Review of Bell’s Black Note Stout (2012)

29 May

How’s it going everyone?  Well I hope.  For today’s craft beer review I’m going to be trying the 2012 edition of the Black Note Stout produced by Bell’s Brewery, Inc. based in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

I’ve heard some really nice things about this brew, so I’m really interested in seeing how it is.

From the website,, I found this 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. 

Sounds good enough to me.  Let’s pour.


This beer came in a 12 oz. bottle and it had an ABV of 11.8%.

It discharged black.  Absolutely no highlights shown through even when held toward a light source.  The head was tan in color, smooth, creamy and soft.  It was sized fairly well and the retention time was more than solid. The lacing was thin, yet it was consistent as the crown settled back into the liquid.  After I began drinking though, no foam was to be found.  Just a thin skim of alcohol left on the sides of the snifter.

The bouquet consisted of dark chocolate fused with decently strong aspects of Bourbon Whiskey.  A nice waft of oak and deep espresso followed.  Underlying those notes were hints of very light vanilla, dark fruit of plum and black licorice jelly bean scents.  The nose was robust, aromatic, complex and…. very nice.

The flavor released more of the chocolate and Bourbon tones.  The vanilla appeared to be a touch stronger, while the oakiness became more relaxed and the dark fruit complimented.  A good shot of roasted coffee bean imparted a sturdy bitterness and as the beer warmed I started to detect some sweet, sugary molasses/sorghum savors.  Again, complex and very tasty.

The mouthfeel was medium to mostly full bodied.  Smooth, chewy, oily, slick and dry.  As to be expected, the carbonation was on the lower side.  A deep warmth was felt at the back of the throat and on into my belly. Nice!!!  A lot of flavor drenched the palate after each sip as well.

Overall, I thought this to be a very, very good beer.  Probably the best beer in the Bell’s line in my opinion.  It is more of a sipper for sure and it would be best relegated for the cooler months of Winter, but the drinkability was surprising good for a brew this big.  I’ll tell ya, I’d definitely pick it up again if I happened to run across it. Actually, I’d like to find a couple more bottles.  One to drink now and one to set back for a few years just to see how it would evolve.  With that being said, give the Bell’s Black Note Stout a try if you have yet to do so.  If you are a fan of the big Bourbon Barrel Stouts I have no doubt that you could appreciate this one.  Also, feel free to tell me of your experience if you’d like.

Thanks for reading and commenting everyone.  I really appreciate it.

Until next time.  Cheers.

Score:  4.3 out of 5

Grade:  A

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Bell's, Country: USA


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