1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,386 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,386
Reviews: 434
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: 11.06%
Wants: 159
Gots: 599 | FT: 51
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
Brewmasters Notes:
Inspired by the epic skyline of Chicago, Goose Island's brewers set out to craft Big John; a tall, bold slugger of a stout that stands out vividly against the little soft beers out there. Epic amounts of roasted malt and an addition of cacoa nibs give Big John a massive chocolate flavor and aroma. With a body as substantial and black as the building to which it pays homage, Big John is sure to inspire a sense of awe with each sip.

(Beer added by: aasher on 03-13-2011)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Ratings: 1,386 | Reviews: 434 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by jamespub:
Photo of jamespub


4.83/5  rDev +18.7%

Tried 3 times, each with snifters at room temp.

This beer surprised me. I was hoping for goodness, but I got much more. Pours with a thin head, very dark. Smells of booze, chocolate, and malt. The taste blew my mind. Chocolate, alcohol warmth, dark fruit....it is robust. It almost tastes barrel aged. The alcohol is very noticeable, but is unbelievably pleasant. This is one of the thickest, heartiest, most flavorful beers I have ever had. The feel is thick, warm, and lingering. Bitterness is at a minimum. It is a sipper and it fills you up like a milk shake.

I am rating this beer very high, and I know I am in the minority. Even when splitting the 3 bombers I've had, I was asked to finish 2 of the other peoples servings...which I gladly did. They both expressed that it was too rich and hinted that it was overly sweet/malty/chocolatey. I'm guessing that too "rich" was probably the most accurate description. It definitely is that. But i love this beer so much that I bought out the store and have the bottles saved in the cellar. It has the feel and appearance of BCBS, but a very different flavor. If you can find it, give it a shot.

06-04-2011 04:40:40 | More by jamespub
More User Reviews:
Photo of aszatk01


4/5  rDev -1.7%

03-02-2013 00:39:56 | More by aszatk01
Photo of DanGeo


4.5/5  rDev +10.6%

02-10-2014 02:04:30 | More by DanGeo
Photo of jono0101


5/5  rDev +22.9%

05-18-2013 16:27:24 | More by jono0101
Photo of weatherdog


3.73/5  rDev -8.4%

22oz. bottle poured into a Goose Island signature glass. Bottled 3/25/11.

It pours an ever familiar BCS midnight velvety black, a 1 finger seep mocha head rises from the depths and settles down into a ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. No lacing is present.

The aroma is of sweet sugary malt and alcohol. It isn't as hot as BCS obviously but it's still up there. A very mild bitter roasted chocolate aroma near the backend. It's just so rich and thick.

The taste has an obvious amount of rich sweet chocolate flavored malt but there is a surprising bitterness as well. It's not enough to make this beer balanced but I think it goes a long way to not having it undrinkably sweet. There is just a tiny amount of roasted malt flavor near the end but once again this baby is sweet. An obvious alcohol warmth coats the throat as it goes down.

The only obvious flaw with this beer is the mouthfeel. It's so sweet and dense and rich that without very careful analysis sweetness is all that is detected. I'm not positive, but I'm assuming this is the base beer to BCS. If this is the case I think they made a mistake having such an underattenuated beer. In BCS the bourbon goes a long way to thinning out the beer and making it (relatively) drinkable and not cloying. This beer lacks the thinning sensation and just comes across as a liquid sugar delivery system, not a terrible thing, but certainly not my preference.

Overall it's not a bad beer by any stretch but just lacking that barrel character that GI does so well with and ties the beer together. It's one thick drink and since my wife fell asleep, the one who I was supposed to split the bomber with, I'm gonna attempt to drink the whole thing. Wish me luck.

EDIT: It's about an hour later and the beer was warmed up to room temperature. I'm enjoying it much more this way. The sweetness seems a bit cut down and the individual chocolate flavor seems to pop. This is as much as a sipper as fresh BCS but I'm enjoying the second half of the bomber MUCH more than the first. I've bumped up a few of the scores to match.

04-09-2011 04:42:34 | More by weatherdog
Photo of delaced21


4.5/5  rDev +10.6%

05-12-2014 18:54:19 | More by delaced21
Photo of RebeccaMB


4.5/5  rDev +10.6%

05-19-2014 21:19:09 | More by RebeccaMB
Photo of sabitu


4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

03-24-2013 01:29:11 | More by sabitu
Photo of danthehopslamman


4/5  rDev -1.7%

05-02-2014 23:03:23 | More by danthehopslamman
Photo of DaftPatrick


4/5  rDev -1.7%

03-01-2014 04:34:55 | More by DaftPatrick
Photo of csmartin6

New York

4/5  rDev -1.7%

01-18-2013 00:02:42 | More by csmartin6
Photo of DWolf


4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

08-11-2012 12:34:09 | More by DWolf
Photo of beckard13

North Carolina

4/5  rDev -1.7%

12-29-2011 13:56:37 | More by beckard13
Photo of Snikwad1020


4/5  rDev -1.7%

06-11-2013 02:15:55 | More by Snikwad1020
Photo of mctizzz


4.75/5  rDev +16.7%

12-26-2012 15:50:19 | More by mctizzz
Photo of Lgrec8

New York

4/5  rDev -1.7%

08-26-2013 23:42:28 | More by Lgrec8
Photo of Mora2000


4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

Thanks to Pawola22 for sending me this bottle.

The beer pours a very dark brown to black color with a smallish tan head. The aroma is very powerful. I get a ton of chocolate up front, as well as some heavily roasted malts.

The flavor is more of the same. There is a lot of milk chocolate and dry cocoa powder in the aroma, as well as some roasted malts. This beer is definitely all about the chocolate and is very enjoyable. The alcohol is completely hidden and the beer is very easy to drink.

Thick mouthfeel and low carbonation.

11-27-2011 17:20:33 | More by Mora2000
Photo of Shankopotamus


4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

03-10-2013 21:19:09 | More by Shankopotamus
Photo of BrandonDZ


4.5/5  rDev +10.6%

01-14-2013 00:25:15 | More by BrandonDZ
Photo of bsp77


3.75/5  rDev -7.9%

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Snifter. Bottled on March 25, 2011.

Appearance: Pitch black with large initial brown head that leaves some light lacing.

Smell: Molasses, soy sauce and booze. Chocolate is pretty light.

Taste: Chocolate is certainly more noticeable in the taste, but this is still driven by molasses, soy sauce and booze. Light indiscriminate hops at the finish. Little one dimensional.

Feel: Velvety smooth and creamy, but the finish is a little off. Very warming.

Overall: Nice and smooth Imperial Stout, but a little disappointing considering what Goose Island is capable of.

06-19-2011 23:11:17 | More by bsp77
Photo of jaminjohnson

Yukon (Canada)

4/5  rDev -1.7%

10-02-2012 06:38:56 | More by jaminjohnson
Photo of deebo


3.98/5  rDev -2.2%

A-Black as night, a little hint of head.
S-Fresh roasted malt with mild cocoa.
T-Roasted malt, hints of raisiny sweet character.
M-Full bodied, but yet not heavy. A touch on the syrupy side
D-Above average for style with just a hint of an alcohol burn/bite at end
O-My favorite Imperial stout from Goose Island because every drink does not taste like a shot of whiskey. Prefer to BCS beers.

05-15-2011 02:21:37 | More by deebo
Photo of mjtiernan

New York

3/5  rDev -26.3%

11-15-2011 04:12:58 | More by mjtiernan
Photo of jondeelee


4.23/5  rDev +3.9%

Big John opens to a full-bodied Imperial Stout aroma, heavy with sugars and touches of black notes. The sugars are the most noticeable here, with huge fruit esters of fig, prune, and raisin mixing with slightly lesser touches of mandarin orange and berry. More sweetness is added from notes of molasses and brown sugar, as well as thick vanilla. The cacao nibs blend well into these sugary notes, and at least in terms of aroma, are synchronized enough that if the label didn’t specifically mention them, it would be easy to think the stout’s milk and dark chocolate edges were the result of carefully blended malts. There’s also a nice, if light, dark base of tobacco, ash, toast crust, and rising wheat dough to add a counter to the sweetness. Mixed together, the sugars, vanilla, and touches of ash combine with the high 11.5% ABV to bring bourbon touches, though the beer itself has not been barrel-aged. As a whole, the aromas are very nice, and while the sugars do greatly overpower the ashy notes, there’s still a decent balance here, and the dark fruit esters alone are quite lovely.

On the tongue, the beer proves immensely sugary, the opening notes being a sweet rush of fig, raisin, and prune fruit esters, with boosting shots of molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, and even touches of port wine. The bourbon notes from the sugars and high ABV are also immediately apparent, adding an oaky, alcoholic edge that becomes more obvious after the beer is swallowed and vapors fill up the nostrils. In subsequent sips more grain notes emerge, with toast crust, tobacco, ash, and sticky wheat dough adding earthy tones, and the hops bringing in just a touch of bitter pine and grapefruit rind. The aftertaste is a continuation of the main mouthful, the sugars and alcoholic bourbons present in decent force, with an increasing ash presence, and lingers on the tongue for a good while. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is a nice Imperial Stout, which, even though it does swing heavily toward the sugary side of the scale, still brings just enough ash and tobacco to largely counter the sweetness. What is surprising, however, is the relative lack of chocolate notes; in fact, for a beer with cacao nibs, there’s almost no chocolate in here at all; instead, it seems to simply blend with the molasses, fig, and bourbon notes, disappearing largely into the background. Did the label not say “with cacao nibs added,” I would have assumed I was drinking a standard Imperial Stout. The alcoholic kick is also a bit heavy, filling the nasal cavities with whiskey vapors. Still, it’s worth a try for fans of the style.

02-23-2013 17:48:45 | More by jondeelee
Photo of bpfrush


4/5  rDev -1.7%

11-14-2011 14:28:55 | More by bpfrush
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,386 ratings.