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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

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1,483 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,483
Reviews: 441
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 163
Gots: 600 | FT: 55
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.
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Ratings: 1,483 | Reviews: 441 | Display Reviews Only:
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 beerprovedwright
3.68/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours like liquid tar, black like used motor oil. One finger head of dense foam of light brown color. Moderate cling from the lace. The color of this brew is the black hole, I held it up to a strong light and still no light passed through it. It is a 40 on the SRM beer color chart. Complex smell, with aroma of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, wimpy coffee, banana, and oatmeal. The taste is much like the smell reveals, with flavors of semi sweet chocolate, molasses, vanilla, caramel, watered down French roast coffee, banana, and something close to whole wheat bread. Good mouthfeel, it is full, and creamy, but lacks just a little in zing, with a bit of drying in the back of my throat, will I guess that would be expected with the amount of alcohol. This beer has a good taste and a wonderful warming effect from the massive amount of alcohol in this bomber. I would have another, but I can't find my butt with both hands. Maybe not perfect, but a must try.

Photo of dirtylou
3.7/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle, split

from mental notes

appearance: served in an oversized snifter, big ebony body, creamy chocolate head with moderate retention

smell: huge roasty aroma, very dark chocolate, licorice, smoke

taste: extremely rich - liquified dark chocolate, burnt malts, dark roasted coffee, licorice, espresso. Too much of a good thing - lacks balance and complexity

mouthfeel: big and rich

overall: good, but definitely the worst of the GI imperial stout line

Photo of colt45n
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a pure black color no light light at all! slight brown fluffy head which is hard to get.

S: The chocolate nibs are definitely present getting mostly dark chocolate in the nose.

T: The chocolate is what I am getting mostly very creamy mouthful, there is a little bitter hops in the back.

Overall a good stout offering loving the chocolate upfront.

Photo of bsp77
3.75/5  rDev -8.1%
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 UCLABrewN84
3.55/5  rDev -13%
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 prototypic
3.53/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big John pours an onyx color. Looks pitch black. No light cutting through at all. Very ominous…and impressive. Unfortunately, there were only a few mocha colored bubbles that collected on the top. Just enough to cover the surface. It disappeared quickly, leaving trace amounts of lace behind. Love the color though.

The nose is alright. It kicks off with a healthy amount of chocolate malt. Cocoa is definitely noted, but it also smells quite sweet and sugary. Roasted malts and light coffee follow. There’s a host of secondary scents – dark fruit, molasses, caramel, vanilla bean, black licorice, and a bit of a burnt smell. It really is quite the mix. Alcohol is a little stronger in the mix than it should be. Smells boozy. I’m hopeful it’s a little less apparent in flavor.

The flavor is pretty good. It’s actually quite consistent with the nose. Chocolate, caramel, and roasted malts kick it off. The chocolate variety features a little cocoa, but it seems to be masked by the sweet presence of caramel and milk chocolate. It is very sweet and sugary. A little too sweet, if you ask me. Secondary flavors include a little coffee, tangy dark fruit, molasses, and licorice. It has a slight burnt flavor, but it’s very subtle. Alcohol is definitely noted in flavor. It’s a little boozy and runs just a tad warm. Finishes with a sweet combo of caramel and chocolate.

Big John, incidentally, has a medium body. It’s not quite as full and chewy as it probably should be. Edit: warming helps a little. Light carbonation helps to smooth it out some, but more body is needed. In any event, it’s still a sipper. The alcohol certainly lends to its ‘big’ stature moreso than the body.

Big John is an okay release from Goose Island. It’s not bad. But, given the loft status of Night Stalker and Bourbon County Stout (and its variations), I knew Big John probably would not live up to its siblings. It most definitely does not. I’m not a fan of the tangy dark fruit presence. There’s also the overly strong alcohol, very sweet flavor, and deficient body. That all probably makes it sound worse than it really is. I’m probably being hard on it because Goose Island has done a wonderful job with its other stouts. For what it's worth, it's pretty good. Not great, but not bad either.

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

Poured into a snifter.

Pitch black.  One finger creamy tan head with good retention and nice lacing.

Nose is boozy, molasses, licorice, dark fruit, and strong roasted malt.  Smells tasty.

Taste is mostly roasted espresso, bitter dark chocolate, and black licorice.  Aftertaste is more black licorice and is quite bitter.  Still pretty hot.

Mouthfeel is dead on in my opinion.  Thick and full bodied, but not quite syrupy.  A sipper for sure.

This is the first stout I've had by GI, I anticipate I'll love BCBS when that time of year comes.  Overall I thought this was a pretty standard stout, but I bet it'll balance out nicely with some age on it.

Photo of jrallen34
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

had this on tap at Small Bar... Light black body, nice tan ring stays forever... Rich deep chocolate with a little bitter cocoa nibs, sweet but boring... Taste is hot and almost spicy chocolate, more flavor than the nose.. Pass, glad I didn’t run out to the stores searching for this

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

22oz bottle poured into snifter - thanks to beerecorder

Pours a thick, oily blackness with a thinner brownie colored head. Fades into some clouds of retention with a few spots of lacing on the glass.

Rich up front in the nose with deep dark chocolate, truffle oil, cocoa, and a few notes of dark fruits. Stiff smack of booze along with hops and some lingering sweetness.

Burly roasted malts with cocoa beans piled on top up front. Some bites of hoppiness, which is blasted away by more dark chocolate flavor with some syrup-like sweetness. Burnt sugar with some candied fruit suggestions. Finishes somewhat harsh with intense boozyness and a touch of almost charcoal(?)

Full bodied, mild carbonation, sticky and heavy on the tongue. This has some nice flavors going on, and I'm a fan of chocolate forward imp stouts, but I found the finish a bit harsh for my liking. I'm guess some time to mellow out would help this big guy.

Photo of bsuedekum
3.75/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Finally got around to opening this one. I'm pouring a 22oz bottle into a Stone IRS glass during the 4th quarter of game 6 of the NBA Finals. I hope the Mavs hang on to this lead.

A - Black as night, slight head which withers down to hardly any head at all. Leaves a decent carbonated lacing on the glass.

S - I'm not sure if you can roast dark chocolate, but if you could this would be the smell you'd get. I get a strong dark chocolate smell with a roasted aroma mixed in.

T - Less chocolate than the smell but still dark chocolate is there. Full flavor, a balance of charred malts, hints of coffee, and a slight hop / Night Stalkerish finish that I don't particularly like.

M - Could use a little more carbonation. I would consider this a thicker than normal stout.

O - Worth having, a tastier than average stout, and one I'm happy to have tried. The slight hop finish lingers a little too long and isn't ideal for my tastes, but probably something many beer lovers enjoy.

Photo of pburland23
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 24 ounce bottle into my Portsmouth Brewery tulip glass.

Beer pours a dark black...totally opaque. Produced about a finger and a half of medium brown head which quickly receded to a thin wispy layer.

Smell is mainly dark chocolate...slightly bitter, a hint of perhaps vanilla on the edges.

Taste features more dark chocolate, some coffee, and some hops bitterness. A big warming boozy presence during each sip.

Mouthfeel is incredibly think and viscous...almost redefines what constitutes what it means to be a full bodied beer. The alcohol burn is pretty in your face which drags down the drinkability a little in my opinion.

Overall, a decent stout. Not great, but interesting and tasty. I'd like to lay a bottle down for a few years and see how this one develops.

Photo of ColdPoncho
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled 3/25/11

A - Very dark black, almost no head, a very thin medium brown ring.

S - booze and coffee, rawhide, chocolate, dark malts, dark fruits. Smells hotly of coffee chocolate.

T - Sweet fruits and malts up front, coffee and chocolate as undertones throughout, drying towards the back. Sweetness is almost overwhelming, but there's some good complexity to this one.

M - Nice and thick and smooth. Just right.

O (D) - I think this would be perfect if it were not quite so sweet and if it had a bit of time to cover the booze a bit. I'll try to grab another one of these and let it sit for a year or so. Definitely worth a try.

Photo of thagr81us
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks goes out to mikesgroove for sharing this one during Hobo Tasting #9! Served from bottle into a Duck-Rabbit snifter. Poured pitch black with a half finger light brown head that subsided to a minimal amount quickly. Maintained excellent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, dark chocolate, dark fruit, and vanilla. The flavor was of sweet malt, dark chocolate, dark fruit, subtle alcohol, and vanilla. It had a heavy feel on the palate with medium carbonation. Ovearll this was a great brew. Very nice chocolate flavor and aroma going on here. The flavor was very well balanced and nothing really stood out, but rather worked in unison to enhance the other. Really glad I got the opportunity to tick this one!

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

A- Pitch black body with some deep red at the edges, no head.

S- Dark chocolate envelops you, with a slight touch of dark coffee and some lactic notes.

T- A mix between dark chocolatey sweet flavors and a balance of bitterness from the hops turns this brew into a bittersweet chocolate bar.

M- Smooth, light carbonation.

O- Great brew, nothing outstanding here to seek out. The strong chocolate presence with the balanced hop profile is done excellently, unique on that front.

Photo of zeff80
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
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 Hophead101
3.55/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: poured into my small chalice/snifter glass. very black in color - although I guess there aren't really levels of blackness, otherwise it would be gray, I digress. It's dark, black. not much of a head and not much lacing to go along with it. an uber thin collar rests around the edge of the glass, that's about it

S: a bit alcoholic at first sniff. dark fruits, some sweetness. butter and creaminess as well as some slight oaky tones

T: there is a decent flavor of sweet and smoky. slight chocolate taste too. dark fruits. the alcohol does come through. there is also a bit of hop bitterness in there. Decent beer

M: not bad. creamy thick body

D: heavy and a bit on the alcoholic side

Photo of trappistlover
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

(Sampled at Dak’s Memorial Day tasting. Courtesy of Dak!). Pours dark brown with minimal tan head. Aroma has lots of chocolate and some coffee. Tast is sweet with some cocoa, roasty bitterness and alcohol. Thinner bodiedwith an oily texture. Not bad, but less than I expected from Goose Island. We’ll see how this ages

4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle into a Duvel Tulip, bottled: 03.25.11

A: A typical pour into the tulip, with some vigor at the end promotes little head formation and retention is fairly standard but exceeding compared to other Goose Island stouts I have had. The head is a typical radiant khaki color. The body is a thick, sludgy black, didn't expect anything but, but lives up to stout expectations. When held up to the light a lunar eclipse effect is created and no light penetrates. The lacing is formed into sediment layers, but is fairly thin.

S: The aroma shows a good bit of roasted character, with underlining notes of chocolate. A very close resemblance to Nightstalker, with a bitter hop nose. The aroma is medium to high in intensity, but does not really jump out into your face, not sure if this is a good or bad thing; wait a bad thing. I do enjoy the bit of alcohol warming from the nose.

T/M: Upon first sip, the body is full and the flavors are very well balanced. Had had this brew about two months back and cocoa nibs were in the forefront. Now, there is more hop bitterness that is executed in the middle and roasted malts and barley essence thought. The mouthfeel is thick, but not at the dense muddy character that is Bourbon County. A fair amount of lingering taste, that gives off more flavors as warms, hints at the aroma that comes from my cocoa nibs soaking in vodka for a beer very similar to this.

O: Overall impression, is that this beer may have many different stages and characters to its prolonged life form. At first I thought that maybe the nibs were over powering the beer, but now there is a perfect balance to them and in the future, I venture to say that they will be hard to distinguish. As a yearly offering, this is a good candidate for vertical tastings. THUMBS UP!

Photo of DavoleBomb
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. Big thanks to a crushedvol and LusciousJackson for this.

2.5 A: Black in color. A fairly aggressive pour yielded only one finger of light brown, frothy/creamy hybrid head with pathetic retention and absolutely no lacing. GI can make damn tasty stouts, but rarely make them look good.

4.0 S: Sweet milk chocolate dominates as the cacao nibs really shines through. Secondly, there is a good bit of dark caramel and molasses. Roastiness is there, but it's rather light. Underneath the rest is a light smokiness and even some bacon notes. Maybe a touch of tobacco.

4.5 T: Despite the brewer's description of "epic amounts of roasted malt," this leans heavily to the sweet side of the spectrum. This tastes like what I imagine BCS tastes like without the bourbon and with a bit more chocolate. Intense chocolate and caramel. Molasses and brown sugar next. Some dark fruitiness with a light roastiness that doesn't quite match the sweetness. Perhaps a touch of coffee as well. Considerable booziness, almost like BCS even though the ABV is lower and bourobn isn't involved. I really had a hard time giving this a taste score as I waffled back and forth between 4.0 and 4.5. In the end I think I might have got it right, but who knows.

3.5 M: Heavy body. I usually gravitate toward rich, heavy bodies in my IS's, but this has a bit too much residual sugar and it becomes cloying. From time to time, I found myself spitting out huge amylase ridden sugar wads. Lightly chewy as well. This would be about perfect if it wasn't cloying.

4.0 D: This is a nice addition to the GI lineup. I always wondered why they never put out a regular imperial stout (this is a hell of a lot closer than Nightstalker) and I hope this sticks around. I think I enjoyed this more than my scores suggest.

Photo of jamespub
4.83/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

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.

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.

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,483 ratings.