Vanilla Black Note
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store

Vanilla Black NoteVanilla Black Note
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American Imperial Stout
Ranked #224
Ranked #1,502
4.43 | pDev: 5.87%
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Michigan, United States
Vanilla Black NoteVanilla Black Note
Notes: A malty harmony of dark chocolate, espresso, and dried fruit notes, aged in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels. Aimed squarely at stout aficionados, Black note makes a grand statement about the art of the dark. This version is aged with Madagascar vanilla beans for a sweeter, creamier twist.
Reviews: 17 | Ratings: 60 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Fireman_RK
4.41/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: Pours a translucent chestnut and mocha brown with a sandy head
S: Much less roasty on the nose than the regular; smoother and richer marshmallow and vanilla beans
T: Milk chocolate and subtle espresso with a creamy vanilla and hint of barrel
F: Moderate thickness and slight carb
O: A nice variant of the regular Black Note Stout that I enjoyed side-by-side for science. Helps tone down the sharper edges of the base for a more velvety and creamy finish. Nice brew

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Photo of oberon
4.45/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 11/19/2019.Pours into a snifter a deep dark chocolate fudge color with a thinner mocha colored head atop.A great mix of vanilla,roasted nuts,toasted oak,and a tinge of coconut that lingers,more roast comes thru as it warms,just fantastic.Just as creamy as all get out in the mouth,mouth coating and creamy it goes down way to easy.It's sweet and rich on the palate with vanilla standing out as expected,bourbon soaked oak and dark fruit stand out over roast in the finish.Wow this is a rich dessert-style stout,awesome mouthfeel and the smell is off the charts,great stuff.

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Photo of CHickman
4.84/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This pours pitch black color with a creamy 1-2 finger brown/mocha colored head that faded slowly and left good spotty lacing as it slid down the glass. This smells and tastes as good as the original Black Note Stout in every way except the vanilla adds more depth and complexities to the flavor while this variant has zero alcohol burn yet manages to slide down like a low ABV stout with dark fruit, oaky notes, bourbon, light char and piney bitterness as it trails off on the dry side. Incredible feel for such a young barrel aged stout, I think this is an outstanding brew.

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Photo of buschbeer
4.41/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 FL OZ bottle
Served in a snifter

This beer pours black and is topped with a small mocha head that leaves no lacing.

The vanilla pops. Underneath I get anise, chocolate, and coffee.

The flavor is a heavenly combination of vanilla and chocolate. I get some anise in the back end along with coffee.

Full bodied with a smooth mouthfeel

This is really good. The vanilla elevates the base beer. I am so grateful that a Michigan buddy gave this to me.

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.47/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

They keep coming out with variants of old favorites! 12oz. bottle into Night Shift stemware.

Nose is bourbon barrels, roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, molasses, sweet soy sauce, cocoa powder and sweet cream. This one gets more and more aromatic as it warms. Beer opens with a heavy dose of vanilla creaminess. I get hints of molasses, marshmallow, sweet soy sauce, prunes, raisin, fudge and milk chocolate on the back end. A touch of roasted malt towards the finish coupled with a generous helping of the bourbon barrel. Aftertaste is syrup, tobacco and more chocolate and vanilla. Really good. Body is heavy with low carbonation. Super smooth and rich on the palate and goes down soft. Not hot at all. Lingering, sticky aftertaste. The feel here is perfect.

I'm really impressed by this beer and it carries the Black Note name well. Definitely worth trying.

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Photo of AyatollahGold
4.31/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black, with minimal highlights near the top once one finger width, caramel colored crown dissipates.
The nose brings a silky, creamy vanilla mixing with a nicely accenting barrel. Chocolate, slight roast, dry oak.
The taste surprisingly brings in a lot more of the Black note base than a new vanilla beer, which I like. Just a touch of the vanilla, definitely not overpowering. But the black note base is so beautiful. Silky, creamy. Milk chocolate, vanilla, very slight tobacco, nice wood.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.49/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bell's is bringing their "A" stout game when blending Expedition and Double Cream stouts and then aging them in bourbon barrels. But stout fans are familiar with this Black Note annual release. What they are not familiar with is a version of this beer with generous vanilla additions. Alcoholic cake batter anyone?

Much like in the original Black Note, the "Expedition" appearance gives this Vanilla edition the majority of its appearance attributes: extremely deep in black tones with a deep mirror-like reflection, a slow and creamy froth, and brandy-like legging over that of lace.

Freshly ground espresso and cocoa bean give the beer its strongly roasted scent. But burnt molasses notes provide malty underpinnings and weave into the barrel character seamlessly. Oak, barrel-derived vanilla, caramel, and condensed milk become the bridge that connects the beer's scents. Powerful flavors seduce the taste with bold milk chocolate and espresso. Backed with the underlying taste of whipping cream, vanilla, scorched malt sugars, and molasses, the beer seems to melt onto the mouth with complete saturation.

The creamy sweetness and strength is only tempered by a slight vinous fruit tartness and alcohol. Cherries, tart berries, plumb, currant, and grape meet up with charred oak, sherry, and port-like flavors at late-palate and develop into a deeply bourbon-infused taste to finish. But its dominant feature is the vanilla that keeps the session very brownie batter-like in taste, scent and texture. It's incredibly powerful taste is as variant as it is stern.

Milkshake-like and viscous, the beer oozes onto the palate with creamy warmth and port-like saturation. Its early creaminess develops into a marshmallow character before a long finish and extended aftertaste of bourbon warmth, fruit nuances and pleasantly cloying sweetness to close.

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Photo of gatornation
4.25/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours jet black color with a tan head. Smell vanilla ,wood bourbon and chocolate. Taste was very vanilla forward but not overly so ,notes of cocoa,chocolate ,coffee and whiskey. A sweet and creamy mouth feel with vanilla mixing well with the barrel ,this stout is a little thin . Really enjoyed this one but it was very scarce in our area,would like to age one for about 6 months.

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Photo of Wolvmar
4.26/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle dated 11/19/19. Poured into a tulip glass.

Pour: black with a one finger tan head that quickly dissipated leaving a thick ring and moderate lacing.

Nose: vanilla with a hint of bourbon

Taste: well balanced vanilla, dark roast malt, dark stone fruits, caramel, bourbon. Sweet upfront with balanced flavors and a hint of bitterness on backend.

Mouthfeel: moderate carbonation. Smooth, silky.

Overall: really delicious, super smooth and easy to drink. The ABV is well hidden. Vanilla dominates but plenty of underlying complexity to appreciate. Absolutely worth trying.

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Photo of SierraNevallagash
4.67/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2019 release - 12oz bottle - poured into a large cabernet stem at cellar temp.

Pours an oily, slick hot fudge brown, sitting half a shade away from jet black in the glass - spared only by the glowing mahogany ring around the edge. A centimetre of milk chocolate brown head builds up, before loudly sizzling out to nothing but a razor thin-collar and a faint wisp of film atop the elixir. A quick swirl and the beer clings heavily to the walls of the glass and then slowly runs down, almost like the legs of a bourbon. Every hallmark of a big, beautiful barrel-aged imperial stout.

Nose: Oh my... I remember the first time I had Bell's BA Expedition. That first whiff transported me to a magical place of warmth and comfort, and was unlike any other BBA stout I've ever had. This is the only other beer I've had that instantly takes me there. The only single word to describe this is: Intoxicating. Eyes roll back in your skull, loss of words, pure euphoria type. Densely saturated, luscious aromas of chocolate fudge, chocolate syrup, brownie batter, Madagascar vanilla beans, barrel-proof bourbon, sopping wet fresh Kentucky charred American oak barrels, pipe tobacco, brown sugar, cookie dough, chocolate cake, vanilla macchiato - I could go on forever. Then there are the secondary nuance notes. Gentle, subtle complexities that slowly surface the longer you bury your face in the glass - Australian black licorice, molassess cookies, soft caramel, toffee, turbinado sugar, leather, cognac, dried dark fruit - plum, cherry, fig, praline pecan pie, caramelized butter, just the slightest bit of char - but never acrid, and finally, if one inhales deeply and forcefully, the faintest whiff of umami. This is truly spectacular. Just smelling this has been a privilege.

Palate: I'm going to come right out with a spoiler alert: It's amazing. While the nose is very similar to BA Expo, the palate really shows how drastically different these two beers are. The heavy liquid passes through the lips, floods the palate, and the first thing that greets the senses is a beautifully harmonious panoply of chocolate syrup, bourbon, and vanilla. This does not have the forceful vanilla presence that '18 BCBS Vanilla had. That was amazing in its own right, but the vanilla is much more blended-in and cohesive with this. There's no chance of missing it, but it's a supporting component, rather than the star of the show. Moving forward - the beer is quite possibly the perfect balance of sweetness. Never cloying, but sweet enough to be decadent and rich. It isn't at all saccharine or difficult to drink. A strong fresh bourbon presence adds a very deep layer of complexity. This will age well, of course, but I have a feeling this is at it's peak when ultra fresh. Sweet, smooth bourbon, lots of barrel, vanilla bean, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, chocolate mousse, chocolate fudge, chocolate cake, brownie batter, a touch of maple syrup, and an explosion of dark fruit. The dark fruit note is go prevalent, it almost lends the faintest touch of fresh fruit. Not tart, not sour, but bright. Bright, juicy dried cherries and plum. After this brief pop of dark fruit, the roasted malt steps up and reminds you that this is a big imperial stout. It isn't bitter, it isn't biting, it isn't acrid or ashen. There's a coffee bean-like roast quality that serves to dry up some of that decadence towards the finish - building and drying, and then that dry, charred oak barrel joins in, finishing roasty, drying, and warm, with a sticky coating of bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate clinging to the lips, providing a hint of sweetness to pair with the malty, roasty finish - which lingers for several minutes, continuing to unfold.

Mouthfeel/Body: This is not BCBS. No beer I've encountered is. It also isn't quite as fudgey as BA Expo. It isn't thin, but at 11.3%, it feels exactly like an 11% ABV imperial stout that had been laid to rest in a bourbon barrel. It's heafty, malty, strong, and luscious, but it isn't exactly a chewy beer. While I generally prefer a thick syrupy stout, this slightly more fluid body seems to make this more drinkable. It doesn't put up a fight going down, and I've consumed three times the amount I would have of Bourbon County or CBS. As a result, I think it's exactly where it should be. A slight warmth from the 11+%, but unbelievably smooth, with no bite or heat. Wet, rich, and slick upfront, finishing with a slight roasty dryness.

Overall: I had high hopes for this. That usually leads to me being disappointed. This is everything I could have hoped for. Is it better than BA Expo? It's different, it's very different. But is it *better*? It very well could be. I have put this in the category of top 2 greatest BA stouts I've had. Worth every last penny they charge for this. This is one to stock up on.

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Photo of REVZEB
4.29/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Seemed appropriate for jazz night given the name. The void of nothingness black with a brown ring. Smell has vanilla, but this is in no way a vanilla bomb, with dark chocolate, molasses, espresso, soil, tobacco, char, leather, dried fig, and lighter barrel. Let this warm up, expands a lot at warmer temperatures, especially in getting the barrel flavors. Vanilla is a star, but accents the other flavors mentioned above, and for that complimentary reason I enjoyed this more than the original black note. Body is well crafted, decent thickness and weight, with good barrel and dark textures.

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Photo of 5toutman75
4.41/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a balanced barrel aged stout for sure. I can drink a couple of these and not tire of them. Another reviewer said it reminded them of Rev’s Vanilla Deth and I second that. I still favor the aged Bourbon County Vanilla ‘18 over this, but fresh, this would win as that had too much vanilla for the first 6 months. I love that this isn’t overly sweet. It’s a little thin for my favorite stouts and could use more bourbon forwardness, but that’s a personal preference for me. Great beer and would get again.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.37/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into HotD tulip.

bottled on date of 11/19/2019

served at fridge temp.

Appearance: The body is black as midnight with a khaki colored head approximately 1 finger tall.

Smell: This actually has a bit of a muted nose. The most prominent aromas are of musty oak. Hints of bourbon, dark heavily roasted malts, leather, and tobacco. You really gotta put your nose into this to smell it. The vanilla seems to be a little masked by the bourbon barrel notes. Maybe a hint of light vanilla. Again, really needed to put my nose into the beer to get wafts of anything. What I do smell is perceived as pleasant, just want more of a robust nose on this stout.

Taste: When the beer is cold it leads with a prominent cola flavor and ends with bourbon and vanilla pudding. Once warmed this stout has seemed to transform significantly; charred and musty oak barrel combines with smooth & rich bourbon that is not overly sweet. Very chocolatey somewhere between dark chocolate and bakers cocoa; think dry and slightly bitter. Hint of tobacco, leather, and roasted malt. Vanilla pudding seems to show up at different places with each sip, but is most consistently present in the finish. Its complex, but needs to find the right temperature to drink the way it was meant to taste. If that makes sense...

Mouthfeel: medium bodied stout with low yet adequate carbonation. Really silky & creamy body even more so than non vanilla black note. Very drinkable stout; not boozy at all even at room temp.

Overall: Was really looking forward to trying this beer and I am a huge fan of black note. I have drank it from every vintage from the 750ml format in the early days to the 12oz bottle format. If you are looking for a vanilla bomb that's not what this beer is. I will say that this beer tastes the best warmed up near room temperature. That is when you taste the vanilla the most and the cola flavor seems to mostly go away. What is consistent with all black notes that I have had is its a balanced stout and the vanilla is also added to the beer in proportions meant to be balanced. This reminds me of Revolutions Vanilla Deth, but I think Revolution did a better job with the vanilla. I think that I prefer good old black note more so than vanilla black note.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.34/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottled 11/19/19; drank 12/6/19 @ the Yarchives.

Black appearance.

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

Rich vanilla, milk chocolate & mild oak notes in the nose.

Creamy medium thick mouthfeel.

Oak, mild bourbon & milk chocolate flavors up front; rich vanilla notes on the finish, which really emerged once this warmed up.

A delicious variation on a damn fine beer.

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Photo of bowzer4birdie
4.72/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Grabbed a single last night. Poured into my GI snifter. Wow, you had better be a vanilla lover as numerous tastes in 45 minutes yielded intense vanilla flavor. I love it! That is why I bought it, if you love BB base and enjoy vanilla you will cherish this one.

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Photo of Masonz223
4.53/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Smell: Big semi sweet dark chocolate espresso brownies come to mind on the first whiff of this bear. That’s followed by chocolate covered dark fruits. An earthy vanilla sweetness is underneath the layer of dark fruit. One last pass through the nose uncovers the barrel, Bourbon, woodiness, and leather. The barrel smells complex and delightful.

Taste: Upfront I’m hit with that intense brownie note I got on the nose. That is followed in the mid palette by dry dark fruits. Prunes, plum, raisin, and A strong tangy dark cherry. That dark cherry note converges into an a nice roasty espresso coffee. The coffee amplifies the big dark fruity notes in the mid palette. In the back end of the palette is where the vanilla starts to become present but less intensively then I would like. The vanilla morphs into the barrel characters. An attentive bourbon presence leaves the chest with a fuzzy warmth. The last thing you taste is the woodiness and the signature hoppy presence experienced in Expedition stout.

Feel: This is where I get the double cream stout personality coming through. The beer is a medium to full mouthfeel with a pillowy creaminess. The creaminess carries this big complex beer across the Pallet on an easy care free journey.

Overall: This is definitely an improvement on regular black Note. I’ve had this on tap and one other time in bottles. The first two times having this the vanilla presence was way more present, so there is some bottle and draft variation. Overall I love that bells did a vanilla variant of Black Note.

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Photo of JediMasterLenin
4.77/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle into a snifter

Look: Pours a deep, viscous obsidian. Zero light penetration, no lightening at the edges. A thin, mocha colored head dissipates into a thin mocha colored ring, leaving spotty lacing (Mocha colored, if you're curious) down the side of the glass.
Smell: Tons of sweet vanilla, along with roast malt, chocolate, wood/bourbon from the barrel. Smells pretty boozy.
Taste: Follows the nose, but doesn't taste nearly as boozy as it smells. Vanilla lingers on the palate, but isn't too sweet so it's quite nice.
Feel: Thick full body, tiny bubbles and relatively low carbonation.
Overall: Damn delicious. Bell's has managed to nail a smooth vanilla sweetness without overdoing it. This does NOT drink like the 11.3% ABV beer that it is. Approach with caution.

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Vanilla Black Note from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 60 ratings