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

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world-class
586 Reviews
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Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout
BEER INFO

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

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
586
Ratings:
3,928
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
8.44%
 
 
Wants:
2,755
Gots:
1,017
For Trade:
90
User Reviews
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Reviews: 586 | Ratings: 3,928
Photo of mdaschaf
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes.

A: Pours a very deep brown, practically black with a small tan/mocha colored head on top that forms a pretty tight cap. Decent read retention with thin lacing.

S: Dark chocolate upfront with some light roasted malt. Bourbon mixed with vanilla and a bit of brown sugar and molasses as well.

T: The first flavor I got was vanilla with dark chocolate, a great combination. The bourbon kicks in adding some wood, a bit of caramelized sugar, and some molasses. Faint dark fruit as well, cherries. Slight bitter/roast on the back end.

M: Full bodied with moderate carbonation, pretty smooth.

O: A very nice beer, understandable why it scores so hi. Very impressed and look forward to trying it again.

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Photo of srv33
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A 2012 poured into a tulip. Pours a near black chocolately brown with minimal lacing and no head. Scent of raisin, fig, swiss milk chocolate, coffee, and caramel. With a nose like that it must be fantastic, right?

The nose is fully expressed in the taste, rich dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and caramel are all present and craftfully balanced. I've had the pleasure to try KBS, Expedition, and CBS, and would remark that this deserves its place among them. I would say the general flavor palate is quite similar but differs a fair bit in mouthfeel and richess, especially when compared to K/CBS. Compared to those it is much less rich, lacks the sort of near-syrupy richness of CBS or the earthy depth of KBS. There is also a much smoother touch of fine carbonation, more than K/CBS.

I had just as hard a time finding this as I did finding its cousins. Certainly glad I finally got to see what the hype is about. For some, this will certainly be perfect, (to those who find CBS or KBS simply too much) and others might find it lacking when compared to those, though somewhat similar in terms of flavor. Would I buy this again if I had the chance? Yes. Is it Bells best? I wouldn't say so, but it is certainly up there. Is it an absolutely fantastically crafted stout? WIthout a doubt. Cheers!

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Photo of caskstrength
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

black pour with creamy brown head.

the smell is underwhelming.
But who cares because the taste is coming

and it's outstanding. bourbon notes infused into the stout characteristics I was hoping for. Read the Bell's brewery notes on this beer if you want the details, but who really cares when it tastes this good. Just drink it when you see it. Then come here and write a review with all the details that will add up to: "it's really f-ing good."

 448 characters

Photo of infestaxion
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was the big hit of the world record Bell's tapping. And they gave us a kick ass notebook to review it in.

A - Black as night with a dark coffee head that fades quickly.

S - Alcohol, malt and dark sugar. Not a whole lot going on though.

T - Lots of bourbon. Sweet malt and molasses. All of these flavors are rolling around in you mouth all at once. It's frikkin fantastic. The Double Cream brings a sweetness that really makes this beer. I imagine a Bourbon Barrel Expedition wouldn't be as good. It's surprisingly hot for being two years old.

M - A little thinner than I expected.

D - Really good. Not an easy drinker though. I think it took me most of the night to take down 20 oz.

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Photo of srandycarter
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pretty darned black. No head. Some small cling lace.

S - Soy sauce!!! I cannot tell you how much it is soy. Behind that is charred sweet malt.

T - Pretty much the same as the smell. Sweet malt lingers a bit at the end.

M - Somewhat creamy, good carb, good balance. I like it.

D - Very boozy, but hides it pretty well. I like this one.

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 12 oz. bottle.

A - Dark body, opaque, with a short tan head that fades quickly. Minor lacing. Pretty typical for a solid barrel aged stout.

S - Roasted malt is forward, with a strong alcohol and wood hum, and hints of chocolate and vanilla. Fairly quiet, all told, but the nose promises deliciousness.

T - And this beer delivers. Solid. Front is boozy bourbon vanilla and wood, middle of dark chocolate and cocoa nibs, molasses and bread, close is slightly acidic.

M - Some carbonation, slick, warmth from the alcohol, and a biting close that scrubs the weight off and keeps things clean. A bit to brisk for me.

O - Glad I stumbled into this one, and that I got to try it. I think this is rock solid, a signal of Bell's skills. A strong, solid take on the bourbon-barrel aged stout.

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Photo of Masonz223
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Smell- lots of dark fruit rasin plums milk chocolate vanilla some booziness.
Taste- right upfront you get some vanilla and dark chocolate middle of the mouth rasin plums burnt sugar slight milk chocolate finishes with more dark chocolate dark coffee roastiness and a nice smokey almost burnt woody characteristic. A creamy vanilla taste shows some flashes in the aftertaste. But mostly the burnt roasted notes linger in the finish.
Feel: medium to full body better body then the 14 dry in the finish creamy mouthfeel.
Overall: I had a 14 and now a 16 the body on the 16 is better and there are more of those barrel notes in the 16. I think the 16 is slightly better. A really really good beer.

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Photo of Mikeypnh
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014. Poured into a tulip glass. Pours black with a mocha film on top and a few bubbles around the rim. The smell is very potent. Coffee, chocolate, toffee, licorice and bourbon. Strong bourbon and barrel taste up front. Darks fruits come through nicely, especially at the end. Nice alcohol burn to go along with it. Huge flavor on this one. Very creamy mouthfeel with a dry, somewhat bitter coffee/licorice aftertaste. Another great bourbon barrel beer, although I prefer a couple others to this.

 497 characters

Photo of Furlinator
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%

Bottled on 05/17/14.

Pours opaque black. The thin khaki head fades to a thin film and ring on top and leaves spots of lace.

The smell is an inviting combination of dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut, pipe tobacco and black coffee.

The taste is of dark chocolate, black cherry, roasted (almost smoked) dark malt, vanilla, toasted coconut and bourbon.

The texture is heavy bodied wilow carbonation.

Hard to come by on the West Coast, I'm glad to have gotten my hands on this one. An absolute world class barrel aged imperial stout.

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Photo of hippityhops85
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Devils Den for their 'Bells Darkest Day' Event.

Poured into a cervoise glass.

Pours a pitch black with next-to-no head.

Lots of bourbon, vanilla, a huge molasses presence, along with the strong, toasty malt backbone.

Taste is similar: vanilla leading to molasses and then finished with the semi-sweet malt. This beer is SUPER balanced for a BA stout. Really impressed.

The mouthfeel is spot on with light carbonation that lifts the bourbon and vanilla flavors off of the palate.

I really hope bells decides to bottle this and distribute it. It's definitely up there with the best ba stouts but it doesn't trump them all. A fantastic job by Bells.

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

Bell's Black Note is a delicious imperial stout with lovely dark fruit, bourbon and oak flavours.

A: Black colour and a thin head that fades fast. 4

S: It smells of bourbon barrel as well as sweet raisiny malt. 4.5

T: A strong and slightly bitter malt flavour. There is some coffee flavour too. Delicious. The finish is quite sweet with some sweet raisin and dusty oak. 4.5

M: Thick and foamy. 4.5

O: 4.5

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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.

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Photo of dborginis
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at City Tap House's Bell's 31 event.

Black, no head (ordered it from a waiter so it had time to settle) smells like bread, chocolate and Jack daniels.
Taste is sweet (chocolate, caramel, maybe vanilla too) but not overwhelming. The bourbon is present and not
overwhelming as well except for the quick buzz I'm getting. More
viscous and somewhat flat than carbonated. A bit of a hop bitterness noticeable. A fine dessert.
Good but definitely a sipper. I had to work on this over an hour + while sampling others. A fine example of a bourbon aged product.

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

On tap at bells eccentric cafe. A long desired beer that I was pleasantly surprised to find on tap here. Pours nearly black with creamy tan head. Nose of chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla. Taste of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, wood...very smooth flavors that are well integrated. You can taste the dark fruit qualities of the Expedition Stout underneath the barrel aging here. Thick body with low/medium carbonation. Overall, an outstanding ba stout. Would be great to see this in bottles.

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Photo of TheBrewo
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

We pop the top on a bottle of the 2012 stock (thanks Ashley P.!!), and pour into our oversized tasting snifters. It shows the deepest Tootsie pop brown, letting though a few faint rays of shimmering ruby when scrutinized intensely under direct light. The pour was delicate and produced only a few aggregates of chocolate mousse colored bubbles, but a rough swirl of the glass kicks up more of a crown. Spots of lacing are found peppered around the glass in rows. No haze or sediment is noted, and carbonation appears to be light. The aroma, right from the start, gives epic waves of buttery, warming bourbon smoothness, even when still cold at fridge temperatures. As it warms it really starts to bud, offering notes of densely roasted chocolate and brown malts, singed molasses crisp, sweet brown breadiness, rich milk chocolate creaminess, dried raisins and candied black cherries, plum juiciness, soy sauce saltiness, plastic and chemical phenols, powdered cocoa, charred oak, gentle charcoal, harsh fusel ethanol, and faint grassy hop bitterness. Our first impression is that this beer is absolutely fantastic, and lives up to the hype with everything you would hope for. As we sip, the taste begins with fusel boozy burn of bourbon and its accompanying soured oak, sweet and lactic creaminess, cloying cherry fruit juiciness, sweet chocolate, coffee, and general brown maltiness, dark plum flesh, burning stomach acid acidity, and crisply roasted espresso beans. The middle peaks with undeniable sweetness of white sugar, musk, tannic breakfast tea leafiness, slimy Muscat grape skins, cloying milk and dark chocolate syrups, ethanolic rumbles, and smoky X-mas ham. Following through the end is a blend of bitter char and light smoke, sweeter brushes of both melty nibs and powdered dark cocoa, fig, truffle and sesame oiliness, musky oakiness, gravel, heavy creamer, and a final heavy roast of the malts mixing with the fleetingly smooth sweetness of the bourbon. The aftertaste breathes of rich and dark chocolate cocoa, bittering leathers, plastic phenols, fuming smokiness, distant floral hops, black cherry and plum juiciness, burn of bourbon, cooked brown sugars, buttery pie crust, diacetyls and sweet banana esters, basement musk, and perfumed phenols. The body is medium to fully, but chewy, while carbonation is light to medium. Each sip gives excellent slurp, smack, cream, froth, and pop, with the lips left speckled with quickly drying residual sugars. The mouth is coated and left sapped with those same sugars. This remains for quite some time, eventually giving way to a surprisingly mild tannic pucker focused towards the far back of the palate. The abv is appropriately warming, and the beer sips wildly slowly, as you’re not quite sure if you’ll ever see her again, and want to savor every last minute you have left with her.

Overall, the most enjoyable aspect of this brew was its flavoring. The wood and the bourbon exemplified here are exceptional, and scary mellow with the additional two years they had on them. There are no real shockers with this beer. What we mean by that is you kind of get what you expect, without any major surprises or curveballs. We know it is becoming ridiculous with all of the things that are showing up labeled “barrel-aged” this, or “oak-aged” that, but this guy is one of the original heavy hitters, up there with the likes of Bourbon County. We try not to compare, but they have a good deal of parallels. The buttery diacetyls shine, and the bourbon remains sweet and rich throughout. What we get here, specifically, is the sweetness of chocolate from the base beer, but this also adds a needed bitterness on the tail end, keeping things balance the whole way through. This is the best beer we’ve had from Bell’s to date, as we’ve not yet been introduced to their barreling program, but we are ultimately happy and pleased with the final result. This beer deserves all the recognition it gets, so if you find some, cherish it, and be sure to share it with some close, like-minded friends who can really appreciate what they’re embarking on.

 4,122 characters

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

Bottled Dec 28, 2012.

Beer is jet black with a small tan head.

Nose is very good. A nice blend of bourbon scents (oak, vanilla, bourbon itself), dark fruits, and chocolate. The nose reveals a well blended barrel-aged stout, with the barrel being obvious but not overwhelming.

Taste lives up to the promise of the nose. There is nothing unexpected here: it has all the flavours one would expect from a bourbon-barrel aged stout. What makes it great is two things: (i) the base beer is of a very high quality; and (ii) the flavours are very well proportioned. Bourbon, oak, vanilla, dark fruits, chocolate and some roasted malt are all there, and all harmonious with one another.

Mouthfeel is also great. Full bodied, moderate to low carbonation level and very very smooth. Despite the high ABV, it drinks quite easily. Alcohol hear is there but surprisingly muted for what it is.

Overall, terrific. Absolutely a first rate BBA stout.

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Photo of zeff80
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
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.

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Photo of unclejazz
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the Blue Tusk 5oz into a wine glass.

Pours jet black very little head has solid legs like a good wine. The aroma has bourbon, vanilla, almond, roasted malt and almost a Dr. Pepper sort of vibe. Vanilla leads on the first taste, very creamy, and then bourbon and dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is rich but not heavy, you get a creamy texture from the cream stout element. Overall this is a wonderful beer and worth the hype. I have had this before in a bottle and it's maybe even a bit more enjoyable on draft.

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

Served on-tap at Al's of Hampden, Brass Rail and Shady McGrady's all in the same week. Also out of a growler at ffej of july...Yeah, this area does not suck.

A - Pours jet black with a nice one and a half finger tall mocha colored head leaving sticky streaks of lace down parts of the glass.

S - Smells of warm bourbon, milk chocolate, vanilla, dark roasted malt, brown sugar and quite a bit of lactic creaminess. Bourbon is strong initially but the other aroma's grow to help keep it in check.

T - 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. Finish is pretty sweet with plenty of boozy bourbon and some dark roast, lingering on the palate long after consumption.

M - Big, full body with a TON of sweet flavors and moderate carbonation. Smooth, boozy feel throughout the glass.

O - I have missed out on trying this one a few times in the past so I was really looking forward to trying it when I saw that it went on-tap. Now that I have had it 4-5 times in the span of a week I can say that it definitely lives up to its billing. Awesome beer for sure.

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

on tap at brewpub for All Stouts Day and left on afterwards:
This beer was pitch black and produced a small snow white head that left trace lace as it subsided. An aroma of malt, bourbon, chocolate, cocoa and anise. The flavor was of malt, chocolate and anise. It had a medium body and slightly creamy and a sweet finish. Love this combination.

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

2014 vintage. Had right after a bcbcs. Great beer but unfair to compare to bcbcs. Not as sweet and has a nice mustly charcoal flavor. Goes down a little easier. Great beer but not top of its class.

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

On-tap, served in a wine glass

Pours an ink black, a little sludgy, with little to no head. Just some brown foam around the collar of the glass.

The aroma is of rich bourbon, butterscotch, vanilla, toffee and a large amount of oak. The oak was largely present when the temperature was cooler, but as it warmed, the oak subsided a bit.

Rich, roasty goodness, bourbon, and vanilla up front. Oak carries through the middle with burnt toffee and then a bourbon, dark Belgian chocolate, roasty finish.

Full bodied with perfectly low carbonation. This was a thick stout, but had nice lift off the palate. Not oily by any stretch. Thick, full and luscious with a dry oak finish.

This beer is the real deal. A great combination of roast, bourbon, oak and butterscotch/burnt toffee. Definitely a beer one should seek out.

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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.

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Photo of PhatAtUT
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 bottle poured into tulip

A: pitch black, inch tan head. looks like a delicious imperial stout
S: the smell is a little off-putting to me. kind of a syrupy soy smell that i got from uncle jacobs. not bad, just not a smell that appeals to me personally.
T: so rich and complex. milk chocolate. caramel. vanilla. a sort of fig-like jammy fruitiness. licorice. obvious strong hop profile perfectly balanced out with a very rich but not overpowering sweetness. bourbon character is very subtle, but i dont miss a stronger presence. such a great balanced brew. delicious.
M: very fullbodied and an almost creamy carbonation. very effervescent for such a thick stout. absolutely perfect feel for a big stout.
O: dont care for the smell, but past that, its as good an imperial stout as ive had.

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Photo of kirok1999
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at South Park Tavern which might have been a little over seating capacity that night.
Pours a deep black with a few ruby hints. A bit of a frothy small head and some lacing.
Smell is mildly boozy and sweet. Lots of vanilla and caramel.
Taste is wonderfully complex. There's slight bourbon, lush caramel, vanilla, and a bit of chocolate and coffee as it warms. The Double Cream Stout comes through very well and is not overpowerred by the Expedition. There gets to be a bit of alcohol burn as it warms up too. Not a lot of carbonation.
It definitely needed to warm up. I could drink quite a bit of this and wish Bells would bottle it.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 586 ratings.
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