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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

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1,462 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,462
Reviews: 436
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 159
Gots: 600 | FT: 54
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)
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Ratings: 1,462 | Reviews: 436 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.13/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to stxSS07 for this one! 22oz bottle dated 3/25/11 1831. Into a Stone IRS glass.

A: Completely opaque black beer that has a light brown head that disappears almost as quickly as it appears. Easily one of the darkest beers I've seen in some time, in the words of a hillbilly coworker 'blacker than a coal miner's asshole'. A few spots of lacing as the head recedes.

S: Strong smells of roasted barley, molasses, dark fruits, brown sugar, coffee, and last but definitely not least a decent amount of chocolate. Seems a touch muted though, everything is there, but it doesn't have that huge punch that I was hoping for. Has a bit of an odd hop profile in there, but just doesn't quite hit it for me.

T: Wow, now that's what I'm talking about. A good old fashioned chocolate malt is the initial flavor. Cocoa nibs are perfectly integrated into the huge stout flavors here. Chocolate, coffee, a fair amount of roasted barley, some caramel, and even a touch of hops at the end to add a some bitterness to balance things out a bit, a slight amount of astringent alcohol also adds some bitterness, but doesn't detract. Chocolate is definitely the biggest flavor here, but it never gets to the overwhelming sweetness of other chocolate stouts. Really enjoyable here.

M: Nice, light, creamy carbonation helps to enhance a thick viscous body. Very sticky on the lips, and finishes slightly hot, but it works quite well. Warms the whole way down.

O: Really a robust, strongly flavored beer, that has just about everything going for it, but I think its still a little bit young and could blend into something a little bit nicer with some time. Really a huge beer all the way around, but i think its definitely on the right track. I can't wait to put the other bottle in the cellar for a year and check back in again.

Thanks Matt!

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

Thanks to Jason for hooking me up with this bottle. Poured rich dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown foam. Aromas of roast, molasses and cocoa powder. On the palate, this on was full bodied, with flavors of cocoa, smoke, charcoal and dark fruit/peaches.

Photo of kegger22
3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Goose Island Big John imperial stout was a beautiful, opaque black in color with a finger high tan head with small retention.

The aroma was heavy with chocolate, a molasses and licorice background.

The taste was dominated by both chocolate and boozy rum, the licorice from the aroma was not evident. Very sweet, too much like candy sweet for it's own good.

Mouthfeel was a luxuriously full bodied with very little carbonation.

Over sweet was the biggest deterrent of drinkability. Still, it was good, but overpriced.

Photo of FosterJM
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

537th review on BA
Bottle to Snifter
Bottled 3/25/11

Thanks to Jeepcop for this one
Thanks to GuruDel for splitting it.

App- This poured a garnet red with a lot of dark browns. One finger quick receding head. On subsequent pours or a swirl no carbonation. No lacing either.

Smell- Started to be a bit like Night Stalker but then as it warmed the malts, chocolate and ABV came ouo, and the hops went away and faded.

Taste- It's pretty good. I expected more from this but thats okay. It was very chocholate laden as it warmed but not mind blowing.

Mouth- Medium bodied and low carbed. Was more rich and lush on the finish that I was expecting.

Drink- Missing a few things but was still pretty tasty. The nibs were gone. Didnt taste any of the bitter at all.

Photo of JackieTH
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours like dark black/brown used motor oil kicking up a finger of mocha brown head. Heavy lacing.

Nose of mildly roasted malt, subtle cocoa, espresso and molasses.

Taste is roasted malt, cocoa and espresso with a nice, and welcome light hop bitterness. Dark fruits appearing. Definitely boozy. Finish is warming, choco semi-sweet with light hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is thick and oily.

Good one this, although it doesn't stand out in a field of other excellent chocolate-enhanced imperial stouts.

I'm going to get a couple more bottles to put into my cellar.

Photo of BeerLover99
3.68/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: onyx black, very little head, spotty lacing

S: vanilla, figs, roasted nuts, malt

T: sweet vanilla, licorice, ripe figs, malt,
slight bitter chocolate, boozy, mild sticky finish

M: med/heavy body, chewy/smooth

O: Goose Island is rather good; this is not my favorite.
That being said, I really enjoy RIS. Perhaps, the aging
would help the flavor. The boozy taste and aroma is
rather strong and dominates the experiences. I was
expecting the GI version of Darkness/Dark Lord and this
was just not even close.


Photo of CuriousMonk
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bomber (bottled 03/25/11) into a tulip glass. Pours a thick brown-black with nice tan head and lacing that lasts throughout the session. Aroma of dark fruits, roast, sweet chocolate, and cocoa nibs. Big sweet taste of malts, licorice, cocoa and dark fruits. Palate thick and oily, a little sticky with medium carbonation. Bittersweet finish with alcohol burn and minimal hops. This is a big, sweet imperial stout that I wished I cellared a little longer as I bet this will age nicely. The label indicates that this beer would develop well over a five year span.

Photo of GoldenVIKE
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
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 Bierguy5
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle, 11.5% abv. Bottled on 3/25/11. Pours jet black, with a dark tan head that disappeared immediately. No lace, nothing.

Dark chocolate, dark fruit and a bit of milk chocolate as well. Some alcohol in the nose as well.

Sweet up front. Roasty malt, but on the lighter end. Lots of rich chocolate. Complex with some bittersweet dark chocolate, as well as milk chocolate. A few notes of dark, vinous fruit.

Fuller body, but not as chewy as I would like. Lots of heat, so it should age well. Sweetness takes away a bit as well. Still a nice beer, would be interesting with some time.

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

Sunday night at the Happy Gnome.

Server in a snifter glass..deep jet black with little to no head.

Some Dark fruits with a chocolate ending..This beer is subtle compared to the rest of the Goose Island BCS series. On the finish subtle cocoa nibs were present.

After hearing contrasting reviews from my friends. I thought this beer was damn drinkable. The finish was perfect. Excited to see what a bomber with taste like around Christmas.

Photo of nasty31
3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bomber poured into a snifter.

A- Black as night with a 3 finger mocha head that dissipated before i put the bottle down. No lacing what so ever on this one.

S- Nice smells of chocolate and dark fruits. I get a nice cinnamon smell also don't know where that is coming from. Hints of vanilla in this one to. Very nice smelling beer.

T- Very heavy boozy taste to me up front. Heavy chocolate and and oak flavor. the booze taste takes over on this one though with age i think this will go away.

M- Viscous mouthfeel with very nice carbonation.

O- Overall good beer missing some stuff and needs age. It is a good beer though for the price i got my bomber for 3.99 each.

Photo of dogfishandi
4.28/5  rDev +4.9%
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 EgadBananas
3.85/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of JM03! Thanks bro!

A - Thick, black pour. Looks vicious. Head was a modest, slight dark mocha color, maybe half a finger courtesy an agro-pour. Dissipates fast to a film around the edges.

S - Some graham cracker aromas, roasted notes, slight chocolate and dark fruits. Some oak and vanilla as well. Good, but nothing stellar.

T - Nice big chocolate bits, bakers and dark. Vanilla comes through, some wood and dark fruits. Very rich.

M - Thick and vicious. Full bodied, and coating. Sits heavy on the palate and thats the way it should be.

D/O - Drinkability is good for how big this brew is. Finishing the bottle wont be hard. Overall, I really enjoyed this bad boy!

Photo of Reagan1984
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

As I often do, I need to thank Masterski for providing this beer. It was our drink of choice during the 3rd period of Bruins Game 7 last night. Great game and really nice beer. Thanks Alex!

Even with an aggressive pour you hardly get a bubble atop this beer let alone a head. Shiny black colored. Looks very slick and also fairly thick.

Sweet chocolate syrup aroma with plenty of dark roasted malt to compliment this sweetness.

Flavor reminded me of malted milk at times and other moments like Nestle’s Quik. A hint of molasses perhaps. Pretty sweet. The cacao nibs seemed to add depth to the dark roasted malt flavors.

Slick as advertised and pretty bold body. Carbonation did not come to mind, but it also wasn’t flat. Just a prickle to liven up the flavor.

Nice little beer, but certainly no BCS....

Photo of glid02
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
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 Buebie
2.45/5  rDev -40%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured rigorously into an oversized snifter producing a couple inch dark brown head. Settling to leave a solid collar and minimal lace.
Dark as night.
Aroma is roasty and filled with burnt tootsy rolls, loads of grain and malt, dark unsweetened chocolate. Mild toasted wood with some very oaty aroma as well.
Poured out like a thick inky liquid, eager to see what the mouthfeel delivers.
Oh my, mouthfeel is thick creamy and creamy smooth.
Heating up the esophagus as it slides down my throat. But heat on the pallet is not much present. Surprising.
Taste is pretty damn rich and waa waa wee waah malt, a bit too sweet though giving off some undesired cola taste.
Overly mild carbonation presence also creating a bit of an unbalanced feel.
For me its too sweet and syrupy, overpowering in this regard, preventing me from wanting more then a few sips. I wish I had some people over because I really cant drink any more of this. I will choke it down due to the price, plus I'm out of beer. Aside from that it would probably be a drain pour.

Great effort, but I'll pass. Overbearing.

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 biglite351
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - black as tar, but next to no head, which was a dark tan.

S - heavy malts, prune, mold chocolate and a hint of coffee... but mild overall.

T - cola, coffee and prune. Raisin and malts. Very rich.

M - thick with a mild tingle all over tongue and top of throat.

O - I could get very used to drinking these. A little less flat would really set this off.

Photo of Snow81
3.53/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black as night, but light sneaks in a bit

Head: Dark rich frosty brown head that dissipates quite quickly

Smell: Roosted burnt malts that has a bit of heat on the nose. Hints of coco but still very subtle

Taste: Toasted malts, bitter back notes, almost seems the water they used seemed off

Weight: Medium to light body with a low carbonation

Finish: Bit of heat with the roosted malts and a bit of hops on the back end

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

Poured from a bomber into a snifter. Brewed in March 2011.


Blacker than black, just a hair of light came through as it was being poured. The head was mocha/chocolate milk colored, small, and dissipated fairly quickly. There was a good amount of lacing as I drank it.


Strong raisin character in the nose. The alcohol was definitely present. There was a good amount of chocolate, as well as some bready/biscuit aromas. Some nice roasted malt aroma came through along with some very pleasant dark fruit aromas.


Yum! Much like the nose, there was a big raisin character. Some alcohol was present, but it was not boozy in the least bit. Some of the bitter pure bitter cacao came through at first, but got more subtle as I drank more which created a very, very tasty chocolate flavor. It was almost milky as far as the flavor and mouthfeel. It was very sweet but had a nice bitter finish after you swallow. Very lovely beer, very enjoyable.


Very thick. Not quite syrupy, but very sticky. Very little carbonation. It was extremely warming and extremely smooth, it was like drinking velvet - it went down very easily. As smooth as it was, the sheer body of it made the bottle last quite a long time. This is definitely a sipping beer and would be a wonderful winter time night cap.


This is a wonderful beer. A very sweet-chocolatey beer, almost dessert like. While it's not the end-all-be-all Imperial Stout, this is a wonderful beer that I would definitely drink again.

Photo of RedHaze
2.42/5  rDev -40.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Scored this a few days ago at Beertopia in Omaha.

Pours inky black, just like all of Goose Islands big stouts, with a thin head despite a fairly hard pour. The foam disappear almost completely in short order, leaving only small traces of lace.

Smell; lots of alcohol in the nose especially as it warms, and a ton of sweetness. Dark fruits are present adding the sweet.

Taste; first sip is overly sweet followed by alcohol burn. Some roastiness does make an appearance, but it gets quickly overwhelmed by alcohol soaked plums and raisins and sugary chocolatey sweetness. This beer is really damn sweet and alcoholic, to the point that it took me a while to pick out much else.

Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, and would have been better had there been more carbonation.

Overall I really struggled to drink the half bottle I had, and if I had not been sharing, I think the other half would have been a drain pour. Easily my least favorite GI beer I've had in a long while, and I'm glad I only picked up the one bottle.

Photo of jlindros
4.13/5  rDev +1.2%
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 silentjay
3.48/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours a dark brown/black with a smallish tan head that settles to a small film, yet laces well.

the aroma is kind of weak with some dark fruits, molasses, a bit of bitter cacao, maybe some soy sauce, a bit of black licorice. meh.

molasses is first with some dark fruits, alcohol, licorice, followed up by bitter cacao and some nuttiness. raisin, licorice, and molasses flavor is reminiscent of Night Stalker, which I wasn't terribly fond of, and the addition of cocoa nibs isn't quite heavy-handed enough to make this one much better.

full-bodied with just a touch too much carbonation and a syrupy feel left in the mouth and a bitter (licorice and cacao) aftertaste.

It's good, not great. I wouldn't have seeked it out like many others did, but I happened to see it on the shelf and couldn't turn it down. I'll put the other bottle in the cellar.

Photo of bluejacket74
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle, bottled on 3/25/11. Served in a DFH Signature Glass, the beer pours dark brown/black with a half inch brown head that didn't stay around for very long. There's a decent amount of lacing left on the glass. Aroma is mostly sweet, the brew smells like roasted malt, chocolate, dark fruit, and a bit of coffee. Taste is similar to the aroma, but there's the addition of some licorice and molasses. Also, the sweet and bitter flavors in this beer are balanced pretty well at first, then the sweet flavors take over more as the beer gets warmer. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's creamy and a bit coating with moderate carbonation. It's also smooth and easy to drink. It's a good overall beer, it'll be interesting to see how this one ages.

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
92 out of 100 based on 1,462 ratings.