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

3,360 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 3,360
Reviews: 515
rAvg: 4.56
pDev: 8.55%
Wants: 2,194
Gots: 847 | FT: 88
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:
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 added by: mcallister on 06-16-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,360 | Reviews: 515 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of largadeer
3.75/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to stfun37 for this one.

Black in the glass with a tiny dark brown head that rapidly recedes to a ring.

The aroma is woody and earthy, with a backbone of bittersweet chocolate. Boozy bourbon is present but more subtle than I was expecting, and sweetness is very reserved. Expedition's unmistakable burnt licorice/molasses character shines through with surprising strength here.

The taste is impressively complex; licorice up front, burnt whole grain bread, bakers chocolate, tobacco, vanilla and light earthiness. Medium-bodied without much sweetness. Hot bourbon flavors come through more in the finish, along with woody tannins, strong burnt bitterness and lingering espresso.

This was a pretty interesting beer. The Double Cream Stout and -bal aging have helped tame Expedition's harshness, but not as much as I would have liked. Still enjoyable, but not as remarkable as I was expecting.

Photo of emerge077
4.44/5  rDev -2.6%
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!

Photo of TMoney2591
4.18/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tumbler at Firkin.

Review #2800! Solidarity rolls on for me with a beer I've been looking forward to for a long time. This stuff pours a straight obsidian topped by a finger of dark brown foam. The nose comprises bourbon, toasted wood, caramel, and roasted malts. The taste brings in more of the same, along with a touch of dark chocolate syrup. The body is a hefty medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a lightly chewy feel. Overall, a damn tasty stout. To me, the barrel is a bit overpowering compared to everything else, but it somehow doesn't go too far in this way. Good times, indeed.

Photo of JAHMUR
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

Photo of zeff80
4.47/5  rDev -2%
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 WVbeergeek
5/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've always loved Expedition stout and since I've heard they did a barrel aged version I couldn't get away from wanting this beer. It's been a long journey and thanks to a local Pittsburgh distributor I finally came into contact with this one.

Pours a pitch black hue with creamy tan head floating above the head, let me tell you about this BA version of Expedition fine lacing left evenly around the chalice.

Aromatics dark malts charred oak, with vanilla and whiskey rich character...also has a toasted marshmallow note with booze that is much needed for a dark imperial stout called Black Note. The finish is full of caramelized dark sugars and it so nice and full of nearly burnt malts. Smells so good, it's amazing what a whiskey barrel can do to a stout, I'm glad New Holland tried to put whiskey into some stout barrels to see if the inverse were true. Each time I take a sniff I get hints of umami from soy sauce tainted meat and spicy notes of ginger impregnated in a marinade of chicken breast.

Flavor has milky creamy dark chocolate notes, flowing with heat of bourbon barrel aging effects, charred oak, and rich vanilla booze infused stout character. Dark fruit with plums and over ripened fruits that are soaked in alcohol infusing through the palate with each sip. In the backend I definitely get that meaty soy sauce, umami character that I've come to know and love salty/sweet and a bit of braised beef or grilled tuna approaches the palate. I believe either of these would be great pairings amongst this beverage.

Mouthfeel full bodied creamy texture seduces your palate, even slow bubbling carbonation what a great experience that is too be had by all lovers of great barrel aged stouts. Salty sweet combination reigns supreme on the palate and leaves me wanting more and more.

Overall, one of the best barrel aged creations I've ever had...light years ahead of the complexity of KBS and Arcadia Shipwrecked BBA beers. I will hold onto the rest of the six pack I have left.

Photo of nickfl
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of Kegatron
4.75/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ The Great Taste of the Midwest (Madison, WI) on 8/14/10. Several samples served in a tasting mug.

Pours a dense black, with a rich topping of dark mocha colored head. This quickly fizzles out however, leaving a black and still surface staring back at me. The aroma is packed with chocolate fudge, creamy smelling sweetness, sticky molasses character, and a DEEP burnt roastiness to it in the back. The sweet tang this puts off in the nostrils is just fabulous.

The taste is bitter and blackened tasting at first with roast and coffee, being quickly followed by the luscious sweet tang of chocolate, vanilla, and sticky charred molasses, before diving into a heady roasted finish and lingering notes of green woody tannins. Just the right amount of charred bourbon flavor is present without any kind of excessive heat. The mouthfeel is full, thick, and chewy and is hiding it's ABV VERY well. Nuff said!

Badass in a glass sums this up perfectly and I was really glad to finally get to try this one again. An awesome BA blend here and it's definitely one of the best I've had from Bell's.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.36/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Ah the fabled Black Note. It's quite boozy with strong bourbon tones. Heavy and forward, but balanced enough. Mild vanilla on the back end. Thick and well bodied in character and feel. It's a strong bourbon aged stout. I wouldn't mind more complexity, but it's nice.

Photo of jlindros
4.56/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to both mcsecne (Reddit) and erric (Reddit) for bottles of this gem.

Light fizzy darker colored head, pitch black dark beer with nice long legs, decent thick head as I swirl.

Nose is awesome, tons of dark malts, chocolate galore, some rich thick expensive Belgian chocolate, bakers choc, a little dark even, velvety too. Little espresso and coffee with a bit of roasted malt but no burnt aromas, cocoa nibs. Then barrel, some vanilla with light toasted oak, decent bourbon, little alcohol tingle. Velvety and maybe even creamy oats.

Taste starts with malts again, dark malts with syrupy dark malts, lots if creamy velvety chocolate, cocoa nibs, bakers choc, etc. The malts have a light roast, little bitter tannin char but not really burnt. Cocoa leads to barrel, light vanilla and barrel, must a touch of bourbon. Light warning tingly booze. Light bitter hops but not much. Finish is long creamy chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, light bourbon barrel, little sticky sweet with a bit more booze, so much mouth layered thick chocolate.

Mouth is big bodied, thick and creamy lush velvety, decent carb, some warming booze but doesn't drink like an 11+% beer.

Overall very nice, great base stout with tons of chocolate, nice dark malts and decent barrel but if I could complain about anything maybe a bit more bourbon as I love bourbon.

Photo of XmnwildX12
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of oline73
4.53/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is review #1000 on BA. Poured from the bottle into my Hunahpu's snifter.

Appearance: This beer pours black with just under a finger of thick tan head. The head fades fairly quickly to a ring around the edge of the glass.

Smell: Sweet roasted malt and full of bourbon heat. I'm getting some chocolate and dark fruit notes as well. Lots going on here.

Taste: Doesn't disappoint at all. This is a very smooth and creamy stout, especially given the abv. Roasted malts with some sweet chocolate notes. I'm getting hints of coffee and dark fruit as well. The bourbon taste is rather strong, but it doesn't overpower the other flavors, it adds to them.

Mouthfeel: The body is on the thick side of medium, but I think it could have been a little bit thicker and that would have been alright. The carbonation is tingly and the finish is dry.

Overall: I really enjoyed the balance and complexity of this stout. It was a sweet beer, but not in an overwhelming way. The rest of the flavors were allowed to contribute and it all worked out perfectly. I would love to have more given the chance.

Photo of MasterSki
4.49/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ninety-nine down, one to go (or at least until the top 100 changes again). Finally got to try this elusive brew at the Bell's 30 Taps World Record event at Beer Sellar in Indy. Had three 5oz tasters of this stuff.

N.B. This was listed as "BB Double Cream Stout", but Larry Bell assured everyone it was the blend and that the erroneous name was merely due to a label approval issue.

A - A half-finger of dark mocha foam with solid retention, and a little bit of lacing. Pitch black - there was no trace of color, even at the fringes. It's about what I expect from a high gravity Imperial Stout.

S - Tons of bourbon and vanilla notes, a bit of roastiness - it wasn't the most complex nose. I even patiently waited for it to warm up, as it was served WAY too cold, but I didn't really get much more than the basics here.

T - The taste was superb, and was somewhat shocking after the lukewarm aroma. Tons of bourbon, vanilla, sweet malts, milk chocolate, and a bit of dark fruit and barrel. I love the way the Double Cream Stout portion offsets the roasty bitterness and acidity. As a result the aftertaste is surprisingly mild.

M - Mild carbonation, super smooth, lighter in body than I expected (more medium-to-full). Plenty of residual stickiness in this one, and shockingly a bit of heat (even after a couple years in the keg).

D - Super drinkable for what it was - the multiple tasters went down pretty easy. I think out of the ten tickets my wife and I got, we used at least half of them on this superb brew. The only problem is the ABV, and is that really that big of a problem? ;-)

Photo of mendvicdog
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

Photo of drabmuh
4.43/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I've been offended for a long time that this beer has slipped through my grasp. Everyone raves about it, and it is good, but how much better than a decently treated Bourbon county is it? Not much.

Beer served on draft in a snifter. Beer is black with a lazy head of tan bubbles, some lacing, minimal carbonation, lots of lacing.

Aroma is sweet, bourbon, malt, not much else.

Beer is also sweet, smooth, creamy, decent, mouth-feel is the best thing about this beer, high in alcohol, sweet, good finish, a decent barrel aged whatever but don't knock yourself out looking for it like i did.

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.25/5  rDev -6.8%

Photo of Rifugium
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First had: on tap at City Tap House, Philly, PA

First (and only at the time) keg to come to Philly!

Served in a snifter, dark brown to black, opaque, with a minimal tan head. Aroma was luscious with dark malts, licorice, vanilla and chocolate; some alcohol noticeable. Taste was rich with malts, dark chocolate, sweet sugars, bourbon-soaked wood; strong in flavor and booze; quite simply amazing all around. Nicely thick and creamy, full bodied. Highly drinkable, and among of the best stouts I've had.

Photo of beernads
4.75/5  rDev +4.2%

Photo of MarkyMOD
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

Photo of mdfb79
4.63/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap tonight at Churchkey in Washington, DC. 10 oz. pours in snifters. This was one of those whales I never thought I'd get to try unless it came to a festival, so was pretty happy to get a few glasses of it tonight.

a - Pours a pitch black color with one inch of dark tan head and light carbonation evident. Head lasts for a few minutes and leaves some spotty lacing on the glass.

s - Smells of bourbon, oak, vanilla, roasted malts, sweet and bitter chocolate, and caramel malts. Really amazing nose with the bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate mixing wonderfully. Pretty perfect nose.

t - Tastes of bourbon, oak, vanilla, sweet chocolate sweet dark fruits, roasted malts, bitter chocolate, and cream. Again, really great here.

m - Medium to full body and low carbonation. Somewhat thicky and creamy, really great mouthfeel. No alchool heat really at all.

o - Overall a truely fantastic beer; reminds me, as well as others I was with, a lot of BCS Rare. Nose is wonderful and no real alcohol heat, I had no problem drinking 3 full glasses of this one. I put it on par with BCS Rare and the normal BCS, which are two of my favorite stouts. Would love to have it again sometime.

Photo of drewone
4/5  rDev -12.3%

Photo of Rochefort10nh
4.5/5  rDev -1.3%

Photo of kojevergas
4/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Huge props to Duff27 for this bottle!

BOTTLE: 2014 vintage. Bottled: 08/12/14. 11.4% ABV. 12 fl oz. Brown glass.

Expectations are sky high; this is currently #25 in the Top 250. Served cold into a tulip/teku hybrid and allowed to warm over the course of consumption.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Beautifully creamy, full, and thick. Has an exquisite rich shiny complexion, which is gorgeous combined with the rich khaki colour head. Leaves a thick even coating of lacing as it recedes. Retention is excellent - ~8 minutes.

BODY: Deep dark black. Opaque. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

A special and great looking stout with apt carbonation. I can't wait for the first sip.

AROMA: Amazing bourbon barrel notes. Rich white oak, authentic vanilla (not artificial vanillin extract), barrel sugars, and toasted wood. Wow.

As amazing as the bourbon character is, it doesn't seem to eclipse the base, which brings notes of subtle dark fruit (fig and plum primarily, with subsidiary notes of date), chocolate, and subtle coffee with a kiss of roast. Pleasant cream is also noticeable, but I'm not finding the espresso mentioned on the label - as nice as the coffee is.

Constructively, I have come across stout aromas with richer more expressive chocolate and more complex roasty coffee notes. I nitpick, but it's an incredible aroma overall.

As it comes to temperature, hidden notes of marshmallow and toasted coconut begin to emerge, as well as a fleeting kiss of faint char and burnt sugar.

Moderate aromatic intensity. This evocative aroma suggests a luxuriously well-balanced beer with plenty of subtlety and complexity. Mouthwatering. Wow.

No hop profile or yeast character is detectable, nor are any off-notes.

TASTE: The open greets the drinker with notes of cream and soft bourbon. The bourbon barrel character is fantastic, boasting notes of authentic vanilla, slightly toasted white oak, and barrel sugars that remain strong throughout the beer, lending it a natural guiding cohesion. The bourbon doesn't overwhelm the base beer, but rather accents its notes of impressively subtle dark fruit (fig and plum), roasted barley, and coffee.

The coffee, unfortunately, is quite shallow and uninteresting compared to other stellar imperial stouts; more complexity, diversity, and depth of flavour is needed for the coffee note to play with the big boys.

Chocolate is similarly limited; I get some creamy milk chocolate, but it's limited in scope and intricacy. We've all had better chocolate notes in beer. As it warms, though, some fudge emerges.

The foundation is comprised of dark malts and chocolate malts, which form an easily imposed-upon neutral stout base - a blank slate into which the more interesting notes can insert themselves.

I find a glimmer of coconut which never fully resolves. And the marshmallow I thought I found in the aroma is absent here...or is it? It flirts with notes of grape and currant, but never fully commits.

Balance is nearly impeccable, with few flaws noticeable aside from a faint charred and burnt character at the bottom of the second act. There's definite complexity and nuance in this build, but I can't find the espresso promised by the label, and if we're nitpicking (as I feel we must do whenever a beer is in the Top 250), I have had more complex & intricate imperial stouts. But few feature such a well-attuned harmony of bourbon barrel and base beer notes. This tastes like a gestalt whole.

Still, this is a delicious brew of the highest quality, and I find myself drinking slowly to savor each sip.

TEXTURE: Damn. This beer just melts into the palate with incredible softness and angelic delicacy. Creamy, comforting on the palate, and fragile. Smooth and wet, enhancing drinkability. The creaminess coupled with the softness is divine, and carbonation is near perfect. It's aptly full-bodied and has ideal thickness, which is needed to support the beer's many flavours. Incredibly well executed, with superb overall presence on the palate. This is a mouthfeel that elevates a beer beyond its taste, and accentuates the notes in the flavour profile, coaxing out their nuances. Majestic.

If not for a slight harshness brought on by burnt sugar and char in the late second act, this mouthfeel would be perfect.

OVERALL: Shockingly drinkable for its unnoticeable 11.4%. Easily one of Bell's best beers (if not THE best), and absolutely a beer that deserves its high ratings. I'm not sure I'd consider it the 25th best beer in the world, but it's a treat of a brew and avoids the common pitfalls of the style: it's not too sweet or dessert-like, it doesn't have acrid or overly bitter coffee, the bourbon barrel doesn't eclipse the base, it doesn't lack a roasted barley presence, and while it has notable complexity, it doesn't sacrifice balance to attain it.

Its main flaw is that pesky burnt/charred character.

High B+

Might easily become an A- with age. But I could never hold onto a bottle for that long; it's too good.

Photo of InspectorBob
4.75/5  rDev +4.2%

Photo of wrightst
4.75/5  rDev +4.2%

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
100 out of 100 based on 3,360 ratings.