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

664 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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): 10.80%

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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 664 | Ratings: 4,266
Photo of Riff
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours an inky black with a minimal chocolate head, which dissipates to a small ring around the glass. Smells earthy, dark chocolate, marshmallow, slight hint of bourbon. Tastes of dark chocolate, bourbon, coffee, dark fruit, and finished with a caramel flavor. Minimal notice of the alcohol, most sips you couldn't taste it, sometimes it was a light burn in the background. Body is a bit on the thin side for a BA stout. Overall it's a little surprisingly complex, usually don't see something this complex without another additive like coffee. Goes down easily but a thick enough body to make it more of a sipper than crushable.

 629 characters

Photo of pants678
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Brown lacing on black body.

Toast, vanilla.

Marshmallow cream and dark chocolate's underlined by bright cut of bourbon. Lives up to the billing. Sweetness would push it over the top, IMO.

Not superlative-y in viscosity.

 222 characters

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

Received two 2016 bottles as beer mail after having this on tap twice at GABF 2016. Consumed one bottle in January 2017 and will sit on the second bottle approximately January 2018.

A: Pours inky black, minimal cola-like head with almost no retention.

S: Coffee, bittersweet chocolate, dark fruits, and bourbon barrel (caramel and vanilla).

T: A surprising amount of coffee that lingers from sip to swallow. Aromas materialize on the palate in a symphonic manner. Finishes with some bourbon heat.

F: Not as thick as other BA stouts... even with the Double Cream Stout playing part.

 585 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 BeerGuy8315
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter. Bottled 11/3/16.

A: Pours jet black in color with a 1/3 inch, foamy, dark brown-cola colored head with minimal retention. Thin, tan lacing throughout.

S: Aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, cherry, raisins, caramel, vanilla, and roasted malts with small hints of bourbon.

T: Starts off with bitter coffee/espresso and dark chocolate followed by caramel, vanilla, cherries, and roasted malts. Finishes with a nice bourbon barrel character followed by the return of mild lingering coffee bitterness with slightly sweet notes of dark chocolate.

F: Full bodied, thick, smooth, and super creamy.

O: Overall, this is an awesome BA stout. Bourbon barrel character is definitely present, but at a nice level that pairs excellently with the other flavor profiles, especially the coffee and dark chocolate. Looking forward to trying it with some age on it. Definitely worth seeking out!

 922 characters

Photo of JayORear
3.95/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Have to say right up front that I'm biased by having drunk a number of Firestone and Bottle Logic stouts recently, and those memories persist, giving the disadvantage to Black Note. The look is dark, almost black, but in a very one-dimensional way. Moving it around it front of light doesn't bring out any subtlety, the way it does with many other stouts. The head is very thin, also nothing to get excited about. The smell, to my mind, is the best part of the beer: it promises depth and complexity, especially as it warms, with bourbon, chocolate, and vanilla next to currants and figs. But it simply doesn't translate into the taste, which is somewhat splintered, unintegrated. You can detect many great indvidual flavors that simply don't meld. A slightly vinegary undertone doesn't do it any favors. My biggest recent point of comparison here is Bottle Logic Byzantine Vision, which, although it derives some of its complexity from adjuncts, has one of the best integrated flavor profiles of any "big beer" I've tried. Mouthfeel is rather thin, and evaporates quickly from the tongue. I realize I'm in the minority here, but I find it to be a solid but unremarkable example of the style.

 1,192 characters

Photo of OrangeMen
4.7/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2016 vintage
~3 months from bottling date

Appearance- Pours a black color, opaque. Thin layer of dark tan colored head, soapy / bubbly. Alcohol legs coat glass w/ a film-like layer, lots of small beads of head lacing.

Aroma- Dark chocolates, rich fudge, savory sweetness. Loads of fresh sweet bourbon, dry oak, creamy vanilla, barrel char and smoke. Roasty malts, coffee, caramel, dark fruits, creamy sugars.

Taste- Roasted malt, dark fudgy chocolates. Bourbon, charred wood, spicy oak, tobacco, leathery earthiness. Vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, milk chocolates. Coffee, dark fruits, raisins, cherries.

Feel- Medium bodied, creamy and very silky smooth, drying from all the barrel characteristics. Moderate to lower carbonation.

Overall- Decadent richness combined with such raw and flavorful barrel characteristics. So much bourbon and oak, with all the underlying complexities of vanilla, char, smoke, tobacco, etc. Nuanced flavors of chocolate, dark fruits, and creamy sweetness just make the beer so complex and complete. A true treat to try.

 1,063 characters

Photo of Czequershuus
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a very dark black with almost no head. The aroma is savory, with chocolate, anise, rosemary, sweet bread, brown butter, gingerbread, cumin, cinnamon, and soy sauce. The flavor features brown sugar, molasses, burnt sugar, cinnamon, anise, soy sauce, cumin, and dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is fairly average bodied with very low carbonation. Overall this ais not a rich as many stouts in its class these days, but it has fantastic savory notes, with great complexity and development.

 499 characters

Photo of JLK7299
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Acquired in a recent trade. What a BBA Stout! I often feel like BBA stouts are overbearing on the bourbon but this one has just the right amount. Very drinkable! More please!

 174 characters

Photo of HorseheadsHopHead
4.83/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

L: Pitch black, with a small, creamy brown head that lasts surprisingly long, and gives off lacing.

S: Bourbon, toasted oak, milk chocolate, caramel, black cherry, espresso, prunes, burnt raisins, toast, toasted coconut.

T: Milk chocolate, cacao nib, dark roast coffee, butterscotch, caramel, bourbon, black cherry, oak, toasted coconut, toasted brown bread.

F: Medium-full, smooth, slightly oily.

 400 characters

Photo of spacecake9
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I got 1 bottle this year, first time tasting this elusive beer.
A - Pours a very dark brown with a beautiful tan head that lingers as a thin head.
S - The aroma is wonderful. Soft chocolate, molasses and a hint of black licorice.
T - Bourbon, chocolate and a bit roasty. Just the right amount of sweetness.
M - Soft and creamy mouth feel with low carbonation.
O - This is an outstanding, perfectly balanced stout.

 415 characters

Photo of bbtkd
4.21/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bell's Black Note Stout, 11.4% ABV. Pours thin and black with a one finger head on a careful taproom pour. Nose is coffee, milk, and chocolate. Taste follows, sweeter than bitter but a bit of both. Decent mouthfeel, but thin. Overall excellent.

 249 characters

Photo of MemphisSooner
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This smells like afresh baked pan of brownies and bourbon. In other words, it smells like evething right in the world.

The taste is even better. Bourbon, brown sugar, chocolate dominate. There's enough sweetness to balance the booze and strong flavors and make this thing super tasty.

A world class imperial stout. Find it if you can. Well done Bells!

 355 characters

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

Very good, but did not live up to my hopes and dreams. I guess living in West Michigan, the hype surrounding this beer had me expecting my socks to get knocked off. Very dark, very balanced. KBS with more bourbon, less chocolate...

 231 characters

Photo of Drvitlkeyustolit80
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First had 1/12/17 at home. Traded for it from Eric L. Dark chocolate is prominent, with dark fruits, and a subtle bourbon finish that doesn't overpower. Superior texture and mouth feel make this irresistible.

 211 characters

Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
3.83/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Oily black with a beige-brown head.

Aroma of old moldy oak barrel, meat locker, snuff tobacco, leather, cigarette butts, and slight vinegar.

Flavor is a touch milky to start (somewhat thin), but then forms a bit more character with tobacco, earth, and finally on the finish it all comes together - bourbon, rich chocolate, oats, and leather on the aftertaste.

Feel is thin to start, then begins a medium profile, and finally a thick juicy finish with a roasty dryness.

Overall, this is the 2nd 2016 bottle I've had this year, and I remember the first one being better. This seems to have some issues regarding smelling a bit vinegary and ashy, with the flavor really lacking until the finish. I remember the first bottle being flavorful all the way through. Sad, but I have one more bottle I can take care of yet before my 2016 stash is depleted.

Rated with price in mind ($6/bottle).

 894 characters

Photo of Franziskaner
4.26/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Black as night with no light penetration and a fingernail of brown around the rim and the majority of the top. The aroma is an exceptional blend of bitter roasted barley and sweet bourbon. I'm tasting a surprisingly balanced melange of darkly bitter roasted barley and sweet bourbon. The mouth is shockingly smooth, silky, and lightly chewy.

 344 characters

Photo of croush
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From bottle - second batch of the 2016 version. This is really stronger bourbon flavor than I remember prior bottles being. However, I just don't get much after the bourbon flavor in terms of flavor - I need some more substance after to think it's truly world class like BCBS.

 278 characters

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

Tasted in a snifter from draft at Kuma's Corner on January 12, 2017. Look is dark brown with a tan head and lingering lacing. Smell and taste is dark dried fruit and roasted malts. Feel is full in body with a warm and bittersweet finish.

 240 characters

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

Appearance is pitch black with super thin head and minimal lacing.

Aroma is barrel up front, strong bourbon with chocolate notes and slight coffee.

Taste is booze forward with the chocolate coffee late flavor. Had better ba stouts but this is very tasty

Mouthfeel is a little thinner than I prefer but still good.

Overall- not quite worthy of the high ranking but still worth seeking out. Just not same level of the other beers with this hype

 452 characters

Photo of BrewsOverHoes
4.61/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 oz bottle poured into a stout glass.

Look: Pours surprisingly thin jet black, with a small light mocha head. Minimal lacing left on the glass with each sip.

Smell: Huge bourbon and roasted malts. Fresh coffee and dark chocolate.

Taste: Dark chocolate initially, vanilla, touch of bourbon accompanied by some alcohol bite, but barely. Roasted coffee and hints of sweet caramel. Touch of bitterness on the back-end levels out any sweetness. Just excellent.

Mouth feel: To me this is really smooth. It's not too thick nor too thin. It finds a balance inbetween the two.

Overall: Bell's can brew stouts with the best of them and this is an example. The bourbon is just present enough to enhance and let the other flavors of the stout's bases to shine. If you see it, order a glass or get a bottle. You won't be disappointed.

 829 characters

Photo of Meyers1023
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured extremely dark with very little light brown head. The nose is full of bourbon. Hard to get anything else beyond that. The taste definitely has bourbon in it and heat from the alcohol but you do get a great medley of other flavors. Chocolate comes out with hints of vanilla and coffee. Smooth feel with decent carbonation. One of my favorite barrel aged beers. Was scared of it by the smell but the flavors balance so well together and the smooth feel make this an experience any craft beer drinker needs to have. Glad I have multiple bottles.

 549 characters

Photo of Zoomslowik
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L- Very dark. Pours with a solid mocha head. It fades to a thin ring around the glass.

S- Heavy on the roasted malts and bourbon. Some bittersweet chocolate. Pleasing.

T- Roasted malts and caramel. Bourbon is there, but not as strong as the aroma. A little chocolate in the base. Not quite as smooth and balanced a flavor profile as I would like.

F- This was a target of mine for a while because I heard it had a nice, creamy mouthfeel and that's what I look for in a stout. Well, it wasn't quite there. I was a bit concerned when I saw how thin it poured. It did have a rich, smooth feel, but it wasn't nearly as thick and creamy as some of my favorites.

O- I was excited to finally get my hands on one, but it was merely solid. There's nothing wrong with it per say, but it didn't live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.

If it matters, this was the 2016 B2 version.

 883 characters

Photo of Georgiabeer
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

For me, a perfect stout. Rich and flavorful with chocolate, vanilla, bourbon notes, a nice background bitterness and roasty coffee notes. All of this combined with a sweet creaminess makes it moreish indeed.

 207 characters

Photo of rodbeermunch
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Now for something completely the hallmark of style. A big roasty stout put into bourbon barrels. This was one of the early ones, but it still keeps on rockin' in the free world.

Pours black. Shocking. Creamy 1/2" tan head. Aroma of roast and bourbon. This is going exactly as one would expect.

Taste, chocolate and bourbon, decent amount of alcohol heat in the mouth feel. Not as highly hopped as some beers in this style, helps contribute to the smoothness, that and an appropriately lower carbonation aspect. A little bit of dark fruit bitterness to it. Good format and price structure helps get that overall bump. Viscous, is there molassess going on here? Some burnt caramel feels to it.

 707 characters

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 4,266 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

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.