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): 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

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Reviews: 668 | Ratings: 4,290
Photo of CHickman
4.91/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

PKG 11/03/2016: Pours pitch black color with a foamy 1 finger brown head that faded slowly, leaving great spotty lacing.

Smells perfect for a bourbon barrel aged stout. The bourbon and oaky notes lead the charge, followed by molasses, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla, syrup, burnt coffee, hot fudge, dark fruit and then more chocolate with a hint of piney hops which makes for an extremely complex and wonderful nose.

Wow, it tastes just like it smells but with booze and heat from the high ABV, however it does not negatively impact the flavor. Even more chocolate and coffee come through with espresso, chocolate syrup, smoked malt, charred wood and brown sugar adding dynamics before some earthy and woody barrel notes kick in. It's hot in a good way with the rich malt, bourbon and barrel notes making for a delicious combination. World class indeed.

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Photo of Blackop555
4.81/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2016 batch 2

Pours black with a thin tan head that fades fast.

Smells of chocolate vanilla and coffee and bourbon

Tastes of bourbon and molasses at first. Fading quickly to vanilla and roasted flavor. Slight alcohol flavor to it but well hidden. Creamy smooth body with lower end of carbonation but adds to the velvety feel. Flavors change throughout as it warms. Definitely will drink more

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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.

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Photo of GreatStoutman
4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Loads of flavor here, including solid barrel presence without overwhelming or coming on too boozy. Maybe a touch thin, but that's very nit-picky, and the variety of dark fruits and roast/smoke/chocolaty flavors more than compensate. This is a wonderful stout

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

Finally had my first Bell's Black Note Stout on Christmas Eve of 2016. This beer is everything the hype had advertised. The beer is easily one of my top ten beers of all time. Got the 12 ounce bottle as part of a four pack for $24.

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Photo of CraigP83
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Black, little to no head. Smell is chocolate, whiskey. Touch of black licorice flavor, Absolutely tons of chocolate, dark baking cocoa. Good BA stout but not the greatest

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

2016 edition. Pours black with a minimal tan head that fades fast.
Aroma is dark chocolate, vanilla, molasses and bourbon.
Taste is dark chocolate, dark fruit, vanilla, a touch of coffee with a roasty and warming finish. Mouthfeel is smooth, medium and silky.
Overall, just plain SMOOOOV.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle, 2016 vintage, packaged on 11/03/2016. Served in a snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with about an inch and a half tan head that stayed around for a while. There's also a decent amount of lacing. I like the aroma, the brew smells like vanilla, bourbon, dark fruit, molasses, dark chocolate, and coffee. Taste is similar to the aroma, but there's also some caramel and burnt/charred malt noticeable too. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's creamy and coating with a moderate amount of carbonation. I thought this was pretty good, glad I was able to find a bottle. I know I'd like to try this again in the future! $7.99 a bottle.

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Photo of NickSMpls
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

One bottle from our our go-to beer guy. Let this warm a bit before you taste it. Viscous pour, jet black, low carbonation. Aroma of roasted coffee, figs, and whiskey. Taste matches the color and smell...pure stout distilled down to its essence. Sip slowly and savor the layers of flavor. A high ABV leaves a lingering warmth on a cold night. Find a warm fire and enjoy.

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Photo of Thirstygoat
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Was very happy to get a bottle, from 2016
Dark brown with redish tint, mocha head that last awhile, leaving tan lacing
Smells of vanilla, camel, bit of bourbon
Alcohol sting of the tongue while absorbing the flavors from the aroma
Not as thick as I'd expect, maybe the Cream Stout?
No disappointment, glad I got to try this delicious stout

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Photo of Cfred371
4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Look: The beer is a dark brown, with light on the edges, and virtually no head. What little head there is comes in khaki, and dissipates quickly.

Smell: an initial dark fruit/raisin smell, and some vanilla comes through. Malts as well. After generating some head, the barrel and bourbon come through in a big way.

Taste: Bourbon, vanilla and the barrel really are prevalent throughout, but, as the beer warms, a raisin comes through, as does some of that coffee, chcolatey flavor

Feel: a medium full body, some carbonation, but not much, and a nice smooth finish.

Overall: A solid bourbon barrel Stout showing off quite a bit of flavor. The finish is long, and the beer is tasty.

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Photo of LAp
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a tulip. Pours a deep brown/black with just the faintest hint of red. As the pour starts, no head began to emerge, so I poured more aggressively. Despite best efforts, this beer yields only the faintest meniscus of mocha head which recedes with almost no lacing. The nose is dominated by vanilla and bourbon on top of the typical stout nose profile. The palate, when first poured, is primarily dark chocolate, marshmallow, vanilla, and bourbon (the bourbon note though, significantly, is not a saccharine one, but a reserved whisky taste that accents, rather than dominates, the palate). As the beer warms, the creamy vanilla and marshmallow come more to the fore, and the bourbon notes open up into deep overtones of cherry and oak. The mouthfeel is thick, but not syrupy (a huge achievement). This is an elegant, and simple BB stout. Rather than seeking nuance through a wealth of adjuncts, this beer takes simple concept, the unmodified bourbon barrel stout, and executes it masterfully. Though I have a personal taste for the more experimental BB stouts of Deschutes and others, I have a tremendous respect for what Bell's has done with this outstanding brew.

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Photo of Sparty1224
4.77/5  rDev +6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Serving: 12 oz. bottle poured into a Founder's CBS snifter. Bottled on 7/1/16, making this almost 5.5 months old at this point.

A: Pours a nearly pitch black color with just a hint of caramel-mocha head on the rim. Tons of alcohol legs up the glass, very oily.

S: Tons of vanilla, marshmallow, caramel, and cocoa up front. Soft notes of bourbon and oak come through right at the end. Not a huge barrel presence, but it's there.

T: More oak and bourbon up front in the taste. Huge vanilla, marshmallow, caramel, and fig in the finish. Even picking up a small dash of hops from the usually quite aggressive Expedition Stout in the finish as well.

M: A bit thinner than previous editions, but still medium mouthfeel overall.

O: I've had several vintages of this beer in the past (both fresh and aged), but never had the chance to review it fresh until now. This one has always been my favorite BA Imperial Stout in Michigan, ahead of KBS and BB Plead, mostly because it's the most drinkable to me. I really love that marshmallow/vanilla vibe from the Double Cream Stout, and it almost puts this on the spectrum of a VBDL. It doesn't pack quite the punch as I remember, the barrel might not be as big, and the mouthfeel a touch thinner, but this beer still kills it whenever it decides to show it's face.

Recommendation: You haven't had one of the best beers from Michigan until you've had this one.

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Photo of Buck89
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2016 vintage poured into a snifter. A jet black pour out of the bottle, producing a modest tan head that retreated fairly quickly. A soft bourbon presence on the nose, along with caramel, coffee, cherries, and chocolate. I tasted the caramel first and it quickly gave way to all of the above notes. Rich chocolate but not too heavy. The bourbon was a bit hot and this should evolve nicely with a bit of age.

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Photo of pezhead_79
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Well, saying this is great would not be news. Just a very smooth BA stout that makes me wish I had more every time. A perfect balance of taste and aroma.

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

Bottled 3/12/14; drank 11/14/14 @ the Yarchives.

Black/brown/purple hue.

A rough pour yields a dark tan head; decent lace.

Marshmallow, dark cherry & mocha nose.

Medium thick mouthfeel.

Dark cherry, marshmallow & vanilla flavors; this boozy beast has been tamed & is damn tasty.

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Photo of SeanMNCraftBeerLover
4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Wow, been waiting to try this for a few years now, got in trade and can't wait to get my hands on again. Wish I can have a case of this for the winter. Great chocolate espresso stout so smooth it's dangerous!

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Photo of DMarlinJ
4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage bottled in February so almost 5 years in the cellar. Not much head from aggressive pour. A lot of sticky broken lace coating glass. Smells of oak and vanilla up front and dark fruits. Towards bottom of glass getting more alcohol coming through but oak still strong. Flavors blend well into one. Plum, raisin, vanilla, oak and some bourbon heat. Carbonation at first distracts from smooth creaminess that follows nicely. Light feel that is not a heavy sweet coating that sometimes goes with stouts. Not tiring on the mouth to the end even as it warms. Overall it was great, just some slight room for improvement if the alcohol burn didn't distract.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
4.26/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Thanks, gillagorilla!

Pours a pitch-black color. The head is...well, it's more of a shabby-looking film, really. Lighter tan in color, it features really bad retention. Naturally, no lacing is left behind.

As expected, plenty of rich yet nuanced bourbon barrel shows up aromatically. Oak, vanilla, and even mild marshmallow all appear. The base is loaded with notes of roasted malt, baker's cocoa, and espresso. What it lacks in intense fudge and brownie batter notes it makes up for with notes of licorice and dark fruits. The barrels have done their job here, and that's take away the sharper features of Expedition Stout while adding additional depth. And deep it is! It continues to unfurl layers as it opens up, and seems to feature more complexity (aroma-wise) than even many of the style stalwarts.

It first features a flavor of dark fruits and licorice (how 'bout that, just like the aroma dictated...), which then gives way to espresso around the middle. The finish, natch, is quite oak-laden. As a nitpick, the barrels here seem to take on more of a generic oak quality, instead of offering vivid bourbon flavors of vanilla or toasted coconut. In fact, compared to many other barrel-aged stouts out there, this doesn't seem particularly sweet at all. Despite the seemingly drier, more utilitarian approach, it doesn't come across as being harsh (unlike fresh Expedition Stout) or out of balance. It's every bit as complex as it needs to be, yet still finely balanced. This is close to my ideal stout, it just needs a bit more actual bourbon presence (as opposed to just oak) and maybe 10% more depth.

Because it's so well attenuated, the mouthfeel is surprisingly - dare I say - crisp. It's not light-feeling or dinky (by any stretch), but it goes down surprisingly easily. It does this all without a vicious, alcoholic bite. Carbonation is obviously low.

This, in my opinion, is the best beer Bell's makes. It's an excellent blend that's both balanced and tempered by bourbon barrels, while retaining the stronger qualities of the two (especially Expedition Stout). I surmise this one will be a mofo to find - I'd gladly make that effort to seek it out again. It's easily on par with some of the better barrel-aged stouts on the market.

4.26/5: A good blueprint on how barrel aging can improve the flaws of some beers, while adding a wonderful dimension on its own

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Photo of SHDoyle
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Description: Dark black (shocker) with no head or lacing. Smooth appearance but otherwise "normal" for a stout. The bourbon and oak come through loud and clear on the aroma but here are also strong notes of dark fruit. Unlike many other stouts, I didn't really pick up any discernible coffee or chocolate on the smell. Very straightforward but very good overall. Taste is more complex than the smell and along with bourbon and oak aplenty there are slightly sweet, dark chocolate flavors. Maybe the bourbon masked it on the smell. Mouthfeel is super smooth and creamy with no real carbonation.

Suggested food pairing: Prosciutto

If you like this been then you should also try: BCBS

Overall: 4.5 (This beer is very good and I would definitely drink it again) This one meets the high expectations it has come to engender. Depth of flavor and smell with a spot on mouthfeel. It's a shame that it's so difficult to come by, but well worth making the effort to do so.

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Photo of Nic1985Ace
4.77/5  rDev +6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle, 2016 vintage

L: Pours pitch black with 2 fingers of frothy tan head, good retention. Settles into a tan ring.

S: Nose is big chocolate, oak, and bourbon. Coffee comes through with some vanilla undertones.

T: Taste is chocolate, vanilla is prominent. Coffee comes in and adds a really nice roasty bitterness. Beautifully balanced. Oak and bourbon is there but not overwhelming.

F: Very smooth, excellent creamy mouthfeel.

O: Really a tremendous BA stout. Delivers in every way. Fantastic offering from Bell's.

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Photo of justinp444
4.89/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2016 second release. Poured into a mini snifter it has a black body with a thin beige head. Smell is chocolate, bourbon, licorice, little bit of a nutty smell, and big vanilla. Taste of chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, bit of coffee on the end, roasted malt, almond, and licorice. Mouth feel is smooth creamy and full with a full body and smooth moderate carbonation. One of the easiest drinking while still being complex stouts I've had.

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Photo of Sabtos
4.1/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very dark brown mahogany with a fleeting mocha head.

Thick, rich smell that I can even feel in my throat when I take a small whiff. Nutty, thick chocolate, walnut and wet, dense oak, with a faint, spicy, peppery bourbon resting in the background.

Taste is heavily charred, dark oaky, woody, nuttiness, finishing as a slick, waxy chocolate. There is almost a hint of peanut butter in there. Bourbon continues to not be overpowering on the palate, with a spicy kick of heat on the very back end.

This is blended expertly, with a full bodied feel, soft hefty froth, some lightening tang, a nice balance of flavors, and a complexity and deepness of characteristics not often found in the barrel aged stout.

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Photo of craftaholic
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Long awaited review. I've been seeking this bad boy out for years. It's surprisingly thin but it has a delicious bouquet of flavors! There's a lot of Bourbon on the nose from the barrels and the flavor profile is great. Unfortunately it didn't blow my mind but I'm glad I finally had it!

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

Nov 2016 release:
Poured into a tulip black with a tan head.

Aroma is of bourbon, roasted malts, chocolate, oak.

Taste follows aroma, wafting bourbon, chocolate, oak, vanilla sweetness. Bourbon heat on the finish. Well balanced.

Mouth feel is moderate to full, slick.

Was very happy to finally get a chance to try this.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 4,290 ratings.
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