Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
91
outstanding

1,514 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,514
Reviews: 446
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 167
Gots: 587 | FT: 49
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: 1,514 | Reviews: 446
Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.57/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on 3/25/11.

Pours an opaque black with a small 1/2 inch head that fades to an oily cap. Small legs of lace drip back down into the remaining beer. Smells of chocolate syrup, vanilla, dark malt, and interestingly enough I get a distinct banana aroma. Taste is of sweet chocolate syrup, vanilla notes, and roasted malts. The sweetness is extremely cloying. Very low carbonation with a very thick and sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer but it's extremely sweet and sticky.

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 metter98
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is nearly jet black in color—some traces of amber are visible near the edges of the glass when it is held up to the light. It poured with a finger high tan head that slowly died down but did not completely fade away.
S: Sweet aromas of roasted malts are present in the nose along with notes of chocolate and raisins.
T: The taste is very similar to the smell, although the strength of the flavors is slightly stronger. Raisins stand out in particular; there are some hints of bitterness towards the finish.
M: It feels very full-bodied, somewhat smooth and has a light to moderate amount of carbonation. A bit of dryness is present in the finish.
O: The beer is very drinkable considering its strength because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste. There’s no way that I could drink more than one of these in a night because it’s filling and the alcohol will soon catch up with you.

Photo of Thorpe429
3.65/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to a generous BA for sharing this at the Rosso release. Served in a SAVOR snifter.

Pours a very, very dark brown color with a thin light mocha head and a bit of lacing. The nose has roasted malt plus chocolate and some mild coffee. Chocolate is the most prevalent, definitely notice the cocoa. Flavor is a bit of a letdown. There's a bit too much booze and the chocolate doesn't come through as well. Mild roast and also some dark fruit aspects that I didn't particularly care for. Body is medium to full with good carbonation. Pretty good overall, but doesn't live up to their other stouts.

Photo of brentk56
2.64/5  rDev -35.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: A very hard pour could only raise a smidgen of head and that quickly faded away; the liquid was pitch black and left a lot of dotty legs behind

Smell: An overdose of blackstrap molasses and soy sauce mask the expected roasty chocolate and coffee elements; rather boozy

Taste: Starts out well, with a wallop of dark chocolate but by mid-palate the citrusy hops start to battle with the sweet molasses and soy flavors, a battle which is unresolved in the finish; the lingering sweetness becomes cloying in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation; cloying sweetness and considerable heat from the alcohol

Overall: I had high expectations for this beer as I am a fan of this brewery but it is a real palate wrecker and, ultimately, I had to surrender

Photo of BEERchitect
4.47/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A lush and savory stout with intense chocolate flavor, rich heavy body, and dense malty richness. A most desert-like beer.

The beer creeps from the bottle and into the snifter with a high viscocity that coats the glass like motor oil. Very froathy and rich, the beer's head falls underneath the enormous weight of the beer. No lace but brandy-like legging is evident with each swirl- the black film coats the sides of the glass and is nearly intimidating. Dense, dark brown, the beer carries a complete opaqness.

Chocolate, roast, burnt molasass, walnuts, and malted milk round out the nose that favors the power of a few key aromas over complexity. Alcohols give a warm tingle to the nose in a very rum-like way.

Rich chocolates, roasted grains, espresso coffee, and over caramelized sugars all add to the rich molasass and malted milk flavor. Robust and with a multitude of depth, the beer teases with rum boozy taste, and with walnut bitterness and oils. The cocoa nibs give a genuine cocoa taste and without the refinement of milk chocolates.

The cocoa additions further build the body of the beer towards a very thick and chewy beer. Beers don't really get more lush, viscous, or creamy. Finishing warm, but the brunt of 11.5% abv is never really felt; tempered well by the malty richness and velvety smooth simmer.

Delicious throughout, the sheer weight and richness of the beer make it both a delicacy and limit its drinkability. The full force of chocolate and sweetness, sometimes aspirtame-like, scream about the focus of the beer while balance and complexity are underscored.

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 mikesgroove
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

shared with calton after work in hobo tasting number 9, i really enjoyed this on tremendously, poured into a pint glass.

Pitch black as night with a light tan head of maybe an inch and a half across the top. This faded down to about a quarter inch but never got any lower then that. Lots of side glass lacing all over the sides as it went down. The aroma was a touch boozy, with tons of chocolate and roasted malts coming through. Almost a licorice like smell as it warms, incredible. As I take my first sip I am floored, rich vanilla and cocoa taste with a large dose of roasted malts. Tons of flavor here, with bourbon notes really coming through on this one. I am literally drooling as I write this that I dont have any left. The finish was soo smooth, and chocolate filled, it was a dessert beer to the extreme. For 11.5% you would think there would be a ton of alcohol swimming in this one,but it was as smooth as could be.

overall really nicely done, dont know why its getting hate i think they have done a very good job with this.

Photo of emerge077
4.24/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours placidly into a tulip, mahogany tones glinting in the light.
A thin quarter inch of dark tan mocha foam dissipates soon after a couple minutes, receding to a ring around the edge. Spotty bits of froth slide down the glass after a sip is taken, but no lace forms.

Fried plantains in caramel syrup, sticky molasses, brown sugar, deep roastiness, dark chocolate. Rich and complex aroma.

Intense dark chocolate flavor, mellow bittersweetness, rich roastiness, woody tobacco and coffee candies. The roast character is soft and not acrid whatsoever. Sweet as expected with so much chocolate content, with a low level bitterness from the roast. Effortlessly smooth and silky, chewy with a lasting dry chocolate aftertaste, sticky on the lips. Alcohol really isn't perceptible at all. The cacao nibs take centerstage here, while the big roasted malts acting as the supporting cast.

Very enjoyable, a rich treat that is easy to finish, sipping for over an hour of course.
Well balanced for such a big stout.

Photo of womencantsail
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Brad for sharing this beer.

A: The pour is pretty much black in color with a finger or so of tan head.

S: There is an almost chocolate liqueur aroma to this beer. Lots of cocoa with some coffee and dark, roasted malts. A bit of licorice and molasses notes with some overripe plums.

T: Intense chocolate flavor to the beer as well. Lots of dark chocolate, cocoa, and some milk chocolate. The same sort of chocolate liqueur character is there along with the roast and mild coffee.

M: Medium in body, but not as thick and rich as I expected. Medium in carbonation.

O: This was a good beer, but it didn't leave the same kind of impression on me like some of the other Goose Island stouts.

Photo of zeff80
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a one finger, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left thin trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of cocoa and some roasted malt. Subtle vanilla notes.

T - It tasted of chocolate, vanilla and sweet roasted malt. The cocoa flavors are really strong.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale with a dry finish.

O - This is pretty nice Imperial Stout with a great cocoa flavor.

Photo of TMoney2591
3.97/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Three Floyds tulip pint glass.

Thanks to VDubb86 for sharing this bottle!

Finally gonna be able to make up my mind about this beer after hearing all sorts o' chatter surrounding it. It pours a deeply dark black-brown topped by a finger of dirty cream foam. The nose comprises roasted malts, toasted oak, molasses, and rich chocolate. The taste holds plenty of roasted malts and chocolate (both dark and syrup), molasses, light oak, brown sugar, and light coffee. The body is a hefty medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a chewy feel. Overall, a solid stout indeed. I would not really call it great, but I would not turn down another bottle were it offered me.

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

A - Pours with a finger of light brown head on top of a black body with no light showing through. The head settles slowly and leaves only light traces of lace.

S - Dark, intense chocolate with a hint of coffee. Some sweet caramel and vanilla flavors in the background.

T - Really sweet, dark malt up front with notes of molasses, chocolate, and nutty caramel. Some more intense, bitter-sweet chocolate in the middle that transitions into a darker flavor as the beer finishes with lingering, slightly smoky coffee notes.

M - A fairly thick, oily body, moderately low carbonation, and a very sweet finish.

D - The beer has a nice, complex aroma with loads of chocolate. The flavor profile is a quite a bit sweeter and more one-dimensional than I expected it to be. It is still a good beer, but it seems like it would benefit, both in flavor and drinkability from a slightly less sweet finish.

Photo of jlindros
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had at SMBDC growler/bottle tasting thanks to BlessedBeBeer.

A: Bit of a dark creamy darker head, dark brownish black colored beer.

N: Roast, choc malts, caramel malts, light vanilla, chewy malts, light oats, little syrupy, dark malts, bit earthy, slight herbal hops, touch of cocoa.

T: Chewy, slight creamy malts, thick and a bit rich, dark malts, caramel and a bit rich, dark malts, caramel, malts, roast, bit choc malts, cocoa nibs, syrupy, bit of warming booze, baker's chocolate, tingly booze, needs cellaring. FInishes a bit hot, some earthy hops, chocolate, light roasted malts, and syrupy.

M: Med to heavier bodied, decent carb, bit of warming booze.

O: Pretty good, decent chocolate, little hot, nice malts, some earthy hops, tasty but needs some aging.

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

22oz bottle. Pitch black with a mocha head. Not much retention or lacing. Aroma smells of sweetness and roast with a heavy alcohol component. Taste is similar, with a heavy sticky sweetness (with an emphasis on those chocolate flavors) that is tempered a bit by the burnt feel of the roast and whatever hop bitterness is left over. Alcohol flavors amp that sweetness up even more. Mouthfeel is full and chewy with a bit of a prickle to it. While the the alcohol is heavy flavorwise, the heat is at least mostly kept in check. This was good for a big Stout, with thick chewy flavors and a warming alcohol presence. This is a big beer indeed.

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

thanks to akorsak for sharing this -enjoyed from goblet.

The color is tar-like black off of a railroad tie. The cap is medium tan and rings the glass with an ultra-tight bead, the lace sticks lightly. The smell of malted milkballs covered in chocolate, there is a brownie-like concentrated chocolate whiff in the nose straight off the pour. There is a bit of alchohol ester in the backgrround but the malt and cocoa nib dominates the aroma with a very mild hop spice rounding out the nose. The feel is rich and dessert like with an intense malt feel but still has a subtle bit of alcohol and the viscous malt body carries some residual sugar into the finish.

This stout has some big cocoa and herbal hop flavors with slight spice nuance. The taste of hops and dark malt with mild burnt note and mildly bitter cocoa nib gives some complexity with a mild coffee-like roastiness with gentle peppery heat of alcohol with some mild sweetness from the caramel malt. Overall this is a very high quality stout, I really like the bitter cocoa essence of the nibs, yet the heat of the high alcohol holds its drinkability back a tinge. I found it to be stellar with just an intense amount of roastiness.

Photo of russpowell
4.27/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got this at Roof Bros in Paducah, KY

Not sure how this is retired when this was bottled 3/25/11...

Bottle 1821 pours a pitch black with 3 fingers of mocha colored head. Above average head retention & lacing

S: Dark fruit, vanilla, chocolate

T: Follows the nose, toffee & booze warmth up front, some plummy notes. Chocolate covered raisins , plums black cherry as this warms, some dryness too, plus leafy hops. Finishes with tons of caramel, woody dryness, plus a bit of dark chocolate

MF: Chewy, fairly firm carbonation, smooths & thins out as this warms

A very good take on the style

Photo of Rifugium
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to whoever brought this to the Nov. '12 Philly burbs bottle share.

Solid dark brown-black pour with a thin tan head that left no significant lacing. Aroma was big and chocolaty, dark malts, molasses, and hints of dark fruits. Rich and smooth taste with loads of chocoate goodness, dark malts, some roastiness, but mostly mellowed out, notes of coffee and molasses, some rummy booze heat, but nothing unexpected or unbearable. Bordering on a full body, smooth mouthfeel, rich and tasty, soft carbonation. Not quite a BCBS, but overall a great stout.

Photo of kojevergas
3.66/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

650ml brown glass bottle with appealing label art acquired at a Binny's in Chicago and served into a standard water glass at a Chinese restaurant. Served from an ice bath. Expectations are high given the brewery. 11.50% ABV confirmed. Bottled 12/07/12. Reviewed from notes taken on St. Patrick's Day.

A: Pours a half finger rich tan colour head. Nice cream, fair thickness, and average (~2 minute) retention. Body colour is a solid dark black. Nontransparent; opaque. Typical of the style. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Cacao/chocolate, dark malts, chocolate malt, light light vanilla. Very buried roast. A moderate strength aroma. No yeast character or alcohol is detectable.

T: Cacao/chocolate. Dark malts. Buried roast. Rich and refined. Slightly hot, but not boozy; alcohol is noticeable but not detrimental. Mostly well balanced. Quite tasty. Complex and well executed. Pretty subtle for what it is. No yeast character comes through. Tasty.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Good thickness and carbonation. Feels custom-tailored to the flavour profile. Still, it's not quite ideal. Well executed overall. Not syrupy.

Dr: Very drinkable for the high ABV. Not quite a sipper, but your taste buds do hold you back from drinking it as fast as you will want to. It's meant to be consumed slowly and respected. A solid imperial stout from Goose Island. Quite well done. Hides its ABV pretty well for how high it is.

B

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

Really surprised I never reviewed this back in the day. Served in a GI Black Friday glass. Thanks to spycow for sharing this bottle.

A - A half-finger of tan foam settles to some wisps, a thin collar, and minimal lacing. Body is pretty much opaque black, with a faintest hint of dark brown at the edge of the glass.

S - Big cocoa, fudge, and dark fruit aroma, hint of vanilla, and only mild roast character. On the sweet side of things, with an aged quality to it, although perhaps that's because Nightstalker is my frame of reference. Booze has subsided quite a bit since the last time I had this beer.

T - Taste again has a hefty dose of chocolate brownies, raisins, cocoa nibs, and a touch of roast. Finishes pretty clean, with minimal alcohol, but it's a bit mono-dimensional.

M - The body is somewhere between regular BCS and Bramble Rye in terms of viscosity - in a vacuum I'd call it medium-full. Smooth, chewy, with a bit of roast dryness in the finish. Very low carbonation.

D - This is pretty solid - not as good as Bourbon County Stout. Still, it's a fairly enjoyable beer that compared well to its barrel-aged brethren. Certainly wouldn't turn it down, but I'd prefer BCS nearly every time.

Photo of mdfb79
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From 09/04/11 notes. Big thanks to BigSexy410 for sharing this one.

a - Pours a dark brown, almost black color, with one inch of dark tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Looks pretty good.

s - Smells of heavy roasted malts, chocolate, cocoa, light bitter coffee, and some dark fruis. Lots of roasted notesd as expected, but was surprised by the fruity aspects.

t - Tastes of sweet chocolate, roasted malts, light coffee, cocoa, and some light hops. No real fruit like the nsoe and more sweet chocolate than bitterness. A step up for me.

m - Thick, full bodied stout and low to moderate carbonation. Smooth and easy easy to drink for the high ABV, but could use a touch more carbonation.

o - Overall I thought this was a pretty good stout. It didn't blow me away but was much better than Night Stalker.

Photo of drabmuh
3.5/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Even though I recognize that I should have eaten something or stopped drinking before we opened this bottle I have to say that Big John was a mild disappointment to me in my fragmented memory. Thanks to Big Paul for opening this, I was really looking forward to it.

Beer is dark brown / black with a tan head with very little retention, no lacing low carbonation.

Aroma is coffee, nuts and some roast, not getting any chocolate in the aroma really.

Mild chocolate on the medium bodied palate but overall the star is a coffee like roast in the back half of the mouth. It is a decent stout, I'm not trying to bad mouth it, it's just not as interesting as I was hoping, not as good, not as unique. Any of the bourbon stouts are way way better in my opinion.

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

22 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 12/7/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense dark tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a light amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big milk chocolate, cocoa, caramel, toffee, toast, molasses, dark bread, light coffee, raisin, plum, fig, light licorice, and roast/toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt, cocoa nib, and dark fruit notes; with good strength. Taste of big milk chocolate, cocoa, caramel, toffee, toast, molasses, dark bread, light coffee, raisin, plum, fig, light licorice, and roast/toasted earthiness. Light roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, cocoa, caramel, toffee, toast, molasses, dark bread, light coffee, raisin, plum, fig, light licorice, and roast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt, cocoa nib, and dark fruit flavors; with a solid roasted bitterness/sweetness balance. Flavor leans much more towards sweet malt notes, but never gets cloying. Light carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and lightly slick/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is an awesome imperial stout. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt, cocoa nib, and dark fruit flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

Photo of orangesol
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to ffejherb for sharing this one with us at a recent tasting.

A - Pours jet black with a nice one finger tall tan head leaving light webs of lace down the glass.

S - Smells of cocoa, vanilla, licorice, a dash of hops and lots of black strap molasses. Not the best nose I have come across but certainly not the worst either.

T - Starts off with quite a bit of chocolaty sweetness slowly giving way to hints of licorice, vanilla and lots of molasses. Quite a bit of dark roasted malt comes through as it warms up. Finish is a mix of sweetness and dark roast, lingering on the pallet for some time after consumption.

M - Heavy body and flavor with moderate carbonation. Pretty smooth initially really thinning out over the course of the glass.

O - Overall this one was pretty solid but it lacked the wow factor that I have come to expect from most of the Goose Island stouts. I wouldn't turn it down in the future but I won't be chasing it either.

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

The beer pours a pitch black color with a thick frothy tan head that fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a rich, warm roasted scent along with a solid chocolate aroma. It's bold with excellent complexity; truly a BIG beer. The taste is good as well. It has a top notch roasted and chocolate malt flavor that goes down slow and finishes with a good deal of warmth. It's a sipper with loads of malt character. The cocoa nibs really enhance the experience. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a very good double stout. It's bold, but nothing over the top. It's a slow drinker with lots of character.

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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,514 ratings.