Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John

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BA SCORE
91
outstanding

1,508 Ratings
THE BROS
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Ratings: 1,508
Reviews: 444
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 166
Gots: 589 | FT: 48
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:
Beer added by: aasher on 03-13-2011

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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,508 | Reviews: 444
Reviews by philbe311:
Photo of philbe311
4.12/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Just shy of a fingers worth of slightly lopsided dark khaki colored froth that displays minimal at best retention... All that remains is an uneven half crescent shaped veil of lacing and a thin to moderate collar... The color is a deep rich slightly foreboding dark brown teetering on black... Mostly still with just an occasional stray sluggish carbonation bubble...

S - A big aroma... Loaded with sweet milk chocolate and caramel... Hints of molasses and brown sugar... Perhaps some vanilla as well... There are also subtle hints of slightly roasted malts and a faint booziness that lingers beneath the surface... Very sweet... Very enticing... Very nice...

T - Light roasted malt... Caramel... Cocoa... Vanilla... Brown sugar... Molasses... Very sweet... A very light booze presence permeates throughout... There are some dark fruit notes mixed in as well... The roasted malts rises on the finish and intensifies a bit... There is also a subtle astringency on the finish...

M - Full bodied... Limited carbonation... Coats evenly and fully... Chewy... Slightly viscous... Quite smooth...

D - A very nice well rounded American Double / Imperial Stout... Very sweet, but never cloying... Smooth and well rounded... Not world class, but it isn't too far off... I don't have a single complaint... Very well done by Goose Island...

More User Reviews:
Photo of Phyl21ca
4.71/5  rDev +15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large dark brown foamy head with good retention and some great lacing. Aroma of dark chocolate malt with light roasted malt and light residual sugar notes. Taste is a sublime mix between black milk chocolate with some light molasses and liquorice notes with light dry roasted malt notes also perceptible. Body is full with nice thick creamy texture and good carbonation and no alcohol presence is easily identifiable. I really enjoyed this huge beer and I’m glad they were able to maintain such balance and drinkability to match the complexity of this beer.

Photo of kylehay2004
4.45/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

single finger dark tan head on a jet black body with no light passing through. Lots of vanilla with dark fruit and chocolate. A very nice dark fruit, vanilla and chocolate mix in the flavor as well. Right amount of sweetness. Slight roasted malt note. thick in body, very smooth and viscous/creamy. light to moderate carbonation. Another excellent beer from goose island. This one is very smooth and flavorful. Strong but not too boozy.

Photo of weatherdog
3.75/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 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.

Photo of mverity
4.12/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep, rich, hearty black with mocha colored head. Sticky legs but very little lacing. Wisps and thin collar remain when the head faded after 30 seconds or so. Aroma is a nice blend of roasty and earthy malts, and bitter sweet chocolate. Taste is much like the aroma: dark malts and chocolate; rich and quite delicious. This beer coats your mouth and is a little silty. A little bit of alcohol burn though.

Photo of Mora2000
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

Photo of bsp77
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

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.

Photo of deebo
3.97/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

Photo of jondeelee
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

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.

Photo of dogfishandi
4.25/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle at cellar temp poured into a snifter. bottled: 3/25/11 1832 (about 2 months old).

pours out a super dark, black as night black. absolutly no light coming through. one finger of a very dark brown colored head, one of the darkest ive seen, that unfortunatly fizzed away very quickly without leaving much of a trace, maybe a tiny ring of foam on the edges. no lace to speak of.

nice aromas of dark fruits, fig and raison like, maybe from the cocoa nibs. heavily roasted, burnt malts. some nice chocolate, but thats definatly not the main focus here. big fusil alcohols come in as it warms.

lots of burnt, heavily roasted malts, but my favorite part of the taste is the range of dark fruits that seem to meld to make some wonderful bitter, fruity dark chocolate flavors. a bit of heat towards the finish, but it seems to be a lot more subdued in the taste.

very velvety smooth with a really low carbonation which works well for the sticky mouthfeel that really coats the palate with burnt roast and fruity cocoa nibs after each sip. very full bodied.

overall: im glad i got my hands on a few of these bottles, but i think ill take a bourbon county any day over this. but, the cocoa nibs really do work some magic in this beer, and im interested to see what my other bottle will taste like in a year or 2.

Photo of ehammond1
3.71/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle (2011)

Thanks for opening this with me, VaTechHopHead!

(Aged for 1+ years)

Black throughout and relatively thick in body. Very small dark brown head of small bubbles. Leaves the glass with an oily sheen. Appropriate and pretty enough.

Lots of roast and bittersweet chocolate in the aroma, along with mild coffee presence, and a distinct licorice character.

The flavor follows the aroma similarly, with roast notes, chocolate, and licorice combining nice enough. A simple, big, flavorful stout with only a minimal alcohol burn. Complete, though I think this would have been better fresh.

Medium-nearly full in body with low carbonation.

I'd wanted to try this for a long time and happy I finally got the opportunity to do so. I was hoping for more from this one, however. I imagine this one is much better fresh.

Photo of MattyG85
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 650 ml bottle into a snifter glass. Bottled 03/25/11.

Appearance: Pitch black with a moderate amount of bubbles. Decent two fingers of tan head quickly fade into a few small patches. Lacing is fairly light.

Smell: Dark roasted malts and chocolate with a fairly strong fruity presence of black cherries. Also some hints of vanilla, molasses, and raisins. On of the more dark fruit forward stouts I've smelled.

Taste: Roasted malts and plenty of chocolate up front with a solid taste of dark cherry and raisins. Also some hints of coffee, vanilla, molasses, and brown sugar. Fairly sweet but a decent kick of bitterness in the finish from the coffee and chocolate holds things in check. Very tasty.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. Very smooth and somewhat sticky. No alcohol burn noticeable. It probably has cooled a bit as this was bottled about five months ago.

Overall: A very good imperial stout that has some interesting subtle flavors.

Photo of TKEbeerman
3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured into my pint glass, this stout pours a rich black oil with a larger, sturdy tan head.

S: The aroma is full of deep roasted malt and rich chocolate. Medium notes of molasses and alcohol notes.

T: The flavor reveals a roasted molasses soaked brew with chocolate and deep caramel/toffee notes. Alcohol is definitely present and could be better hidden.

MF: Mouthfeel is large and rich.

Overall, not the best stout from Goose Island, but many other breweries can't brew a stout at this level. I would have liked a smaller ABV, a really some more chocolate.

Photo of daveytheformer
3.97/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to InebriatedJoker for this.

Pours a thick viscous black with absolutely no head at all. Eventually (with some vigorous swirling) forms a very mild mocha colored lacing with a few tiny spots.

Smells like prunes, cedar, vanilla, and the promised cocoa nibs.

Tastes of nice chewy chocolate. Sweet and thick. Strong roasted malt flavor with a lot of alcohol heat rounding out the end.

Mouthfeel is creamy and medium to full bodied. Very light carbonation that I think fits this beer perfectly.

Overall is an excellent beer. I would buy this again and again if it were readily available to me.

Photo of glid02
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Dan – much obliged!

Pours black with a half-finger brown head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving decent lacing and decent legs.

Smells of heavy molasses backed by roasted malts with hints of dark chocolate and vanilla lurking in the background.

Tastes similar to how it smells though a bit more one-dimensional. Roasted malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by solid amounts of dark chocolate. Midway through the sip the flavor profile sweetens significantly with the addition of loads of molasses. The molasses carries through to a mildly sweet ending, tempered only by slight earthy hops.

Mouthfeel is very good. It’s got a smooth thickness with grainy carbonation.

Drinkability is good. I didn’t have a problem finishing my glass and could have another.

Overall this wasn’t quite as sweet as I had feared but if the molasses influence were cut down a bit this would be a much better beer. Still, worth a shot as it is, and I’ll be interested to see other treatments of this beer.

Photo of dc55110
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours slightly thicker than cough syrup. Tiny bubbles rise, find their way to the edge of the glass and are gone sooner then they came. A faint ring of head clings to the outer edge of the glass and leaves a fair amount of lacing. Dark black in appearance, but still penetrable by strong light.
The smell is typical of heavy stouts; molasses, raisin, roasted coffee beans, malt. The alcohol is very present. I try to find hints of cacao, it's there but only slightest hint of the bitter delight is there.
The cacao is only slightly more present in the flavor. I still get mostly molasses, raisin, etc. This is very sweet, almost by not quite cloying. The alcohol, as in the aroma, is present and not well hidden.
It coats every surface of my mouth. It feels like it pours, like cough syrup, this is not a bad thing. Stouts should remind you, well after you last sip, what you recently enjoyed. Very little, near nil, on the the carbonation.
I recently had GI's Dishonest Stout @Clybourn, I think the addition of cacao would have been better suited to a stout of that nature. The bitterness would have played well with the sourness and the barrel aging. I guess I expect a lot from GI when it comes to stouts. Big John is a fine stout, I just don't think it is up to snuff, when it comes to GI!

Photo of CloudStrife
3.92/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled on 12/07/12

A: Pours a dark black with a dense tannish brown head sitting on top. Leaves some lacing on the sides of the glass.

S: Dark fruits dominate the aroma with a touch of booziness. Roasted malts are nice and strong. Bit of an aged presence to it as well. Bit of sweetness to it.

T: Molasses is the first thing I get when I sip. Dark fruits, carmel and malts are strong in this one. Chocolate seems to have faded to the background. Booziness is fairly present.

M: Thick body with a sticky finish. Certainly one you want to sit down and sip on. Booze isnt too hot but nice and warming.

Overall seems a bit muddled for an imperial stout, too sticky for my like and not as complex as many other in the style. However it is still a serious beer that commands respect.

Photo of MiamiRedSkins13
5/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

So I went to a tasting in Kentucky where they had big John on draft and after staying until the end, tried to get another of the one limit per person fills. I had gotten to know the guy and he offered to fill a growler.. I had to take him up and promptly grabbed one off the shelf. It's amazing. Really, I wish I could elaborate but I'm at a loss for words.

Photo of weonfire
4.26/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Enjoyed on this on tap at the Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, IL in a 12oz snifter.

A - Black, opaque, pinky of mocha head which dissipates slowly, small amount of lacing.

S - Chocolate, Bourbon, carmel, booze (not bourbon)

T - Sweet chocolate, bourbon, Vanilla, toffee, carmel. Finish has a sweet chocolate, hoppy (3/10) and touch of roastiness

M - Nice and frothy, full body, creamy, very nice carbonation, bourbon-chocolate that tingles the throat

O - Excellent. Mouth is outstanding. Love the chocolate bourbon. Booze has no heat. Balance among all flavors is very well done. While this might be the lowest in the Bourbon County series -that is no means a knock- it is very very good.

Photo of mdaschaf
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Review from notes.

A: Pours incredibly black with a one finger dark tan head. Some lacing forms, but dissolves rather quickly.

S: Dark roasted malt, a good bit of dark chocolate, and hints of vanilla and coffee.

T: Chocolatey for sure, but was expecting a bit more, was hoping for a fudgy brownie, but instead got a plain hershey bar. Not bad, just not amazing. Also some roasted malt, vanilla, coffee, and a bit of sugary sweetness.

M: Medium bodied with a nice level of carbonation. Slight heat from the alcohol.

O: Pretty good, but not the chocolate monster I was expecting. Have another bottle in the cellar and will revisit it sooner than later.

Photo of GoldenVIKE
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- pitch black with a strong 3-finger head that dissipates within a minute or two. If you pour it down the side of the glass you won't get any head at all.

S- not to0 strong of a smell for a strout that advertises that it was aged on cocao nibs, but it's nice. You get a little of the chocolate and maybe some cream and vanilla.

T- basically tastes like it smells. you get a little bitter kick from the cocao nibs. it's a smooth drink; the alcohol doesn't overpower at all.

M- very well carbonated for an imperial stout; good frothy texture in the mouth.

O- a nice stout. not very complex but it's not trying to be.

Photo of haddon
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark oily color with mocha brown head. Lacing all over the place all the way down the tulip.

Chocolate, molasses, roasted nuts, and rum flavored candy make up the nose.

Rich chocolates, roasted grains, espresso coffee, and caramel. Boozy and light bitterness of hops on the aftertaste. Reminds me of the dessert table at my grandmother's house.

Thick and chewy body that is oily and creamy. Thick beer that is probably my favorite part. Really could serve as an after dinner dessert.

Good beer but nothing that sets it apart in a loaded class of beers. I bought another bomber to cellar. Looking forward to coming back to it in a couple of years.

Photo of tjsdomer2
4.7/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Looks like molasses. Incredible brown lacing.

Smell: Pine, coffee, and sugar. Excellent combination. Definitely didn't expect pine.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Balsamic vinegar, red wine, burnt caramel, and roasted coffee. The best double stout I've tasted. Sweet flavor is a bit cloying, but fits with the flavors.

Overall: A+

Photo of zaphodchak
3.92/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thin orangey head, unctuous, oily black pour.

Smells like chocolate cookies, and a trace of roasty coffee.

Big roasty taste, bold and pretty darn well balanced. Lots of sweetness, almost molasses, but balanced by some serious bittering hops. A tad acrid, but I'm having this pretty fresh. Aftertaste lingers.

Oily. Straight up flip-the-milkshake-upside-down thick.

Like I said, big and really, really bold. Probably one to share. Definitely want to have with a glass of water. But pretty well balanced for what it is. Probably gets better around the 6mo mark-- bottle says it ages for a year (implying not longer). You'd need good cellar conditions anyway to keep this from turning into Kikkoman.

Photo of Roguer
4.43/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thick, dark brown, long-lasting head with very nice lacing. Brew is a solid opaque black.

Boozy aroma, with red grapes and cacao. Definitely a bit of creamy sweetness through the nose, a blend of vanilla and yeast.

Wonderfully smooth: sweetened cream, oatmeal, chocolate (less overpowering than implied), some booziness (especially in the back-end), and a lovely bite to it that I can't quite identify, and which is absolutely necessary to balance out the creamy smoothness.

Unbelievably thick and creamy feel! Remember when people would talk about "chewing" Guinness? This is the beer they actually had in mind. No bourbon to thin it out, but it still packs a bit of an alcoholic warmth in the throat. Coats the mouth and lasts.

I don't know how amazing this beer is fresh, but with a year on it, it's sublime. I have a feeling it's overlooked and underrated based on its GI bourbon cousins. Overlooking this beer would be a mistake. It's a big, creamy imperial stout, and it comes through in every way that counts.

Bottled December 2012.

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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,508 ratings.