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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: 3,990
Photo of brewtus
4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into tulip. Obviously 2012

A- pours black with a half finger dark tan head the quickly disappears
S-milky, bourbon is very prevalent, dark fruit, chocolate, some subtle cinnamon
T-woah, dark chocolate that makes way for oak and bourbony warmth. Some faint vanilla, slight coffee flavors, amazing silky smooth texture, no burn.
O- wow I'm glad I spent so long trying to track this down, this beer is complex, smooth, and delicious. The bourbon isn't overpowering but it is balanced perfectly with the smooth creaminess of stout mixture. If you had the opportunity to get some, buy as much as you can, it's worth the price tag for sure.

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Photo of PaulyB83
4.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On- tap served in a snifter

A- Jet black with a millimeter of mocha head that quickly dissipated to a ring.

S- Coconut, vanilla, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, slight raisin

T- Smooth, tastes like a Mounds bar, dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut, very similar to the nose

M- Creamy, surprisingly easy drinking for such a big beer, it's a good thing the flavors are so big or you'd be in trouble. Not as thick as other bourbon barrel aged stouts, but I kinda like it. Bourbon County stout was pretty thick and actually took me a while to get through just one bottle. I think this it perfect mouthfeel for a 12oz. serving of this weight of a beer.

O- Living in Kalamazoo, I'm lucky to find this on draft somewhere every couple of months. This hits everything on the head and is the benchmark for me in BBA stouts. I tried KBS a few weeks after having this and thought there was no comparison, this is the better beer. If I could have one more beer before I die, this would be it.

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Photo of KFBR392
4.27/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 Vintage

Appearance: Pours with a dark brown head of about a finger on an aggressive pour. The head settled in to a thin later across the top while drinking. Sits jet black in the glass with above average active carbonation for the style.

Smell: Potent bourbon front greets the drinker. Vanilla, oats, and barley are well integrated with the bourbon front. bright oak, cherries, and dried fruits make up the body. Some mossy hops round out the aroma.

Taste: Oak wins out on the front with a mixture of dried fruit and smokey bourbon. The bourbon opens up more on the body with the additions of vanilla and dark chocolate. There are roasted dried coffee flavors on the back end. Interesting combination of vanilla malt sweetness and bitter coffee grounds.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is light and suits the heavier tones of this brew. Rich coffee, vanilla, and bourbon textures left on the palate long after drinking.

Overall: Love the vanilla tones of this beer. Bourbon character is potent and meshes well with the chocolate, coffee, and dried fruits. Would be interested to see how this beer ages, drinks really great right now.

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Photo of rallison
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thank you Glenn for cracking this incredible growler.

Super bourbon vanilla in the nose. Chocolate. Awesome.

Rich, rich chocolate and bourbon in the taste. Incredible. Smooth as butter.

Amazingly drinkable beer. Wow. Low carbonation but perfect for this beer.

One of the best beers i have had in a long time. Once again, thank you Glenn for opening such an incredible beer.

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Photo of mabermud
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 Bottle

Look: Dark sultry body. The head is a creamy mocha. It quickly dissipates to a thin ring around my favorite 15.5 ounce brandy snifter. This appears viscous. The legs and lacing appear luxurious.
Smell: The smell is rich and amazing. It has a nice balanced bourbon smell, with medium roasted malts, faded coffee, easy dark chocolate, and creamy sweetness that brings everything together. Easy, and balanced.
Taste: Well, well, well. Everything described above is within the taste, and more. Dark chocolate has a bigger part than noticed in the smell. The oak bourbon barrel is nicely integrated, and provides big flavor. The dried fruit blends well. The finish is very short.
Feel: Medium body, somewhat dry. Not as creamy as expected. Full mouth feel.

Overall - Deluxe. I am a big fan of Expedition Stout, so naturally, I am a lover of Bell's Black Note Stout. I was never a fan of Double Stout, but it does a nice job combined with the other elements. Laid back big stout drinking here. My final words - I was expecting more...

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Photo of jeonseh
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Has this on tap at Tribes Alehouse.

A - Poured into a snifter, its a very, dark black beer that allows no light to get through. It has a small coffee colored head that stays strong along the edges

S - Notes of coffee, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel malt and bourbon barrel spicyness. You definitely get the creamy sweetness of the double cream stout with the darker expedition favors. As I let it sit and warm up, the nose become much stronger and sweeter as the vanilla becomes more prominent

T - Initially, sweet vanilla, mocha chocolate, caramel and the heavier coffee favors come through. You definitely get the barrel aged spiciness in this one. One of the nice things about the barrel aged aspects of this is its blended in perfectly with the beer to add new levels of flavor. The spice from the bourbon really lingers on the tongue. As it warms up, the vanilla and sweetness really opens up.

MF - Velvety smooth allowing it to coat the tongue and mouth beautifully. This is where adding the double cream stout really stands out as that and the aging seem to have taken off some of Expedition's rougher edges. After the beer goes down, it leaves a nice tingle on the tongue to go with the bourbon flavors. This is the part of the beer that is just amazing.

O - A wonderful, well balanced beer by Bell's. It shows how well barrel aging can add to a beer's flavor without overpowering it. Definitely worth having and a great beer overall

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Photo of d5001986
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into tulip.

A: Pitch black with a minimal amount of tan head that dissipates quickly. No lacing, doesn't seem to 'stick' to the glass like most do to some extent.

S: Slight booze and roasted malt are most up front. Then chocolate, molasses, vanilla, and coconut.

T: Even better than it smells. Roasted malt, chocolate, molasses, vanilla, pepper, and best of all, a nice mellow bourbon that's not so in your face like many other examples. I swear I also pick up just a trace of cherry in there. Very nice!

M: Not as viscous as some, med-heavy body. Creamy and silky smooth, also slick and oily. Carbonation is very low, but not quite flat.

O: Way more drinkable than it should be. A beautifully crafted stout with tons of complex flavor that meets the hype. So glad I picked up 1/2 a case!

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Photo of Mistofminn
4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this rarity at Stub and Herb for the Darkness Day Eve celebration. 7 oz pour for a very affordable price!

Pitch black with a small ring of molasses colored head. Doesn't leave a ton of lacing.

The nose is bourbon, wood, vanilla, coffee and chocolate. Really well made beer.

Taste is pretty much spot on the nose. Bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, cream, coffee, chocolate, woody and earthy tones...just amazing. So smooth and easy going down but boy does it pack a punch of flavor.

Mouthfeel is thick and sticky, coating your mouth. Smooth and creamy, just awesome. Alcohol is completely hidden by the layers of flavor.

Drinkability is awesome. This 7 oz pour went way to fast, but by the time I realized it, the small keg was long gone. Very happy I got the chance to try this mammoth of a beer. This is excellent stuff.

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Photo of gueuzedreg
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. 2012 bottle into a Goose Island glass. Having had '11 750's, this may not give this beer justice.

A- yaya, jet black. Lots of retention leading down to a thin layer of lacing around the glass in mocha color.

S- Chocolate milk/bourbon that is so sweet that it is pleasant beyond belief to smell. Oak, woodiness behind.

T- By far the smoothest beer I have ever had. Cream, bourbon. I have had the sum of it's parts, and this beer joins the two and kicks ass afterward.

M- Again, sooo fkn smoooth. I have neglected this beer in my cellar; even though I have a few in my celar. I have been paying too much attention to Prairie. Great stuff here. Top 15 for sure.

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Photo of fx20736
4.29/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bought 2 bottles from Beers of the World on 5/3/14. Poured into a pint glass, served cool.

appearance: black with two finger khaki head. Nice lacing.

smell: bourbon, molasses, brown sugar, alcohol esthers.

taste: coffee, chocolate, bourbon, molasses, alcohol on the tail.

mouthfeel: creamy, slippery.

overall: This is a good, decent BA IS, about on par with Parabola.

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Photo of mverity
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep, full, black color with medium colored tan head that held well, especially for a barrel aged stout. Great legs, medium collar, good wisps. Aroma is sweet bourbon, deep malt that has a molasses note to it. Taste is much like the aroma: sweet dark caramel up front, bourbon behind that, a hint of coffee, some dark chocolate. No alcohol bite on this 11.4% beer. Nice full body that holds well on the tongue, with low-medium carbonation.

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Photo of tewaris
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Blend of Bell's Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout aged in bourbon barrels. Huge want. Thanks Frank! Shared with two other BAs.

Very dark brown and clear with a tiny collar. An incredibly smooth and silky beer... feels like milk, seriously! Tartness, coffee, and very mellow roast with, of course, bourbon. Not the beast that Expedition is but an immense beer nonetheless. One of us had the opinion that the Double Cream Stout component brings the milkiness and smoothness and I think I agree. Very good, loved it! My only regret is not being completely sober while drinking this one :/

4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5

Enjoyed on tap again with sobriety on my side:

Beautiful looks here and a great aroma... chocolate cake, vanilla, some barrels. More wood than liquor. A little too tart. A good beer but I have had better.

Taking 0.5 points off the taste and overall score.

4.5, 4.5, 4.0, 4.5, 4.0

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Photo of KevSal
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

this passed thursday the lady and I hit a pretty important milestone for us making i to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, had to properly celebrate!

huge thanks to dblab for hooking me up with this gem, dan you never end the surprises.

bottle 571 of 1081 poured into 2 eclipse snifters

a- much thinner than i was expecting, but it looks dynamite nonthess. no light comes thru the glass and theres a nice brown mocha head sitting on top.

s- mmm wow a nice mix of bourbon and chocolate, followed by that awesome expedition stout, no alch at all surprisingly. a soft creaminess of flavors really comes through the nose of this one.

t- this guy is a home run. very soft and velvet flavors come though on this one. great chocolate and bourbon notes. vanilla comes heavy in the back which i particularly love. juicy and delicious. no alch at all and i cant believe it. maybe sittin on this guy a few months has done it some good.

m- the body is much thinner than expected but that doesnt hold it back any. upfront is the bubble carbonation followed by a fantastic smoothness

o- never thought id be tasting this guy, and its better than i expected. id say its neck to neck the top eclipse out there honestly.

this was the perfect brew to celebrate our personal milestone. thanks again dan for giving me the chance.

you have to try this brew

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Photo of kzoobrew
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on tap a few times recently at Bell's, review is taken from notes from each occasion.

Poured into an oversized snifter. Deep black and opaque body, light fails to break the surface. One and a half finger coffee stained head lingers a bit longer than I expected. A slight amount of lacing clings to the walls of the glass.

Beautiful aroma. Chocolate and caramel aromas meld with the Bourbon. The balance between the the sweetness and bourbon is inching close to perfection. Roasted malt with slight char is subtle beneath. Pleasant vanilla noted through out.

Bell's could not have picked two better beers to blend and barrel age. The bold and assertive flavors of Expedition are complimented wonderfully by the smooth and creamy Double Cream. The flavor begins much like the aroma. Caramel and chocolate infused bourbon rolls across the tongue. Pleasant roast develops on the midpalate only to has the edge softened by a vanilla and milk creaminess.

Full bodied, though tiptoeing on the lighter side of full. Low carbonation, very appropriate, provide a very enjoyable creaminess to the mouthfeel. Long finish, I would not want it any other way.

Black Note had been my biggest personal wale for the longest time. I am very fortunate to live close to Bell's and have had the opportunity to drink it several times now. Each time I drink it I am as impressed as the first. Tremendous balance in the blend and the bourbon is integrated beautifully. Very easy to drink but one that will certainly catch up with you. As enjoyable as any beer I have ever had, one worth seeking out.

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Photo of beerpirates
4.34/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into my lost abbey stemware glass

A: pours black with a finger of dark tan head that fades into a thin ring with no lacing.

S: roasted malts with dark chocolate and coffee up front followed by smooth vanilla, toffee, oak, and bourbon.

T: roasted malts with creamy dark chocolate and coffee. Oak, toffee, and bourbon bring up a roasted and sweet finish with a light alcohol burn.

M: thick body with medium carbonation, this beer is a little more carbonated than most examples of the style.

O: a delicious and wonderful beer !

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Photo of mjpolzin
4.06/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage split with by brother in law.

A great beer but another example of a "world-class" brew that doesn't quite live up to the hype once I get a chance to try it.

Fairly thick pour into the glass but not the thickest beer I've ever seen. More bourbon in the nose than what I got once I tasted it. The roastiness that is characteristic of Expedition Stout was here as well. It helped make it a fairly complex beer once the roasted malts and bourbon blended together but I may actually prefer this one with a little more age on so some of the roasted flavor could fade away.

Would like the opportunity to try a fresh one just to see what changes happen in the 1 year+ that this bottle sat for.

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Photo of Jaycase
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 release 12 oz bottle

a: black as night. Thin mocha colored head which recedes quickly. no lacing to speak of.

s: Bourbon presence but not overbearingly so. licorice, slight chocolate.

t: chocolate, coffee, vanilla filtered through a bourbon lense.

m: smooth, creamy. low to medium carbonation.

o: A very nice, well balanced BBA stout. The bourbon here is not in your face like other BBA stouts where it's all about the bourbon kicking ass and taking names later. It's there but it seems a bit bashful at times - almost a boubon tease it is. And I want to get teased again and again and again...

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Photo of jayhawk73
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On draft at Churchkey:

Pours a super dark black color w/ a one finger chocolate head. Great lacing on the side of my glass. The nose is mainly coffee, chocolate, malt and hops. A nice nose, but the general thought at the table was the nose was on the weak side. Taste is bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and hops. Absolutely none of the 11.5% alcohol is evident at all. Feel is amazingly creamy, full-bodied, and smooth. Easily the best part of this beer. Overall, a World Class brew- glad I got to try it! Cheers.

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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 JoeyStats707
4.71/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 oz pour split with fiance
near jet black, near 1/4 in. of tan head
spicy chocolate nose finishing with a nice waft of bourbon barrel
creamy, spicy chocolate, good balance with the bourbon which provides a nice lasting bite
really enjoyed this brew and hope to get my hands on more

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

One of the best BA stouts I've ever had. Split a 12oz botttle(2013) with my wife and two of our friends to celebrate the births of our children. Lucky for me, most of my guests didn't care too much for BA stouts, so I had the lion's share of the pour. As complex as BCBS without being overly boozy. Got a huge espresso nose, but not a lot in taste.

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Photo of BierJager89
4.83/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Holy shit. Poured from a growler?! into a snifter in California?! From a complete stranger?! Thank you to every single person and thing and event that allowed black note to cross the threshold of my mouth. Especially the stranger at the bar and my friend with whom I tried this.

A: Solid black with a faint brown ring of head that is all but completely absent. Little carbonation as this was poured into a growler at the brewery and transported all the way to california before being poured into a snifter.

S: Old yeast and dark bittersweet chocolate, very reminiscent of Older Viscosity, as well as vanilla, roasted malt, oak and alcohol in the nose.

T: Anise, oak, vanilla, dark bittersweet chocolate, medium roast coffee, alcohol. Absolutely delicious. A near paragon of the bourbon barrel aged imperial stout style. Lacks the strong vanilla character I love about the style, as well as caramel and is a bit more faint in oak than I'd prefer.

M: Literally perfect for an imperial stout, to my taste. The fullest of silky, creamy smooth bodies coats the mouth.

O: Rich, hearty, delicious, and impossible to find. Just barely overrated (it isn't really a 100, but then again they inflate ratings on this website, which is unnecessary and stupid). Recommended? If you can find it. I feel my luck may have reached the apex of it's potential given that such an odd way of coming upon a taste of this beer was the result of layer upon layer of sheer happenstance. But enough about me. This beer is amazing.

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

A- jet black and brimming with promise

S- all the usual culprits....oak, bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and booze

T-As with most top class bourbon stouts, taste follows the nose.exceptional blend of flavours.

F- thick, silky and smooth. Stunning mouthfeel that sums up this beer.

O- better than bourbon county.enough said.

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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 beachbum1975
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this one on tap at Comet's Hopnosis Event on 12/06. Took detailed on notes while drinking. Big thanks go out to Beangiver for many things - especially hosting this event - this was the whole reason I went!

No surprise on the appearance... Pours a super viscous, black - much like an oil spill into my tulip glass. Thick, creamy ½ inch espresso colored head which doesn't retain long, leaving an attractive ring around the edge of my glass. I let this one sit, as it was served too cold - warmed with me hands for about 10 minutes before trying...

The nose brings an immediate blast of the bourbon barrel aging. I get the expected vanilla flavor, followed by black cherries and figs on the front of the whiff followed by coffee grinds and a touch of milky creaminess. After sniffing and trying to express what's going on, it all seems wrapped up in a delicious alcohol/whiskey blanket. The nose is rich with aromas and complex - smells phenomenal.

WOW! This shit is amazing tasting. The barrel aging really takes the forefront on this one - vanilla all over the place. I'm actually surprised how much the barrel aging dominates the flavor, it's rather heard to get past it to detect the RIS and double cream atrributes... After trying to dissecting the flavor more, I get cherry, heavily roasted malts and coffee flavors. Finishes wet with a lightly floral tang, likely due to the hops from the Expedition side of this stout. Aftertaste is has a lingering vanilla finish. Full bodied and full flavored brew.

Mouthfeel is thick, wet and velvety with ample carbonation. Nice, a meal in itself.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 3,990 ratings.
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