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

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
99
world-class
578 Reviews
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Bell's Black Note StoutBell's Black Note Stout
BEER INFO

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

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.40%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
One of the most sought-after stouts in Bell's history, Black Note Stout blends the complex aromatics of Expedition Stout with the velvety smooth texture of Double Cream Stout and ages the combination in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels for months. The resulting harmony of flavors captures the finest features of all three components: malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso & dried fruits, all buoyed by the warmth and fragrance of the bourbon barrel. Aimed squarely at the stout and bourbon aficionados, Black Note makes a grand statement about the art of the dark.

Added by mcallister on 06-16-2007

BEER STATS
Reviews:
578
Ratings:
3,893
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
8.44%
 
 
Wants:
2,759
Gots:
991
For Trade:
88
User Reviews
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Reviews: 578 | Ratings: 3,893
Photo of SadMachine
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

'12 vintage

A- Pours black as night with a finger of tan head that recedes to a collar. Very little lacing, but it does leave nice alcohol legs when swirled.

S- The aroma explodes with bourbon, dark fruits, and oak. Sweet figs, dates, raisins, and prunes. Vanilla, grains, perhaps some sweet chocolate, and definitely a good bit of booze round out the nose.

T- This beer is both bold and subtle at the same time. Focused, yet complex. There's a lot of bourbon, and that makes it mellow, smooth, and boozy. Then there's plenty of the fig/date/raisin flavor. This is all complimented and rounded out with touches of vanilla, vinous flavor, oak, and a surprising bit of dry roastiness in the finish. Quite complex and delicious.

M- The mouthfeel is moderately thick, and very smooth/creamy thanks to the barrel. Lightly carbonated, and a good bit of warming booze.

O- This is a very nice representation of the BBA stout style, and I look forward to trying my other bottle with more age on it.

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Photo of IrishColonial
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at RFD. Thanks a bunch Josh!!

A: squid ink black with a beautiful ring of chocolate milk bubbles around the side. Not much lacing, typical of the style. Awesome. I want to drink the sh*t out of this.

S: Mmmm, delicious bourbon. Vanilla notes. Roasted chocolate malt. A bit of hot booziness. As it warms, the malt profile comes through a bit. But mostly bourbon.

T: The taste is surprisingly dry and hoppy. Dominated by bourbon flavors but fades quickly into a malty, mild coffee aftertaste. Dried fruit flavors overarch more than others of the style. A bit thin for my taste.

M: Thin for a bourbon barrel stout. Also creamy and more carbonated. Pleasant but different.

O: This is a delicious beer and one of the better ones I've had. I love the bourbon and hoppyness flavors and the creamy mouthfeel. Probably from the double cream stout. However, the taste and nose are a bit too bourbon (one-note) dominated. If I had a bottle (not likely) I would definitely age at least a year. Outstanding beer. But it's no BCBS.

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Photo of Phelps
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed (very much) in a chalice at the Hungry Monk during the Arizona Beer Week Eccentric Café event.

Not quite black, but as close to black as purple gets. Strawberry highlights. A tiny tuft of bubbles settles into the middle of the glass, but that's all the head I get.

Layers and layers of aroma. The component parts are obvious in here, with major black coffee coming from the Expedition, and heavy cream and oats coming from Double Cream Stout. The barrels are in perfect proportion, lending dark cherry, molasses and oak. Nice smooth dark chocolate swirls as well, as does toffee. It’s like a fruity, oaky red wine. Great balance.

Bourbon is in the flavor, but it's not the star, which is great. The front is vinous oak, burnt bread, espresso and spicy black strap. The swallow smooths things out with dark chocolate, bourbon-soaked dark cherries, a lot of buttery toffee and a little bit of toasted coconut. Oats and whipped cream rise at the finish. Gentle waves of flavor roll in with each sip. Strikes an impressive balance.

A little heartburn on the way down, but alcohol is well-hidden overall. A shade over medium in body, the brew exhibits a nice velvety texture and heft. Very light, tingly carbonation and a little fizz. Slightly tongue-numbing.

Got damn. So many great flavors mix in this brew. It’s like a bourbon-soaked cherry stuffed inside a dark chocolate toffee treat, with a heavy cream chaser. To balance both the Expedition and Double Cream as well as the barrel notes is just so impressive. The more I ponder it, the more I like it. Very grateful to have the opportunity to try it without giving up my first born. Though he might be on the table if anyone wants to send me a bottle.

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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 aleigator
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a viscous, black color, with a decent mohagony, bubbly head. It leaves back a thick, still bubbly lacing at the edge of the glass.

The nose reveals an astonishing balance between molasses, toffee, coconut, prunes and sweet milk chocolate on the one hand, and wooden, accentuating, slightly hot barrel qualities. The barrel is easily noteable on itself, while it hits the spot by supporting the malty aromas as well, in an outstanding, intriguing way.

Tastes earthier than the aromas revealed, with toasted, bready malts, accompanied by bakers chocolate and a decent amount of whipped cream. That creamy foundation then gets extended by cane sugar, big time toffee and molasses, which blend very well into the burning, wooden alcohol. Boozy Bourbon gets replaced by big chunks of wood, very chewy, with matured coffee beans, creating a pleasant balance, preventing this successfully from becoming too sweet and boozy.

The warmer the beer gets, the more present turns the Bourbon. It provides coconut and a hint of vanilla during the opening, while it becomes quite dominant, as the sweet malt qualities hit the tastebuds. Finishes with ash, scorched malts, slightly dry, while it remains its smooth, chocolate defined mouthfeel.

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Photo of prototypic
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Arrived with a two and a half finger, creamy tan head. It's a very dark brown color, nearly black. No light creeping through. Retention and lacing were excellent.

Smell: Very complex. Bourbon aroma is readily apparent and blends extremely well with roasted and chocolate malts. Dark fruit and cherry are present in addition to a light coffee flavor. Excellent smelling beer.

Taste: Just as complex and fascinating. Roasted and chocolate malts are sweet and smooth. The creamy, lactose element of this beer really contributes to its smooth nature. Bourbon flavor is excellent and really elevates this beer to another level. Hints of dark fruit, cherry, and even vanilla add depth and complexity. Alcohol is slighty noticeable, but hardly offensive.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: It's thick and certainly a sipping beer. One to savor. Carbonation is excellent. ABV is ostensibly high, but it's sooo smooth and drinkable. It's anyone's best guess as to how strong it really is. Drinkability is obviously limited somewhat, but not much. This truly is a special beer. I can only hope I encounter it again someday.

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Photo of youngblood
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #100

Pours super thick. Looks like liquid pavement. Very dark, dirty head that sat for a good 45 minutes before it disappeared. Leaves little lacing.

Smells... bourbony. Underneath the bourbon is some espresso. Extremely strong bourbon. Smells butter too. Almost like butterscotch. Gives me shivers.

The taste follows the nose pretty closely with lots of bourbon up front, there's an undercurrent of butteriness. Nice espresso aftertaste, slightly roasted. Oh jeez this is good. Feels very creamy. Super smooth. Slightly chewy. Small burn at the end from the 10.5%

Oh its drinkable, but two of these would put you to bed pretty quickly.

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Photo of brentk56
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
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

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Photo of illidurit
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle at Blue Palms during RBSG 2012. Pours pitch black with a coffee-colored head. Boozy coffee and vanilla in the aroma, malty with some acidity. Gorgeous flavor, heaps of cream, sugar and vanilla complementing roasty coffee notes and a deep warm chocolatiness. Bourbon is smooth and melds well without much heat.

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Photo of sholland119
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this one at City Tap House, 6/7/10.

A-Pours deep black, a bit oily with a very dark mocha head and some pretty good lacing.

S-Outstanding. Caramel, rich dark chocolate, a nice whiff of bourbony vanilla.

T-Warm, rich and sweet from the start. A bourbon sweet note to begin, along with some alcohol warmth, then milk chocolate and sweet cream kick in before a warming finish.

M-A bit heavy in body but a joy to drink.

D-Delicious, though one at a sitting is certainly plenty.

HV

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Photo of Sean9689
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Stub N Herbs Pre-Darkness Day Party. Ordered two 7oz pours of this, because I wanted to make sure I had a couple before the keg blew.

A - Pours black with a thin tan head. Even though there's only a small ring of head around the edge of the glass, there's a good amount of lacing draped along the sides.

S - Sweet chocolate, roasted malts, caramel, light bourbon, some oak/wood. As it warmed up (and I made it to my second glass), things picked up even more.

T - Just outstanding! Lots of sweet milk chocolate mixed with the perfect amount of bourbon. Much like drinking chocolate syrup mixed with a kick of bourbon and some expresso beans.

M - Not quite as think as I was expecting, but doesn't detract much at all from this beer. Very little carbonation, just right for the style.

D - Glad I was able to get two of these because who knows if I'll ever have the chance to try this one again. Easy to drink for the style, but obviously I can only drink so many before I'd fall over.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I've been offended for a long time that this beer has slipped through my grasp. Everyone raves about it, and it is good, but how much better than a decently treated Bourbon county is it? Not much.

Beer served on draft in a snifter. Beer is black with a lazy head of tan bubbles, some lacing, minimal carbonation, lots of lacing.

Aroma is sweet, bourbon, malt, not much else.

Beer is also sweet, smooth, creamy, decent, mouth-feel is the best thing about this beer, high in alcohol, sweet, good finish, a decent barrel aged whatever but don't knock yourself out looking for it like i did.

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Photo of Stevem68
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a jet black color with minimal head. Aroma is big bourbon and oak. Flavor is boozy and oaky. Has notes of deep roasted malts, a little chocolate with a hint of vanilla. Has a smooth creamy mouthfeel. Overall this is a great beer that lives up to the hype.

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Photo of LambicPentameter
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to fellow BA cvm4 for sending this bottle along in a trade. Enjoyed out of a 12 oz brown bottle with the vintage "2014" stamped on the front of the label. Poured into a 33 oz brandy snifter. Reviewing from notes after enjoying on 2/14/15.

Appearance (4.25) - A pour of moderate aggression yields a finger of caramel-brown foam that dissipates fairly quickly, leaving more of a ringlet around the edges and a spackling of lace on the sides of the glass. Beneath the head lies a dark walnut brown body with no light able to pass through except for a gentle glow of refraction right around the edges.

Smell (4.5) - The smell really makes a good impression, with notes of graham cracker, caramel and some molasses are the initial aroma, with trailing scents of chocolate and roasted malt close behind. There is a slight hint of astringent booziness, but it's faint and really only serves to cut through the sweeter aromas.

Taste (4.5) - Not quite as impressive as the aroma, but good enough that the difference is negligible, the taste isn't quite as sweet as what the smell suggested was to follow. Still notes of caramel and molasses, now complemented by vanilla and some oak, with a stronger presence from the alcohol that wasn't as prevalent in the smell. Again, bitterness comes in the form of roasted malt char and some cacao bittersweet characteristics.

Feel (4.0) - Body is on the slightly heavy side of medium, but still doesn't rise to the girth that I want to have in big imperial stouts like this one. I know the barrel-aging makes that difficult. Carbonation is low and soft, without any of the harshness that might cut through the decadence of the beer. Finish is semisweet.

Overall (4.25), a really nice barrel-aged stout and one that I would gladly drink again if it weren't pretty much a trade-only beer for me to access. However, I don't think I would go out of my way to trade for it again, as there are barrel-aged imperial stouts that are just as good, if not better, that I personally have an easier time getting my hands on.

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Photo of dar482
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The beer comes in black color with tinges of brown coming in through the light. A ring of tan head.

The aroma is bourbon, oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, hints of dark fruit (cherry and dried plums), coffee.

The flavor hits in the front of sweet and dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. There's hints of coconut and dark dried dark cherry and plum as well. Bourbon flavor hits throughout. The finish is of sweet roasted coffee and drying oak.

The mouthfeel is very full and bold at first and falls off reasonably quickly by the end of the beer.

This beer changes throughout with temperature, very much so compared to other bourbon barrel aged beers I have had. A very interesting beer to take an hour or so on.

In the end, slightly weak on the finish, thin, and quite overrated.

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Photo of Durge
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

Yet another goodie at Stub & Herb's in Minneapolis, MN . This shows a solid black brown color with a modest tan head and decent lacing. The aroma says cabernet and sour coffee with a hint of licorice. Awesome and fairly intense. The flavor is an incredible medley of coffee cherry chocolate with wonderful root hints that suggest Vicks Formula 44. There is an herbal hop bite here that blends with the medicinal qualities. This is full bodied and sliky feeling with some resinous qualities perhaps. Minute but very tangy carbonation. Not highly drinkable at all, just too intense but very tasty. There's raisin and juniper and the blend is superb. And I thought the Expedition alone would be unbeatable...Wow!

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Photo of peensteen
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared by Liam.

Deep brown nearly jet black, ring of tan head, little to no lace really. Smell is bourbon forward, lots of coconut and vanilla, well roasted, chocolate with liquorice and coffee as well as a bit of a fruity hint in there as well. Taste has quite a bit of chocolate, coffee and oak, coconut, vanilla witha bit of a light lingering sweetness, bourbon in the finish. Medium-full body, lightly carbonated and bit oily with a creamy mouthcoating as well. Just awesome stuff, an awesome beer consumed on a night filled with awesome beers, would love the opertunity to revisit this again.

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Photo of mynie
4.39/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Glugs out very dark and viscous with minimal carbonation and small brown head.

Smells like whiskey, chocolate, and vanilla. The aroma is strong but not overpowering. A very nice blend.

Tastes like it smells--it's clear that this is Bell's direct response to BCBS. Whiskey and stout barley start things off, moving into a bittersweet middle of vanilla and dark chocolate, finishing off with the pleasant burn of ethanol.

Tried this side-by-side against a regular bottle of 2013 BCBS, and Goose Island's brew was a narrow winner due its firmer body and more complex finish. The fact that Black Note gave it a run for its money is quite a compliment, though, and I look forward to sampling some more of these in the future.

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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.

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Photo of Gryphon69
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 3-12-14

A- Very dark chocolate brown, near black. virtually no head to speak of, but left a nice ring around the glass, with some very light runny lacing.

S- Nice smooth bourbon up front, dark chocolate, roasted malts, caramel, some vanilles, followed by deep dark fruit.

T- Very good throughout, good smooth and not overpowering bourbon, deep chocolates, hints of dark mixed dark fruits. Very good stout flavors.

M- Thick, creamy, smooth, slick and sticky. Everything lingers on the tongue.

O- This is a very good beer, but after reading all the reviews I was expecting more. I cant say I was let down, but not up to the super hype and the years of waiting IMO.
Was kinda of surprised that the lacing didn't coat the glass with a bigger head, the smell is awesome and the taste is wonderful but I have had some much less expensive that comes very close or equals this one. The feel was amazing though, every stout should strive for this part.

Very glad I finally found it to try and will defiantly pick it up again at some point, just wouldn't run out and drop a lot of dollars on it next time. Very good beer and do recommend it to everyone.

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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.

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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 funkel81
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

well obviously, based on all the incredible reviews, this is a mighty fine beer. been wanting to give this a try for a while and after tasting, i am not disappointed or let down in any way.

poured out of a 12oz bottle, little to no head is present, but carbonation is perfectly fine (low) for the style. dark dark brown and pretty darn thick

smells of bourbon, chocolate and some roasted barley, and tastes just like it smells. smooth like butter on the mouth, alcohol is detectable but not more than expected. overall, a delicious beer that im happy to have more of

i'd place it slightly above bcbs and slightly below eclipse elijah craig 12yr

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Photo of alpineclimber
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A 2012 bottle poured into my favourite chalice. A two finger frothy mocha head forms on an impenetrable black brew.

Nose is of the bourbon barrel and chocolatey black malt, fairly sweet.

Taste is of dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses and the bourbon barrel. The bourbon barrel is very apparent in this brew and is very appealing. A thick mouthfeel, very fitting.

Overall very excellent and highly recommended for the bourbon barrel aged stout connoisseur.

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

Also had at All Stouts Day, poured blaaack with a thin tan head

Smelled strongly of bourbon and sticky maple, felt a slight sting from the alcohol and carbonation. Felt the carbonation was on the higher end for an imperial stouts. Heavy to medium body, slightly creamy like the Double Cream.

Tasted molasses, BOURBON, slighty roasty flavor, prunes rolled in brown sugar, a touch of vanilla, and some fairly pleasing alcohol.

What a treat to have! It is a worthy member in the pantheon of fantastic Michigan big stouts (e.g., Founder's Breakfasts, Dark Horse's Plead the Fifth and other holiday stouts.)

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