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

BA SCORE
99
world-class
651 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
bellsbeer.com

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:
651
Ratings:
4,224
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
8.22%
 
 
Wants:
2,728
Gots:
1,171
For Trade:
125
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 651 | Ratings: 4,224
Photo of kif
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pitch black, tar appearance. Light tan 1 finger head with nice lacing.

S - Very aromatic. Scents of chocolate, raisin, roasted malt, hints of plum.

T - Chocolate, some bitterness from the roasted malt. Hints of plum. Alcohol burn is prevalent. Oak flavoring comes in late.

M - Medium to thin. Way less thick than expected. Very carbonated from an imperial stout.

O - A very good beer. Some acidity, but overall very drinkable. If there was less alcohol burn, this might be my favorite imperial stout, but I think that is the flaw. A great effort, just needs a slight refining.

 584 characters

Photo of Converge
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a tulip. Huge thanks to Matt for this bottle!

A - Pours pitch black, with just a thin, soapy tan cap. Minimal head retention and lacing, but some sticky legs. Usually I'm a big fan of Bell's label designs, but I gotta say this one is lacking.

S - Thick base of roasted malt, with notes of bourbon, vanilla, cocoa, and a hint of coffee over top. Slight alcohol note detected. Overall pretty sweet and boozy, without too big an emphasis on the roast/coffee character. Subtle notes of dark fruit come through as well, namely medjool dates. Probably not the biggest or most complex nose, but very rich and inviting.

T - Starts off with a barrage of sweet vanilla and bourbon notes, with dark fruit and milk chocolate poking through. Finishes slowly, very slowly. Long after the swallow, a pronounced coffee roast rises up out of nowhere and permeates the palate with roasty, charred goodness. Definitely a stout on the sweeter side, with bourbon vanilla in the forefront, but also mild earthy notes of wood and molasses. A very saturated profile overall, with a dense residual sweetness that just doesn't let up.

M - Thick and creamy, very low carbonation. Heavy on the palate, and sticky on the lips. Slight alcohol heat, but very little considering the ABV. Just a dense, unrelenting stout.

D - Overall a seriously bold stout from Bell's. The barrel character really transforms the beer into a thick, bourbon-stout concoction. Delicious, but deceptively drinkable. Not for the faint of heart.

 1,520 characters

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

#1020 of 1081. Batch 10136. Thanks to 4DAloveofSTOUT for sharing this with the group.

A: Brisk pour leads to a dark foamy head. Opaque Black

S: Chocolate, Smoke, Cherry, other fruits.

T: Smokey, Chocolatey, Bourbon, Black Licorice, Cream with Cherry Bourbon finish and smoke well integrated.

M: Substantial Thick Creamy mouthfeel. Smooth. Nice tingle on the tongue.

O: Very solid barrel aged stout. Brings the best of 2 great base beers to the mix with a nice barrel accent enhancing a fantastic mix. For an 11.5% it goes down much easier. Seems like an 8.5% Smoke flavor well integrated but not overpowering. Highly recommend!

 632 characters

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

2012 Vintage. Pours black with one finger mocha brown head. Aroma is sweet bourbon, vanilla and dark chocolate. Flavor is bittter sweet chocolate, dried fruit, charred oak and coffee all tied together with delicious bourbon. Perfect creamy body with light carbonation. Everything a barrel aged stout should be. In my opinion best there is.

 339 characters

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...

 607 characters

Photo of deadonhisfeet
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 bottling poured into a small Great Lakes snifter. I just had a bottle of BCBS out of the cellar a few days ago so it will be pretty fresh in my mind for comparison. The beer pours out very, very dark, but not quite black. Carbonation is low (not uncommon and perfectly acceptable for a barrel-aged stout). I'm getting lots of dark fruit and barrel character on the nose instead of the roasty notes I expected. Plums, dark cherries, and some vanilla and bourbon notes. I also get some bittersweet chocolate notes.

The beer has a full body and a strong, complex flavor. Some sweet malt and a big hit of bourbon up front greet you first. The texture of the beer really enhances all this rich flavor. Some of the dark fruit slides in and out, but mostly it's toffee-like malt, toasted oak, and bourbon. You half expect the bourbon to intensify towards the back of the palate, but it maintains consistency of strength and never quite burns you. It lingers while the profile gradually tends toward dark chocolate and espresso, then keeps lingering on the finish after you swallow.

Very interesting beer. It has a lot of intense bourbon flavor, but never quite seems as hot as it threatens. It's much more like BCBS than KBS, in that it embraces the bourbon instead of coffee and chocolate. Spectacular beer that I hope I am fortunate enough to score again some day.

 1,366 characters

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

August 9, 2014

12 oz bottle; Snifter

A – Jet black, thin brown head disappears almost immediately. Looks like pure motor oil.

S – Tons of vanilla, boozy warmth even on the nose. Sweet chocolate, mild oak.

T – Tons of vanilla, sweet chocolate malt notes, a hint of coffee. The burnt flavors are there, but seem to be “sweetly charred,” possible some caramelized flavors. Lots of bourbon and molasses, but very well balanced.

M – Milky, silky, very sweet. A lot of bitterness on the finish, some burnt notes.

O – This is a phenomenal, balanced, complex barrel-aged stout. My gold standard is Bourbon County, and the malt and hops here are much more balanced with the alcohol than with BCS (which is not to say I like Black Note more, just that it is more balanced.) This beer stands on its own as a fantastic example of barrel-aging.

 851 characters

Photo of ajm5108
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark & almost completely flat with just a thin lacing. True to style but not the most visually appealing. Aroma is classic bourbon stout with notes of molasses, vanilla, fudge with some dark fruit. Enticing with no alcohol flare on the nostrils. Flavors follow suit, thick fudge upfront with warm oak, molasses and vanilla coming next. Vintage bourbon supporting notes but all folded-in expertly. The end has a tad of tannin / leather and just a smidge of heat which serves as a nice contrast to all those decadent flavors upfront, though it borders on throwing things off. Mouthfeel is velvety and viscous.

 614 characters

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

Finally had a chance to try some - 2014. Out of a magnum bottle at the Beer fest in GR. Very good, however I think it would have been better a little warmer.
Cheers

 165 characters

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

Bottled on 3/12/14; consumed on 5/15/14, making this one just 2 months old. . . .

A: Poured from the bottle into a Piraat tulip/snifter-type glass. Body is inky jet black with only a hint of head on top - which then disappears immediately anyway, leaving behind absolutely no lace.

S: Bourbon, molasses & vanilla. Quite pleasant nose.

T: Pretty much follows the nose, with bourbon dominating, some molasses and a lot of vanilla. As it warms I note some dark fruits (black cherries come to mind) and even licorice on the aftertaste. High-ABV (11.4%) is noted more as warmth on the belly than as heat on the palate - a neat trick for a beer of this strength and considering the bourbon. Also as it warms up I'm getting more general roastiness cutting through the bourbon. Oh and the ABV is definitely working its wonders, buzz-wise.

M: Full-bodied, heft-wise, and fairly slick in feel, though as it warms up the carbonation seems to activate itself and cut through that slick feel. . . .

O: Real nice. I'd love to do a blind tasting with this, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Founders KBS. This one is heavier on the vanilla/molasses side of things, while others have more roasty malt to balance the bourbon.

 1,218 characters

Photo of did3376
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 2/12/14 Poured into stout glass.

A:Thick and black. About a finger of dense, tan head that fades over a few minutes. This stuff is dark, held light behind glass and could not see it.

S:Slight bourbon, roasty, raisins and chocolate.

T:Hints of bourbon quickly followed by slight coffee, then dark chocolate. Chocolate flavor seems to linger. Some alcohol is noticeable in the nose, but not overly strong. Roasted caramel and hints of black cherry noticed as well.

M:Smooth, medium consistency. Slight feel of carbonation dancing on my tongue. Slightly astringent.

O:Very good. Well balanced. Slightly bitter aftertaste. I believe some aging would improve this beer nicely. Definitely improves as it comes up to room temperature. Bottle was taken from basement which was probably around 45-50 degrees.

 812 characters

Photo of shadetree67
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Black with thin brown head that dissipated quickly. Sparce lacing

Smell: Vanilla and oak. Dried fruit maybe prunes. Some bourbon.

Taste: Big vanilla flavor. Slight bourbon. Dark chocolate makes an appearance as the beer warms.

Mouth feel: Medium body and low carbonation. Slight burn from the alcohol but not bad given this is over 11%

Overall: Wish the mouth feel was a bit thicker but that is only a minor gripe about this amazing beer. It's more balanced and smooth than bcbs.

 496 characters

Photo of AdamF625
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A- black and almost flat with a thin dark brown head that fades quick and leaves no lacing.
S- bourbon, chocolate, oak, plums
T- follows the nose my friends tons of cocoa and sweet bourbon, oak, some dark fruit, toasted marshmallow
M- thicker body with little carbonation. It is ridiculously smooth and easy to drink for a big beer. No burn to report from the high abv and barrel aging. This was bottled in February of 2012 so let's keep that in mind.
O- this beer really took to the barrel well and is graceful at almost two years old. Very smooth and flavorful.

 565 characters

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

On tap at Chappy's in Dayton, Ohio.

APPEARANCE

Well, what do you expect? It's black as night, and sat under a mocha-colored head that dissipated quickly. There was no lacing, but the beer had some pretty apparent alcohol legs. There wasn't any light coming through on this one. With a name like Black Note, would you expect anything else?

SMELL

This is heavy on the bourbon in the nose, which brings notes of vanilla and toasted coconut. There is a lot of nice complexity that ranges from sweet to slightly boozy. A hefty amount of chocolate and licorice comes through, and brings a bit of coffee and roasted malt with it. This is the type of beer that you get full from by just smelling - there is a LOT going on!

TASTE

First off, this beer is remarkably smooth. The bourbon is not as strong as it was on the nose, but it is definitely present. With the bourbon, notes of vanilla, licorice, and toasted coconut come out. Surprisingly, the alcohol is very well hidden. The beer starts off milky sweet, with smooth caramel and toffee characteristics, then finishes with a nice hoppy bitterness. The bourbon lasts a long time after the swallow, making this beer have an absolutely amazing after taste.

MOUTHFEEL

This beer drinks like a pillow - it's smooth! It has a velvet-creamy mouthfeel, sort of like melted chocolate. There isn't much carbonation, which adds to the creaminess. The beer has a nice big body which makes it a sipper. The intense aftertaste lingers for an extremely long time.

OVERALL

This beer is incredible. It can hang with the big boy bourbon barrel aged brews and hold its ground. It's a special beer that demands a special occasion, but the taste is so good that you'll find an excuse to drink it! I wouldn't say that this is the barrel-aged stout to end all barrel-aged stouts, but it is absolutely incredible and worth seeking out.

Cheers.

 1,878 characters

Photo of Prager62
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A twelve ounce bottle packaged 11/03/2016 with the code PRN 16619 poured in a Bells snifter.

Look- Pours a dark brown revealing a couple of centimeters of light tan foam. It rapidly settles to a thin ring rimming the glass and no lacing is left behind.

Smell- Bourbon forward with sweet dark fruit, vanilla, tobacco and mild char.

Taste- Bourbon, figs, raisins, tobacco, a touch of vanilla and char. A prominent oak flavor is in the finish.

Feel- It's oily with a medium viscosity and a tad hot from the 11.2 abv.

Overall- A beer that I look forward to and I'm fortunate to have scored a few. A bourbon barrel forward stout with a slightly thin and hot feel. As a bourbon lover I enjoy it fresh, but I'm not opposed to cellaring a couple for a smoother alternative. It definitely ranks near the top of the class.

 824 characters

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

 1,345 characters

Photo of von_kaiser
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

finally.....insanely dark, rich & viscous pour. rich bourbon scent and taste w/ a subtle chocolate flavor. extreme full bodied feel, chewy.....all comes together nicely as it approaches room temperature. will most certainly revisit regularly.

 245 characters

Photo of fiver29
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Brew Kettle. Pours pitch black with a thin tan head . The head does not last long at all. Aromas are amazing. Wood, vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, coffee, roasted malts, and bourbon. Has a silky smooth heavy syrupy mouthfeel. Flavors follow the aromas in line and are just amazing. I could drink this all night. Next time this is on tap I may just find myself drinking it all night.

 394 characters

Photo of ragnar3
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage poured into a tulip. Huge fudge, apparent but well integrated coffee and nice barrel notes. Extremely well balanced and highly recommended BA stout.

 161 characters

Photo of Moshulu
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage. Pours oily dark brown with reddish highlights. Thin head that dissipates fairly quickly. Looks a bit thin in the glass. Smell is milk chocolate, toffee, dark fruit, vanilla, and bourbon...nicely complex but all in balance. Flavor starts with vanilla, then dark fruit, then toffee and chocolate before ending with a balance of roasted malts and bourbon. Wow...crazy complex beer, but subtle the whole way through...again everything is in perfect balance. Mouthfeel is a little thin with some bitterness and alcohol burn at the end...probably the only area for improvement with this beer. Overall this is one of my favorites. Not the big and bold Cherry Vanilla Coke flavor of BCBS, but one of the most balanced BA stouts I've ever had.

 748 characters

Photo of Treyliff
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2016 vintage
12oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours a viscous jet black color with a small creamy khaki colored head that eventually reduces to a ring around the glass

S- opens with fresh espresso and dark chocolate followed by dry fig and black molasses. The barrel aroma is alive and well, giving off notes of caramel/toffee, wet oak & vanilla whipping cream. More dark fruit emerges near the close, currant, dark cherry, and compliments a bold bourbon aroma on the finish

T- Plenty of dark chocolate, fresh espresso and charred malt up front, followed by sweet vanilla cream, molasses and burnt brown sugar. Dark fruit notes of fig, raisin and black cherry emerge, followed by the barrel notes kicking in; wet oak, vanilla, caramel and spicy bourbon. The finish is almost port-like, with more bourbon & char lingering

M- medium heavy body with moderate-low carbonation leads to a foamy mouthfeel than continues into a slightly warming, creamy finish

O- everything you look for in a straight up, bourbon barrel aged stout. Just enough barrel elements, and the blend of the two Bell's stout seems to work better than each on their own

 1,151 characters

Photo of CManuel
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated 12-28-12. Poured into a snifter.

Awesome smell. Heavy on the bourbon, but also a lot of chocolate and vanilla present. One of the best smelling beers I've sampled.

Pours a very thick black with no head at all. Dark as night, very pretty.

Lot of stuff going on with the taste. Bourbon is very present, followed by a bit of vanilla, chocolate, and charred wood. Hides the 11+% well. Very thick bodied and smooth, awesome mouthfeel.

Overall, I love this beer. A little heavier on the bourbon than I would like, but I can still see why this is such a world class stout.

 584 characters

Photo of jlindros
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to both mcsecne (Reddit) and erric (Reddit) for bottles of this gem.

Light fizzy darker colored head, pitch black dark beer with nice long legs, decent thick head as I swirl.

Nose is awesome, tons of dark malts, chocolate galore, some rich thick expensive Belgian chocolate, bakers choc, a little dark even, velvety too. Little espresso and coffee with a bit of roasted malt but no burnt aromas, cocoa nibs. Then barrel, some vanilla with light toasted oak, decent bourbon, little alcohol tingle. Velvety and maybe even creamy oats.

Taste starts with malts again, dark malts with syrupy dark malts, lots if creamy velvety chocolate, cocoa nibs, bakers choc, etc. The malts have a light roast, little bitter tannin char but not really burnt. Cocoa leads to barrel, light vanilla and barrel, must a touch of bourbon. Light warning tingly booze. Light bitter hops but not much. Finish is long creamy chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, light bourbon barrel, little sticky sweet with a bit more booze, so much mouth layered thick chocolate.

Mouth is big bodied, thick and creamy lush velvety, decent carb, some warming booze but doesn't drink like an 11+% beer.

Overall very nice, great base stout with tons of chocolate, nice dark malts and decent barrel but if I could complain about anything maybe a bit more bourbon as I love bourbon.

 1,342 characters

Photo of zachary80
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz poured into a glove, 11.8% abv. Bottled 12/29/12 batch 11620. Served at 55* and allowed to warm.

Hard pour gives only the slightest head which immediately fades into a tiny ring of white bubbles. A little bit of action from the nucleation point in the middle of the glass, but otherwise its pretty much still and black. Very dark brown while pouring but opaque in the glass. Minimal lacing.

Aroma is sweet, bourbon, vanilla. Very appealing, but fewer layers than expected.

That same aroma follows through but with a lot more complexity from the roastiness of the stout. Still favoring the sweeter elements up from, the finish has a long bitterness from the roast and a little alcohol. Cacao/dark chocolate, light oak. The sweetness ends up being balanced by the alcohol/roast, but this is still on the sweeter side.

Warming from the first sip, the alcohol lends more of a pleasant presence than harshness. Low carbonation level, but not flat, appropriate for the style but maybe could be just a tad higher. Carbonation level seems more appropriate around room temperature, where it's slightly increased.

Overall Black Note is an excellent beer that is smooth and complex. Others may have more barrel character or be more extreme, but this is a great stout.

 1,267 characters

Photo of jzeilinger
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Rich black in color with a toffee/molasses colored creamy head, thick and viscous looking.

S - Rich caramel cream, roasted toffee, dark chocolate malt, vanilla, bourbon, and some oak.

T - Rich and flavorful with vanilla, some traces of dark chocolate, oak, and bourbon. Ends with a sticky oak, vanilla, bourbon finish.

M - Luscious and rich velvety texture, thick, and slightly sticky on the lips.

O - An outstanding barrel aged stout.

 444 characters

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 4,224 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.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.

    Subscribe