worth, florida.

Glad i got to bx early for this event and got a seat right up at the bar. 2 9oz pours of this barrel aged imperial stout.

Poured out the usual motor oil color of dark black with a fairly good amount of head on it. The smell was overwhelmingly of bourbon, i guess that is what you get when you age a beer for 18 months in the barrel! Taste was less bourbony than the smell, was very enjoyable drink. Mouthfeel was a little thin on this one, again because i hold every RIS up to the zhukov standard of thick and chewy!

Glad to experience this on draft, i would by no means pay what people are paying on ebay for a bottle of this, good buy not life changing

JasonD

Photo of WillCarrera
4.38/5  rDev -3.7%
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.

Photo of BearsOnAcid
3.52/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Black pour; small mocha colored head that reduces to nothing.

Mollases, dark chocolate, charred oak, chocolate syrup in the nose. Slight medicinal/cherry quality.

Heavily charred/roasted espresso flavor. Low on malty sweetness. Bourbon finish; caramel, vanilla. Still not much sweetness.

Taste falls flat with a chalky/ashy roasted malt bitterness and not much else other than the barrel. Mouthfeel is basic.

Someone explain to me what is so amazing about this beer

Photo of b3shine
4.7/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Draft to pint (yep, and only $7!). On draft at Northside Tavern during Cincy Beer Week. Looks great; pitch black with little lacing. Smells great too! I love how the two blends marry with the bourbon to produce such a great scent. The same can be said for the taste...although it's about flawless. Mouthfeel is good, although it could be perfected with age. Overall, one of my top 3-5 beers of all time.

Photo of drowland
4.78/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

8/13/11. On tap at the GTMW. Awesome bourbon barrel aroma with vanilla coconut and coffee. Very nice flavor that hosts a perfect balance of BA - coconut, vanilla, sweetness, and more - and robust impy stout with coffee and roastiness. The superb balance makes this awesome.

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.18/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

10 ox tap pour into a snifter at Burnhearts in Bay View last night. Thanks BJ and Paul for the event and swag and to D-Train for driving!

A - The constant flow from the tap as people lined the bar at least two deep produced a plethora of pitch black snifters on the bar-top, each one crowned delicately by loose dark brown foam.

S - Heavily roasted, plenty of coffee made its way out of this beer with cocoa and chocolate accents. Mellow oak and bourbon follow up.

T - Burnt toast and charred oak paired with the beer's already strong cocoa and coffee proved to be pretty taxing to drink. Chocolate and warm bourbon heat followed nicely.

M - Voluptuous and rich, the balance of this beer is well done. Plenty of hops aid the roasted bitterness while the thinning alcohol warmth finishes out.

O - While Black Note is certainly a great brew, it's also an example of what hype and "rarity" can elevate a beer to. Don't expect anything life changing from this one; it's another heavy stout but, thankfully, balance sets it apart from some other overly-alcohol-rich stouts.

Photo of JAYBLACK
4.25/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky to get one of the last glasses of this at the Bells Party in Indianapolis. 8 oz pour served cold in a snifter. The appearance is very dark, almost black with minimal carbonation and very little head. The smell is wonderful, with lots of vanilla, chocolate, dark fruits and a hint of bourbon. The taste is surprisingly smooth for the abv. I get a lot of vanilla and creamy chocolate upfront with a hint of bourbon and it finishes a bit dry with a hint of hops and bourbon. I would like a little more bourbon but that is just my personal preference. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy with little to no carbonation and very sticky. I feel like this is a fantastic offering by bells and would love to see them start making it on a larger scale. It wasn't my favorite example of the style but definitely among the top. Seek this one out if you get the chance.

Photo of dpasotti
4.35/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Deep black with a thick brown cap that leaves great lace. Smells of strong vanillin and bourbon, with lots of roasted malt character. Brown sugar and a little chocolate as well.

Prominent vanilla tones, dark chocolate bitterness, coffee, sweet molasses, and alcohol on the palate. The menu says "...with bourbon undertones," but that couldn't be more inaccurate -- bourbon absolutely dominates this beer. Good thing that's what I was looking for. It lacks the bourbon 'attack' (for lack of a better descriptor) that GI Bourbon County Stout has, which is not a slight towards Black Note. The bourbon character is awesome. Loads of vanilla match the sweet roasted malt foundation very well.

The minimally-carbonated, dense body is far and away the highlight of this beer. Quite possibly the silkiest, smoothest body I have ever experienced, in liquid form at least... Mr. Bell does it again. Black Note is an exquisite sipper. High on my list of stouts as well as barrel-aged beers.

Photo of aasher
4.2/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was sampled at the Beer Sellar in Indianapolis for their Super Bell's Party before the Super Bowl. It poured a full bodied darkest of blacks with a one finger khaki head. It smells like a barrel aged stout. It has the creamed coffee, chocolate, with a touch or bourbon and vanilla. It is essentially a poor man's Bourbon County. It has a good amount of roast with a good amount of bourbon and vanilla. That said, lighter and less intense than Bourbon County. It's really drinkable because of this. The alcohol takes a backseat as well. The longer you sip the more the char makes itself known, alongside the vanilla. It leaves plenty of roast behind. Regardless, it drinks really nice and everything meshes rather well. This is a nice barrel aged stout. I'm glad I could try it.

Photo of phisigben
4.68/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

8oz pour served in a snifter at the Super Bells party at the Beer Cellar in Indianapolis

It is black as motor oil with a nice tan mocha head that leaves a nice ring of lacing with each drink. I get nice oak from the bourbon barrel, followed by coffe, and bitter chocolate. The taste is great I get bourbon right up front, next is the coffee and chocolate with a nice sweetness from the malt and cream, at the very end is a roasted flavor for me its a little too much its the only reason this didn't get a 5. The mouthfeel is amazing it feel as thick as other big stouts but at the same time that feeling leaves as you drink it and the carbonation is great for this style. Overall is one of the best stouts that I have ever had, I can't believe its this good.

Photo of zeff80
4.47/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap at Sycamore - Columbia, MO

A - Poured an opaque, jet black color with a small, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left sudsy sheets of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of dark chocolate, toffee, vanilla, oak and roasty malts.

T - A delicious blend of roasted malt, dark chocolate, vanilla, burnt molasses and a slight bourbon flavor.

M - It was crisp, sharp and very smooth. A medium to full bodied stout with a dry finish.

O -This is a fantastic imperial stout. I'm glad Sycamore was able to get a keg of this.

Photo of jeonseh
4.55/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Has this on tap at Tribes Alehouse.

A - Poured into a snifter, its a very, dark black beer that allows no light to get through. It has a small coffee colored head that stays strong along the edges

S - Notes of coffee, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel malt and bourbon barrel spicyness. You definitely get the creamy sweetness of the double cream stout with the darker expedition favors. As I let it sit and warm up, the nose become much stronger and sweeter as the vanilla becomes more prominent

T - Initially, sweet vanilla, mocha chocolate, caramel and the heavier coffee favors come through. You definitely get the barrel aged spiciness in this one. One of the nice things about the barrel aged aspects of this is its blended in perfectly with the beer to add new levels of flavor. The spice from the bourbon really lingers on the tongue. As it warms up, the vanilla and sweetness really opens up.

MF - Velvety smooth allowing it to coat the tongue and mouth beautifully. This is where adding the double cream stout really stands out as that and the aging seem to have taken off some of Expedition's rougher edges. After the beer goes down, it leaves a nice tingle on the tongue to go with the bourbon flavors. This is the part of the beer that is just amazing.

O - A wonderful, well balanced beer by Bell's. It shows how well barrel aging can add to a beer's flavor without overpowering it. Definitely worth having and a great beer overall

Photo of BuckyFresh
4.67/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tulip glass at 7 Monks in Traverse City. Enjoyed in the company of zoso1967 and TCHopCraver.

Appearance: Pours about as black as they come, with some mocha accents sneaking through around the edges of the glass. A bubbly, tan one-finger head tops things off, with pretty spectacular lacing crawling up the sides of the tulip. Surprisingly good retention. You can just tell by looking at this one that it's going to be a beast.

Smell: Very sweet up front in the nose. Lots of molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee, and licorice. Some oak and bourbon are discernible as well. The more bitter notes are lingering in the background, but provide a nice backdrop for the sweeter elements and really add to the depth and complexity of the aroma.

Taste: I think the taste trumps the aroma of this beer as far as balance and complexity go. Very creamy and delightfully smooth, with the sweeter elements up front again. As you finish a sip, the roasty oak, bourbon, and bitter coffee/chocolate take over and leave you with a pleasantly dry finish, given how much malt punch there is on the front end. So balanced and smooth; I never would have guessed the ABV was higher than 11%.

Mouthfeel: Medium/Full bodied, creamy and smooth, with minimal carbonation. While quite sweet at first, the beer finishes surprisingly dry. As such, it is not all that taxing on the palate, even with an ABV of 11.5%.

Overall: This beer certainly lived up to my expectations and was an incredibly complex, balanced, and delicious example of the style. Very drinkable for the ABV and stands toe-to-toe with the best imperials out there.

Photo of jegross2
4.82/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewing the infamous Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery Inc. Black Note Stout is a barrel aged blend of Bell's Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout. A huge thank you to BeerAdvocate user FrankenBrew for tipping me off to this under-the-radar tapping.

Score: 97

Unknown vintage keg tap pour served in a 12+ oz pilsner glass and enjoyed on 01/25/12, courtesy of the Malt House in Madison -- one of the best bars in the Midwest.

Appearance: The lighting in the bar is not great, so bear with me. Body is a jet black color with thin caramel colored highlights at the absolute top of the glass. I arrived with a glass of this awaiting me (to ensure getting a pour), so I am unsure if it was served with any head (and if so, what the head looked like). A super thin tan ring of head coats the outside of the glass. No real lacing, but a slowly dripping, thick oily layer coats the side of the glass as you drink. 4.5/5

Smell: The aroma is incredibly complex. There is raisin/fig, other nondescript dark fruit and vanilla from my first pull. Then sticky brown sugar and molasses, followed by light amounts of licorice. Definitely getting notes of chocolate and caramel malt as well. At points, the beer smells like molasses-and-vanilla soaked raisins. The aroma is a perfect blend of stout and barrel aromas. 5/5

Taste: Equally as complexly flavored as the aroma, and incredibly balanced. First impression is an interesting blend of creamy (milk?) chocolate and vanilla. There is a slight roastiness in there, but it's very faint. The flavor of this brew falls somewhere between Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. The midpalate is loaded with mellow, slightly sweet dark fruit, creamy malts, molasses/brown sugar and bourbon flavors without the alcohol bite. Light dark licorice flavors are in there somewhere towards the finish, but no licorice lingers in the finish at all. Absolutely no alcohol is detectable, save for a little warming effect as the beer warms, so I was a bit shocked to discover that this beer is 11.5% ABV. Finish lingers with an interesting mix of light chocolate, vanilla, molasses and dark fruit. Each sip leaves a seemingly different mix of those finishing flavors. Some pulls finish with more raisin-and-brown sugar like flavors, while others seem chocolatier, while others seem like a smooth vanilla-and-molasses mix. This is an absolutely astonishing medley of stout and barrel flavors. Everything you could want from either is present. This beer is dangerously drinkable. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Not overly heavy, but still thick and viscous. Medium bodied, minimal (if any) carbonation. Mouthfeel is creamy and sticky. Finish is decently (but not overly) sweet -- essentially raisin-and-vanilla like. 4.5/5

Overall: Hoo boy! This one absolutely lives up to the hype. I would have to have them side by side before I can say this definitively, but I think that I enjoyed this beer ever slightly more than Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I had the fortune of drinking five or six glasses of KBS on tap over the past few days, so the comparison is relatively fresh in my mind. Bell's Black Note Stout brings every flavor and aroma you could possibly want in either a stout or a barrel aged beer, and it blends them in an incredibly drinkable, palate-satisfying experience. A world class beer, no doubt. If only I had the time for another pint, I'd have knocked back several.

Recommendation: Seek this one out. Chicago will have a tapping of this sometime mid-February, so if you are the area, make room on your calendar.

Pairings: A medium-cooked New York Strip would go wonderfully with this beer.

Cost: $6 for a glass. I am not sure what a 750 ml bottle sells for, but I can assure you that $6 for a full pint of this brew is one of the best beer deals you will ever find in a bar.

Photo of Rhettroactive
4.27/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From tap to snifter on 1/10/12
*From notes

-- Thanks to the folks at RFD for hookin' me up with this epic want --

A: Black. Or damn close to it. Really, this is one dark glass of beer. Minimal head, with a faint, creamy collar.

S: Heavy whipping cream, aged wood, toasty brown sugar and luscious bourbon overwhelm my nostrils.

T: One of the things I love so very much about craft beer is the journey, where the brew leads your palate. Bell's Black Note, my friends, is this kind of beer. It begins rather mellow, it doesn't push the limits and extremes that others in the BA RIS world do. Rather, it's a delicate balancing act of whipping cream, rich chocolate, crushed vanilla bean, toasted tannin and incredibly smooth bourbon. There's also a pretty sizeable hop kick on the mid to finish.

M: Not overly viscous. It's quite mild and medium bodied, allowing the beer to almost flow through, without getting caught in the density of many in-style.

O: Bell's Black Note has easily been one of my top wants for years, and to have the opportunity to have a giant snifter of it at my leisure with good friends was an absolute pleasure. This really did remind me of a Charlie Parker number, as all you gotta do it sit back and let the master do their thing.

We did this side-by-side with BCBS '11, which in my opinion did this beer a disservice. A brew as special as this shouldn't be compared to what I feel is the best in class. Rather, it should stand on it's own. So yeah, BCBS may have packed the oomph that Black Note didn't, but on it's own, this delicate little number really is something special.

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
100 out of 100 based on 3,626 ratings.