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

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Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Michigan, United States

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.40%

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.

Added by mcallister on 06-16-2007

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Reviews: 591 | Ratings: 3,988
Photo of yamar68
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
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.

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Photo of oline73
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
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.

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Photo of smokeypeat
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Once again the power of the central PA/SEPA beer market comes through and I finally get to try Black Note.

Pours a jet black into the goblet with a light coffee tan head that quickly disappeared leaving just the slightest head. Some alcohol legs on the glass.

The smell on this one is up there. Rich vanilla bourbon with some great hints of toasted coconut. Fainter hints of toffee and light tobacco.

Taste is as good as I hoped for. The base beer here really holds up well to the bourbon treatment. Plenty of roasted coffee notes, bakers dark chocolate, and a dash of anise. The bourbon adds a great interplay of vanilla, caramel, toffee, and woody oak. No one aspect of the beer dominates but there is a great mixture of a lot of my favorite flavors.

Mouthfeel on this beer really worked for me. I don't know if it's because it was on tap or not, but I found the carbonation level to be perfect. The beer was extremely creamy and really easy to drink, and the alcohol was perfectly masked.

All in all, Black Note lived up to the hype for me. I was fortunate to get a whole growler, and frankly it seems like an embarrassment of riches. Everyone who got a pour of this agreed that it was top notch. I would definitely go out of my way to get this beer again.

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Photo of tarheels86
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Tap at Churchkey. Pours ink with a medium tan head leaving webby reddish lace. Nose is rich buttery bourbon with tropical notes like dried pineapple and dried papaya. Toasted coconut. Let it decant to cinnamon ganache and very subtle meat/umami character. Soft booziness, coffee liquor. So many rich subtleties makes this an incredible experience. Taste is similar to normal and Rare Bourbon County Stout. Super creamy, rich coconut oil mouthfeel. Feels less sharply bitter than normal Expy. Softer and easier to love than normal Expy. Superlative soft mouthfeel. Nice bitterness comes through to cut initial sweetness. Great mouthfeel- mild heat reminds of soft bourbon aging but softness is unreal. Roasty bitterness and coffee character hints that this is not BCS but something else. Very beautiful. Complexities are easier to fall in love with than normal Expedition which can be too aggressive and powerful at times. Had this on tap now four separate times- always delicious and silky. Not sure what's up with that bottle picture, since that is not what the bottled version of this beer looks like. 12/6/2011 9/4/9/5/18=4.5

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Photo of draheim
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle (bottled 12/28/2012 - thanks again Hoptologist!) into a snifter. Pours oily black w/ a very thin tan head that quickly dissipates to a narrow collar. I know it's not supposed to matter with big stouts like this, but I still like to see a little head+retention.

Aroma is big powerful bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, rum-soaked tobacco, toffee/molasses, and caramelized dark fruit. Fresh-baked sticky buns. Smells phenomenal.

Taste follows nose. Dark bitter chocolate, coffee, bourbon, dried figs/dates, vanilla, caramel, and more bourbon. Nice boozy heat warms the throat. Everything very nicely balanced, maybe just a touch sweeter than I like my BA stouts.

Mouthfeel is sticky, chewy, a little syrupy.

Overall, a solid barrel aged stout, in the same league as Parabola and KBS and better than BCBS. I'd buy this every year if I could.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle into Lost Abbey stemmed glass. Thanks a TON for sending me this bottle Jay. You’re the man!

A: Pours pitch black with a minimal head. Not getting much lace but that’s expected.
S: I get huge notes of vanilla with undertones of bourbon, caramel and deep chocolate. There are some spicy notes as well.
T: Phenomenally smooth notes of chocolate fudge, sweet bourbon, caramel, hints of barrel spice and smoke. The finish is super smooth and bourbony and so very mellow.
M: Ultra smooth and creamy beer. The booze is well hidden and the body is thick and chewy. This feels awesome.
O: One of the better stouts I’ve ever had. I could drink a whole bottle of this myself. Thank you so much Jay!

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Photo of jethrodium
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Devil's Den. Pours a dark black with a small light tan head the settles to a ring at the edges and leaves some light lacing on the glass. The aroma is molasses, dark chocolate, some bourbon and vanilla, a bit of roastiness, some light coffee, a bit of coconut, some light alcohol, and hints of raisin and cherry. Quite awesome. There is a lot going on here. The initial taste is sweet with dark chocolate. Then comes some molasses, licorice, and some bourbon and vanilla. There is also some light coconut, a bit of cherry, and some coffee roastiness. The finish has a mild bitterness with some roast and a bit of alcohol. Big, full, creamy mouthfeel that is quite nice. Medium-low carbonation. Amazing beer. Right up there with the best barrel aged stouts.

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Photo of RoamingGnome
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bell's Black Note

Glad I finally get the chance to try this beer. Split a bottle amongst friends at my favorite bottle shop. Served lightly chilled.

A) Definitely black on the pour. There was not much had generated, maybe a half finger. It was dark tan in color, and settled quickly to a collar.

S) Needed to warm up a bit, but once it did the aroma really opened up, and was very pleasant. There is vanilla, bourbon, bit of roast, it's definitely got some of that oak barrel woody aroma to it. There's some chocolate too. The chocolate was more noticeable at near room temp.

T) Follows the nose nicely. Pleasantly chocolatey, vanilla sweetness, light roast, oak barrel, and bourbon. The 11.5 ABV is well hidden. The quality of this stout's aroma and taste is reminiscent of BCBS.

M) Medium bodied and lightly carbonated. This is very smooth, very supple, very soft, very easy to drink. No alcohol burn. Nice aftertaste.

O) Ranks right up there with any other barrel aged stout I have had the pleasure to drink. I certainly wish I could get a hold of a few more bottles. Glad to recommend.

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Photo of jimmy82063
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Finally received the elusive Black Note - Poured into a Bell's Snifter

A - Jet Black with a thin brownish head. Minimal lacing.

S - Outstanding - bourbon comes right through.

T - Bourbon of course, coffee, chocolate and some nice drak fruit. There is a real nice semi sweet chocolate finish at the end. A bit of the oak and burnt sugar are noted as well.

M) - This is so smooth and in regards to other style offerings this is where this stands out. Absolutely no harshness!

O) An outstanding beer, very easy to drink - this will cause a commotion if it ever hits the New York area.

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Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a pitch black with a very thin tan head.

S - Aromas of heavy bourbon with some vanilla and chocolate.

T - Starts out with a hint of bourbon that transforms into a nice mix of chocolate and coffee. There is a nice vanilla sweetness throughout. Alcohol is very well hidden.

M - Full bodied with low carbonation. Silky smooth mouthfeel.

O - An awesome treat. Lots of rich and lucious flavors. Very smooth and drinkable for BA sout. Highly recommended.

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Photo of davey101
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2012, 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass. Batch #11620, bottled 12/28/2012. Thanks to ObiWanKushnobi for this long time want!

A - Pours a pitch black body with two fingers worth of mocha foam. Settles out into a thin cap. Moderate lacing and retention.

S - Starts off with the bourbon...oak, vanilla, and some char. Then some roasted malts and sweet cocoa powder. A touch of dark fruits too. No element really dominates here, just well integration of two base beers + a barrel.

T - Just all kinds of balance going on here. Smooth vanilla and oak, a bit of a bourbon butterscotch, lightly bitter coffee beans, and dry cocoa powder. A little bit of everything here. Finishes with a real faint but pleasant alcohol warmth.

M - Creamy, smooth, and decadent....thank you Double Cream stout! Surprisingly high drinkability compared to other BA stouts.

O - Perhaps the most balanced and easy drinking BA stout I have ever had. This is a damn impressive beer and I wish I somehow had year round access to this. Forever ISO, but I still prefer BCBS for its unrelenting bourbon element.

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Photo of soughtbygod
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

About to try my first black note: 2012 poured from a 12oz bottle,

I am a huge fan of BBA stouts, I have had CBS, CW BBA stout, KBS, Class X kern River, BCBS, Parabola etc, some live up to the hype and others fall flat, I am about to test drive Bells Black note:

Appearance: Opaque black no like gets through as you pour it almost no head forms and the head that does form is dark dark tan with fine bubbles.

Smell: Wow interesting, this has dark plum, raisins, black licorice, the bourbon is there but very muted and hidden, I also get almost a sweet coffee on the nose.

Taste: The taste is very good this is definitely a top 5 for me, the hidden bourbon is no longer hidden that is the first upfront flavor, but even though that is the upfront flavor it is not hot like one would expect for 11.8 %, as it continues to ease over my taste buds the other flavors emerge vanilla first, then a touch of sarsaparilla, and finally on the very back of the tongue coffee candy that reminds me of loomis coffee candies in the gold wrapper my mother used to eat them when I was young.

Mouth feel: not much to say here this was very typical, smooth and creamy not the best mouth feel I have had but not the worst.

Overall: I am very impressed with this beer, I still give higher rating to my all time favorite CBS, but this is def in the top 5 for me and worthy of seeking in the future, cheers fellow BA's

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Photo of treznor
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Jet black and inky with a dark tan head.

S - Can definitely get the bourbon off the aroma here! Some dark chocolately, raisany notes down there as well.

T - Complex, dark, the taste lingers for a bit and increases in complexity with something extra coming out at the end.

M - The 'weak' point of the beer as its slightly thin.

O - A great beer to sit around and sip.

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Photo of kkleu357
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Got a bottle of this as an extra. Never had it before, but reminds me of of CW Bourbon Barrel Stout, just thicker and boozier. Thick dark body. Tons of chocolate flavor with oak and slightly too much whiskey. Very good.

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Photo of Axnjxn
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

draft at federal in Durham.

pours an opaque black with a small head. dark fruit, chocolately malts. dark fruits at the beginning, slight bourbon...not overwhelming at all. ABV absolutely undetectable and drinkablity is this beers #1 attribute. full bodied..very creamy. low carbonation

overall love this one.

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Photo of -Rick
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L: jet black with almost no head. Little carbonation also
S: bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and coffee
T: like the nose, sweet. Anika bourbon followed by a chocolate coffee finish. So well blended.
F: creamy goodness that lingers in the mouth for a long while
O: an amazing BB Stout. Not flashy or fancy with odd characteristics, just a solid solid beer!

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Photo of Dreadnaught33
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

What an awesome beer. Had a pull at Churchkey.

Pours super thick black with a ring of tan head and a nice web of lacing. Looks great, and it previews the excellent silky feel.

Smell is good, I get licorice, vanilla, some sweeter bourbon and oak, a little malt, a touch of roast, and some maple syrup. I just knock it cause it isn't really jumping out of the glass. Some alcohol pops out with a swirl.

Taste is amazing and so is the feel, it's so silly and inviting with a range of amazing layers of flavor. Sticky, chewy, semi sweet and savory, there is no heat in there which amazing. Flavors include licorice, sweeter bourbon-very nice bourbon like van winkle 12, nice roasty chocolate notes, oak, lactose sugar, a little alcohol sweetness, some savory slight bacony notes, and some espresso cream. Wow, stunning beer.

Overall this is killing. What a great beer, my favorite bells and that says something.

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Photo of dbc5
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
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.

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

Shared this with a couple of fellow BA'ers and found it to be quite good, but not quite up to my Gold Standard, as set by Goose Island Proprietor's. But did a side by side tasting of it along with Lost Abbey's Agave Maria, and found it did edge out the Agave Maria by a nose. Pun intended. You would be hard pressed to drink a full bottle of this beer by ones self I feel. Solid 4.5 beer.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Funky Buddha Brewery snifter. Back label says PKGD 03/12/14. Celebrating my 900th review with this miracle of a gift provided by mjshearer1.

A- Pours a fully opaque black color with a 1/2 inch light brown head that retains a bit before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a bubbly center patch of surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves a thin jagged ring behind.

S- Big rush of dark roasted malt with heavy notes of dark chocolate, bourbon and molasses. Also some caramel and vanilla undertones. Booze fume is there but works well with the rest of the aroma.

T- Initial dark chocolate comes across subtly and then the barrel creeps in and brings a bit more intensity as well as some vanilla sweetness. Wonderful black coffee aftertaste brings the profile around full circle. Additional notes of raisin and more molasses. So drinkable for the ABV and yet the flavors linger good and long so that they can be savored by only sipping sporadically. As it warms, it somehow becomes more sweet and even less boozy, however the dark roast becomes even more prevalent making it a bit more bitter.

M- Quite creamy and viscous plus there's some sticky residue in the afterfeel. Medium-low carbonation and the fullest of bodies.

O- A great BBA beer that's full-on with the bourbon presence but not so much that it becomes too hot or one-dimensional. Though I still think BCBS and KBS are both above it, this one is certainly a major contender and deserves to be appreciated for its own unique qualities.

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

Huge thanks to Derek, as always, for the bottle.

Black in color with a small tan head. Aroma is almost overpowering bourbon and vanilla. Rich chocolate and a bit of roasted malt. Simplicity at its finest. The flavor is similarly bold. A touch of alcohol, intense bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Tons of chocolate, some hints of coffee and roasted malt, and a bit of molasses. Excellent, decadent stuff.

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

This beer poured jet black with a nice one and a half finger tall mocha-colored head leaving sticky streaks of lace that lasted throughout. Aromas of warm bourbon, milk chocolate, vanilla, dark roasted malt, brown sugar and quite a bit of lactic creaminess. The flavor starts off with a big dose of warm bourbon, chocolate and some lactic creaminess from the double cream stout. Hints of vanilla, oak, brown sugar and rich coffee help to break things up and keep things interesting. Big and full smooth mouthfeel with a ton of sweet flavors and moderation carbonation throughout. The finish was quite sweet with plenty of boozy bourbon and some dark roast, lingering on the palate long after consumption. I look forward to cracking open my Black Note bomber that I acquired early in 2012!

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

I have been fortunate enough to have had this beer on several occasions. I know I have reviews and notes somewhere and I know I gave this beer a 5. but that was back then...and now this beer has become much more readily available and I have been able to sample it multiple times (including tonight)...and as much as I love it it is no 5. so time to review it instead of waiting for tomorrow or whenever I will upload my notes.

the beer pours a sludgey jet black with a thin creamy off tan head. night nice barrel aged shine. smell is black roasted malt and bourbon. good wood presence and good balance. taste is silky and smooth. the heat is on for this one as the ABV is very noticeable. goes down easy and is definitely one of the better barrel aged stouts. just a bit more in your face then some of the others. I have always found this one to be the strongest feeling. definitely worth checking out and lives up to the hype but it is no 5.

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

750ml bottle courtesy of waltersrj, shared with Bitterbill and mkorpal at the Library bar in Laramie, WY. Bottle #242 (short review)

Pours black with a nice tan head, nice lacing and legs are left behind on the swirl. Nose has a lot of caramel and chocolate, quite malty with some hints of oak. Not boozy. Taste is really wonderful, an excellent blend of two stouts with additional complexity from a barrel. Barrel note is not the sole feature of this beer, and that is the reason we all enjoyed it. An incredibly well done beer and worth trading. Smooth and very easy to drink given the heft.

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Photo of cpetrone84
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark coffee brown with tight dark tan head. Nose has some subtle roasted malt, notes of coffee, vanilla cream, chocolate cake. There is a mild sweet bourbon note. It tastes well balanced, faint touch of sweetness with rich chocolate cake and vanilla notes. The coffee is lighter, Light note of sweet bourbon that picks up as it warns, more present than the nose but still subtle. Soft creamy feel, full bodied but not heavy with good carb and extremely drinkable.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 3,988 ratings.
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