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

BA SCORE
99
world-class
662 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
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
Reviews:
662
Ratings:
4,263
Avg:
4.5
pDev:
8.22%
 
 
Wants:
2,720
Gots:
1,184
For Trade:
131
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 662 | Ratings: 4,263
Photo of brew3crew
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Tasting at Jackie O's. Out of a hand bottle

A-black body with tan head that sticks around for a while

S-sweet bourbon vanilla. Absolutely incredible

T-great blend of smoothness vanilla and bourbon. Definetly worth the buzz

M-medium body and smooth

O-absolutely brilliant. I know know what the buzz is about

 312 characters

Photo of TCgoalie
4.67/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

300th review, I had to make it a good one!
On tap at HopCat - 11/27/11

Poured into a tulip and served with a dark mocha head. There is a nice wall of lacing near the top and stringy lace on the adjacent side.

A lot of woody notes - oak and cedar - resonate amidst smells of dark chocolate and vanilla.

The taste can be summed up at a high level as earthy and complex. In more detail, I taste oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, burnt grains, tobacco, cedar all working toward a sweet raisin ending. The tongue is finally left with some well placed booziness and a coffee like bitterness.

While chewy, sticky, dry, and full, the mouthfeel is nothing in excess. It is a well balanced feel not distracting but well placed.

At first, I wasn't blown away at the taste. After giving it many sips, I was really intrigued by the nuances of the flavors. Thanks to Hopcat's wood aged festival, I had the likes of KBS, CBS, BA Blackout Stout, and BB Plead the 5th over the weekend. I can easily say that Black Note is on par with the best Imperial Stouts out there.

 1,054 characters

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

 170 characters

Photo of Gambyt20
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Finally got to taste this one! The expy and double cream stouts combine for a luscious thick creamy stout and the bourbon notes are great and not boozy at all. Might be my favorite of all but it was DLD bottle share and was very tough to nit pick.

 247 characters

Photo of stewart124
4.62/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a pint glass.

Deep brown to black with a tiny amount of dark tan head.

Nose has strong roasted malt aroma with espresso and chocolate present. Some dark candied fruits coming out as well.

Mostly roasted malt characters and more espresso with a nice dose of bourbon barrel. Firm bitterness with some of the alcohol detectable. Overall smooth and easy to drink. There is noticeable residual sweetness but nothing cloying. As this warms more fruit comes out and there is a chewiness that leans towards the double cream stout.

Rich, smooth, and generally a delicious Imperial Stout. I was very excited to get my hands on this and even more excited that it came in a pint glass. Sneaky alcohol percentage and another one of Bell's beers that is so drinkable.

 769 characters

Photo of brewtus
4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into tulip. Obviously 2012

A- pours black with a half finger dark tan head the quickly disappears
S-milky, bourbon is very prevalent, dark fruit, chocolate, some subtle cinnamon
T-woah, dark chocolate that makes way for oak and bourbony warmth. Some faint vanilla, slight coffee flavors, amazing silky smooth texture, no burn.
O- wow I'm glad I spent so long trying to track this down, this beer is complex, smooth, and delicious. The bourbon isn't overpowering but it is balanced perfectly with the smooth creaminess of stout mixture. If you had the opportunity to get some, buy as much as you can, it's worth the price tag for sure.

 655 characters

Photo of DaveAnderson
3.45/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The aroma of this beer was overpowering from the second I opened it. It was like a fart aged on bourbon. The pour was beautiful, with a full, brown head. As expected, the beer was as dark as night.

As it opened, more aromas emerged. This one is an oak monster, which almost completely masks some of the more interesting notes, like hops and chocolate and fruits. Once it hits the tongue, there is an unexpected charred taste that throws this into complete disarray. This beer makes no sense to me. Neither the flavors nor the smells work together.

I wouldn't say it's unpleasant, but neither would I drink this again. There are too many well-crafted beers out there waiting for me.

 683 characters

Photo of drmcleod10
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 Bottle

A- Dark as night, not as thick as some other stouts and around the edges of the glass light can get through. Minimal lacing and head on this one

S - The nose is fantastic here on this one... reminds me a lot of BCBS but with more dark fruits on the nose. Huge bourbon nose followed by vanilla chocolate and figs

T - dark fruits on the mouth, figs and dates dark chocolate and lots of bourbon on the finish

M - Medium bodied with more carb than i expected

O - Definitely lives up to the hype and really enjoyed this beer. Its a dark fruit BCBS

 559 characters

Photo of PaulyB83
4.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On- tap served in a snifter

A- Jet black with a millimeter of mocha head that quickly dissipated to a ring.

S- Coconut, vanilla, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, slight raisin

T- Smooth, tastes like a Mounds bar, dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut, very similar to the nose

M- Creamy, surprisingly easy drinking for such a big beer, it's a good thing the flavors are so big or you'd be in trouble. Not as thick as other bourbon barrel aged stouts, but I kinda like it. Bourbon County stout was pretty thick and actually took me a while to get through just one bottle. I think this it perfect mouthfeel for a 12oz. serving of this weight of a beer.

O- Living in Kalamazoo, I'm lucky to find this on draft somewhere every couple of months. This hits everything on the head and is the benchmark for me in BBA stouts. I tried KBS a few weeks after having this and thought there was no comparison, this is the better beer. If I could have one more beer before I die, this would be it.

 978 characters

Photo of d5001986
4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle poured into tulip.

A: Pitch black with a minimal amount of tan head that dissipates quickly. No lacing, doesn't seem to 'stick' to the glass like most do to some extent.

S: Slight booze and roasted malt are most up front. Then chocolate, molasses, vanilla, and coconut.

T: Even better than it smells. Roasted malt, chocolate, molasses, vanilla, pepper, and best of all, a nice mellow bourbon that's not so in your face like many other examples. I swear I also pick up just a trace of cherry in there. Very nice!

M: Not as viscous as some, med-heavy body. Creamy and silky smooth, also slick and oily. Carbonation is very low, but not quite flat.

O: Way more drinkable than it should be. A beautifully crafted stout with tons of complex flavor that meets the hype. So glad I picked up 1/2 a case!

 812 characters

Photo of KFBR392
4.27/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 Vintage

Appearance: Pours with a dark brown head of about a finger on an aggressive pour. The head settled in to a thin later across the top while drinking. Sits jet black in the glass with above average active carbonation for the style.

Smell: Potent bourbon front greets the drinker. Vanilla, oats, and barley are well integrated with the bourbon front. bright oak, cherries, and dried fruits make up the body. Some mossy hops round out the aroma.

Taste: Oak wins out on the front with a mixture of dried fruit and smokey bourbon. The bourbon opens up more on the body with the additions of vanilla and dark chocolate. There are roasted dried coffee flavors on the back end. Interesting combination of vanilla malt sweetness and bitter coffee grounds.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is light and suits the heavier tones of this brew. Rich coffee, vanilla, and bourbon textures left on the palate long after drinking.

Overall: Love the vanilla tones of this beer. Bourbon character is potent and meshes well with the chocolate, coffee, and dried fruits. Would be interested to see how this beer ages, drinks really great right now.

 1,137 characters

Photo of rallison
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thank you Glenn for cracking this incredible growler.

Super bourbon vanilla in the nose. Chocolate. Awesome.

Rich, rich chocolate and bourbon in the taste. Incredible. Smooth as butter.

Amazingly drinkable beer. Wow. Low carbonation but perfect for this beer.

One of the best beers i have had in a long time. Once again, thank you Glenn for opening such an incredible beer.

 378 characters

Photo of mjpolzin
4.06/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage split with by brother in law.

A great beer but another example of a "world-class" brew that doesn't quite live up to the hype once I get a chance to try it.

Fairly thick pour into the glass but not the thickest beer I've ever seen. More bourbon in the nose than what I got once I tasted it. The roastiness that is characteristic of Expedition Stout was here as well. It helped make it a fairly complex beer once the roasted malts and bourbon blended together but I may actually prefer this one with a little more age on so some of the roasted flavor could fade away.

Would like the opportunity to try a fresh one just to see what changes happen in the 1 year+ that this bottle sat for.

 702 characters

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...

 1,074 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 jeonseh
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Has this on tap at Tribes Alehouse.

A - Poured into a snifter, its a very, dark black beer that allows no light to get through. It has a small coffee colored head that stays strong along the edges

S - Notes of coffee, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel malt and bourbon barrel spicyness. You definitely get the creamy sweetness of the double cream stout with the darker expedition favors. As I let it sit and warm up, the nose become much stronger and sweeter as the vanilla becomes more prominent

T - Initially, sweet vanilla, mocha chocolate, caramel and the heavier coffee favors come through. You definitely get the barrel aged spiciness in this one. One of the nice things about the barrel aged aspects of this is its blended in perfectly with the beer to add new levels of flavor. The spice from the bourbon really lingers on the tongue. As it warms up, the vanilla and sweetness really opens up.

MF - Velvety smooth allowing it to coat the tongue and mouth beautifully. This is where adding the double cream stout really stands out as that and the aging seem to have taken off some of Expedition's rougher edges. After the beer goes down, it leaves a nice tingle on the tongue to go with the bourbon flavors. This is the part of the beer that is just amazing.

O - A wonderful, well balanced beer by Bell's. It shows how well barrel aging can add to a beer's flavor without overpowering it. Definitely worth having and a great beer overall

 1,455 characters

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

L: jet black with almost no head. Little carbonation also
S: bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and coffee
T: like the nose, sweet. Anika bourbon followed by a chocolate coffee finish. So well blended.
F: creamy goodness that lingers in the mouth for a long while
O: an amazing BB Stout. Not flashy or fancy with odd characteristics, just a solid solid beer!

 352 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 Mistofminn
4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this rarity at Stub and Herb for the Darkness Day Eve celebration. 7 oz pour for a very affordable price!

Pitch black with a small ring of molasses colored head. Doesn't leave a ton of lacing.

The nose is bourbon, wood, vanilla, coffee and chocolate. Really well made beer.

Taste is pretty much spot on the nose. Bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, cream, coffee, chocolate, woody and earthy tones...just amazing. So smooth and easy going down but boy does it pack a punch of flavor.

Mouthfeel is thick and sticky, coating your mouth. Smooth and creamy, just awesome. Alcohol is completely hidden by the layers of flavor.

Drinkability is awesome. This 7 oz pour went way to fast, but by the time I realized it, the small keg was long gone. Very happy I got the chance to try this mammoth of a beer. This is excellent stuff.

 825 characters

Photo of gueuzedreg
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. 2012 bottle into a Goose Island glass. Having had '11 750's, this may not give this beer justice.

A- yaya, jet black. Lots of retention leading down to a thin layer of lacing around the glass in mocha color.

S- Chocolate milk/bourbon that is so sweet that it is pleasant beyond belief to smell. Oak, woodiness behind.

T- By far the smoothest beer I have ever had. Cream, bourbon. I have had the sum of it's parts, and this beer joins the two and kicks ass afterward.

M- Again, sooo fkn smoooth. I have neglected this beer in my cellar; even though I have a few in my celar. I have been paying too much attention to Prairie. Great stuff here. Top 15 for sure.

 672 characters

Photo of tmbgnicu
4.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

One of the best BA stouts I've ever had. Split a 12oz botttle(2013) with my wife and two of our friends to celebrate the births of our children. Lucky for me, most of my guests didn't care too much for BA stouts, so I had the lion's share of the pour. As complex as BCBS without being overly boozy. Got a huge espresso nose, but not a lot in taste.

 359 characters

Photo of Jaycase
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 release 12 oz bottle

a: black as night. Thin mocha colored head which recedes quickly. no lacing to speak of.

s: Bourbon presence but not overbearingly so. licorice, slight chocolate.

t: chocolate, coffee, vanilla filtered through a bourbon lense.

m: smooth, creamy. low to medium carbonation.

o: A very nice, well balanced BBA stout. The bourbon here is not in your face like other BBA stouts where it's all about the bourbon kicking ass and taking names later. It's there but it seems a bit bashful at times - almost a boubon tease it is. And I want to get teased again and again and again...

 607 characters

Photo of mverity
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep, full, black color with medium colored tan head that held well, especially for a barrel aged stout. Great legs, medium collar, good wisps. Aroma is sweet bourbon, deep malt that has a molasses note to it. Taste is much like the aroma: sweet dark caramel up front, bourbon behind that, a hint of coffee, some dark chocolate. No alcohol bite on this 11.4% beer. Nice full body that holds well on the tongue, with low-medium carbonation.

 444 characters

Photo of tewaris
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Blend of Bell's Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout aged in bourbon barrels. Huge want. Thanks Frank! Shared with two other BAs.

Very dark brown and clear with a tiny collar. An incredibly smooth and silky beer... feels like milk, seriously! Tartness, coffee, and very mellow roast with, of course, bourbon. Not the beast that Expedition is but an immense beer nonetheless. One of us had the opinion that the Double Cream Stout component brings the milkiness and smoothness and I think I agree. Very good, loved it! My only regret is not being completely sober while drinking this one :/

4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5
---

Enjoyed on tap again with sobriety on my side:

Beautiful looks here and a great aroma... chocolate cake, vanilla, some barrels. More wood than liquor. A little too tart. A good beer but I have had better.

Taking 0.5 points off the taste and overall score.

4.5, 4.5, 4.0, 4.5, 4.0

 906 characters

Photo of kzoobrew
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on tap a few times recently at Bell's, review is taken from notes from each occasion.

Poured into an oversized snifter. Deep black and opaque body, light fails to break the surface. One and a half finger coffee stained head lingers a bit longer than I expected. A slight amount of lacing clings to the walls of the glass.

Beautiful aroma. Chocolate and caramel aromas meld with the Bourbon. The balance between the the sweetness and bourbon is inching close to perfection. Roasted malt with slight char is subtle beneath. Pleasant vanilla noted through out.

Bell's could not have picked two better beers to blend and barrel age. The bold and assertive flavors of Expedition are complimented wonderfully by the smooth and creamy Double Cream. The flavor begins much like the aroma. Caramel and chocolate infused bourbon rolls across the tongue. Pleasant roast develops on the midpalate only to has the edge softened by a vanilla and milk creaminess.

Full bodied, though tiptoeing on the lighter side of full. Low carbonation, very appropriate, provide a very enjoyable creaminess to the mouthfeel. Long finish, I would not want it any other way.

Black Note had been my biggest personal wale for the longest time. I am very fortunate to live close to Bell's and have had the opportunity to drink it several times now. Each time I drink it I am as impressed as the first. Tremendous balance in the blend and the bourbon is integrated beautifully. Very easy to drink but one that will certainly catch up with you. As enjoyable as any beer I have ever had, one worth seeking out.

 1,589 characters

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 4,263 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.

    Subscribe