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

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4,356 Ratings
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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): 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

BEER STATS
Ratings:
4,356
Reviews:
682
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
8.22%
 
 
Wants:
2,721
Gots:
1,196
For Trade:
126
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,356 |  Reviews: 682
Photo of Rutager
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 12oz bottle, thanks mrbubbler!

Appearance. Pours black with half a finger of nice brown head.

Smell. Smooth bourbon with tons of oak, vanilla and sweet chocolate, and a little molasses.

Taste. Sweet dark creamy chocolate, smooth bourbon and oak barrel, a bit of vanilla and molasses. Very nice.

Mouthfeel. Full body with creamy smooth lowish carbonation. Great stuff.

Overall. A bourbon barrel imperial stout done right. I should probably crack my 750 from the original bottling soon. This is drinking very well right now and that one is probably at its peak.

 569 characters

Photo of drpimento
4.97/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bam-BAM! Heavy hitter!! Served at a good temperature with a large, thick, fine, creamy, tan head and lots of lace. Aroma is mostly cocoa, dark ripe fruit, old leather, coffee, a little of the classic stout roast, malt. Color is an opaque black brown. Flavor is a curious blend of expansive and yet slightly conservative - similar to nose, excellent balance between bitter, sweet, and tang, the bourbon is there, not overdone. Body is perfect, ditto for carbonation. Finish is like flavor, yet the whiskey lingers a bit longer. Very easy drinking with only a hint of the alcohol at the end. Fabulous!

 599 characters

Photo of BMMillsy
4.29/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Previously I tried this at Michigan Brewer's Guild and it came of strangely sour and off. Maybe from a bad keg? Got a bottle now. Pours pitch black with a very small brown head. Aroma is heavy vanilla, licorice, chocolate and bourbon. Smells very rich. Some up front bite with medium low carbonation. Flavor of licorice at first, finishing with overwhelming chocolate and then sweet vanilla really lingering. Thick and viscous, slightly acidic with some burning alcohol going on. Age would probably smooth it out but overall pretty awesome! Glad I got to re-rate this.

Another rerate here with a 2012 bottle poured on 3/22/14. Mostly similar but the booze tones down considerably now. Big anise flavors and lots of beautiful vanilla chocolate Good n Plenties. This is still awesome. The Expedition seems to shine through a bit with the age on this one. Very interesting. (4.84)

2016 bottle and this just seems watered down. Kinda makes me sad. (4.29)

 952 characters

Photo of MSandahl23
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Photo of Zach136
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pitch black, little to no head. OK for ABV.

Aroma: Medium+ aroma of caramel, oak, bourbon, and chocolate notes with a background of light roast malt.

Flavor: Pretty apparent booze, more roast on the palate than the nose. Oak/bourbon are covered by other flavors.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, but perceived a bit drier from the booze.

Overall: Good, definitely not worth the hype and chasing down. Way too boozy for 11 and change ABV.

 449 characters

Photo of dgilks
3.85/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of trxxpaxxs
4/5  rDev -11.1%

Photo of iRun2Beer
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of TurdFurgison
5/5  rDev +11.1%

Photo of rlee1390
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A-Black in the glass, one finger brown head that leaves some lacing behind.

S-Balanced bourbon, roasted malt, chocolate, coffee with faint vanilla.

T-Great balance, moderate bourbon, roasted malt, chocolate, slight coffee and slight bitterness.

M-Medium to heavy bodied, very creamy.

O-A great BA stout, however it isn't at the same level on BA Speedway, BCBS, Parabola or some of the Eclipse beers.

 403 characters

Photo of threedaggers
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Photo of zekeman17
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Photo of mattreitz49
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of GraduatedCashew
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

Photo of akang
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of jera1350
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at The Bodega Brew Pub.

Served in a 10 ounce nonic with a solid black body and a dense head of brown colored foam.

Incredibly rich smell of dark malts and bourbon. Molasses, lactose, coffee beans and bourbon.

Rich malty flavors with deep complexity. Chocolate. The bourbon is there and does not overwhelm or stand out more than the malt. It's a nice complement to the overall brew.

Very sticky and rich with a full body.

Awesome beer. Wish they would bottle this bad boy on a regular basis. Lighter on the barrel, but it makes for an overall enjoyable beer that is towards the top of the list for the style.

 620 characters

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.

 724 characters

Photo of Sparky44
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Photo of AgentMunky
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a small snifter from a growler of unknown provenance. Thanks stranger at the bar.

4A: Completely dark. No head. Some clinging lace.

4.25S: Rich, deep, dark bourbon, flat malt and stale yeast. A little like an old ale. The barrel aging seems to have mellowed all aspects but heightened the sweetness. Slightly pungent alcohol.

4.5T/5M: Absolutely fucking luxurious. It envelops the mouth the way silk sheets might cradle an emperor. The Double Cream Stout sweetness shines and is accentuated by the bourbon barrels, but the darker, bitterer anise and dark chocolate and hints of creamy coffee from Expedition Stout are also noticeable. I don't even miss the carbonation because this beer is so full and sexy and caressing. The aftertaste is dry and more bitter than the rest of the beer.

5O: This is truly magnificent and I cannot overstate how thrilled I am to finally try it. Definitely recommended. Best bourbon barrel aged beer I've had.

EDIT 16 Jan 2015: Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a St Bernadus goblet. 2012 vintage. Bottle 28 Dec 2012.

4A: As above.

4.5S: Smells slightly sharper, but also richer. Dark malts, only a hint of old ale yeast.

4.75T/4.75M: Oh gods. As above, but sharper and more carbonated around the edges. Still velvety.

5O: Still incredible.

 1,294 characters

Photo of kmanjohnson
4.44/5  rDev -1.3%

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

 2,383 characters

Photo of StoutHunter
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of andrenaline
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

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. However, this review was for the 2016 version, and I found, having a 2014 version about a year later that the heat of the beer doesn't actually seem to mellow out substantially over time, sort of putting rest to the idea of hoarding these for a better day, at least for this beer. If you don't like what heat this beer does bring, you probably shouldn't buy a ton to cellar.

 1,080 characters

Photo of bpfrush
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 4,356 ratings.
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