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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
BA SCORE
4.54/5
World-Class
4,471 Ratings
Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout
BEER INFO

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

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.20%

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
Ranking:
#68
Reviews:
705
Ratings:
4,471
pDev:
7.93%
Bros Score:
0
 
 
Wants:
2,708
Gots:
1,244
Trade:
130
HISTOGRAM
 
User Ratings & Reviews
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first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Ratings: 4,471 |  Reviews: 705
Photo of Sammy
3.97/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle 24 of 1081. Virtually no head on black, looks like a wine. carbonation still there though understated.Smoth mouthfel. Rich bourbon,not overpowering but substantial. Chocolate and coconut, this was barrelled a while, some mustiness. Better as it aired.Steve's bottle, thanks for not putting it up on ebay. My bottle shared with Liam.

 339 characters

Photo of kylehay2004
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

Photo of acurtis
4/5  rDev -11.9%

Photo of Texasfan549
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%

Photo of jaydoc
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.07/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle pour courtesy of mrbubbler at Woodshop 7 held at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, CA.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to an oily film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roated malt, cocoa, bourbon, wood, and vanilla. Taste is much the same but the flavors are a bit more muted than I was expecting from the aromas. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with a great smell but a smooth and somewhat mellow flavor.

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Photo of GRG1313
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.49/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

this is every bit as good as they all say it is, one of the best beers ive had from bells, and one of the better bourbon barrel stouts going. this beer was ahead of its time, and its taken me far too long to track it down, but finally i have found it, and its worth the wait. a real gem, not quite black as the name suggests, more of a hersheys brown, with a short but sturdy and lasting tan head. heavy oak and char on the nose and taste, as much as there is whiskey and vanilla themselves, its woody and sweet, but intense in a different kind of way, somewhat more refined, and as much chocolate malt as there seems to be roasted barley on it, which i really dig, and i think is an underutilized element in these big barrel aged stouts. the flavor is like the nose, heavy wood and carbon, a lot of vanilla too, and just a bit of booze warmth. also some other middle flavors here, cocoa, raisin, even root beer, its quite evolved and interesting, and has a ginormous body, silky smooth though and slippery going down. this was head of its time, these are past en vogue to downright overdone these days, with the proliferation of barrel brokers and upstart egocentric breweries, these are everywhere, but its good to taste something this esteemed and appreciate again the fact that all barrel aged stouts are not created equal. this is better than most, and as elusive as its been for me, a much delighted in rarity. very high on this one right now...

 1,451 characters

Photo of spycow
5/5  rDev +10.1%

Photo of kjkinsey
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

Photo of djrn2
4.25/5  rDev -6.4%

Photo of Knapp85
4.28/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This was sent by mjmadsen21, thanks man!!

This poured out as a rich looking black color with a thin brown head on top. Very quick fading retention and no lacing. The smell of the beer is big, lots of bourbon, roasted malts and some subtle vanilla in there. The taste of the beer is very rich with more vanilla, chocolate, molasses and wood. The mouthfeel is slick, kinda harsh at first but softens up as it warms. Lingering sappy finish to it also. Overall this beer is really good and really glad I got to try it finally.

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Photo of nmann08
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%

Photo of oriolesfan4
4.35/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
5/5  rDev +10.1%

Photo of metter98
4.54/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

On-tap at Thirsty Monk, Asheville, NC

A: The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a patch of beige bubbles on the surface and a collar around the edge of the glass.
S: Strong aromas of vanilla are present in the nose along with notes of bourbon.
T: The taste has lots of flavors of bourbon and associated vanilla from the barrel aging process.
M: It feels full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation along with some warming from the alcohol.
O: This beer definitely tastes strong but does a good job hiding most of its alcohol.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.74/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bell's, you're making it look easy! Where the beers of Expedition and Double Cream are fantastic in their own right, they have room for improvement. Their fusion and the bourbon barrel aging propels the taste into the stratosphere.

The "Expedition" appearance gives Black Note the majority of its attributes: extremely dark black with a deep mirror-like reflection, insisting on its clarity. But more like the "Double Cream" the beer's head is slow an creamy on its release. The dainty espresso-like creme dissolves back into the beer and is regenerated with a swirl of the snifter. The beer prefers brandy-like legging to any lace. This is one manly looking beer.

Freshly ground espresso and cocoa bean give the beer its strongly roasted scent. But burnt molasses notes provide malty underpinnings and weave into the barrel character seamlessly. Oak, barrel-derived caramel, vanilla, and heavy whipping cream become the bridge that connects the beer's scents. As the stout warms, fruit notes that are reminiscent in Expedition emerge here with vinous wine-like tang, blackcurrant, and raspberry. The fruits accompany the strong bourbon alcohol scent for an overall seductive aromatic experience.

Powerful flavors seduce the taste with bold roasted chocolate and espresso. Backed with the underlying taste of whipping cream, vanilla, scorched malt sugars, and molasses, the beer seems to melt onto the mouth with complete saturation. The sweetness and strength is only tempered by vinous fruit tartness and alcohol. Cherries, tart berries, plumb, currant, and grape meet up with charred oak, sherry, and port-like flavors at mid-palate and develop into a deeply bourbon-infused taste to finish. It's incredibly powerful taste is as variant as it is stern.

The stout's taste is only matched by its body. Highly viscous, the beer oozes onto the palate with creamy warmth and port-like saturation. Its early creaminess develops into a tangy acidity to finish, but with a marshmallow and powdery dryness in between. Its long finish and extended aftertaste is chocked full of bourbon warmth, fruit tartness, and roasty acidity.

Where I often think that Expedition is a little overbearing with roast and alcohol, and the Double Cream is a little too yogurt-like, this combo gives both the finesse and fullness that each may lack. The extended bourbon barrel age has smoothed the beer and added so much complexity to make this stout an undeniable top-tier beer.

 2,460 characters

Photo of kojevergas
3.99/5  rDev -12.1%
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; 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.

***
01.08.17:

B

 4,989 characters

Photo of emerge077
4.44/5  rDev -2.2%
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!

 661 characters

Photo of brentk56
4.4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Tasted at the Kerstbier Fest at the Capital Ale House

Appearance: Arrives at the bar with an obsidian color and a tan head that spots the glass with lace

Smell: Bourbon, cream and dark fruit, primarily dates

Taste: Figs and dates dominate the opening flavor profile with dark chocolate and bourbon flavors arriving by mid-palate; after the swallow, the creamy flavor also plays a role along with a surprising hint of licorice

Mouthfeel: Medium to heavy body with moderate carbonation and some warmth

Drinkability: Wonderful balance between the fruit and the chocolate, the cream and the bourbon

 599 characters

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.

 1,091 characters

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.98/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a deep black color stout with a nice large dark brown color foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma consists of bourbon with some vanilla notes and black chocolates. Taste is also dominated by a well-balanced mix between some vanilla, bourbon, creamy black chocolates and light bitterness. Body is thinner then I had anticipated with good carbonation and no alcohol was apparent. Very solid barrel-aged stout but I would have loved a bit more of body to this beer.

 493 characters

Photo of zeff80
4.47/5  rDev -1.5%
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.

 522 characters

Photo of SocalKicks
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

Photo of largadeer
3.73/5  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.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Beer rating: 4.54 out of 5 with 4,471 ratings
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