Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

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

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
591 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): 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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 591 | Ratings: 3,984
Photo of s1ckboy
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 bottle. About 8 months of age since release.

A - Black body, 1-2 fingers of tan head.

S - Oak, bourbon, dark fruit.

T - Tons of dark fruits, dried plums, dates, fig?, bourbon, oak, bit of chocolate, touch of sweetness.

M - Medium carbonation, very smooth.

Awesome stout, glad to have been able to try it.

 314 characters

Photo of andrewjraab
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - Pitch black with khaki head that leaves nice lace after each drink. A window shade of film falls off the glass after each drink.

S - Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, roasted coffee beans, wood, bourbon, cherries, dates.

T - Layers and layers of flavors - chocolate, vanilla, coffee, fruity, booze, oak, warming alcohol. Velvety mouth feel, rich and creamy, each drink coats and warms on the way down.

O - This is an amazing brew where the actual brew meet and exceeds the hype and expectations. I was able to secure one of these with the limited release and DAMN I want to get my hands on a few more. Truly a world class beer.

 630 characters

Photo of taylor714914
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow. Just Wow. Was excited to see this on tap at Thirsty Monk in Asheville, so I drove over hoping the keg would still be dispensing this delicious nectar.

Pours a pitch black color with a thin brown cap of foam. Smells of sweet oak, whiskey, bittersweet chocolate, and oak tannins.

Taste is marvelous. The seamless meld of imperial stout and whiskey barrel could not have been more perfect. The taste follows suit with the nose, with the mouthfeel being rich, thick, and chewy. The carbonation is just enough, but not overdone.

An outstandingBA stout, damn near perfect.

 575 characters

Photo of MCain04
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Here we go, 12 oz bottle split with BostonRyan. poured into 10 oz snifter from the most recent vintage.

A: dark black, tan head. dissipates into a rim around the perimeter.

S: Bourbon heavy. some nice chocolate and vanilla notes are present with roasty malty, but bourbon dominates.

T: thankfully much less bourbon heavy taste. it had the girth and complexity of expedition with a smooth mellow creamy sweet note from the double cream. they complement each other beautifully. chocolate, vanilla, oak, and toffee flavors. the finish had a lot of Bourbon heat though. only drawbacks are the bourbon heavy finish and a little too sweet.

M: Perfection. thick and creamy and full with a nice feel throughout.

O: A real treat. Not heads and shoulders above the other BBA stouts but comes in close to the top. might not be worth all the hype and might be too bourbon heavy but still enjoyed thoroughly.

Re-reviewing this after opening a 2014, comparing side by side with 2012.

Definitely still a bourbon-heavy nose is in the fresh version, while 15 months in the cellar calmed that down in the aged version. 2014 is boozy with a lot of barrel characteristics. 2012 is boozy as well but better integrated barrel character. 2014 is prickly, and thin while 2012 is smooth but still a little thin. Overall I'm not sure I agree with my high marks on this fresh, but the aged version is drinking nicely right now. Regardless, I think there is way too much hype surrounding this. There are equal BBA stouts without the craze and price that are attached to Black Note.

 1,565 characters

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

2012 vintage poured into Firestone snifter.

Appearance is on par with other barrel aged stouts. Black, dark roasty almond colored tiny head. Leaves little lacing.

Aroma is fudge, vanilla, toasted coconut, fig jam, bourbon, spice cake, and creamed coffee. I've got to say the aroma on this one of the best I've come upon in a barrel aged stout! So balanced between everything, thinking the year in the cellar helped take the bourbon back a notch.

On the palate there is a huge surge of coffee and fudge with the dark fruit taking a back seat. Bourbon throughout with coconut, vanilla, faint oak, and Brandy beans. If I had to describe the flavor I would have to say its like a not so boozy BCBS and Parabola had a baby. It's somewhere in between that spectrum but on a scaled down level. Just smooth.

The mouthfeel is where this suffers a bit. Not bad but maybe just a bit thin, with aftertaste disappearing rather quickly. The flavor screams viscous but the body thins out a little soon failing to support the formers gung-ho approach.

Overall a truely worldclass barrel aged stout. Quite smooth, very flavorful, surprisingly easy drinking for 12% abv, and very balanced between flavor nuances. I think I enjoyed this a bit more than Parabola but a little less than regular BCBS.

 1,285 characters

Photo of silverking
4.65/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I felt compelled to try this when I saw it, so here it goes. It pours jet black with a thin mocha head. Lacing is nice enough. I gives forth sweet aromas of dark roasted malt, charred oak, licorice, cocoa, and dark fruits(cherry in particular). The taste is extraordinary. Now for the taste. Smooth vanilla fades softly into a smokey, woodsy dark chocolate flavor. Subtle hints of Plum, cherry, and licorice appear throughout. The finish shows strong notes of espresso. there is a slight warming alcohol note at the end as well, but it's gentle and enjoyable. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy. It coats the mouth and lingers on the palate. Overall, great. The alcohol is well hidden among the jungle of aromas and flavors. Buy some if you come across it.

 754 characters

Photo of KornWallace
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Date: 4/16/14
Location: DiCicco's Ardsley
Glassware: Tulip
Appearance: Pours black as black can be. A modest produced next to no head. What little carbonation there was had a light caramel color. There is a large viscous ring that surrounds
Aromatics: The beer starts with a mouth watering bourbon smell Smooth flavors like vanilla, caramel, toffee. Stronger flavors like bitter chocolate, coffee and molasses.
Flavor: Starts cold with a huge bourbon flavor that nearly over takes over the beer. As the beer warms it starts to find its balance and you find new flavors like the dark fruits, prunes maybe some raisins.
Mouthfeel: The beer hides the alcohol very well but ultimately it finds it's way to hang on the lips.

 722 characters

Photo of zachary80
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz poured into a glove, 11.8% abv. Bottled 12/29/12 batch 11620. Served at 55* and allowed to warm.

Hard pour gives only the slightest head which immediately fades into a tiny ring of white bubbles. A little bit of action from the nucleation point in the middle of the glass, but otherwise its pretty much still and black. Very dark brown while pouring but opaque in the glass. Minimal lacing.

Aroma is sweet, bourbon, vanilla. Very appealing, but fewer layers than expected.

That same aroma follows through but with a lot more complexity from the roastiness of the stout. Still favoring the sweeter elements up from, the finish has a long bitterness from the roast and a little alcohol. Cacao/dark chocolate, light oak. The sweetness ends up being balanced by the alcohol/roast, but this is still on the sweeter side.

Warming from the first sip, the alcohol lends more of a pleasant presence than harshness. Low carbonation level, but not flat, appropriate for the style but maybe could be just a tad higher. Carbonation level seems more appropriate around room temperature, where it's slightly increased.

Overall Black Note is an excellent beer that is smooth and complex. Others may have more barrel character or be more extreme, but this is a great stout.

 1,267 characters

Photo of jerefreakinmiah
4.98/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Found on the bottle reserve list at The Federal in Durham, NC

I have to say that I LOVED this beer. It changed so much as it warmed. First espresso and vanilla, then big, bouzy bourbon, finishing chocolate and roasty as it approached room temp. Not as viscous as I expected, which was surprisingly refreshing. Lingered on the tongue for a while, but not heavily (make sense? I hope so).

Simple review for a simply amazing brew!

 429 characters

Photo of oldsailor
4.96/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Amazing beer! Just had a 2014 version and I'm on the hunt for more now. Silky feel, jet black color and lingering coffee/chocolate taste that's mind-blowing.

 157 characters

Photo of spicelab
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle with big thanks to MrKennedy.

Decent hiss on opening. Dark chocolate brown, not your typical RIS motor oil look look, with a modest dark tan head that falls relatively quickly to a collar.

Undoubtedly a rich vein of bourbon running through notes of liquorice bullets, choc-caramel slice, soy sauce, used coffee grounds and molten plastic. Predominantly dry, big and deceptively complex.

A tad sweeter, with impressively rich caramel fudge and butterscotch giving way to coconut, vanilla and the woodier aspects of the barrel.

Light bodied for 11.8%, in no small part due to above average carbonation for the style. Makes it easier to drink, but reduces the oomph.

Worthy BA RIS no doubt, but not quite in the top echelon for me. Lacking a little in presence and intensity.

 789 characters

Photo of rhinos00
4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On-tap at South Park Tavern. Let my glass sit a while to get the beer to room temperature.

A- Dark brown, almost on the verge of being black. Very little to no head. There was an off-white, cream colored ring that left some lacing as the beer was consumed.

S- Huge notes of bourbon infiltrate the nose. Reminded me of Bourbon County Stout. In the background, there was faint hints of vanilla.

T- Wow, this was quite a pleasant surprise. After the strong aroma, I thought I was going to be dealing with a bourbon onslaught. However, the bourbon was well balanced in comparison to the other ingredients, allowing for a smoother, mellow taste. Rich notes of chocolate, vanilla, molasses and bourbon all mix together for a perfect combination.

M- This was my favorite part of the beer and what distinguished it from many similar bourbon barrel aged RIS I have had before. The double cream stout really comes into effect in this one. It had a creamy texture unparalleled to none. Quite a wonderful addition to a big, complex RIS.

D- The creamy texture and well-balanced bourbon flavors made this go down like water. I drank this until the keg went dry.

Overall, this is a fantastic blend, one that I will probably never get to try again. The creamy texture really put this beer over the top in my mind. If this beer ever crosses your path, try it. Don't hesitate.

 1,366 characters

Photo of danielharper
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted on-tap at Bell's, 03/09/2009

Appearance: Black body, slight reddish tinge on bottom. No head, as usual for beers on-tap.

Smell: Strong bourbon aroma, very malty, nice roasted barley. Slightly raisin-sweet.

Taste: Intense with whiskey-like alcohol, strong with sour mash but malty and dry with a clean aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Thick. Yeah, that's about it. No particular hops or carbonation.

Drinkability: For such a high-ABV beer, this is amazingly drinkable. If I hadn't had to drive I'd have had another.

 517 characters

Photo of mr-jj
4.31/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Color is nearly black with a thin tan head. Aroma is bourbon and dark roasted espresso. Taste is very good - espresso, chocolate and bourbon notes on the palate. Roasted malt and anise with a mildly bitter finish. Body is full and creamy. Overall, a very good beer that deserves it's hype.

 295 characters

Photo of Chriscrundwell12
4.67/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured on tap at the Great Taste of the Midwest 2011. 5 oz pour into a tasting glass.

A- Pitch black color, opaque, one finger tan head that dissipates to a nice tan layer on top, nice lacing on the side.
S- The aroma is fantastic, roasted malts, chocolate, vanilla, nice bourbon aroma that is very balanced in this beer.
T- The taste is even better than the aroma, really nice roasted flavors, bourbon and vanilla come out perfectly, some dark fruits are in the background, chocolate, roasted malts, coffee, oak, love this beer, everything I was expecting and more.
M- Medium/big mouth feel, really smooth and creamy, coats the palate.
O- This was one of the highlights of the festival for me. Bell’s tapped this beer at 5 pm, so it was one of the last beers I had at the festival. Got in line in time to get a good spot and waited as the the rain began to come down. This beer is very tasty, well balanced and complex, will seek this beer out any chance I can.

 966 characters

Photo of Neorebel
4.84/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bell's most sought after stout is blacker than the dead of night... Literally no light can pass through this viscous looking libation. A splash of tan color in the center and a thin ring around the edge are the only indications of a head on this beast. If one looks closely, it is apparent that there is *some* carbonation, however, as there are small bubbles intermittently rising to the surface.

The rousing aroma is very chocolatey, like the finest dark chocolate available to humanity! The next two aspects I detected were roasted walnut and of course that vanilla-like Bourbon that's oh so pleasing! The more subtle notes present include dark roast coffee, molasses, and fig/dark fruits. I could sniff this beverage all day and be happy, but thankfully the evaluation of the nose is over and it's time to drink this baby!

As I take a sip, so many things come to mind... First of all, after all this contemplation of the color and aroma, the beer is now the absolute ideal temperature for drinking. The flavors do not disappoint as they are as tasty as the aroma teased at. The sweet malt intermingled with the only slightly sharp, oaked bourbon character is particularly balanced and well done. It's so velvety smooth, fully coating the mouth with the flavors lingering. It's so big bodied, and nicely intoxicating. The finish is semi-dry with a nice earthy nuttiness.

Overall, this is one of the finest beers available to humanity! Bells, you have indeed made a grand statement about the art of the dark! I am glad I had this to make this pseudo-holiday 'Stout Day' a real cause for celebration! Hey, it is Friday...

 1,628 characters

Photo of Luk13
4.64/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from tom10101 obtained via sarro, thanks to the both of you. Thick black brown pour with no head. Very intense and complex aroma: molasses, lots of bourbon, charred wood adds some smokiness (nice twist!), some caramel and ripe fruits (plums, figs). Awesome. Taste is very rich, lots of roasted malts, bourbon, vanilla and chocolate. Flavors are enhanced by the sublime creamy mouthfeel and low carbonation. Intense and refined. Side-by-side with BA speedway with BA speedway being a close winner. Although I prefered Black Note's palate and aroma, BA speedway's flavors were out of this world.

 600 characters

Photo of Soonami
4.18/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at Bell's 31 flavors event at City Tap House. This review is based on notes I took from the tasting. The beer is incredibly complex from the mixture of double cream stout and Expedition, which is then aged in bourbon barrels.

The beer looks like a double stout, and smelled like one: chocolatey, vanilla, woody, and with a tinge of alcohol. The beer tasted just as it smelled, with good burnt and roasted bitterness and a gentle velvety texture. The finish is sweet and creamy, a bit cloying.

A beer big on color, aroma, taste and alcohol. A must try for any RIS/IS fan, but I don't know if this beer necessarily deserves a ranking in the top 100's, but it is in the top quartile of imperial stouts I've had.

 723 characters

Photo of treznor
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Jet black and inky with a dark tan head.

S - Can definitely get the bourbon off the aroma here! Some dark chocolately, raisany notes down there as well.

T - Complex, dark, the taste lingers for a bit and increases in complexity with something extra coming out at the end.

M - The 'weak' point of the beer as its slightly thin.

O - A great beer to sit around and sip.

 374 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 BubalooBrewMaster
4.71/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 12oz bottle...2012 vintage.

About an 1/4 inch of espresso colored head that vanished very quickly.
Its as dark as midnight,when poured its a lil thinner then oil.
It smells of coffee,bourbon and vanilla....the best smells that comes from beer IMO.
Taste is the same as smell,AMAZING ..although I prefer some more bourbon I understand the 2 years it aged it deff calm the bourbon flavor allot.Mouthfeels is quiet smooth and not very chewy as allot of BA beers are.
Overall one of the better BA beers Ive had up to date....Highly recommended.

 555 characters

Photo of McStagger
4.34/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From notes.

A: Black, half finger of tan head.

S: Baker's cocoa, soy sauce, raisin, roasted malt.

T: Sweet malt front. Malted milkball mid palate Finish is bitter baker's cocoa. Bitterness lasts several seconds before the warmth and sweetness of the booze takes over.

M: Thick. Carbonation is subtle, but it is there.

O: Very nice bourbon barrel aged stout.

 381 characters

Photo of Sarlacc83
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750mL courtesy of cavemanlawyer at a tasting. Big time thanks. Consumed on 6-16-12, reviewed from notes.

A: Pitch black and all the poetry it implies. Aggressive poor yields some thin lacing, but not a great amount of head. Good carbonation bubbles.

N: Bourbon, honey, and some ethanol. Coconut, caramel, and vanilla. Really quite nice.

T: Roasted coffee and malt. Bourbon is integrated well into the main body, leaving the normal descriptors of vanilla/caramel/oak. I'm getting plenty of chocolate and some molasses, licorice, and a mystery flavor which kscaldef jogged out of my head as candied pecans. There's still some heat here, though.

M: This is coating without being cloying. A very impressive example of what I want in my RIS.

O: There were a couple of beers that I never thought would be bottled and would thus not make it to the PNW via trades. This was one, the other was CBS. CBS was a big letdown; this is not. Well worth seeking out.

 958 characters

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

got this one online. it was expensive but didnt have much choice. I got this one with some founders CBS. i thought this one was better. well rounded and another outstanding beer from Bell's

 189 characters

Photo of chanokokoro
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

2012 Vintage 12 oz. bottle poured in a Bell's Brewery Inc. branded snifter

Pours jet black capped by a one and half finger tan head. Great retention and plenty of lacing, especially for a barrel-aged brew. Plenty of oak, dark chocolate, and even hint of whipped cream with hints of booziness on the nose. Opens with semi-sweet chocolate, dark fruit especially black cherries and prunes joined by chocolate milk notes. Hints of bourbon and the perfect touch of oak and boozy alcohol add to the complexity on the finish. Lighter side of full bodied, lower level of carbonation, but higher compared to most barrel-aged stouts. Velvety, creamy, luxurious on the palate--really exceptional. Awesome brew, and without a doubt better than when it was fresh.

 751 characters

Bell's Black Note Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.5 out of 5 based on 3,984 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.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!