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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
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:
602
Ratings:
4,032
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
21.56%
 
 
Wants:
2,742
Gots:
1,059
For Trade:
103
User Reviews
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Reviews: 602 | Ratings: 4,032
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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Photo of lemmy187
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Finally get a shot at the legendary black note. Pours medium black with about a finger of mocha head. Looks thinner than expected. Nose is dominated by the bourbon with notes of raisin, chocolate, and roast. Taste is super balanced between the barrel, dark fruit, and roasted malts. Highly drinkable for a BA stout. Feel is on the thin side with moderate carbonation. Great stout....but the thin body holds it back from being world class.

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Photo of nerdboy19
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Look : black, a lot. Small head.
Aroma : Bourbon, whiskey, malts, oak, dark chocolate and a little bit of vanilla.
Mouthfeel : medium-full bodied, low carb.
Flavor : Dark chocolate, coffee, roasted, bourbon, oak, vanilla, a little bit sweet but bitterness balances, bit of alcohol.
Overall : Very balanced bourbon aged imperial stout. Reminding me of Parabola than KBS or BCBS.

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

The beer pours a nice creamy tan colored head that dissipates quickly but leaves a nice ring around the inside of the glass. The beer itself is a nice , dark black color with a nice texture. The texture is a bit creamy and looks fairly smooth. While it doesn't have the same deep or heavy appearance other beers of similar make and style.

The smell is good. The smell has a nice and moderate bourbon note that mixes well with the other notes. The other notes consist of a nice cocoa notes and dark chocolate notes with a light creaminess. There is also a light alcohol note that surprisingly does not take away from the smell but adds an interesting note to it.

The taste is fantastic. It's a nice combination of barrel notes with imperial cream stout and imperial stout notes that work very well. The barrel notes consist of a nice moderate bourbon notes. The other notes consist of a nice creaminess but with strong cocoa and dark chocolate note to it.

The feel is very good. It's a heavy bodied beer with moderate carbonation but has a very nice and very silky feel to it. It's different from other stouts and this creaminess is fairly unique. It adds quite a bit to the beer's character.

Overall, this a very good beer and one that probably will get much better as it ages. With the very unique taste and wonderful texture, I can certainly see why this is one of the most sought after beers; other than it's rarity. This beer is a great and worthwhile whale to seek when it's available. Happy hunting fellow beer geeks.

 1,527 characters

Photo of alarmclock314
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle, dated 7/1/16. Pours black with a medium sized khaki head; very nice lacing. Smells of bourbon, cocoa, roasted malt, and earthy hops; medium intensity. The taste follows closely with bourbon, complex roasted malt, cocoa, earthy hops, lactose, and some subtle dark fruit; much better intensity and very smooth. Light bitterness, dryness, and sweetness. The alcohol is completely hidden. Above average body and below average carbonation. Overall, this is a smooth, complex, and tasty IS.

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

Had a 2014 batch after a year or two of cellaring. Looked pitch black, moderately carb'd, good aroma of dark fruits and bourbon....but really fell flat for me. Lacked the intensity of barrel, roast, chocolate, hops that other top tier BA stouts offer. It felt pleasant but just a bit flabby, neither sweet and chocolatey nor intensely dark and licorice-y....it's as if someone had mixed a milk stout and an imperial Russian stout...which is I suppose indeed what they did here. A fine stout; but not one I'd go out of my way to try again.

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Photo of bgold86
4.79/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a snifter glass, nose is of chocolate, coffee, sweet vanilla and dark fruits, good but not spectacular. Taste on the other hand is a different story, huge bourbon, huge chocolate, big dark dried fruits, just spectacular.

Falls short of a perfect 5/5 but well worth the price of admission.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

this is every bit as good as they all say it is, one of the best beers ive had from bells, and one of the better bourbon barrel stouts going. this beer was ahead of its time, and its taken me far too long to track it down, but finally i have found it, and its worth the wait. a real gem, not quite black as the name suggests, more of a hersheys brown, with a short but sturdy and lasting tan head. heavy oak and char on the nose and taste, as much as there is whiskey and vanilla themselves, its woody and sweet, but intense in a different kind of way, somewhat more refined, and as much chocolate malt as there seems to be roasted barley on it, which i really dig, and i think is an underutilized element in these big barrel aged stouts. the flavor is like the nose, heavy wood and carbon, a lot of vanilla too, and just a bit of booze warmth. also some other middle flavors here, cocoa, raisin, even root beer, its quite evolved and interesting, and has a ginormous body, silky smooth though and slippery going down. this was head of its time, these are past en vogue to downright overdone these days, with the proliferation of barrel brokers and upstart egocentric breweries, these are everywhere, but its good to taste something this esteemed and appreciate again the fact that all barrel aged stouts are not created equal. this is better than most, and as elusive as its been for me, a much delighted in rarity. very high on this one right now...

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

12 0z bottle poured into tulip glass.

A: Black body with no light escaping nice about inch head chocolate colored and soapy looking dies down quickly.

S: lots of bourbon and licorice. Anise, baker's chocolate, a little tobacco.

T: Nice soft flavors of bourbon, chocolate, roasted coffee, finishing with some licorice leather and tobacco.

M: nice creamy full body not as thin as some barrel aged beers.

O: this is an exceptionally well made beer. The flavors mesh and meld so well. No harsh alcohol taste and no heat. If you can find this do yourself a favor and buy it.

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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 yesterdayfaraway
4.42/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

L: pours almost pitch black with no head
S: big roastiness, slight bourbon, I with slight sweetness.
T: the roastiness is down from the aroma and the sweetness is up. A nice balance between the two. Not as much bourbon barrel flavor as I hoped.
F: very smooth with medium to thick mouthfeel.
O: a great beer, but let down a bit from my loft expectations for this one.

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Photo of nawpnawp
4.79/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

2012 bottle poured in 2016.

Pours dark black with a half finger of brown head that subsides rather quickly. The smell is intense in a good way: vanilla, chocolate, coffee, smokey ash and a hint of coconut. The taste is a complex mixture of much of the same from the nose. Amazing! It is not overtly sweet, and well balanced by some coffee bitterness. Chocolate, vanilla, caramel, bourbon -- you name it, it's in here. The mouthfeel is pretty good, though I wish it were a bit thicker. But really, that's my only complaint.

Expedition stout has always disappointed me whether fresh or aged, but this thing is a beast that makes my level of respect for Bell's go through the stratosphere!

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Photo of russpowell
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours an oily/effervescent ebony with one finger of caramel colored head. Good lacing, slight better than average head retention, effervescent through out

S: Dark fruit, carob, caramel, vanilla. Bourbon picks up once warm

T: Vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, raisin & a kiss of Bourbon up front. More vanilla, Bourbon notes, fig & raisin & carob as this warms, slight smokeyness too. Finishes with dark fruit, vanilla, Bourbon, & chocolate

MF: Chewy, warming, decent carbonation for the style

Despite the style & abv, this went down fast. Every bit as good as I hoped

 580 characters

Photo of MUTINY
4.03/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2016

12oz bottle into a tulip.

Pours an opaque dark brown/black with 1/2" of off-white head that dissipates at a moderate pace. Retention & lacing are below-average to style. The nose betrays quite a bit of Bourbon & noticeable heat. Caramel & toffee, vanilla & milk chocolate are also detectable. The palate is vanilla, milk chocolate, caramel & Bourbon - in that order. There are additional notes of pitted fruit & black coffee, along with some spice. Feel is soft & dense, with low-to-moderate carb & a fairly delicate malt body. Altogether quite impressive.

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Photo of Redsunsx01x
4.74/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2016 in a TG Chalice

L: Pours Dark with a caramel head that fades fast.

S: has a strong smell of bourbon with hints of chocolate.

T: a big bourbon taste but it doesn't over power. hints of chocolate and coffee but didn't get any fruity notes.

M: light carbonation with warming fell afterwards. this beer has been one of the most smooth bourbon beers I have tasted.

O: I would love to have more of it but it was just so hard to find here in Chicago(i live in the burbs).

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Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.46/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 12 oz. bottle.

A - Dark body, opaque, with a short tan head that fades quickly. Minor lacing. Pretty typical for a solid barrel aged stout.

S - Roasted malt is forward, with a strong alcohol and wood hum, and hints of chocolate and vanilla. Fairly quiet, all told, but the nose promises deliciousness.

T - And this beer delivers. Solid. Front is boozy bourbon vanilla and wood, middle of dark chocolate and cocoa nibs, molasses and bread, close is slightly acidic.

M - Some carbonation, slick, warmth from the alcohol, and a biting close that scrubs the weight off and keeps things clean. A bit to brisk for me.

O - Glad I stumbled into this one, and that I got to try it. I think this is rock solid, a signal of Bell's skills. A strong, solid take on the bourbon-barrel aged stout.

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Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours black as night, with a strong brown colored head that suddenly disappears before I even take a sip. It's aroma is great. Roasty, full of bourbon, molasses, chocolate, oak and more. It's high abv is very prevalent in it's aroma.

Malty and sweet, boozy and warm, with notes of molasses, black licorice, more boozy warmth, figs, and coffee. It's downright tasty. It's slightly thinner than I was expecting it to be. It's absolutely full-bodied, but probably a touch thinner than bells expedition stout, and I wasn't expecting that. It's a great beer. One that *almost* lives up to it's mega-hype.

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Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 4,032 ratings.
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