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

Vanilla Black NoteVanilla Black Note
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Stout - American Imperial
Ranked #161
Ranked #749
4.43 | pDev: 6.32%
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: 39 | Ratings: 121 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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NCSapiens from Indiana

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

Pours black with a tin ring of tan head. Aroma is straight bourbon barrel oak and vanilla. The taste is an unhappy clash of bourbon barrel, vanilla, dry roasted malts, fig, raisin, burnt coffee, cocoa powder. Tastes good, but the mediocre bourbon barrel detracts from the subtle deliciousness of the dark fruits. Too many cooks in the kitchen in this one. The vanilla is in the bourbon barrel and on the finish, but not a dessert vanilla that was expected given the name of the beer. The creamy mouthfeel is the single best attribute. Overall it is very good beer worth having, but at the price point and in comparison to the original Black Note I can’t help but be slightly disappointed.

Dec 26, 2020
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bret27 from California

4.64/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2019 version thanks to NolaHopHead.
L: black, minimal dark brn head.
S: Chocolate, licorice, bourbon, vanilla.
T: roasty chocolate malt, vanilla, bourbon, oak. Not boozy at all actually.
F: fairly viscous and creamy.
Overall: very nice. No heat. Just nice and creamy without being overly sweet.

Nov 16, 2020
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WunderLlama from Massachusetts

4.44/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Received from foundersasap in bif#12

bottle poured into a teku . Black motor oil liquid capped by a pencil thick brown cap that quickly recedes to a dense creamy ring and a small island. Numerous streams of Tiny micro carbonation . Some lacings . Finally settles to a ring

this is a barrel aged stout . Fragrant waves of dark fruits, raisins , figs, molasses, bourbon , tobacco
And roast malts. I cover the glass with my hand and I get a whiff of dark chocolate. Bourbon !

The taste is bourbon and no heat from the alcohol. Roast malts, hint of char. Dark fruits . Fig. Raisins. Delicious

Smooth and creamy, chewy , velvety smooth . I think this beer has a high abv but it is well crafted and expertly hidden . More sweet that astringent but not overly sweet

I like this beer , tastes great . The mouthfeel is the best aspect of this beer followed by the taste and then aroma

Oct 11, 2020
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CraftFan5 from New Jersey

4.06/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

4 October 2020 - Beer #191

Price: $8.99 at Food Emporium on 8th Avenue in Manhattan

Appearance: 5 - all black, and lovely, but small, dark head. Nice lacing.

Nose: 4 - mostly stout, not much vanilla. Very malty.

Taste: 4 - not much vanilla, if any. Not much barrel, if any. Just a basic, decent imperial stout.

Mouth: 4 - thickens as you chew, but somewhat dead. Maybe a bit of a tingle.

Overall: 4 - doesn't hold a candle to the OG Black Note, but certainly not bad.


Oct 07, 2020
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hoptheology from South Dakota

4.47/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle from Jay, dated 11/18/2019.
Into Boulevard smokestack snifter.

Pours a really wonderful silken black with a tall creamy cap of beige, 2 fingers, receding to 1/2 in time. No lacing, but the head looks marvelous.

The stout aroma is just impeccable. It's like the perfect imperial stout aroma. Tons of heavy silky roasted malt, dark roasted coffee, tons of vanilla, hints of tobacco, leather, and a little bit of hazelnut. It's just fantastic.

Flavor is of roasted malt, caramel, caramel malt, a little bit of vanilla, a little bit of burnt coffee, some wet bourbon oak, a touch of smoke, and a little bit of ash and more caramel.

The first thing I noticed when I put this to my lips was how unbelievably creamy this beer is. It's just otherworldly. So soft, so supple, and the roastiness comes in and gives it a nice acidic bite. Alcohol heat is surprisingly hidden for a beer of this calibre.

Overall, an absolutely wonderful beer that I'd be glad to find again. I have my reservations about Bell's publicity stunts, but I really do enjoy offerings like this and would like to think I'd seek it out again.

Aug 16, 2020
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beersampler6 from Michigan

4.27/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Delicious vanilla-hinted imperial stout. 11/19/19 date printed on bottle. Pours a slightly thin dark black opaque color with a little tan head and spotty rings of lingering lacing. Smells of dark roast coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, malt, fainter nuttiness, a little fig. Taste follows the nose - the vanilla was quite light and subtle but I really enjoyed it. Smooth, sticky mouthfeel, just a little coating of the palate, good carbonation. A great beer.

Aug 13, 2020
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ryan1788a5 from Massachusetts

3.9/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a snifter.

A: Pitch black with a half inch of beige head that falls to a thin slip shortly. Tiny dots and patches of lacing.

S: A blanket of creamy vanilla is front and center, and tempers notes of char, chocolate, and espresso. Malted milk balls come to mind. Touch of smoke. Undercurrents of sweet bourbon and oak have a soft touch.

T: Huge pull of vanilla right up front. It comes across as very bold extract-y, actually. Bitter espresso and dark chocolate follow. Milk chocolate too. Slight interjecting hop bitterness is green and oily. More coffee, roast, and smoke. The barrel asserts itself on the back end, bringing oak, sweet and corny bourbon, and barrel char. This is front and center in the finish.

M: Full, rich, and thick in body. Velvety smooth and coating. Prickling carbonation. Subtly soothing alcohol warmth.

O: Not a bad drink, but I’d rather have it without the vanilla than with it, or at least dialed back a bit. It’s a little too potent and extract-y to me, to the point that it distracts more than it adds.

Jul 14, 2020
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maximum12 from Minnesota

3.4/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Found two 12 oz. bottles of this stuff & the first one tasted like chugging vanilla extract, so let this one rest hoping beer appears. Let’s see.

It’s black, as any good stout would be, with a few bubbles floating in the liquid. The nose is strong roast with a background of vanilla & cocoa. Not bad.

Vanilla Black Note – the vaniller in this has died back like Minnesota mosquitoes in January. What’s left is a rather uninspiring stout. Big dark roast echoing the nose with 22% of the vanilla of Black Note past & a soft, unfocused amount of whiskey. Boozy. Thick. Half a bottle is just fine.

Big step down from the base beer, either fresh or with several months on it. Pretty good.

Jun 20, 2020
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mothman from Minnesota

3/5  rDev -32.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2019 bottle. Tan head, black color.

Tastes like recent batches of black note. Bad whiskey, burnt coffee, cocoa and cocoa powder. No vanilla. Overly roasted. Black note has gone down hill since the first few batches. This is on par with recent batches and the vanilla didn’t even help.

Jun 07, 2020
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superspak from North Carolina

4.38/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

9600th review! 12 ounce bottle into tulip glass, bottled on 11/19/2019. Pours dense pitch black color wit ha 1-2 finger dense and fluffy tan head with fantastic retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Nice dense spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation. Fantastic appearance. Aromas of big milk/dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, cream, toffee, bourbon, toasted oak, roasted nuts, and dark bread/crust; with lighter notes of coconut, licorice, molasses, raisin, prune, fig, date, leather, tobacco, smoke, char, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/oaky earthiness. Minimal booze in the aromas as it warms. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malts, vanilla, bourbon barrel, and light earthy hop/fruity yeast notes; with big strength. Taste of huge milk/dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, cream, toffee, bourbon, toasted oak, roasted nuts, and dark bread/crust; with lighter notes of coconut, licorice, molasses, raisin, prune, fig, date, leather, tobacco, smoke, char, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/oaky earthiness. Mild herbal, woody, grassy, peppery, roast, charred bitterness; and bourbon/oak tannin spiciness on the finish. Lingering notes of milk/dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, cream, toffee, bourbon, toasted oak, roasted nuts, dark bread/crust, licorice, molasses, dark fruit, leather, tobacco, smoke, char, herbal, grass, pepper, and yeast/roast/oaky earthiness on the finish for a while. Amazing complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malts, vanilla, bourbon barrel, and light earthy hop/fruity yeast flavors; with a fantastic roast/hop bitter/sweet balance; and no cloying/acrid/astringent flavors after the finish. Lightly increasing dryness from lingering bitter/tannic spiciness. Medium carbonation and full body; with a very smooth, creamy/silky/velvety/bready and lightly slick/sticky/chalky/tannic mouthfeel that is fantastic. Mild increasing warmth of 11.5%, with minimal lingering barrel booziness after the finish. Overall this is an amazing barrel aged imperial stout. All around amazing complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roast/bready malts, vanilla, bourbon barrel, and light earthy hop/fruity yeast flavors; very smooth and dangerously easy to drink for the ABV, with the mildly bitter/drying finish; amazingly soft/silky feel. Amazing balance of super rich malts, vanilla, and bourbon barrel presence/integration; with solid earthy hops, and restrained fruity yeast. Not overly sweet/heavy from lingering dryness. A highly enjoyable offering, and amazing style example as expected of the brewery. Did not prefer over the base beer at all.

Jun 05, 2020
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Jas0921 from Florida

3.91/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is definitely a big beer.... huuuuge presence of dark chocolate and faint coffee bitterness.... just very little bourbon or vanilla. Not what I hoped for at all...

May 17, 2020
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fountainofyouth from District of Columbia

4.62/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2019 bottling, poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Black as night. Pours a small light brown head that rapidly disappears.

Smell: Wow, like a fresh bar of dark chocolate and some sweet bourbon. Delicious.

Taste: Very tasty. Roasted barley, semisweet chocolate, hints of vanilla, surprisingly light oak character. Strong flavor but not overpowering.

Feel: Medium-bodied, light carb and very creamy. Smooth finish.

Overall, an excellent stout nearly on par with the best. This could have used just a little more time in the barrel to bring everything fully together.

May 17, 2020
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Colenso from Massachusetts

4.35/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2019 Bourbon Barrel-aged brew poured from 12oz bottle to wine glass at RT

A: Dark brown, slight reddish hue against the light, no head retention and very light lacing of the glass with fine structure in the carbonation.
S: Boozy barrel, dark fruit, raisin, fruitcake, plums, nice mix of dark fruit and sweetness
T: Alcohol warming, smooth barrel flavor, roasted notes, and mild coffee perk. Well-balanced at 11%.
M: Moderate, not thin, not chewy, very subtle effervescence. Smooth, almost creamy, on the palette.
O: A fine stout, very smooth to drink with rich barrel warming and dark fruit. The vanilla flavor was a little hard to discern, but may be reflected in the smoothness of the mouthfeel. Definitely try!

May 16, 2020
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TreyIsWilson from Michigan

4.27/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Pours pitch black with a one finger tan head. The head dissapates quickly leaving a nice amount of soapy lacing.

S - Aroma is dark chocolate, roasted malts and oak.

T - The taste is dark chocolate, black coffee, roasted malts, vanilla, oak and bourbon.

M - Medium body with medium carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel with a soft dry finish.

O - Really nice Black Note variant. The vanilla is light and adds a touch of creaminess to the base beer. I still prefer the original.

May 14, 2020
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kevanb from Illinois

4.4/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle, packaged on 11.19.2019, poured into a 14oz snifter glass.

The beer pours a deep jet black color, thick and viscous with a finger of khaki head that has moderate retention and yields a few spots of lacing and a nice layer of film around the circumference of the glass. The aroma is lovely, nice vanilla bean, marshmallow sweetness, assertive barrel character, strong roasted chocolate, toasted dark grains, a hint of coffee, coconut and brown sugar. The flavors are good, nice chocolate and barrel character, very oaky with a great roast and charred character, toasted coconut, rich grains, smooth vanilla bean, light marshmallow, a bit of lactose creaminess with a touch of stone fruits at the finish. The mouthfeel is good, coating and creamy, heavy and thick body with a smooth finish that is lightly dry and has a touch of boozy heat.

Verdict: A very good barrel aged stout from Bell's. Tons of vanilla character without being overly sweet and saccharine and there is a great interplay with the barrel character, especially as it warms and the roast character of Double Cream and Expedition stouts aren't lost on this, which adds further depth and character.

Apr 24, 2020
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stortore from Illinois

4.36/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle into a snifter. Bottled 11/19/19, had 1/2/20.

Pours near black and opaque, thick looking, with a half inch quickly dissipating head and light, soapy cling. Aromas of vanilla, chocolate, raisins, oak, some bourbon, malt, some cocoa, a little marshmallow. The flavor also begins with potent vanilla, then bourbon, roasted malt, chocolate, raisins, light caramel, a hint of tobacco. Smooth, a solid full body, well carbonated.

The vanilla is a great addition, but the barrels seem to have less of a presence in the flavor, and the body feels a little lighter than the original. Still, this is really good and very enjoyable. Well worth a purchase.

Apr 02, 2020
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Sabtos from Ohio

4.04/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

8 ball black with a short but foamy tan head.

This one's super woody, but not hot, yet also quite roasty.

The slick medium body leans bitter, with a semi-sticky, semi-dry finish.

I don't get a huge punch of vanilla. Next to the likes of OG GI nilla, VR, Handjee, and Nillerzzzz, this one really stood out as a much more wood-forward, yet also much less vanilla-forward stout. Oh, and also, less of a heavy gut bomb.

Mar 15, 2020
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Sparty1224 from Michigan

4.54/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Serving: 12 oz. bottle poured into a Founder's CBS snifter. Bottled on 11/19/19, making this just under 4 months old. Also done as a side-by-side with 2017 Black Note.

A: Pours not quite pitch black, with just a faint mocha head. Seems a tad lighter in color than Black Note.

S: Vanilla all the way, and not a lot of room for anything else. Just a hint of barrel. The vanilla is very rich and clean though, not like a fake, sweet vanilla. It's more vanilla bean.

T: Big vanilla up front, which is a lot more cloying in the taste. Followed by just a touch of dried fruit, and maybe a pinch of cocoa powder. Finish is residual vanilla but a lot of bourbon.

M: Much like regular Black Note, the thin mouthfeel is disappointing. It's a tad watery on the finish. Booze is well-hidden though.

O: With Bell's getting into the variant game with its Black Note Stout, it's hard not to get excited. I was never a huge fan of Black Note. It's great amongst the Michigan BA stouts (I prefer it to KBS), but the mouthfeel and some of the flavors kept me wanting more (things that BCBS delivers on year in and year out). Well, here comes VBN, and while the mouthfeel is the same, the extra splash of vanilla really takes the profile up a notch. This is not even close to BCBVS or Vanilla Rye, but for what Bell's and Michigan can do, it's still a great beer.

Recommendation: Way harder to get than Black Note, but for the most part is worth chasing down.

Mar 13, 2020
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Scott17Taylor from Iowa

4.56/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Great addition to the original black note. The vanilla is strong and I’m not getting nearly as much coffee as I get in the original, but I think it’s an improvement. Very complex. The barrel is still pronounced and the toastiness is a bit muted, but still there. Honestly you can’t go wrong with any variant of black note.

Feb 09, 2020
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bbtkd from South Dakota

4.46/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bell's Vanilla Black Note Stout, 11.5% ABV. Pours black with a half-finger brown head that left no lacing. Nose is bourbon, chocolate, and vanilla. Taste is bourbon, vanilla, some sweetness, slight bitterness. Not much bourbon heat. Excellent mouthfeel, overall outstanding. I like this much better than regular Black Note.

Jan 26, 2020
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gudbrande from Minnesota

4.61/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had to search far and wide for this one. Pours black, faint carbonation, just right. Aroma is one of the finest I've ever experienced, vanilla and chocolate with a bourbon and barrel depth, so much going on. Mouthfeel is stout. So many flavors to this. Cooler it's a lot of vanilla and chocolate and the barrel comes through as it warms. That one's something else right there.

Jan 26, 2020
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Fireman_RK from North Carolina

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

Jan 18, 2020
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oberon from North Carolina

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.

Jan 13, 2020
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CHickman from New York

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.

Jan 11, 2020
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buschbeer from Ohio

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.

Jan 05, 2020
Vanilla Black Note from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 121 ratings