Dismiss Notice
Curious about recent updates to the site and app? Check the Announcements forum for updates.
Dismiss Notice
Love Belgian Beer?

Join us Sep 17 in Portland, Maine for Return of the Belgian Beer Fest, featuring hundreds of authentic Belgian beers and Belgian-inspired offerings.

Tickets + more: beeradvocate.com/belgian

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

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
99
world-class
578 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
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:
578
Ratings:
3,893
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
8.44%
 
 
Wants:
2,756
Gots:
995
For Trade:
88
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 578 | Ratings: 3,893
Photo of HoppySeb
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured form bottle into KBS snifter, bottle had been stored in cellar and refrigerated for a couple of hours prior to serving. The pour is majestic - a velvety jet black that immediately starts forming a beautiful head on the glass. The head is mocha in color and quite thick and foamy.

Aromas are sweet and spicy - predominantly bourbon, vanilla and chocolate. There is a hazelnut presence as well. The taste mirrors the aromas quite well, its hot/boozy as it touches your tongue and as the alcohol fades, vanilla, hazelnut and chocolate take over. There is a cinnamon taste that reminds me of spiced rum as well. The finish is sweet and there's a mildly bitter aftertaste that lasts several seconds.

The mouthfeel is thick although not quite to the point that I would describe it as chewy. Carbonation is very light.

Overall this is a fantastic beer that's deserving of the hype it receives. Beautiful example of a BBA stout - reminds me of BBPt5.

 952 characters

Photo of Kramerwtmf
4.67/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Had this side by side with Kbs. Kbs smelled better but everything about this beer makes it better including how smooth it is. The espresso flavor in the finish really sets this beer apart. It has a bourbon county aroma but the flavor is unreal. Do yourself a favor and get a bottle if you don't have one!

 304 characters

Photo of WillCarrera
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

 712 characters

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.

 848 characters

Photo of Abbbp
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Once again thanks for opening the cellar Bryan, the fact that we side by sided this with a KBS and an old Rasputin 17 was just awesome. But of the 3, sorry KBS and your #3 ranking, this Bell's is just flat out superior.

Poured into a snifter it darkens the cup, with lil to no head. It's aroma just reeks of an old bourbon warehouse, where the forgotten barrels have just soaked the bourbon for ages and the rest has been stolen as the angel's share. That and chocolate, big espresso, deep dark fruits all bring together a symphony for the nose.

The taste however is what really sets this ye old American Double apart- it isn't overwhelming. It's smooth, it's as though the fermentation of this fruit allows for delicious lambic carbonation to build giving it a drinkability like none other I've tried before.

Bravo bravo Bell's, you've done it. This not only lived up to the hype but far exceeded it. It's a damn shame that you're not in Texas, you leave me no choice to pillage other states and take their stock.

 1,019 characters

Photo of FUwolfpacker
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really happy that I was able to grab this one at a local store. Got 2 of the last 5. Bottled 12/28/12.

Poured from the bottle into a Westbrook tulip.

A: Pours black as oil and just as thick. Very thin tan head. Mild lacing.

S: Mostly vanilla and oak at the start. Maybe a little roastiness. Some mild coconut.

T: As you would expect, the vanilla, oaky, bourbon booziness is the first thing you taste. While it is prevalent, it isn't overwhelming like many of the bourbon barrel imperial stouts I've had. A nice sweetness but not cloying. Some mild warming in the chest but no burn. It's faint but there is some mild chocolate, roasted coffee, coconut, and dark fruit (raisins?) as the bourbon notes fade away. They become a little more prevalent as the beer warms. Roasted flavor and maybe some mild oak flavors stick around for a little while.

M: Very smooth, silky, creamy. Carbonation is mild but it is there.

O: This is a truly great bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. The bourbon character is there, but is not overwhelming. This makes it a pretty drinkable despite the 11.5% ABV. Definitely the best BBA stout I've had to this point. Worth making the effort to get if you haven't had it.

 1,200 characters

Photo of SaisonRichBiere
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served on draft, post Bell's tap-takeover at Aubree's in Northville, MI.

Appearance- Oily and dark, viscous, but a shade lighter than other BA stouts. Dark, dark espresso brown. One finger of beige head yields to a foamy veil atop the brew. As you drink, it dissipates further into a halo around the glass, leaving lots of lacing on the glass.

Smell- Caramel-coffee-toffee-creme brûlée. Big complex nose with a hint of bourbon heat. Roasty, roasty malts creep in. This smells awesome. One of the best.

Taste- Big boozy hit. Surprisingly more red wine than bourbon here. Fruity booze yields to a smooth 80 proof bourbon finish. What follows is awesome. Roasty espresso, big caramelly dark chocolate notes- think a chocolate riesen candy. Big strong Madagascar vanilla, creme brûlée and a blunt, dry roasty malt finish. Amazing.

Mouthfeel- Oily, smooth, creamy. A mouth-coating tingly whiskey burn that you really don't want to go away. Akin to the style with just a bit more.

Overall. One of the best, hands down. Extremely grateful that I was able to stumble on this (surprisingly) left over from a tap-takeover. The description does it justice, but this beer is so much more. If you have a chance to try this, try it. It will not disappoint. I thought CBS was the bar for the style, but this changes things. A shred more accessible than others of its ilk, this brings more Michigan BA stout firepower to the table. Drink this. Period. Thanks a ton Bell's!

 1,465 characters

Photo of Brabander
4.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

I got this beer last weekend from Trevorjk. This weekend began today. After a visit to the abbey of Westvleteren this was the one to open (strangely enough)! Poured in my small Struise chalice this is a wonderfull stout to look at. Almost pitchblack and a very nice bubbly head. Little to no lacing. Smell is like a ba stout should be. Nice boozy smell. The taste is one of the best i have ever encountered in this style. Very very impressed.

You can feel the smoothness in your mouth with the thick alcoholtaste. Boy, whished i had a crate of this beer...

 557 characters

Photo of facundoCNB
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a thick black pour with less than a finger of tan head. lots of bourbon / vanilla in the aroma, pecans, brown sugar, coffee, cocoa. wow - this is a deliciously sweet yet dark stout. reminds me of peruvian morning with its nutty sweet pecan/brown sugar flavor overtopping everything.. the bourbon barrel taste is there but blends ver nicely with the chocolate/coffee/sweet notes of this that it doesn't become overwhelming like a lot of BBA stouts tend to do. this is everything i want to taste in an imperial stout. medium to full body with low carbonation and a silky smooth mouthfeel. the alcohol is present, but is not overpowering.. it's masked fairly well. honestly, this drinks way too easily.

one of the best stouts i've ever had by far. for those looking for a subtle roast, subtle sweetness, lots of chocolate and coffee taste - this is the one to go for.

 865 characters

Photo of jmarsh123
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had at the Bell's tap takeover at Yogi's out of a snifter. The two guys next to us were drinking Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss. I don't know what to say.

Pours a jet black with a small tan head that immediately fades away.

Smells of bourbon with a little oak and vanilla thrown into the mix.

There is a strong bourbon presence throughout the taste with vanilla and bitter roasted malts as well. There's also a little bit of a smooth creaminess to it, I'm guessing from the Double Cream Stout.

Thick and viscous mouthfeel. Lots of sludge.

Very good beer, but doesn't quite achieve Holy Grail status for me. The alcohol was not especially well hidden which I don't mind, but it knocks it down just a tick. A very good combo of two already good beers though and a very complex delightful treat.

 792 characters

Photo of brystmar
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to shutyourface for sharing this one.

Dark brown/black, tan head, decent lace. Smell reminds me of Expedition Stout with bourbon character on top. Layers of roasted malts & coffee flow freely. Aroma is this beer's best quality.

Taste is about what I expected: a good imperial stout with mild bourbon flavors. Much more Expedition than Double Cream. I applaud their choice to not go overboard on the bourbon like so many brewers do today. Love that smooth & creamy body.

That said, Black Note is a perfect example of the BA hype machine getting out of control. Like most Bell's beers, Black Note is pretty good but not exceptional. It's a step up from Expedition Stout, yet it cannot touch the top-tier stouts like Hunahpu's and Black Tuesday.

 752 characters

Photo of kbutler1
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Draft. FINALLY, I am able to try this beer! On tap at ABR. Pours a pitch black brown color with a light tan collared head. Dark Chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of earthy leather aroma. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Roast coffee adds some bitterness, dark chocolate, vanilla, all very well balanced together. Ends with a slight lingering bitterness. I find myself continuing to go back to Bell’s tent to try this one and everytime is just as enjoyable as the last. The 10.5% is there but well incorporated and is not abrasive at all.

 528 characters

Photo of beerwolf77
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Yeah I'm reviewing it off my 6oz pour from the GTOM. When the hell else would I be able to tick a beer this epic?

Pours black as coal and thick as burnt motor oil. No head no lace. No surprise there. It is called "black" note.

The aroma is very sweet. Like melted chocolate mixed with coffee and bourbon. Traces of black licorice and prunes.

The flavor is right where I had hoped it would be. Loads of sweet dark chocolate and coffee. The bourbon is mild but present. Moderate smoked barrel in the finish. Spot on perfection in my book.

Full thick and chewy body. Carbonation is looking for a life raft in this beer. It's there but struggling.

Overall maybe not a religous experiance but spectacular none the less. Made my day I was able to finally try this.

 766 characters

Photo of MbpBugeye
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Yet another one that I was very excited for at Michigan's summer beer fest 2010. Waited all day for this one to be tapped.

Black with really no head at all, nothing too special about the way this looks, just some loose, large bubbles here and there.

Smell is a lot like Expedition at times. Very vinous with dark berries, red grapes, figs and cherries. Bourbon underlies that. Its not at all harsh though there is a lot of very nice creamy smells going on like a milkiness.

Like the nose would suggest its a sweet, vinous and slightly bourbony beer. Lots of dark fruits, berries, cherries, plums, figs, prunes, bourbon, milk sugar sweetness, lots of creamy chocolate. Its unmistakeably blended with Expedition stout.

A very phenomenal offering from Bell's

 760 characters

Photo of larryarms847
4.79/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a crude oil like pitch black with a wonderfully light brown head that just looks like I could lay on it is so thick and fluffy.

Aromas of sweet chocolate, tart and bright coffee/espresso, raisins/plums/dark fruits, and bourbon envelops the overall package.

Take the chocolate, coffee, dark fruits, bourbon, perfectly balanced them, and what you have is Black Note Stout.

Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, perfect for how I like my stouts!

This is a truly remarkable BBA imperial stout, really. Bell's nailed it on the head with this one and I'll be on the hunt for it again this next release season.

 605 characters

Photo of brewskifan55
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a snifter. Thanks, Darren.

A: Black with garnet highlights. No head, light lacing.

S: Bourbon, chocolate, anise.

T: Follows nose with a decadent smoothness. Sweet. Robust. A true sipper. The 11.4 gradually creeps up on you for a toasty buzz. Even better as it warms.

M: Medium with medium mouthfeel. A bit watery on the finish.

O: Outstanding. As tasty as it is hard to find. Recommended.

 419 characters

Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.11/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2012 bottle.
Pours a pitch black and sits still in the glass. A delicate head quickly fades. Aroma is intense with notes of bourbon, luscious vanilla, tobacco, charred malts, and caramelized brown sugar. You don't have to dig deep in the glass to get a wide range of decadent aromas.
Flavor takes on a little different approach with more of the dark fruits that is evident from the Expedition Stout portion of the blend. A touch of chocolate, and lots of the barrel character. Sweet at times, but not cloying with the added lingering bitterness. Booze is fairly noticeable...even after 2 years in the bottle. Silky feel that is thinner than I prefer.
Overall, well done. Not a home run for me though as the flavor did not stand up to the greatness the nose brought. Some of the espresso may have been lost in the bottle age.

 838 characters

Photo of nrs207
3.63/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Let's be real, this beer is all hype. It's not really that good. It has a hint of bourbon barrel, some decent roasty notes, but every time I have it, I expect it to be pretty good. It never lives up to any of the other beers I've had that night. BCBS is in another league, and even just an above average beer like KBS kills this. If you've gotten this far, here is my full review.

A - Fairly dark, not the darkest stout out there. Decent appearance overall.

S - Pretty dry, doesn't smell very sweet. Has a hint of bourbon barrel there. Some chocolate notes.

T - Fairly dry in the taste as well. Doesn't have a lot of bourbon. It tastes like an OK roasty stout got thrown in a bourbon barrel for about 2 weeks. I'm not sure what Bell's is doing, but they're doing it wrong. It's truly not that good. There are an incredible amount of bourbon barrel stouts I'd seek out over this.

M - It's fairly smooth, but nothing too incredible. The best quality of this beer is that it's not very boozy. It's a bit thin for the ABV, but at least the booze is well hidden.

O - This beer is not worth seeking out. If it was on the shelf at $3 a bottle, I probably wouldn't buy it. That is NOT good for a bourbon barrel stout, let alone a very good one. I actually would for trade value I guess, but definitely not to drink. Skip this one unless you just want to tick it. It's like Hopslam, just a tick. Nothing special. It's outdated, and many many other breweries have caught up and surpassed Bell's. The only beer I consider worthwhile from them is Two Hearted. For the price, it's the only beer they make that's worth buying imo.

 1,621 characters

Photo of hopsolutely
4.32/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wow. An awful lot "going on" in this beer. On tap at Ashleys in Ann Arbor. Pours a beautiful dark mahogany with coffee coloured head and lacing. Stunning aroma of oak tannins with a strong roasted & caramelized malt background. Robust flavour that lingers for an impressive length of time. 11% ABV is almost completely hidden in the warm malt tones. Coffee, chocolate, licorice and lots & lots of oak. Even some rye or bourbon notes?

An excellent beer!

 453 characters

Photo of coreyfmcdonald
3.99/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Porter Beer Bar, re-reviewed from a 2012 12oz bottle

A: Pours pitch black with two fingers of off white head. Retention is decent.

S: Strong bourbon upfront, I get dark chocolate, caramel, and licorice behind. Dark fruit in the background adds to the complexity. The aromas mix very well together.

T: Again, strong bourbon and caramel upfront, this time there is more coffee and roast to balance. I get a bit of lactose sweetness to give a bit more sweetness. I also get quite a bit of dark chocolate, intensifying as the beer warms. The beer always stays on the roasty/coffee side, but is very well balanced.

M: A bit on the thin side for the style with low carbonation. Definitely the worst part of this beer, but not terrible.

O: With a bit thicker mouthfeel, this would be significantly better. It still balances roast, bourbon, and chocolate extremely well, better than just about any other barrel aged stout that I've had.

 943 characters

Photo of pixieskid
3.6/5  rDev -20%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to Fux for sharing this bottle last night. Has been on my list of rare Imp. Stouts for some time, glad to cross it off. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same experience...

Pours an almost black color with a thin white head, dissipating quite quickly.

Nose; bourbon, oak, charcoal, and some dark fruits.

Taste; bourbon upfront with a touch of bakers chocolate, I too got peanut butter, finishing with a ton of burnt malt and a slight salinity (reminiscent of soy sauce but not like 09' Abyss).

Mouthfeel; oily and surprisingly thin. This can happen with barrel treatments (i.e. Boris vs. BA Boris is the best example off the top of my head) but I think it comes from the Double Cream Stout aspect of the beer as well.

Overall; I wasn't a fan but I will admit, I have been a bit under the weather lately so I know my palate isn't quite up to par...

Retried a bottle of 2013 and can say that the initial review was so low because of the fact that the beer was oxidized. This recent bottle was much better but still not very impressive. The thin body and overly boozy aspect from the barrel aging didnt do much for me. Decent example of the style but over rated and no better than any other barrel aged imperial stout out there.

 1,241 characters

Photo of Urbancaver
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thank you thank you to my special friend for this one...

Pours a pitch black wih some nice white head. Looks pretty. Well carbonated. Smells rich and chocolatey. Buttery bourbon and a nice roastiness. The aroma is top notch. Tastes Roasty. Lots of expo not so much double special cream. The taste is a bit bitter from the roast. Good solid mouthfeel. Well carbonated. Overall solid but a bit to roug around the edges.

 418 characters

Photo of kawilliams81
3.95/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 ml into a tumbler glass.

A- pours black with a 1 finger tan head. Minimal lacing.

S- big chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, some spice.

T- chocolate, roast, bourbon, slight vanilla, with some bitterness near the end.

M- medium body and carbonation. Slightly thinner than other similar BA stouts.

O- good BA stout but doesn't knock your socks off. Nose is slightly better then the taste.

 403 characters

Photo of starrdogg
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap on ChurchKey, finally getting to try this one!

A: Black with a small brown head. Very viscous with serious lacing.

S: Smell is a nice bourbon with some roast/chocolate in there as well. It's nice, but it's not super strong. I wish I got more.

T: Okay wow, now this beer is something special. At first it's a heavy dose of bourbon with some sweetness, oak and chocolate - similar to Bourbon County. As I drink it, though, I realize that there is more to this beer than meets the eye. It's got some nice depth with some great coffee/roasty notes hiding beneath the surface. This beer is so easy to drink, I never would guess the ABV is so high. Awesome.

M: Thick and creamy. The mouthfeel really makes this one stand out, it feels like drinking melted marshmallows.

O: This beer is just flat-out amazing - one of the best stouts I've ever had. I can't wait for them to bottle it.

 889 characters

Photo of tmoneyba
4.42/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Growler sample from shigadeyo.

Poured a black color with a moderate creamy brown head that diminished slowly and produced sticky legs and fair lacing.

Good roasted malt, licorice and woody bourbon aroma.

Full body with a smooth texture.

Complex sweet stout flavor with a smooth bourbon woody finish.

Very well balanced complex barrel stout.

This is a standout beer.

 371 characters

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
99 out of 100 based on 578 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Return of the Belgian Beer Fest

    BeerAdvocate Brings its All-Belgian Fest to Portland, Maine on September 17, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

    Learn More
  • Get the Mag

    Become a BeerAdvocate magazine print subscriber today.

    Subscribe